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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Web of Deceit

When working on the “Gift’s for the Goddess” display table during Heritage Open Week, I came across a replica of an ancient Roman spindle whorl. Being who I am, I was intrigued to find out more about this strange little round item, especially how it worked. Learning how it twists the thread into long strands ready for weaving reminded me of a Roman myth of a weaving competition between Minerva and Arachne. The story goes as follows…

Arachne was considered the best weaver of textiles of all mortals. People across the lands would come watch her as she created the most beautiful textiles with such grace. One day, Arachne claimed to the public that she could out weave the goddess Minerva. Unfortunately, after Minerva heard this, she was not pleased and disguised herself as an old woman. The goddess went to visit Arachne and under her disguise she warned Arachne about the wrath of the gods and to not tempt the goddess Minerva. Arachne having heard the advice, refused to do so. Minerva took away her disguise and stood before Arachne and declared she would accept her challenge. Arachne surprised and bashfully agreed to do so.
Many gathered around the competitors as they took their stations and attached the webs to the beam. They watched in awe as they elegantly spread the slender shuttle in and out along the thread. Both of them worked with such skill and speed. Eventually the colourful images started to form on the textiles.

Weaving loom
Minerva displayed the story of her triumph over Neptune in claiming the city of Athens. Arachne wove stories of gods who failed or caused errors to mortal kind.

This outraged Minerva and she destroyed Arachne’s beautiful textile. The goddess then placed shame into Arachne’s heart for defying the gods.

The next day Arachne felt such guilt and shame that she tried to take her own life. Minerva, having heard this, felt pity on Arachne and went to visit her. While standing before Arachne she said “Live, guilty woman and that you preserve the memory of this lesson…” and promptly turned Arachne into a spider.

(Want to learn how to use a Roman Spindle Whorl?...keep reading there will be more on that later!)

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