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BRACAE (ἀναξυρίδες, θύλακοι), trowsers, pantaloons. These, as well as various other articles of armour and of dress [ACINACES, ARCUS, ARMILLA], were common to all the nations which encircled the Greek and Roman population, extending from the Indian to the Atlantic ocean. Hence Aristagoras, king of Miletus, in his interview with Cleomenes, king of Sparta, described the attire of the barbarians in these terms: “They carry bows and a short spear, and go to battle in trowsers and with hats upon their heads.” (Hdt. 5.49.) Hence also the phrase Bracati militis arcus, signifying that those who wore trowsers were in general armed with the bow. (Propert. 3.3, 17. Cf. Eur. Cycl.182; Cic. Fam. 9.1. 5, 2, in Pis. 23.53; Verg. A. 11.777; Ov. Tr. 4.6, 47, 5.7, 49, 10, 34; Juv. 8.254.) In particular, we are informed of the use of trowsers or pantaloons among the following nations :--The Medes and Persians; the Parthians; the Phrygians; the Sacae; the Sarmatae; the Dacians and Getae; the Teutones; the Belgae; the Britons; and the Gauls.

The Latin word bracae of Celtic origin is connected with the Scottish “breeks” and the English “breeches.” Corresponding terms are used in all the Northern languages. Also the Cossack and Persian trowsers of the present day differ in no material respect from those which were anciently worn in the same countries. In ancient [p. 1.315]monuments we find the above-mentioned people constantly exhibited in trowsers, thus clearly distinguishing them from Greeks and Romans. An example is seen in the annexed group of

Bracae worn by Sarmatians. (Column of Trajan.)

Sarmatians, taken from the Column of Trajan, wearing the loose trowsers (bracae laxae) which the Greeks called θύλακοι, and another example is given of a Scythian under ARCUS p. 170 b.

The tighter form of ἀναξυπίδες is exemplified in the annexed figure of a Persian prince at the battle of Issues, from the mosaic at Pompeii.

The reason for this distinction is to be found in the necessities of climate. Thus Roman soldiers fighting in the north of Europe were obliged to assume this barbarian garment, and we see the Roman soldiers and

Bracae worn by Persian prince. (Mosaic found at Pompeii.)

officers engaged in the wars on the Danube represented on the Column of Trajan as wearing short bracae. In the cut given in the next column, they are supported by a sash round the waist. In the reliefs on Constantine's arch which date from that emperor's own times, we see the Roman soldiers wearing trowsers exactly like those of the Sarmatians figured above. At first however, on quitting these northern countries, the Romans gladly abandoned the bracae, and Caecina (A.D. 69) gave great offence on his march into Italy by wearing what was regarded as a tegmen barbarum (Tac. Hist. 2.20). But in the second century they appear to have been worn at Rome, although the use of them in the city was forbidden by Honorius (A.D. 397; Cod. Theod. 14.10, 3; Lamprid. Alex. Sever. 40).

Trowsers were principally woollen; but Agathias states (Hist. 2.5) that in [Europe they were also made of linen and of leather; probably the Asiatics made them of cotton and of silk. Sometimes they were embroidered (pictae, Val. Fl. 6.227) as in the figure of the Persian prince above, or striped (virqatae, Propert. 4.11, 43) and ornamented with a woof of various colours (ποικίλαι, Xen. Anab. 1.5, § 8; Eur. l.c.). The Greeks seem never to have worn them. In the next century, however, they gradually came into use at Rome; but they would appear never to have been generally worn. It is recorded of Alexander Severus that he wore white bracae, and not crimson ones (coccineae), as had been the custom with peceding emperors.

Bracae worn by Roman soldier. (Trajan's Column.)

Mela (2.1) describes the Satarchae as bracati totum corpus, by which phrase he seems to indicate a single garment which served for a jacket to the body as well as trowsers for the legs. The Amazons are often represented as wearing such a dress (Winckelmann, Mon. Ined. 149).

Gallia bracata was a name given to what afterwards became Gallia Narbonensis, because the inhabitants wore bracae (Mel. 2.59; Plin. Nat. 3.31); and bracatus as opposed to togatus often expresses the distinction between Gallia transalpina and the countries east of the Alps.

Bracarius, properly a breeches-maker (Lampr. Alex. Sev. 24) came to be used for a tailor in general (Diocl. Edict. 7.42).

[J.Y] [J.H.F]

hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 9.1.2
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.49
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.5
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 11.777
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 2.20
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.31
    • Ovid, Tristia, 4.6
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.10
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.7
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