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Clavus Latus
and
Clavus Angustus


[image ALT: An engraving of an imposing matronly woman, holding a pommeled staff in her left hand and a standing angel (in turn holding a standard) on her outstretched right palm; she is seated on an elaborately decorated throne. She wears a robe distinguished by a prominent broad vertical stripe from her collar to her lap. It is a personification of Rome as a divinity, and serves here to illustrate the 'clavus latus', the broad stripe on Roman clothing that distinguished the upper social ranks.]

p293 Article by Anthony Rich, Jun. B.A. of Caius College, Cambridge
on pp293‑294 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CLAVUS LATUS, CLAVUS ANGUSTUS. 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. Hence we find the tunic called the tunica laticlavia and angusticlavia. These purple stripes were woven into the tunic (Plin. H. N. VIII.48); and this circumstance accounts for the fact that the clavus is never represented in works of sculpture. It only occurs in paintings, and those too of a very late period. The clavus latus is represented in the annexed cut, which is copied from a painting of Rome personified, formerly belonging to the Barberini family. The clavus angustus is seen in the three figures introduced below, all of which are taken from sepulchral paintings executed subsequently to the introduction of Christianity at Rome. The female figure on the left hand, which is copied from Buonarroti (Osservazioni sopra alcuni Frammenti di Vasi antichi di Vetro, tav. XXXIX fig. 1), represents the goddess Moneta. The one on the right hand is from a cemetery on the Via Salaria Nova, and represents Priscilla, an early martyr. The next figure is selected from three of a similar kind, representing Shadrach, Meshach, p294and Abednego, from the tomb of Pope Callisto on the Via Appia.


[image ALT: An engraving of two women wearing long robes distinguished by thin vertical stripes on either side of their chests. It is an illustration of the 'clavus angustus', the narrow stripe on Roman clothing that distinguished the second level of the upper social ranks.]

[image ALT: An engraving of a young boy standing in a fire, his arms stretched out in the form of a cross. His robe is distinguished by a pair of vertical stripes on either side of his chest. It is a depiction of a paleochristian painting of one of the Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and serves here as an illustration of the 'clavus angustus', the narrow stripe on Roman clothing that distinguished the second level of the upper social ranks.]

The latus clavus was a distinctive badge of the senatorian order (latum demisit pectore clavum, Hor. Sat. I.6.28; Ovid, Trist. IV.10.35): and hence it is used to signify the senatorial dignity (Suet. Suet. Tib. 35, Suet. Vesp. 2, 4); and laticlavius, for the person who enjoys it (Suet. Aug. 38). The tunica laticlavia was not fastened round the waist like the common tunic, but left loose, in order that the clavus might lie flat and conspicuously over the chest (Quinctil. XI.3 §138).

The angustus clavus was the decoration of the equestrian order; but the right of wearing the latus clavus was also given to the children of equestrians (Ovid. Trist. IV.10.29), at least in the time of Augustus, as a prelude to entering the senate-house. This, however, was a matter of personal indulgence, and not of individual right; for it was granted only to persons of very ancient family, and corresponding wealth (Stat. Sylv. IV.8.59; Dig. 24 tit. 1 s42), and then by special favour of the emperor (Suet. Vesp. 2; Tac. Ann. XVI.17; Plin. Epist. II.9). In such cases the latus clavus was assumed with the toga virilis, and worn until the age arrived at which the young equestrian was admissible into the senate, when it was relinquished and the angustus clavus resumed, if a disinclination on his part, or any other circumstances, prevented him from entering the senate, as was the case with Ovid (compare Trist. IV.10.27, with 35). But it seems that the latus clavus could be again resumed if the same individual subsequently wished to become a senator (Hor. Sat. I.6.25), and hence a fickle character is designated as one who is always changing his clavus (Hor. Sat. II.7.10).

The latus clavus is said to have been introduced at Rome by Tullus Hostilius, and to have been adopted by him after his conquest of the Etruscans (Plin. H. N. IX.63); nor does it appear to have been confined to any particular class during the earlier periods, but to have been worn by all ranks promiscuously (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.7). It was laid aside in public mourning (Liv. IX.7).


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