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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Roman authors associated blond and reddish hair with the Gauls and the Germans

Southern Europe

The Greek gods are cited as varying in their appearances. While Poseidon was described as having a blue-black beard, and Zeus blue-black eyebrows, Pindar described Athena as fair-haired, and Pheidas described her as golden-haired. Hera, Apollo and Aphrodite were also described as blonds.[48] Pindar collectively described the Homeric Danaans of the time of the war between Argos and Thebes as fair-haired.[48] The Spartans are described as fair-haired by Bacchylides. In the work of Homer, Menelaus the king of the Spartans is, together with other Achaean leaders, portrayed as blond.[48] Although dark hair colours were predominant in the works of Homer, there is only one case of a dark hero, and that is when the blond Odysseus is transformed by Athena and his beard becomes blue-black. Other blond characters in Homer are Peleus, Achilles, Meleager, Agamede, and Rhadamanthys.[48]
Details of the "bikini girls" mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily, 4th century AD.
According to Francis Owens,[49] Roman literary records describe a large number of well-known Roman historical personalities as blond. In addition, 250 individuals are recorded to have had the name Flavius, meaning blond, and there are there are various people named Rufus and Rutilius, meaning red haired and reddish-haired, respectively. The following Roman gods are said to have had blond hair: Amor, Apollo, Aurora, Bacchus, Ceres, Diana, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva and Venus.[49] An emperor, Nero, descended from an aristocratic family, is by the historian Suetonius described as: "... his hair light blond,... his eyes blue..."[50]
According to Victoria Sherrow, those Romans who were fair-haired preferred to dye their hair dark in the early period of Ancient Rome; at one point in time blond hair was even associated with prostitutes.[51] The preference changed to bleaching the hair blond when Greek culture, which practiced bleaching, reached Rome, and was reinforced when the legions that conquered Gaul returned with blond slaves.[51] Roman women tried to lighten their hair, but the substances often caused hair loss, so they resorted to wigs made from the captives’ hair.[52]
Juvenal wrote that Messalina, Roman empress of very noble birth, would hide her black hair with a blond wig for her nightly visits to the brothel: sed nigrum flavo crinem abscondente galero intravit calidum veteri centone lupanar. [53] In his Commentary on the Aeneid of Virgil, Maurus Servius Honoratus noted that the respectable matron was only black haired, never blond.[54] In the same passage, he mentioned that Cato the Elder wrote that some matrons would sprinkle golden dust on their hair to make it reddish-color.
From an ethnic point of view, Roman authors associated blond and reddish hair with the Gauls and the Germans: e.g., Virgil describes the hair of the Gauls as "golden" (aurea caesaries),[55] Tacitus wrote that "the Germans have fierce blue eyes, red-blond hair (rutilae comae), huge (tall) frames";[56] in accordance with Ammianus, almost all the Gauls were "of tall stature, fair and ruddy".[57]

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