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p680 Lemniscus

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p680 of

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

LEMNISCUS (λημνίσκος) This word is said to have originally been used only by the Syracusans (Hesych. s.v.). It signified a kind of coloured ribbon which hung down from crowns or diadems at the back part of the head (Festus, s.v.). The earliest crowns are said to have consisted of wool, so that we have to conceive the lemniscus as a ribbon wound around the wool in such a manner that the two ends of the ribbon, where they met, were allowed to hang down. See the representations of the corona obsidionalis and civica in p359, where the lemnisci not only appear as a means to keep the little branches of the crowns together, but also serve as an ornament. From the remark of Servius (ad Aen. V.269) it appears that coronae adorned with lemnisci were a greater distinction than those without them. This serves to explain an expression of Cicero (palma lemniscata, pro Rosc. Am. 35) where palma means a victory, and the epithet lemniscata indicates the contrary of infamis, and at the same time implies an honourable as well as lucrative victory (cf. Auson. Epist. XX.5).

It seems that lemnisci were also worn alone and without being connected with crowns, especially by ladies, as an ornament for the head (Plin. H. N. XXI.3). To show honour and admiration for a person, flowers, garlands, and lemnisci were sometimes showered upon him while he walked in public (Casaub. ad Suet. Ner. 25; Liv. XXXIII.19).

Lemnisci seem originally to have been made of wool, and afterwards of the finest kinds of bast (philyrae, Plin. H. N. XVI.14º); but during the latter period of the republic the wealthy Crassus not only made the foliage or leaves of crowns of thin sheets of gold and silver, but the lemnisci likewise; and P. Claudius Pulcher embellished the metal lemnisci with works of art in relief and with inscriptions (Plin. H. N. XXI.3).

The word lemniscus is used by medical writers in the signification of a kind of liniment applied to wounds ( Celsus, VII.28; Veget. de Re Veter. II.14 and 48, III.18).


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