1st c. BC

Empúries (L’Escala – Alt Empordà)

A strigilis is an object formed by a bronze stem with a curved (ligula) and grooved (tubulatio) part. At the other end it is folded in a quadrangular shape to form the handle (capulus) and a kind of clasp (clausula) to carry it hanging. It has a length, curvature included, of 21 cm and a maximum width of 1.8 cm. On the inside, at the beginning of the handle, there are two factory marks: one horizontal, depicting two facing dolphins and one vertical, with another dolphin. It came to the museum from Empúries in 1896.

This instrument was used after physical exercise or bathing to scrape oil, sweat and dirt from the body and collect it in the tubulatio. It is depicted by one of the best-known statues from antiquity: the Apoxyomenos of Lissip, a Roman marble copy of a 4th-century-BC bronze original.

It is common to find them in pairs joined by a ring. They came in various shapes and were usually bronze, although some were made of iron, bone, ivory or, in some cases, gilded silver. They are found in both funerary contexts and domestic environments.

Despite its beginnings in earlier times, this instrument of Mediterranean origin spread throughout Gallia Narbonensis –and from there to the rest of Gaul– especially after the Roman conquest. In our area, in addition to this fully preserved example, we know of more or less substantial parts of at least six more from the necropolises of Empúries, four of which are iron and dated to between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Parallels in the tomb of Boissières (Gard, France), also with dolphin marks, allow us to date our strigilis to between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.

This personal hygiene instrument transcended its utilitarian function to become an indication of the penetration of Roman ways of life in the new territories incorporated into Rome.

Copyright © 2024 Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya Departament de Cultura - Generalitat de Catalunya