previous next


TU´NICA The χιτὼν or tunica was a shirt: or shift, and served as the chief under-garment of the Greeks and Romans, both men and women.


In the earliest period, known to, us by the finds in pre-historic graves, its use seems to have been unknown, a loin-cloth or apron [SUBLIGACULUM] being its predecessor. In Homer, however, the linen χιτὼν had already become part of the regular costume of men, though it was not yet worn by women, who retained the πέπλος as their sole garment [PALLA]. That this Homeric χιτὼν was of linen and not of wool is shown by many passages and by the epithets used of it. The locus classicus is Od. 19.232, where the shirt of Odysseus is said to have shone like an onion skin; to have glistened like the sunlight, and. yet to have been soft. Besides σιγαλόεις (cf. Od. 10.60), the epithets νηγάτεος (Il. 2.43), εὔννητος (Il. 18.596), and εὔκλωστος (Hymn. Ap. Pyth. 25) are applied to it, and all of these apply to linen better than to wool. This χιτὼν or shirt was worn under a woollen cloak or mantle [PALLIUM] during the day, but was taken off on going to bed (cf. Od. 1.437, of Telemachus, μαλακὸν δ᾽ἔκδυνε χιτῶνα). It was worn [p. 2.903]without a cloak indoors (cf. οἰοχίτων, Od. 14.488), and even outdoors when taking active exercise, as in dancing (Il. 18.595). It was also worn under the corslet (θώραξ) in time of war (cf. Il. 3.357; 7.251). This particular form of tunic is called in Il. 5.111 (cf. Il. 21.31) (στρεπτὸς χιτών, and the epithet has given much difficulty to all commentators since Aristarchus. He explained it as meaning a coat of scale-armour (cf. Apollon. Lex.). Another interpretation, however, was given by Aristonicus, who took στρεπτὸς to mean “well-spun” (cf. Schol. ad Il. 21.31), and this seems on the whole the more probable meaning (cf. Studniczka, Beiträge, p. 63). Of the shape and size of the χιτὼν there are but few decisive hints in Homer. There is the mention of the trailing shirt of Ionians (Il. 13.685, Ἰαόνες ἑλκεχίτωνες: cf. Hymn. Ap. Del. 147), but this is commonly held to be a late insertion. All we can say is that the warrior naturally wore a short χιτών, whatever that in ordinary use may have been like. That he used a girdle when wearing it under a coat of mail seems unquestionable, but there is no evidence that it was girded in ordinary life.

The Homeric χιτὼν was made from the linen cloth that came from the household loom, by sewing up the side. It was accordingly an ἔνδυμα (cf. δῦ, Il. 18.416; δύσατο, Il. 23.739; δῦνεν, Od. 15.61; indutus), “put on,” not wrapped round the body, like the πέπλος of women (cf. PALLIUM). It does not seem, like the later forms, to have been fastened at the shoulders with brooches or pins; at any rate these are not mentioned. The Homeric χιτὼν appears to have been unornamented except for a fringe (cf. τερμιόεις, Od. 19.242), probably left from the weaving, like that on modern towels. [TELA p. 766a.]

In the period which followed the Epic age, the long χιτὼν came into almost universal use as the costume of men in time of peace, and at the same time was adopted by women. The account of how it became part of the costume of the Athenian women is told by Herodotus in a passage (5.88) explained in the article PALLA The change was brought about by the adoption of a linen shift worn under the primitive πέπλος. The process seems to have gone even further, and led to the wearing of two shifts, one over the other, for an edict of Solon forbids the wearing of more than three garments by women (Plut. Sol. 21, 5). The fashion, even if it is not referred to in this edict, is at least as old as the 6th century, and can be traced on early redfigure vases and statuettes. It is chiefly on these vases that the vast variety of forms which existed in classical times begin to appear. They may be roughly classified as (1) those which are rectangular and have no sleeves, except the halfsleeves formed by gathering the material together with a girdle at the waist; and (2) those which have sleeves added, either of a different piece of stuff or specially woven at the top. Both have the sides sewn up. Taking the first class, there are two main forms,--those in which the top is left open, and the garment fastened on the shoulders by brooches or pins. This shape is shown in fig. 1, which represents a rectangle of cloth, the old πέπλος in fact, with the ends sewn together and the top folded over all round. This fold is not always present, but is very common. It is usually, but erroneously, known


to archaeologists as the διπλοὶς or διπλοΐδιον, but it was really called the ἀπόπτυγμα (cf. Böhlau, de re Vestiaria, p. 17). The garment was fastened to the shoulders by brooches at a and a‘, b and b‘. If sleeves were wished for, they could be formed by the simple process of pinning up the top from the shoulder downwards, as in fig. 2. In this

Fig. 2. Statuettes from Herculaneum. (
Mus. Borbon.

case, however, there would be no ἀπόπτυγμα. The second form of this class (1) is shown in fig. 4. In it two

Fig. 3. Thalia. (British Museum.)

rectangles of cloth have been sewn together on three sides, in such a way that a sack is formed with a hole in the bottom for the head to go through, and two holes at the sides for the arms. When girdled round the waist, the seams on each side of the neck become sleeves. This is seen on the female figures in the cut fiom the Harpy Tomb, under THRONUS The second class (χιτὼν χειριδωτός), where the sleeves were in a separate piece, or at any rate formed by cutting up the rectangular shape, were considered less genuinely Greek than the former. [MANICA] Thus Herodotus tells as a characteristic of the Persians that they wore sleeves (7.61), and even in Roman times, when their [p. 2.904]use was universal, it was looked on as in origin a barbaric fashion (Verg. A. 9.616). In Art


such sleeves form part of the typical Asiatic costume on vase-paintings and other monuments. Yet even in the monuments there are figures like the handmaid on the grave-stone of Thrasiklea, under STELE with quite tight sleeves. They also are sometimes seen on old men; and, to judge by the inscriptions, in which χειριδωτὸς χιτωνίσκος is mentioned, were in common use with women. In later times a sleeved shirt formed part of the traditional costume of the comic actor [see cut under SOCCUS]. It is not easy to give an account of the make of such a garment; but one form of it which belongs to the Hellenistic period, though probably much older, has come down to us in the linen tunics found in the Fayoum. Most of these come from Coptic graves, and many are in a state of perfect preservation. They have been found in such numbers that few large museums are without specimens. The best English collection is at South Kensington. The general shape of the garment as it came from the loom is shown in fig. 5; a kind of cross with very thick vertical


and very thin transverse bar. This is folded double and the sides sewn together. The arms of the cross then form sleeves, and form a shirt, the head being thrust through a slit in the centre left while weaving (fig. 6). This form of χιτὼν is usually ornamented with two embroidered bands [CLAVUS] falling from the


shoulders before and behind, giving the appearance of a surplice and stole seen in front. It is indeed the direct ancestor of the surplice, and may be seen in numberless Roman paintings at Pompeii and elsewhere (cf. cuts under CLAVUS Vol. I. p. 455 a).

The methods of wearing these different forms of the χιτὼν were very varied. It could be worn long or short, girded or ungirded, alone or in combination, with long or short ἀπόπτυγμα. To fix names to the different varieties is a task which so far has baffled scholars and archaeologists, even as far back as Roman times. Thus, for instance, many attempts have been made to discover definite differences between χιτών, χιτώνιον, and χιτωνίσκος, but without success. That they were indefinite, even in classical times, is shown by a glance at the inscription recording the garments in the treasury of Artemis at Brauron (C. I. G. 1.155; C. I. A. 2.754). In it χιτώνιον is used ten, χιτὼν thirteen, and χιτωνίσκος thirty times; but in each case defining epithets of colour, material, pattern, shape, and size are added, showing that the difference, if any, cannot have lain in these obvious characteristics. The inscription disposes, if of nothing else, of the view based on Ammonius (p. 148, Valcken.: χιτωνίσκος μὲν γὰρ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς χιτών, χιτώνιον δὲ τὸ τῆς γυναικὸς ἔνδυμα), that the χιτωνίσκος was the man's shirt, χιτώνιον the woman's shift. The distinction, if there was any, must rather be sought in the use of the diminutive, to prevent a confusion of two shirts or shifts worn one over the other; just as at Rome the tunica interior was distinguished from the stola.

The epithets in the Brauron inscription, which is the locus classicus on the subject, deserve a detailed analysis. First as to colour, there were shifts of white (λευκός), purple (ἁλουργής), saffron [κροκωτός, common as a substantive in Aristophanes, who also uses κροκωτίδιον, in every case meaning a χιτὼν or χιτώνιον, and never a ἱμάτιον (PALLIUM), as Hermann (ed. Blümner, p. 188) maintains]; sea-green (γλαυκειοῦς), frog-green (βατραχειοῦς, cf. βατραχίς, a froggreen garment, Arist. Eq. 1406), and yellow (θάψινος). The material of which they were made was hemp (στύππινος), fine flaxen linen (ἀμόργινος, cf. Aristoph. Lys. 150, χιτωνίοισι τοῖς ἀμοργίνοις) and carded wool (κτενωτός). They were embroidered (ποίκιλος, περιποίκιλος, παραποίκιλος) and had patterns of stripes (πυργωτὸς) and spots (κατάστικτον).). Some had borders (περιηγητός, παρυφὴν ἔχει) of purple (παραλουργές, πλατυαλουργής), the borders being broad or narrow (ἡμιυφής). The epithets referring to the shape and make of the χιτὼν are more difficult to explain; the commonest are “double” (διπλοῦν) and “single” (ἁπλοῦν), and probably signify that the former garment was folded over at the top, forming an ἀπόπτυγμα, the latter plain and without this bib-like fold. This explanation would also apply to the difficult word διπλοΐς, and its diminutive διπλο̈́διον, these simply being doubled shifts of the former kind. If this is so, the ἡμιδιπλοΐδιον may be simply a shift of single thickness without the upper fold, or else a doubled one with the ἀπόπτυγμα coming down half its length (see second cut under art. AEGIS). Of the remaining epithets in the inscription, the most important are those which mark off two shirts as “a man's” (ἀνδρεῖος) and “a boy's” (καρτὸς παίδειος).

Turning to the monuments, we find on early black-figured vases (1) that old men wear a long ungirded χιτὼν under a χλαῖνα (see fig. of Peleus under PALLIUM p. 318 b). This form of χιτὼν seems to have been known as the χιτὼν ὀρθοστάδιος, which Pollux (7.49) says was not girded. This fashion of dress becomes less frequent in later monuments, a short χιτὼν reaching down to the knees taking its place. This change is described by Thucydides (1.6), who says that it was due to a growing simplicity of manners and the adoption of the Spartan style of dress. This was chiefly seen in the adoption of the τρίβων, a garment which, being a mantle or plaid rather than a χιτών, is to be classed with the ἱμάτιον. [PALLIUM; TRIBON.] This long ungirded χιτὼν ὀρθοστάδιος remained [p. 2.905]the professional garb of flute-players and harpers long after it had ceased to be fashionable in ordinary use. The flute-player in the article CAPISTRUM, and the well-known statue of Apollo Citharoedus in the Vatican [see cut on p. 318], both wear it. In early Greek vase-paintings, charioteers also are nearly always represented in this long χιτών, leading the older archaeologists in same cases to mistake them for women. Another form of χιτών, the short shirt of stout stuff which artisans, labourers, and fishers wore, the ἐξωμίς, has been described in an article by itself [EXOMIS]. It gets its name from the fact that it was worn with one shoulder bare. (2) The women, on the other hand, in archaic art wear the old πέπλος: but on early red-figure vases and the female statues discovered in 1886 on the Acropolis at Athens, they are shown wearing a shift under their mantles. Later on in vasepaintings and statuettes of the latter half of the 6th century, some are represented wearing two. This was the custom in Hellenistic times, but is seldom to be traced in the art of the 5th and 4th centuries. This is no doubt due to the artistic elimination which during the best periods of sculpture and painting led the artists to idealise their drapery. When a more realistic school grew up towards the end of the 4th century, the double χιτὼν is often seen on female figures, especially on those of the Muses. (See cut on p. 903.) This is the costume which Praxinoa puts on in the famous xvth Idyl of Theocritus, for the feast of Adonis at Alexandria. She receives her visitor in négligé, wearing only a χιτών, but makes her outdoor toilet by putting on another χιτὼν fastened at the shoulders with a brooch (περονατρίς, 50.21; cf. 50.34), and completes it by wrapping a cloak (ἀμπέχονον) round her.

It has since the time of Miller been customary to divide the χιτῶνες worn by Greek women into two exhaustive divisions, Doric and Ionic. He gave the name of Dorian chiton to the χιτὼν σχιστός, which was worn by Spartan girls. This, it has been shown in the article PALLA was the ἀρχαίη ἐσθὴς which Herodotus speaks of, identifying it with the Δωρὶς ἐσθής (5.88). It was in fact a survival of the older πέπλος. The peculiarity of the Spartan woman was that she wore it alone, being in fact μονόπεπλος (Eur. Hec. 933) without a χιτὼν below. This, as the side was open (σχιστός), was considered indecent in the rest of Greece, and many are the sneers in the poets (Eur. Androm. 595). The offence against modesty was made even greater by not using a girdle (cf. Soph. Fr. 791, καὶ τὰν νεόρτον, ἇς ἔτ᾽ ἄστολος χιτών, θυραῖον ἀμφὶ μηρὸν πτύσσεται, Ἑρμιόναν, where ἄστολος means ἄζωστος). It has been remarked in PALLA that this garment was not called χιτὼν until the 5th century B.C., and it should be noted that Herodotus in this passage is careful to call it ἐσθής. It was only because the Spartan women wore it as a single garment that it got the name Dorian. This, however, does not imply that it was unknown in other parts of Greece, where it was worn over an ordinary χιτών, and could take several different forms. The distinction between Dorian and Ionic should in fact, if used, refer to material rather than shape; for while the Dorian χιτὼν was of wool, the Ionian was of linen. It was from early times characteristic of the peoples of Asia Minor, appearing for instance on archaic monuments, like the statues from the avenue of the temple of Branchidae, now in the British Museum, but had already in the 6th century spread over Greece proper. It was worn even in Sparta, and appears on both men and women on most of the early grave-reliefs found there, so that even on this ground the distinction breaks down.

2. Roman

At Rome, as has been shown in the article SUBLIGACULUM the shirt or tunica was not adopted until a comparatively late date. This is all the stranger when one considers the universality with which the Etruscans of the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. are depicted dressed in it. However, in the last three centuries of the Republic it was an indispensable garment, worn under their cloaks by both men and women.

The man's tunica (tunica virilis) was practically identical with the last two forms of the χιτὼν described above (figs. 5 and 6), being two pieces of linen or woollen cloth sewn together [cf. Varro, L. L. 9.79, “Non si quis tunicam in usu ita (inusitate) ita consult ut altera plagula sit angustis clavis, altera latis utraque in suo genere caret analogia” : cf. Suet. Aug. 94, “Sumenti virilem togam lati clavi resuta ex utraque parte ad pedes decidit” ]. Sleeves--that is to say, sleeves down to the wrist--were sometimes worn, but such tunicae manicatae (or manuleatae) were considered effeminate (Gellius, vi. (vii.) 12: “Tunicis uti virum prolixis utra brachia et usque in primores manus ac prope in digitos Romae atque in omni Latio indecorum fuit. Eas tunicas Graeco vocabulo nostri chirodotas appellaverunt, feminisque solis vestemlonge lateque diffusam indecere exstrinaverunt:” cf. Cic. in Catil. 2.1. 0, 22; Suet. Jul. 45). Under the Empire, however, such tunicae were the ordinary wear of every one (cf. St. Augustine, de doctr. Chr. 3.2, 20, “Talares et manicatas habere apud Romanos veteres flagitium erat nunc autem honesto loco natis, cum tunicati sunt non eas habere flagitium est” ).

At Rome it was usual to wear two shirts, one over the other, the under being called the tunica interior or subucula. Both were in the earliest times of wool, and indeed it was not until under the Empire, in the 4th century A.D., that linen was commonly used for making tunicae.

The tunica was worn with a girdle fastened round it at the loins, and its length could be varied simply by pulling it through the girdle. Quintilian says that it should just reach below the knees in front and a little lower behind. If however it is a tunica with the latus clavus, it is better to wear it without a girdle at all (11.3, 138-9, “Cui lati clavi jus non erit ita cingatur ut tunicae prioribus oris infra genua pallum, posterioribus ad medios poplites usque perveniant. Nam infra mulierum est, supra centuriorum. Ut purpurae recte descendant levis cura est. Notatur interim negligentia. Latum habentium clavus modus est ut sit paullum cinctis summissior:” cf. Suet. Jul. 54). For active exercise, when for instance one was travelling (Hor. Sat. 1.5, 6), it was girded higher.

Indoors the girdle was thrown aside for the sake of comfort (Hor. Sat. 2.1, 73), but to appear in public without it (discinctus), as Maecenas often did (Sen. Ep. 114, 4), was considered slovenly (cf. Hor. Epod. 1.34, discinctus nepos). [p. 2.906]It was equally untidy to let one's shirt hang too long, for this savoured of the shop-boy or the woman rather than the gentleman (Plaut. Pseud. 1298, “Quis hic homo est cum tunicis longis quasi cauponius?” 1303, “Sane genus hoc muliebriosum est tunicis demissis;” Cic. Clu. 40, 111; Hor. Sat. 1.2, 25; Propert. 5.2, 38, “Mundus demissis institor in tunicis” ).

The tunica girt high and tight was the ordinary dress of a slave (Juv. 3.93, “Horrenti tunicam non reddere servo:” cf. Hor. Sat. 2.8, 70) and of free labourers (Hor. Ep. 1.7, 65). If a cloak were worn by the slave, it would be a sagum or paenula, and Cato, the censor, considered an allowance of one tunica 3 1/2 feet long and one sagum to each slave sufficient for two years. This style of dress is well shown on the figure from Trajan's Column given as an illustration to the article FUNDA The tunica of the legionary was practically the same as this, as may be seen from representations of soldiers;

Roman legionary. (From Arch of Severus.)

the above figure, for instance, from the Arch of Septimius Severus. The shirt worn by ordinary citizens appears in the illustrations on p. 848.

The tunica muliebris, or shift of Roman women, did not differ much from the Greek forms described above. It was the custom, however, to wear two shifts; the upper being called the stola, the latter the tunica interior, subucula, interula, or (in late Latin) camisia. The article STOLA treats of the former, and so it is only the subucula which remains to be spoken of. The earliest form of this garment was the SUPPARUM, the first linen garment adopted at Rome. It was worn with sleeves, if the stola were without them, but otherwise, except at the neck, is not visible in statues (cf. the statue of Livia in the article PALLA), and is in most cases not represented at all. Needless to say, literature is well-nigh silent about it. The regilla or tunica recta in which the bride was clad on the day of marriage is shown on several sarcophagus-reliefs. It did not differ in shape from that in ordinary use, but, as is explained under TELA (p. 769 a), was of a special texture.

(Boehlau, Quaestiones de re Vestiaria Graecorum, Weimar, 1884; Studniczka, Beiträge zur G. d. altgr. Tracht, Vienna, 1886; Helbig, Das homerische Epos, 1887, pp. 115, 175, &c.; W. Müller, Quaestiones Vestiariae, Göttingen, 1890; Baumeister, Denkmäler, art. Chiton, Toga (Tunica); Iwan Müller, Handbuch, Privataltertümer, pp. 402, 413, 416, 422, 424, 431, 440, 804, 875, 927; Marquardt, Privatleben. See Index, s. v. Tunica.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: