Catalogue entry: The central ornament of this exquisite diadem is fashioned in the form of a square knot. Well known to ancient farmers and sailors, the square knot encourages trustthe harder the knot is pulled, the stronger it becomes. The Greeks called it the "Herakles knot," because the mythical hero Herakles wore the pelt of the lion of Nemea, a monster he killed, around his neck tied this knot (see 1978.22). The knot in any form (belt fastening, sandal tie, jewelry) could serve as a protective amulet.Both Greek men and women wore jewelry, but the greatest variety was made for women. The most costly and elaborate objects were diadems and wreaths to adorn the head. Gold had been scarce in Greece until the conquests of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) supplied the riches of the Persian Empire. Thanks to aristocratic patrons and international standards of excellence, goldsmiths of the sophisticated Hellenistic period soon attained extraordinary heights of skill. This diadem was made in seven parts. The two straps each have three components: the terminal with loop, the chain strap, and the floral cuff. The central knot was fabricated from gold sheet, wire, granules, and inlays that were fused together. The parts were then joined using links, rivets, and wires.This diadem may have been a bridal gift. Because Herakles fathered dozens of children, his knot was used to fasten a bride's garments as a fertility charm. The five-petal blue flowers represent myrtle, sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love, and also to Hera, goddess of marriage. Another possibility is that the diadem was a funeral gift. In ancient Greece when a woman died before marriage, she received a posthumous bridal bath, and bridal gifts were placed in her grave. The ritual expressed the idea that she was marrying Hades, the god of the Underworld.
Rights: Gift of The Apollo Society with additional funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey