We’re always so quick to forget that fashion has been a phenomenon for thousands of years. Women just didn’t wear one or two style dresses. They wore what was in style, they wore what was popular in other places and made it work for them. I’m a firm believer that the clothing of Roman women was pretty limitless. They were essentially the original divas.
This is a public gallery on Facebook by Ratna Drost, who is a researcher and reenactor at the Archeon museum in the Netherlands. It’s a collection of her interpretation of provincial (Think Gaul and Belgica) clothing, with some great cold weather options for those of us who live in the Frozen Tundra. I’ve been pretty good about sticking with my Byzantine lately, but some of these looks are totally inspiring.
I hope these images help those looking for alternatives to the traditional peplos and chiton looks. I would recommend sending questions to Ms. Drost herself. This is not my work, I just wanted to share this great collection!
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.
I’ve created a page for this site, and to allow folks who aren’t friends with me on Facebook to connect. I have a lot of friends on my mundane page, and this will simply streamline the process for those that wish to contact me and get updates about what I’m working on.
All of my work, articles, patterns, and handouts will remain HERE, but I can have all updates to my blog posted to Facebook for more social interaction.
My lord had to go do Navy things for a few months, so when I should have been studying for school, I sewed things.
I also found out that Santa Claus can read heraldry! You see, we stayed home for the holidays this year when both of us usually travel, sometimes in opposite directions to keep both families happy, so we had no decorations. None. Zip. So I was shopping for the necessary trimmings, and found that they’re all way too expensive and I didn’t like them all anyway. So I went to Joann’s, dropped $60 in supplies, and went to work.
Here’s our heraldically (is word?) influenced tree skirt, hand appliqued, lined in horrible plaid with fringy fringe that was more of a pain in the butt than it probably should have been:
And our heraldically correct stockings, you know, instead of writing our names in puffy paint:
But modern Christmas is not terribly period ,but it sure is pretty. So, I decided to try Saturnalia from the 17th-23rd of December for the first time this year, and we definitely had fun! We set up a household altar with Roman goodies: an amphora, a cup of wine and a cup of olive oil, lamps, and I had a tea light for each night of the festival (how, uh, syncretic of me.) Each day the lord and I would make an “offering” to Saturn in the ways of whatever we had around. This varied from my actual Roman artifact rings, to a cheap rhinestone ring, amber necklace, chunk of shortbread, coffee, and Geoffrey’s Dungeons and Dragons Elementals. I am not even kidding.
It was all in the spirit of the season, and trying to feel as the Romans would have felt. Every holiday in December has one thing in common: The solstice and the return of light at the darkest part of the year. So I’m a big fan of setting things on fire or putting a mere 1500 lights on my balcony and 400 lights on my tree.
Most of all, we had FUN. I hope everyone else had fun with the holidays this week, also!
Felicem Dies Natalis Sol Invicti!
Or as my friends say, “Happy Lights!”
I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and I’ll catch you all on the flip side with some neat info on Byzantine outerwear, and the upcoming garb challenge at Birka!
On the 1st day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: A Judean Date Palm Tree.
On the 2nd day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: 2 Punic Wars, and a Judean Date Palm Tree.
On the 3rd day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: 3 Gauls dead, 2 Punic Wars, and a Judean Date Palm Tree.
On the 4th day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: 4 Good Emperors, 3 Gauls dead, 2 Punic Wars, and a Judean Date Palm Tree.
On the 5th day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: 5 Aureii! 4 Good Emperors, 3 Gauls dead, 2 Punic Wars, and a Judean Date Palm Tree.
On the 6th day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: 6 legions a slaying, 5 Aureii! 4 Good Emperors, 3 Gauls dead, 2 Punic Wars, and a Judean Date Palm Tree.
On the 7th day of Saturnalia, dilectus meus gave to me: 7 Hills of Rome, 6 legions a slaying, 5 Aureii! 4 Good Emperors, 3 Gauls dead, 2 Punic Wars, and a Judean Date Palm Tree!
You’re welcome, and Happy Holidays folks, no matter what edition of lamp burning or tree lighting you partake in.
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 started my MA degree this fall at the University of New Hampshire, and needless to say, it’s been keeping me a bit busy. I am doing what research I can, and hitting all sorts of amazing conferences, such as last weekend’s New England Renaissance Conference in which the topic was Credit and Debit in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Totally a fascinating topic I never even thought to look into before.
In 2 weeks there is an event in the Barony of Carolingia, our neighbors to the south of Stonemarche, called Voyages of Discovery, and A&S Colloquium. It is a mundane clothes dress academic conference with Scadians in mind. I will be presenting my paper on Suetonius’ biography of Domitian, and my analysis using contemporary sources. It’s one of my undergraduate works, but it was my writing sample to get into graduate school, and apparently did the job.
I also plan to prepare my propoloma article from here on this blog for publishing in Ars Scientia Orientalis, the East Kingdom A&S Journal, much like my silk paper was. So yes, even though I haven’t been crafty, I’ve still been busy!
I do have some slow-coming work in progress on Byzantine outerwear. Look for that in the coming weeks.
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…