Fibulae

Ancient Greeks fastened their clothes with fibulae. Fibulae, which resembled safety pins, secured the large panels of fabric that Greeks draped around their bodies. Although they began as a necessity for holding clothing in place, fibulae later became decorative fashion items.

The first fibulae were carved from the leg bones of birds, which some scholars believe to be the source of the pins' name since fibula is also the name used for a particular leg bone. The earliest metal fibulae date back to about 1000 B.C.E. These unadorned fibulae were made of bronze or gold and looked very similar to modern safety pins.

As Greek goldsmiths became more skilled in their craft from 480 to 336 B.C.E. , they created more elaborate, decorative fibulae.

A variety of silver fibulae, which were used to fasten robes and other clothing in ancient Greece. Reproduced by permission of © .
Examples of fibulae from this time have beautifully wrought golden designs. By the fall of the Greek Empire around 146 B.C.E. , fibulae were quite beautiful and worn with less-functional jewelry pieces to adorn Greek garments.

Later cultures continued to make and use fibulae. Etruscans, from the area now comprising central Italy, made glass beads to decorate fibulae between 750 B.C.E. and 200 B.C.E. Fibulae were one of the main types of jewelry worn by Roman men and were prized clasps for military cloaks between 509 B.C.E. and 476 C.E. Fibulae were also worn by Roman women. After the decline of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines ruled a rich and powerful empire in central Europe, Italy, and part of Asia from 330 to 1095 C.E. Byzantines considered jeweled fibulae fashionable clasps for men's cloaks. By the eleventh century, as the ancient empires declined, more primitive groups of nomadic tribes in central Europe wore simple metal fibulae.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume: From Ancient Mesopotamia Through the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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