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Minoan Costume


MINOAN COSTUME The Bronze Age in Greece.—From the contemporary repre sentations of the men and women of the Bronze age in Greece we can gather a very good idea of their costume. The men wore a very scanty dress, considering the fact that in winter and in the mountains everywhere in Greece the climate is sometimes cold. It consisted principally of a waistcloth tightly folded round the loins, sometimes with the addition of a conspicuous special sheath or codpiece for the penis, and confined at the waist by a large and very tight belt. Naturally the Cretans have unusually small waists, a characteristic of the race to this day. This seems, judging by the universal testimony of the statuettes and wall paintings, to have been artificially accentuated from youth by tight belting, so that the men appear with waists like wasps. It even seems probable that in the case of the young men the belt was of metal, riveted on in boy hood, and retained till manhood, so that the young men had waists artificially constricted to the size of those of small boys. In mid dle age it would seem that this ring was removed, and the body eventually assumed a normal form. Statuette's of older men show them as somewhat obese.

The women often wore the same constricting belt when young. In form it was generally bevelled.

Over the tight waistclout was worn a kilt, in court dress apparently ornamented by a hanging fringe of network (Knossos frescoes, etc.) . This kilt, sometimes with the sheath showing, is carefully represented in the Egyptian wall-paintings of the Keftian ambassadors to Egypt in the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty (see EGYPT) . It was gaily ornamented with zigzag and other patterns, thus contrasting vividly with the white kilt of the Egyptians. Sometimes this kilt is of considerable length, reaching to the calf of the leg; at other times it, or a development of the waistclout resembling our bathing-drawers or shorts, is lengthened and so full as to resemble the voluminous (3pa.aacs of the modern Cretan and Greek islander, which may indeed be derived from it in direct descent. In cold weather and doubtless by older men a cloak was worn, resembling the modern Cretan capote somewhat, but with a heavy fringed lower border. This has been regarded as a sacral garment, but without much reason. In Greece proper the addition was made (due perhaps to a colder climate in winter) of a shirt or chiton with short sleeves : this is never seen in Crete. On the feet either sandals were worn, often with bands round the calf of the leg exactly resembling puttees, or high boots like those still universally worn in thorny and stony Crete, of soft white leather. The arms and neck were deco rated with bracelets and necklaces of gold or silver, or stone and kyanos (glass heads). Then, next to the narrow waist, the most characteristic note of Minoan male costume, the hair, was evidently worn at its full natural length. Occasionally it is seen cut short, but this would seem to be so only in the case of mourning men and priests; the latter seem to have worn long robes, confined at the waist, like those worn by the priestesses, and usually white.

Normally the men wore the hair unshorn, and falling loose to the waist or below it : on the top of the head it was done up into fantastic knots or curls (horns) which were carefully represented by the Egyptian artists as characteristic. Fashion evidently dic tated various modifications of this hair-dressing, more or less elaborate. Sometimes part of the hair was piled up in coils on the top of the head, while the rest hung loose about the body (Tylissos figure : Knossos frescoes, etc.) . Sometimes, in the case of warriors, it was all knotted up in a "bun" or chignon at the top or back of the head like that of a Sikh. At other times it was twisted (plaited?) in a pigtail (Knossos relief vase) or simply tied behind at the neck in i8th century fashion (Vaphio cup) or confined by bands or slides at the top or sides or back tain vase).

A fresco (unpublished) in the Ashmo lean Museum shows it tied up in three separate bunches, one at the back of the neck, one at the top of the head, and the third over the forehead. Headgear was not common ; but we have representations of a broad-brimmed hat, the later Greek petasos (Leiden Museum; fig. 4), and of small round caps evidently concealing a topknot. A god (?) can wear a tiara, or is shown wearing a high headdress of pea cock (?) feathers (Knossos fresco). Metal helmets of Roman rather than of Greek form, with a domed crown, ear-pieces and with a knob at the top were worn, sometimes with the addition of nodding crests, the forerunners of the Xockot of later days. The hair is sometimes invisible, being evidently knotted beneath the helmet, or is shown falling down the back, when it is worn (gladiators vase) . We have representations of cuirasses on the clay tablets, but usually armour does not appear, or was per haps of a laminated type like that worn by the Philistines, Shardana and other "Peoples of the Sea" in the Mediterranean area at the end of the Bronze age. The shield was of a peculiar double shape like the figure 8, and reached from ankle to neck, replaced by a smaller round shield at the end of the period, which was of non Minoan (probably central-European—Hellenic) origin. The usual weapons were a rapier-like sword with decorated hilt ; though rarely (Mallia) a great broadsword appears (typical of the Philis tines and Shardana later, like the round shield and laminated body armour) ; daggers ; and spear-heads of a peculiar rounded form somewhat resembling the mediaeval Japanese; bows and arrows with barbed metal heads, and slings were also used. The Cretan slingers were always renowned. The "Peoples of the Sea" who overran the Minoan lands at the end of the Bronze age, coming perhaps from Europe, perhaps (or partly) from the Caucasus by sea, wore characteristic headgear of their own, the Philistines a high feathered cap, the Shardana a round helmet with crescent and ball as insignia. They may have shaved their heads or worn short hair, as it is never shown long in the Minoan and the (shorter) early classical Greek (Iron age) fashion. The kilt was common to them as also to the Hittites of Anatolia.

During the early classical period, Greek men wore their hair long, but not so long as the Minoans. Generally reaching the small of the back, it was worn either hanging in loose ringlets (some times with a band at the neck), or else braided in two plaits that were wound round the head (we have no instance of this fashion in Minoan times), rolled round a headband, or knotted in a Kpw131)Xos at the back of the head. Short hair did not come into fashion until the second quarter of the fifth century, after the Persian wars, and then was retained (except, as now, in the case of priests) for i,000 years, throughout the classical Greek and Roman periods until the fall of the Roman Empire, when the "barbarian" fashion of long hair came in again. A difference be tween Minoan and classical Greek costume is seen in the fact that the early Greek men often went more or less naked ; they habitu ally exposed their persons in a way that the Minoans never did. We have only one certain representation of a naked Minoan, and he is swimming, and one doubtful, the "Blue Boy" or saffron-gatherer on a fresco from Knossos. There is none of women (see below). Women's hair in the early Iron age was always worn hanging, in tresses, over the shoulders, sometimes confined at the neck by a band. (For classical Greek dress see section "Greek and Roman.") Minoan women wore a heavy petticoat-like skirted and flounced garment reaching the ankles and a sort of short-sleeved "zouave" jacket, sometimes with a tight belt like the men. This dress was gaily ornamented with patterned designs. The flounces of the skirt make it resemble curiously the fashionable European skirts of the '7os and '8os (see Plate I., figures 7 and 9).

The breasts were exposed or protected by sheaths. But no representation of a nude woman exists. A cloak with a high "Me dici" collar behind is represented. On the head are various forms of headgear, some times a horned headdress (Petsofa), some times a high blunted conical polos (Knos sos), sometimes a sort of flat turban. Gen erally the hair flowed loose, but is always represented as clipped considerably shorter than that of the men, which must have been unshorn from childhood, judging by its length ; the hair of the women rarely reaches the waist. It is not often knotted up or entirely concealed beneath the head dress. Bare heads were perhaps rare in the case of the women until the Late Minoan period (c. I Soo B.c.) when we see a court fashion of bare heads with the hair partly knotted behind, partly falling at the sides in comparatively short curls, the fashion much resembling that of the ladies of the courts of Louis XIV. and Charles II., with perhaps a touch of the French Second Empire coiffure associated with the Empress Eugenie (Knossos frescoes). With this golden diadems were often worn, of a type resembling those of classical times (ibid., Mycenae; Tiryns frescoes). Necklaces of gold, lapis and glass of the peculiar Minoan blue (kyanos), were of course worn, and possibly ear-rings by the women. We have only one represen tation of a man wearing ear-rings, and that is doubtful (cupbearer fresco, Knossos) . Egyptian and Asiatic men and women both wore ear-rings and ear-studs, the Egyptians from about 15oo B.c., and not before. Elaborate gold hairpins were used by the Minoan women ; golden hairpins of simpler form also by the men, as we see from their discovery with weapons in tombs of men at My cenae. They would of course be as necessary for the heavy male coiffure as for the women's hair. The women's shoes are rather a doubtful point ; probably their feet were usually unshod. Priest esses wore long waisted robes which were also worn by priests, ap parently, or temple-musicians of the male sex, as in Lydia. When they participated in the games, as in the religious sport of the bull-leaping (Tavp-KatMi/iia) the girls wore the young men's dress of tight belt and waistclout (Knossos fresco, etc.).

Generally we know more of the male costume than the female, owing to the greater number of representations of men, and the fact of their double costume, for war as well as peace. At present it is difficult, except in the case of the women, to confine certain costumes to certain periods ; as our knowledge increases it will be possible to do this as accurately as we now can do it in the case of the Egyptians, with our much greater Egyptian material.

The female costume is even more unlike that of classical times than the male, though in the Early Iron Greek age women still wore a full skirt tightly confined at the waist, just as the men often wore a tight belt round the waist in the Minoan fashion, but without any clout or sheath.

We have practically no representations of children, so cannot say whether their costume differed in any notable way from that of their elders. An ivory figure of a boy-god is shown with hair long, flowing from beneath his tiara, but much shorter than that of the men. He wears the tight waist-belt. A head of a boy on a sealing has short hair.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.-J. L. Myres, Ann. Brit. Sch. Ath. ix., p. 361 ff. Bibliography.-J. L. Myres, Ann. Brit. Sch. Ath. ix., p. 361 ff. A. J. B. Wace, A Cretan Statuette in the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cam bridge, 1927) ; H. R. Hall, Civilization of Greece in the Bronze Age (London, 1928) .

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