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Bill Thayer

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p848 Paenula

Unsigned article on p848 of

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

[image ALT: An engraving of a man modelling a poncho. It is said to be a paenula, a type of ancient Roman cloak.]

Today, we would call this a poncho.

PAENULA was a thick cloak, chiefly used by the Romans in travelling instead of the toga, as a protection against the cold and rain (Cic. pro Mil. 20; Quintil. VI.3 §66). Hence we find the expression of scindere paenulam (Cic. ad Att. XIII.33) used in the sense of greatly pressing a traveller to stay at one's house. The paenula was worn by women as well as by men in travelling (Dig. 34 tit. 2 s23). It appears to have been a long cloak without sleeves, and with only an opening for the head, as is shown in the following figure taken from Bartolini. If this is a real example of a paenula, it would seem that the dress was sewed in front about half way down, and was divided into two parts, which might be thrown back by the wearer so as to leave the arms comparatively free: it must have been put on over the head. This figure explains the expression of Cicero (pro Mil. l.c.), "paenula irretitus;" and of the author of the Dialogus de Oratoribus (c39), "paenulis adstricti et velut inclusi."

Under the emperors the paenula was worn in the city as a protection against the rain and cold (Juv. V.79), but women were forbidden by Alexander Severus to wear it in the city (Lamprid. Alex. Sev. 27). At one time, however, the paenula appears to have been commonly worn in the city instead of the toga, as we even find mention of orators wearing it when pleading causes (Dial. de Orat. 39), but this fashion was probably of short duration.

The paenula was usually made of wool (Plin. H. N. VIII.48 s73), and particularly of that kind which was called Gausapa [Gausapa] (paenula gausapina, Mart. XIV.145). It was also sometimes made of leather (paenula scortea, Mart. XIV.130). Seneca (Quaest. Nat. IV.6) speaks of "paenulae aut scorteae," but he appears only to use this expression because paenulae were usually made of wool (Bartholini, de Paenula; Becker, Gallus, vol. II p93).

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Page updated: 8 Dec 06