When I am waiting at the barbershop, I see many magazines about hair fashion. To be honest, I am not interested at all. Unfortunately my barbershop has no Donald Ducks to read, so I take a book with me in case I have to wait. Nevertheless, hair dress is an endless point of discussion amongst many women – not only now, but also in Roman times. In the third book of his Ars Amatoria Ovid advises women how to seduce men. A woman must pay attention to her hair, he rather pedantically teaches his female readers. Ovid has many sound and still valid advices, but I am pretty sure that in this respect Roman girls and women needed no instructions.
Ovid: Ars Amatoria book 3 133 -152
Munditiis capimur: non sint sine lege capilli:
Admotae formam dantque negantque manus.
Nec genus ornatus unum est: quod quamque decebit 135
Eligat, et speculum consulat ante suum.
Longa probat facies capitis discrimina puri:
Sic erat ornatis Laodamia comis.
Exiguum summa nodum sibi fronte relinqui,
Ut pateant aures, ora rotunda volunt. 140
Alterius crines umero iactentur utroque:
Talis es adsumpta, Phoebe canore, lyra.
Altera succinctae religetur more Dianae,
Ut solet, attonitas cum petit illa feras.
Huic decet inflatos laxe iacuisse capillos: 145
Illa sit adstrictis impedienda comis;
Hanc placet ornari testudine Cyllenea:
Sustineat similes fluctibus illa sinus.
Sed neque ramosa numerabis in ilice glandes,
Nec quot apes Hyblae, nec quot in Alpe ferae, 150
Nec mihi tot positus numero conprendere fas est:
Adicit ornatus proxima quaeque dies.
non sint sine lege capilli: if you want to attract men, pay attention to your hair
admotae manus: the hands of the hairdresser moved towards the hair
quod quamque decebit: what will fit whomever
ante: in front of her
probat: asks for, demands
capitis discrimina puri: a simple hair parting (i.e. without jewellery)
Laodamia: wife of Protesilaus, leader of the Thessalian army during the Trojan war. In his Heroides, Ovid let her refuse to wear any ornaments in her hair.
exiguum…aures: a small knot at the top must leave the ears free
summa fronte: at the top of the forehead
ora rotunda: a round face
volunt relinqui: want to have remaining
iacto: to hang down
adsumpta lyra: abl.abs.
canorus: melodious (The line refers to famous statue of Apollo)
relegitur: must have (her hair) tied up
succinctae Dianae: as Diana was goddess of hunting, she had her tunica girded up to her knees and her hair tied in a tight knot in order to move freely
fera: wild animal
petit: hunts after
inflatos capellos: loose and wide hair
adstrictus: tightly bound
impedienda: i.e. closely bound to the head
testudo Cyllinea: a hair dress resembling a lyre (I have no clue how that imagine that). Cyllinea because Mercury, the inventor of the lyre, was born on mount Cylline. Another possibility is that refers to a comb resembling a lyre.
Sustineat similes fluctibus illa sinus: another can bear curl similar to those in rivers
ramosus: with many branches
ilex ilicis (f.): oak
glans glandis (f): acorn
apis apis (f.): bee
Hyplae : at mount Hybla (on Sicily)
tot positus numero conprendere fas est: it is undoable to describe that many arrangements (hair styles)
Rather free translation by Julian May (1930)
Neatness is what we like. Let your hair be nicely done. That depends greatly on the skill of the person that dresses it. Of course there are innumerable ways of doing it. Every woman should study to find out the style that suits her best; and for that her mirror is the surest guide! Long features demand that the hair should be simply parted on the forehead. Such was the style of Laodamia. Women with round faces should wear their hair lightly twisted into a knot on the top of the head, leaving the ears exposed. One woman will let her hair fall loose on either shoulder, like Apollo when he holds his dulcet lyre. Another must needs have her hair tied up behind, like Diana when she pursueth the wild beasts in the forests. One delights us with her loose flowing ringlets, another by wearing her hair closely patted down upon her temples. Some women like to adorn their hair with the shell of the Cyllenian tortoise, others to wear it in towering waves. But there are not more acorns on an oak tree, more bees on Hybla, or wild beasts on the mountains, than there are modes of doing a woman's hair, and new ones are invented every day.