Clavus Latus—Clavus Angustus
was a stripe of purple colour, worn by the Romans as a
badge of distinction, and either sewn to the stuff or woven into it.
The latus clavus (broad stripe) was, according to tradition,
introduced by Tullus Hostilius from the Etruscans (Plin. H.
N. ix. 136
). It was the distinctive badge of the senatorial order (Hor. Sat. i. 6, 28
), and hence it is used to signify
the senatorial dignity. In distinction to the angustus clavus
called purpura maior
), and the
garment it decorated, tunica potens
Silv. v. 2, 29
). Pliny speaks of this distinctive use as late (Pliny H. N. xxxiii. 29
); yet its assumption by a
, the father of L. Aelius Stilo Praeconinus (whose official dress
may have included the angustus clavus
), was, as he admits, remarkable, as
was also its use by Horace's praetor of Fundi (
Sat. i. 5, 36
). But there were relaxations of the restriction: thus
Augustus wore the tunica lati clavi
before he assumed the toga virilis
, and it was afterward his custom to permit the sons of senators to wear
it and attend the discussions of the Senate in order to train them in public affairs. If they
were entering on a military career, he also made them military tribunes and prefects. These
youths were called laticlavii
; Suet. Aug., 94
); on the
contrary, tribunus angusticlavius
). Wearing the latus clavus
granted by the emperor as a favour to the sons of knights, as a preliminary step to their
entering the Senate; if they relinquished or were disappointed in their hopes, they assumed
the angustus clavus
), but might again assume the latus clavus
, like Priscus in
Sat. ii. 7, 10
). In the later Empire the equites
appear to have encroached on the rights of the Senate in this respect, and Alexander Severus
was only able to insist that knights should be distinguished from senators by the quality of
the purple employed (Lamprid. Alex. Sev.
27). The Senate laid aside the latus clavus
at times of mourning (Liv.ix. 7
assumed the angustus clavus
(Dio Cass. xxxviii. 14).
The angustus clavus
(narrow stripe) was a
badge of the equestrian order (Vell. Paterc. ii. 88, 2), but less distinctively so than the
golden ring (Plin. H. N. xxxiii. 29
); for, as
we shall see from the extant works of art, it was also worn by camilli,
, and others not of equestrian rank, as a part of their ceremonial dress.
Form.—It is agreed that the clavi
were purple stripes woven in the fabric (Quint.viii. 5, 28
) or sewn on it (Dig.
34, 2, 23.1); that they
were employed to ornament the tunic, and no other garment; that the angustus
consisted of two narrow vertical stripes falling from each shoulder, down the
front, and, as appears from frescoes, also down the back. But there has been great discussion
concerning the form of the latus clavus
, some contending that it was a
single stripe running down the centre of the bosom of the tunica
that there were two stripes, only differing from the angustus clavus
breadth, and, like it,
Angustus Clavus. (Niccolini, |
Case e Monumenti di Pompeii. III.
Anfiteatro, tav. iii.)
running down the back (as Marquardt maintains). The latter view is now generally
held, although it is impossible to conclude the discussion by appealing to any representation
of a senator displaying this ornamentum
, as it was not the custom of
ancient sculptors to indicate a distinction of colour by a conventional system of lines.
It must be observed that latus clavus, angustus clavus
, are often
abbreviated expressions for tunica lati
Thus Iulius Caesar is said to have worn a latus clavus ad manus
45). That the angustus clavus
consisted of two stripes is proved by Quintilian, xi. 3, 138: Cui lati clavi ius non
erit, ita cingatur, ut tunicae prioribus oris infra genua paulum, posterioribus ad medios
poplites usque perveniant . . . ut purpuriae recte descendant, levis cura est.
we cannot point to the representation of an eques
wearing this garb, we
find it frequently shown in Pompeian paintings of persons of inferior rank who are in
ceremonial dress, especially camilli
and other attendants on
Angustus Clavus. (From figures in the Catacombs.)
religious rites, and of lanistae.
In a wallpainting at Pompeii
belonging to the worship of the goddess Epona, the two camilli
and a man
leading mules wear the angustus clavus.
The latter may be a muleteer
especially adorned for a festival of the goddess, or a person of higher rank performing some rite of her worship (Annali dell' Inst. Arch.
The angustus clavus
probably survives in the clavi
on the dalmatic, which was recognized as an ecclesiastical garb in the earlier part of the
fourth century (Vita Sylvestri I.
, p. 266, Combéfis), though down to
A.D. 640 the clavi
are always represented as black, according to Marriott
, p. lv.).
Some writers maintain that the drawing below, representing Rome personified, clothed in a
robe called cyclas
(q. v.), shows the latus clavus
falling in a broad purple stripe down the breast.
It is true that the singular (latus clavus
) is generally used, but this
is also true of the angustus clavus
, which confessedly consisted of two
stripes; while the employment of the plural, latis clavis
, is striking in
a passage of Varro, which also insists on the resemblance of the two garments, by using as an
illustration of an analogy a tunic, in which of the two pieces (front and back) one has the
, the other the angusti, clavi
. (Non, si
quis tunicam in usu ita
[E. Schulze, inusitate] consuit, ut altera
plagula sit angustis clavis, altera latis, utraque pars in suo genere caret, analogia
ix. 79]. Cf. for the use of the plural, Festus, p. 209 a, 23: tunica autem palmata a latitudine clavorum dicebatur, quae nunc a genere picturae
) Again, Augustus, among other affectations of simplicity, usus est . . . clavo nec lato nec angusto
), which is quite intelligible if the two ornaments differed
only in breadth, but inexplicable on the other hypothesis; while Herodian (v. 5, 9) speaks of
Supposed Latus Clavus. (From a painting of Rome personified.)
stripe down the centre of the tunic worn by the priests of the Sun, instituted by
Elagabalus, as a Phœnician custom.
As the tunic was composed of a front piece and a back piece sewn together, the passage
quoted above from Varro goes to show that the lati clavi
were worn down
the back as well as down the front. In support of this may be cited Varro, Sat.
313, Bücheler: quorum vitreae togae ostentant tunicae
, which refers to togas made of such diaphanous material that the clavi
could be seen through them at the back. With the same intent of displaying this
mark of distinction, the wearer of the tunica laticlavia
is to gird
himself so that it may fall low (Quint.xi. 3.139
Pliny observes that in his time it was becoming a fashion to weave the tunica
of a stuff resembling gausapa
(Pliny H. N. viii. 193
). The false derivation
quoted from Festus above for palmata
as applied to tunica
may possibly indicate that the breadth of the latus clavus
was about a palm.
The equivalents used in the Greek writers are: clavus
: tunica laticlavia
, ἡ πλατύσημος
: tunica angusticlavia
, ἡ στενόσημος
: tunica asema
33, 4), ἡ ἄσημος
: tunica clavata
, ἡ σημειωτός
. See Tunica
The chief authorities for the subject are Ferrarius, De Re Vestiaria
; Rubenius, De Re Vestiaria Veterum Praecipue de Lato Clavo
Libri Duo (Antwerp, 1665)
; Ferrarius, Analecta de Re
Vestiaria (Padua, 1690)
; Marquardt, Röm.
, pp. 544 foll.; id. Historia Equitum Rom.
pp. 77, 80; E. Schulze, in Rhein. Mus. (1875)
, pp. 120 foll. See
also Hope, The Costume of the Ancients (2d ed. 1875)
Le Costume Historique
, vol. ii. (1887)