Ancient Greek Loom Weights



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Early Bronze Age spindle whorl from Greece, made of clay. Early Bronze Age spindle whorl from Greece, made of clay. TRC 2014.0803.

9. Religion

Textiles also played a symbolic role in ancient Greek belief. In Plato’s Republic (circa 428-348 BCE)  human life is depicted as controlled by three female Fates (Moirae). The first Fate, named Clotho, spins the thread of each individual’s life. The next, Lachesis, measures the length of the thread with her measuring rod, thus determining lifespan. The third Fate, Atropos, cuts the thread, and so ends life.

Plato’s own city, Athens, was named after and protected by the goddess Athena. One of this goddess’s most important skills was weaving. It is no wonder, then, that the culmination of the Panathenaia, a major ceremony honouring Athena, involved a textile. The Panathenaia, held every fourth year in Athens, involved a procession to the Acropolis, where a woollen peplos was draped around the cult statue of Athena in the Erechtheum. Preparations for this ceremony began months earlier when the high priestess, with the help of four specially selected girls, set up the loom to weave the peplos. The girls, between 7-11 years of age, were called the arrephoroi, and they would live a year on the Acropolis. Two other girls, called ergastinai, would weave the peplos for the goddess. The prestige and importance of this ceremony are reflected in the fact it is carved on the east frieze of the Parthenon itself.(Haland 2005).

Athens was not the only ancient Greek community with such a ritual: the goddess Hera, protector of the city of Elis (northwest Peloponnesos), was regularly presented with a new peplos, woven by sixteen carefully selected women. Rituals have also been recorded of presenting specially prepared peploi to Hera at Heraion and at Olympia; to Apollo at Amyklai; and again to Athena at Argos.

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