What Is a Peplos in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the peplos was a garment worn exclusively by women. It was a long, rectangular piece of fabric that was draped over the body and fastened at the shoulders with fibulae, or decorative pins.

The History of the Peplos

The peplos is believed to have originated in Mycenaean Greece, around 1600 BCE. At that time, it was made from wool and decorated with geometric designs. In later periods, it became more ornate, with added trimmings and embroidery.

During the Archaic period (800-480 BCE), the peplos became a symbol of Athenian identity. Every year, as part of the Panathenaic festival in honor of the goddess Athena, a new peplos was woven and presented to her statue in the Parthenon.

The Design of the Peplos

The basic design of the peplos remained unchanged throughout its history. It consisted of a rectangular piece of fabric that measured about 1.5 times the wearer’s height and twice their arm span.

To wear it, women would fold over one-third of the fabric along its length and drape it over their left shoulder. The remaining two-thirds would be wrapped around their body and fastened at their right shoulder with fibulae.

Materials Used for Making Peplos

As mentioned earlier, during its early days, wool was used to make peplos but later on silk and cotton were also used for making it. The decoration on them varied depending on which materials were being used.

The Symbolism of the Peplos

The presentation of a new peplos to Athena during the Panathenaic festival had great cultural significance for Ancient Greeks. It symbolized both gratitude towards Athena for her protection over Athens and pride in Athenian craftsmanship.

In addition to its religious and cultural significance, the peplos also played a role in defining gender roles in Ancient Greece. As a garment worn exclusively by women, it served as a marker of femininity and modesty.

The Legacy of the Peplos

Today, the peplos is primarily remembered for its role in Athenian culture and mythology. It has been depicted in countless works of art, including sculptures and pottery.

Its influence can also be seen in modern fashion. The basic design of the peplos, with its draped fabric and fastening pins, has inspired contemporary fashion designers to create their own interpretations of this ancient garment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the peplos was an important garment for women in Ancient Greece. Its simple yet elegant design made it a symbol of cultural identity and femininity. Today, it continues to inspire artists and designers around the world with its timeless beauty.