Diadem with ornamental frieze

4th century BCE
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General Description

From an early period in Greek history, ornamented bands made from sheet gold were worn around the head. These diadems varied from simple gold or silver bands to pieces with stamped and applied decorations. Three pieces in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art illustrate the development of the Greek diadem from the Archaic to the Hellenistic periods: an Archaic gold band with separately made rosettes [1991.75.38], this Classic Greek diadem with an ornamental frieze, and an elaborate, three-dimensional diadem [1991.75.75] that embodies the Hellenistic style.

This example is composed of two strips of sheet gold, one laid on top of the other. The inside strip is plain, while the outside features a longitudinal repoussé frieze of palmettes and human faces, inscribed in an alternating order in a tendril scroll. Toward the ends, there is an elaborate scroll decoration combining acanthus leaves, flowers, and palmettes. The central frieze is bordered by ribbing and molding. A similar motif is repeated along the outer borders. Two loops terminating in spirals are attached to the ends and integrated into the design.

Many similar diadems made from thin sheet gold with applied or impressed adornment have been found in Greek tombs dating to the 6th century BCE and continuing through the Roman period (2nd century BCE). The diadems could have been worn in life at banquets, as victors' prizes in war or athletic competitions, or on religious or civic occasions, but their burial defined a different kind of triumph.

Adapted from

Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press, 1996), 17; 141.