Cheating colour: brightness transformed into representation of female characteristics in the Iliad

Yukiko Saito


Colour is fascinating in itself, and simultaneously creates completely different impressions from the natural substances that it covers. One etymological viewpoint for ‘color’ is celo in Latin, meaning ‘to conceal’ or ‘to hide’.3 Colour is often used to cover things, e.g., table covers, clothing, and so on. Putting makeup on one’s face is an effective method to appear more beautiful and attractive. Women – most women perhaps, even today – would like to have a fair complexion, and to wear something bright or shining on their body, e.g., jewellery. After all, the addition of colour is not natural but artificial. Some ancient writers noticed its unnatural, deceptive function, for instance, Martial, in Epigrams Book 3.43.

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