Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Constantinople Home Page  

Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


III. From the Union of Italy to the Subjugation of Carthage and the Greek States

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XI - The Government and the Governed


The Original Greek New Testament

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 4

To appreciate the importance of this distinction, we must recollect that the honouring of images was regarded in the Italo-Greek view as unrepublican, and on that account the Roman state-police did not at all tolerate the exhibition of effigies of the living, and strictly superintended that of effigies of the dead. With this privilege were associated various external insignia, reserved by law or custom for such magistrates and their descendants:--the golden finger-ring of the men, the silver-mounted trappings of the youths, the purple border on the toga and the golden amulet-case of the boys (4)--trifling matters, but still important in a community where civic equality even in external appearance was so strictly adhered to,(5) and where, even during the second Punic war, a burgess was arrested and kept for years in prison because he had appeared in public, in a manner not sanctioned by law, with a garland of roses upon his head.(6)

4. All these insignia probably belonged on their first emergence only to the nobility proper, i. e. to the agnate descendants of curule magistrates; although, after the manner of such decorations, all of them in course of time were extended to a wider circle. This can be distinctly proved in the case of the gold finger-ring, which in the fifth century was worn only by the nobility (Plin. H. N., xxxiii. i. 18), in the sixth by every senator and senator's son (Liv. xxvi. 36), in the seventh by every one of equestrian rank, under the empire by every one who was of free birth.

So also with the silver trappings, which still, in the second Punic war, formed a badge of the nobility alone (Liv. xxvi. 37); and with the purple border of the boys' toga, which at first was granted only to the sons of curule magistrates, then to the sons of equites, afterwards to those of all free-born persons, lastly--yet as early as the time of the second Punic war --even to the sons of freedmen (Macrob. Sat. i. 6). The golden amulet-case (-bulla-) was a badge of the children of senators in the time of the second Punic war (Macrob. l. c.; Liv. xxvi. 36), in that of Cicero as the badge of the children of the equestrian order (Cic. Verr. i. 58, 152), whereas children of inferior rank wore the leathern amulet (-lorum-). The purple stripe (-clavus-) on the tunic was a badge of the senators (Cf. I. V. Prerogatives of the Senate) and of the equites, so that at least in later times the former wore it broad, the latter narrow; with the nobility the -clavus- had nothing to do.

5. Cf. II. III. Civic Equality

6. Plin. H. N. xxi. 3, 6. The right to appear crowned in public was acquired by distinction in war (Polyb. vi. 39, 9; Liv. x. 47); consequently, the wearing a crown without warrant was an offence similar to the assumption, in the present day, of the badge of a military order of merit without due title.

Previous / First / Next Page of this Chapter

Do you see any typos or other mistakes? Please let us know and correct them

The History of Old Rome: Contents ||| The Medieval West | The Making of Europe | Constantinople Home Page

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Receive updates :

Learned Freeware

Reference address :