|Me, dressed up (aged 10 months)|
Olson, Kelly. Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-presentation and Society. (Routledge 2008).
Unsurprisingly, Olson's book contains much of the same information I commented upon in my last post about Roman prostitutes and the toga, but there were a few extra nuggets that are interesting enough to be shared.
In 1889 there was excavated in Rome the tomb of a young girl named Crepereia Tryphaena who had died unmarried at 17-19 years old. The burial was dated to the late second century CE, and contained haircombs, a beryl necklace, pearl necklace, pearl earrings, mirrors and finger rings (as well as a beautiful jointed ivory doll). The burial chamber of a baby girl in the Hadrianic era in Rom was found to contain a doll, makeup cases, and a gold ring. The contents of Crepereia's tomb may indicate that young or unmarried girls adorned; or perhaps the items in both furials were meant to make the girls' deaths all the more poignant by alluding to a stage of life they would never attain. (p. 116)
Perhaps Olson is right about the makeup cases, but the apparent oddity of real gold jewelry for very little girls may be only a few generations old.
|Portrait of a Saxon Princess (1517)|
|Portinari triptych (1478)|
I suspect (though I can't prove it, of course) was that the parents of the Roman baby who buried their daughter with a little gold ring, like my parents, simply felt that to be female is to be adorned, to as great an extent as the family's budget (and, by implication, social class) allows, and that they wanted their baby daughter to be properly adorned in death.
Another tidbit I got from Olson's book is the observation that "Men naturally wore a natural wool toga, white if they were canvassing, black or gray if they were in mourning... but, as in nineteenth-century France and England, 'black, white and grey, the very negation of colour, were the paradigm of dignity, control, and morality' and thus were the everyday color of male garments; the greater part of the rainbow was left to women." (pp. 13-14)
|Children of Edward Hollen Cruttenden (18th c)|
Finally, and amusingly, Olson cites Pliny as support for the proposition that "the toga was at some point in Rome's history a mark of status or honor for a woman." (p.127-128 n. 125) Olson's citation to Pliny's Natural History (Plin. Nat. 34.28) is clearly incorrect (the chapter is about how to make a kind of verdigris called "scolex"). However, the following passage from Bostock and Riley's (1855) translation of the Natural History contains the following relevant passage at 34.13:
Pedestrian statues have been, undoubtedly, for a long time in estimation at Rome: equestrian statues are, however, of considerable antiquity, and females even have participated in this honour; for the statue of Clælia is equestrian, as if it had not been thought sufficient to have her clad in the toga; and this, although statues were not decreed to Lucretia, or to Brutus, who had expelled the kings, and through both of whom Clælia had been given as a hostage. I should have thought that this statue, and that of Cocles, were the first that were erected at the public expense—for it is most likely that the statues of Attus and the Sibyl were erected by Tarquinius, and those of each of the other kings by themselves respectively —had not Piso stated that the statue of Clælia was erected by those who had been hostages with her, when they were given up by Porsena, as a mark of honour.
(emphasis mine). Not having seen the original Latin, or having sufficient knowledge of Latin to judge the quality of this translation if I had, I will simply leave the matter rest with this quote.