|Greek Gold Diadem with Leaves, Carnelian Cabochons and a Horse with Rider, Panticapaeum, 3rd Century BC|
The term originally referred to the embroidered white silk ribbon, ending in a knot and two fringed strips often draped over the shoulders, that surrounded the head of the king to denote his authority. Such ribbons were also used to crown victorious athletes in important sports games in antiquity.
|An impressive gold diadem with repousse rosettes and thin sheets applied at the top. Grave III (Grave of the Women), Grave Circle A, Mycenae, 16th.cent BC.|
High-ranking or wealthy Greek women often wore elaborate diadems and hairnets of gold and gemstones as part of their jewelry. Due to its protective quality, it also became important in marriage symbolism and was a common motif for women's jewelry of the Hellenistic period, and in royal Macedonian art more generally.
|Remarkable gold elliptical funeral diadems, leaves, wheels, cups, earrings, pendants and pins from Shaft Grave III, "Grave of the Women", Grave Circle A, Mycenae. 1600-1500 BC. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.|
|adorned the head of the buried Mycenean Princes|
A diadem is also a jeweled ornament in the shape of a half crown, worn by women and placed over the forehead (in this sense, also called tiara).
In some societies, it may be a wreath worn around the head. The ancient Persians wore a high and erect royal tiara encircled with a diadem. Hera, queen of the Greek gods, wore a golden crown called the diadem.
|Two gold diadems from Grave Circle A at Mycenae.|
By extension, "diadem" can be used generally for an emblem of regal power or dignity. The head regalia worn by Roman Emperors, from the time of Diocletian onwards, is described as a diadem in the original sources.