Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dressed to Kill- Fibulae

"When he came back to Athens, bringing word of the calamity, the wives of those who had been sent out on the expedition took it sorely to heart that he alone should have survived the slaughter of all the rest;—they therefore crowded round the man, and struck him with the brooches by which their dresses were fastened each, as she struck, asking him where he had left her husband. And the man died in this way. The Athenians thought the deed of the women more horrible even than the fate of the troops; as however they did not know how else to punish them, they changed their dress and compelled them to wear the costume of the Ionians. Till this time the Athenian women had worn a Dorian dress, shaped nearly like that which prevails at Corinth. Henceforth they were made to wear the linen tunic, which does not require brooches."- Herodotus "The History"

Fibulae were brooches used by men and women to fasten their garments, from the Bronze Age to the Medieval era. The story as related by Herodotus tells of an incident in the Hellenistic age and explains (if somewhat anecdotally) the shift from the woolen peplos to the lighter linen or silk chiton. Fibulae seem to have started as straight pins, much like decorative hatpins today, and developed into a hinged accessory which is the ancestor of the modern safety pin.
Though the pins may initially have been used to hold garments together, they quickly became primarily decorative, worked in gold, enameled, painted, and engraved.
For anyone seeking a much more detailed article on fibulae I refer you to the font of all knowledge Wikipedia, which actually has a pretty extensive entry for the subject.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Wow! The Dreamstress was kind enough to grant me this splendid award, for which I am stunned and grateful. I am supposed to tell you 7 things about myself, and pick 15 blogs to pass the award on to, but I don't even read 15 blogs. I feel guilty for reading as many as I do already, so I'll follow Dreamstress' example, and name 5.

7 Things About Me

1) I come from a military family and grew up in America and England.
2) I am engaged to be married in July of 2011 (wedding planning has me under its thrall).
3) I just received my Master of Fine Arts degree in Costume Design this May.
4) My best friend and I live far apart and actually write letters more than we e-mail.
5) I used to enjoy fencing and was a sabreur.
6) I love opera and have worked with/for several companies.
7) I hope someday to be fluent in at least five languages; English (check), French, Modern Greek, Italian, and Russian.

Now to the fun stuff, the awards.

1) Lauren at American Duchess is a multi-talented blogger with great creative impulses. I never know what interesting tidbit she'll divulge next.
2) Marie-Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century while a mouthful, is also the blog of another amazing Lauren. If you haven't read this one you should. There is more information there than one can explore in one visit.
3) The Duchess of Devonshire's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century by Heather, is the sister-blog to the one above, and provides an ever-changing assortment of interesting information; from the humorous and whimsical, to the scholarly.
4) Antoinette's Atelier features the stunningly beautiful work of Kathleen Marie, who does everything from wigs to...well, everything!
5) Fashions of Time, formerly The Baroque Boutique, is chock-full of delightful and bravely personal stories about sewing and otherwise. It's always great to see what costume or project she's working on next!

So those are my five, and if you are not already familiar with them I encourage you to check the blogs out and see if you enjoy them as much as I do!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Their Words- Pliny the Elder

"Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man." - Pliny the Elder

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Kinder, Gentler Nero

Deservedly or not Emperor Nero gets quite the bad rap, but there were kinder depictions of him. A man who saw himself as an artist (read: actor, musician, and all around performer). Some his final words are reported to have been a line from the Iliad, and "What an artist dies in me!" Though it has been likewise said that he "fiddled" while Rome burned, there is little to suggest that this is anything but rumor.

It is therefore not surprising that in Moregine, just south of Pompeii, also preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius on August 24th 79AD there is a fresco of the Emperor Nero as Apollo Citheroedus, the God who inspires aethetic and artistic gifts in man. The unsurprising part is that the fresco is found in the home of a weathy patrician family, which most likely would have supported the emperor in his early years. The surprising part is that Nero deviated so drastically from his predecessors and their focus on militaristic propaganda as to be depicted primarily as a peaceful, artistic archetype.

In a political climate in which it was almost mandatory that a proper roman leader endorse expansionistic policies, the military and diplomatic successes of Nero were overshadowed, or at least under-exalted, to the point at which the elite classes began to consider him weaker and "un-Roman". This eventually led to attempts to replace him with military leaders, and finally his own suicide.

Perhaps despite the historical accounts, his true failing was in being different at a time and place when that was not readily-accepted. We may never really be able to accurately judge.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Death of Nero June 9th, AD 68

The life, controversies, and rumors associated with the Emperor Nero would take many posts to encompass, but as yesterday was the anniversary of his death let us focus on that at this time.

It was a suicide, or so history concludes. The reliability of some accounts has been called into question by historians, but one thing is for sure, death was coming for Nero because due to revolts in the provinces, disaffection amongst the Roman legions, and a drastic loss of favor with the senate he was declared a public enemy and was sentenced to be beaten to death.

Knowing full well the gravity of his disfavor Nero weighed the choices of fleeing to the provinces which may or may not have supported him, taking his own life, going into hiding, or appealing to the people to restore him to power. Waking at his palace during the night of June 8th he found that both his guards and his friends had deserted him, and he determined to flee with four loyal servants to a villa outside the city. There he ordered them to dig a grave for him, but lost the nerve to end his own life. When word of his sentence arrived he finally drove a dagger into his throat with the help of his secretary Epaphroditos. A pursuing horseman arrived and attempted to staunch the bleeding, but with the words "Too late, this is fidelity!" Nero died, bringing to an end the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

In Their Words

"Women cannot partake of magistracies, priesthoods, triumphs, badges of office, gifts, or spoils of war; elegance, finery, and beautiful clothes are women's badges, in these they find joy and take pride, this our forebears called the women's world."- Livy, History of Rome