Phrygian Cap

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Lady Liberty stands on a pedestal wearing a Liberty cap

The Phrygian Cap, also known as the Liberty Cap, is a classical symbol for free citizens.

Background

The Liberty cap is of Phrygian origin, and belongs to classical times. It was granted to freedmen as a token of manumission from bondage. The Saxons of England used it as their ordinary head-dress, but without the meaning we attach to it. It was on American coins in 1783. The Bryges, a warlike people from the southwest shores of the Euxine, conquered the east of Asia Minor, which they called 'Brigia,' - afterwards changed to Phyrgia.

This people distinguished themseives from the primitive inhabitants by wearing their national cap as a sign of their independence, and it was stamped on their coins. The Romans adopted it, and, when a slave was manumitted, placed a small red cap called 'a pileus' on his head, proclaimed him a freedman, and registered his name as such. When Saturnius took the capital in 263, he hoisted a cap on a spear to indicate that all slaves who joined him should be free. When Caesar was murdered, the conspirators raised a Phrygian cap on a spear as a token of liberty. The Goddess of Liberty on the Aventine Mount held in her hand a cap, the symbol of freedom. In France, the Jacobins wore a red cap.

In England, the symbol of liberty is a blue cap with a white border; and Britannia is represented holding such a cap on the end of a spear. The American cap of liberty has been adopted from the British, and Is blue with a white border or bottom on which are thirteen stars. There is no positive regulation in regard to it beyond its shape and color, so far as America Is concerned.[1]

The Phrygian Cap can be seen in the Seal of the United States Senate, adopted in 1886.

References

  1. Origin and History of the American Flag and of the Naval and Yacht-club Signals, Seals and Arms, and Principal National Songs of the United States, with a Chronicle of the Symbols, Standards, Banners, and Flags of Ancient and Modern Nations, Volume 1