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p707 Limbus

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp707‑708 of

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


[image ALT: A woodcut showing 8 composite ornamental borders. It is a depiction of limbi, or the ancient Graeco-Roman version of decorative borders applied to clothing.]
The woodcut in the Dictionary was in black-and‑white; I colorized it.
LIMBUS (παρυφή), the border of a tunic (Corippus, de Laud. Just. II.117) or a scarf. (Virg. p708Aen. IV.137; Serv. in loc.) This ornament, when displayed upon the tunic, was of similar kind with the Cyclas and Institae (Servius in Virg. Aen. II.616), but much less expensive, more common and more simple. It was generally woven in the same piece with the entire garment of which it formed a part, and it had sometimes the appearance of a scarlet or purple band upon a white ground; in other instances it resembled foliage (Virg. Aen. I.649; Ovid, Met. VI.127), or the scrolls and meanders introduced in architecture. A very elegant effect was produced by bands of gold thread interwoven in cloth of Tyrian purple (Ovid, Met. V.51), and called ληροί or leria (Festus, s.v.; Brunck, Anal. I.483). Demetrius Poliorcetes was arrayed in this manner (χρυσοπαρύφοις ἀλουργῖσι, Plut. Demet. 41). Virgil (Aen. V.251) mentions a scarf enriched with gold, the border of which was in the form of a double meander. In illustration of this account examples of both the single and the double meander are introduced at the top of the annexed woodcut. The other eight specimens of limbi are selected to show some of the principal varieties of this ornament, which present themselves on Etruscan vases and other works of ancient art.

The use of the limbus was almost confined to the female sex among the Greeks and Romans; but in other nations it was admitted into the dress of men likewise.

An ornamental band, when used by itself as a fillet to surround the temples or the waist, was also called limbus (Stat. Theb. VI.367, Achill. II.176; Claud. de Cons. Mallii Theod. 118). Probably the limbolarii mentioned by Plautus (Aulul. III.5.45), were persons employed in making bands of this description.


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Page updated: 24 Aug 07