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CLAVUS LATUS, CLAVUS ANGUSTUS. It was a common usage with many nations of antiquity to adorn a garment by means of stripes of a different colour, woven in [p. 1.454]or sewn on the stuff. As instances we may quote the purple stripe down the middle of the robes worn by the priests of the Sun, instituted by Heliogabalus (Herodian, 5.5, 9); the broad white stripe down the breast of the purple garment of the Persian leader in the Pompeian mosaic of the battle of Issus; the regulations of the mysteries at Andania, which prescribe that the σημεῖα on the women's garments are to be not more than half a finger's breadth (Sauppe, Abhandl. der kgl. Gesellsch., Göttingen, 1860); and among the Romans the female ornament of the patagium. But the Romans made a more characteristic use of these adornments by employing them as badges of office or rank (ornamenta), as in the case of the trabea, the toga praetexta, and the clavi.

It will be convenient to determine the use of both the latus clavus and the angustus clavus before discussing their form.

Usage.--The latus clavus was, according to tradition, introduced by Tullus Hostilius from the Etruscans (Plin. Nat. 9.136). It was the distinctive badge of the senatorian order (Hor. Sat. 1.6, 28; Ov. Tr. 4.10, 35), and hence it is used to signify the senatorial dignity (Suet. Tib. 35; Vesp. 2, 4). In distinction to the angustus clavus it is called purpura maior (Juv. Sat. 1.106), and the garment it decorated tunica potens (Stat. Silv. 5.2, 29). Pliny speaks of this distinctive use as late (H. N. 33.29); yet its assumption by a praeco, the father of L. Aelius Stilo Praeconinus (whose official dress may have included the angustus clavus), was, as lie admits, remarkable, as also was its use by Horace's praetor of Fundi (Sat. 1.5, 36). But there were relaxations of the restriction: thus Augustus wore the tunica lati clavi before he assumed the toga virilis, and it was afterwards his custom to permit the sons of senators to wear it and attend the discussions of the senate, in order to train them in public affairs. If they were entering on a military career, he also made them military tribunes and prefects. These youths were called laticlavii (Suet. Aug. 38, 94, Dom. 10; Hor. Sat. 1.6, 25; D. C. 59.9, 5 : on the contrary, tribunus angusticlavius, Suet. Otho 10). Statius speaks of a youth assuming the latus clavus together with the toga praetexta (Silv. 5.2, 29; cf. 4.8, 59-62). The right of wearing the latus clavus was also granted by the emperor as a favour to the sons of knights, as a preliminary step to their entering the senate; if they relinquished or were disappointed in their hopes, they assumed the angustus clavus ( “clavi mensura coacta est,” Ov. Trist. v. 10, 29-36; Suet. Vesp. 2), but might again assume the latus clavus, like Priscus in Horace (Sat. 2.7, 10), who “vixit inaequalis, clavum ut mutaret in horas.” In the later empire the equites appear to have encroached on the rights of the senate in this respect, and Alexander Severus was only able to insist that knights should be distinguished from senators by the quality of the purple employed (Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 27). The senate laid aside the latus clavus at times of mourning (Liv. 9.7) and assumed the angustus clavus (D. C. 38.14; 40.46).

The angustus clavus was a badge of the equestrian order (Vell. Paterc. 2.88, 2), but less distinctively so than the golden ring (e. g. Liv. 9.7: “lati clavi, anuli aurei positi.” Cf. Plin. Nat. 33.29); for, as we shall see from the extant works of art, it was also worn by camilli, lanistae, and others not of equestrian rank, as a part of their ceremonial dress.

Form.--It is agreed by antiquarians that the clavi were purple stripes woven in the fabric (Quint. 8.5, 28; Plin. Nat. 8.193; Fest. p. 56, 9) or sewn on it (Dig. 34, 2, 23.1; 19.5); that they were employed to ornament the tunic, and no other garment; that the angustus clavus consisted of two narrow vertical stripes falling from each shoulder, down the front, and, as appears from frescoes, also down the back. But there has been great discussion concerning the form of the latus clavus, some contending that it was a single stripe running down the centre of the bosom of the tunica, some that there were two stripes, only differing from the angustus clavus in breadth, and, like it, running down the back (as Marquardt maintains). The latter view is now generally held, although it is impossible to conclude the discussion by appealing to any representation of a senator displaying this ornamentum, as it was not the custom of ancient sculptors to indicate a distinction of colour by a conventional system of lines.

It must be observed that latus clavus, angustus clavus are often abbreviated expressions for tunica lati or angusti clavi. Thus Julius Caesar is said to have worn “lato clavo ad manus fimbriato” (Suet. Jul. 45). That the angustus clavus consisted of two stripes is proved by Quintilian, 11.3, 138: “Cui lati clavi ius non erit, ita cingatur, ut tunicae prioribus oris infra genua paulum, posterioribus ad medios poplites usque perveniant. . . ut purpurae recte descendant, levis cura est.” Though we cannot point to a representation of an eques wearing this garb, we find it frequently shown in Pompeian paintings of persons of inferior rank who are in ceremonial dress, especially camilli and other attendants on religious rites, and of lanistae. In a wall-painting at Pompeii belonging to the worship of the goddess Epona, the two camilli and a man leading mules wear the angustus clavus. The latter may be a muleteer especially adorned for a festival of the goddess, or a person

Augustus Clavus. (Niccolini, Case e Monumenti di Pompeii. III. Anfiteatro, tav. iii.)

of higher rank performing some rite of her worship. (Annali dell' Inst. Arch. 1872, pl. D.) [p. 1.455]

The illustration given above is from a painting on the wall of the amphitheatre at Pompeii, representing the commencement of a combat between two gladiators, and shows all the attendants wearing this ceremonial dress. It is particularly interesting, because the clavi are seen on the back of the tunic of one of the attendants on the left. (Cf. Nissen, Pompeianische Studien, p. 352, for other instances.) The angustus clavus is also commonly represented on the figures of the paintings in the Catacombs. The female figure on the left hand, from Buonarotti (Osservazioni sopra alcuni Frammenti di Vasi antichi di Vetro, tav. xxix. fig. 1), represents the goddess Moneta. The one on the right hand, from a cemetery on the Via Salara Nova, represents Priscilla, an early martyr. The next figure is selected from three of a similar kind, representing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, from the tomb of Pope Callistus on the Via Appia.

Angustus Clavus. (From figures in the Catacombs.)

The angustus clavus probably survives in the clavi on the dalmatic, which was recognised as an ecclesiastical garb in the earlier part of the fourth century (Vita Sylvestri I., p. 266, Combéfis), though down to A.D. 640 the clavi are always represented as black, according to Marriott (Vestiarium Christianum, p. lv.). (See Dict. of Christian Ant. s. vv. Clavus, Dalmatic.)

Some writers maintain that the drawing on the following page, representing Rome personified, clothed in a robe called cyclas [CYCLAS], shows the latus clavus falling in a broad purple stripe down the breast. It is taken from a picture of the 2nd or 3rd century, belonging to the Barberini family. On the contrary, M. Heuzey finds in the paintings of the Catacombs and in the miniatures of the Vatican Virgil attempts

Clavus on the Dalmatic. (Mosaic in the church of St. Vitalis in Ravenna.)

to indicate the rank of the wearer by the breadth or narrowness of the clavi, which in all cases are similarly arranged, and hence argues that the latus clavus differed from the angustus only in breadth. But in the wall-paintings of the Catacombs the attempt to draw this distinction appears in some cases to lead to contradictory results in the same picture, and it seems preferable to base this view on the strong support afforded by ancient texts.

Supposed latus clavus. (From a painting of Rome personified.)

It is true that the singular (latus clavus) is generally used, but this is also true of the angustus clavus, which confessedly consisted of two stripes; while the employment of the plural, latis clavis, is striking in a passage of Varro, which also insists on the resemblance of the two garments, by using as an illustration of an analogy a tunic, in which of the two pieces (front and back) one has the lati, the other the angusti, clavi. ( “Non, si quis tunicam in usu ita [E. Schulze, inusitate] consuit, ut altera plagula [p. 1.456]sit angustis clavis, altera latis, utraque pars in suo genere caret analogia,” L. L. 9.79. Cf. for the use of the plural, Festus, p. 209 a, 23: “tunica autem palmata a latitudine clavorum dicebatur, quae nunc a genere picturae appellatur.” ) Again, Augustus, among other affectations of simplicity, “usus est . . . clavo nec lato nec angusto” (Suet. Aug. 73), which is quite intelligible if the two ornaments differed only in breadth, but inexplicable on the other hypothesis: while Herodian (5.5, 9) speaks of the stripe down the centre of the tunic worn by the priests of the Sun, instituted by Heliogabalus, as a Phoenician custom (ἀνεζωσμένοι οἱ μὲν χιτῶνας ποδήρεις καὶ χειριδωτοὺς νόμῳ Φοινίκων, ἐν μέσῳ φέροντες μίαν πορφύραν).1

As the tunic was composed of a front piece and a back piece sewn together, the passage quoted above from Varro goes to show that the lati clavi were worn down the back, as well as down the front. In support of this may be cited Varro, Sat. Menipp. 313, Bücheler: “quorum vitreae togae ostentant tunicae clavos,” which refers to togas made of such diaphanous material that the clavi could be seen through them at the back. With the same intent of displaying this mark of distinction, the wearer of the tunica laticlavia is to gird himself so that it may fall low ( “paulum cinctis summissior,” Quint. 11.3, 139). Pliny observes that in his time it was becoming a fashion to weave the tunica lati clavi of a stuff resembling gausapa (H. N. 8.193). The false derivation quoted from Festus above for palmata as applied to tunica may possibly indicate that the breadth of the latus clavus was about a palm.

The equivalents used in the Greek writers are:--clavus, σημεῖον: tunica laticlavia, πλατύσημος: tunica angusticlavia, στενόσημος: tunica asema (Lampr. Alex. Sev. 33, 4), ἄσημος: tunica clavata, σημειωτός.

The chief authorities for the subject are Ferrarius, de Re Vestiaria (Patavii, 1654); Rubenius, de Re Vestiaria Veterum, Praecipue de Lato Clavo Libri Duo (Antwerp, 1665); Ferrarius, Analecta de Re Vestiaria (Patavii, 1690); Marquardt, Röm. Privatleben (1886), pp. 544 ff.; Historia Equitum Rom. pp. 77, 80; E. Schulze in Rhein. Mus., 1875, pp. 120 ff.

[A.R] [J.H.F]

1 Johannes Lydus, it is true, says that the πατέρες or πατρίκιοι wore χλαμύδες. . . πορφύρᾳ κατὰ μέσου διάσημοι: λατικλαβίας αὐτὰς ὠνόμαζον: but the use of the imperfect shows that he is speaking of an extinct custom, and his account of Roman dress shows much confusion: thus he calls the tunica a χλαμύς. (De Mag. 1.17; and compare ib. 32.)

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 7
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 38
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 73
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 94
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 45
    • Suetonius, Otho, 10
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 35
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.29
    • Ovid, Tristia, 4.10
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.10
    • Statius, Silvae, 5.2
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