statuette women and warriors in red cloaks

Another picture from the history textbook of the Ancient World for grade 5. It is very well shown that, although many of those present in the agora dressed up in white, there are at least the same number of colored clothes. That is, the crowd of ancient Greeks, well, cannot be represented in the form of people draped in white cloaks.

… and take off the linen clothes that he put on when entering the sanctuary …
Leviticus 16:23

Clothing culture. Last time we talked about the clothes of Ancient Egypt. It turned out that there were no special clothes there: both kings and slaves wore skirts that differed only in the quality of the fabric. And very similar clothes were in Crete. But only for men. Cretan women’s fashion was very original and never fully understood. On the frescoes and statuettes, you see women dressed in a strange and nowhere else outfit: a floor-length skirt that apparently consisted of several skirts worn one on top of the other, a short, exquisite apron, a short-sleeved vest laced at the belly … The chest is bare. Intricate hairstyles adorn the heads of elaborately dressed Cretan women, some wear tiaras on their heads. But the clothes of the sportswomen, whom we see on the frescoes depicting games with the bull, are very simple: the same loincloth and nothing on top.

Ancient Crete and Greece: statuette women and warriors in red cloaks

The famous Cretan “Goddess with snakes”. Height 34.3 cm. Faience. OK. 1600 BC Statuette from the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion


Archaeological finds indicate that the Cretans and Cretans loved jewelry and knew how to make them. Gold was used, but colored glass beads and pendants were also in use. And the Cretans also adored perfumes, all kinds of aromatic essences and rubbing, as evidenced by the glass vessels for cosmetics found in Crete and neighboring Cyprus.

Gold beads, earrings, pendants, ring and bracelets made of gold and glass. Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Curled up cats. Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Excellent suspension of very delicate work. Archaeological Museum of Heraklion


Well, then the Dorians came and ruined all this beautiful fashion. The era of continental Greece came, where the fashions were already completely different. First of all, this was due to the fabrics used. The main fabric of the Greeks was wool, and only then did flax come. Silk and cotton fabrics came to Greece only from the East. The Greeks loved ornamented fabrics, but only weaved primitive ornaments: palmettes, meander, “beads”, “traveling wave”. The fabric was usually dyed. In the course were ocher colors of various shades, red, blue, brown. The purple dye from purple shells was very expensive. White clothes were also decorated, usually with an embroidered border.

Neokles, ruler of the Gorgippi. The original at the Museum. Pushkin, and this copy is at the place of the find – in the museum of Anapa, under which ancient Gorgippia lies. Dressed, as befits an ancient Greek, and a free man and not burdened with labor. And the hairstyle is also appropriate …


The clothes themselves were very simple. The underwear was a chiton made of a piece of cloth folded in half with a hole for the head. Threw on, belted, and you’re dressed. There could be a chiton and two pieces of fabric. Then it was fastened on the shoulders with the help of brooch buckles. The sleeves, if there were, were short. The chiton-exomy was short, up to mid-thighs, and was the clothing of warriors, artisans and slaves. Most often they fastened it only on one shoulder, on the left. Everything is so simple that you don’t need to show anything, but we will consider such clothes as himation in more detail, and ancient Greek ceramics will help us with this.

Boy leaning on a stick. Dressed in a himation. Terracotta fragment of a kilik. Second quarter of the 5th century BC e. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


A free Greek would wrap himself up in a himation (a cloak of woolen fabric more than four meters long) when he went out into the street. Ordinary citizens wrapped themselves up so as to leave at least one hand free, but philosophers and orators hid both hands under it: they say, we don’t get our bread with our own hands! They taught to wear himation from childhood, because it was not easy to wind it beautifully around oneself, although slaves helped wealthy citizens to dress.

A boy and a man dressed in himation. Kilik, approx. 480-470 BC

The same kilik. Side surface. Obviously, it shows athletes and their mentors.

To get such beautiful folds, pieces of lead were sewn into the fabric. Terracotta fragment of Kilik, 490–480 BC Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


The khlamis cloak was worn by riders. The ends were fastened with a brooch on the right shoulder. Shoes could be very simple (ipodimat sandals, consisting of a sole and belts attached to it) and very complex and rich: such, for example, were boots with open toes (endromids), with beautiful lacing in the front and leather bootlegs at the back. The skin could be gilded, and even embroidered with pearls.

Ankle with sandal, terracotta. Southern Italy, second half of the 4th century BC. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Now about the hairstyles. The fashion among the Greeks was moderate beardiness in men, smooth cheeks in young men, and blond was considered the most beautiful hair color. The Spartans wore long hair, which they combed carefully. Headdresses were worn, but rarely. Mostly when traveling. Then they put on felt hats. Again, the Spartans wore high hats – pilias, in the form of which their warriors then received a helmet. These helmets became the same symbol of Lacedaemon, as well as the blood-red exomid tunic, which the Spartans began to wear completely over time, abandoning the armor for the torso and thighs, which they previously used, like the bronze handpads on the legs. And the Spartans were also noted in history for their red cloaks, they were often called that: warriors in blood-red cloaks. But mobility and training were more important to them than personal protection. Helmets and shields – they thought it was enough!

A still from the film “300 Spartans” in 1962. The film is somewhat fabulous, but the costumes are shown very faithfully

Terracotta red-figure crater (vessel for mixing wine and water), approx. 430 BC He wears riders in cloaks-chlamyses and boots-endromids


As for the women, their underwear was a chiton, also chipped with fibulae on the shoulders and draped around the body. The fabric is wool or linen. The colors are very different. Dorian tunics were wide. Ionian are narrow. Girls girdled him at the waist, married women under their breasts. At the same time, both those and others could wear it with a slouch, straightening it through the belt. The chiton could be decorated with embroidery and ornaments along the bottom and edge, and nevertheless it was indecent to leave the house in it. Peplos was worn over the tunic outside the house. The fabric for peplos was 1.5 m wide and 3-4 m long. Again, its color could be very different, but the purple fabric, from blue to dark purple, was the most expensive. They wore cloaks similar to men’s, as well as light gauze scarves-calipters. The shoes were similar to those of men and did not have heels.

A woman with oinokhoya (ancient Greek “wine jug” – an ancient Greek jug with one handle and a round or shamrock rim, reminiscent of a clover leaf) in a chiton with an overlap. Red-figured lekyth. Attica. Around 420 BC National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Woman juggling balls. Red-figured lekyth, 2nd quarter of the 5th century BC e. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Like men, it was light, especially “golden” hair that was considered the most beautiful. They were pulled into a knot at the back of their heads – korimbos, or on the contrary, were lowered onto the forehead so that it was not high (two fingers, no more!), And lowered into curls on the shoulders.

Woman with curled hair. Skyphos (an ancient Greek low-footed ceramic drinking bowl with two horizontally positioned handles) from Tanagra. End of the 5th century BC e. National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Terracotta head of a woman, Tarentum, late 4th century BC e. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


And, of course, Greek women wore a lot of jewelry and did not spare cosmetics. They whitened and blushed their face, darkened their eyebrows, dyed their eyelashes, applied shadows on the eyelids, tinted their lips with berry juice mixed with fat. And even clothes were strangled with perfume. Moreover, the spirits were kept in elegant ceramic vessels – lekiths, often genuine works of art. Today they adorn the expositions of the most famous museums in the world, and then they were in almost every house of a free Greek woman. Parasols (not folding!) And fans in the form of a tree leaf were also in fashion. Of the jewelry, the most popular were gold bracelets on the forearm in the form of a coiled snake, often with rubies in the eyes.

Western pediment of the Temple of Athena from the island of Aegina. Five central figures (the so-called aegineta). The figure of Pallas Athena, dressed in peplos with a cape on her shoulders, 505-500. BC. The figures were discovered in 1811, and in 1813 purchased by Ludwig I of Bavaria for the Glyptotek in Munich

Reconstruction of the western pediment


Nevertheless, despite the abundance of jewelry, the costume of a Greek woman was always visually very simple and did not contain any excesses.

To be continued…

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