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Bill Thayer

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p1094 Talaria

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp1094‑1095 of

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

[image ALT: A woodcut of the foot of an ancient statue, with a complicated set of interlocking straps around the heel, but no sole — a small rosette where two of the straps join at the arch of the foot, and a large bird wing rising up the calf from the ankle-bone. It is an illustration of the Graeco-Roman talaria discussed in this webpage.]

TALARIA, small wings, fixed to the ancles of Mercury and reckoned among his attributes (πέδιλα, Athen. XII p537F; πτηνοπέδιλος, Orph. Hymn. XXVII.4; Ovid. Met. II.736; Fulgent. Mythol. 1). In many works of ancient art they are represented growing from his ancles, as if they were a part of his bodily frame; but more frequently they are attached to him as a part of his dress, agreeably to the description of the poets (Hom. Il. XXIV.340, Od. V.44; Virg. Aen. IV.239); and this is commonly done by representing him with sandals, which have wings fastened to them on each side over the ancles. But there is a most beautiful bronze statue of this divinity in the p1095museum at Naples, in which the artist, instead of the sole of a sandal, has made the straps unite in a rosette under the middle of the foot (see the woodcut), evidently intending by this elegant device to represent the messenger of the gods as borne through space without touching the ground.

Besides Mercury the artists of antiquity also represented Perseus as wearing winged sandals (Mon. Matth. III.28; Inghirami, Vasi Fittili, I tav. 70, IV tav. 166); because he put on those of Mercury, when he went on his aërial voyage to the rescue of Andromeda (Ovid. Met. IV.665‑677; Hes. Scut. 216‑220; Eratosth. Catast. 22; Hygin. Poet. Astron. II.12). The same appendage was ascribed to Minerva, according to one view of her origin, viz. as the daughter of Pallas (Cic. de Nat. Deor. III.23; Tzetzes, Schol. in Lycoph. 355).

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Page updated: 2 Feb 09