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Aulus Gellius 6.12

Translation copyright 2001 Neil W. Bernstein; all rights reserved.

Concerning tunics with long sleeves, and how Scipio Aemilianus (1) reproached Sulpicius Galus for wearing them.

  1. It was inappropriate in Rome and in all of Latium for men to wear tunics stretching beyond the arms right up to the hands and almost touching the fingers.
  2. Romans called these tunics "chirodytae", using a Greek word. They thought that it was only appropriate for women to wear a long and full garment, in order to protect their arms and legs from being seen.
  3. Roman men, moreover, had at first worn only togas without tunics. Afterwards they began to wear tight and short tunics that stopped above the shoulder. The Greeks call this kind of garment "sleeveless" [exomidas].
  4. Scipio Aemilianus, son of Paulus, was a man endowed with every good quality and virtue. While dressed in the traditional style, he criticized the effeminate Publius Sulpicius Galus for his shame. Among many other things, Scipio objected to the fact that he wore tunics that covered his entire hand.
  5. These are Scipio's words: "This man preens himself daily in front of the mirror, anoints himself, shaves his eyebrows, and walks around with his beard and thighs plucked. While still a young man, he reclined at parties in a lower position than his lover, wearing a tunic with long sleeves. He's not only crazy for wine but also for men. Is there anyone who doubts that this man has done what effeminates customarily do?" (2)
  6. Vergil also indicts this sort of tunic as being shameful and effeminate. He says "and their tunics have long sleeves and their headdresses have ribbons." [Vergil, Aeneid 9.616]
  7. Ennius also appears to talk with some derision about the "tunic-wearing youth" of Carthage. [Enn. Ann. 325 Vahlen]

Notes:

  1. Scipio Aemilianus (185/4-129 BC) was consul in 147 BC and censor in 142; he captured Carthage in 146.
  2. Fr. 17 Malcovati. For further discussion of Scipio's condemnation of Sulpicius Galus, see Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality: Ideologies of Masculinity in Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), esp. 23, 127-132 ("Signifiers of Effeminacy: Softness and Excessive Grooming"). Cicero condemns Catiline's followers in similar terms at Cic. Catil. 2.22.
  3. For an excerpt from another speech of Scipio Aemilianus (condemning fathers who seek legal advantages from adoption), see Gell. 5.19.16.

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