Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ancient Mullets?

The Achaeans seem generally to have worn their hair long, based on the formulaic epithet κάρη κομόωντες, letting the hair grow long on the head. In his commentary at Iliad 3.43, Kirk mentions a note by Stephanie West on Odyssey 1.90 which says that long hair remained fashionable with wealthy Athenians into the fifth century. The intermediate LSJ on κομάω says:
In early times the Greeks wore their hair long, whence κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί in Homer. At Sparta the fashion continued. At Athens it was so worn by youths up to the 18th year, when they offered their long locks to some deity; and to wear long hair was considered as a sign of aristocratic habits: hence κομᾶν meant to plume oneself, give oneself airs, be proud or haughty (like Latin cristam tollere) Aristophanes; οὗτος ἐκόμησε ἐπὶ τυραννίδι, he aimed at the monarchy, Herodotus; ἐπὶ τῷ κομᾷς; on what do you plume yourself? Aristophanes.

He also mentions that West claims the gods have long hair, but he points out that strictly it is only Zeus, "whose locks fall forward in his great oath at 1.529", and Apollo, who is called ἀκερσοκόμης, with uncut hair, at 20.39.

In the catalogue of ships we learn of the Ἄβαντες in lines 536-545:
οἳ δ᾽ Εὔβοιαν ἔχον μένεα πνείοντες Ἄβαντες,
Χαλκίδα τ᾽ Εἰρέτριάν τε πολυστάφυλόν θ᾽ Ἱστίαιαν
Κήρινθόν τ᾽ ἔφαλον Δίου τ᾽ αἰπὺ πτολίεθρον,
οἵ τε Κάρυστον ἔχον ἠδ᾽ οἳ Στύρα ναιετάασκον,
τῶν αὖθ᾽ ἡγεμόνευ᾽ Ἐλεφήνωρ, ὄζος Ἄρηος,
Χαλκωδοντιάδης, μεγαθύμων ἀρχὸς Ἀβάντων.
τῷ δ᾽ ἅμ᾽ Ἄβαντες ἕποντο θοοί, ὄπιθεν κομόωντες,
αἰχμηταὶ μεμαῶτες ὀρεκτῇσιν μελίῃσι
θώρηκας ῥήξειν δηΐων ἀμφὶ στήθεσσι.
τῷ δ᾽ ἅμα τεσσαράκοντα μέλαιναι νῆες ἕποντο.

[And the power-breathing Abantes held Euboea, and Kalchis, and Eiretria, and vine-rich Histiaia, and Kerinthos on the seashore, and the steep city of Dion, and they held Karustos, and inhabited Stura: Elephenor, companion of Ares, was the leader of these, the son of Khalkodon, leader of the great-hearted Abantes. And with him followed the nimble Abantes, letting their hair grow long in the back, eager spearmen with outstretched spears of ash ready to split the breastplates about the chest of the enemy. And with him followed forty dark ships.]

The phrase ὄπιθεν κομόωντες, according to Kirk, "must mean with hair long at the back, short on top", "in order to stop the enemy grabbing it, according to Arkhemakhos, a local historian cited by Strabo 10.465". That is practical enough (if he is right) but it sure sounds like a mullet to me, although I certainly wouldn't say that face-to-face with the μένεα πνείοντες Ἄβαντες themselves, I mean, I don't even own a breastplate.


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