So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.
Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.
If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.
This is a very short disorganized blurb, and I apologize, but I wanted to get some notes down from what I’m exploring as far as my thesis goes.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my master’s thesis is exploring the last will and testament of Kale Pakouriane from 1098. I’m going into her inventory and trying to reconstruct her life from her material culture. One thing that really sticks out is the amount of mantles she has.
There are three different words for “cloak” or “mantle” in her will: mandyas, which I’ve already written up as the semi-circle one last year. The sagion, which was evidently shorter, apparently knee-length versus ankle-length, this is something Parani points out in Reconstructing the Reality of Images, and then the one line where my translation was getting extremely confused because of words is a garment that was allegedly called the thalassa, or “sea”. It was another type of cloak, but according to Dawson in his article within Varieties of Experience, there’s only a few mentions of it in written history, namely De Cerimoniis, where Constantine Porphyrogennetos refers to it as a gift for royalty, and in Kale’s will. He’s not sure why it’s named this, but narrows it down to having to do with a particularly luxurious fabric that could vary from a specific shot silk from the Arabian peninsula, or a blue/green/gray dyed COTTON from Persia or Hindustan. We just don’t know, and may never know.What this does mean, however, is that it was particularly luxurious.
What this project has taught me so far was that these mantles were a way to show off wealth and probably protect your equally luxurious clothing. Kale had an impressive wardrobe. I just ordered the French translation of the will and the scans of the actual Greek document. $200 later. Academia is stupid.
I know this is going to raise a lot of questions, but I don’t have all the answers yet. Please be patient while I work on this. My mundane life and graduate degree must come before anything SCA. I just wanted to get this information out. These little nuances will greatly change how we should project ourselves in 11th Century Byzantine clothing.
Yesterday, their Majesties of the East sought to award me the title of Baroness of the Court. Not only am I greatly humbled by this, but it really couldn’t come at a better time research-wise.
Myself, as well as Ioannes Dalassenos from Ansteorra, and Konstantia Kaloethina, currently Gold Falcon Herald of Calontir, are in the process of compiling alternate titles that may better suit the Byzantine persona with the ultimate goal of approval through the College of Heralds. Once the research paper (yes, paper) is ready, I’ll make a special tab for it here on my blog so it’s always easily accessible, but until then, here’s a little sneak peek.
The Eastern Roman Empire (As well as the Holy Roman Empire, which as all of us REAL ROMANS know, was not Holy, Nor Roman, and questionably an Empire) did in fact bestow honorary court titles like we do the court barony in the SCA in lieu of the landed titles. In the case of Byzantium, they were still using the classic titles of consul and proconsul, only, you know, in Greek. In this case, hypatos and anthypatos, hypatissa and anthypatissa respectfully for the feminine form. Some records show that the title of hypatos (consul) was given honorarily, and that anthypatos was used for governors over themata, or states within the empire.
So, as far as the SCA structure goes, a court baron/baroness could totally use the titles hypatos/hypatissa while they’re landed counterparts could be anthypatos/anthypatissa!
We really can’t wait to share this research with everybody, and hope that the new ideas catch on. Using titles actually from the periods we are portraying are one of the little things we can do to help up the authenticity of our game. Everybody should give it a shot.
In service, Hypatissa Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina. Say that sucker 3x fast.
I mean, I have one, it’s a basic generic black wool with a lined hood and shoulder seams. I made it about 10 years ago and it’s still going strong. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s also not any particular period. Since I’ve been digging into Byzantine outerwear, I’m trying to discover what my persona would have worn, as well as other options in cloaking and coating for both men and women. It does snow in Constantinople, not a lot, but it does, as seen in this modern photograph of the Hagia Sophia from Wikipedia:
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire:
Outerwear is important, just as much then as it was now. I plan on keeping my first cloak for outside use when the weather is exceptionally foul, but to have one for nicer occasions outside in the cold or inside cold venues will help complete my look as a properly dressed 11th Century Eastern Roman woman.
This post serves as a cautionary tale into how looking for a simple garment can turn into a whirlwind of research that you didn’t expect. This is the method to my madness.
First I picked up the Byzantine cloak clasp offered by Raymond’s Quiet Press, you can buy your own by clicking on the pic.
In addition to some wool and trim, I had the materials necessary to get started.
I never intended on this to become any sort of research project, I just wanted a cloak. So a fast search on the internet came up first with what I always refer to as the paludamentum in Latin, or a chlamys in Greek, a male cloak fastened at one shoulder, such as in the mosaic of Justinian and his entourage at Ravenna, but the women in Theodora’s mosaic are wearing wrapped shawls, EXCEPT for the Empress herself, who is also in a chlamys. I haven’t seen too many images from the 11th Century in which these are worn by anybody other than the imperials. It seemed to have evolved from daily wear of even lower office holders (for men!) into ceremonial dress for high court functions. This theory is supported by Maria Parani in Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, which I was able to snag on interlibrary loan to begin preliminary research on my Master’s Thesis.
Parani discusses briefly in her chapter on the Imperial Costume that the empress was invested in the chlamys, but probably did not wear it otherwise. So as tempting and shiny as the garment is, unless you are the queen of your SCA kingdom and it’s your coronation, or some extremely important court event, you probably should avoid wearing this garment. Even for men, if you’re middle period (10-12th century) Byzantine and not a king, I’d skip this. It’s just too presumptuous.
Moving away from this idea, there’s the paenula, which is the traditional Roman hooded cloak that dates from antiquity.
The only time you see this worn by a woman in any art is by the Virgin Mary and other ecclesiastical women in icons. Avoid this one too. Not only was it out of style pretty early on for both genders, and you wouldn’t want to commit the sin of wearing such an outdated fashion, but the Romans had a very high regard for their iconographic imagery, and this is another one of those things you should just avoid wearing.
Timothy Dawson argues that the practicality of such a garment would be useful, but evidence of its wear in period in scarce. I agree with him here, though I assert that the reason for such scarcity would be the connection to the Virgin, and therefore making the garment a symbol of her own connection to the past. For women who wish to cover their heads in a simple, demure fashion both indoors and out, a veil or wrapped shawl/palla works just fine.
Moving away from the chlamys and paenula, the other option would be the half-circle cloak.
The same images on Dawson’s website over at Levantia.com.au are also in his article within the Varieties of Experience book cited above. So went to myself, “Oh look, there’s a cloak. Sold.”
Finally, a design that was easy and period, and above all, not being presumptuous in rank, all I really need. It’s not like I wanted to put in more research that I really needed for a cloak, but I do like to check the primary sources to get ideas for embellishments and the like. So Plate 10 in “Woman’s Dress in Byzantium” matches the same that he has on the page for “A Typical Middle Byzantine Outfit” here: http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/reddress.html. This is where my confusion set in. On his page, Dawson refers to this as a mantion, and cites a page from the 1839 edition of De Ceremoniis for the source on this. Fair enough.
I dig up the ebook on Google Books, and begin translating the ecclesiastical Latin of Reiske’s commentary on the page cited, and found that there was nothing of the sort there, in fact, it’s about pyrotechnics, Persians, and contains a great deal of commentary on a primary source in Arabic. It is unclear from Dawson’s footnote if this is volume one or two, and since two is the only one I can ever find copies of, I went with that. Just to be sure, I searched the document on Google Books for the Greek spelling of mantion, μάντιον, as Dawson suggested on his page, and found nothing. So then turned back to “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” and found that his research was inconsistent in the section where he discussed cloaks and mantles on page 48. In the actual printed article, the word “mantion” isn’t even mentioned, and instead he uses “mandyas,” and supports this through several citations of manuscripts. The book may be a few years older than the webpage, which was last modified in November 2013 according to the page info, but I’m still not 100% sure on why Dawson changed the name between publications. If I can locate the correct supporting evidence in De Ceremoniis, I will know for sure. Until then, I’m chalking it up to a simple error in the footnote that is leaving the source vague. Parani supports the use of mandyas as the correct term.
Now, a mandyas I know is the modern ecclesiastical cloak of the same cut. It’s basically a half circle ornamented in a variety of ways, draped over the shoulder and pinned in front. That’s it. The design is frankly, timeless.
I did some searching for Dawson’s cited manuscripts and couldn’t locate most of them online. This is a common hurdle, as not all libraries have been digitized yet, but fortunately for all of us in the future, they will be. Even the Vatican is digitizing their manuscript library. Even though my initial searches were fruitless, I did find some neat sources for future perusing. I did have some luck with the Menologion of Basil II, which does have its own Wikipedia page for those seeking instant gratification, and found a couple of images, including the empress in a chlamys and a sainted nun in a paenula. What I needed though was evidence of women of aristocratic status wearing it, and folio 98 delivered. Both Dawson and Parani cited this image, and Parani included it in her book.
This image above shows both a saint and a laywoman. The haloed saint Palagia wears the hooded paenula, while the woman in the middle, whom I’m assuming is Palagia repenting her sins before converting and devoting her life to God, is secular dress, and, tada! Wearing a mandyas.
Another image that supports the wearing of this style of mantle is one that I’ve previously shown during my research of the propoloma are the donor frescoes of Irene Gabras, and Anna Radene in its full form. The one of Radene shows the traditional thick trim outside, as well as an elaborate lining behind the magnificently large sleeves of her red 12th Century delmatikion.
These three sources span the period from 1000-1180, so it’s safe to say that this garment was very much in style for probably a fair portion of the 10th Century, the duration of the entire 11th Century and into the 12th. All three are featured within Parani’s book. Since my persona is a woman who could have served as a zoste patrikia such as the likes of Radene, it is safe to assume that wearing the mandyas in her style would not be presumptuous, and therefore the route I should take.
Now, I have already been asked, “What makes a mandyas different from a chlamys?”
This is a good question.
Both historians I have cited, primarily Parani as she has focused on the differences in both imperial and aristocratic dress, agree that the chlamys is absolutely imperial only. Descriptions lead me to believe that the broaching at the right shoulder, as well as the addition of the traditional ornamented panel, the tablion, are the single most important things one needs to pay attention to when making cloaks for themselves. It was extremely ornate, and not practical in any sense of the word for wearing outside of high court ceremonies. So in theory, this thing was probably so heavily laden down with jewels and metals that not only was it out of the price range of anything but the imperial family, but also its sheer weight was probably enough to keep the wearers indoors. I also believe that since the Roman paludamentum, which is essentially the same garment as the Byzantine chlamys, was trapezoidal (think rectangle with the two bottom corners cut off) and not semi-circular, that the imperials would have preferred to maintain the ancient shape, versus the easier to cut and trim half-circle counterpart.
Note: If you see an icon of an angel or saint wearing a chlamys, remember that these figures are often in imperial ceremonial dress, as that is to be expected of all divine beings.
Here are patterns I just cooked up to give a better understanding:
As for how these can be embellished, if Anna Radene is any indication, the aristocracy did not slouch when it came to blinging their accoutrements. In Dawson’s article, he discusses the will of an aristocratic lady by the name of Kale Pakouriane in which she discusses her clothing items, including heavily embellished mandyai with silk, pearls, and gold bands. Parani brings up this same document for different reasons, so now it’s on my “MUST FIND” list, so that I too, can get a glimpse into the belongings of a high ranking lady of this period.
Anyways, I’m cooked. This just goes to show you how much you can find about one garment in just 2 monographs and an afternoon to kill looking for images and writing a blog post. I will be planning and making my own mandyas this week.
….all I wanted was a cloak. Seriously.
But at least I didn’t want a Pepsi.
Bibliography (image sources cited within text):
Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo. London: Oxford. 1830.
Dawson, Timothy. “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, edited by Lynda Garland. Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.
Goldman, Norma. “Reconstructing Roman Clothing.” in The World of Roman Costume. Edited by. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.
Parani, Maria. Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries. Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.
 Maria Parani, Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, (Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.) 17-18.
 Timothy Dawson, “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, ed. Lynda Garland, (Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.) 48.
 Parani, 73. Here she’s citing the will of Kale Pakouriane, a lady of the middle Byzantine period who discusses clothing in her will. She also discusses it as being an alternative garment worn by the Emperor on pages 16 and 17.
 Parani, plate 80. Vat. Gr. 1613, f. 98 depicting St. Pelagia the Harlot
I’ve done some translation before for scribal work, but I never really get the chance to play wordsmith. So when the husband of a friend receiving her AoA at Birka this last weekend asked me and the other ladies of the house to help, I got excited. Her persona is Spartan, which makes things surprisingly difficult as written Spartan anything is scarce. There’s only 2 recorded Spartan poets, and they were entirely chronicled by later authors. In this case, I was able to find some Tyrtaeus quoted by the Roman author, Plutarch, in “The Life of Lycurgus” from The Parallel Lives, and some snippets of awesome from his section on Spartan sayings in Moralia.
This is what I was able to come up with, with notations in brackets:
Phoebus Apollo’s the mandate was which they brought from Pytho, [Pythian Apollo was a Spartan patron god.]
Voicing the will of the god, nor were his words unfulfilled:
Sway in the council and honors divine belong to Edward and Thyra, [King and Queen of the East.]
Under whose care has been set Sparta’s city of charm;
Second to them is one, Petra de Cilicia.
Who swift in foot, aides our Hoplites of Eastern Shores,
Supporting the armies, and the love of her husband unwavering
and thus, the understanding that a helmet is for personal protection,
but the shield is common good for all.[The court laughed a lot here, I wish they didn’t. The quote is serious.]
And by this duty, our king, our queen, and council
Name on this day, Lady Petra, and award her arms for her to bear alone.
Duly confirming by vote this unperverted decree
Declared six days before the month of Eleusinios, [Eleusinios is approximately the Spartan month of February, named for the Eleusinian Mysteries, another cult that the Spartans revered.]
Before the great council at Market Day at Birka,[Spartans were huge into councils.]
Koino̱nía Étos Forty-Nine.[‘Koino̱nía Étos’ is Greek for the Latin ‘anno societatis’ or, ‘in the year of the society’.]
For anyone interested in Spartan society, I highly recommend the above sources by Plutarch, and also Herodotus’ Histories.
Readers of my blog will probably recall a post I made not long ago, well, six weeks ago to be exact, on my beginning of a course on FutureLearn. I reblogged a post “Who built the wall?” when the course started, and now I feel urged to share a poem by Rudyard Kipling, “The Roman Centurion’s Song”. It’s that feeling you get when you finish a good book, that emptiness that comes with completion. I guess I didn’t expect to feel this way, but that’s a good thing! That means that FutureLearn and Newcastle University have done their jobs. For a free online course, it was OUTSTANDING.
A little bit about the breakdown of the course:
Each week had about 20 short sections to complete. They ranged from short videos, to articles, and quizzes. The quizzes don’t count against your grade, they were just a learning tool. Every 2 weeks there was an actual test, culminating with the final test at the end of the 6th week (That one had some curveballs in it.) My favorite part were the little forensic challenges that happened every other week or so. You would be given an archaeological find of bones, and then try to determine cause of death, gender, etc from the clues given in an article. It was a great insight into the grim world of forensic archaeology.
The Vindolanda tablets were totally awesome. I had heard about them before, but never actively went seeking them. I really suggest taking a look at them here. Learning a bit more about the religious syncretism that occurred at the wall and methods of worship was also incredibly fascinating.
In addition, the discussions that were had were also great. Each section has a discussion area that functions like a social media platform, in which one could post an answer or topic of discussion and receive answers, sometimes even by the staff at the University, who was actively engaging with the MOOC the entire time.
I do believe you can still check out the course. Go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hadrians-wall/ and see for yourself. I may have also totally taken the bait, but Newcastle University may be on the list of schools I look into for my PhD. But that’s a ways off yet, let me finish my MA first!
Thank you to the staff at Newcastle University and FutureLearn for offering this experience. I’ve already enrolled in an upcoming course, also through FutureLearn, on the archaeology of Portus which is being given by the University of Southampton, another UK school. I look forward to checking that out in January. 🙂
I’ve signed up for a free online course on Hadrian’s Wall via FutureLearn, offered by Newcastle University in the UK. Not that I don’t already have enough to do with my own graduate studies at the University of New Hampshire, but I figured that I would reblog a site that came up on Twitter, and link to the course itself. It started Monday, but I believe there is still time to sign up. Please join me in learning about this really cool part of Roman History!
A legion was around 5,000 heavily armed and armoured men who were, by the 2nd century AD, even more of an anachronism than the rams that still adorned the prow of every Roman warship in their fleets. Organised into ten cohorts, each of around 480 men, they were extremely effective in open battle, especially when complemented by their attached auxiliaries. Legionaries (never, please, ‘legionnaires’) were nevertheless unsuitable for garrisoning a province and all-too-easily wrong-footed by even the most basic of insurgencies (as all technologically dependent armies tend to be).
Britannia was to turn out to be a troubled (and troubling) place. It needed four legions until the end of the AD 80s and right up until the beginning of the 2nd century AD it still had three (II Augusta, IX Hispana, and XX Valeria Victrix). Then something happened, and at some point between…
The Propoloma: A headdress of the Zoste Patrikia and other high ranking women in the courts of Eastern Rome
Kyria Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina, OM, OBT
One of the more difficult aspects of studying Eastern Roman dress for the SCA is locating suitable headwear outside of the typical veil and circlet that seems common place, and easily mimicked from iconographic depictions of female saints, and especially the Virgin Mary. I have just started to scratch the surface of ceremonial Roman dress, but so far I have been able to uncover some rather unique pieces that may begin to open the door into more complex appearances for Eastern Roman personae to try.
The zoste patrikia was a title held by the chief attendant or lady in waiting to the Eastern Roman Empress. It literally translates to “girded-lady patrician” but is often translated into English as “Mistress of the Robes.” It appears to have been given only to extremely high ranking ladies in direct service to the empress. She was not only the head retainer for the empress, but also the head of the court of ladies, the wives of other high ranking patrician men in the court of Byzantium.
As was tradition with the Eastern Romans, ceremony heavily accompanied any augmentation in rank, and with ceremony, came elaborate new costume. Ioannis Spatharakis, in his monograph, The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts, gives a detailed footnote of the ceremony, as described by Constantine Porphyrogénnētos in De Cerimoniis in Latin, while explaining the details of a manuscript depicting the installation of Anicia Juliana as patrician:
“In the church of the Theotocos of Pharos she received from the despotes a delmatikion [dalmatica], a thorakion [ecclesiastical pallium, similar to a chasuble], and a white maphorion [hooded veil]. In the Pantheon, wearing the thorakion and the delmatikion and carrying the loros [heavy gold wrap] and the propoloma [trapezoid hat], she received from the enthroned emperors the kodikellia [codex], which were later blessed by the patriarch. Because she was wearing the loros and the propoloma, she was not able to prostrate and kiss the feet of the despotai, as she did when she received her costume, but she bent slightly and kissed their knees.”  (The available text of De Cerimoniis is only in Latin or Greek. I did my best to translate the footnote and verify it with the original 1830 publication.)
This article will focus on the design of and wearing of the propoloma. This particular style of the hat is described as being in use as early as the 10th Century, but appeared to have had its heyday during the 11th and 12th Centuries, which allows it to fit perfectly into my persona. It appears to have taken the shape of a trapezoid, or upside down cone sewn shut on all but one side for the head. It may have been covered in silk, and then decorated in a variety of ways.
Dawson seems to have done most of the legwork on this hat, as there is not an English translation of De Ceremoniis available to do primary source research from Constantine’s perspective. He discusses that although the hats were usually white, it appears that in one manuscript, purple ones were seen. This may indicate that these women may have been members of the extended royal family. He also brings into account on his Levantia website that the padded headroll seen in earlier artwork, including the Ravenna mosaics, may have been the predecessor to the trapezoid propoloma. So for those who have an earlier period persona, we simply need to take a look at the bust of Anicia Juliana to get a glimpse at the earlier hat style.
(Photos taken by me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March of 2014.)
Anicia was born in 462, which puts her occupation of zoste patrikia during the reign of Anastasius I, two reigns prior to Justinian I. So it is arguable that her attire could be considered that of late Antiquity of the very late Roman Empire, rather than “Byzantine” in nature. However, a similar style was worn by Theodora’s court in the mosaics at Ravenna:
The first thing I noticed immediately on this particular bust was not the layered look at the top, but the gathering in the back at the base of the skull. This reminded me immediately of the Cap of St. Birgitta, a style that was popular in the 14th century:
Naturally, there is no reason why this cap could not be older in origin, and this marble bust may just show a similar cap being in use as early as the 5th century. At least for the over cap, the under cap is a bit more perplexing, especially with the pucker going on at the top of the head. It is highly unlikely that is a hair part, considering the detail given to the rest of the statue, in addition to the same look of the layered “turbans” on the mosaic, so my belief is that it was two separate pieces, but how they created that gather on the top is still a mystery to me. It is something I do plan on exploring later to help those with early period personae.
But how does a re-creator or reenactor transfer the wearing of this type of hat into their hobby? Well for one, this is a hat of station and rank. In the SCA, some kingdoms have sumptuary laws, the East Kingdom, where I reside, does not. However, I like to take into account the “what would my persona do?” clause when it comes to my clothing choices. My persona is well-developed, but not everybody else’s is, nor should they have to be. It is absolutely a personal choice on how much thought you want to put into your persona, and what you want them to wear. In the case of portraying a persona from a culture that has strong sumptuary laws, such as the Eastern Roman Empire, and especially if you reside in a kingdom that has laws about what one can wear on their head regarding their own rank, this is when the re-creator needs to take into account what he or she wants to wear, or should be wearing, for the holder of their awards.
In the case of the propoloma, I would recommend that nobody holding anything less than an Award of Arms wear this hat. A woman who would have received this hat would have already been of high patrician rank, and even though the title of lady may or may not convey this, it would be unfair to say that only peers or grant holders/court baronesses would be permitted to wear it as well as far as the game we play goes. I made my first one from looking at the Tom Tierney coloring books, which have proven to be rather inaccurate the more that my studies continue before understanding that it was a hat of rank. However, I feel that it would make an excellent choice for something akin to a cap of maintenance for a Pelican, or wreath for a Laurel, as the SCA simply does not hold a candle to the intense pomp of Eastern Roman ceremony. But by bringing pieces of these ceremonies into the SCA, bit by bit, we can help enrich our game even more, and introduce others to a new and exciting part of Roman culture they may have never otherwise known about.
 Alexander Kazhdan, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, (New York: Oxford 1991), 2231.
 Lynda Garland, Byzantine Empresses:Women and Power in Byzantium, AD 527-1204, (Abington: Routledge 1999), 5, 245, 264.
 Ioannis Spatharakis, “The Portrait in Byzantine Illuminated Manuscripts”, Byzantina Neerlandica 6, (1976): 145.
 Timothy Dawson, “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” in Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Ed. Lynda Garland (London: Ashgate, 2006), 47. Dawson cites De Cerimoniis by Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, the 1837 Latin edition, which I am currently translating into English.