Tassel Belts and the Iliad

I found this gem while researching zone and felt I needed to write it down.

In short, Hera wants to beguile Zeus by making herself alluring and so she puts on a tassel belt. “ζώσατο δὲ ζώνῃ ἑκατὸν θυσάνοις ἀραρυίῃ…” Zone — girdle. Thysanois — tassels. Hera wore a tassel belt (or a belt with fringe) to entice Zeus.

Here’s a longer chunk for context from the Perseus Digital Library:

Now Hera of the golden throne, standing on a peak of Olympus, therefrom had sight of him, and forthwith knew him [155] as he went busily about in the battle where men win glory, her own brother and her lord’s withal; and she was glad at heart. And Zeus she marked seated on the topmost peak of many-fountained Ida, and hateful was he to her heart. Then she took thought, the ox-eyed, queenly Hera, [160] how she might beguile the mind of Zeus that beareth the aegis. And this plan seemed to her mind the best—to go to Ida, when she had beauteously adorned her person, if so be he might desire to lie by her side and embrace her body in love, and she might shed a warm and gentle sleep [165] upon his eyelids and his cunning mind. So she went her way to her chamber, that her dear son Hephaestus had fashioned for her, and had fitted strong doors to the door-posts with a secret bolt, that no other god might open. Therein she entered, and closed the bright doors. [170] With ambrosia first did she cleanse from her lovely body every stain, and anointed her richly with oil, ambrosial, soft, and of rich fragrance; were this but shaken in the palace of Zeus with threshold of bronze, even so would the savour thereof reach unto earth and heaven. [175] Therewith she annointed her lovely body, and she combed her hair, and with her hands pIaited the bright tresses, fair and ambrosial, that streamed from her immortal head. Then she clothed her about in a robe ambrosial, which Athene had wrought for her with cunning skill, and had set thereon broideries full many; [180] and she pinned it upon her breast with brooches of gold, and she girt about her a girdle set with an hundred tassels, and in her pierced ears she put ear-rings with three clustering1drops; and abundant grace shone therefrom. And with a veil over all did the bright goddess [185] veil herself, a fair veil, all glistering, and white was it as the sun; and beneath her shining feet she bound her fair sandals. But when she had decked her body with all adornment, she went forth from her chamber, and calling to her Aphrodite, apart from the other gods, she spake to her, saying: [190] “Wilt thou now hearken to me, dear child, in what I shall say? or wilt thou refuse me, being angered at heart for that I give aid to the Danaans and thou to the Trojans?”

Now, you might say “but surely they’re not the same kind of tassels we think of when we say ‘tassel’?” And to that, I give you the from Attica ca. 570-560 BCE, wearing a shawl with tassels on the corners:

1992.05.0150

So, next time someone says that tassel belts aren’t period, you can explain how far back they really go.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s