There can be no doubt that the oldest inhabitants of
Italy and Greece, no less than those of the rest of Europe, were clad
mainly, if not entirely, in skins. The period, however, when skins were thus
universally worn, with though the ancients assumed its existence just as we
do (cf. Varro, R. P.
2.11, 11; Propert. 5.1, 12), has left no
trace in literature or art, except perhaps in the costume of certain gods,
who, like Herakles with his lion-skin, remained true to primitive fashion.
In Homeric times skins were worn as a mantle over the shirt by the
poor,--Odysseus, for instance, dons a hairless deer-skin over the rags of a
beggar (Od. 13.436
; cf. Hesiod.
545),--by archers (Paris, Il.
), and by warriors when reconnoitring, as by the Greeks in
the Doloneia (Il. 10.23
). The manner in which such skins
were worn is very possibly shown by the figure of Hermes on the Francois
vase, where he wears a skin fastened closely and symmetrically on his body
by two clasps, the forelegs at his shoulders, the hind-legs hanging down his
Figure of Hermes. (From Francois vase.)
Besides their use as garments, skins of wild and domestic animals, especially
fleeces, were used as rugs and bedding. Leather, too, of some kind or other
was employed for the manufacture of shoes, caps, harness, armour, and the
other manifold uses to which leather is put.
The picture given by the literature of classical times is not far different
from the Epic, for there, too, the use of skins as garments is confined to
shepherds or folk in out-of-the-way parts. Pausanias tells of people in
Euboea and Phocis who wore tunics of pig-skins (8.1, 2), and says that the
Ozolian Locrians owed their name to the evil smell of the undressed skins
which they wore (10.38, 2).
A number of the σκύτιναι ἐσθῆτες
catalogued and described by Pollux (7.68, 70). The best known are those
which are mentioned in Aristophanes, where they occur as the garments of the
poor, or as bed-clothes and rugs. They are:--
(1) The διφθέρα,
which was a shepherd's
cloak or coat of goat-skins sewn together (Aristoph. Cl. 71
: cf. Eccl.
p. 53). According to Pollux (7.70), it had a hood
and. could be pulled over the head. The garment worn by the shepherd in the
Museo Pio Clam.
3.34 seems to answer to this description
and to be a διφθέρα.
(2) The σισύρα,
according to Pollux, was a
tunic with sleeves of skins, with the hair turned inwards (σίσυρνα χιτὼν σκύτινος ἔντριχος
). It seems, however, to have been. more of a cloak
than a tunic, and was worn for warmth (Arist. Ran.
was apparently even more frequently used to sleep in (Id. Av.
122) as a blanket (Id. Eccl.
421). The βαίτη,
the cloak of shepherds in Sicily (Theoc. 3.25; 5.15),
and elsewhere, seems to have been practically identical. with the Attic
(cf. Schol. ad
738), both being doubtless of
goat-or sheep-skin. In late authors the term σισύρα
may possibly mean a piece of cloth. (Lucian, Rhet.
16; Longus, Past.
(3) The κατωνάκη
7 was a coarse tunic
trimmed sheep-skin, and was worn by slaves and labourers in the country (
1151, Propert. 1155; Athen. 6.271
). Slaves at Sicyon
went by the name of κατωνακοφόροι
(4) The σπολὰς
was a leather jerkin worn by
slaves over their tunic (θώραξ ἐκ δέρματος, κατὰ
τοὺς ὤμους ἐφαπτόμενος,
Pollux, 7.70; cf [p. 2.363]
933, 935, 944). It was also worn by
soldiers (Xen. Anab. 3.3
Besides these garments, Dio Chrysostom mentions (2.382) the κοσσύμβη
as a shaggy shepherd's coat, and
Hesychius says κόσσος
was used with the
Greek art gives very little information about the use of skins. Herakles
appears in early art closely enveloped in his lion-skin, in later art
wearing it hanging from his arm or shoulder, and Dionysus and his train are
represented in spotted fawn-skins [NEBRIS
]; but there is nothing in either case to lead one to
suppose that the costume represented is one of ordinary use. In the same way
the skins which cover chairs in mythological scenes, like the assembly of
the gods on the Sosias cylix of the Berlin Museum (Mon. d.
1.25), do not seem to occur in representations borrowed from
actual life. In fact, the only articles of dress of this material which may
reasonably be considered actual are the fox-skin caps which some of the
riders on the Parthenon frieze wear, and the hunting-boots, which show the
paws and tail of the skin from which they were roughly made.
In Roman literature garments made of skins are not very often mentioned. Yet
the shepherds and goat-herds wore, as they do to this day (particularly in
the malarious regions of the Campagna), skin coats with sleeves (pelles manicatae,
Colum. R. R.
The specific names of such garments have not survived except in the case of
a sheep-skin coat worn in
Sardinia (Quinct. 1.5, 8).
Keller has collected several passages illustrating the use of bear-skins.
They are worn by Arcadian auxiliaries in the first Messenian war, and by the
in the later Roman army (Veget.
2.16, borne out by many monuments): in Statius (Stat. Theb. 4.304
) the Arcadians have a bear's head on their
shields: in Silius Ital. 4.558, an Apulian horseman in the Second Punic War
wears a bear-skin instead of a cuirass; so, too, Ancaeus the Arcadian (Orph.
199; cf. Acestes in Verg. A. 5.37
): according to Strabo xvii. p.828
, the people of
Mauritania wore skins of lions, panthers, and bears: for beds we have
bear-skins mentioned in Verg. A. 8.368
Ov. Met. 12.319
One of the most important uses of skins at Rome was as a covering for
military tents [TABERNACULUM
], whence sub pellibus,
“under canvas” (Caes. Gal.
, &c.). The pelliones
2.3, 54, 400), pelliarii
(Varro, L. L.
8.55), and pellionarii
were important enough to form guilds,
for a collegium pellionariorium
is mentioned in an
inscription (Reines. 1.283; Donat. p. 235, 2). These craftsmen probably,
even in early times, prepared furs as well as goat-skins and sheep-skins.
The custom of using furs, both as rugs (stragula pellicia,
) and as articles of dress (pelles indutoriae
), though furriers' shops are spoken of by Varro
8.55), did not become customary until the time of
the Empire, when contact with fur-wearing peoples, such as the Germans (cf.
a German coat of reindeer skin
afterwards adopted at Rome: Caes. Gal.
) brought them in. They speedily were recognised as ordinary
articles of dress ( “vestis etenim ex pellibus constabit,”
), and the growing demand for them supported a
lively trade at the factories in Southern Russia (e. g. Tanais on the Don,
Strab. ii. p.493
), as well as in
Cappadocia (Tot. Orbis Descr.
§ 40). The importance
of furs as an article of commerce is shown by the Edict of Diocletian, in
which skins of oxen, goats, sheep, lambs, deer, wild sheep, stags, martens,
beavers, bear, wolves, foxes, leopards, hyaenas, lions, and seals are
enumerated, as well as Morocco leather of different kinds. Tanning, or at
any rate the careful dressing of skins, was known as early as the Homeric
age, when we find various kinds of leather in use for harness, armour, and
clothing. Even in the case of skins used as bed-clothes it was apparently
the exception to have any not tanned, for the ἀδέψητος βοέη
on which Odysseus slept (Od. 20.2
was used by poor folk.
Among the common people many doubtless, like Eumaeus (Od. 14.34
: cf. Hes. Op.
made their own shoes and garments from raw hide, dressing them roughly with
oil to render them soft. However, there were even at this period
professional workers in leather, such as was Tychios, ακυτοτόμων ἄριστος
), who made Ajax's shield. Shoe-making and tanning seem to have
been carried on by the same man even in classical times (Aristoph. Kn. 314
; Theophr. Char.
[For the process of tanning, see CORIARIUS
p. 254 sq.;
iv. pp. 175-6; Iwan Müller,
iv. pp. 396, 806, 880, 931; Albert
237, 250, 252; Becker-Goll, Charikles,
3.260. f.; Marquardt,
p. 587; Keller, Thiere des klass.