Before MAGA: Mithras, Phrygian Caps, and the Politics of Headwear

My latest piece for Hyperallergic addresses the long history of red caps as symbols of politics, ethnicity, and identity. From Mithras to the Smurfs, there is a rich history of using identifying hats. This article was also an opportunity for me to post some photos of Mithras I have taken over the years–and to include a few others taken by friends and colleagues. I include more of my own photos below:

In addition to the above Mithras sculpture at the Princeton University Art Museum, are these ceramic polychromy Amazons. These charging women demonstrate that Phrygian caps were not just worn by men.

A number of depictions of Mithras have splendid polychromatic traces left on them, largely because of the underground nature of many mithraea. The ones below are from the epigraphic museum within the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. Many of you might remember the first relief as the one used as the header for my polychromy article in Hyperallergic. The red pigment and gold leaf are quite the sight in person.

Ah, polychromy. Here are some final Mithraic depictions from the 2nd-4th c. CE in Rome’s Baths of Diocletian that I took over the summer.

Simply captivating, aren’t they? <groan>



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