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FLABELLUM dim. FLABELLULUM (ῥιπίς, ῥιπιστήρ, dim. ῥιπίδιον), a fan. Ancient fans were not so constructed that they might be furled, unfurled, and fluttered, nor were they even carried by the ladies themselves. They were, it is true, of elegant forms, of delicate colours (prasino fiabello, Mart. 3.82, 11), and sometimes of costly and splendid materials, such as peacocks' feathers (Propert. 3.18, 11=2.24, 11; Claudian, in Eutrop. 1.109; Mart. 14.67); but they were stiff and of a fixed shape, and were held by female slaves (flabelliferae, Plaut. Trin. 2.1, 22, translating Philemon), by beautiful boys (Strato, Epigr. 22), or by eunuchs (Eur. Orest. 1426-1430; Menand. fr. 49, Meineke ; and as translated by Terence, Eun. 3.5, 47, 50, 54), whose duty it was to wave them so as to produce a cooling breeze. (Brunck, Anal. 2.92.) A gentleman might, nevertheless, take the fan into his own hand, and use it in fanning a lady as a compliment. (Ovid, A. A. 1.161; Amor. 3.2, 38.) The woodcut under CATHEDRA shows a female bestowing this attendance upon her mistress. The fan which she holds is apparently made of separate feathers joined at the base, and also united both by a thread passing along the tips and by another stronger thread tied to the middle of the shaft of each feather. Another use of the fan was to drive away flies from living persons, and from articles of food which were either placed upon the table or offered in sacrifice. When intended for a fly-flapper, it was less stiff, and was called μυιοσόβη, muscarium (Menand. l.c.; Brunck, Anal. 2.388, 3.92; Mart. l.c.); and for this purpose was sometimes made of an ox-tail (Mart. 14.69; Aelian, Ael. NA 15.14). The Emperor Augustus had a slave to fan him during his sleep (Sueton. Aug. 82); for the use of fans was not confined to females. In short, the manner of using fans was precisely that which is still practised in China, India, and other parts of the East; and Euripides (l.c.) says that the Greeks derived their knowledge of them from “barbarous” countries.

Besides separate feathers, the ancient fan was sometimes made of linen, extended upon a light frame. (Strato, l.c.) From the above-cited passage of Euripides and the Scholia upon it, compared with representations of the flabellum in ancient paintings, it also appears to have been made by placing the two wings of a bird back to back, fastening them together in this position, and attaching a handle at the base. (Hence πτερίναν ῥιπῖδα, Brunck, Anal. 2.258 = Anth. Pal. 6.306: on this unusual prosody, cf. L. and S., s. v. ῥιπίς). Further illustrations have been discovered of late years in the Tanagra [p. 1.864]terracotta figures (Guhl and Koner, ed. 5, p. 234; Hermann-Blümner, Privatalterth. p. 196; cf. Marquardt, Privatl. p. 145). The history of fans in all ages and countries has been written by S. Blondel (Hist. des Éventails, Paris, 1875) and H. Frunberger (Gesch. des Fächers, Leipzig, 1876).

A more homely application of the fan was its use in cookery (Aristoph. Ach. 669, 888; FOCUS). In a painting which represents a sacrifice to Isis (Ant. d'Ercolano, 2.60), a priest is seen fanning the fire upon the altar with a triangular flabellum, such as is still used in Italy. This practice gave origin among classical writers to expressions corresponding to ours, meaning to fan the flame of hope (Alciphr. 3.47), of love (ῥιπίζειν, Brunck, 2.306), or of sedition (Aristoph. Frogs 360; Cic. pro Flacc. 23, § 54).

[J.Y] [W.W]

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 669
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 888
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 360
    • Euripides, Orestes, 1426
    • Euripides, Orestes, 1430
    • Cicero, For Flaccus, 23
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.67
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.69
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.11
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.82
    • Aelian, De Natura Animalium, 15.14
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