They look like scary and weapon-like, but these Roman strigils are not what they seem.
The ancient Romans were famous for their love of bathing, but one thing you wouldn’t find at your local baths was a bar of soap.* Instead, the Romans—like the Greeks before them—got squeaky clean by covering themselves in perfumed oils which were then removed with a curved scraping device called a strigil, that lifted dirt, perspiration, and dead skin from the body, leaving a clean, exfoliated surface. Depictions of strigils, along with the oils they scraped off, are frequently associated with athletes, soldiers, and weathly men and women.
Strigils are usually made of iron and bronze, but examples in silver, lead, bone, and ivory
have also been found. Different sizes seem to be designed for the different areas of the body. They are usually slightly concave, with both edges sharp¬ened, and often bear inscriptions and decorations, along with the stamp of the maker or the owner.
* Soap has been in use since at least Sumerian times (c. 5,000 years ago) but it was manufactured for washing wool and cotton rather than personal hygiene.
The photographs show two bronze strigils from the AUB Archaeological Museum, dating back to the Roman period.
Photo 2. The handle is decorated on the inside with an ivy pattern and stamp of the maker, and on the outside with incised circles and dots (Width: 11 cm, Length: 22 cm, Thickness: 1.3 cm, Weight: 83.2 grs);
Photo 3. The blade of the strigil is bent to an acute angle, and the handle, which is in one piece with the blade, is in the form of a rectangular loop with cross-piece in the middle (Width: 13 cm, Length: 24.4 cm, Thickness: 2.2 cm, Weight: 104.8 grs.).
The last photo shows women in a bath using strigils (Painting by Sir Lawrence Alma- Tadema, 1880)
Stay tuned to discover more artifacts from the AUB Archaeological Museum.
Bronze strigils at the AUB Museum
Women in a bath using strigils
(Painting by Sir Lawrence Alma- Tadema, 1880)
Bronze strigil (Inv.# 57.49);
Width: 11 cm,
Length: 22 cm,
Thickness: 1.3 cm,
Weight: 83.2 grs.
Bronze strigil (Inv.# 56.18);
Width: 13 cm,
Length: 24.4 cm,
Thickness: 2.2 cm,
Weight: 104.8 grs.