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p850 Pallium

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp850‑853 of

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

PA′LLIUM, dim. PALLIOLUM, poet. PALLA (Plaut. Men. II.3.41‑47; Ovid, Amor. III.1.12, III.2.25) (ἱμάτιον, dim. ἱματίδιον; Ion. and poet. φᾶρος). The English cloak, though commonly adopted as the proper translation of these terms, conveys no accurate conception of the form, material, or use of that which they denoted. The article designated by them was always a rectangular piece of cloth, exactly, or at least nearly, square (τετράγωνα ἱμάτια, Posidonius ap. Athen. V p213; quadrangulus, Tertull., de Pallio, 1). Hence it could easily be divided without loss or waste into four parts (John, xix.23). It was indeed used in the very form in which it was taken from the loom [Tela], being made entirely by the weaver (τὸ ἱμάτιον ὑφῆναι, Plat. Charm. pp86, 98, ed. Heindorf; Hipp. Min. p210, ed. Bekker), without any aid from the tailor except to repair (sarcire, ἀκεῖσθαι) the injuries which it sustained by time. Although it was often ornamented, more especially among the northern nations of Europe, with a fringe [Fimbriae], yet this was commonly of the same piece with the pallium itself. Also whatever additional richness and beauty it received from the art of the dyer, was bestowed upon it before its materials were woven into cloth or even spun into thread. Most commonly it was used without having undergone any process of this kind. The raw material, such as wool, flax, or cotton, was manufactured in its natural state, and hence blankets and sheets were commonly white (λευκὰ ἱμάτια, Artemidor. II.3), although from the same cause brown, drab, and grey were also prevailing colours. The more splendid and elegant tints were produced by the application of the murex (muricata, conchyliata, purpurea, vestis; πορφυροῦν, ἁλουργῆ ἱμάτια, Heraclides Pont. ap. Athen. XII p512), the kermes (coccineus, κόκκινον), the argol (fucatus), and the saffron (croceus, κροκωτόν). [Crocota]. Pale green was also worn (ὀμφάκινον, Pollux, Onom. VII.56). Black and grey pallia were either made from the wool of black sheep (Theocrit. V.98) or were the result of the art of the dyer. They were worn in mourning (μέλανα ἱμάτια, Xen. Hist. Gr. I.7 §8; Artemidor. l.c.; φαιᾶν ἐσθῆτα, Inscription in Fellows's Journal, 1838, p31), and by sorceresses (Hor. Sat. I.8.23). The pallium of one colour (ἰδιόχροον ἱμάτιον, literary "the self-coloured," Artem. l.c.) was distinguished from the variegated (ποικίλον); and of this latter class the simplest kinds were the striped (ῥαβδωτόν, Xen. Cyrop. VIII.8 §8), in which the effect was produced by inserting alternately a woof of different colours, and the check or plaid (scutulatum, tesselatum), in which the same colours were made to alternate in the warp also. Zeuxis, the painter, exhibited at the Olympic games a plaid having p851his name woven in the squares (tesserae, πλινθία) in golden letters (Plin. H. N. XXXV.9 s36.2). An endless variety was produced by interweaving sprigs or flowers in the woof (ἄνθεσι πεποικιλμένον, Plat. Republ. VIII. p401, ed. Bekker). By the same process carried to a higher degree of complexity and refinement, whole figures and even historical or mythological subjects were introduced, and in this state of advancement the weaving of pallia was the elegant and worthy employment of females of the first distinction (Hom. Il. III.125‑128, XXII.440, 441), and of Athena, the inventress of the art, herself (Apollon. Rhod. I.721‑768). The greatest splendour was imparted by the use of gold thread (Virg. Aen. IV.262‑264; Plin. H. N. VIII.48, XXXIII.19; Auson. Epig. 37; Themist. Orat. 21; Q. Curt. III.3.17). Homer represents Penelope weaving a purple blanket for Ulysses, which also displayed a beautiful hunting-piece wrought in gold (Od. XIX.225‑235). The epithet δίπλαξ, which is commonly applied by the poets to these figured palls, probably denoted that they were made on the principle of a quilt or a Scotch carpet, in which two cloths of different colours are so interlaced as to form one double cloth, which displays a pattern of any kind according to the fancy of the artist.

Although pallia were finished for use without the intervention of the tailor, they were submitted to the embroiderer (Phrygio; ποικιλήτης, πλουμαρίος: Aesch. c. Timarch. p118, ed. Reiske; Schol. ad loc.); and still more commonly to the fuller [Fullo], who received them both when they were new from the loom, and when they were sullied through use. Hence it was a recommendation of this article of attire to be well-trodden (εὐστίπτον, Apollon. Rhod. II.30) and well washed (εὐπλυνὲς, Hom. Od. VIII.425). The men who performed the operation are called οἳ πλυνῆς, i.e. the washers, in an inscription found in the stadium at Athens. Another appellation which they bore, viz. οἳ στιβεῖς, the treaders (Schol. in Apoll. Rhod. l.c.), is well illustrated by the woodcut, representing them at their work, in p552.

Considering pallium and palla, ἰμάτιον and φᾶρος, as generic terms, we find specific terms included under them, and denoting distinctions which depended on the materials of which the cloth was made. Among the Greeks and Romans by far the most common material was wool (Plaut. Mil. III.1.93; Xen. Oecon. VII.36; Theocrit. l.c.). The garment made of it (laneum pallium, Cic. de Nat. Deor. III.35) was called (from the root of lana, wool), in Latin Laena, in Greek χλαῖνα: and as the garment varied, not only in colour and ornament, but also in fineness, in closeness of texture (ἱμάτιων λεπτότητας, Aelian, V.H. IV.3), and in size, some of these differences were expressed by the diminutives of χλαῖνα, such as χλαίνιον, χλανὶς (Herod. III.139; Athen. XII pp545a, 548a, 553a), χλανίδιον (Herod. I.195, compared with Strabo, XVI.1 §20; Plut. Symp. Probl., VI.6; Dionys. Ant. Rom. VII.9), χλανίσκιον (Aristoph. Acharn. 518; Aesch. c. Timarch. p142; Alciphron, I.38), and χλανισκίδιον (Aristoph. Pax, 1002). In like manner we find the pallium not only designated by epithets added to the general terms in order to denote that it was made of flax, e.g. ἰμάτιον λινοῦν, λίνοιο νεόπλυτα φάρεα (Orpheus, de Lapid. 702), pallium lineum (Isid. Hisp. Orig. XIX.25), but also distinguished by the specific terms linteum, linteamen; sindon (Mart. Epig. IV.19.12); σινδων (Herod. II.86; Mark, xiv.51, 52); and its diminutive σινδονίον (Palladii, Vita Serap.). A coarse linen pallium was also called φώσων (Pollux, VII. c16), and a fine one ὀνόθη, dim. ὀθόνιον (Hom. Il. III.141, XVIII.595; Brunck, Anal. III.81). These specific terms are no doubt of Egyptian origin, having been introduced among the Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Romans, together with the articles of merchandize to which they were applied. On the same principle a cotton pallium is called palla carbasea (Prudent. Psychom. 186, 187), and a silk shawl is denominated pallium Sericum (Stat. Sylv. III.4.89), and ὀθόνιον Σηρικόν (Arrian, Per. Mar. Eryth. pp164, 170, 173, 177, ed. Blancardi).

The following instances of the application of pallia to the purposes of common life, shows that it is an error to translate the word in all cases by "cloak" or "garment," and although in some of these cases the application may have been accidental, it serves not the less on that account to demonstrate the form and properties of the thing spoken of, and the true meaning of the various names by which it was called.

I. They were used to spread over beds and couches, and to cover the body during sleep (ἰμάτιον, Aelian, V.H. VIII.7, XII.1; Deut. xxiv.13; ἱματισμὸς, Theophrast. Char. 23; φάρος, Soph. Trach. 916, compare 537; χλαῖνα, Theocrit. XVIII.19, XXIV.25; Hom. Od. XIV.500‑521, XVII.86, 179, XX.4, 95, 143; Hymn. in Ven. 159‑184; χλανίσκιον, Alciphron, l.c.; pallium, Juv. VI.202; Spartian, Hadr. 22). In many of these cases it is to be observed, that the same pallium which was worn as a garment by day served to sleep in at night, in exact agreement with the practice which to the present day prevails among the Bedouin Arabs, who constantly use their large hykes for both purposesa [Lectus; Lodix; Tapes].

II. They were spread on the ground and used for carpets. Clitus, the friend of Alexander, when he held a levee, appeared walking ἐπὶ πορφυρῶν ἱματίων (Athen. XII p539C). This was an affectation of Eastern luxury. When the people at Jerusalem spread their hykes upon the ground (as recorded in St. Matt. xxi.8; St. Mark, xi.8; St. Luke, xix.36) they intended thereby to recognise Jesus as a king [Tapes].

III. They were hung over doors (Prudent. ad Sym. II.726), and used as awnings or curtains (Athen. XII p518A).

IV. At the bath, persons wiped and rubbed themselves not only with linen sheets (linteis), but with very soft blankets (palliis ex mollissima lana factis, Petron. Sat. 28). The coarse linen cloth used for this purpose was called sabanum (σάβανον).

V. Agamemnon (Hom. Il. VIII.221) holds in his hand "a great purple φᾶρος" to serve as a banner floating in the air.

VI. Pallia, especially of linen and cotton, were used for sails (φώσσωνες, Lycophron, V.26; λινόκροκον φάρος, Eurip. Hec. 1080 Hom. Od. V.258).

VII. When Anthony's ships were on fire, his soldiers, having failed to extinguish it by water, which they could not obtain in sufficient quantity, threw upon it their thick blankets (ἱμάτια αὐτῶν τὰ παχέα, Dion Cass. 1.34).

VIII. Thick coarse blankets, which had not p852been to the fuller (ἱμάτια ἀγνάπτα, Plut. Symp. Probl. VI.6), were wrapped round ice and snow to keep them from melting.

IX. A fine white blanket was sometimes used as a shroud (φᾶρος ταφήϊον, Hom. Il. XVIII.353; Od. II.94‑100; ἱμάτιον, Xen. Cyrop. VII.3 §13).

X. In Asia, horses and other animals used to ride upon, were covered with beautiful pallia, especially upon occasions of ceremony or of rejoicing. Cyrus had 200 horses covered with striped cloths (Xen. Cyrop. VIII.3 §16). When the Persian ambassador, a few years ago, went to the levee in London, his horses were in like manner covered ῥαβδωτοῖς ἱματίοις. Compare St. Matt. xxi.7; St. Mark, xi.7; St. Luke, xix.35 [Tapes].

XI. The newly-born infant was wrapped in a blanket (φάρος, Hom. Hymn. in Apoll. 121) [Incunabula].

XII. Lastly, the pallium was the most common article of the Amictus. [ Chlamys.] Hence we find it continually mentioned in conjunction with the Tunica, which constituted the indutus. Such phrases as "coat and waistcoat," or "shoes and stockings," are not more common with us than such as those which follow, in ancient authors: tunica palliumque (Cic. in Verr. V.52; Plaut. Epid. V.2.61); ἱμάτιον καὶ χιτῶν in the will of a certain philosopher (Diog. Laërt. V.72); τὸ ἱμάτιον καὶ τὸν χιτωνίσκον; φᾶρος ἠδὲ χιτὼν (Hom. Il. XXIV.588, Od. VIII.425); χλαῖναν τ᾽ ἠδὲ χιτῶνα (Hom. Il. II.262, Od. IV.50, V.229, VIII.455, X.365, 451, XIV.132, 154, 320, 341, XV.330, XVII.89); χλανὶς καὶ χιτωνίσκος (Antiphanes, ap. Athen. XII p545A). The following passages also exemplify the practice of naming these two articles of dress together: A. Gell. VII.10; Plaut. Trin. V.2.30; Athen. V p198CDF; Theophrast. Char. 21; St. Matt. v.40; St. John, xix.23‑25).

But although the pallium and tunica were always regarded as essential parts of an entire dress, yet each of them might be worn without the other. Cases in which the tunic was retained and the blanket laid aside, are explained under the article Nudus. It is also evident that the pallium would not be the most convenient kind of dress when the wearer of it had occasion to run; and we find that in such circumstances he either put it away entirely (Hom. Il. II.183, Od. XIV.500) or folded it up as a Scottish Highlander folds his plaid, and threw it round his neck or over his shoulder (Plaut. Capt. IV.1.12, IV.2.9; Ter. Phor. V.6.4). On the other hand, to wear the pallium without the under-clothing indicated poverty or severity of manners, as in the case of Socrates (Xen. Mem. I.6 §2), Agesilaus (Aelian, V.H. VII.13), and Gelon, king of Syracuse (Diod. Sic. XI.26).


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The pallium was no doubt often folded about the body simply with a view to defend it from cold, and without regard to gracefulness of appearance. It is thus seen on the persons of Polynices and Parthenopaeus in the celebrated intaglio, now preserved at Berlin, representing five of the heroes who fought against Thebes, and copied on an enlarged scale in the annexed woodcut. The names of the several heroes are placed beside them in Etruscan letters. This precious relic was found at Perugia (Winckelmann, Descript. des Pierres gravées de Stosch, p344‑347). By a slight adaptation, the mode of wearing it was rendered both more graceful and more convenient. It was first passed over the left shoulder, then drawn behind the back and under the right arm, leaving it bare, and then thrown again over the left shoulder. Of this we see an example in a bas-relief engraved by Dodwell (Tour through Greece, vol. I p243). Another very common method was to fasten the pallium with a brooch [Fibula] over the right shoulder (ἀμφιπερονᾶσθαι, Hom. Il. X.131‑136; Stat. Theb. VII.658, 659; Apul. Flor. II.1), leaving the right arm at liberty, and to pass the middle of it either under the left arm so as to leave that arm at liberty also, or over the left shoulder so as to cover the left arm. We see Phocion attired in the last-mentioned fashion in the admired statue of him preserved in the Vatican at Rome (Mus. Pio-Clement. vol. I tav. 43) (see woodcut). The attachment of the pallium by means of the brooch caused it to depend in a graceful manner (demissa ex humeris, Virg. Aen. IV.263), and contributed mainly to the production of those dignified and elegant forms which we so much admire in ancient sculptures. When a person sat, he often allowed his pallium to fall from his shoulder, so as to envelope the lower part of his body only.


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The sagum of the northern nations of Europe (see woodcut, p213) was a woollen pallium, fastened, p853like that of the Greeks, by means of a brooch, or with a large thorn as a substitute for a brooch (Tacit. Germ. 17; Strabo, IV.4.3). The Gauls wore in summer one which was striped and chequered, so as to agree exactly with the plaid which still distinguishes their Scottish descendants; in winter it was thick and much more simple in colour and pattern (Diod. Sic. V.30). The Greeks and Romans also wore different pallia in summer and in winter. The thin pallium made for summer wear was called λῇδος, dim. λῃδάριον (Aristoph. Aves, 713‑717) and σπεῖρον dim. σπειρίον (Hom. Od. II.102, VI.179; Xen. Hist. Gr. IV.5 §4) in contradistinction from the warm pallium with a long nap which was worn in winter (laena, Mart. XIV.136; χλαῖνα, Moeris, s.v.; Hom. Il. XVI.224, Od. XIV.529; Plut. de Aud. p73, ed. Steph.; ἀχλαινοὶ, Callim. Hymn. in Diana. 115). This distinction in dress was, however, practised only by those who could afford it. Socrates wore the same pallium both in summer and winter (Xen. Mem. I.6 §2).

One kind of blanket was worn by boys, another by men (τὸ παιδικὸν, τὸ ἀνδρεῖον ἱμάτιον, Plut. de Aud. init.). Women wore this garment as well as men. "Phocion's wife," says Aelian (V.H. VII.9), "wore Phocion's pallium;" but Xanthippe, as related by the same author (VII.10), would not wear that of her husband Socrates (see also Hom. Od. V.229, 23, X.542, 543; Plaut. Men. IV.2.36; Herod. V.87). When the means were not wanting, women wore pallia, which were in general smaller, finer, and of more splendid and beautiful colours than those of men (θοιμάτια ἀνδρεῖα, Aristoph. Eccles. 26, 75, 333), although men who sometimes displayed their fondness for dress by adopting in these respects the female costume. Thus Alcibiades was distinguished by his purple pallium which trailed upon the ground (Plut. Alcib. pp350, 362, ed. Steph.); for a train was one of the ornaments of Grecian as well as Oriental dress (ἱματίων ἕλξεις, Plato, Alcib. I p341, ed. Bekker; Ovid, Met. XI.166; Quintil. XI.3), the general rule being that the upper garment should reach the knee, but not the ground (Aelian, V.H. XI.10; Theophrast. Char. 4).

Philosophers wore a coarse and cheap pallium, which from being exposed to much wear was called τρίβων and τριβώνιον (Aristoph. Plut. 897; Athen. V p211E; Themist. Orat. X. p155, ed. Dindorf; palliastrum, Apul. Florid. I). The same was worn also by poor persons (Isaeus, de Dic. p94, ed. Reiske; Polyaen. Strat. VII.35), by the Spartans (Athen. XII p535E; Aelian, V.H. VII.13), and in a later age by monks and hermits (φαιὸν τριβώνιον, Synes. Epist. 147; sagum rusticum, Hieron. Vita Hilar.). These blanketeers (τριβωνοφόροι, Palladii, Hist. Laus., in vita Serap.) often went without a tunic, and they sometimes supplied its place by the greater size of their pallium. It is recorded of the philosopher Antisthenes, that "he first doubled his pallium" (Diog. Laërt. VI.613), in which contrivance he was followed by his brother Cynics (Brunck, Anal. II.22; Hor. Epist. I.7.25), and especially by Diogenes, who also slept and died in it, and who according to some was the first inventor of this fashion (Diog. Laërt. VI.2277). The large pallium, thus used, was called διπλοϊς (diplois, Isid. Hisp. Orig. XIX.24), and also Exomis, because, being worn without the fibula, it left the right shoulder bare, as seen in the preceding figure of Polynices, and in the bas-relief in Dodwell's Tour already referred to (Plaut. Mil. IV.4.43; Aelian, V.H. IX.34); and, when a girdle was added round the waist, it approached still more to the appearance of the single-sleeved tunic, the use of which it superseded.

Under the Roman republic and the early Emperors, the Toga was worn by men instead of the pallium. They were proud of this distinction, and therefore considered that to be palliatus or sagatus instead of being togatus indicated an affectation of Grecian or even barbarian manners (Graeco pallio amictus, Plin. Epist. IV.11; Graeci palliati, Plaut. Curc. II.3.9; Cic. Phil. V.5, XIV.1; Suet. Jul. 48; Val. Max. II.6 §10). Caecina, on his return from the north of Europe, offended the Romans (togatos) by addressing them in a plaid (versicolore sagulo) and trowsers [Braccae] (Tacit. Hist. II.20).


Thayer's Note:

a Thus our mid‑19c author; but a century later, still in both North and sub-Saharan Africa. As a 12‑year‑old boy in Niamey (Niger Republic), I remember quite well our night watchman, a Moussi tribesman from what is now Burkina Faso, prepare for the night by unrolling a reed mat across our front door, removing his outer shift, lying down on the mat with a sort of machete, and rearranging the shift over him as a blanket. Anyone could have broken in thru the windows around the back, mind you, but we felt safe enough.


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