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VESTIS The history of Greek and Roman dress has been only told in part by the articles which describe various garments and ornaments under their several names. In them the changes which new modes of life, new channels of trade, and new manufactures brought about are only touched on incidentally. The object of the present article is to supply the connecting link, and to give a chronological sketch of the development of the costume of the latest periods that concern us. Unfortunately it can only be a sketch, for the ground is for the most part new, there being no authoritative treatises on the subject. This is due to the fact that the evidence is chiefly to be drawn from the monuments, and that they have not yet been adequately studied. Until they are known with scientific thoroughness, and until this knowledge ledge has been brought to bear on the evidence from literature, the details of the history of Greek and Roman dress cannot be filled in.

The earliest pre-historic remains in Greece and at Hissarlik go back to the Stone age, when metals were unknown, and the potter's wheel had not yet come into use. Yet, even among these, spindle-whorls and what maybe regarded as loom-weights are found, showing that thread was manufactured then. Whether this thread was of flax as well as wool has been debated, but the combined evidence of philology and archaeology shows that it was not only known, but woven into stuffs (cf. Schrader, Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte, p. 361 foll.; Studniczka, Beiträge zur G. d. altgr. Tracht, p. 45; Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans, pp. 165, 171; FUSUS).

Besides these woven garments, the people of these early times must have possessed plaited mats of reeds and rushes, much like those of the fisher-folk of classical times (cf. φορμός, Theocr. 21.13; cf. Paus. 10.29, 8), and of some anchorites of the Christian era. That such mats were skilfully woven with all manner of patterns, a glance at early pottery, with its plait ornamentation, is sufficient to show. These woven and plaited stuffs were worn with fleeces and dressed skins [PELLIS], or in some parts with hats and coats of felt [PILLEUS].

The civilisation of the so-called Mycenaean period brought with it many changes in dress, but these have been sufficiently described in the articles which treat of garments mentioned by Homer [PALLA; PALLIUM; TUNICA]. One point, however, deserves special mention, the connexion that existed between the people who enjoyed this civilisation and the East. Both Egyptian and Assyrian works of art are found side by side with those of Mycenae, and there can be no doubt that the commerce between them, if not direct, was at any rate a regular one (cf. Furtwängler und Loeschcke, Mykenische Vasen). Such a trade must have brought many products of the Eastern looms to Greece, as well as much costly jewellery and furniture. The opening of historical times in the eighth and seventh centuries shows the Oriental influence still strong, but chiefly exercised through the colonists in Ionia. It was from the Lydians (cf. Λυδοπαθεῖς τινές, Anacr. fr. 155), and afterwards the Persians, that these Ionians borrowed their luxurious ways. This new ἁβροσύνη spread from Aeolia and Ionia to Magna Graecia, Sicily no less than to Thessaly and Corinth, and flourished more especially at the courts of the tyrants of this period. The result on dress is to be traced in the number of foreign garments, whose names are to be found in the Lyric poets. Thus βάσσαρα (cf. Daremberg et Saglio, Dict. i. p. 681) and κύπασσις (cf. Studniczka, loc. cit. p. 21, note 62; BASSARA) were both borrowed from Lydia, and were names of long linen garments, while σάραπις is Median. Linen also came from Egypt; and the φώσσων, ἡμιτύβιον, καλάσιρις, and σινδὼν are words derived from this source (cf. Müller, Handbuch, p. 412; Daremberg et Saglio, loc. cit. ii. p. 756; Studniczka, loc. cit. pp. 47, 51). Besides these linen stuffs were dyed woollen fabrics, especially those of Tyrian purple (παναλουργέα φάρεα, Xenophan. fr.; ἁλουργίδες, Ath. 12.512) and saffron, the latter owing part at least of its vogue to its use in Dionysiac ritual.

The luxury of this time was, in Greece proper at any rate, chiefly confined to the courts of tyrants; and when their régime passed away, a reaction towards simplicity set in, which Thucydides describes (cf. art. PALLIUM). The chief reform effected was, somewhat like the Jaeger movement of our days, a return to the use of wool in the place of linen, and a reduction in the number of garments worn. However, this must in most cases have been a counsel of perfection for the variety of clothing shown by fifth-century art would scarcely lead one to suspect that much greater simplicity actually prevailed. This period of what may be called classical Greek dress ends with the foundation of Alexander's empire. The new and close contact with the East that was then established not only brought many new stuffs, such as cotton, but shifted the centre of fashion away from Greece to the new capitals of the Hellenistic world. All manner of fine muslins (εὐήτριοι σινδόνες, Nearch. Peripl. Mar. Er. 14, 6; cf Theophr. H. P. 4.4, 8) and other cotton products (κάρπασος: cf. Müller, op. cit.. p. 436; Haverfield, Journal of Philology, 13.299-302; Daremberg et Saglio, s. v. carbasus; Schrader, Ling. hist. Forsch. pp. 210, 211), and even silks, became known [SERICUM].

In sketching the history of Roman dress, it would be useless to begin with pre-historic antiquities, as we did in the case of Greek dress. Such an inquiry would, it is true, give a glimpse of the mode of life led by the common ancestors of the Umbrians, Romans, and other Italians in the Stone age; but it would throw no special [p. 2.945]light on Roman civilisation. So great in fact is the gap between these primitive times and the Rome of history that the traditions of the kings give the earliest starting-point. These traditions all go to show that the influence of Etruria on dress, if not on the manners and customs, was great. The form this influence took was recognised in classical times by archaeologists, like Florus, who tells us that the insignia of power were borrowed from Etruria (1.5, 6: Inde fasces, trabeae, curules, anuli, phalerae, paludamenta, praetexta, inde quod aureo curru quattuor equis triumphatur, togae pictae, tunicaeque palmatae, omnia denique decora et insignia quibus imperii dignitas eminet).

The civilisation of the Etruscans was much older than that of the Romans; their commerce was extensive, their manufacturing skill famous throughout the world, and their wealth and luxury very great, to judge by the remains that have been found in their graves. Even apart from the fact that the last dynasty that reigned at Rome, that of the Tarquins, was Etruscan, their debt to Etruria could not be anything else than great. Yet it would be wrong to suppose that the Romans imported more than they needed for ceremonial display. As in all primitive communities, the women of the family and their maids were mostly busied in spinning and weaving wool.

The primitive stage, however, in which garments are worn, as they come direct from the loom, had long since passed at Rome, even in the days of Numa. In his time, if we can believe a tradition, the fullers [FULLONES] and dyers (infectores) had already attained the status of forming guilds (cf. Plut. Numa,, 17). They were only concerned with the dressing of cloth and preparing it for wear, so that there must have been considerable variety in clothes, both as regards colour and finish, even in those early times. Nor were these the only crafts concerned with dress, for the goldsmiths (fabri aurarii) also, one of the original nine guilds, were in part at any rate employed in the manufacture of jewellery. Besides, the felters (coactiliarii), also a very old craft, must have existed at this date, and provided coats and blankets, not to speak of hats [PILLEUS].

The garments produced by these native industries were for the most part of wool, for the use of linen did not become common at Rome till late in the history of the Republic. The form they took can, to a certain extent, be recovered from tradition, and from their survival in certain ceremonial uses. From these we learn that originally both men and women wore a cloak of wool, the TOGA and that below it the men had a tightly-girt loin-cloth, the SUBLIGACULUM The first change was the adoption by both sexes of a woollen shirt or shift, the TUNICA which from that time became the chief under-garment. Early forms of these garments were used in historic times; the trabea [TOGA p. 849 b] for instance, a narrow toga, was the uniform of the Equites publico equo and the vestment of certain priests. In the same way the tunica recta was worn by the bride on the wedding-day [MATRIMONIUM p. 142 b; TELA p. 769 a]. She also wore the RICINIUM which was retained by certain priesthoods. Besides the toga, other forms of cloak seem to have been worn in sacred rites, such as the LAENA which was the vestment of the flamens and augurs, and the palla, the dress of the flaminica [FLAMEN; SACERDOS]. Of the various coverings for the head, those of felt were far the oldest at Rome; the pilleus and galerus of men, the tutulus of women, being of this material [PILLEUS].

Towards the end of the third century B.C. the conquest of Magna Graecia had begun to take effect on the Romans. In no respect was the change more evident than in that of dress, where it is shown by the large number of words for new garments and new fabrics derived from the Greek, in the Latin of that period. For instance, it was then that friezes (amphimallum or amphimallus), linen (carbasus), and muslin (molochina) first became known. Embroidery (vestis plumnatilis) and the use of trimmings (e.g. patagium), flounces, and other adornments became more common. It was now the fashion to wear more than one under-garment (tunica), and sleeves were no longer unusual. Women especially fell victims to Greek fashion, giving the name STOLA (στολὴ) to their principal garment, and wearing the STROPHIUM below it, and wrapping the parapechium (παράπηχυ, Varro, L. L. 5.30, 133) over it. The men too, though they still retained the old dress for ceremonial purposes (see article TOGA), adopted the Greek ἱμάτιον, giving it the name PALLIUM the ἐξωμὶς and τριβὼν under the name of ABOLLA and the χλαμὺς with its name unchanged. This adoption of Greek fashions went on ever increasing until the period of the Empire, when, except for the most ceremonial purposes, the old Roman dress had finally disappeared. Under the Empire, however, the Greek, or rather Hellenistic fashions, changed rapidly. The increase of the means of commiunication, and the constant influx of provincials and foreigners to Rome, brought a great number of new fabrics, such as fine linens, muslins (sindon), soft stuffs (leporinum), and silks [SERICUM]. The prevalence of peace and the great growth of wealth created a constant demand for luxurious garments of cloth of gold and rich embroidery. Of such a kind was the paragauda (in Greek writers παραγώδης), a sleeved tunic of Syrian origin, which was of the finest wool, with a purple border and embroidered with silk ornaments. It was worn by women, but for men was one of the insignia of office (cf. Ed. Diocl. 16.15; Trebell. Poll. Claud. 17; Vopisc. Aur. 46; Lyd. de Mag. 1.17, 2.4, 13). Even in ordinary use the sleeved TUNICA or STOLA had been supplanted by the DALMATICA which from the time of Commodus (Lampr. Commod. 8, 8, “Dalmaticatus in publico processit;” cf. Lampr. Heliog. 26, 2) was worn by both men and women. A companion tunica, but without sleeves, was called the colobium [DALMATICA]. Other new garments came from Gaul, such as the CARACALLA and the bardocucullus, or birrus [BIRRUS; CUCULLUS]. Even trousers [BRACAE] (Ed. Diocl. 6.46) and breeches (coxale, Ed. Diocl. 1.13) were worn at this period.

The chief literary source of our knowledge of Greek dress is Pollux, who in the fourth and seventh books of his Onomasticon gives long lists of garments, with short descriptions of their shape and make. Almost equally important, [p. 2.946]though only describing women's garments, are the inventories of the temples of Artemis at Brauron (C. I. A. 2.715-765) and of Hera at Samos (Curtius, Inschriften und Studien zur Geschichte von Samos, pp. 10-21), and the inventory from Thebes (Bull. Corr. hell. 5.264). Of these the inscription from Brauron belongs to the beginning of the second half of the fourth century B.C. The passages in Greek writers which mention dress are too numerous and varied to call for comment in an article like the present; it is necessary, however, to point out that great caution must be used in interpreting such incidental descriptions or allusions. In a drama, for instance, the garments worn are those of the stage, which differed in every way from those of every-day life. The characters wearing them appeared for the most part in the antique magnificence of the Heroic age, not in the clothes of common folk. It is in fact only in comedies that we can expect to find ordinary apparel worn and spoken of, though even there the comic characters had extravagant and impossible costumes. For the costume of the stage, see Albert Müller, Lehrbuch der griechischen Bühnenalterthümer, pp. 226 foll.; Iwan Müller's Handbuch, vol. 5.3 (by Oehmichen), pp. 254-262.

The monumental evidence is that from which we must expect any further extension of our knowledge, but it is of enormous bulk, and has not yet been worked up as a whole. Böhlau, however, in his de re Vestiaria, and Studniczka in the Beiträge zur Gesch. d. altgr. Tracht, have shown with regard to the early history of dress what results scientific archaeology applied to the subject can produce. The chief difficulty in determining the value of monumental evidence is that of estimating the effect of artistic convention. Thus, for instance, there are a vast number of statues which are nude, because there was an artistic tradition that heroes were so represented. So, too, there are large classes of monuments in which dress is only given the figures as a kind of ornament, to fill up the background, or to suggest movement. As yet, however, no one has formulated these conventions, nor shown how their influence can be eliminated. The chief obstacle is the rapid increase of our knowledge, new discoveries bringing unsuspected variations and unknown specimens to light before the old have been satisfactorily systematised and described.

In current literature the only account of Greek dress besides that of Studniczka, which is based on the idea of historical development, is to be found in Iwan Müller's Handbuch, in the section devoted to Privatalterthümer, pp. 395-441 a. A summary account on the same lines is given by Von Heyden in his Tracht der Kulturvölker Europas (Leipzig, 1889). Besides, the older works of Weiss (Kostümkunde, 1872) and Köhler (Trachten der Völker, Dresden, 1872) contain much that is useful. The two English works--Hope's Costume of the Ancients (1841; 2nd ed. 1875), and Moyr-Smith's Ancient Greek Female Costume (1882)--contain many illustrations, but are otherwise of little value. The same may be said of Racinet's work in French Among the standard handbooks, the literature of the subject is best given in Hermann's Lehrbuch vol. iv. Die griechischen Privatalterthümer (ed Blümner, 1882), and Becker's Charikles (ed. Göll). Guhl and Koner's Leben der Griechen und Römer (1882; Eng. edition by Hueffer), and Blümner's Leben und Sitten der Griechen, especially the latter, give good illustrations from the original monuments. The articles in Baumeister's Denkmäler (1884, &c.), Daremberg et Saglio's Dictionnaire des Antiquités, and Rich's Companion to the Greek and Latin Dictionary are also useful in giving monumental evidence. A useful account of how Greek dresses were made and worn, with experiments on models by Conze, is given in Teirich's Blätter für Kunstgewerbe, vol. 4.1875, pp. 61, 74 (Vienna).

For Roman dress Varro, who describes and discusses the derivation of the names of garments in the fifth book of his de Lingua Latina (preserved to us by Nonius), is the chief authority. On the subject of dress under the Empire the fragments of the edict of Diocletian, fixing the customs due on articles of dress, are of great interest, as giving a full list of the garments then in use. Of the work of the older scholars, the treatises collected in Graevius's Thesaurus give all that is best. Needless to say, they are antiquated, but in the treatises of Ferrarius and Rubenius much that is of value may still be found. In modern literature the histories of Weiss, Kohler, and Von Heyden, and the dictionaries mentioned above, may be consulted. Of the handbooks, Marquardt's Das Privatleben der Römer (2nd edit. 1886) and Becker's Gallus (ed. Göll) give the literature with great fulness. Guhl and Koner and Iwan Müller's Handbuch, vol. 4.2 (by Voigt), are also useful.

A detailed account of the various articles of Greek and Roman dress, their forms and their uses, will be found under their special names in this Dictionary.


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