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date: 08 March 2021


  • Glenys Lloyd-Morgan


Mirrors (κάτοπτρον, speculum) in the Graeco-Roman world were made of various materials—mostly copper alloy, but *silver and *iron examples have been found. Earliest surviving pieces date to the Mycenaean period c.1200–1100 bce, with bone and ivory handles carved with animal motifs. Egyptian mirrors have been found in some burials and as temple offerings in the classical world. Greek hand-mirrors were made in one piece from the 7th cent. bce, becoming more elaborate with time. Mirrors of the 5th cent. bce include those with a heavy disc and a separate ornamental tang slotting into a handle or stand. The most elaborate examples are the so-called *caryatid mirrors where the disc is supported by a female figure, rarely a youth, on a stool or plinth. The date-span covers the period c.620–c.400 bce. The other important group are the 4th–3rd-cent. bce mirrors with a hinged cover to protect the reflecting surface. The lid may be decorated with a plaque showing a female head or a mythological event. The inside cover was sometimes engraved with a related scene, or silvered to give a second mirror surface. This form was copied by the *Etruscans, and is found in lightweight versions in southern France during the 1st cent.

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