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p1213 Umbraculum

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p1213 of

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


[image ALT: An engraving of a woman in a long gown with a shawl draped most inconveniently over her left arm, passing behind her and held in her right hand. She holds in her left hand a parasol.]

UMBRACULUM, UMBELLA (σκιάδειον, σκιάδιον, σκιαδίσκη) a parasol, was used by Greek and Roman ladies as a protection against the sun. They seem not to have been carried generally by the ladies themselves, but by female slaves who held them over their mistresses. The daughters of the aliens (μέτοικοι) at Athens had to carry parasols after the Athenian maidens at the Panathenaea, as is mentioned under Hydriaphoria. The parasols of the ancients seem to have been exactly like our own parasols or umbrellas in form, and could be shut up and opened like ours (Aristoph. Equit. 1348; Schol. ad loc.; Ovid. Ar. Am. II.209). They are often represented in paintings on ancient vases; the annexed woodcut is taken from Millin's Peintures de Vases Antiques, vol. I pl. 70. The female is clothed in a long Chiton or Diploidion [Tunica, p1172B], and has a small Himation, which seems to have fallen off her shoulders.

It was considered a mark of effeminacy for men to make use of parasols (Anacreon, ap. Athen. XII p534A). The Roman ladies used them in the amphitheatre to defend themselves from the sun or some passing shower (Mart. XIV.28), when the wind or other circumstances did not allow the velarium to be extended. To hold a parasol over a lady was one of the common attentions of lovers (Mart. XI.73; Ovid. l.c.), and it seems to have been very common to give parasols as presents (Juv. IX.50).

Instead of parasols the Greek women in later times wore a kind of straw hat or bonnet, called θολία (Pollux, VII.174; compare X.127; Theocr. XV.39). The Romans also wore a hat with a broad brim (petasus) as a protection against the sun (Suet. Aug. 82; Dion Cass. LIX.7). See Paciaudi, de Umbellae gestatione, Rom. 1752; Becker, Charikles, vol. II p73.


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