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Barbarian clothing or the garments of the “foreigners” …


“the Persians were equipped in this way: they wore on their heads loose caps called tiaras, and on their bodies embroidered sleeved tunics … and trousers on their legs …” Herodotus, 7.61.4-5

1. Torso of a male statue in Persian attire
National Archaeological Museum
Sculpture Collection, inv. no. 2718

Provenance: Kerameikos Cemetery, Athens (1908)
Dimensions: Height: 1.00 m
Date: 330-317 BC
Display location: Room 24

2, 3 Pair of archers in eastern dress
National Archaeological Museum
Sculpture Collection, inv. nos 823, 824

Provenance: Kerameikos Cemetery, Athens (1863)
Dimensions: Height: 74 cm (823), 70 cm (824)
Date: 330-317 BC
Display location: Room 24

Behind the west corner of the façade of a grave precinct, in the southwest corner of the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos, was unearthed a larger than life-size torso of a male figure, in seated position, as evidenced by its back side, that rested on a base still visible today in the cemetery, inside a naiskos.

The man is garbed in Persian attire. He wears a cheiridotos (long-sleeved) chiton and a kandys, the typical leather cloak of the Medes and the Persians with the tubular sleeves hanging empty. On the head he probably wore the kidaris, whose large flaps are still preserved over his shoulders and mainly his back. Research has established a connection between the two archers that had been unearthed earlier, in 1863, in the corners of the neighbouring precincts and the male figure. According to the reconstruction that has been attempted they flanked the naiskos of the “Persian”.
The eminent figure that was buried in a central location of the cemetery has been interpreted as a consul or ambassador of a Phoenician city (Tyros, Sidon) in Athens or as an envoy of Alexander the Great. The two archers that would stand next to him as eternal servants at his service, guarding their high master, are shown kneeling with their left (inv. no. 823) and right leg (inv. no. 824) respectively. They are just about to pull with one hand an arrow from the gorytos, the impressively large case for storing bows and arrows that touches the left side of their hip and is better preserved on the archer no. 823, who rests his right hand on its surface, while with his left hand he supports himself on the ground.

Both of them are lavishly dressed in eastern attires. They wear anaxyrides, namely long, tight trousers that resemble leggings, over which the kandys is girdled around the waist. Nevertheless, the kandys is not worn in the Persian manner, as in the case of the statue of the “Persian”, hanging loosely over the shoulders, like a cloak, with empty sleeves, but in the Greek manner, as a coat, making use of the narrow sleeves. Under the kandys they wear a knee-length garment with short sleeves visible on the upper arms —the ependytes. These garments should be considered in their original bright colours, as evidenced by their depictions in vase painting. The archer inv. no. 823 still preserved in 1863, when it was unearthed, traces of red paint on the border of the kandys . Their appearance was complemented with the kyrvasia or kidaris, the conical hat made of leather or felt. The ends of the tongue-like side flaps of the hat are preserved on the chest of the archer inv. no. 824.

The distinctive element in the depiction of foreigners in the Greek art is their attire, despite the fact that from the late 5th c. BC all eastern peoples (including the Thracians and the Scythians) were clad in the Persian apparel, thus making hard to distinguish their ethnic identity. In addition, many high-ranking officials coming from the western territories of the Achaemenid Empire, such as the satraps of Lycia and the Sidonian kings of Phoenicia, were dressed in the Persian manner already since the early 4th c. BC (cf. the ivory lid of a casket (?) from Demetrias).

The Persian attire was particularly impressive, because of its multiformity and polychromy and was considered by the Greeks as the most beautiful ethnic costume. Therefore, the ependytes and the kandys were adopted in classical Athens, as a sign of outlandish luxury and a means of social visibility. In fact, even though these were men’s clothing articles, they were worn by women of the higher class and children (boys and girls) as festive garments over their Greek clothes and very rarely by men, because in the consciousness of the Greeks eastern men always emanated femininity.

For the barbarian women the standard attire consisted in the cheiridotos (long-sleeved) chiton, that was usually embroidered with colourful motifs, as evidenced by its depiction on the grave stelae of Hegeso and Damasistrate, worn by their female servants.

Dr Elena Vlachogianni

ependytis: broad, woolen or linen, coat, reaching down to the waist, the thighs or the knees, worn over a long chiton or trousers (anaxyrides). It had short sleeves or was sleeveless. As often as not, it was multi-coloured, with embroidered borders. It is considered to be a garment of Persian or eastern origin, equivalent to the Greek chitoniskos (Herodotus 1.195). It was worn by the Persians, the Amazons, and the eastern people, in general. In Athens, it was worn as a luxuriant eastern piece of clothing by musicians or dancers.

anaxyrides: long, tight, leather, knitted, or later on, fabric trousers with multi-coloured, usually zig-zag motifs. These were worn by the eastern people, primarily the Medes and the Persians, but also the Thracians, Scythians, Amazons (Herodotus 1.71, 7.61, 7.64. Xenophon, Anabasis (The Expedition of Cyrus) 1.5.8. Euripides, Cyclops 182. Aristophanes, Wasps 1087). Even gods wore them (Attis, Adonis, Men) and heroes (Paris, Ganymedes, Orpheus) of eastern origin.

kandys: wide-fit, most probably of leather, men’s coat with sleeves, which was the characteristic clothing of the Medes and the Persians of the upper social class (Xenophon, Anabasis (The Expedition of Cyrus) 1.5.8. Cyropaedia (The Education of Cyrus) 1.3.2, 8.3.13). In Persian art of the Achaemenid dynasty (558-330 B.C.) they were balanced on the shoulders as a cloak, with the sleeves hanging loosely as flaps. Fur details and borders rendered them a marker of particular social status. From the end of the 5th cent. B.C. this coat was adopted in Athens, mainly by women and children, who wore it in the Greek fashion, that is they passed properly the hands through the narrow tubular sleeves. In the end, it became so popular that a linen kandys was also produced, decorated with spectacular embroidered or woven motifs.

cheirodotos / kithon (sleeved chiton): chiton with long sleeves. This is a garment of Persian origin, often decorated with multi-coloured motifs (Herodotus 7.61). In Greece, it was chiefly worn by the female population. Men, principally priests and musicians, wore it only in festive occasions.

kyrvasia: high conical or cylindrical hat, of leather or hard felt, worn mainly by the Persians, but also by other ancient people of northwest Asia (Pollux, Onomasticon, 7.58: and the Persians wore the same kandys or anaxyris, and tiara, which they also call kyrvasia and kidaris and pilos). From the pointed at the top hat there were hanging three long tongue-like flaps, which fell down the temples and the neck (Herodotus 7.64). It was also worn by the Scythians.

royal kidaris: The royal kidaris, the tiara or royal pilos, was usually rigid and bore a crest at the top (Herodotus 7.61).

persikai /persians: of eastern origin, high ankle closed shoes, of soft leather (Aristophanes, Clouds 151). In classical Athens, they were worn exclusively by women and served as indication of luxury (Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 229-230). Initially they were imported from the Near East, but later on were manufactured by Greek shoemakers.

Bibliography on the statue of the “Persian”:
Babler, B., Fleissige Thrakerinnen und wehrhafte Skythen. Nichtgriechen im klassischen Athen und ihre archaologische Hinterlassenschaft, Stuttgart 1998, 111-113, 233, no 42, pl. 7.
Bergemann, J., Demos und Thanatos. Untersuchungen zum Wertsystem der Polis im Spiegel der attischen Grabreliefs des 4. Jhs. v. Chr. und zur Funktion der gleichzeitigen Grabbauten, Munchen 1997, 185, no A 6.
Collignon, M., Les statues funeraires dans l’art grec, Paris 1911, 155.
Garland, J., “A First Catalogue of Attic Peribolos Tombs”, BSA, 77, 1982, 139, no A 6.
Knigge, U., Ο Κεραμεικός της Αθήνας. Ιστορία – Μνημεία – Ανασκαφές, Athens 1990, 127, no 26.
Stupperich, R., Staatsbegrabnis und Privatgrabmal im klassischen Athen, Munster 1977, 180 and n. 4.

Bibliography on the two archers:
Babler, B., Fleissige Thrakerinnen und wehrhafte Skythen. Nichtgriechen im klassischen Athen und ihre archaologische Hinterlassenschaft, Stuttgart 1998, 174-180, 260-261, no 85a-b, pl. 13a-b, 14a-b.
Clairmont, Ch., Classical Attic Tombstones Ι, Kilchberg 1993, 23, no 20a-b. Collignon, M., Les statues funeraires dans l’art grec, Paris 1911, 200-202, figs 127-128.
Knigge, U., Ο Κεραμεικός της Αθήνας. Ιστορία – Μνημεία – Ανασκαφές, Athens 1990, 125, fig. 122.
Riemann, H., Die Skulpturen vom 5. Jahrhundert bis in Römische Zeit, Kerameikos II, Berlin 1940, 94-95, no 127a-b, pl. 33.
Scholl, A., “‘Der Perser’ und die ‘Skythischen Bogenschutzen’ aus dem Kerameikos von Athen”, AM 114, 1999, 139-141.
Scholl, A., “‘Der Perser’ und die ‘Skythischen Bogenschutzen’ aus dem Kerameikos von Athen”, JdI 115, 2000, 79-112, esp. 92-104, figs 11-19.
Vedder, U., Untersuchungen zur plastischen Ausstattung attischer Grabanlagen des 4. Jhs. v. Chr., Frankfurt – Bern – New York 1985, 77-78, 105, 112-113, 278, no S 10, no S 11.

Bibliography on barbarian clothing:
Barker, A. W., “The Costume of the Servant on the Grave-Relief of Hegeso”, AJA 28, 1924, 290-292.
Bittner, S., Tracht und Bewaffnung des persischen Heeres zur Zeit der Achaimeniden, 2nd edition, München 1985.
Brinkmann, V. and R. Wünsche, Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Munich 2007, 71-97.
Cohen, B., “Ethnic Identity in Democratic Athens and the Visual Vocabulary of Male Costume”, in: I. Malkin (ed.), Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity, Washington D. C. – Cambridge Mass. 2001, 247-251.
DeVries K., “The nearly Other. The Attic vision of Phrygians and Lydians”, in: B. Cohen (ed.), Not the Classical Ideal. Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art, Leiden – Boston 2000, 338-363.
Knauer, E. R., “Toward a History of the Sleeved Coat: A Study of the Impact of an Ancient Eastern Garment on the West”, Expedition 21, 1978, 18-36.
Knauer, E. R., “Ex oriente vestimenta. Trachtgeschichtliche Beobachtungen zu Armelmantel und Armeljacke”, Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt II 12, 3, 1985, 578-741, mainly 607-622.
Lee, M. M., Body, Dress and Identity in Ancient Greece, New York 2015, 120-126, 160, 162-163.
Linders, T., “The Kandys in Greece and Persia”, Opuscula Atheniensia 15, 1984, 107-114, figs 1-5.
Miller, M. C., “The Ependytes in Classical Athens”, Hesperia, 58, 1989, 313-329.
Miller, M. C., Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC: A Study in Cultural Receptivity, Cambridge 1997.
Oakley, J. H., “Some Other Members of the Athenian Household. Maids and their Mistresses in fifth-century Athenian Art”, in: B. Cohen (ed.), Not the Classical Ideal. Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art, Leiden – Boston 2000, 227-247.
Schoppa, H., Die Darstellung der Perser in der griechischen Kunst bis zum Beginn des Hellenismus, Coburg 1933.
Shapiro, H. A., “Amazons, Thracians, and Scythians”, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 24, 1983, 105-115.
Starr, C. G., “Greeks and Persians in the Fourth Century B.C. A Study in Cultural Contacts before Alexander”, Iranica antiqua 12, 1977, 49-115.
Thompson, G., “Iranian Dress in the Achaemenian Period. Problems Concerning the Kandys and Other Garments”, Iran 3, 1965, 121-126.
Tsiafakis, D., “The Allure and Repulsion of the Thracians in the Art of Classical Athens”, in: B. Cohen (ed.), Not the Classical Ideal. Athens and the Construction of the Other in Greek Art, Leiden – Boston 2000, 364-389.
Vos, M. F., Scythian Archers in Archaic Attic Vase-Painting, Groningen 1963.


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