previous next


DIADE´MA (διάδημα), a white band or fillet used to encircle the head. (V. Max. 6.2.7.) This ornament was of Oriental origin, and is frequently represented on the heads of Eastern monarchs. Hence the Greeks transferred it to their divinities. Its invention is ascribed by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 7.191) to “Liber pater” ; and accordingly on coins and other works of art Dionysus is represented with a diadema or band on his head, as is shown in the accompanying coin of the city of Naxos in Sicily. (See also the figure of Dionysus on p. 356.) In the same way we find on the coins of Bruttii the heads of Apollo and Hercules wearing the diadema (Eckhel, i. p. 166); : and Pliny (H. N. xxxiv.

Diadema on head of Dionysus. (Coin of Naxos in Sicily. British. Museum.)

§ 79) speaks of a statue of Apollo as crowned with a diadema (diadematus).

The diadema was worn by the Assyrian kings. In the earliest monuments only one band passed round the head-dress of the monarch, but at a later period two or more were introduced, as in the accompanying figure (Layard, Nineveh, ii. p. 320). In the same way a blue band variegated with white spots encircled the tiara or cidaris of the Persian kings. (Xen. Cyr. 8.3, § 13; Plut. de Frat. Am. 100.18; Lucian, Pisc. 15; “cidarim Persae vocabant regium capitis insigne: hoc caerulea fascia albo distincta circumibat,” Curt. 3.3.19 ; 6.20.4: see drawing under TIARA) It was adopted by

Diadema on headdress of the Assyrian king. (Kouyunjik.)

Alexander after the conquest of Darius (Justin, 12.3; Lucian, Dial. Mort. 12, 3), and became the recognised symbol of royalty. It appears constantly on the coins of the successors of Alexander in Syria and Egypt (see annexed cuts), and consisted of a broad white band

Diadema on heads of Seleucus II., king of Syria (left-hand figure), and of Ptolemaeus II., king of Egypt (right-hand figure). (Coins in British Museum.)

encircling the head, with bands hanging down behind. Its white colour is frequently mentioned by ancient writers (ταινία λευκὴ περὶ τῷ μετώπῳ, Lucian, Navig. 39; Appian, App. BC 2.108; “candida fascia,” Suet. Jul. 79; “albentibus spumis in modum diadematis,” Tac. Ann. 6.37; “vitta albente,” Sil. Ital. 16.241). The [p. 1.620]example of the Diadochi was followed by other Grecian kings, for though Agathocles did not adopt it (Diod. 24.5), it was worn by subsequent kings of Syracuse. Thus it appears on the coins of Hieron II., though Eckhel thinks that they were struck after his death, because it would appear from Livy (24.5), that it was first adopted by his grandson Hieronymus. (Eckhel, i. p. 253.)

Diadema on head of Hieron 11. (Coin in British Museum.)

The diadema, as a symbol of royalty (negni insigne, Cic. Phil. 3.5, 12), was hateful to the Romans, and was therefore refused by Julius Caesar, when M. Antonius offered him a laurel crown encircled by a diadem (Διάδημα στεφάνῳ δάφνης περιπεπλεγμένον, Plut. Caes. 61, Anton. 12; Cic. Phil. 2.3. 4, 85; Suet. Jul. 79). A diadem had been previously placed upon his statue, but was removed by order of the tribunes (Suet. l.c.; D. C. 44.9 ; Appian, App. BC 2.108). This diadem, like that of the Grecian kings, is expressly said to have been a white band (Suet., Appian, ll. cc.). It is indicative of the feeling of the Romans against the name of king and the emblem of kingly power, that succeeding emperors, though they exercised despotic power and assumed the corona radiata as a mark of divinity [CORONA p. 550 a], are never represented with the diadem on their coins till the time of Constantine. The mad Caligula thought of assuming the diadem, and turning the principatus into a regnum, but gave up the idea (Suet. Cal. 22. Aurel. Vict. Epit. 3 says that Caligula actually assumed the diadem). Elagabalus also wished to use a jewelled diadem (Lamprid. Elagab. 23). Aurelius Victor says (Epit. 35) that Aurelianus was the first emperor who wore a diadem, but this is not confirmed by coins. It first appears, as we have already said, on the coins of Constantine, sometimes in a plain form, and sometimes adorned with precious stones. (Cf. Aurel. Vict. 41 of Constantine, “caput exornans perpetuo diademate.” ) In the Chronicon Alexandrinum it is said that Constantinus was the first who wore the diadem adorned with pearls (Eckhel, vi. p. 80), and Claudian speaks (de Nupt. Honor. 167) of the diadem inwoven with heavy pearls gathered in the Erythrean sea. The diadem was regularly worn by the emperors succeeding Constantine. Thus Julian had a magnificent diadem adorned with precious stones ( “ambitioso diademate utebatur lapidum fulgore distincto,” Amm. Marc. 21.1.4). The diadem was continually increased in richness, size, and splendour, till this bandage was at length converted into the crown which has been for many centuries the badge of sovereignty in modern Europe (Eckhel, vi. p. 18; viii. pp. 79, 363, 502).

Before the diadem was worn by the Roman emperors as a symbol of sovereignty, it was used as a head-dress by Roman women. Thus Isidore (Orig. 19.31) defines the diadema as “ornamentum capitis matronarum ex auro contextum.” (Becker-Göll, Gallus, iii. p. 279; Marquardt, Privatl., p. 681.)


hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.3
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.16.108
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.85
    • Cicero, Philippics, 3.5
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.34
    • Cicero, Philippics, 3.12
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 79
    • Tacitus, Annales, 6.37
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 22
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 5
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 21.1.4
    • Plutarch, Caesar, 61
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 3.3.19
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 6.2.7
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: