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p889 Periscelis

Article by William Ramsay, M.A., Professor of Humanity in the University of Glasgow
on p889 of

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

PERI′SCELIS (περισκελίς, Long. Past. I.2; Menander, ap. Polluc. II.194, V.100, Hor. Ep. I.17.56; Petron. 67). Much controversy has arisen with regard to the true meaning of this word. The etymology points out merely that it was something worn round the leg (περὶ σκέλος), but from the context of the passage in Horace where it is found we must at once infer that it was a trinket. The Scholiast explains it as "ornamentum pedis circum crura," and hence we can scarcely doubt that it denotes an anklet or bangle, especially since we know that these were commonly worn not only by the Orientals, the Egyptians, and the Greeks, but by the Roman ladies also (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.3 s12; compare Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, vol. III p374). This explanation perfectly accords with the expressions of Tertullian (de Cultu Feminarum, II sub fin.), where the periscelium is spoken of as decorating the leg in the same manner as the bracelet adorns the wrist and the necklace the throat. The anklet is frequently represented in the paintings of Greek figures on the walls of Pompeii, as in the following representation of a Nereid (Museo Borbonico, vol. VI tav. XXXIV).

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It must be observed, however, that the Greek lexicographers Hesychius, Photius, and Suidas, interpret περισκελῆ and περισκέλια by βρακκία, φεμινάλια, and St. Jerome (Epist. ad Fabiol.) expressly states that the Greek περισκελῆ were the same with the Latin feminalia, that is, drawers reaching from the navel to the knees. In the Septuagint we find περισκελὲς (sc. ἔνδυμα) in Exod. xxviii.42, xxxix.28, Levit. vi.10, and περισκέλιον in Levit. xvi.4, which our translators uniformly render, and apparently with accuracy, linen breeches.


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