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p551 Fucus

Unsigned article on p551 of

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

FUCUS (φῦκος), was the general term to signify the paint which the Greek and Roman ladies employed in painting their cheeks, eye-brows, and other parts of their faces. The practice of painting the face was very general among the Greek ladies, and probably came into fashion in consequence of their sedentary mode of life, which robbed their complexions of their natural freshness, and induced them to have recourse to artificial means for restoring the red and white of nature. This at the least is the reason given by some of the ancient writers themselves (Xen. Oecon. 10 §10; Phintys, ap. Stobaeum, tit. LXXIV.61). The practice, however, was of great antiquity among the Greeks, and was probably first introduced among the Asiatic Ionians from the East, where the custom has prevailed from the earliest times. That it was as ancient as the time of Homer is inferred from the expression ἐπιχρίσασα παρειάς (Od. XVIII.172), but this is perhaps hardly sufficient to prove that cheeks were painted. The ladies at Athens, as might have been expected, did not always paint their faces when at home, but only had recourse to this adornment when they went abroad or wished to appear beautiful or captivating. Of this we have a striking example in the speech of Lysias on the murder of Eratosthenes, in which it is related (p93. 20, ed. Steph.) that the wife, after leaving her husband to visit her paramour, painted herself, which the husband observed on the following morning, remarking, ἔδοξε δὲ μοι τὸ πρόσωπον ἐψιμυθιῶσθαι (Comp. Aristoph. Lysistr. 149, Eccl. 878, Plut. 1064; Plut. Alcib. 39). In order to give a blooming colour to the cheeks, ἄγχουσα or ἔγχουσα, a red, obtained from the root of a plant, was most frequently employed (Xen. Oecon. 10 §2); and the following paints were also used to produce the same colour, namely, παιδέρως, also a vegetable dye resembling the rosy hue on the cheeks of young children (Alexis, ap. Athen. XIII p568C), συκάμινον (Eubulis, ap. Athen. XIII p557F), and φῦκος, which was probably a red paint, though used to signify paint in general, as has been already remarked. In order to produce a fair complexion, ψιμύθιον, cerussa, white lead was employed (Alexis, ap. Athen. l.c.; Xen. Oecon. 10 §2; Aristoph. Eccl. 878, 929). The eye-brows and eye-lids were stained black with στίμμι or στίμμις, a sulphuret of antimony, which is still employed by the Turkish ladies for the same purpose (Pollux, V.101). The eye-brows were likewise stained with ἄσβολος, a preparation of soot. Thus Alexis says (l.c.),

τὰς ὄφρυς πυῤῥᾶς ἔχει τις· ζωγραφοῦσιν ἀσβόλῳ.

(Comp. Juv. II.93). Ladies, who used paint, were occasionally betrayed by perspiration, tears, &c., of which a humourous picture is given by the comic poet Eubulus (ap. Athen. l.c.), and by Xenophon (Oecon. 10 §8). It would appear from Xenophon (Ibid. § 5) that even in his time men sometimes used paint, and in later times it may have been still more common: Demetrius Phalereus is expressly said to have done so (Duris, ap. Athen. XII p542D).

Among the Romans the art of painting the complexion was carried to a still greater extent than among the Greeks; and even Ovid did not disdain to write a poem on the subject, which he calls (de Art. Am. III.206) "parvus, sed cura grande, libellus, opus;" though the genuineness of the fragment of the Medicamina faciei, ascribed to this poet, is doubtful. The Roman ladies even went so far as to paint with blue the veins on the temples, as we may infer from Propertius (II.14.27) "si caeruleo quaedam sua tempore fuco tinxerit." The ridiculous use of patches (splenia), which were common among the English ladies in the reign of Queen Anne and the first Georges, was not unknown to the Roman ladies (Mart. II.29.9, X.22; Plin. Ep. VI.2). The more effeminate of the male sex at Rome also employed paint. Cicero speaks (in Pison. 11) of the cerussatae buccae of his enemy, the consul Piso.

On a Greek vase (Tischbein, Engravings, II.58) we see the figure of a female engaged in putting the paint upon her face with a small brush. This figure is copied in Böttiger's Sabina (pl. IX) (Comp. Becker, Charikles, vol. II p232, &c.; Böttiger, Sabina, vol. I p24, &c., p51, &c.).


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