Edward William Godwin.

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FEW NOTES ON THE ARCHITECTURE



AND COSTUME.



A Letter to Wilson Barrett, Esq.,



BY



E. W- Godwin, f,s,a.



Nov., 18857":^

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FEW NOTES ON THE ARCHITECTURE AND
COSTUME OF THE PERIOD OF THE PLAY OF
'»CLAUDIAN/' A.D. 360-460.



Mv DEAR Barrett,—

The extremely interesting period (A.D. 360—460) of
the play you are about to produce is almost a blank in the modern
history of art.

The architecture, costume, and ** properties" of the Greeks and
Romans in what are called ** heathen times," are published in
numerous works, and our museums are tolerably well stocked with
examples thereof.

So, also, of the matured Byzantine style, which dates from the
reign of Justinian, Time has spared a valuable series of specimens.
But, at the period of your play, Classic art was in exiremisy and
Byzantine art had scarcely come to the birth. It is not unlikely,
therefore, that you, the authors, and those interested in the early
ages of Christianity may be curious to know where I have looked
for evidence, in producing the sketches furnished by me to your
scenic artists, Mr. Walter Hann and Mr. Stafford Hall ; to your
costumiers, Madame Auguste, Mr. Barthe, and Miss Smelt ; and to
the makers of the " properties."

The period with which we are dealing may, perhaps, be best
described as the first Romanesque, or Christianised Roman ; for it
was during the fourth and fifth centuries that the Roman Empire
gradually became Christian. A very brief chronological statement
may help us to remember a few dates useful to us in looking at the
play.

A.D. 330. The Greek citvj Byzantium, in great part rebuilt by
Constantino. He doubled it in size, made it the capital of the
empire, called it after his own name (Constantinople), and
solemnly dedicated it this year to the Virgin Mary.

A.D. 361—363. The reign of Julian, called the Apostate.

A.D. 378— 395* The reign of Theodosius I., called the Groat, the
last Roman Emperor who governed the whole empire.

A.D. 395—408. The reign of Arcadius (eldest son of Theodosius I.),
Emperor of the East.

A.D. 408—450. The reign of Theodosius II. (son of Arcadius),
Emperor of the East, who ascended the throne at the age of
seven, under the guardianship of his sister Pulcheria, then
fifteen years old. She was declared Empress, had the virtual
government in her hands, and, on his death, succeeded to the
Eastern Empire.



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A.D. 450—4S7* Marcian, who married Pulcheria, and reigned as
Emperor of the East.

A.D. 457— 474- Leo I., called the Great In 456, he was only a
military tribune, but, fortunately, was also, steward to Aspar, a
patrician and commander of the guards. Aspar might himself
have been emperor, had he not been guilty of the Arian heresy.
He, however, recommended his servant Leo to the soldiers'
who proclaimed him Emperor. He was solemnly crowned by
Anatolius, the Patriarch of Constantinople ; probably the first
instance of such an ecclesiastical ceremony.

The City of Constantinople, at the time of the opening of the
play, would have presented three distinct phases of art

1. The Greek, of which there was very little left after A,D. 196,
when Severus overthrew Byzantium, and demolished the city even

. to its walls.

2. The Roman work of Severus, A.D. 196, who rebuilt a great
part of the city, the baths and the porticoes (or colonnade of the
hippodrome), and the Roman work of Claudius II., 268 — 270.

3. The Romanesque, or Christianised Roman of Constantine,
A.D. 328—330, which was of such wide extent that it practically
amounted to a new city.

Art in the time of Constantine was at a very low ebb: the good
things, in the shape of sculpture and mosaic, which enriched the
new buildings, were almost invariably old work used up again, or
copies.

The commemorative columns set up were, in general design,

weak replicas of those in Rome. Nature in Art had passed its

limits, and as a consequence they drifted asunder, and the old

connection ceased; henceforth art was to be built up by ruler and

compass—geometrically. Squares, circles, and triangles were to

tedom of line no instrument can command; the

longer carved by the sculptor, but cut with hard

le mason, and a new style was evoked that was

>me the mother of mediaeval art.

>are the capitals and cornice enrichments on the

with those in the Arch of Constantine, then with

irch of St John at Constantinople,* erected A.D. 463,

«rork of 461—467 in St. John Lateran,t and these

:apitals in S. Sophia (sixth century), you will see at

an.

e buildings of Constantine at Constantinople are
elief on the Column of Theodosius 1 1., J and in the
Consul Junius Bassus (317—340) we have a very
jtration of the style of the internal decoration then
ighout the empire. Sangallo (1482—1546), the
itect, made a drawing of the Basilica, and some
ctile decoration has been preserved,§ notably a
1 by the representatives of the iowx factiones ot the
! illustrations have been of great service to us, and

t Arch«olo|^, vol. 40' „ . ^ , ^
^ Now the property of the Pnnce del Drago.
le paper on the subject in « Arcbseologia," vol. 45, by Mr. Alexander



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Mr. Hann has most happily rendered them in his work. The floor
in the palace interior scene is taken from an old example, showing
that combination of tesserae and slips of marble which became
quite a fashion in the middle of the fifth century.

The marbles most in use for floors and walls appear to have
been giallo antico^ serpentine, and porphyrv. The common white
marble was enriched with gilding and colour, for colour whether
as dyes for the dresses of the rich or inlays on builcfings and
furniture, was quite a passion of the time, and certainly helped to
counteract the effect of bad detail and clumsy proportions.

And now a word or two as to the costumes.

In regard to this part of our work my chief authority has been
the sculptured column of Theodosius ; where this has not sufficed
I have had recourse chiefly to the undermentioned illustrations : —

The sculptures on the base of the obelisk of Theodosius II.

The disc of Theodosius the Great.

The statues and coins of Julian.

The paintings in the Catacombs.

The Bassus mosaic already mentioned.

The consular diptychs ranging in date from 391 to 430, and other
ivories.

Where possible to me I have gone to the objects preserved in
our museum cases belonging to the period : e,g,y swords, spears,
shields, axes, personal ornaments of gold, silver, bronze, precious
stones, cameos, &c.

I am indebted to Signor Felice Niccolini, of the Museo Nazio-
nale, Naples, for a series of large photographs illustrating the only
known portraiture of a Roman litter in existence — a terra-cotta now
in the Museo Borbonico ; and although you do not make your first
entry in a litter as originally intended, I am sure you will none the
less appreciate the kindness of Signor Niccolini.

Of graphic descriptions by contemporary authors, perhaps the
most graphic are those by St. Chrysostom, and letter xx. of Sidonius,
which I append, together with brief extracts from Eusebius.

Taking these authorities together, we learn first of all, that the
period 3&— 460 was distinguished for gorgeous display, and that
only in country places among simple folk could one find that
refinement and delicate beauty which was characteristic of old
Greek days.

Among other extravagances of city life we find silk—then a very
costly material, much in use (silk was of various kinds), boots and
shoes gilded and enriched with embroideries, gold, jewels, and
cameos. The "masher** of the period wore his under-tunic very
long, and his mantle swept the ground. The emperor's robe was
embroidered with dragons, and his chariot was of gold and precious
stones, further enriched with metal plates that hung loosely and
wobbled to and fro, thus giving a very glittering effect.

A curious illustration of the use of metal plates is to be seen over
one of the western doors in S. Sophia, where there is a row of nine
of them looped on rings, suspended to metal hooks shaped as
fingers.

The rich man wore two or three tunics all displayed and open
at the side. Even the saddle-cloths of the horses were trebled,
those beneath being laigeri showed like borders to the uppermost.



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Tlie extravagance ifi jewelleiv was so great that j£45o,ooo worth
was absolutely worn at one time by one woman, and one pair of
emerald earrings was worth the revenue of a large estate. The
stones most in favour were the diamond, emerald, jasper, and
sardonyx ; among common folk the cornelian was greatly used.
Rings were worn so thickly that six on each finger would not be
unusual, and even the slaves and poor people wore rings of iron,
bronze, silver, and sometimes gold.

Then again, the different nationalities to be found in Constan-
tinople gave brilliancy and diversity to the scene. The eastern and
western Asiatic, the Nubian, the Egyptian, and representatives of
nearly all the tribes of Europe, from the Danube to the Thames,
were there ; of these last, no less than 40,000 were kept in the
service of Theodosius, distinguished from the Rpman soldier by
golden collars (torques), better pay, and more license. The
mention of the Roman soldier brings me by an easy transition to
your tunic of the prologue.*

You will doubtless remember that it was a practice of the
Romans to give their bravest soldiers " decorations," but instead
of small crosses, or tiny ribbons or stars, these decorations
(called phalerae) took the form of circular medallions. A set of
nine silver medallions, each 4I inches in diameter, was found near
Crefeld, each bearing in high relief a head or bust, and are now in the
possession of the Empress of Germany. I have casts of these, and
they appear, as Mr. Wylie, F.S.A., says (Pro. Soc. Antiq., Nov. 29,
i8do), " to have been fixed to a framework of leather, or other
flexible material,'* put on over the armour on occasions of ceremony*
The sepulchral monument of Cneius Musius, CLquilifer of the
Fourteenth Legion, and the figure in the monument of Caelius,
now in Bonn Museum, and which belongs to the beginning of the
first century, clearly exhibit the manner in whith these phalerae
were wom.T Now, if we turn to the little Roman bronze warrior in
the British Museum, and to the earlier consular diptychs, we shall
find that a pattern has clearly resulted from this arrangement of
phalerae. It has become a textile decoration, at first appliquSd^ or
embroidered, and afterwards, no doubt, woven ; hence your tunic
These embroideries — circular, annular, and square — were some-
times worn as an all-over pattern, with connecting lines, exactly
like the leathern straps of the phalerae, and sometimes isolated, one
on each shoulder and one on each side of the skirt ;( hence the
tunics of the gentlemen who accompany you.

You will notice that down the centre of your tunic fs a broad
purple band (purple, I may say, was of four tints, a blood-red, a
violet, an amethyst, and the dark sea blue, which was the most highly
prized). This purple band, I need hardly say, is the laius clarus
of the senatorial order.§

Your attendants are clothed in a livery of red and green, the
meaning of which is fully explained in voL 45 of the '' Archaeologia."

* Since writing this, you have resigned your tunic to one of your patrician
companions, fearing it to be too garish.

1 See Lersch's Centralmuseum, and Rich's Dictionary.

t See fresco near Church of the Lateran, and tesselated pavement (PI* 80, vol. 2,
** Roach Smith's Collection of Antiquities.**)

% Ciolriaod fcily<f>wete ao mrt i m ca tt«c4 for jiie^r Mnds.



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The leading rich men of the period were great supporters of the
circus, their studs of horses were large, bets were ku^e, and party
feeling in chariot races ran high.

The charioteers were divided into four companies or factions,
representing the four seasons —

^* Prasina," green, spring, or earth.
^ Russata," red, summer, or fire.
** Veneta,^ blue, autunm, or wat^r.
**Alba," white, winter, or air.

Yau, as a city potentate of the first magnitude, would naturally
be the leader of one of the factions, and your people would declare
by their dress to whom they belonged. I selected the red as the
most appropriate to your character. On the edges of the mantles,
some little distance from the centre, you will notice a square of
decoration applied. The earliest instances I know of this maik
of distinction ar^ in the disc of Theodosius and in the Codex
Rossanensis.

Cojiceming feet gear, the military wore sandals ; the lowest
class in the cities, as well as the rustics, wore shoes of untanned
leather ; and .other people wore shoes and boots of scarlet, purple,
or white leather, more or less decorated according to their social
position ; the hig;h boot, or cothurnus, lining reserved for generals
and very distinguished personages.

The soldiers of 360 — 4.60 were not very unlike many of those seen
on the columns of Trajan and Antonine ; they almost invariably,
in common with civilians, wore short pants or tight breeches,
reaching to just below the knee. The light infantry appear to have
been often merely clothed in shirt, leather jerkin, and helmet*

Of the dresses of the slaves, or country people, I need say but
little, as these were practically the same as they had been for
half-a-dozen centuries.

The Greek chiton and himation (the tunic and pallium of the
Romans) lasted longer than any other dress I know o^ and
deservedly so, for it is unquestionably the most beautiful fashion
the world has yet seen ; much, however, depends on the way ladies
put on and carry these garments, for even in Classic times it was a

gart of the every-day education to teach the pupils how to throw the
imation, how to put on the girdle, and so on. Hitherto such
Greek dresses as I have seen on the stage have been so worried
with pins, and puckered into artificial folds, that I trust we shall
have an agreeable surprise by seeing these simple garments worn
in the artistic, unafiected, and simply beautiful way that distinguished
the wearers of jthem in Byzantium, or Bithynia.

Believe me, my dear Barrett,

Yours v^7 faithfully,

E. W. GODWIN-

Wisstminster, November, 1883.



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6
POSTSCRIPT.



EUSEBIUS.

** With regard to the roof it was covered on the outside with lead
as a protection against the rains of winter. But the inner part of the
roof, which was nnished with sculptured fretwork, extended in a series
of connected compartments, like a vast sea, over the whole church, and
being overlaid throughout with the purest gold, caused the entire building
to glitter, as it were, with rays of light'* — Book III., chap, xxxvi.,
concerning the Church Constantine, built at Jerusalem (S. E. Parker's
translation).

In chap. liv. Eusebius speaks of the <* tiling " of the temple .roofs
being removed.

In book IV., chap. Iviii., writing of the church built by Constantine
in honour of the Apostles, he says it was of vast height, ''encased from
the foundation to the roof with marble slabs of various colours. Hq
(Constantine) also formed the inner roof of finely fretted work, and
overlaid it throughout with gold. The external covering which protected
the building from the weather was of brass instead of tiles, and this too
was splendidly and profusely adorned with gold, and reflected the sun's
rays with a brilliancy which dazzled the distant beholder. The dome
was entirely encompassed by a finely carved tracery, wrought in brass
and gold."

A Letter written by Apollinaris Sidonius to his Friend
Domnitius, A,D. 46g,

'* Sidonius to his dear Domnitius greeting,—

*' I have been thinking what pleasure you, who are so fond
of seeing arms and armour and warriors, would have felt had you seen
Sigismer, a young prince of royal blood, arrayed in the style and costume
of his nation, as a bridegroom should be, going to demand a wife at the
court of his father-in-law. A horse adorned with rich trappings preceded
him, and horses weighed down with sparkling gems preceded and followed
him, but what was most striking in all this pomp was that he himself
went on foot in the m^'dst of his attendants, flaming with scarlet, flashing
with gold, dazzling white with silk, with such grace, auburn tresses,
and fair skin. The princes and warriors who accompanied him looked
terrible even in peace ; their feet were bound, to the heels, with hairy
thongs — their knees, legs, and thighs uncovered. Besides this, these
warriors wore tunics of varied colours, high in the neck but scarcely
reaching the knees, the sleeves only concealed the upper arm, their green
cloaks being bordered with purple fillets or fringes; their swords
hung fi-om their shoulder by tautly strapped belts, their flanks protected
with reindeer hides studded with metal.

" Thus adorned they marched in company Upon their way. Barbed
spears bare they in their right hands, and they carried axes and
missiles ; their left sides well covered with the shields, the snow-white
light playing on which, a tawny light glancing the while from the bosses
of the same, produced an effect most charming. All this bravery to the
end that in his wooing he might show as much pomp of Mars as of
service of Venus.

''But why more in this strain ? So rare a show lacked but thy presence.
For when I look on a sight dear to thee, thyself the while absent, a very
yearning for thee holds me impatient. Farewell"



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Online LibraryEdward William GodwinClaudian, a few notes on the architecture and costume: A letter to Wilson ... → online text (page 1 of 1)