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Placement of the Stripe(s) on the Tunica Laticlavia

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 6:45 pm
by Publius Nonius Severus
Salvete Omnes!

I am confused over the proper placement of the stripe (or stripes) on the tunica laticlavia. For those unfamiliar, the tunica laticlavia was the tunic worn by the Senatorial class. It is distinguished from the tunic of the equestrian class (tunica angusticlavia) by the size and possibly the placement of the stripes.

My confusion is this: In William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities when discussing the two types of stripes states:

"The meaning of these words has given rise to much dispute; but it is now established beyond doubt that the clavus latus was a broad purple band, extending perpendicularly from the neck down the centre of the tunica, and that the clavus angustus consisted of two narrow purple slips, running parallel to each other from the top to the bottom of the tunic, one from each shoulder..."

So, according to Smith. Laticlavia = One big stripe down the middle. Angusticlavia = Two thinner stripes from each shoulder down. However, I see a lot of more contemporary sources depicting the tunica laticlavia as also having two striped from the shoulders down but indeed wider than the angusticlavia.

So, does anyone have any insight in which is correct?

'By His Stripes...'

PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:19 pm
by Aldus Marius
*checks his tunica* ...Yup, still there... >({|;-)

I don't know if what I have could be called "insight", but, fwiw...

The trouble with these things is that, for primary sources, one must rely pretty heavily on pictorial evidence; but in the paintings, mosaics, and bas-reliefs you usually only see one sleeve. We can state with certainty that some part of the clavus was still visible when its owner was wearing a toga! But the paint on the statue that would have told us exactly where the tiger was striped has long since worn away. (This is one reason Hollywood's been dressing its Legionaries up in leather loricae all these years--nobody could tell they were metal just from looking at the carvings, they had to actually find stray bits.)

I have seen the narrow stripe over the shoulder in some mosaics, but don't recall any (ancient) pictorial depictions of a laticlave. (I'll see if I can scare some up.) Every modern artist seems to have a favorite place to put them; that famous painting of Cicero berating Catilina has the stripe down the middle; the mass-market paperback editions of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series have them over the shoulder; neither, of course, is evidence.

Neither is the "argument from common sense", but I'll make one anyway: If the clavus is an important indicator of social rank and political position, it would help to have it as visible as one can; and you can see more of the shoulder-stripe with a toga on than you can of the other kind. *shrugs*

And if it was the shoulder, there's the question of whether only one shoulder was marked, or both! Purple dye being expensive stuff, someone might have economized and not put the murex-juice where it couldn't be seen.

Done maundering; off to find've got my curiosity up! >({|:-)

In fide,

PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:07 am
by Publius Nonius Severus
Mi Mari-

Excellent observations, thank you.

In addition to the problem of one shoulder oftern covered in sculptures, the other problem is that the stripes were sewn in, rather than over the tunics, so they wouldn't show up on a sculpture,

I have found some paintings that seem to support the two stripe laticlavia more so than the single center stripe. These are from Roman Clothing by Barbara McManus and The caption of each picture is from the same.

Wall painting from a lararium in Pompeii depicts both the tunica laticlavia and toga praetexta.

Mosaic of a man named Frucius (whose narrow stripes indicate equestrian rank) being attended by two slaves.

There are plenty of references in Pliny, Suetonius, Horace, Ovid to the laticlavia, but there do not seem to be any accurate descriptions. Did Smith know something in the 1800's that were are missing today (He was not alone back then of this though either - Perseus excerpt of Pliny N.H. - see note 2)?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 3:04 pm
by Publius Nonius Severus
I have just this morning found some interesting literary evidence supporting the stripe over the shoulder theory.

Ovid, Tristia Book IV.X

"The years slipping by with a silent step, my brother and I assumed the toga that meant more freedom, and our shoulders were covered by the purple of the broad stripe."

I think this is pretty convincing since as described by Smith and Peck, the latus clavus would not have covered the shoulder being centered on the chest. Ovid later remarks how that when he decided not to enter the Senate and remain an equite that his "stripe" was narrowed.

So, for me the question is...why did all of the 19th century experts think the stripe was centered. Obviously they were without a lot of pictoral evidence now available from Pompeii. Maybe there views were inspired more by what was worn in the later empire or under the Byzantines. I will continue to explore but I am now of the opinion that stripe was over the shoulder...not down the center of the chest.

I've also learned I have to read more of what the great Latin poets have to say...not just the historians!