Modius (headdress)

Serapis wearing the modius

The modius is a type of flat-topped cylindrical headdress or crown found in ancient Egyptian art and art of the Greco-Roman world. The name was given by modern scholars based on its resemblance to the jar used as a Roman unit of dry measure,[1] but it probably does represent a grain-measure, and symbolized powers over fecundity in those wearing it.

The modius is worn by certain deities, including Mut,[2] Eleusinian deities and their Roman counterparts, the Ephesian Artemis and certain other forms of the goddess,[3] Hecate, and Serapis.[4] On some deities it represents fruitfulness.[5]

A tall modius is part of the complex headdress used for portraits of Egyptian queens, ornamented variously with symbols, vegetative motifs, and the uraeus.[6] It was also the distinctive headdress of Palmyrene priests.[7]

See also


  1. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante, The World of Roman Costume (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), p. 245; Irene Bald Romano, Classical Sculpture: Catalogue of the Cypriot, Greek, And Roman Stone Sculpture in the University Of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology, 2006), p. 294.
  2. Betsy M. Bryan, "A Newly Discovered Statue of a Queen from the Reign of Amenhotep III," in Servant of Mut: Studies in Honor of Richard A. Fazzini (Brill, 2007), p. 32.
  3. Joseph Eddy Fontenrose, Didyma: Apollo's Oracle, Cult, and Companions pp. 131–132.
  4. Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture: The Styles of ca. 331–200 B.C. (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), p. 95.
  5. Fontenrose, Didyma, p. 131.
  6. Bryan, "A Newly Discovered Statue of a Queen," p 36ff.; Paul Edmund Stanwick, Portraits of the Ptolemies: Greek Kings As Egyptian Pharaohs (University of Texas Press, 2002), p. 35 et passim.
  7. Romano, Classical Sculpture, p. 294; Lucinda Dirven, The Palmyrenes of Dura-Europos: A Study of Religious Interaction in Roman Syria (Brill, 1999), pp. 246–247 .

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