Dress and Fashion in the Greco-Roman World

JAMES 2 In the Greco-Roman world clothing basically fit into two categories: the tunic and the mantle.The tunic was something like the modem T-shirt, but very long (of knee or ankle length), made of wool or linen, with or without sleeves.ln ancient terminology one "entered into-a tunic to put it on. A mantle was something like a large blanket wrapped around a person.

The tunic (or chiton) was the basic article of clothing for virtually all people,serving as a linen undergarment worn next to the skin.The only item of clothing the poorest people may have owned, it was often *ate dirty.

    • The average Roman man added a girdle and an abolla, a rectangular woolen mantle worn in a double fold over the right shoulder and fastened with a pin.

    • Upper-class men wore a second undergarment over the tunic, in addition to the girdle.

    • Prosperous Romans donned the familiar toga,a long, oval-shaped (or semicircular) woolen mantle draped over the body in a series of complicated folds. Although the toga originated among the Romans, it soon found wide acceptance by wealthy citizens throughout the empire and remained the standard formal dress for Roman citizens until the late Roman period.

    • Alternative garments for upper-class men included the himation, a mantle of a Greek style more popular in the eastern part of the empire, and the chlamys, a short, woolen mantle (like a cape), often associated with soldiers.

      • Lower-class women often wore only an ankle-length tunic. gathered by a belt across the upper abdomen, while women of higher economic status added a mantle—often either a himation or a peplos—over the tunic.These garments were held in place by ornate "safety-pins" called fibula.

    • The himation for women was smaller than that for men. It was sometimes dyed in various colors or adorned with a pattern, although coloration and patterning were simple by modern standards. But the patterns and coloring, as well as the size, did distinguish whether a himation was intended for a man or a woman. A woman's himation was often pleated and could be worn in a wide variety of styles (over the shoulder, as a cape, as a hood, diagonally across the upper body, etc.).

    • The peplos was a single, large rectangle of cloth, distinguished from the himation by its size and especially by the way it was folded:The peplos always used a cuff-like overfold called an apotygma. A woman's peplos was typically as long as the distance from her shoulders to her feet, plus about 12 inches (30.5 cm) for the apotygma. The fold for the apotygma was approximately at the shoulders, from which it draped outward and down over the upper body. The fold could be worn as a hood over the head as a sign of modesty when a woman was walking in the streets or taking part in certain religious ceremonies (cf.1Co 11:6).

Clothes were draped over the body rather than fitted; indeed,this draping effect is part of the classical ideal of dignity and serenity. At night, one's clothing (especially the mantle) could also serve as a blanket. Leather sandals were the standard footwear for all ranks of society.

In ancient sculpture people often appear wearing only a mantle (if anything at all).This is because of the classical ideal of beauty and does not reflect ordinary dress. In fact, people almost always donned tunics under their mantles, and men ordinarily wore loincloths as underwear as well.A scene from Pompeii' depicts two female athletes wearing garments similar to a modern two-piece swimsuit, suggesting that women of means had a fairly wide variety of underwear and outerwear available to them.

Upper-class Roman women often frequently sported exotic hair-styles, often with an outlandish display of curls. Dyeing the hair and wearing expensive cosmetics were popular with women (cf. 1Pe 3:3), who also wore decorative tiaras, pins and nets with their hair.The wearing of rings and other jewelry by both men and women contributed to the display of wealth. James warned his readers not to be so dazzled by the finery of the rich that they showed partiality to wealthy believers over their less fortunate Christian brothers and sisters.

Speech Ethics

JAMES 3 James's guidelines on speech ethics, while rooted in the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus, were also in harmony with widespread social conventions in the ancient world. The comparison of the tongue to the rudder of a ship (Jas 3:4), for example, had been made generations earlier by the ancient Egyptian sage Amenemope., The image of the tongue as a destructive fire (v. 6) has parallels in Hellenistic literature (e.g., in the writings of Seneca and Plutarch). The same may be said for the importance of being slow to speak (1:19) and for the need to match words with deeds (1:22); the Roman Cicero also affirmed this ideal.James's absolute prohibition against oaths (5:12; cf. Mt 5:33-37) was a Christian distinctive, but even here Greco-Roman writers agreed that a person's character ought to be so blameless that oaths were not strictly necessary (such ideas are expressed by the classical writers Epictetus and Diogenes Laertius).

It is important to realize that these standards of Christian behavior have parallels in the best ethical literature of the ancient world. This reminds us, first, that the Bible does not claim to be presenting new moral standards.The morality it proclaims is for the most part ancient and universal. Second, the parallels remind us that the Biblical texts affirmed what was good and true in the culture around the writers and their audiences. Biblical authors did not perceive themselves to be invariably opposed to the norms of their day.

Early Christian Hymnody

JAMES 5 Pliny the Younger, in a famous letter sent to Emperor Trajan in around A.D. 110 (Epistle, 10.96), described his encounter with Christians and reported on their practices. Among other remarks,this historian mentioned that the followers of Christ gathered early in the morning to "chant a song to Christ as if to a god." It is not surprising that singing became a standard Christian practice;James 5:13 commands Christians to "sing songs of praise" as an expression of joy, and similar exhortations to and examples of singing praise are found elsewhere in the New Testament (Mt 26:30; Lk 1:46-55; Ac 16:25; [ph 5:19; Col 3:16; Rev 5:9-10),

Paul, in Ephesians 5:19, spoke of"psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" in the Christian church. It is uncertain how or even whether these three should be differentiated, although "psalms" certainly refers to the singing either of Biblical psalms or of songs modeled after them. Mary's Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55), although not an Old Testament psalm, is obviously psalm-like.

It is also difficult to ascertain the musical style of these early hymns. It is likely that the earliest Christian singing was heavily influenced by Jewish singing and liturgy; the medieval plainchant or "Gregorian chant" may preserve something of that style. It may be that the early Christians wanted a musical style that distinguished their hymns from the clapping, dancing and boisterous style of contemporary pagan music.The old music of the Armenian, Coptic and other ancient churches may preserve something of the flavor of early Christian singing. A few pieces of early Christian music have survived even in the modern, Western church. The words of the "Gloria Patri,"for example, go back to the first century A.D.

Some scholars suggest that fragments of early Christian hymns are included in certain New Testament epistles. Philippians 2:6 —11 is often regarded as such, and other possible examples include Ephesians 5:14,1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13. None of these texts is obviously poetic, however, and the suggestion that they are hymns remains speculative.