Phrygian Embroidery (Turkey)

There is a reference to what is generally translated as 'Phrygian embroidery' in Pliny the Elder’s (AD 23-79) Naturalis Historia, which was completed in c. AD 77.

The relevant reference from Book 8, section lxxiv states:

….. pictae vestes iam apud Homerum sunt iis, et inde triumphales natae acu facere id Phryges invenerunt, ideoque Phrygioniae appellatae sunt. "Embroidered garments are mentioned by Homer and in this class originated the triumphal robes. The Phrygians first used the needle for this purpose and hence this kind of garment obtained the name of Phrygionian [Phrygian]."

The passage is used in various publications and internet sites to suggest that embroidery, at least in the Classical world, originated in c. AD 60 and that the Phyrgians are credited with inventing the art of embroidery. However, it represents the information available to Pliny and his interpretation of the data rather than actual historical events.

In Late Latin, the term auriphrygium is used for gold embroidery. The Opus Phrygium or Opus Phrygionum may refer to gold work or embroidery with (some) gold thread in general. Garments adorned with embroidery were called phrygionae. The term 'orphrey', which refers to a decorated band that forms part of many ecclesiastical garments, is derived from the word auriphrygium.

See also the TRC Needles entry on Attalic embroidery.

Source: VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016), 'Embroideries from archaeological and historical sources from the Eastern Mediterranean and Iraq,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 71-77, esp. p. 74-75.


Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 14:01