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Thursday, December 25, 2014

ancient greeks and romans all preffered black eyes and black hair



    The Greeks and Romans, as already remarked, entertained very different sentiments of beauty. The former were fond of eye-brows wide asunder, and a well-proportioned forehead. The latter preferred eye-brows that met, and a little forehead. The Romans preferred eyes of moderate size, the Greeks wished to have them large. The colors of the eyes, like that of the hair, have no less their different advocates. The ancients preferred black eyes, and the modern Greeks still have such a predilection for the same color, that, as we are informed by M. Guys, in his Letters on Greece, the very men frequently take their names from that circumstance. He says that he knew several who were called macromate, which in the vulgar language signifies black eyed. The opinions of certain nations ought not, however, to induce us to give the absolute preference to black eyes, and to adjudge to them exclusively the prize of beauty. Every one so far, ought to be allowed to be the arbiter of his own taste, let us not then give implicit credit to the assertions of the Greeks, when they tell us that black eyes are the most beautiful; since it is well known that hazel, and large blue eyes, have their admirers wherever taste and elegance are to be found. The color alone, however, does not contribute to the beauty of the eye, it depends still more on the form. If the eye, for instance, be too large, too small, too prominent, it is equally distant from perfection.
    -Allen And Ticknor, "The Toilette Of Health, Beauty, And Fashion (1834)"

    T. Maccius Plautus, 3rd=2nd c. BC, Poenulus describing the appearance of a beautiful (venusta) woman:

      Specie venusta, óre atque oculis pernigris.

      Of agreable form, with a small mouth, and very dark eyes.

    P. Terentius Afer, 2nd c. BC, Heautontimorumenos. A father proposes to give a red-haired light-eyed (caesiam) and convex-nosed girl to his son, who protests.

      So. Gnate mi, ego pol tibi dabo illam lepidam quam tu facile ames;
      Filiam Phanocratae nostri.

      Cl. Rufamne illam virginem,
      Caesiam, sparso ore, adunco naso? non possum, pater.

    SOSTRATA My son, upon my honor I'll give you that charming girl, whom you may soon become attached to, the daughter of our neighbor Phanocrata.

    CLITIPHO What! that red-haired girl, with cat's eyes, freckled face, and hooked nose? I can not, father.

    C. Valerius Catullus, 1st c. BC, Carmina, 43 compares a girl that does not have various beautiful features, including not dark eyes, to his Lesbia:

      Salve, nec minimo puella naso
      nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis
      nec longis digitis nec ore sicco
      nec sane nimis elegante lingua
      decoctoris amica Formiani.
      ten provincia narrat esse bellam?
      tecum Lesbia nostra comparatur?
      o saeclum insapiens et infacetum!

      Greetings, girl with a nose not the shortest,
      feet not so lovely, eyes not of the darkest,
      fingers not slender, mouth never healed,
      and a not excessively charming tongue,
      bankrupt Formianus’s ‘little friend’.
      And the Province pronounces you beautiful?
      To be compared to my Lesbia?
      O witless and ignorant age!

    Sextus Propertius, 1st c. BC, Elegiae, II, 12

      quam si perdideris, quis erit qui talia cantet,
      (haec mea Musa levis gloria magna tua est),
      qui caput et digitos et lumina nigra puellae,
      et canat ut soleant molliter ire pedes?

    If you destroy me, who will there be to sing like this? (This slender Muse of mine, is your great glory.) Who will sing the face, the hands, or the dark eyes of my girl, or how sweetly her footsteps are accustomed to fall.

    Sources for the texts is the Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum

    Update: Finally the Latin physiognomist Loxus (cf. "Loxus, Physician and Physiognomist," Geneva Misener, Classical Philology, Vol. 18, No. 1. (Jan., 1923), pp. 1-22.) believed that the ideal woman ought to have a fair complexion, brown hair and dark eyes.

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