Franz Joseph Dölger-Institut

zur Erforschung der Spätantike

De habitu, quo uti oportet intra urbem (Cod. Theod. 14,10,1 vJ. 382 nC.). Ein ›Dress-Code‹ im spätantiken Konstantinopel?

JbAC 1 (1958) Seiten: 66-86

The lex vestiaria of 382 AD is well known, but surprisingly underresearched. My interpretation in this article will clarify as far as feasible the law’s overall content, object and purpose, as well as its individual provisions. A second aim is to highlight more generally the potential rewards for classicists of investigating dress codes in antiquity. Specifically, my questions are these: why did the lawgiver deem it necessary to pass legislation regulating the dress of senators in Constantinople; what connection was there between this section of the edict and the subsequent regulations targeting much lower-ranking persons; and, finally, what was the meaning of that mysterious regulation requiring civil officials (officiales) to wear a pallium discolor? In fact, the underlying theme of the edict seems to be the use of dress codes to inscribe affiliations and dependencies on higher-ranking persons. The object is not to challenge this sort of social positioning (a central principle of the Roman dress code), but rather to underline it, and to steer it in a particular direction. The focus of different ordines (including, and indeed especially, the senators of Constantinople) on the emperor had resulted in the excessive wearing of the chlamys. This is where the edict tried to intervene, acting as a sort of protection law by attempting to limit the wearing of this prestigious garment with its close association to the emperor. We do not know the extent to which it succeeded – or failed to.

Konrad Vössing