Chiton (costume)
A chiton was a form of clothing worn by men and women in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, from the Archaic period
Archaic period in Greece
The Archaic period in Greece was a period of ancient Greek history that followed the Greek Dark Ages. This period saw the rise of the polis and the founding of colonies, as well as the first inklings of classical philosophy, theatre in the form of tragedies performed during Dionysia, and written...

 (c. 750–c. 500 BC) to the Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

 (323–30 BC).

The chiton is the same as the tunica and is a sewn garment, unlike the peplos
A peplos is a body-lengthGreek garment worn by women before 500 BC. The peplos is a tubular cloth folded inside-out from the top about halfway down, altering what was the top of the tube to the waist and the bottom of the tube to ankle-length. The garment is then gathered about the waist and the...

, a draped garment held on the shoulders by a fibula.

There are two forms of chiton, the Doric chiton and the later Ionic
The Ionians were one of the four major tribes into which the Classical Greeks considered the population of Hellenes to have been divided...

 chiton. The "Doric" style was simpler and had no "sleeves", being simply pinned, sewn, or buttoned at the shoulder. The "Ionic" style was made of a much wider piece of fabric, and was pinned, sewn, or buttoned all the way from the neck to the wrists and the excess fabric gathered by the zone
Zone (vestment)
The Zone ; occurs in Homer as a woman's girdle and can even refer to her waist itself. Classical Greek had a verb put a girdle around the loins, or "gird one's self."...

 or girdled at the waist. By the late Archaic, Ionic chitons had become less common, especially for men.

History and usage

The Doric chiton is a single rectangle of woolen or linen fabric. It can be worn plain or with an overfold called an apotygma which is more common to women. It can be draped and fastened at the shoulder by pins (fibulae) or sewing, or by buttons. The Ionic chiton could also be made from linen or wool and was draped without the fold and held in place from neck to wrist by several small pins. A large belt called a zoster could be worn over the chiton, usually under the breast ("high-girdled") or around the waist ("low-girdled") or a narrower "zone" or girdle could be used. The chiton's length was greater than the height of the wearer, so excessive fabric was pulled above the belt, like a blouse.

A double-girdled style also existed. The chiton was often worn in combination with the heavier himation
A himation was a type of clothing in ancient Greece. It was usually worn over a chiton, but was made of heavier drape and played the role of a cloak.The himation was markedly less voluminous than the Roman toga....

 over it, which had the role of a cloak. When used alone (without a himation), the chiton was called a monochiton. A long chiton which reached the heels was called a chiton poderes, while a longer one which dragged the ground was called a chiton syrtos or an (Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: ἐλκεχιτώνες, elkekhitōnes) (literally, a chiton that drags the ground). A woman's chiton would always be worn at ankle length. Men wore the long chiton during the Archaic period, but later wore it at knee length, except for certain occupations such as priests and charioteers, and also the elderly. A sleeved form was worn by priests and actors. The colour or pattern would often indicate status, but varied over time. The chiton was the outfit of Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 because it was considered very feminine, although men also wore it. Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

 is often depicted wearing it. The chiton was also worn by the Romans after the third century BC. However, they referred to it as a tunica. An example of the chiton can be seen, worn by the caryatid
A caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head. The Greek term karyatides literally means "maidens of Karyai", an ancient town of Peloponnese...

s in the porch of the Athens Erechtheum
The Erechtheion is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece.-Architecture:The temple as seen today was built between 421 and 406 BC. Its architect may have been Mnesicles, and it derived its name from a shrine dedicated to the legendary Greek hero Erichthonius...

. A charioteer's chiton can be see on the Charioteer of Delphi
Charioteer of Delphi
The Charioteer of Delphi, also known as Heniokhos , is one of the best-known statues surviving from Ancient Greece, and is considered one of the finest examples of ancient bronze statues. The life-size statue of a chariot driver was found in 1896 at the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi...

 (474 BC).


Greek men sometimes wore a short version of chiton known as the chitoniskos. On Greek vases, men are pictured wearing the chitoniskos while hunting, farming, and under their armor for war. The smaller chiton could also be worn over another chiton.


The word chiton appears in the Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

. In Greek, khitōn could be used to refer not only to a cloth garment covering the skin, but also to other sorts of covering such as a coat of mail, a membrane around a bodily organ, or the pod containing seeds. The Greek word is an adoption from a Central Semitic
Central Semitic languages
The Central Semitic languages are a proposed intermediate group of Semitic languages, comprising Arabic and the Northwest Semitic languages ....

 source (most probably Northwest Semitic
Northwest Semitic languages
The Northwest Semitic languages form a medium-level division of the Semitic language family. The languages of this group are spoken by approximately eight million people today. The group is generally divided into three branches: Ugaritic , Canaanite and Aramaic...

, the exact source language not being known) and is akin to the Hebrew word kětōnet 'tunic
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles...

'. The Central Semitic word that was the source of Greek khitōn was itself adapted from the Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

 word kitû, meaning 'flax' and 'linen'. This Akkadian word in turn comes from Sumerian gada (which has the variant gida). The Latin word tunica, source of the English word tunic, is taken from a Phoenician word of kindred origin.

See also

  • Clothing in the ancient world
    Clothing in the ancient world
    The clothing used in the ancient world strongly reflects the technologies that these peoples mastered. Archaeology plays a significant role in documenting this aspect of ancient life, for fabric fibres, and leathers sometimes are well-preserved through time...

  • Clothing in ancient Greece
    Clothing in ancient Greece
    Clothing in ancient Greece primarily consisted of the chiton, the peplos, himation, and chlamys.- History and types :While no clothes have survived from this period, descriptions exist from contemporary accounts and artistic depiction. Clothes were mainly homemade, and often served many purposes...

  • Peplos
    A peplos is a body-lengthGreek garment worn by women before 500 BC. The peplos is a tubular cloth folded inside-out from the top about halfway down, altering what was the top of the tube to the waist and the bottom of the tube to ankle-length. The garment is then gathered about the waist and the...

  • Zone (vestment)
    Zone (vestment)
    The Zone ; occurs in Homer as a woman's girdle and can even refer to her waist itself. Classical Greek had a verb put a girdle around the loins, or "gird one's self."...

  • Zoster (costume)
    Zoster (costume)
    A zoster was a form of girdle or belt worn by men and perhaps later by women in Ancient Greece, from the Archaic period to the Hellenistic period ....

Additional sources

External links

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