Ancient Greek writers who were exposed to the ancient Persian court were intrigued by a curious garment that was said to have been used when Achaemenid Kings of Kings met with their courtiers. At times, so the story goes, the Persian king would force his guests to wear a certain item of clothing, called a corê, which acted like a straightjacket, preventing anyone with ill intentions from using their arms in any harmful way. This was mentioned by the scholar and mercenary, Xenophon (c. 420-350 BCE), who claimed that his Persian acquaintance, Cyrus the Younger, put one of these corê sleeves to good use. In his Hellenica, Xenophon wrote, “Cyrus put to death Autoboesaces and Mitraeus, the sons of Darius’ sister (daughter of Xerxes, the father of Darius). He did this because they failed to push their hands through the corê —a gesture that is made only in the presence of the king. (The corê is a kind of sleeve, longer than the cheiris, and anyone with his hands inside it would be incapable of doing anything” (Xenophon, Hellenica, II.1.8). Xenophon might have personally seen this garment himself, as he fought in Cyrus’ failed campaign to become king in 401 BCE. Alternatively, he could have learned of the corê from the writings of his contemporary, Ctesias, who was a doctor in the court of Artaxerxes II (r. 404-359/358 BCE).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Illustration inspired by a wall from the Palace of Artaxerxes II, printed by Friedrich Richter (c. 1822-1873), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the New York Public Library).
- A History of My Times by Xenophon, translated by Rex Warner. New York: Penguin Classics, 1966, 1979.