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p537 Fimbriae

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p537 of

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

[image ALT: A woodcut of an ancient Roman woman wearing lots of draperies, some of which are fringed. It is a depiction of a Roman bronze and is meant as an illustration of fimbriae, or fringes.]
	FI′MBRIAE (κροσσοί; Ionice, θύσανοι, Greg. Corinth.), thrums; tassels; a fringe.

When the weaver had finished any garment on the loom [Tela], the thrums, i.e. the extremities of the threads of the warp, hung in a row at the bottom. In this state they were frequently left, being considered ornamental. Often also, to prevent them from ravelling, and to give a still more artificial and ornamental appearance, they were separated into bundles, each of which was twisted (στρεπτοῖς θυσάνοις, Brunck, Anal. I.416), and tied in one or more knots. The thrums were thus, by a very simple process, transformed into a row of tassels. The linen shirts, found in Egyptian tombs, sometimes show this ornament among their lower edge, and illustrate, in a very interesting manner, the description of these garments by Herodotus (II.81). Among the Greeks and Romans fringes were seldom worn except by females (κροσσωτὸν χιτῶνα, Brunck, II.525; Jacobs, &c. ad loc.; Pollux, VII.64; Sueton. Jul. 45). Of their manner of displaying them the best idea may be formed by the inspection of the annexed woodcut, taken from a small bronze, representing a Roman lady who wears an inner and an outer tunic, the latter being fringed, and over these a large shawl or pallium.

Among barbarous nations the amictus was often worn by men with a fringe, as is seen very conspicuously in the group of Sarmatians at p213. By crossing the bundles of thrums, and tying them at the points of intersection, a kind of network was produced, and we are informed of a fringe of this description, which was, moreover, hung with bells (Diod. XVIII.26). The ancients also manufactured fringes separately, and sewed them to the borders of their garments. They were likewise made of gold thread and other costly materials. Of this kind was the ornament, consisting of a hundred golden tassels, which surrounded the mythical shield of Jupiter, the αἰγίς θυσανόεσσα, and which depended from the girdle of Juno (Hom. Il. II.448, V.738, XIV.181, XVII.593).

In consequence of the tendency of wool to form itself into separate bundles like tassels (θυσανηδὸν, Aelian, H. A. XVI.11), the poets speak of the golden fleece as consisting of them (Pind. Pyth. IV.411; Apoll. Rhod. IV.1146); and Cicero, declaiming against the effeminacy of Gabinius, applies the same expression to his curling locks of hair (in Pis. 11).

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Page updated: 30 Jun 13