National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Weaving and Spinning MOST SCHOOL children have read about the famous web that Penelope was weaving during the long courtship of the suitors who came to win her hand while she was wait ing for her lord, Odysseus, to return from the long Trojan War. She undid each night what she had woven during the day, thus postponing the time for choosing a wooer. The story describes one of the occupations of women throughout Greece in the old days. Even today small looms often form part of a household, and the women work on them as they did 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. The pattern of the modern looms has changed somewhat, but we have several representations of ancient Greek looms. They have been carefully studied in an attempt to restore the system on which they were worked. Though restoration is not easy from vase paintings, study proves that the looms were upright, that the cloth was wound up in a roll at the top as the work progressed, and that the threads of the warp were weighted at the ends with small clay weights. Hundreds of these weights have been found in excavations all over Greece. They are usually of clay and take the form of small cones or sometimes pyramids, each with a hole in the top through which threads of the warp were strung. Spinning wheels were unknown, but the distaff and spindle whorl were used, just as they are today in Greece, where it is a common sight to see women walking up and down in the courtyard spinning as they go. Spinning baskets are often represented on vases. The girl seated on the stool is rubbing wool over a roughened clay semicylinder which fits over her knee. This device was called epinetron. Farther offanother girlis weighing wool on a scale. Pet birds frequently appear onvases. Inthe courtyard may be seen a tame crane. In Athens, which wasalways strongly influenced by Ionian styles and ideas from theAsia Minor coast, women's dress usually consisted ofthe thin, clinging Ionic chiton. This graceful garment wasfrequently draped soastoform short sleeves which were clipped together along theupper edge by studs or sometimes by elaborate gold pins. Occa sionally the fasteners were fashioned inthelikeness of grasshoppers. There were various ways ofcatching the falling drapery up under a girdle, or sometimes two girdles, soastoobtain different effects. In later days the intricate arrangement ofthedraperies is hard to explain unless one assumes that extra pieces were sewn to the basic garment. Wool and linen were themost common materials. Cot ton, muslin, and silk, introduced from abroad, were rare and costly and could be worn only bytherich. The girl at the right wears apeplos over herchiton, rather an unusual combination butapparently onewhich was some times used. For outdoor use, an himation, acloaklike garment, was also worn. It is sometimesshown asdraped over thehead to form a sort of hood. The styles of headdresses inthe picture arealloftypes commonly found on fifth-century vases.