Umbrella – protection from sun and rain
Today, each of us can afford to have our own umbrella. However, in ancient times umbrellas were the privilege of distinguished persons.
The first image of the umbrella is found on the monument to Sargon the Ancient, the king of Akkad, built around 2400 BC in honor of the victories of the ruler, who united all the Sumerian territories (modern Iraq). Sargon is pictured ahead of his army, and a servant with a sun umbrella stands behind him.
Years passed. Sun umbrellas became popular all over the Mediterranean and reached Egypt. When traveling on chariots, Pharaoh and his family members used sun umbrellas. The first Egyptian umbrellas were made of palm branches, later they were made of papyrus.
Images of umbrellas above the heads of noble persons are seen in the drawings made on Ancient Greece pottery. An umbrella made of light fabric was often seen on the streets of ancient Rome. Ovid wrote: “Women should not go out without a golden umbrella, hiding them from the scorching rays of the sun.”
As for the predecessor of the modern umbrella, here the priority belongs to the Chinese. The first such umbrellas are mentioned in the Chinese chronicle about 221 years BC. They protected the chariots’ owners both from the sun and from sudden rain. However, an umbrella resembling modern one, appeared in China not earlier than IV-VI centuries of our era. It was made of heavy oiled paper, made of mulberry. The Chinese emperor had red and yellow umbrellas, commoners had to use only blue ones. In the XIV century, a special very strong and lightweight fabric was made. However, according to the imperial law of 1368, only the family of the emperor could use umbrellas made from such a fabric.
From China, the umbrella came to India. Multi-tiered umbrellas were the privilege of Indian monarchs. In 1340 in India, an umbrella was seen by the envoy of the Pope, who brought it to Italy, and soon the red-and-yellow umbrella became one of the symbols of the papal authority. In the Middle Ages, Catholics believed that every righteous man who entered paradise, among other awards, received his own umbrella.
In the 16th century umbrellas appeared in Europe, and were made of leather. The first European countries, where the umbrella was widely used, were Italy and Spain. In the XVII century umbrellas appeared in France. Historians believe that the first woman who had an umbrella in France was Maria Antoinette.
Manufacturers of umbrellas continued to improve it: the leather was replaced by strong silk fabrics, and spokes began to be made from the whalebone. The umbrella became lighter and more compact.
For the first time an English businessman, Jonas Hanway, appeared with an umbrella in one of London’s streets in 1750. At first people laughed at him and even attacked, but when his example was followed by one of the most famous dandies of that time, Bo McDonald, the brave ones began to imitate, and soon the umbrella conquered London, and then all England.
In 1852 Englishman G. Fox patented an umbrella with a light metal frame. And in 1928 German engineer Hans Haupt invented a telescopic pocket umbrella. Eight years later his company offered the European public the first folding umbrella. Thirty years later, nylon replaced silk fabric, and steel and wooden frames were replaced by polymer ones.
In the symbolism of Buddhism umbrella is considered one of the eight signs of happiness. It was portrayed over the head of the Buddha, on the thrones of the rulers and even on the harness of battle elephants.