Alexander the Great, Aristotle and Pamphili from Kos
Interesting information from the Museum Guide
The comments of PLINY the Elder:
“The women weave webs, like spiders, making a luxurious material for women’s dresses, called silk. The process of breathing and weaving the thread was first invented in KOS, by a woman named PAMPHILI, daughter of PLATAEUS. She had the undoubted glory of inventing the way to lighten women’s clothing to the point of nudity.”
In this way PLINY the Elder, a writer of the 1st century, comments on the property of silk to “reveal” the human body (Naturalis Historia XI, xxvi-xxvii). We obtained the information from the Silk Museum guide written by Alexandra Tranta (published by PIOP), where one can find many interesting facts about the history of silk.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT, ARISTOTELES AND PAMPHILI
We also READ: “SILK CLOTH WAS INTRODUCED TO ANCIENT GREECE WITH THE CAMPAIGNS OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT (334-323). WISHING TO UNRAVEL THE SECRET OF SILK PRODUCTION ALEXANDER SENDS COCOONS TO HIS TEACHER, ARISTOTLE, WHO, THE FIRST OFTHE ANCIENT GREEK WRITERS, MENTIONS THE SILKWORM, DESCRIBING IT, AS A kind OF “LARGE WORM” (ARISTOTLE, ON ANIMAL STORIES, V.XIX, 551 b):
“From the large worm, which has one horn and differs from the others, it becomes first a variable of the tapeworm, then a bombylus, and then a necydalus; and in six months it changes all these forms. And from this life also the cobs are analyzed by the women’s clothes, being rubbed
, and then they woven; and the first is said to be woven in K. Pamphili Plato’s daughter”. Hist. Anim.V.19.6. Aristotle, “The Histories about Animals”.
Here ARISTOTLE mentions as the first silk weaver PAMPHILI from KOS in even earlier times (the first one is not called ὑφῆναι ἐν Kῷ Pamphili) and describes the process of converting the cocoon into silk.
He speaks, in fact, of its transformations, as well as of the process of pulling the thread from the cocoon: “therefore the animal and the analyzable buds of the women’s tennis shoes are woven together”.
Aristotle mentions that Pamphili from Kos wove silk cloth, but we don’t know if silk-making was later forgotten. Thus, we do not know if silk was imported or reused because it had fallen into oblivion when Alexander “discovered” it in his campaigns.
Image: Detail of a black-figure lekyth by the AMASIS Painter depicting women in domestic work: weaving on the standing loom and grinding. Metropolitan Museum, New York.