[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

 p282  Cilicium

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p282 of

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

CILI′CIUM (δέῤῥις), a hair-cloth. The material of which the Greeks and Romans almost universally made this kind of cloth, was the hair of goats. The Asiatics made it of camel's-hair. Goats were bred for this purpose in the greatest abundance, and with the longest hair, in Cilicia; and from this country the Latin name of such cloth was derived. Lycia, Phrygia, Spain, and Libya also produced the same article. The cloth obtained by spinning and weaving goat's-hair was nearly black, and was used for the coarse habits which sailors and fishermen wore,​a as it was the least subject to be destroyed by being wet; also for horse-cloths, tents, sacks, and bags to hold workmen's tools (fabrilia vasa), and for the purpose of covering military engines and the walls and towns of besieged cities, so as to deaden the force of the ram, and to preserve the woodwork from being set on fire (Aristot. Hist. Anim. VIII.28; Aelian, XVI.30; Varr. De Re Rust. II.11; Virg. Georg. III.312; Avien. Ora Mar. 218‑221; Veget. Ars Vet. 1.42).

Thayer's Note:

a In the Middle Ages, haircloth was also used by people who wished to mortify their flesh as a form of religious exercise; it was made into an undershirt, called a hairshirt. In modern Romance languages, the word for it is still cilicio, cilice, etc.: notice the tag in the photograph below.

A sort of T‑shirt roughly woven of a burlap-like fiber. It is a 17th‑century hairshirt.

The hairshirt of St. Joseph of Leonessa (d. 1612)
in the church of S. Giuseppe in Leonessa, Italy.

Photograph © William P. Thayer 2004.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 29 Aug 12