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Clavus Latus—Clavus Angustus

The clavus was a stripe of purple colour, worn by the Romans as a badge of distinction, and either sewn to the stuff or woven into it.

The latus clavus (broad stripe) was, according to tradition, introduced by Tullus Hostilius from the Etruscans (Plin. H. N. ix. 136). It was the distinctive badge of the senatorial order (Hor. Sat. i. 6, 28), and hence it is used to signify the senatorial dignity. In distinction to the angustus clavus it is called purpura maior (Juv.i. 106), and the garment it decorated, tunica potens (Stat. Silv. v. 2, 29). Pliny speaks of this distinctive use as late (Pliny H. N. xxxiii. 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 he admits, remarkable, as was also its use by Horace's praetor of Fundi ( Sat. i. 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 afterward 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; Suet. Aug., 94); on the contrary, tribunus angusticlavius (Suet. Otho, 10). 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 (Suet. Vesp. 2), but might again assume the latus clavus, like Priscus in Horace ( Sat. ii. 7, 10). 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.ix. 7) and assumed the angustus clavus (Dio Cass. xxxviii. 14).

The angustus clavus (narrow stripe) was a badge of the equestrian order (Vell. Paterc. ii. 88, 2), but less distinctively so than the golden ring (Plin. H. N. xxxiii. 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 that the clavi were purple stripes woven in the fabric (Quint.viii. 5, 28) or sewn on it (Dig. 34, 2, 23.1); 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,

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

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 Iulius Caesar is said to have worn a latus clavus ad manus fimbriatus (Iul. 45). That the angustus clavus consisted of two stripes is proved by Quintilian, xi. 3, 138: Cui lati clavi ius non erit, ita cingatur, ut tunicae prioribus oris infra genua paulum, posterioribus ad medios poplites usque perveniant . . . ut purpuriae recte descendant, levis cura est. Though we cannot point to the 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

Angustus Clavus. (From figures in the Catacombs.)

religious rites, and of lanistae. In a wallpainting 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 of higher rank performing some rite of her worship (Annali dell' Inst. Arch. 1872, pl. D).

The angustus clavus probably survives in the clavi on the dalmatic, which was recognized 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.).

Some writers maintain that the drawing below, representing Rome personified, clothed in a robe called cyclas (q. v.), shows the latus clavus falling in a broad purple stripe down the breast.

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 sit angustis clavis, altera latis, utraque pars in suo genere caret, analogia [L. L. ix. 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 (v. 5, 9) speaks of the

Supposed Latus Clavus. (From a painting of Rome personified.)

stripe down the centre of the tunic worn by the priests of the Sun, instituted by Elagabalus, as a Phœnician custom.

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 (Quint.xi. 3.139). Pliny observes that in his time it was becoming a fashion to weave the tunica lati clavi of a stuff resembling gausapa (Pliny H. N. viii. 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 (Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 33, 4), ἄσημος: tunica clavata, σημειωτός. See Tunica.

The chief authorities for the subject are Ferrarius, De Re Vestiaria (Padua, 1654); Rubenius, De Re Vestiaria Veterum Praecipue de Lato Clavo Libri Duo (Antwerp, 1665); Ferrarius, Analecta de Re Vestiaria (Padua, 1690); Marquardt, Röm. Privatleben (1886), pp. 544 foll.; id. Historia Equitum Rom. pp. 77, 80; E. Schulze, in Rhein. Mus. (1875), pp. 120 foll. See also Hope, The Costume of the Ancients (2d ed. 1875); Racinet, Le Costume Historique, vol. ii. (1887).

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 38
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 73
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 94
    • Horace, Satires, 1.5
    • Horace, Satires, 1.6
    • Horace, Satires, 2.7
    • Suetonius, Otho, 10
    • Suetonius, Divus Vespasianus, 2
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 7
    • Statius, Silvae, 5.2
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