Research and explain the following in at least 200 words:
Explain at least 2 significant changes in textile types, decoration and/or fabric production during the Byzantine Era (in the Byzantine Empire) and Early Middle Ages (in other areas of Europe), and describe the reasons and influences behind those changes.
If you were a dressmaker during the Byzantine Era/Empire, what would your personal choice of fabric be for your clients from the selection available at the time? Who would your clients be in this era?
Part 2: Shape Changes
Research and explain the following in at least 200 words:
How did clothing silhouettes start to change during this time period? What were some new elements of construction, garment shapes and types of garments?
Relate silhouettes and decoration of Byzantine and Early Medieval costume to present day design, and name at least one designer or clothing line that incorporates this costume influence in their current designs. Include at least one image to illustrate.
Research: Use the textbook and lectures as your main sources of information about Byzantine and medieval textiles and clothing. There are a large number of resources online that discuss the Byzantine era and middle ages. Just keep in mind that not all people who are interested in the middle ages are qualified experts, so use your best judgment as to the credibility of the sources. Use keywords and phrases such as Byzantine textiles, history of silk, Byzantine clothing. Here are a couple of websites to get you started:
T he founding of Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman Empire, signaled the decline of Rome and the western portion of the empire. It also meant two cultures would develop in the Empire, in addition to two imperial lines of emperors. The advantage belonged to the wealthier, more populous Eastern Empire whose capital, Constantinople, was well situated to defend the eastern portion of the Empire and to dominate the Eastern economy. The Western Empire, ruled from Rome, was overwhelmed by the mass migration of German tribes, which began at the close of the 4th century and continued on throughout the 5th century.
Because of its geographical location, the city of Rome was sacked in A.D. 410 and several times later in the century. The western emperors, however, moved the capital of the Western Empire from Rome to Ravenna in A.D. 403, hoping that this city on the Adriatic coast, south of Venice, would be less easily attacked than Rome. In 476 when Odovacar, king of an obscure German tribe, deposed the emperor of the West, Roman power disappeared from Italy.
Certain elements that had been part of Roman civilization and culture survived. The Christian church, which had endured persecution, became the official state church of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, exercising a unifying force in western Europe and converting the barbarians1 to Christianity. The church had continued to function because its organization paralleled that of the Roman Empire. The head of the church was not the emperor (as in the Byzantine Empire) but the bishop of Rome, the pope. In each important city across Europe, bishops loyal to the pope administered the affairs of the church. Over the bishops in each capital city of the province were archbishops (called “metropolitans” in the Eastern Empire). The level of the bishops corresponded to the position held by the governors of the Imperial Roman provinces. After Christianity became the official state religion, some Christians sought a more ascetic form of Christianity; they found satisfaction in monasticism. Originating in the east, it became the way of life for those who wanted only to seek salvation for their souls. Because the monks had to be occupied with some form of work, the copying of books by hand became an appropriate form of labor for them. Through the centuries monastery libraries would preserve not only Christian but also earlier Greek and Roman Classical literature which otherwise would have been lost forever.
The early Middle Ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire until the 9th century, have often been called the Dark Ages because of the decline in cultural standards as people lost command of the Latin language. Education for laymen disappeared, producing generations who could neither read nor write. In much of the 99100period depopulation, poverty, and isolation affected many areas of Europe; the quality of life declined seriously. A major cause of the decline in Roman civilization was the decay of the cities and towns, which had been the centers of Roman culture. Written records from the period are often sparse, leaving gaps that cannot be filled. Information about dress is especially scarce. With the decline in living standards and the decrease in wealth, works of art were rarely commissioned, except for those intended for the church. Literary production decreased as well because of illiteracy. Nevertheless enough evidence remains to construct a general, if not too detailed, picture of life in the early medieval period.
Throughout the Middle Ages the Eastern Roman Empire (more often called the Byzantine Empire) survived, helping to preserve ancient Greek thought and creating magnificent works of art. The survival of the Byzantine Empire was based on an efficient bureaucracy and a sound economy. Although trade and urban life almost ceased in the West, cities and commerce flourished in the Byzantine Empire. With money obtained from trade, the Byzantine officials recruited, trained, and equipped armies that held off one attacker after another. A period of expansion ended in the 7th century when Arab armies invaded Byzantine territories.
Islam, a new religion founded by Mohammed in Mecca in the early 7th century, inspired the Arab allies. Mohammed’s successors united the Bedouin tribes in Arabia into a military force that soon swept across the Middle East. Arab armies, inspired by their new faith and seeking booty and land, conquered Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, and pressed on to seize territories as far to the east as India. On more than one occasion their armies besieged Constantinople. After conquering North Africa, they moved northward through Spain and into southern France, where their expansion was halted at the battle of Tours in 732.
Throughout its history, the Byzantine Empire was menaced by attacks from both the East and West. In spite of constant pressure from hostile forces, the Empire survived until 1453, when the city of Constantinople and the remains of a once-powerful empire fell to a conquering force of Ottoman Turks. In its history of more than a thousand years, the Byzantine Empire developed an artistic and intellectual atmosphere in which styles and ideas of both East and West were merged. Records and traditions from Greek and Roman antiquity were preserved in the libraries and in the Byzantine art collections even though the Turks destroyed many of the manuscripts and works of art.
In the Western Roman Empire, Roman government disappeared by the end of the 5th century to be replaced by Germanic kingdoms. These kingdoms helped to fuse Roman and Germanic cultures into a new civilization. One of the Germanic kingdoms that retained its political identity was the kingdom of the Franks. In the year 800, the pope crowned the king of the Franks, Charlemagne, emperor of the Romans. The ceremony symbolized a declaration of independence from the Byzantine Empire and a revival of the Roman Empire, but it was in fact more German than Roman. After his death in 814, Charlemagne’s empires, which extended over much of western Europe, disintegrated under the impact of new and more destructive invasions. From the wreckage of the Carolingian Empire emerged a feudal society in which petty, local lords controlled small areas. These leaders pledged their personal loyalty to more powerful lords in return for their protection, and above them all was the supreme overlord, the king.
Under feudal monarchies Europe revived so much that by the 11th century a great military expedition, the First Crusade, was launched to regain the Holy Land from the Muslims. Originally preached by Pope Urban II, it was a call for the unruly feudal knights to do battle for a righteous cause. Thousands, both knights and poor people, responded to the pope’s call. For centuries Christians had done penance for their sins by going on pilgrimages to holy places. Now the crusade became a super pilgrimage. The crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and slaughtered the inhabitants. In this region the crusaders established feudal states, which were soon under attack from the 100101Muslims, prompting a series of crusades continuing for two hundred years until the crusading spirit vanished. From the Middle East the crusaders returned to Europe bringing back new products: spices, fabrics, perfumes, jewelry, and new ideas.
By the 12th century trade among the nations of Europe again flourished, and their once-stagnant economies experienced a remarkable revitalization. While the Crusades brought Middle Eastern styles and ideas to Europe, other developments extended European contacts beyond the Middle East to the Far East.
The Muslim conquests in the 7th century closed the land routes to Asia until the Mongols swept out of northern China, across western Asia and into Russia in the 13th century. The Mongols, eager for trade and cultural relations with Europe, welcomed enterprising Europeans who dared to travel across Asia to the Mongol capital at Peking. Two Venetian merchants, Nicolo and Matteo Polo, traveled eastward across Asia in 1260 hoping to contact traders from the Orient and profit from the reopening of the land route to Asia. Eventually they met envoys from the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, who brought them to his court where they received a cordial welcome. No western Christians before the Polo brothers had ever visited China. Kublai Khan asked them to return to Europe and to bring back a hundred teachers to teach his people Christianity. The Polo brothers returned to Europe but could recruit only two Dominican friars, who soon decided they had no wish to make the long trip.
The Polo brothers set out for China again in 1271 accompanied by Nicolo’s 17-year-old son Marco. The three men journeyed across the deserts and mountains of central Asia for three and a half years until they reached Shang-tu, the summer capital of Kublai Khan. The young Marco Polo so impressed Kublai Khan that he was permitted to enter the Mongol civil service. He governed a Chinese city for three years and traveled on numerous missions for Kublai Khan. In his travels Marco Polo visited Burma, Indochina, and South China. Marco Polo, his father, and uncle remained in China and did not return to Europe until 1295.
Following a sea battle between Venice and Genoa in 1298, Marco Polo became a prisoner of war. While in prison he began to dictate his memoirs, The Travels of Marco Polo, which appeared in 1307. The book circulated in manuscript form until it was printed in 1477. It became one of the most widely read books in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, arousing great interest in the Orient among merchants eager to trade in cassia, ginger, pepper, and cinnamon. His book fascinated sailors who were attracted to the idea of sailing to the Far East, where they hoped to make their fortune with a cargo of spices. The sea route to the Far East had become more important following the death of Kublai Khan in 1294 and the breakup of his empire. These two factors made it impossible for caravans of merchants to repeat the Polo’s feat of crossing Asia by land.
Marco Polo was the first European ever to cross the continent of Asia and leave a record of what he had seen and heard. Because he wanted his book to be a description of Asia for Europeans, he dealt with animals, landforms, inventions, plants, customs, governments, religions, and manufacture of garments. Marco Polo portrayed the Chinese civilization as being far superior to Europe in technology and culture. Because of his unflattering contrasts, Polo’s book was dismissed as fiction or at best exaggeration. Not until the 19th century were scholars and explorers able to confirm Marco Polo’s observations and to verify that his book was the first to present an accurate idea of China and other Asian countries. Columbus read Marco Polo’s book and made notes on his copy. The Travels of Marco Polo became a strong impetus to European trade with the Orient and stimulated the European search for the spices and luxuries of the Far East, a search that was to lead in 1492 to the accidental discovery of the lands of the Western Hemisphere.
By the 1400s the arts, the intellectual life, and the social structure of Europe had been virtually transformed. During this transformation of society, a change had come about in the speed with which clothing styles changed. Many costume historians and social scientists believe that the phenomenon of 101102fashion in dress in Western society began during the Middle Ages.
Fashion has been defined as “a pattern of change in which certain social forms enjoy temporary acceptance and respectability only to be replaced by others” (Blumer 1968). Bell (1948) pointed out that the increasingly rapid change of dress styles characteristic of Europe after the Middle Ages contrasts with the more static nature of clothing in earlier and in non-Western civilizations. The Dictionary of Social Sciences (Gold 1964) describes fashion as “a recurring cultural pattern, found in societies having open-ended class systems” and notes that “fashion becomes a matter of imitation of higher by lower classes in the common scramble for unstable and superficial status symbols.” By the early 21st century fashion change is no longer originating solely with the upper classes. But at the time of its beginnings, it is generally agreed that those who sought to be in fashion were copying the dress of royalty and the wealthy.
Those who study dress disagree about exactly when individuals developed interest in and began wearing fashionable dress. Most of the art produced in the early Middle Ages was made to serve the Christian religion. Religious art followed certain conventions as to how religious figures were to be depicted. Therefore, the relatively small quantity of visual evidence from this period cannot be depended on to show current clothing styles. In a study of French fashion Sarah-Grace Heller argues that the literature of the 11th century makes it clear that men and women of this period were very much interested in being fashionable. She concludes that fashionable behavior was present as early as the 11th century. And both art and literature of subsequent centuries support this argument.
An open-ended class system and the imitation of higher classes by lower classes are both aspects of medieval life in the 13th through the 15th centuries. Peasants who moved from rural areas to cities often became part of the growing middle class. A wealthy merchant, Jacques Coeur, adviser to the king of France in the 1400s, was made a nobleman by that king in reward for his service. The passage of sumptuary laws regulating dress and other luxuries in the 13th to the 15th centuries is good evidence of the vain attempts 102103of the nobility to prevent the increasing affluent commoners from usurping those status symbols the nobility considered to be their own (Nicholas 1974).
Two other conditions contributed to the spread of fashion. In order to imitate those of higher status, the imitator must have sufficient means to afford the latest fashions. A newly affluent middle class, largely merchants and artisans, was emerging. This development not only provided social mobility, but also increased affluence for a substantially larger proportion of the population. Finally, if fashions are to be more than a merely local style, fashion information must be carried from one place to another. Increased trade and travel satisfied this condition.
As the Middle Ages drew to a close, the phenomenon called fashion was firmly established (see Figure II.1) and the duration of the periods that fashionable styles endured grew shorter and shorter. No longer can one speak of styles, such as those of the Egyptians, that lasted for thousands of years. Instead, by the close of the medieval period one speaks of fashions that lasted less than a century.
• ? A.D. 339Constantinople becomes capital of the Eastern Roman Empire
• ? 481–511Clovis founds the Merovingian dynasty
• ? 6TH CENTURYSecrets of the process of silk production smuggled back to Byzantium from China
• ? 527–565Reign of Justinian
• ? EARLY 7TH CENTURYThe founding of Islam by Mohammed
• ? 732Defeat of Arabs at the battle of Tours halts their expansion in Europe
• ? 751Pepin the Short deposes Merovingian king and founds the Carolingian dynasty
• ? 800Charlemagne, son of Pepin, crowned Emperor of the Romans by the pope
• ? 871–899Alfred the Great, Anglo-Saxon king whose dynasty united Britain under one king
• ? 962Otto I of Saxony crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the pope
• ? 987Hugh Capet ascends the French throne and begins Capetian dynasty that rules France for 300 years
• ? 1066William the Conqueror, a Norman, invades England and becomes king
• ? 1095Pope Urban declares the First Crusade
• ? MID-11TH TO MID-12TH CENTURIESRomanesque architecture styles predominate in Europe
• The first section of this chapter deals with the Byzantine Empire, which lasted from A.D. 339 to 1453. The latter section deals with Europe from about 300 to 1300. In the years between 400 and 900, styles of the Byzantine Empire influenced all of Europe. Byzantium was the greatest cultural center of the period, while in the remainder of Europe literacy was barely kept alive in the monasteries. After the 10th century, however, Europe began an economic recovery and Byzantine influences became somewhat less important.
• THE BYZANTINE PERIOD c. 339–1453
• HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
• The capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople, a Greek city that had been selected by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 330 to be the capital of the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Located at the entrance of the Black Sea, the city and its surrounding territories commanded both land and sea trade routes between the West and central Asia, Russia, and the Far East. At the same time, the city was protected by the rugged Balkan Mountains from the invading barbarians who overran Rome and the Italian peninsula.
• As a result, Constantinople was the metropolis of the Mediterranean economy until 1200. But while the location of the capital ensured its survival, it also altered its character. Situated at the literal crossroads between East and West, the city and the empire of which it was the capital became a rich amalgam of Eastern and Western art and culture. In costume, one sees this reflected in a gradual evolution of Roman styles as they added increasingly ornate Eastern elements.
• By the year 565 the Byzantine Empire stretched north through the Balkans to the Danube; east into Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine; and west into Egypt and North Africa, Italy, and Southern Spain. (See Figure 5.1.) During the 7th and 8th centuries its size was reduced, and by the mid-9th century it comprised only the Greek peninsula and much of modern-day Turkey. This diminished empire was separated from the rest of Europe to such an extent that Greek replaced the Latin language, and Middle Eastern influences on life and styles became pronounced.
• Throughout its history, Byzantium was constantly at war with a series of enemies: the Persians, Arabs, Bulgars, Avars, Seljuq Turks, and, at the end, the Ottoman Turks. Even the crusaders became enemies. On the Fourth Crusade, the crusaders were unable to pay the price Venetians charged to transport them to the Holy Land. After more bargaining, the crusaders 108109agreed to capture the city of Zara for the Venetians, but after taking Zara the crusaders were still short of cash to pay for the passage to Jerusalem. Urged on by the Venetians, the crusaders accepted the offer of a pretender to the throne of the Byzantine Empire to supply the necessary cash if they helped him take Constantinople. The crusaders obliged, but when he reneged on the bargain in 1204 they seized Constantinople; sacked the city, destroying manuscripts and priceless works of art; and declared a crusader emperor. In 1261 a Byzantine emperor retook Constantinople but the once-great Empire had vanished. Byzantium was reduced to little more than a Balkan state. The artistic and intellectual life of the city revived, but the menace of invasion by the Turks continued. Finally, in 1453, the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople, destroying the Empire.
• SOCIAL ORGANIZATION IN THE BYZANTINE PERIOD
• At the head of the Byzantine state was the emperor, who was not only the absolute ruler who could make law as he wished, but also the head of the Eastern church. The Eastern church separated from the Christian church in the West in 1054. The emperor lived with the empress in an elaborate palace in Constantinople. But the finest example of Byzantine architecture was to be found in the church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) constructed by the Emperor Justinian (527–565). The interior was decorated with gold leaf, colored marble, bits of glass, and colored mosaics. Similar motifs and decorative elements appear in Byzantine costume.
• A landed nobility made up an important element in the provincial economic life and the government of the empire. A well-developed civil service helped the imperial administration function by collecting taxes, administering justice, raising armies, and putting them into the field. The aristocracy was one of wealth, rather than blood line, so ambitious young men could rise from one social group to the next, unlike the process in Western society. Education was important to wealthy families, most of whom had tutors for their sons. There were schools in some provincial areas and Constantinople had a well-known university.
• The status of women was rather advanced, although more so in the earlier empire period than in the later phase when ideas from the Near East predominated. Empresses were known to reign alone or as regents for minor sons, and a number of them exercised great power. At the other end of the social scale were the slaves, both foreign captives and poor people who sold themselves into slavery in order to survive.
• Margaret Scott (2007) points out that the Byzantine Empire developed very detailed regulations about “who wore what and when.” Based on these regulations individuals were assigned the colors to wear based on their status. As a result, individuals all wearing the same color stood in assigned positions relative to the emperor.
• CULTURE, ART, AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE BYZANTINE PERIOD
• Throughout its history, the city of Constantinople saw itself as a center for the preservation of the “antique” (i.e., Greek and Roman) culture. Writings and works of art were consciously preserved. Many of these treasures were destroyed when the crusaders and the Turks sacked the city. Others were saved or were carried away by raiders to other places where they escaped destruction.
• ART AS A SOURCE OF INFORMATION ABOUT COSTUME
• The art of the Byzantine Empire provides the major record from which costume information comes. Artists decorated churches with mosaics (pictures or designs made from small, colored stones), many of which still exist. Other special skills included carving of ivory and illumination (hand painting and lettering) of manuscripts. Byzantine art displays a blending of classical and Middle Eastern motifs and forms of decoration.
• Much of the art that remains from the Byzantine period has a religious motif. Religious art often utilized traditional rather than realistic representations of people. For example, early in the Byzantine tradition artists began to depict the evangelists in the classical costume worn in Rome of the 4th century. This convention persisted to such an extent that many 8th 109110and 9th century depictions of these figures in manuscripts appear to be derived from versions that first appeared almost four centuries before (Calkins 1993). Other conventions also developed in Byzantine art: Christ was represented as a king, Mary as a queen. They were dressed in royal robes, which symbolized their status. Like portrayals of the evangelists, these stereotypes continued in use during the remainder of the Middle Ages and even beyond. For these reasons, depictions of religious scenes in Byzantine art must be evaluated carefully to ascertain whether figures are actually wearing costumes that are contemporary with the period in which the art was created.
• TEXTILE PRODUCTION AND TECHNOLOGY
• The Byzantines wove fine textiles. From the 4th to the 6th centuries, linen and wool were the predominant fabrics. Production of silk fabrics had been a secret process held first by the Chinese and later by the Koreans and Japanese. Gradually knowledge of how silk was produced spread westward. Trade routes had brought silk fabrics and possibly some raw silk fiber to Greece and Rome before the 1st century B.C., but silk production had been possible only on a very limited scale. It is reported by Byzantine historians that in the 6th century a pair of monks brought the secret of sericulture (silk production) to the Byzantine emperor. Not only did they learn how the silkworm was bred, raised, and fed, but it was also reported that they smuggled a number of silkworm eggs out of China in a hollow bamboo pole (Heichelheim 1949).
• From this point until the 9th century when Greeks in Sicily also began to produce silk, the Byzantines produced silk for all of the Western world. The emperor exploited his monopoly by charging enormous prices for the fabrics; therefore, only the wealthiest Europeans could afford the fabric. Brocades woven in Byzantium were especially desirable. Often the designs used in these fabrics were Persian in origin. Christian subjects were also depicted in complex woven patterns. When made into garments or wall hangings, these luxurious fabrics might be adorned with precious and semiprecious stones, small medallions of enamel, embroidery, and/or appliqués.
• BYZANTINE COSTUME FOR MEN: A.D. 300–1450
• Early Byzantine and late Roman costumes are virtually indistinguishable. When the Emperor Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople, the Roman administrators carried with them Roman costumes and customs. With time, Roman influences eroded and Oriental influences prevailed. The evolution of the toga is an example of this process. The toga, diminishing in use by Romans from the 3rd century on, was by the 4th century used only for ceremonial occasions by the emperor and the consuls, who were important state officials. Finally, only a vestige of the toga remained—a narrow band of folded fabric that wrapped around the body in the same way as the toga. Eventually even this was transformed into the emperor’s narrow, jeweled scarf.
• COSTUME COMPONENTS FOR MEN
• The basic garment for men was a tunic. (See Figure 5.2.) Tunics could be either short, ending below the knee, or long, reaching to the ground. Byzantine art shows the Emperor Justinian and other men of the 6th century in tunics that ended below the knee. (See Figure 5.3.) In later centuries emperors and important court officials appear to have worn full-length tunics (see Figure 5.5), while less important persons wore short tunics.
• Some long tunics were cut with sleeves fitted to the wrist. Others with long, close-fitting sleeves were worn beneath an outer tunic or dalmatic with shorter, fuller sleeves. Outer tunics generally had belts.
• Short tunics usually had long sleeves, wider at the top and tapering to fit closely at the wrists. Working men frequently caught up the hem of the tunic and fastened it to the belt at a point just over each leg in order to make movement easier. Some tunics were decorated with clavi (by now these stripes that originated in Roman dress on either side of the tunic 110111had become ornamental rather than indicative of wearer’s status) and segmentae (seg-men-tie), square or round decorative medallions that were placed in different areas of the tunic.
• Tunics of the wealthy were decorated with vertical and horizontal bands that were elaborately patterned with embroidery, appliqué, precious stones, or woven designs. In the early part of the Empire, fabrics were usually plain in color and decoration was achieved by use of clavi, segmentae, and banding but as Oriental influences gained, fabrics developed overall patterning. (See Figure 5.4.)
• The tunic and palla of the Romans continued in use during the early Byzantine Empire. Gradually the wide, long-sleeved tunic called the dalmatic, which was decorated with clavi and segmentae, replaced the outer tunic and was worn over an under tunic with closely fitted sleeves. A simple veil worn over the head replaced the palla for a time. Eventually the palla returned to use in a modified form that wrapped around the body and covered the upper part of the skirt, the bodice, and either one or both shoulders. (See Figure 5.6.)
• Although occasional outer garments with long fitted sleeves are depicted in art in the 7th century and after, for the most part women wore double-layered tunics. The under tunic had long, fitted sleeves and the outer tunic had full, open sleeves cut short enough to display the sleeve of the under tunic.
• Noble and wealthy women’s garments were made from elaborately patterned fabrics that might also be decorated with jewels. Women of this class also wore jeweled belts and collars. (See Figure 5.3.)
• After A.D. 1000 ornamentation of tunics increased. Variations in sleeve styles included wide, hanging sleeves or sleeves with long bands of fabric forming a sort of pendant cuff. Occasionally what appears to be a skirt and long, knee-length over-blouse is depicted, though this may be just an especially short outer tunic.
• HAIR AND HEADDRESS
• Some early representations show women with hair parted in the center, soft waves framing the face, and the bulk of the hair pulled to the back or knotted on top of the head. Otherwise, women’s hair is usually covered.
• Characteristic hair coverings included veils and turbanlike hats that appeared from the 4th century to the 12th century. This latter style has been described 113114as looking like a cap surrounded by a small tire. (See Figure 5.7.) It evolved from having a fairly large hat crown with a smaller roll surrounding it to a smaller crown with a much larger roll. The hat itself might be trimmed with jewels. Empresses set their royal crowns on top of the hat. Royal crowns were heavily jeweled diadems with pendant strings of pearls. (See Figure 5.3.) Very late representations of empresses may show them wearing a crown over their own hair, which is dressed close to the face.
• BYZANTINE COSTUME FOR MEN AND WOMEN: A.D. 300–1450
• COSTUME COMPONENTS FOR MEN AND WOMEN
• Upper-class men and the empress wore the paludamentum (pa-lud-a-mentum), which fastened over the right shoulder with a jeweled brooch. This cloak was distinguished by a large square decoration, the tablion (tab-leeon), in contrasting colors and fabric that was located at the open edge over the breast. (See Figure 5.3.) After the 11th century, upper-class men and the imperial family no longer wore the paludamentum out-of-doors, wearing semicircular cloaks fastened at center front instead.
• For common people and women other than the empress, a simple, square cloak replaced the hooded paenula of Roman times for general wear. After the 7th and 8th centuries, a semicircular cloak pinned at the shoulder or at center front came into general use.
• Shoes, made of cloth (including silk) or leather, were often quite open in construction and ornamented with decorations cut out of the material. Some tied and others buckled at the ankle. Many were ornamented with stones, pearls, enameled metal, embroidery, appliqué, and cutwork. Red apparently was a favored color for empresses and their retainers. Hose were worn under shoes.
• Although a few boots are depicted as high at the front and lower behind the knee, most ended just below the calf. Some decorated styles were worn by the wealthy. Military figures from the early Byzantine Empire wear Roman-like, open-toed boots; later a closed boot was worn. Boots seem to have been worn by men, not women.
• Jewels were not just accessories but an integral part of the costume. Empresses wore wide, jeweled collars over the paludamentum or at the neck of the dress. (See Figure 5.3.) Other important items of jewelry included pins, earrings, bracelets, rings, and other types of necklaces. Jewelers were skilled in techniques of working gold, setting precious stones, enameling, and making mosaics.
• WESTERN EUROPE FROM THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE TO A.D. 900
• HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
• Even though Constantinople was nominally the capital of the Eastern and Western sections of the Roman Empire when Constantine moved the capital there in A.D. 300, events soon caused each part of the empire to develop along separate lines. For centuries, the Germans had been filtering into the Roman Empire in search of land. Many enlisted in the Roman armies, rising to high rank, often becoming commanders. Eventually entire German tribes migrated into western Europe and North Africa. Other tribes were also on the move. Those in the north had been attracted by the Roman standard of living, and those from east of the Danube sought new homelands.
• The tribes from the East were migrating because the Huns had dispossessed them. The Huns were fierce, nomadic warriors who had pushed westward from their Asiatic homeland, driving Germanic tribes into the Roman Empire. One group, the Visigoths, were admitted into the Empire in 376, but after being mistreated by corrupt Roman officials, they rebelled, and in 378 defeated a Roman army and killed the emperor in the battle of Arianople. The defeat shattered the prestige of the hitherto invincible Roman armies. After wandering through the Eastern Roman Empire, the Visigoths invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 410, an event that shocked the entire Empire.
• Elsewhere other tribes entered the Empire and finally settled down to live alongside the Romans. They intermarried with the Romans, adopting many of their customs, converted to Christianity, and established German kingdoms in the lands once ruled by Augustus. The fusion of Roman and Germanic cultures would make up medieval civilization. After the establishment of Germanic kingdoms in the West and the end of any semblance of a Roman Empire, the Eastern and Western sections drifted farther apart, divided by religion, culture, and political systems.
• During the reign of the Emperor Justinian (527–565), Byzantium had gained control over Italy and southern Spain at enormous expense, all part of Justinian’s dream of restoring the Roman Empire to its former greatness. His dream was doomed to failure, but he left behind an important legacy: the codification of the Roman law, which became the basis of civil law in European countries. After Justinian’s death, the Byzantine Empire suffered a series of losses as a result of attacks by barbarians and the Muslms, thereby reducing the Empire to a small territory in Europe and in Asia that centered on Constantinople.
• HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: THE MEROVINGIAN AND CAROLINGIAN DYNASTIES
• In the West, the early Germanic kingdoms were soon destroyed, but one of these, the Franks, survived. Their kingdom was founded by the brutal Clovis (481–511), who conquered most of modern France and Belgium and founded the Merovingian dynasty. Eventually the Merovingian line degenerated into “do-nothing” kings who allowed the chief minister, titled “mayor of the palace,” to actually rule. In 751 a mayor of the palace, Pepin the Short, deposed the Merovingian king with the blessing of the pope, and himself became king.
• King Pepin was succeeded by his son, Charles the Great, known to history as Charlemagne (768–814), who expanded the kingdom into central Europe and southward into central Italy. He became the dominant figure in western Europe. His contemporaries compared him to the ancient Roman emperors. His greatest achievement was encouraging the establishment of schools to teach reading and writing. He founded a palace school to which he invited scholars from all over Europe. The climax of his reign came with his coronation on Christmas Day 800, when the pope crowned him emperor of the Romans. For a time Charlemagne hoped to arrange a marriage between himself and a Byzantine empress and to unite the eastern and western empires, but he failed. Nevertheless, throughout this period, contacts between the eastern and western empire continued, with Byzantine styles exercising a strong influence on European dress.
• A new culture entered western Europe when the Moors, Berbers from Morocco who were Muslim, 115116invaded Spain in 711. Within several years they overran Spain except for northern mountainous areas. Near Tours in southern France, the defeat of a small Muslim force in 732 marked the most northerly advance of Islam in western Europe. Spain now became part of a form of free trade area stretching across the Islamic world from the Middle East through North Africa. Consequently many new ideas and products entered Europe through Spain, including citrus fruits, almonds, figs, and cotton.
• Charlemagne, as well as his heirs, failed to conquer Islamic Spain. His success in uniting a Western European Empire lasted for only a little while after his death in 814. His successors were not strong enough to hold the Empire together and it was once again divided. No single power emerged to replace the ineffective Carolingian kings, the last of whom was deposed in 888. The remnants of Carolingian rule gradually collapsed under the impact of new and more destructive invasions. From the east, hordes of Magyar horsemen devastated the eastern lands of the Carolingian Empire. From the south came the Saracens, Arab raiders, who plundered southern France and coastal Italy. The most destructive of the invaders, the Northmen or Vikings, came from Scandinavia, attracted by the wealth of the Christian churches and the monasteries. They looted and burned, ruthlessly killing their victims. Britain and France suffered the worst spoliation, but about the middle of the 9th century the annual expeditions in search of plunder gradually ended.
• Many areas in the West were depopulated and ruined. However, a new Europe began to appear. Commerce and town life began to revive; improvements in agriculture helped produce an increase in population. The Carolingian Empire was followed by feudal monarchies, the nations of the future.
• The Late Middle Ages (1300–1500) in Europe were marked by a revival of trade, commerce, and industry that encouraged the growth of urban areas and populations. With the resulting increase in affluence not only royalty and courtiers but also well-off townspeople could afford some luxuries. Textiles became an important commodity available through trade. Stirrings of interest in fashionable dress had appeared in the latter centuries of the Early Middle Ages and as class distinctions became less rigid, more people were able to obtain and wear fashionable clothing. During this period, and in the future, fashion changes would appear more and more frequently.
• HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
• As medieval monarchs succeeded in centralizing the government, the power of nobles and knights declined. Feudalism began to wane before the 14th century because kings found new sources of revenue by taxing cities and towns. The income gained enabled them to hire knights who fought as long as they were paid. Monarchs had learned that a paid army was more dependable than feudal nobles who, under the usual feudal practice, were expected to serve only forty days once a year at their own expense.
• Changes in warfare hastened the decline of the armored knight on horseback. In the Hundred Years’ War the English longbow decimated French knights. In the 15th century, the introduction of gunpowder and the cannon gave an even greater advantage to the infantry over the armored knights on horseback. Gunpowder and the cannon also ended the security of medieval castles.
• As kings brought law and order to their realms, the revival of trade, commerce, and industry that had begun in the 12th century continued. Although the towns lost some independence as the royal government grew stronger, kings had to protect the cities since they were centers of business, which were a most important source of taxes. Within the cities, as commerce became more capitalistic, the medieval guilds, which had apportioned business among the members of the guild, declined in importance. The merchant class, however, became more influential by turning to new fields, particularly banking, which made them welcome by their rulers. In France, Jacques Coeur (1395–1456), son of a lowly artisan, made his fortune through investing in commerce and mining. He became treasurer to Charles VII (1403–1461), who later had him imprisoned and confiscated his wealth. In the late 15th century the Fugger family of Ausgburg built a vast financial empire based on silver, copper, and iron mines. They became papal bankers as well as bankers to the Emperor Charles V (1500–1558), to whom they lent money enabling this Spanish king to bribe the electors and win election as Holy Roman Emperor.
• Free peasants who no longer owed their lord services in return for the use of his land gradually replaced serfs. Instead of providing services, peasants paid rent. With the funds gained, the lord could hire landless peasants to work the land. The vast majority of the population consisted of peasants. They were the farmers, day laborers, millers, bakers, cattle dealers, and domestic servants. In time of war they were the foot soldiers of the king.
• As freemen they were also more mobile. Increased commercial activity in the towns drew people from the countryside in search of work and higher salaries. These new townspeople could, if they had the talent and the opportunity, move up in social status. As a result, the population of the rural areas declined after the middle of the 14th century, while some towns and cities continued to grow.
• Another reason for the increase in urban population was the flight of peasants from the countryside because of a series of famines resulting from poor harvests in the early years of the 14th century. Heavy rainstorms and cold weather ruined the crops on which people and cattle depended. The result was catastrophe: famine and starvation.
• A population already weakened by famine suffered another scourge, the Black Death, a plague that struck Europe in 1348 and repeatedly throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. As late as 1665 London was devastated by an outbreak of the plague. The Black Death was probably a combination of bubonic and pneumonic plagues. This devastating disease killed a third of the population in the regions that it struck. The densely populated Italian cities suffered heavy losses. As a result of this depopulation, labor became scarce and aspiring workers from the lower classes were, thereby, afforded opportunities for advancement that had not existed before the Black Death (Herlihy 1974).
• Wages rose sharply. Landlords and merchants had to grant concessions to peasants and workers. When they tried to restrict wages and raise rents, social unrest and popular insurrections followed, lasting throughout the century.
• MEDIEVAL SOCIAL STRUCTURE
• Late medieval society can be divided into three classes: the nobility, the bourgeoisie, and the peasants. The clergy were regarded as a separate class. An early medieval bishop once said that society was divided into those who prayed, the clergy; those who fought, the nobles; and the rest of society, which labored (D. Nicholas 1974).
• THE PEASANT
• The rural peasant is frequently depicted at his labors in the Books of Hours painted during the Middle Ages. These prayer books, illustrated by the artists of the day, show the farmer and his wife at work. (See Figure 6.1.) Men and women worked side by side on the land, planting, harvesting, and clipping the fleece from sheep. Women tended their children and prepared simple food in a house of two or three rooms furnished with utilitarian tables, benches or stools, chests or cupboards, and beds.
• Everyday clothing for the peasant was plain and serviceable, and very like that described for men of the earlier medieval period: a homespun tunic, belted at the waist, with stockings for cold weather, and a cloak. Wooden clogs or heavy boots (for muddy weather) and a hat to keep off the sun in summer or a hood to protect against the cold in winter completed his workaday wardrobe. His wife wore a gown with a close-fitting bodice and a skirt with moderate fullness. When the task required protection of the garment beneath, an apron was placed over the dress. If she worked in the field where her long skirts hampered her movement, the skirt was tucked up into the belt and the chemise underneath exposed.
• Although many of the peasants were poor and lived a hand-to-mouth existence, others were better off and some even reasonably affluent. The poorest were, of course, able to clothe themselves only in coarse cloth that was either left undyed or dyed with readily available natural dyestuffs such as the blue dye, woad. The more affluent were not unaware of current fashions and for festive occasions their dress reflected somewhat the fashionable lines of upper-class dress.
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