Alexander's Hair Color

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rocktupac
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Alexander's Hair Color

Post by rocktupac » Mon Oct 22, 2007 2:11 pm

Something that has always puzzled me is the notion of Alexander having blond hair. Even though one of the most famous color representations of him that survives (the Pompeii mosaic) shows him with brown hair, it is almost popular myth to portray him blond.

Where did this originate? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't recall anything in the ancient sources which suggests he was blond, besides mentioning he had fair skin. But this does not necessarily mean he had blond hair. And fair skin according to what?

Sorry if this has been covered before, I did a search and found nothing. Even if we may never know, it is still interesting to see who perpetuated this "myth" and why many still believe it today. Thanks.

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Re: Alexander's Hair Color

Post by Theseus » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:20 pm

rocktupac wrote:Something that has always puzzled me is the notion of Alexander having blond hair. Even though one of the most famous color representations of him that survives (the Pompeii mosaic) shows him with brown hair, it is almost popular myth to portray him blond.

Where did this originate? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't recall anything in the ancient sources which suggests he was blond, besides mentioning he had fair skin. But this does not necessarily mean he had blond hair. And fair skin according to what?

Sorry if this has been covered before, I did a search and found nothing. Even if we may never know, it is still interesting to see who perpetuated this "myth" and why many still believe it today. Thanks.
Well I think it has been discussed before but I can't find the message. As you had mentioned Alexander was described in ancient texts as being fair and I believe this is where the fair hair color originated. He maybe had lighter brown hair with blond tints to it as the mosaic has blonde streaks through his hair. I may be wrong but I think most Greek people have dark colored hair and not many are blonde. I have a friend from Greece and will have to ask her. Some people hold on to the belief he was blond, such as the producers of Alexander with Colin Ferell, but I believe the Alexander mosaic to be the proper image of him, just my opinion
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Post by athenas owl » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:27 pm

On the Alexander Sarcohpagus he is shown with appears to be auburn haor.

The remants of paint from the bust from the Acropolis in Athens (I believe..going from memory) also shows him with "red" hair.

Fair skin, that is skin that goes ruddy would go with reddish hair.

I wonder if the blonde idea came with either identification of golden haired gods (Apollo, Helios..) or as a result of him being identified with lions...the "tawny mane".

I'll try to look it up later..my comp's connection (wind storm damage) is misbehaving and am quickly on someone else's.

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Post by amyntoros » Mon Oct 22, 2007 8:03 pm

There's a fairly recent thread on Alexander's physical appearance in which the color of his hair was also discussed.

Can't help thinking there must have been many more discussions over the years - I'm sure I recall some earlier ones - but the forum search engine only brings up a single page of threads no matter what keyword I input. :roll:

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Post by Theseus » Mon Oct 22, 2007 8:06 pm

athenas owl wrote:On the Alexander Sarcohpagus he is shown with appears to be auburn haor.

The remants of paint from the bust from the Acropolis in Athens (I believe..going from memory) also shows him with "red" hair.

Fair skin, that is skin that goes ruddy would go with reddish hair.

I wonder if the blonde idea came with either identification of golden haired gods (Apollo, Helios..) or as a result of him being identified with lions...the "tawny mane".

I'll try to look it up later..my comp's connection (wind storm damage) is misbehaving and am quickly on someone else's.
That is very interesting about the auburn hair pain remnants found on the bust. I had never heard that before but as you say "reddish" hair usally goes with fair/ruddy skin. I look forward to any more information you have on this. :D
Does anyone know if auburn hair was odd in ancient Greece or common?
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Post by Vergina Sun » Sun Oct 28, 2007 1:37 am

I was searching around the web for references to Ancient Greek hair color. I found this interesting statement from Howstuffworks's "How Hair Coloring Works". It said:
For a long time, hair coloring has been serious business! For example, would-be heroes of ancient Greece used harsh soaps and bleaches to lighten and redden their hair to the color that was identified with honor and courage.
I understand it's not the most reliable source, but has anyone else heard of Ancient Greeks dying their hair to look like heroes? It's interesting to note how blonde and red hair seem to be a favorable color, and Alexander has blonde or red hair. It's a stretch, but is it possible that his hair color was used as propaganda?

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Post by Theseus » Sun Oct 28, 2007 10:00 pm

Vergina Sun wrote:I was searching around the web for references to Ancient Greek hair color. I found this interesting statement from Howstuffworks's "How Hair Coloring Works". It said:
For a long time, hair coloring has been serious business! For example, would-be heroes of ancient Greece used harsh soaps and bleaches to lighten and redden their hair to the color that was identified with honor and courage.
I understand it's not the most reliable source, but has anyone else heard of Ancient Greeks dying their hair to look like heroes? It's interesting to note how blonde and red hair seem to be a favorable color, and Alexander has blonde or red hair. It's a stretch, but is it possible that his hair color was used as propaganda?
Great find Vergina! I was thinking of googling this topic and you beat me to it. :lol: It sounds believable to me. I'll do some checking as well. Thanks for the info.
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Post by Fiona » Sun Oct 28, 2007 10:56 pm

Vergina Sun wrote:I was searching around the web for references to Ancient Greek hair color. I found this interesting statement from Howstuffworks's "How Hair Coloring Works". It said:
For a long time, hair coloring has been serious business! For example, would-be heroes of ancient Greece used harsh soaps and bleaches to lighten and redden their hair to the color that was identified with honor and courage.
I understand it's not the most reliable source, but has anyone else heard of Ancient Greeks dying their hair to look like heroes? It's interesting to note how blonde and red hair seem to be a favorable color, and Alexander has blonde or red hair. It's a stretch, but is it possible that his hair color was used as propaganda?
That's very interesting, because isn't Achilles supposed to have had red hair? I've got 'flame-capped Achilles' in my head, anyway.
Also, I remember reading that the fashionable young warriors in Celtic tribes would bleach their hair. It if was the young (and vain?) who could be bothered to do this, and it was the same in Greece, then maybe that's why the colour became associated with courage, because it was the youngest and strongest who wore their hair that way.
Somehow, I can imagine older men not bothering, either because they were going a bit thin on top, or because they had more important things to do with their time than faff about with bleach.
Alexander, with his awareness of image, might easily have had fair hair made fairer.
Fiona

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Post by Vergina Sun » Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:19 am

:lol: All this time I thought Colin Farrell was crazy for dying his hair, but now he might not have been too far off. I looked around for some more sources and found the following. First, Beauty and the Bath says:
Color as well played a very significant role for beauty standards.
Blond hair was thought of as ideal and in a time that was ruled by divinity, appeared to be god or goddess-like and warranted one a superior social standing.

Blond hair was also considered to signify purity, innocence, divinity, and sexual desirability.

This would definitely be the period in hair history where blonds did have more fun!

The men and women of Ancient Greece strove to meet these standards in their hair styles to appease their deities, for the beliefs of these ancients was the governing factor of all their efforts.

In their quest to equal or mirror their deities, both men and women in early Greece created some of the original innovations in hair coloring, in keeping with their adoration for blond hair.

...

Some of the earliest documentation of hair lightening originates from this time.
At first men would use gold dust and pollen, sprinkling it through their hair after styling, women would use a solution of potassium, yellow flower petals and pollen to wash their hair.

More permanent methods began to develop in the 4th century B.C.,from Athens.
A hair appointment at that time would consist of having one's hair rinsed with this ointment, and then sitting for long periods of time to bleach the hair.

This bleaching ointment may have been made using the natural recourses available at that time, olive oils, citrus juice, pollens, and gold flecks.

The Greeks as well as the Egyptians also favored dyed wigs of red, silver, and especially, gold.
Interesting, isn't it? Blonde makes you pure, innocent and sexually desirable? I'm not sure if I trust this entire article. They didn't point to any sources, but the full link is at http://www.beauty-and-the-bath.com/hist ... tyles.html.

I also found Scientific American saying:
A hair-dye recipe first described in Greco-Roman times involves applying a paste of lead oxide and calcium hydroxide, or lime, to graying and fair locks. As in the famed Grecian Formula--also a lead-based recipe--repeated applications darken the hair as much as desired. Researchers knew the lead-lime mix reacts with sulfur present in hair's keratin proteins to form crystals of lead sulfide, also called galena.
The article (which is at http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articl ... 414B7F0000) mostly talks about how the hair dye was used to darken hair, but at least the technology was there.

I'll do some more research later, but now it is way past by bed time on a school night. :)

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Post by Theseus » Tue Oct 30, 2007 12:52 am

Another great find Vergina! I too thought the same thing about Colin Farrell dying his hair. I do think that the findings of the remnants of paint color on statues of Alexander and the sarcophagus may be correct that he was indeed auburn instead of blonde. How could one keep up bleaching your hair while out on that campaign?! It would be much easier to maybe lighten it a bit instead of so extreme.
I am finding pretty much the same thing. It does seem dying your hair to a desired color was beneficial if you were high in society. The way Alexander believed himself to be divine would make you think he would want to do all he could to prove it, including dying his hair.
In my search I came across this fun ancient Greek scavenger quiz/hunt:
http://www.mousetraks.com/sixth_grade/greecehunt.html
One of the questions was what was the rarest hair color in ancient Greece. I won't tell you the answer, but I am sure most of you know. I'll have to have my 11 year old try this and see how many she gets right. It's kind of fun for adults too.
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Post by amyntoros » Tue Oct 30, 2007 4:37 am

On bleaching/dyeing hair in classical Greece – I'd be incredibly wary of the claims made on the quoted website, especially as the same information seems to be repeated endlessly throughout the internet without any source references whatsoever. Roman culture was not identical to that of the Greeks, but these sites and articles seem not to distinguish one from the other. Although there's written evidence of Roman matrons bleaching and dyeing their hair, I know of no classical Greek source that refers to this practice in high society or in respectable circles. Menander (342-291), however, wrote about the practice among courtesans, as in"'What can we women do wise or brilliant who dye our hair yellow, outraging gentlewomen, causing the overthrow of houses and the ruin of marriages?" (I think it is also safe to say that the prostitutes did not dye their hair in emulation of the gods! :wink: ) Anyway … if anyone can come up with source references for the classical period for any person other than a prostitute or a loose-living individual dyeing his/her hair blonde I'd be very interested . . . and extremely surprised.

On Alexander's hair color - there's also the Roman wall painting at Pompey which shows Alexander as Zeus and depicts him with reddish blonde hair. However, even darker red hair would certainly have been considered fair by the ancients. Here's Lucan, writing of a banquet Caesar attended with Cleopatra:
Lucan.10.127-132 …There was also a swarm of attendants, and a multitude to serve the banqueters, differing from one another in race or age. Some had the hair of Africa, and others were so fair-headed that Caesar said he had never seen hair so red in the Rhine country; some had dark skins and wooly heads, with hair receding from the forehead.
Further to this, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones in his Aphrodite's Tortoise: The Veiled Women of Ancient Greece writes about the color spectrum associated with red:
Page 225 Investigation of the Greek and Latin texts shows that the ancient view of red actually incorporated a colour-band that runs from modern-day yellow to red to purple. In the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, after all, Favorinus' treatise on the red-yellow band of colour confirms that what we would ordinarily classify within the yellow color stratum, the ancients were happy to see as red. For Favorinus, flammeum, croceum, aureum, xanthos, erythros, pyrros and kirros are all shades of red, and, in this, the Roman philosopher follows a line taken by Aristotle in his Meterorologica. (Author's italics)
So … in the ancient sources fair can mean red, yet red can mean yellow – which means, in essence, that Alexander’s hair could have been either. We’ll never know for sure. :)

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Post by Efstathios » Tue Oct 30, 2007 7:03 am

Dont forget the tomb II painting in which Alexander, if the young man is indeed Alexander, is blonde.

Blonde or fair hair is not rare in Greece, and i believe it wasnt also in the ancient times. Although most of the people have either dark or brown hair, there are also many that have blond and fair hair.

Alexander probably had the typical fair hair for a meditteranean man, a brownish blond, or similar to how Farell dyed his hair.

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Post by Theseus » Tue Oct 30, 2007 4:48 pm

Efstathios wrote:Dont forget the tomb II painting in which Alexander, if the young man is indeed Alexander, is blonde.

Blonde or fair hair is not rare in Greece, and i believe it wasnt also in the ancient times. Although most of the people have either dark or brown hair, there are also many that have blond and fair hair.

Alexander probably had the typical fair hair for a meditteranean man, a brownish blond, or similar to how Farell dyed his hair.
I'm glad that you responded Efstathios. You would know these things better than most of us. Do you happen to have a link to the tomb you were referring to with a picture of Alexander with blond hair? I am not familiar with this portrait and would love to read about it.
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Post by Efstathios » Tue Oct 30, 2007 7:43 pm

http://www.history.ccsu.edu/elias/taphosphilippoub.htm

Here you go.

Scroll down until you see the hunting scene, and the zoomed image of Alexander.

Alexander's hair color can be seen clearly, even though the painting is not that clear.

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Post by Theseus » Tue Oct 30, 2007 9:02 pm

Efstathios wrote:http://www.history.ccsu.edu/elias/taphosphilippoub.htm

Here you go.

Scroll down until you see the hunting scene, and the zoomed image of Alexander.

Alexander's hair color can be seen clearly, even though the painting is not that clear.
Thank you for the link Efstathios. I tried to get the site to load but sadly the pictures would not. The only one that would come up was the battle of Issus mosaic. I'm not sure why it wont load. Is there anyway you could attach the picture to a post here? I would really love to see it. I have read about Phillip's tomb and have a book that has pictures of items from his tomb, but not of that portrait you mentioned.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem

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