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PELLIS 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. Op. 545),--by archers (Paris, Il. 3.16), and by warriors when reconnoitring, as by the Greeks in the Doloneia (Il. 10.23, 29, 197, 334). 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 thighs.

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 are 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. 80; Plato, Crit. 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 χειριδωτός). It seems, however, to have been. more of a cloak than a tunic, and was worn for warmth (Arist. Ran. 1459), but 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 σισύρα (cf. Schol. ad Arist. Vesp. 738), both being doubtless of goat-or sheep-skin. In late authors the term σισύρα may possibly mean a piece of cloth. (Lucian, Rhet. Praec. 16; Longus, Past. 2.3).

(3) The κατωνάκη 7 was a coarse tunic trimmed sheep-skin, and was worn by slaves and labourers in the country ( Arist. Lys. 1151, Propert. 1155; Athen. 6.271). Slaves at Sicyon went by the name of κατωνακοφόροι (Theopomp. Hist. 195).

(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]Arist. Av. 933, 935, 944). It was also worn by soldiers (Xen. Anab. 3.3, 20; 4.1, 18).

Besides these garments, Dio Chrysostom mentions (2.382) the κοσσύμβη as a shaggy shepherd's coat, and Hesychius says κόσσος was used with the same meaning.

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. Inst. 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. 1.89). The specific names of such garments have not survived except in the case of the mastruca, 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 signiferi 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. Argon. 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. 3.29, &c.). The pelliones (Plaut. Men. 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, Dig. 34, 2, 25) and as articles of dress (pelles indutoriae), though furriers' shops are spoken of by Varro (L. L. 8.55), did not become customary until the time of the Empire, when contact with fur-wearing peoples, such as the Germans (cf. rheno, a German coat of reindeer skin afterwards adopted at Rome: Caes. Gal. 6.21) brought them in. They speedily were recognised as ordinary articles of dress ( “vestis etenim ex pellibus constabit,” Dig. 34, 2; 23.3), 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, 142) was used by poor folk.

Among the common people many doubtless, like Eumaeus (Od. 14.34: cf. Hes. Op. 519), 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 (Il. 7.322), 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, 869; Theophr. Char. 16). [For the process of tanning, see CORIARIUS]

Literature.--Blümner, Technologie, i. p. 254 sq.; Hermann-Blümner, Lehrbuch, iv. pp. 175-6; Iwan Müller, Handbuch, iv. pp. 396, 806, 880, 931; Albert Müller, Bühnenalterthümer, pp. 237, 250, 252; Becker-Goll, Charikles, 3.260. f.; Marquardt, Privatleben, p. 587; Keller, Thiere des klass. Alterth. 1887.


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