Sunday, October 17, 2004
The Greeks didn't have a native word for trousers, so they borrowed anaxurides from Persian. The Latin word bracae (sometimes spelled braccae), whence English breeches, may also be a loan word from Gaul.
Here are some passages from ancient sources on trousers.
- Herodotus 1.71.2-4 (advice to Croesus, tr. George Rawlinson): Thou art about, oh! king, to make war against men who wear leathern trousers, and have all their other garments of leather; who feed not on what they like, but on what they can get from a soil that is sterile and unkindly; who do not indulge in wine, but drink water; who possess no figs nor anything else that is good to eat. If, then, thou conquerest them, what canst thou get from them, seeing that they have nothing at all? But if they conquer thee, consider how much that is precious thou wilt lose: if they once get a taste of our pleasant things, they will keep such hold of them that we shall never be able to make them loose their grasp. For my part, I am thankful to the gods that they have not put it into the hearts of the Persians to invade Lydia.
- Herodotus 5.49.3-4 (tr. Rawlinson): The barbarians are an unwarlike people; and you are the best and bravest warriors in the whole world. Their mode of fighting is the following: they use bows and arrows and a short spear; they wear trousers in the field, and cover their heads with turbans. So easy are they to vanquish!
- Herodotus 7.61.1 (tr. Rawlinson): Now these were the nations that took part in this expedition. The Persians, who wore on their heads the soft hat called the tiara, and about their bodies, tunics with sleeves of divers colours, having iron scales upon them like the scales of a fish. Their legs were protected by trousers; and they bore wicker shields for bucklers; their quivers hanging at their backs, and their arms being a short spear, a bow of uncommon size, and arrows of reed. They had likewise daggers suspended from their girdles along their right thighs.
- Xenophon, Anabasis 1.5.8 (on Persian nobles, tr. Carleton L. Brownson): They each threw off their purple cloaks where they chanced to be standing, and rushed, as a man would rush to win a victory, down a most exceedingly steep hill, wearing their costly tunics and coloured trousers.
- Polybius 2.28.7-8 and 2.30.1-2 (tr. W.R. Paton): The Insubres and Boii wore their trousers and light cloaks, but the Gaesatae had discarded these garments owing to their proud confidence in themselves, and stood naked, with nothing but their arms, in front of the whole army, thinking that thus they would be more efficient, as some of the ground was overgrown with brambles which would catch in their clothes and impede the use of their weapons ... But when the javelineers advanced, as is their usage, from the ranks of the Roman legions and began to hurl their javelins in well-aimed volleys, the Celts in the rear ranks indeed were well protected by their trousers and cloaks, but it fell out far otherwise than they had expected with the naked men in front, and they found themselves in a very difficult and helpless predicament.
- Cicero, In Defense of Fonteius 33 (tr. C.D. Yonge): Are you then hesitating, O judges, when all these nations have an innate hatred to and wage incessant war with the name of the Roman people? Do you think that, with their military cloaks and their breeches, they come to us in a lowly and submissive spirit, as these do, who having suffered injuries fly to us as suppliants and inferiors to beg the aid of the judges? Nothing is further from the truth. (an vero dubitatis, iudices, quin insitas inimicitias istae gentes omnes et habeant et gerant cum populi Romani nomine? sic existimatis eos hic sagatos bracatosque versari, animo demisso atque humili, ut solent ei qui adfecti iniuriis ad opem iudicum supplices inferioresque confugiunt? nihil vero minus.)
- Cicero, Letters to His Friends 9.15 (to Papirius Paetus, tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey): I am marvellously fond of pleasantries, our native brand most of all, especially in view of its present decline; for adulterated as it had already become after the influx of the foreign element into our city, it is now with the accession of the trousered tribes from over the Alps so overwhelmed that no trace of the old gay charm is any more to be found. (mirifice capior facetiis, maxime nostratibus, praesertim cum eas videam primum oblitas Latio tum, cum in urbem nostram est infusa peregrinitas, nunc vero etiam bracatis et Transalpinis nationibus, ut nullum veteris leporis vestigium appareat.)
- Vergil, Aeneid 11.777: Barbarian coverings of legs (barbara tegmina crurum).
- Diodorus Siculus 5.30.1 (on the inhabitants of Gaul, tr. C.H. Oldfather): The clothing they wear is striking -- shirts which have been dyed and embroidered in various colours, and breeches, which they call in their tongue bracae.
- Ovid, Tristia 5.7.49: They keep off the bitter cold with skins and loose trousers (pellibus et laxis arcent mala frigora bracis).
- Strabo 4.4.3 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones): The Gallic people wear the "sagus," let their hair grow long, and wear tight breeches; instead of tunics they wear slit tunics that have sleeves and reach as far as their private parts and the buttocks.
- Strabo 11.13.9 (on Persian borrowings from the Medes, tr. Jones): And that this is true is particularly clear from their dress; for tiara, citasis, pilus, tunics with sleeves reaching to the hands, and trousers, are indeed suitable things to wear in cold and northerly regions, such as the Medes wear, but by no means in southerly regions.
- Strabo 15.3.19 (on the Persians, tr. Jones): The garb of the commanders consists of three-ply trousers, and of a double tunic, with sleeves, that reaches to the knees, the under garment being white and the upper vari-coloured.
- Tacitus, Histories 2.20 (on Caecina): The towns and colonies interpreted his dress as haughtiness, since with a cloak of many colors and dressed in trousers (a barbarian covering) he spoke to toga-clad citizens. (ornatum ipsius municipia et coloniae in superbiam trahebant, quod versicolori sagulo, bracas barbarum tegimen indutus togatos adloqueretur.)
- Juvenal 2.169-170 (tr. G.G. Ramsay): They will throw away their trousers and their knives, their bridles and their whips, and thus carry back to Artaxata the manners of our Roman youth. (mittentur bracae, cultelli, frena, flagellum: / sic praetextatos referunt Artaxata mores.)
- Juvenal 8.232-2344 (addressed to Catiline): Yet you prepare weapons at night and fires against our homes and temples, like the sons of the trouser wearers and children of the Senones. (arma tamen vos / nocturna et flammas domibus templisque paratis, / ut bracatorum pueri Senonumque minores.)
- Codex Theodosianus 14.10.2 (April 7, 397, tr. Clyde Pharr): Emperors Arcadius and Honorius Augustuses to the People. Within the venerable City no person should be allowed to appropriate to himself the use of boots or trousers. But if any man should attempt to contravene this sanction, We command that in accordance with the sentence of the Illustrious Prefect, the offender shall be stripped of all his resources and delivered into perpetual exile. (Impp. Arcadius et Honorius aa. ad populum. usum tzangarum adque bracarum intra urbem venerabilem nemini liceat usurpare. si quis autem contra hanc sanctionem venire temptaverit, sententia viri illustris praefecti spoliatum eum omnibus facultatibus tradi in perpetuum exilium praecipimus.)
- Codex Theodosianus 14.10.3 (June 6, 399, tr. Clyde Pharr): The same Augustuses to Flavianus, Prefect of the City. Within the City of Rome no person shall wear either trousers or boots. But if any man after the issuance of this regulation of Our Clemency should obstinately persist in such contumacy, he shall be punished according as his legal status permits and expelled from our sacred City. (Idem aa. Flaviano praefecto Urbi. intra urbem Romam nemo vel bracis vel tzangis utatur. quod si quisquam post praeceptum nostrae clementiae in hac contumacia perduraverit, prout condicio siverit, cohercitus sacra urbe pelletur.)