Sunday, March 05, 2006


Tying One On

David Meadows at Rogueclassicism makes an interesting and plausible suggestion about the Greek vase painting I displayed a few days ago. He thinks that the girl isn't comforting a boy who's vomiting, but is instead helping him tie a ribbon around his head. The more I look at the painting, the more I think David is correct.

On headbands or garlands worn at ancient drinking parties, see especially book 15 of Athenaeus' Deipnosophistae and book 21 of Pliny's Natural History. Athenaeus 15.674 (tr. C.D. Yonge) writes:
But Aristotle, in the second book of his treatise on Love Affairs, and Ariston the Peripatetic, who was a native of Ceos, in the second book of his Amatory Resemblances, say that "The ancients, on account of the headaches which were produced by their wine-drinking, adopted the practice of wearing garlands made of anything which came to hand, as the binding of the head tight appeared to be of service to them. But men in later times added also some ornaments to their temples, which had a kind of reference to their employment of drinking, and so they invented garlands in the present fashion. But it is more reasonable to suppose that it was because the head is the seat of all sensation that men wore crowns upon it, than that they did so because it was desirable to have their temples shaded and bound as a remedy against the headaches produced by wine."
Athenaeus goes on at great length about various materials used to make garlands, such as osier or myrtle.

The most famous ancient poem about a garland is probably Horace, Ode 1.38:
Persicos odi, puer, apparatus;
displicent nexae philyra coronae;
mitte sectari rosa quo locorum
  sera moretur.

Simplici myrto nihil adlabores
sedulus curo; neque te ministrum
dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta
  vite bibentem.
Here is an amusing translation of Horace's ode by Eugene Field, from his Echoes from the Sabine Farm:
Boy, I detest the Persian pomp;
  I hate those linden-bark devices;
And as for roses, holy Moses!
  They can't be got at living prices!

Myrtle is good enough for us,--
  For you, as bearer of my flagon;
For me, supine beneath this vine,
  Doing my best to get a jag on!
I haven't been to any drinking parties lately, but I imagine nowadays baseball caps worn backwards are more common than myrtle wreaths.

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