Friday, March 14, 2003

Roman Textiles or "See Rome and Dye!"

The Roman playwright Plautus wrote a comedy (Epidicus) in which the slave of this name lists colors and textiles to his master, currently in vogue amongst Roman women. Colors referred to include caltulus (marigold yellow); crocotulus (reddish orange); carinus (walnut brown); cerinus (brownish-yellow); cumatilis (sea blue) and caesicius (sky blue). Elsewhere in the same play, Plautus mentions flamarii, violarii and molocinarii. These people belonged to dye collegia responsible for dyeing reddish orange, a violet hue of purple and mauve, respectively.

From this it can be seen that, not only were there quite a number of different materials available, which could be gauzy, loosely woven (ralla) or close-woven (spissa) but that the colors were quite sophisticated. Nor was the interest in dyed fabrics limited to women. There is a record of one P. Lentulus Spinther being one of the first to use the double-dyed purple (purpureae dibapha Tyria) for his toga when he was curile aedile in 63 BC.
Post a Comment