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ARMILLA (ψέλιον, ὄφις, a bracelet or armlet. Ornaments of this kind were worn by men

Bracelets. (Museo Borbonico, vol. ii. tav. 14; vol. vii. tav. 46.)

Bracelet. (On statue of Sleeping Ariadne in the Vatican.)

among the Persians and Medians, probably as a mark of distinction (cf. Hdt. 8.113; Xen. Anab. 1.2.27): in Greece, however, they seem to have been confined to the female sex, or to men of an effeminate character. With Greek ladies bracelets were a favourite ornament, and the female figures on the Greek vases are represented with bracelets of every kind. They were worn on one or both arms, sometimes on the wrist (περικάρπια), sometimes on the upper arm (περιβραχιόνια), sometimes even on both at once. One favourite kind of bracelet went several times round the arm, and seems to have had no clasp, over the wrist, and retained in its place by compressing the arm. These bracelets, from their resemblance to serpents, were known to the Greeks as δράκοντες or ὄφεις (cf. Hesych. sub voce ὄφεις). The above bracelets are of this description.

Bracelets were likewise worn at Rome by ladies of rank, but it was considered a mark of effeminacy for men in an ordinary way to use such female ornaments. (Suet. Cal. 52; Ner. 30.) They were, however, publicly conferred by a Roman general upon soldiers for deeds of extraordinary merit (Liv. 10.44; Plin. Nat. 33.37 ; Festus, s. v.); in which case they were worn as a mark of honour, and probably differed in form from the ordinary ornaments of the kind. See the cut below.

The following cuts exhibit Roman bracelets. The first figure represents a gold bracelet discovered at Rome on the Palatine Mount (Caylus, [p. 1.192]Rec. d'Ant. vol. v. pl. 93). The rosette in the middle is composed of distinct and very delicate leaves. The two starlike flowers on each side of it have been repeated where the holes for securing them are still visible. The second

Roman Bracelets.

figure represents a gold bracelet found in Britain, and preserved in the British Museum. It appears to be made of two gold wires twisted together, and the mode of fastening it upon the arm, by a clasp, is worthy of observation. It has evidently been a lady's ornament. The third figure represents

Roman military Bracelet.

an armilla, which must have been intended as a reward for soldiers, for it would be ridiculous

Armilla, bronze and gold. (From the Belotti Collection.)

to suppose such a massive ornament to have been designed for women. The original, of pure gold, is more than twice the length of the figure, and was found in Cheshire. (Archaeologia, 27.400.) The last example is from the Belotti Collection.

[J.Y] [J.H.O]

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.113
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 52
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 44
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