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The Ancient World and Fashion > Peoples of Western Asia

The Assyrian people were farmers who came from an area close to the Tigris River in present-day Iraq. From around 1350 BCE they began to conquer new land. Over the next seven hundred years, they built up a large empire which stretched from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean,and even reached as far west as Egypt.The Assyrian kings were great war leaders, but they also loved to relax in their beautiful palaces and gardens.

Battle Dress

The Assyrians were expert warriors, who fought with bows and arrows, spears and swords,and long leather slings. Soldiers wore short, belted tunics, leggings, and high leather boots. Some carried round wooden shields into battle and some were protected by an extra leather tunic covered with many small iron plates. Most warriors wore pointed iron helmets with flaps to cover their ears, and some of their helmets were topped with a plume of feathers. Kings rode into battle in a royal war chariot, wearing long robes and a fez-shaped golden helmet. Horses played an important part in Assyrian warfare and they were also dressed for battle. They wore golden collars with a bunch of scarlet feathers hanging down at the front. The royal horses also had a crown of feathers on their heads.

Palace Life

Assyrian men at court usually wore a close-fitting,short-sleeved tunic, edged with golden fringes. Tunics wereusually wornlong,but some stopped at the knees and sometimes a fringed shawl was also worn. Except in the earliest examples,Assyrian costumes were lavishly decorated, and the robes of the king werecovered with embroidery. The king wore a golden, fez-shaped crown and wherever he went in his palace, a servant accompanied him, holding a fringed canopy,like aparasol over his head. The Assyrians were skilled workers in gold, and both men and women wore golden necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Assyrian noblewomen dressed in a similar way to men, in fringed and embroidered robes and shawls,which covered them from neck to ankle. Both women and men at court wore simple leather sandals on their feet.

This carved relief from the ancient city of Nineveh shows two armed warriors-one with abow and arrows and the other carrying a wooden shield shaped like ashallow cone.

Assyrian king and queen
Assyrian king and queen

Fabrics, Colors, and Patterns

The most common material for clothing was wool, although linen was sometimes used for better-quality garments.Clothes were dyed in a range of colors: pale and deep indigo blue, scarlet, yellow ocher, dull olive green,and purple. All of these colors were also used to dye embroidery wool. Patterns embroidered on Assyrian clothes featured repeated geometric shapes, and often included sacred rosettes and palm trees.

Splendid Beards

Assyrian hair and beards were very well tended. A statue of King Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 668–c. 627 BCE) shows his carefully curled, shoulder-length hair and a splendid moustache and beard. The beard is carefully trimmed into a neat rectangle and appears to have bands of horizontal decoration. Other Assyrian statues also feature beards with decorated horizontal bands, and it is possible that the Assyrians’ beards were bound or interwoven with embroidered cloth.

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