), a mirror. The mirrors of the Greeks, Romans, and
Etruscans consisted almost invariably of small circular disks of metal,
which could be placed upright on a table or held in the hand. Mirrors of
glass are mentioned by Pliny (Plin. Nat.
) as being made at Sidon, and from a later source (Alex.
1.132 in Ideler, “Physici et medici
Graeci minores,” i. p. 45) we learn that glass mirrors were
coated with tin, not, as with us, with quicksilver (διὰ τί τὰ ὑέλινα κάτοπτρα λάμπουσιν ἄηαν; ὅτι ἔνδοθεν
αὐτῶν χρίουσι κασσιτέρῳ
). No remains of such mirrors
exist, however, and they were evidently little used. The usual material was
bronze, i. e. an alloy of copper and tin, composed, as the analysis of
various Roman mirrors has shown (Blümner,
iv. p. 192), of from 19 to 32 per cent. of the
latter metal. In Imperial times, the best alloy for mirrors was made at
Brundisium (Plin. Nat. 33.45
; 34.48). The
majority of extant mirrors are of bronze, but some made of silver have also
come down to us: see e.g. Bull. d. Inst.,
1885, p. 180amirror
found at Pompeii, and the silver mirror in the tomb of Seianti Thanunia
(Brit. Mus.). Silver mirrors came into fashion under the Roman Republic
(Pliny, Plin. Nat. 33.45
, says in the time
of Pompey the Great), and in Imperial times were frequently used, even it is
said by maid-servants (Plin. Nat. 34.48
cf. 33.45). They are often mentioned in the Digest (33
). A better reflexion was supposed to be given when the
plate of silver was thick (Vitr. 7.3
). At first,
the silver was very pure, but metal of inferior quality was afterwards
employed (Plin. Nat. 33.45
imitations were manufactured, and some extant mirrors having the appearance
of silver are in reality only plated with that metal, or are composed of a
mixture of copper and lead (Friederichs, Berl. ant. Bildw.
ii. p. 86).
There is no mention of mirrors in Homer, and the earliest Greek mirrors
extant are not earlier than circ.
B.C. 500. The
prototype of the Greek mirror must, on our present evidence, be looked for
in Egypt. The Egyptian mirrors now extant consist of bronze disks of oval or
oblate form,--a shape, therefore, nearly the same as that of the Greek
mirrors, though somewhat less elegant. They have, like many Greek mirrors,
ornamented handles (of wood, stone, or metal), some in the form of the
papyrus-sceptre or of a figure of a goddess (see the illustrations in
Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians,
ed. Birch, vol. ii. pp. 350,
351). From the time of the Attic tragedians onwards mirrors are frequently
mentioned in literature (Aesch. in Stob. Serm.
18.13; Eur. Tro. 1107
1112;--Xen. Cyr. 7.1
, § 2,
&c.), and they are often represented on the monuments. On the
vase-paintings female attendants are seen holding them before their
mistresses, and among the Greek terra-cottas are figures of women holding
circular mirrors while arranging their hair (Gazette arch.
1878, pl. 10 = Baumeister, Denkm,
“Spiegel,” fig. 1775; Gaz. arch.
1880, p. 39).
On the Etruscan terra-cotta sarcophagus of Seianti Thanunia, in the British
Museum (from Chiusi), is a reclining female figure holding a mirror. Before
Hand-mirror. (From a relief in the British Museum.)
the special characteristics of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan mirrors
respectively, it should be stated that wall-mirrors were little used in
antiquity. Large metal mirrors were suspended n barbers' shops (Lucian,
29; Vitr. 9.9
); and we hear, under the Roman Empire, of mirrors
large enough to reflect the whole person (Senec. Quaest.
1.17, 8, “specula totis paria corporibus;”
34, 2, 19.8, “speculum . . . parieti
adfixum;” cf. Plin. Nat.
GREEK MIRRORS.--Examples of mirrors of Greek
workmanship and provenance
were unknown till recent
years, and the number at present discovered (at Corinth and elsewhere) is
comparatively small. Like other articles of the toilet, mirrors were buried
by the Greeks with the dead. They have two forms: (i.) the disk-mirror with
a handle or a stand, (ii.) the box-mirror.
(i.) The disk-mirrors have one side (usually slightly convex) left plain and
polished for reflexion. The
Disk-mirror on a pedestal.
other side is engraved with a design, or is left plain. The handle
is often ornamented, or consists of a statuette--figures of Aphrodite being
preferred. Many of these mirrors have a pedestal attached to the statuette,
to enable them to be stood up-right on the table. Some of the early extant
mirrors are furnished with these statuette--stands, and sometimes Erotes,
animals, or other ornaments are attached to the lower part of the disk. A
good example is figured in the Arch. Zeitung,
xxxvii. pl. 12 = Baumeister,
art. “Spiegel,” fig.
(ii.) The box-mirror consists of two circular disks shutting into one
another, and sometimes united by a hinge. The upper disk or cover is
ornamented on the outside with a design relief, and its interior is polished
for reflexion. The lower disk, or box itself, is adorned inside with
engraved figures. The reliefs on the box-mirrors and the engraved designs
found both on the box-and the disk-mirrors are among the most beautiful and
interesting remains of Greek art. The best specimens may be attributed to
the 4th century B.C. Good examples may be seen in the Bronze Room of the
British Museum. The reliefs usually consist of subjects relating to the
cycle of Aphrodite and Dionysos. The relief of “Ganymede carried away
by the eagle”
Etruscan Mirror. (Dennis.)
(engraved in Collignon, Man. d'Arch.
p. 351) may be cited as a
fine example of this class. Among the finest examples of engravings on
mirrors are the Korinthos and Leucas mirror engraved in Rev.
N. S., xxiii. (1872), pl. xi. p. 79, and in Monuments
grecs de l'Assoc. des Études grecques,
iii.; the Genius of the Cock-fights mirror in the Lyons Museum (Rev.
N. S., xvii. (1868), pl. xiii. p. 372 ff.); and the Nymph
and Pan playing with astragali, in the British Museum (Classical
vol. iii. p. 86). (On the technique of the
“engraved” mirrors, which were perhaps etched as well as
engraved, see Blümner, Technol.
iv. pp. 266, 267.)
ETRUSCAN MIRRORS.--The extant examples, many of
which are figured in Gerhard's Etruskische Spiegel
by Klügmann and Körte), are extremely numerous. They have
been found in tombs in Etruria and Latium, [p. 2.690]
others placed on the top of vases,
or lying separately. They resemble the Greek mirrors in form. Box-mirrors
occur, but most of the extant specimens are simple disks with the convex
side polished for reflexion and the concave side engraved, and having a
handle which was made in one piece with the mirror and sometimes inserted in
an outer handle--now often missing--of bone or wood. The Etruscan mirrors
that have come down to us are mainly of the fourth and third centuries B.C.
The subjects represented are mainly drawn from Greek mythology (especially
the Trojan legends), such as the Birth of Minerva, the Birth of Bacchus,
Venus and Adonis, Achilles and Thetis, Castor and Pollux, &c.
Various scenes from daily life (the toilet, the bath, and the palaestra) are
also represented. The names of the personages depicted are nearly always
written near them in Etruscan characters (e. g. Apul = Apollo;
Achle=Achilles; Atunis=Adonis). The designs are nearly always the production
of Etruscan copyists of Greek models, especially the vase-paintings. The
work is often rough and careless, and the space generally overcrowded with
figures. The reliefs on the box-mirrors are much inferior to those on the
Greek box-mirrors. Various examples may be seen in the Etruscan Room at the
British Museum, among which may be noticed Ganymede carried off by the
Eagle, and other figures on the cover of a mirror from Praeneste
(Mon. dell' Inst. arch.
viii. pl. 47, fig. 2). Among the
engraved mirrors some elegant and delicately treated designs occasionally
occur, such as Semele, &c. on a mirror at Berlin (Mon. dell'
“Etrurien,” fig. 557); the Healing of Telephus (Gerhard,
art. “Spiegel,” fig. 1774); and the
meeting of Helen and Menelaus after the taking of Troy (in the Brit. Mus.:
Mon. d. Inst. arch.
viii. pl. 33).
ROMAN MIRRORS.--These are of little artistic
importance, and are usually disk-mirrors provided with an ornamented handle,
which is sometimes in the form of a figure. The back of the disk (i. e. the
side not used for the reflexion) is, if engraved, usually ornamented with
decorative patterns and not with a subject-design. Typical examples of
various hand-mirrors found at Pompeii may be seen in Overbeck-Mau, Pompeii,
4th ed. p. 453, fig. 252.
--Frerederichs, Berl. ant. Bildw.
2.18 ff.; Blümner, Technologie,
iv. pp. 192, 194,
265 ff., 403; Blümner, art. “Spiegel” in Baumeister's
De Witte, Les Miroirs chez les
Bruxelles, 1873; Stephani, Compte rendu,
1870-71, p. 27; Hermann, Lehrbuch
(ed. Blümner), iv.
pp. 170, 171; Collignon, Man. d'Arch. grecque,
p. 146 ff.;
Mylonas, Ἁλληνικὰ κάτοπτρα,
1876, 8°, reviewed in Bull. Corr. hell.
i. (1877), p.
108 f.; Bull. Corr. hell.
viii. pp. 398, 399 (with references
to earlier publications); Rev. arch.
1868, pl. xiii.;
Paris, 1884, No. 430;
Paris, 1885, No. 580. Other
Greek mirrors have been published in the Bull. Corr. hell.;
in the Gazette archéologique
periodicals; E. Gerhard's Etruskische Spiegel,
&c., continued by Klügmann and Körte;
Marquardt--Mommsen, Handbuch der röm. Alt.
692, 736; and other authorities cited above in the article.]