Tunica Laticlavia

The social and political heart of the respublica community

Moderators: Publius Iunius Brutus, Lucius Aurelius Curio, Titus Flavius Severus, Lucius Livius Seneca, Marcus Flavius Celsus, Tiberia Salvia Alba

Re: Tunica Laticlavia

Postby Gaius Cominius Laenas » Fri Apr 21, 2017 1:49 am


Another interesting question is that of Tyrian purple.

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio says the dye was extracted from shellfish in 30 BCE.

Pliny the Elder elaborated on the production of Tyrian purple in his Natural History:

The most favourable season for taking these [shellfish] is after the rising of the Dog-star, or else before spring; for when they have once discharged their waxy secretion, their juices have no consistency: this, however, is a fact unknown in the dyers' workshops, although it is a point of primary importance. After it is taken, the vein [i.e. hypobranchial gland] is extracted, which we have previously spoken of, to which it is requisite to add salt, a sextarius [about 20 fl. oz.] about to every hundred pounds of juice. It is sufficient to leave them to steep for a period of three days, and no more, for the fresher they are, the greater virtue there is in the liquor. It is then set to boil in vessels of tin [or lead], and every hundred amphoræ ought to be boiled down to five hundred pounds of dye, by the application of a moderate heat; for which purpose the vessel is placed at the end of a long funnel, which communicates with the furnace; while thus boiling, the liquor is skimmed from time to time, and with it the flesh, which necessarily adheres to the veins. About the tenth day, generally, the whole contents of the cauldron are in a liquefied state, upon which a fleece, from which the grease has been cleansed, is plunged into it by way of making trial; but until such time as the colour is found to satisfy the wishes of those preparing it, the liquor is still kept on the boil. The tint that inclines to red is looked upon as inferior to that which is of a blackish hue. The wool is left to lie in soak for five hours, and then, after carding it, it is thrown in again, until it has fully imbibed the colour.

Julius Pollux wrote in the 100s CE that the purple dye was first discovered by Heracles, or rather, by his dog, whose mouth was stained purple from chewing on snails along the coast of the Levant.

In Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence, it is stated that evidence exists for the extraction of dye from the shellfish H. trunculus and B. brandaris. Both of these shellfish are from the same family, and it is expected the dye from H. trunculus was the most highly prized. The dye from both was probably regarded as "Tyrian purple" in antiquity and probably was often mixed to produce a dark dye similar in color to dark clotted blood. Archeological evidence from Crete suggests that the Minoans may have pioneered the extraction of Imperial purple centuries before the Phoenicians who later mastered the art on an industrial scale.

The production of Tyrian purple came to an abrupt end with the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Economically the market could not sustain the intensive process of extracting the dye from tens of thousands of shellfish. The production continued in Islamic Egypt until the 1300s when it died completely. Instead, vermilion dye (♦♦♦), extracted from the insect Kermes vermilio native to the middle east became the predominant royal dye in the Islamic world and Europe. This continued until the 1700s.

So what about the colors?

H. trunculus produces a deep blue-purple color like this ♦♦♦. This color was rarer and these shellfish reproduce less rapidly.

B. brandaris produces a red-purple color like this ♦♦♦.

When these dyes are mixed, as they likely were in various amounts you get a spectrum of colors like this:
(more expensive) ♦♦♦ ♦♦♦ ♦♦♦ ♦♦♦ (less expensive)
User avatar
Gaius Cominius Laenas
Posts: 112
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:24 am
Location: Michigan, USA

Re: Tunica Laticlavia

Postby Lucia Horatia Adamas » Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:02 am

L. Horatia Adamas C. Florio Lupo C. Cominio Laenati omnibusque S.P.D.

Gaius Florius Lupus wrote:

Gratias tibi ago, Horatia Adamas!

This makes perfectly sense. I always wondered how the stripes could be seen under the armor. But if they are moved to the border of the sleaves in the tunica subarmalis, they always remain visible. Is there a subarmalis version for the senatorial ranks like the tribunus laticlavius or the legatus too?

LHA: I have never heard of a special subarmalis version for anyone or anything, or of a separate 'tunica magistralis.' The clavi could be seen below and / or amid the straps some add to the balteus / cingulum (belt), so there would be no need for any other decorations. Some of the better sources indicate only an 'apron' in the center front, so the clavi, which extended to the hem, would be clearly visible without adding stripes on the sleeves or at the hem. The Greeks used a slender hem stripe, but as far as I am aware, the Romans did not, nor did they employ sleeve stripes.

For information on the subarmalis, please see http://www.larp.com/legioxx/subarm.html Another site, http://florentius.com/subarmalis also has some information on this item, but may be less authentic. The Twentieth Legion is extremely authentic, and although its site has some errors, is very helpful.

And a trabea for the equites? Would this not be excessive? It would make them look more impressive than a senator. The trabea was usually red or purple, if I remenber well.

LHA: I believe it was striped in red and purple. Not a combination which appeals to me. Even the OLD says it was worn as a dress uniform by the equites. It was also worn by the flamen Dialis, the flamen Martialis, and the augurs, as Heuzey notes. His description runs as follows: "Les Saliens ou prêtres sauteurs du dieu Mars, vêtus d'un très ancien costume militaire qui remontait à l'âge des armes de bronze, la portaient encore agrafée comme une veritable chlamyde. Décorée des riches broderies, parfois entièrement teinte en pourpre ou différement ornamentée de blanc, de pourpre et d'écarlate, la trabée était le manteau des rois et servait aussi de vêtement d'apparat aux flamines de Mars et de Jupiter, aux augures, aux chevaliers romaines." [Histoire du Costume Antique, p. 234]

I would have expected them to wear a plain white toga for formal occasions.

LHA: Sometimes our expectations are incorrect…

The golden threads on the stripe on Pompey's toga in the Rome TV series may not be backed up by much evidence, but it is not necessarily false. It would befit well a character who calls himself "Magnus". This was probably the message that the costume designers had in mind.

LHA: No doubt.

Vale, et valete!
Lucia Horatia Adamas
Posts: 146
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2016 11:20 am

Re: Tunica Laticlavia

Postby Publius Iunius Brutus » Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:19 pm

Brutus sal.

This book by Willson called "The Roman Toga", is one of the gold standard studies on the Toga.

The book is also free online.

Might interest those who are enjoying this thread.

See: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id= ... kin=mobile
User avatar
Publius Iunius Brutus
Martis et Minervae Sacerdos
Martis et Minervae Sacerdos
Lictor Curiatus Magister
Lictor Curiatus Magister
Posts: 1508
Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:54 am
Location: Pacifica Provincia


Return to Main Forum