Art And Culture

Lecture on Greco-Persian Ties at California University

Lecture on Greco-Persian  Ties at California UniversityLecture on Greco-Persian  Ties at California University

Pourdavoud Center for the Study of Iranian World at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has invited archaeologist Professor Margaret Miller from University of Sydney to elaborate on “Faceted Relations between Persia and Classical Athens.”

Miller will speak Wednesday at the UCLA campus, 306 Royce Hall, Dickson Plaza. Her speech is titled Diophante’s Kandys: Faceted Relations between Persia and Classical Athens, according to the website of Pourdavoud Center,

Sometime between the late fifth and fourth century BC, a woman named Diophante made a dedication of an item of clothing to the sanctuary of Artemis at Brauron, an early sacred site on the eastern coast of Attica near the Aegean Sea.

Nothing is known about Diophante beyond this simple entry next to the clothing item: “Kandys. Diophante, wife of Hieronymous of Acharnae.

With gold attachments …,” Miller wrote in a 2006 article named “Orientalism and Ornamentalism: Athenian Reactions to Achaemenid Persia” and published by the Journal of Sydney University Arts Association (

  Typical Persian Coat

What makes this dedication worthy of mention is the fact that it was a kandys, the most quintessentially Persian item of clothing known to the Greeks. It is easily recognizable in Persian art as the cloak-like garment worn hussar-style with empty sleeves hanging down.

A kandys, also spelled candys, kantuš or Median robe, is a type of three-quarter-length Persian coat. It originally described a leather cloak with sleeves worn by men, but evolved into a garment worn by Athenian women.

Kandys was historically worn by Greek women, particularly in Athens, in the 4th century BC, and towards the end of the 5th century BC. At the time, fashion was increasingly influenced by imports from the East and Asia Minor.

Among the more typical clothing pieces like chitons and himatia that Athenian women dedicated to Artemis at Brauron were six kandys, mostly described as being patterned.  One of them was dedicated in 347 BC, although no dates were given for the other dedications, and Miller suggests they must date no later than the early 4th century BC.

  Surge in Social Exchange

Towards the end of the 5th century BC, Miller noted a surge in the number of depictions of Athenian women and children wearing kandys-like garments. While girls wore them as over-garments, small boys wore them open and without undergarments. Miller based a research upon this observation and reached the following conclusion:

“Against a background of war and power struggles, social exchange also took place between ancient Athens and the Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great (600-530 BC) or Cyrus the Elder as the Greeks called him.

Whether as (unintentional) arbiter of high fashion, benchmark of elegant behavior, or model for imperial protocol, Persia impacted Athenian life on many levels. Sometimes adoptions were conscious, but sometimes at the level of the unconscious, the Persian model shaped Athenian attitudes from the 6th to 4th century BC.”

Margaret Miller specializes in the material culture of the ancient Mediterranean. She publishes widely on cultural relations between first millennium BC Greece, Anatolia and the ancient Near East, especially relations within and with the Persian Empire.

She has a long-standing interest in the exploitation of archaeology as a tool of social history, whether Greek drama or domestic life.

Pourdavoud Center for the Study of Iranian World was established in February 2017 as part of the Humanities Division within UCLA.

The center is named after late Ebrahim Pourdavoud (1885-1968), a pioneering scholar of ancient Iranian studies. It was financially supported by Pourdavoud’s granddaughter Anahita Naficy Lovelace, a psychologist, and her husband James Lovelace who is an equity portfolio manager and equity investment analyst.

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