[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

p919 Pileus

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp919‑921 of

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

PILEUS or PILEUM (Non. Marc. III; pilea virorum sunt, Serv. in Virg. Aen. IX.616), dim. PILEOLUS or PILEOLUM (Colum. de Arbor. 25); (πῖλος, dim. πίλιον, second dim. πιλίδιον; πίλημα, πιλωτόν), any piece of felt; more especially, a skull-cap of felt, a hat.

There seems to be no reason to doubt that felting (ἡ πιλητική, Plat. Polit. II.2 p296, ed. Bekker) is a more ancient invention than weaving [Tela], nor that both of these arts came into Europe from Asia.

From the Greeks, who were acquainted with this article as early as the age of Homer (Il. X.265) and Hesiod (Op. et Dies, 542, 546), the use of felt passed together with its name to the Romans. Among them the employment of it was always far less extended than among the Greeks. Nevertheless Pliny in one sentence, "Lanae et per se coactae vestem faciunt," gives a very exact account of the process of felting (H. N. VIII.48 s73). A Latin sepulchral inscription (Gruter, p648, n4) mentions "a manufacturer of woollen felt" (lanarius coactilarius), at the same time indicating that he was not a native of Italy (Lariseus).

The principal use of felt among the Greeks and Romans was to make coverings of the head for the male sex, and the most common kind was a simple skull-cap. It was often more elevated, though still round at the top. In this shape it appears on coins, especially on those of Sparta, or such as exhibit the symbols of the Dioscuri; and it is thus represented, with that addition on its summit, which distinguished the Roman flamines and salii, in three figures of the woodcut to the article Apex. But the apex, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, was sometimes conical; and conical or pointed caps were certainly very common.

[image ALT: zzz]
	In the Greek and Roman mythology different kinds of caps were symbolically assigned to indicate the occupations of the wearers. The painter Nicomachus first represented Ulysses in a cap, no doubt to indicate his sea-faring life (Plin. H. N. XXXV §22).º The woodcut on the following page shows him clothed in the Exomis, and in the act of offering wine to the Cyclops (Winckelmann, Mon. Ined. II.154; Homer, Od. IX.345‑347). He here wears the round cap; but more commonly both he and the boatman Charon (see woodcut, p512) have it pointed. Vulcan (see woodcut, p726) and Daedalus wear the caps of common artificers.

A cap of very frequent occurrence in the works of ancient art is that now generally known by the name of "the Phrygian bonnet." The Mysian pileus, mentioned by Aristophanes (Acharn. 429), must have been one of this kind. For we find it continually introduced as the characteristic symbol of Asiatic life in paintings and sculptures of Priam (see woodcut, p882) and Mithras (woodcut on title-page), and in short in all the representations, not only of Trojans and Phrygians, but of Amazons (woodcut, p894), and of all the inhabitants of Asia Minor, and even of nations dwelling still further east. The representations of this Phrygian, or Mysian, cap in sculptured marble show that it was made of a strong and stiff material and of a p920conical form, though bent forwards and downwards. By some Asiatic nations it was worn erect, as by the Sacae, whose stiff peaked caps Herodotus describes under the name of κυρβασίαι. The form of those worn by the Armenians (πιλοφόροι Ἀρμενίοι, Brunck, Anal. II.146) is shown on various coins, which were struck in the reign of Verus on occasion of the successes of the Roman army in Armenia, A.D. 161. It is sometimes erect, but sometimes bent downwards or truncated. The truncated conical hat is most distinctly seen on two of the Sarmatians in the group at page 213.

Among the Romans the cap of felt was the emblem of liberty. When a slave obtained his freedom he had his head shaved, and wore instead of his hair an undyed pileus (πίλεον λευκόν, Diod. Sic. Exc. Leg. 31º p625, ed. Wess.; Plaut. Amphit. I.1.306; Persius, V.82). Hence the phrase servos ad pileum vocare is a summons to liberty, by which slaves were frequently called upon to take up arms with a promise of liberty (Liv. XXIV.32). The figure of Liberty on some of the coins of Antoninus Pius, struck A.D. 145, holds this cap in the right hand.

[image ALT: zzz]
	In contradistinction to the various forms of the felt cap now described, we have to consider others more nearly corresponding with the hats worn by Europeans in modern times. The Greek word πέτασος, dim. πετάσιον, derived from πετάννυμι, "to expand," and adopted by the Latins in the form petasus, dim. petasunculus, well expressed the distinctive shape of these hats. What was taken from their height was added to their width. Those already described had no brim: the petasus of every variety had a brim, which was either exactly or nearly circular, and which varied greatly in its width. In some cases it is a circular disk without any crown at all, and often there is only a depression or slight concavity in this disk fitted to the top of the head. Of this a beautiful example is presented in a recumbent statue of Endymion, habited as a hunter, and sleeping on his scarf: this statue belongs to the Townley Collection in the British Museum, and shows the mode of wearing the petasus tied under the chin. In other instances, it is tied behind the neck instead of being tied before it (See the next woodcut). Very frequently we observe a boss on the top of the petasus, in the situation in which it appears in the woodcuts, pages 259, 379. In these woodcuts and in that here introduced the brim of the petasus is surmounted by a crown. Frequently the crown is in the form of a skull-cap; we also find it surrounded with a very narrow brim. The Greek petasus in its most common form agreed with the cheapest hats of undyed felt, now made in England. On the heads of rustics and artificers in our streets and lanes we often see forms the exact counterpart of which we most admire in the works of ancient art. The petasus is also still commonly worn by agricultural labourers in Greece and Asia Minor. In ancient times it was preferred to the skull-cap as a protection from the sun (Suet. Aug. 82), and on this account Caligula permitted the Roman senators to wear it at the theatres (Dion Cass. LIX.7). It was used by shepherds (Callim. Frag. 125), hunters, and travellers (Plaut. Amphitr. Prol.143, I.1.287, Pseud. II.4.45, IV.7.90; Brunck, Anal. II.170). The annexed woodcut is for a fictile vase belonging to Mr. Hope (CostumeI.71), and it represents a Greek soldier in his hat and pallium. The ordinary dress of the Athenian ephebi, well exhibited in the Panathenaic frieze of the Parthenon, now preserved in the British Museum, was the hat and scarf. [Chlamys.] (Brunck, Anal. I.5, II.41; Philemon, p367, ed. Meineke; Pollux, X.164.) Among imaginary beings the same costume was commonly attributed to Mercury (Arnob. adv. Gent. VI; Martianus Capella, II.176; Ephippus ap. Athen. XII p537F), and sometimes to the Dioscuri.

Ancient authors mention three varieties of the petasus, the Thessalian (Dion Cass. l.c.; Callim. Frag. 124; Schol. in Soph. Oed. Col. 316), the Arcadian (Brunck, Anal. II.384; Diog. Laërt. VI.102), and the Laconian (Arrian, Tact. p12, ed. Blancardi); but they do not say in what the difference p921consisted. In like manner it is by no means clear in what respects the Causia differed from the petasus, although they are distinctly opposed to one another by a writer in Athenaeus (XII p537E). Moreover in the later Greek authors we find πῖλος used to denote a hat of other materials besides felt (Athen. VI p274).

On the use of felt in covering the feet see Udo.

Felt was likewise used for the lining of helmets [Galea]. For further illustrations of this subject, see Yates's Textrinum Antiquorum, P. I. Appendix B.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 30 Jun 13