Pileus (hat)

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Ancient Greek red-figure plate from Apulia, third quarter of the 4th century BC, Louvre Man pilos Louvre MNE1330.jpg
Ancient Greek red-figure plate from Apulia, third quarter of the 4th century BC, Louvre

The pileus (Greek : πῖλος, pîlos; also pilleus or pilleum in Latin) was a brimless, felt cap worn in Ancient Greece, Etruria, Illyria, Pannonia and surrounding regions, [1] [2] later also introduced in Ancient Rome. [3] In the 5th century BC a bronze version began to appear in Ancient Greece and during the Hellenistic era it became a popular infantry helmet. It occasionally had a horsehair crest. [4] The Greek πιλίδιον (pilidion) and Latin pilleolus were smaller versions, similar to a skullcap. The plis, an Albanian felt cap, originated from a similar felt cap worn by the Illyrians, and is worn today in Albania and Kosovo.



Ancient Greek terracotta statuette of a peasant wearing a pilos, 1st century BC Peasant basket Louvre Myr330.jpg
Ancient Greek terracotta statuette of a peasant wearing a pilos, 1st century BC


The pilos (Greek: πῖλος, felt [5] ) was a typical conical hat in Ancient Greece among travelers, workmen and sailors, though sometimes a low, broad-rimmed version was also preferred, known as petasos. [6] It could be made of felt or leather. Pilos caps often identify the mythical twins, or Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, as represented in sculptures, bas-reliefs and on ancient ceramics. Their caps were supposedly the remnants of the egg from which they hatched. [7] The pilos appears on votive figurines of boys at the sanctuary of the Cabeiri at Thebes, the Cabeirion. [8]

In warfare, the pilos type helmet was often worn by the peltast light infantry, in conjunction with the exomis, but it was also worn by the heavy infantry.[ citation needed ]

The pilos helmet was made of bronze in the same shape as the pilos which was presumably sometimes worn under the helmet for comfort, giving rise to the helmet's conical shape. [9] Some historians theorize that the pilos helmet had widespread adoption in some greek cities such as Sparta, [10] [2] however, there is no primary historical source or any archeological evidence that would suggest that Sparta or any other greek state would have used the helmet in a standardized fashion for their armies. What led historians to believe that the helmet was widespread in places such as Sparta was, amongst other reasons, the supposed advancement of battlefield tactics that required that infantry have full vision and mobility. [11] However, many other types of greek helmet offered similar designs to the pilos when it came to visibility, such as the konos or the chalcidian helmets, and the idea that Sparta widely adopted the pilos helmet, or any type of helmet in a standard fashion, is based purely on speculation, since any surviving records of classical historians such as Herodotus or Xenophon never gave such an account of a precise type of widespread equipment or helmet the greeks wore at any point in time.[ citation needed ]


The plis, an Albanian felt cap, originated from a similar felt cap worn by the Illyrians. [12] [13]


Pileus between two daggers, on the reverse of a denarius issued by Brutus to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March Eid Mar.jpg
Pileus between two daggers, on the reverse of a denarius issued by Brutus to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March

In Ancient Rome, a slave was freed in a ceremony in which a praetor touched the slave with a rod called a vindicta and pronounced him to be free. The slave's head was shaved and a pileus was placed upon it. Both the vindicta and the cap were considered symbols of Libertas, the goddess representing liberty. [14] This was a form of extra-legal manumission (the manumissio minus justa) considered less legally sound than manumission in a court of law.[ citation needed ]

One 19th century dictionary of classical antiquity states that, "Among the Romans the cap of felt was the emblem of liberty. When a slave obtained his freedom he had his head shaved, and wore instead of his hair an undyed pileus." [15] Hence the phrase servos ad pileum vocare is a summons to liberty, by which slaves were frequently called upon to take up arms with a promise of liberty (Liv. XXIV.32). The figure of Liberty on some of the coins of Antoninus Pius, struck A.D. 145, holds this cap in the right hand. [16]

In the period of the Tetrarchy and subsequently a distinctive type of round, brimless hat known as the Pannonian cap (pileus pannonicus) was worn as part of a Roman soldier's costume, though it also seems to have been worn by non-military bureaucrats. It was flat topped and resembled the more recent 'pillbox hat'. [17] [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

Libertas Roman Goddess of Liberty

Libertas is the Roman goddess and personification of liberty. She became a politicised figure in the Late Republic, featured on coins supporting the populares faction, and later those of the assassins of Julius Caesar. Nonetheless, she sometimes appears on coins from the imperial period, such as Galba's "Freedom of the People" coins during his short reign after the death of Nero. She is usually portrayed with two accoutrements: the rod and the soft pileus, which she holds out, rather than wears.

Helmet Protective headwear

A helmet is a form of protective gear worn to protect the head. More specifically, a helmet complements the skull in protecting the human brain. Ceremonial or symbolic helmets without protective function are sometimes worn. Soldiers wear helmets, often made from lightweight plastic materials.

Phrygian cap soft conical cap with the top pulled forward

The Phrygian cap or liberty cap is a soft conical cap with the apex bent over, associated in antiquity with several peoples in Eastern Europe and Anatolia, including Phrygia, Dacia, and the Balkans. During the French Revolution it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, although Phrygian caps did not originally function as liberty caps. The original cap of liberty was the Roman pileus, the felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome, which was an attribute of Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty. In the 16th century, the Roman iconography of liberty was revived in emblem books and numismatic handbooks where the figure of Libertas is usually depicted with a pileus. The most extensive use of a headgear as a symbol of freedom in the first two centuries after the revival of the Roman iconography was made in the Netherlands, where the cap of liberty was adopted in the form of a contemporary hat. In the 18th century, the traditional liberty cap was widely used in English prints and from 1789 also in French prints; by the early 1790s, it was regularly used in the Phrygian form.

Liberty (personification) Personifications of the concept of Liberty

The concept of liberty has frequently been represented by personifications, often loosely shown as a female classical goddess. Examples include Marianne, the national personification of the French Republic and its values of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, the female Liberty portrayed on United States coins for well over a century, and many others. These descend from images on ancient Roman coins of the Roman goddess Libertas and from various developments from the Renaissance onwards. The Dutch Maiden was among the first, re-introducing the cap of liberty on a liberty pole featured in many types of image, though not using the Phrygian cap style that became conventional. The 1886 Statue of Liberty by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi is a well-known example in art, a gift from France to the United States.

Hat Shaped head covering, having a brim and a crown, or one of these

A hat is a head covering which is worn for various reasons, including protection against weather conditions, ceremonial reasons such as university graduation, religious reasons, safety, or as a fashion accessory. In the past, hats were an indicator of social status. In the military, hats may denote nationality, branch of service, rank or regiment. Police typically wear distinctive hats such as peaked caps or brimmed hats, such as those worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Some hats have a protective function. As examples, the hard hat protects construction workers' heads from injury by falling objects and a British police Custodian helmet protects the officer's head, a sun hat shades the face and shoulders from the sun, a cowboy hat protects against sun and rain and an ushanka fur hat with fold-down earflaps keeps the head and ears warm. Some hats are worn for ceremonial purposes, such as the mortarboard, which is worn during university graduation ceremonies. Some hats are worn by members of a certain profession, such as the Toque worn by chefs. Some hats have religious functions, such as the mitres worn by Bishops and the turban worn by Sikhs.

Qeleshe white brimless felt cap traditionally worn by Albanians

The qeleshe or plis, also qylaf is a white brimless felt cap traditionally worn by Albanians. It has spread throughout Albanian-inhabited territories, and is today part of the traditional costume of the Albanians. The height of the cap varies region to region.

Petasos sun hat worn in Ancient Greece

A petasos or petasus is a sun hat of Thessalian origin worn by ancient Greeks, Macedonians, Thracians and Etruscans, often in combination with the chlamys cape. It was usually made of wool felt, leather or straw, with a broad, floppy brim. It was worn primarily by farmers and travellers, and was considered characteristic of rural people. As a winged hat, it became the symbol of Hermes, the Greek mythological messenger god.

Corinthian helmet helmet used in Ancient Greece

The Corinthian helmet originated in ancient Greece and took its name from the city-state of Corinth. It was a helmet made of bronze which in its later styles covered the entire head and neck, with slits for the eyes and mouth. A large curved projection protected the nape of the neck.

Pointed hat pointed or conical headgear

Pointed hats have been a distinctive item of headgear of a wide range of cultures throughout history. Though often suggesting an ancient Indo-European tradition, they were also traditionally worn by women of Lapland, the Japanese, the Mi'kmaq people of Atlantic Canada, and the Huastecs of Veracruz and Aztec. The Kabiri of New Guinea have the diba, a pointed hat glued together.

Ancient Macedonian army antique armed force

The army of the Kingdom of Macedon was among the greatest military forces of the ancient world. It was created and made formidable by King Philip II of Macedon; previously the army of Macedon had been of little account in the politics of the Greek world, and Macedonia had been regarded as a second-rate power.

Kausia broad-brimmed flat felt hat of Ancient Macedonian origin

The kausia was an ancient Macedonian flat hat.

Boeotian helmet open helmet used in Classical Antiquity

The Boeotian helmet was a type of military helmet used in Ancient Greece during the classical and Hellenistic periods, as well as in Ancient Rome; it possibly originated in the Greek region of Boeotia.

Attic helmet helmet originating in classical Greece consisting of a skull-piece, neck-guard, and hinged cheek-pieces

The Attic helmet was a type of helmet that originated in Classical Greece and was widely used in Italy and the Hellenistic world until well into the Roman Empire. Its name is a modern historiographic convention: "Terms such as Illyrian and Attic are used in archaeology for convenience to denote a particular type of helmet and do not imply its origin".

The traditional clothing of Albania includes more than 200 different varieties of clothing in all Albania and the Albanian-speaking territories and communities. Albania's recorded history of clothing goes back to classical times. It is one of the factors that has differentiated this nation from other European countries, dating back to the Illyrian period.

Chalcidian helmet bronze helmet worn by warriors in the Hellenistic world

A Chalcidian helmet or Chalcidian type helmet was a helmet made of bronze and worn by ancient warriors of the Hellenic world, especially popular in Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. The helmet was also worn extensively in the Greek (southern) parts of Italy in the same period.

Greek helmet may refer to any of the following:

Boars tusk helmet military item

Helmets using ivory from boar's tusks were known in the Mycenaean world from the 17th century BC to the 10th century BC. The helmet was made through the use of slivers of boar tusks which were attached to a leather base, padded with felt, in rows. A description of a boar's tusk helmet appears in book ten of Homer's Iliad, as Odysseus is armed for a night raid to be conducted against the Trojans.

Meriones gave Odysseus a bow, a quiver and a sword, and put a cleverly made leather helmet on his head. On the inside there was a strong lining on interwoven straps, onto which a felt cap had been sewn in. The outside was cleverly adorned all around with rows of white tusks from a shiny-toothed boar, the tusks running in alternate directions in each row.

Μηριόνης δ' Ὀδυσῆϊ δίδου βιὸν ἠδὲ φαρέτρην
καὶ ξίφος, ἀμφὶ δέ οἱ κυνέην κεφαλῆφιν ἔθηκε
ῥινοῦ ποιητήν: πολέσιν δ' ἔντοσθεν ἱμᾶσιν
ἐντέτατο στερεῶς: ἔκτοσθε δὲ λευκοὶ ὀδόντες
ἀργιόδοντος ὑὸς θαμέες ἔχον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα

εὖ καὶ ἐπισταμένως: μέσσῃ δ' ἐνὶ πῖλος ἀρήρει.

Phrygian helmet Ancient Greek helmet with a high, curved apex

The Phrygian helmet, also known as the Thracian helmet, was a type of helmet that originated in Classical Greece and was widely used in Thrace, Dacia, Magna Graecia and the Hellenistic world until well into the Roman Empire.

Illyrian weaponry

Illyrian weaponry played an important role in the makeup of Illyrian armies and in conflicts involving the Illyrians. Of all the ancients sources the most important and abundant writings are those of Ennius, a Roman poet of Messapian origin. Weapons of all sorts were also placed intact in the graves of Illyrian warriors and provide a detailed picture for archaeologists on the distribution and development of Illyrian weaponry.

Symbolism in the French Revolution

Symbolism in the French Revolution was a device to distinguish and celebrate the main features of the French Revolution and ensure public identification and support. In order to effectively illustrate the differences between the new Republic and the old regime, the leaders needed to implement a new set of symbols to be celebrated instead of the old religious and monarchical symbolism. To this end, symbols were borrowed from historic cultures and redefined, while those of the old regime were either destroyed or reattributed acceptable characteristics. New symbols and styles were put in place to separate the new, Republican country from the monarchy of the past. These new and revised symbols were used to instill in the public a new sense of tradition and reverence for the Enlightenment and the Republic.



  1. 1 2 Cleland, Liza; Davies, Glenys; Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd (2007). Greek and Roman Dress from A to Z. Routledge. p. 88. ISBN   978-0-203-93880-5.
  2. 1 2 Campbell, Duncan B. (2012). Spartan Warrior 735–331 BC. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 34. ISBN   978-1849087018.
  3. "pileus", Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. Ober, Jesse (2012). "A Brief History of Greek Helmets". AncientPlanet Online Journal. 2: 15. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  5. πῖλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  6. Sacks, David; Murray, Oswyn (1995). A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World . Oxford University Press. p.  62. ISBN   9780195112061. "Travelers, workmen, and sailors might wear a conical cap known as a pilos; travelers, hunters, and other sometimes wore the low, borad-rimmed hit (petasos)
  7. John Tzetzes, On Lycophron, noted by Karl Kerenyi's The Heroes of the Greeks, 1959:107 note 584.
  8. Walter Burkert. Greek Religion, 1985:281.
  9. Nick Sekunda,The Spartan Army, p.30
  10. Jesse Obert, A Brief History of Greek Helmets, p.16
  11. Jesse Obert, A Brief History of Greek Helmets, p.16
  12. Stipčević, Aleksandar (1977). The Illyrians: History and Culture. History and Culture Series. Noyes Press. p. 89. ISBN   0815550529. It is generally agreed, and rightly so, that the modern Albanian cap originates directly from the similar cap worn by the Illyrians.
  13. Recherches albanologiques: Folklore et ethnologie. Instituti Albanologijik i Prishtinës. 1982. p. 52. Retrieved 14 April 2013. Ne kuadrin e veshjeve me përkime ilire, të dokumentuara gjer më tani hyjnë tirqit, plisi, qeleshja e bardhë gjysmësferike, goxhufi-gëzofi etj
  14. Cobb, T.R.R. (1858). An inquiry into the law of Negro slavery in the United States of America. Philadelphia: T. & J.W. Johnson. p.  285, 285n2.
  15. πίλεον λευκόν, Diodorus Siculus Exc. Leg. 22 p. 625, ed. Wess.; Plaut. Amphit. I.1.306; Persius, V.82
  16. Yates, James. Entry "Pileus" in William Smith's A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (John Murray, London, 1875).
  17. Sumner and D'Amato, 37
  18. Documentation on the "Villa romana de Olmeda", displaying a photograph of the whole mosaic, entitled "Aquiles en el gineceo de Licomedes" (Achilles in Lycomedes' 'seraglio'). [ verification needed ]


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