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Bill Thayer

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→ The student will find a considerably more detailed modern article on all the forms of the diadem, with a wealth of illustration, at Livius.Org.

 p395  Diadema

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p395 of

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

DIADE′MA (διάδημα), a white fillet used to encircle the head (fascia alba, Val. Max. VI.2 § 7). The invention of this ornament is by Pliny (VII.57) ascribed to "Liber Pater." Diodorus Siculus adds (IV p250, Wessel.), that he wore it to assuage headache, the consequence of indulgence in wine. Accordingly, in works of ancient art, Dionysus wears a plain bandage on his head, as shown in the cut under Cantharus. The decoration is properly Oriental. It is commonly represented on the heads of Eastern monarchs. Justin (XII.3) relates that Alexander the Great adopted the large diadem of the kings of Persia, the ends of which fell upon the shoulders, and that this mark of royalty was preserved by his successors. Antony assumed it in his luxurious intercourse with Cleopatra in Egypt (Florus, IV.11).​a Aelian says (V. H. VI.38) that the kings of that country had the figure of an asp upon their diadems. In process of time the sculptors placed the diadema on the head of Zeus, and various other divinities besides Dionysus; and it was also gradually assumed by the sovereigns of the Western world. It was tied behind in a bow; whence Tacitus (Ann. VI.37) speaks of the Euphrates rising in waves "white with foam, so as to resemble a diadem." By the addition of fold and gems, and by a continual increase in richness, size, and splendour, this bandage was at length converted into the crown which has been for many centuries the badge of sovereignty in modern Europe.

Thayer's Note:

a Actually — see the passage — Florus says that Antony did not wear a diadem ("crown" in the Loeb translation).

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Page updated: 22 Jan 09