From the twelfth to the seventeenth century, a cone-shaped hat called a pileus cornutus served as a distinguishing sign for Jews in the German-speaking regions of the Holy Roman Empire. What did the hat signify previously, and how did its meaning change after it was imposed on Jews by decree in the thirteenth century? This study traces its history as far back as Greek antiquity, when a pointed “Phrygian” hat was used as a means of identifying barbarians. Traveling on to Rome, where it was known as a pileus, the hat rose to prominence as a symbol for emancipated slaves. Its imposition on Jews in the Middle Ages was a turning point. Thereafter, the hat began to appear in representations of an increasing variety of deceiving figures, real and mythical, including heretics, criminals, and dwarfs. Following the course of the pileus not only sheds light on an intriguing singular phenomenon; it also stands as a paradigmatic example of a “traveling concept” and helps to refine our understanding of cultural transfer—of culture as transfer.
the paper traces the evolution of this fascinating hat. Some examples from the paper
But when I saw this, I felt I had seen these hats before and my daughter helped identifying it..