Ladies, it’s time to ditch the Byzantine head donut.

You know, that head roll that SCAdians think is so Byzantine? You can buy them at Ren Fairs, they show up in commercial paper patterns. It basically looks like something you get at a medical supply store for bum cushioning.

Yeah, those.

Stop.

I know this sounds mean, but there is -zero- evidence that such a thing existed. Artwork from the early Byzantine period (300-899) shows -something-, and that something is called a fakiolion. It’s a turban, and it continues to be worn through the middle period, when art becomes more refined post-iconoclasm.

I’m far from innocent, of course. Here I am, 10 years ago and 50lbs lighter, wearing my hair donut in a photoshoot.  This was my first attempt at Byzantine garb, which over all wasn’t bad, but if I could go back and beat myself with a hammer for the donut, I would. It was a waste of fabric and pillow fill that makes zero sense in the case of medieval construction.

me

Here is the cut from Theodora’s procession at San Vitale. I know you see the stripes, and think that it has to be ribbons and spangles and fancy things wrapped around a roll to get that effect. The fact is, that the same effect can be made with a turban with the right designs on it.

theodora

Then of course, there is the bust of the Byzantine Woman from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, believed to be Julia Amicia, Theodora’s zoste patrikia, shown as the third woman from the left above, you know, the one actually looking at us with her elegantly draped palla over her fakiolion. The front of this sure makes it confusing. Even I haven’t been able to completely figure out what that pucker is, but, thanks to my skills at museum yoga, I was able to get pictures of behind her head.  As you can see, it’s definitely not a donut. It almost reminds me of how a St. Birgitte’s Cap gathers in the back of the head. I wonder if this piece was polychromatic at one point, and, if the Met plans on having it investigated for color residue. I feel any trace of color on the hairpiece would probably make it easier to interpret.

The use of a turban rather than a head roll provides multiple benefits. One, it doesn’t use up fabric and filling that could have been better served in other capacities. Two, it keeps the hair out of the face, and most importantly, CLEAN. The use of silk on the hair also helps protect set styles, and women still use silk wraps today to wear over their rollers and other curling implements to bed in order to control frizz and damage. It was not uncommon for a Byzantine woman to leave her hair uncovered, even as a married woman, and noblewomen would have had the option of affording hair services such as ornate braids and temporary “perms” made with gum arabic. The fakiolion would have helped keep these styles in place and relatively clean, versus having to constantly re-set the hair on a daily basis. A head roll would have been useless in any of these applications. While Byzantines were known for conspicuous consumption, even that seems off the mark.

Here is my Byzan-bestie, Konstantia, showing her interpretation from the same period. Note that the stripes in scarf used to create the turban gives the same effect as you see above from the mosaic. It looks so much more elegant than the donut, don’t you think? You can read her blog post pertaining to Byzantine headwear, here: https://kaloethina.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/headgear/

44941817_10156114188827569_653151095635312640_n

The trick, is to make sure that your fakiolion has the right grammata on it, or geometric designs. The Last Will and Testament of Kale Pakouriane describes these designs as being done in goldwork, and some scholars believe that grammata had pseudo-kufic script embroidered in, which was a popular design feature. Typically, you want the design to run parallel along the edges of the length of your turban fabric. Both Konstantia and I have found that commercially available hijabs do this nicely. And, since they’re designed to be worn on the head, they tend to not be stifling materials, and stay put.

Here’s a similar scarf to what Konstantia is wearing above, only worn by me, in the most flattering selfie imaginable, that just happens to have the best shot of my turban style. It also gives a nice railing for coronets to perch without the pinching or headaches associated with some heavy head jewelry. Konstantia rocks the look complete with a maforion, or veil over top of it, which was common for the early period, versus the middle period, when I’m supposed to be living. She used a pashima here, for added thickness and warmth.

And here I am in some 11th Century, emulating looks from The Menologion of Basil II as seen in my master’s thesis and Compleat Anachronist.

icon 2

cropped-cropped-ag-pelagia1.png
My header of St. Pelagia’s minature from The Menologion, showing her wrapped turban in the center.

It was requested that I do a video tutorial of my preferred turban wrapping, so, here it is:

I know the phrase goes, “All good things must come to an end”, but in short, that head roll was never good. It’s an early Faire/SCAbomination of garb based on Italian and Spanish Renaissance fashions that don’t fit in this culture,  has seen its day, and needs to be retired for a more accurate solution. Consider the fakiolion for your next event, and put your donut out to garb pasture for good.

hotness

Anna’s Propoloma Walk-Through, Kinda.

I made a new Propoloma tonight for an upcoming A&S display here in the East. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please see this informative earlier post.

Basically, I had a 60% off coupon for Joann’s, and decided I needed to spend money immediately, so I went in, paid less than $10 for 2 yards of white wool felt, and ran out giggling. I put on my car, and Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal” was on the radio. This is, ironically, how I got my persona name from an ex-boyfriend.

“Annie are you okay?”

NO! I’m about to make a funny looking hat!

So, for fast reference, here we have Irene Gabras to inspire my Flying Nunnery:

NK2HVE00

So, first, I cut the wool using my first version of the hat as a guide. I needed it bigger and rounder. I cut four pieces total, as I wanted a lining and a shell. I figured this would be full bodied enough to stand on its own without using buckram or other modern stiffening materials.

IMAG2952

After that, I sewed the lining together, and tried it on.

IMAG2953
Holy amazeballs, it’s Sally Field!

This, of course, resulted in all sorts of funny name calling on Facebook, which both amuses me and aggravates me at the same time. On one hand, I posted it, I deserve the jokes and I know my friends are jerks. It’s a thing. On the other hand, I am introducing this hat and style of dress to the SCA, and I’m met with joking. Way to make me want to actually wear it, guys. Not that I should ever expect constructive comments of any kind on a social network that devotes more time to political party bashing than…oh wait, that’s perfectly Byzantine. *Ahem* MOVING ON.

I used some silk remnants I had to make the stripey bit. I’m not good at this part. Irons and I don’t get along.

IMAG2955

IMAG2956
Meh, good enough.

Then I began to apply it to the shell, using the painting of Irene Gabras as a guide.

IMAG2958

After sewing it down, I did the same for the other side, opposite directions so the ends would meet. I was able to barely see the stitches through the wool, so that made a nice guide.

IMAG2960 IMAG2961

Once both sides were sewn down, I went back and added a little bling with gold thread. I had considered using some of my embroidery stitches for more shiny, but I decided in the end that I need to 1: Lay off my embroidery stitches and start doing more hand work, 2: this is a statement hat in its own. It will speak for itself, and 3: I didn’t want to be presumptuous in persona.

IMAG2962

Once the silk was sewn down, I finished the sides of the hat, and turned it right side out, and then made sure it was still equal to the lining.

IMAG2964

Then I put the lining inside of the shell, and immediately felt like Rita Repulsa from the original Power Rangers series:

IMAG2968

By this point, I was being compared to Yoda on Facebook, but I didn’t care. I was ready to wrap this up. A little whip stitchin’s for the opening:

IMAG2970

And Voi—-uh. Hmm…

IMAG2971

But that’s okay, I have a notoriously small head, and I did it on purpose for veils and nets and such. So, naturally, I had to go play dress-up.

VOILA! ANNA ZOSTE PATRIKIA!

IMAG2973 IMAG2974 IMAG2975 IMAG2976

Putting the kohl on my eyes really makes it, I think, I mean, I practically just wrapped myself up in fabric like a Glamour Shot. :3 it also shut up the peanut gallery. Context is everything!

As you can see, the 2 layers of wool felt gives the hat enough body to stay up on it’s own, and it’s also nice and toasty, because I live in New Hampshire, where we are known best for our tropical winters.

Here’s a comparative shot of my first hat and my new one. What an improvement!

10444663_10152599633438143_4091017716618224744_n

The Propoloma: A headdress of the Zoste Patrikia and other high ranking women in the courts of Eastern Rome

The Propoloma: A headdress of the Zoste Patrikia and other high ranking women in the courts of Eastern Rome

Kyria Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina, OM, OBT
One of the more difficult aspects of studying Eastern Roman dress for the SCA is locating suitable headwear outside of the typical veil and circlet that seems common place, and easily mimicked from iconographic depictions of female saints, and especially the Virgin Mary. I have just started to scratch the surface of ceremonial Roman dress, but so far I have been able to uncover some rather unique pieces that may begin to open the door into more complex appearances for Eastern Roman personae to try.

The zoste patrikia was a title held by the chief attendant or lady in waiting to the Eastern Roman Empress. It literally translates to “girded-lady patrician” but is often translated into English as “Mistress of the Robes.” It appears to have been given only to extremely high ranking ladies in direct service to the empress.[1] She was not only the head retainer for the empress, but also the head of the court of ladies, the wives of other high ranking patrician men in the court of Byzantium.[2]

As was tradition with the Eastern Romans, ceremony heavily accompanied any augmentation in rank, and with ceremony, came elaborate new costume. Ioannis Spatharakis, in his monograph, The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts, gives a detailed footnote of the ceremony, as described by Constantine Porphyrogénnētos in De Cerimoniis in Latin, while explaining the details of a manuscript depicting the installation of Anicia Juliana as patrician:

“In the church of the Theotocos of Pharos she received from the despotes a delmatikion [dalmatica], a thorakion [ecclesiastical pallium, similar to a chasuble], and a white maphorion [hooded veil]. In the Pantheon, wearing the thorakion and the delmatikion and carrying the loros [heavy gold wrap] and the propoloma [trapezoid hat], she received from the enthroned emperors the kodikellia [codex], which were later blessed by the patriarch. Because she was wearing the loros and the propoloma, she was not able to prostrate and kiss the feet of the despotai, as she did when she received her costume, but she bent slightly and kissed their knees.” [3] (The available text of De Cerimoniis is only in Latin or Greek. I did my best to translate the footnote and verify it with the original 1830 publication.)

This article will focus on the design of and wearing of the propoloma. This particular style of the hat is described as being in use as early as the 10th Century, but appeared to have had its heyday during the 11th and 12th Centuries, which allows it to fit perfectly into my persona. It appears to have taken the shape of a trapezoid, or upside down cone sewn shut on all but one side for the head. It may have been covered in silk, and then decorated in a variety of ways.[4]

Anna_Radene
Anna Radene wearing the propoloma during her occupation of zoste patrikia in 1070, image courtesy of 1186-583.org.
NK2HVE00
Possibly Irene Gabras, wife of St. Theodore Gabras. Who did not serve as zoste patrikia. Image courtesy of 1186-583.org.

 

Dawson seems to have done most of the legwork on this hat, as there is not an English translation of De Ceremoniis available to do primary source research from Constantine’s perspective. He discusses that although the hats were usually white, it appears that in one manuscript, purple ones were seen. This may indicate that these women may have been members of the extended royal family.[6] He also brings into account on his Levantia website that the padded headroll seen in earlier artwork, including the Ravenna mosaics, may have been the predecessor to the trapezoid propoloma.[7] So for those who have an earlier period persona, we simply need to take a look at the bust of Anicia Juliana to get a glimpse at the earlier hat style.

IMG_1862 IMG_1861

(Photos taken by me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March of 2014.)

Anicia was born in 462, which puts her occupation of zoste patrikia during the reign of Anastasius I, two reigns prior to Justinian I. So it is arguable that her attire could be considered that of late Antiquity of the very late Roman Empire, rather than “Byzantine” in nature. However, a similar style was worn by Theodora’s court in the mosaics at Ravenna:

The first thing I noticed immediately on this particular bust was not the layered look at the top, but the gathering in the back at the base of the skull. This reminded me immediately of the Cap of St. Birgitta, a style that was popular in the 14th century:

stbirgitta2
The original cap.
stbirgitta1
When worn.

Naturally, there is no reason why this cap could not be older in origin, and this marble bust may just show a similar cap being in use as early as the 5th century. At least for the over cap, the under cap is a bit more perplexing, especially with the pucker going on at the top of the head. It is highly unlikely that is a hair part, considering the detail given to the rest of the statue, in addition to the same look of the layered “turbans” on the mosaic, so my belief is that it was two separate pieces, but how they created that gather on the top is still a mystery to me. It is something I do plan on exploring later to help those with early period personae.

But how does a re-creator or reenactor transfer the wearing of this type of hat into their hobby? Well for one, this is a hat of station and rank. In the SCA, some kingdoms have sumptuary laws, the East Kingdom, where I reside, does not. However, I like to take into account the “what would my persona do?” clause when it comes to my clothing choices. My persona is well-developed, but not everybody else’s is, nor should they have to be. It is absolutely a personal choice on how much thought you want to put into your persona, and what you want them to wear. In the case of portraying a persona from a culture that has strong sumptuary laws, such as the Eastern Roman Empire, and especially if you reside in a kingdom that has laws about what one can wear on their head regarding their own rank, this is when the re-creator needs to take into account what he or she wants to wear, or should be wearing, for the holder of their awards.

In the case of the propoloma, I would recommend that nobody holding anything less than an Award of Arms wear this hat. A woman who would have received this hat would have already been of high patrician rank, and even though the title of lady may or may not convey this, it would be unfair to say that only peers or grant holders/court baronesses would be permitted to wear it as well as far as the game we play goes. I made my first one from looking at the Tom Tierney coloring books, which have proven to be rather inaccurate the more that my studies continue before understanding that it was a hat of rank. However, I feel that it would make an excellent choice for something akin to a cap of maintenance for a Pelican, or wreath for a Laurel, as the SCA simply does not hold a candle to the intense pomp of Eastern Roman ceremony. But by bringing pieces of these ceremonies into the SCA, bit by bit, we can help enrich our game even more, and introduce others to a new and exciting part of Roman culture they may have never otherwise known about.

Please visit  http://www.1186-583.org/Headgears-Headdress-and-Jewellery for Eudocia Kinnamos Dallassene’s research into this same hat. (Site is predominately in French.)

954828_495757887159965_1582529474_n
My horrid first attempt at a propoloma 30lbs ago.

Edit 11/9/2014: My new wool and silk Propoloma, visit my walkthrough here:

IMAG2976

Bibliography:

Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo. London: Oxford. 1830.

Kazhdan, Alexander. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York: Oxford 1991.

Garland, Lynda. Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204. Abington: Routledge 1999.

Spatharakis, Ioannis. “The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts, Byzantina Neerlandica 6 (1976): 145.

Dawson, Timothy. “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200, edited by, Lynda Garland, 47. London: Ashgate, 2006.

Dawson, Timothy. A Woman of the High Aristocracy,” accessed August 13, 2014. http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/zoste.html.

Footnotes:

[1] Alexander Kazhdan, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, (New York: Oxford 1991), 2231.

[2] Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses: Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204, (Abington: Routledge 1999), 5, 245, 264.

[3] Ioannis Spatharakis, “The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts, Byzantina Neerlandica 6, (1976): 145.

[4] Timothy Dawson, “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” in Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Ed. Lynda Garland (London: Ashgate, 2006), 47. Dawson cites De Cerimoniis by Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, the 1837 Latin edition, which I am currently translating into English.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 48.

[7] “A Woman of the High Aristocracy,” Timothy Dawson, accessed August 13, 2014, http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/zoste.html. Also gives his interpretation of what a complete outfit may have looked like.