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AULAEUM usually in the plural AULAEA ( αὐλαία), a curtain, carpet, or hanging, mostly of the heavier and richer sort (τὸ μέγα καὶ ποικίλον παραπέτασμα, Cosmas Indicopl. Topog. Chr. [p. 1.260]p. 197). The name was especially applied to the tapestry worked with human and animal figures, which was early introduced from the East (Theophr. Char. 21, αὐλαίαν ἔχουσαν Πέρσας ἐνυφασμένους: Verg. G. 3.25; Ovid. Met. 3.111 ff.). The word αὐλαία is good Greek, as is shown by Theophr. l.c.; Hyperid. fr. 165 ed. Turic. = 142 Blass, οἱ ἐννέα ἄρχοντες εἱστιῶντο ἐν τῇ στοᾷ, περιφραχάμενοι τι μέρος αὐτῆς αὐλαίᾳ: Menand. fr. 720 Meineke, στυππεῖον, ἐλέφαντ̓, οἶνον, αὐλαίαν, μύρον: and the notion of Servius, that aulaeum was ab aula Attali regis, betrays the ignorance of a late grammarian (ad Georg. l.c.). He was perhaps misled by the line of Propertius, Porticus aulaeis nobilis Attalicis (2.32, 12 = 3.24, 12); where, of course, the meaning is simply “rich enough for Attalus” (cf. Hor. Od. 1.1, 12).

Such hangings were extensively used (a) in temples, to veil the statue of the divinity (Paus. 5.12.4); (b) in houses, either as coverings over doors, or as substitutes for doors, as window curtains, or again to decorate the walls of rooms, especially the triclinium or dining-room (Hor. Sat. 2.8, 54); (c) on the outside of houses, to close in the verandahs, balconies, or open galleries [DOMUS]; (d) to stretch over colonnades, and thus form a tent (Hyperid. l.c.; Propert. l.c.). See further references under VELUM; and for the use of the curtain in theatres, SIPARIUM and THEATRUM One or two disputed points may here he noticed.

As is well known, the curtain in the Roman theatre was not drawn up as in our own, but disappeared underneath the stage: the slit which contained the roller for this purpose, between the stage (proscenium) and the scena, is plainly seen in the smaller of the two theatres at Pompeii. Hence aulaea premuntur, “the curtain is let down,” when the acting begins (Hor. Ep. 2.1, 189); aulaeum tollitur, “the play is ended” (Cic. pro Cael. 27, § 65, and Ov. Met. l.c.). It has commonly been assumed, as by Donaldson (Theatre of the Greeks, ed. 7, p. 240), that the Greek custom was the same; but, according to Godfrey Hermann (Leipz. Lit. Zeit. 1818, p. 1906) and Böttiger (Kl. Schr. 1.402), it is doubtful whether the curtain was used in Greek theatres at all. The classical passages, cited in full above, in no way connect αὐλαία with the theatre; the grammarians who do so (Pollux, 4.122; Bekk. Anecd. 83, 7; 463, 14; αὐλαία τὸ τῆς σκηνῆς παραπέτασμα: Hesych., Suid.) of course prove nothing as to the earlier period. The remains of genuine Greek theatres are in general too scanty to throw any light on this question; the best preserved, that of Aspendus, has certainly been odernised in the time of the Roman Caesars. Becker, who shares these doubts, observes further that the Roman usage may perhaps not be as old as the time of Plautus, judging from the concluding lines of his Casina and Cistellaria, spoken by the entire company (grex, caterva). (W. A. Becker, ap. Pauly, i.2 s. v. Aulaeum; cf. Wieseler, Theater-gebäude u. s. w., Göttingen, 1851.)

Another common but probably erroneous opinion is that the word aulaea is applied in Latin poetry to the coverlets and draperies of couches in the triclinium or elsewhere (περιστρώματα, stragulum, stragula vestis, toralia). Of the passages relied on to prove this point, cenae sine aulaeis et ostro (Hor. Od. 3.29, 15) is explained by Orellius with reference to Sat. 2.8, 54, where there is no question as to the meaning of aulaea (for the distinction between aulaea and ostrum, cf. Böttiger, Kl. Schrift. 1.424, ap. Orell.); and in Verg. A. 1.697 Conington has rightly reverted to the explanation of Servius and the older commentators, rejecting that of Heyne and most moderns as “without authority.” (See two illustrations of wall-hangings under CENA


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.1
    • Homer, Odyssey, 3.15
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.12
    • Homer, Odyssey, 3.29
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.12.4
    • Cicero, For Marcus Caelius, 27
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.697
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.25
    • Horace, Epistulae, 2.1
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