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p91 Ampyx

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p91 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

AMPYX, AMPYCTER, (ἄμπυξ, ἀμπυκτήρ), called by the Romans frontale, was a broad band or plate of metal, which Greek ladies of rank wore upon the forehead as part of the head-dress (Il. XXII.468‑470; Aeschyl. Supp. 431; Theocr. I.33). Hence it is attributed to the female divinities. Artemis wears a frontal of gold (χρυσέαν ἄμπυκα, Eurip. Hec. 464); and the epithet χρυσάμπυκες is applied by Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar to the Muses, the Hours, and the Fates. From the expression τὰ κυανάμπυκα Θήβαν in a fragment of Pindar, we may infer that this ornament was sometimes made of blue steel (κύανος) instead of gold; and the Scholiast on the above cited passage of Euripides asserts, that it was sometimes enriched with precious stones.

The frontal of a horse was called by the same name, and was occasionally made of similar rich materials. Hence, in the Iliad, the horses which draw the chariots of Hera and of Ares are called χρυσάμπυκες.

The annexed woodcut exhibits the frontal on the head of Pegasus, taken from one of Sir William Hamilton's vases, in contrast with the corresponding ornament as shown on the heads of two females in the same collection.


[image ALT: An engraving of the heads of two women and a horse, each wearing a headband. It is an illustration of the headband, known in Antiquity as an ampyx.]

Frontals were also worn by elephants (Liv. XXXVIII.40). Hesychius (s.v. Λυδίῳ Νόμῳ) supposes the men to have worn frontals in Lydia. They appear to have been worn by the Jews and other nations of the East (Deut. vi.8, xi.18).


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