Monday, July 4, 2011

Barbers in Ancient Athens

Athenians, in order to have longer hair, they anointed their hair with a mixture of olive oil and fragrances. During the 6th century B.C. men used to have long locks, but after the Battle of Marathon they began to cut them shorter. Later, after Alexander the Great's epoch, they used to shave their moustaches and their beards; Greeks did not have a moustache without a beard. Also the barber took care of the client's hands and then passed a mirror to the customer in order for him to admire his new look. Due to the fact that many waited for their turn, barbers became very sociable and knew all the local gossip, which they then passed on with a twist. That is why they had a reputation of being chatty and quite rude at times. 

The news of the catastrophe in Sicily was given to the Athenians by a barber from the port of Piraeus.  He was told the disastrous, for Athens, news from a deserter's slave; without sparing any valuable time he ran to Athens in order to be the first one to give them the news. No one in Athens knew about the catastrophe, that is why they were asking him many questions, however he did not even know the slave's name. After people a couple of hours of non stop questioning without receiving any additional information the crowds shouted "send the liar for interrogation! Torture him!" The poor barber was then tied to a wheel when a few soldiers who made it back confirmed the terrible truth. The Athenians were saddened tremendously by the awful news, they returned to their homes to mourn the dead, forgetting about the barber; nevertheless they remembered him late at night. When the executioner went to free him, the barber asked whether anyone knew about Nikias and that he was dead, showing how he had more gossip to spread. 
Barbers knew everything within the local community and had a view about anything. Another small story emphasising this fact explains how a barber asked the King of Macedonia, " How would you like me to cut your hair" and the King relied, "without speaking".          

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