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p767 Monile

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp767‑768 of

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

MONILE (ὄρμος), a necklace. Necklaces were worn by both sexes among the most polished of those nations which the Greeks called barbarous, especially the Indians, the Egyptians, and the Persians. [Armilla.] Greek and Roman females adopted them more particularly as a bridal ornament (Lucan, II.361; Claud. de VI. cons. Honor. 527).

The simplest kind of necklace was the monile baccatum, or bead necklace (Virg. Aen. I.657; Lamprid. Al. Sev. 41), which consisted of berries, small spheres of glass, amethyst, &c., strung together. This is very commonly shown in ancient paintings (see woodcut, p136). The head of Minerva at page 566, exhibits a frequent modification of the bead necklace, a row of drops hanging below the beads. These drops, when worn, arrange themselves upon the neck like rays proceeding from a centre. To this class of necklaces belongs one in the Egyptian collection of the British Museum (see the annexed woodcut), in which small golden lizards alternate with the drops. The figure in the p768woodcut immediately underneath this exhibits the central portion of a very ancient and exquisitely wrought necklace, which was found at S. Agatha, near Naples, in the sepulchre of a Greek lady. It has 71 pendants. Above them is a band consisting of several rows of the close chain-work, which we now call Venetian [Catena].


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We also give here the central portions, exhibiting the patterns of three splendid gold necklaces, purchased from the Prince of Canino for the British Museum. These were found in Etruscan tombs. The ornaments consist of circles, lozenges, rosettes, ivy-leaves, and hippocampi. A heart depends from the centre of one of the necklaces.


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The necklace was sometimes made to resemble a serpent coiled about the neck of the wearer, as was the case with that given as a nuptial present by Venus to Harmonia, which was ornamented in so elaborate a manner, that Nonnus devotes 50 lines of his Dionysiaca (V.125, &c.) to its description. This same necklace afterwards appears in the mythology as the bribe by which Eriphyle was tempted to betray her husband (Apollodor. III.4 § 1, III.6 §§ 2‑6; Diod. IV.65, V.49; Serv. in Aen. VI.445).

The beauty and splendour, as well as the value of necklaces, were enhanced by the insertion of pearls and precious stones, which were strung together by means of linen thread, silk, or wires and links of gold. For this purpose emeralds, or other stones of a greenish hue (smaragdi), were often employed (virides gemmae, Juv. VI.363). Amber necklaces are mentioned in the Odyssey (XV.459, XVIII.295). Some account of the various kinds of links is given in the article Catena. The hooks or clasps for fastening the necklace behind the neck were also various, and sometimes neatly and ingeniously contrived. Besides a band encircling the neck, there was sometimes a second or even a third row of ornaments, which hung lower down, passing over the breast (Hom. Hymn. II in Ven. 11; longa monilia, Ovid, Met. X.264; Böttiger, Sabina, vol. II p129).

Very valuable necklaces were sometimes placed, as dedicated offerings, upon the statues of Minerva, Venus, and other goddesses (Sueton. Galb. 18), and this was in accordance with the description of their attire given by the poets (Hom. Hymn. I. in Ven. 88). Horses and other favourite animals were also adorned with splendid necklaces (aurea, Virg. Aen. VII.278; gemmata monilia, Ovid. Met. X.113; Claudian, Epig. xxxvi.9; A. Gell. V.5). [Torques.]


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