Featured Matronly Garments: the Stola and Palla

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Sep 9, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

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    The clothing of the Roman matron remained remarkably constant, remaining essentially unchanged from the Republican period until well into the fourth century, when the stola and palla were supplanted by the dalmatica, a tunic with sleeves worn by both men and women.

    The Roman woman's costume began with a tunica intima, a simple chemise undergarment with or without sleeves, depending on the weather or fashion statement desired. Over this, she wore a stola, the feminine equivalent of the toga. The stola was typically made of wool or linen and was longer than the body, and was slit at the top on both sides so it could be placed over the head. The stola was often white, but could be dyed or have colorful borders along the neck and around the edge for decoration. Coins sometimes depict stolae with decorations over the breasts. Clasps called fibulae fastened the slits together at the shoulders, and the garment was gathered below the breasts by a cloth belt to form vertically falling folds and adjusted such that the lower hem came just off the ground. Sometimes a second, broad band was worn around the waist. The stola could either be sleeveless or be broad enough that the portion overhanging the shoulder formed a half sleeve, or could have full sleeves. The combination of tunica intima, stola, and sandals called solae formed the clothing worn indoors.

    When outdoors, a Roman matron supplemented her stola with a palla (which could also be worn indoors, if desired). The palla was a square cloth worn by women over the stola as an outer garment. It could be worn in a variety of ways. She could wear it across the shoulders and down the back as a shawl; alternatively, part of the palla would be placed over the left shoulder, drawn over the back, and the rest would either be brought forward over the right shoulder or drawn under the right arm. Whether over or under the right arm, the woman then threw the end back over the left arm or the shoulder, depending on comfort or fashion. Like the toga, the palla could be drawn over the head as a veil for warmth or, modestly for religious observances. It was always drawn up as a veil when the woman was outside the home, preserving her modesty, such as a hijab in many modern Muslim societies. On her feet, when out of doors, she wore leather shoes called calcei, such as illustrated in this thread.

    Lastly, women wore jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings and headbands of gold and precious stones skillfully inserted into the hairdo.

    Coins frequently illustrate the Roman woman's garb, particularly on the goddesses depicted on their reverses.

    Faustina Jr IVNONI LVCINAE sestertius.jpg
    In this domestic, indoor, child-rearing scene, Juno wears only the stola over her tunica intima, saving her palla from being soiled by baby puke. Don't worry, though; she will don it before going out to the market later in the morning. It is tied by a belt at the waist, which cannot be seen because the upper portion of the stola drapes over the belt to form a skirt-like effect. The stola is also bound by a smaller band below the breasts.

    Domna HILARITAS patera and palm denarius.jpg

    Julia Domna wearing a stola and palla. The stola is fastened at the shoulder with a fibula. Over her stola, she wears a palla draped across her left shoulder, wrapped around her back, and over her right shoulder and across her chest. The goddess Hilaritas on the reverse wears a stola gathered below the breast with a belt, and her palla is draped over her left shoulder, around the back, under the right arm, across her waist and over her left elbow.

    Maesa Saeculi Felicitas Denarius.jpg
    Felicitas wears the stola and palla in the fashion of Hilaritas on the denarius of Julia Domna above: the stola is gathered by a belt below the breasts to form a long skirt of downwardly falling vertical folds; the palla is worn draped over the left shoulder, around the back, under the right arm, and over the left elbow.

    Trebonianus Gallus FELICITAS PVBL antoninianus Mediolanum.jpg
    Felicitas's stola is worn similarly, but is decorated over the breasts.

    Aurelian Libertas Antoninianus.jpg
    So is Libertas's stola here.

    Gordian III and Tranquillina Mesembria Demeter 2 Savoca.jpg
    Tranquillina wears her palla draped across both shoulders and gathered together in the front. Demeter on the coin's reverse wears her palla like a shawl, draping it across both shoulders and down her back.

    Otacilia Severa PVDICITIA AVG antoninianus.jpg
    The ever modest Pudicitia wears her palla over her head as a veil and draped across her back and shoulders. Her stola is gathered by two belts, one under the breasts (hidden beneath the pleats of the overhanging stola), and another at the waist (also hidden beneath the pleats of the overhanging stola).

    Faustina Sr PIETAS AVG altar denarius veiled bust.jpg
    Here, the deified Faustina I wears her palla as a veil. She also has ornaments sewn into the chignon at the top of her hair. Pietas on the reverse wears a stephane and her palla over the head as a veil (appropriate for a religious ceremony), across the left shoulder and back and under her right arm and over her left forearm. A belt gathers her stola below the breasts.

    And the most famous depiction of Libertas wearing a sleeved stola and a palla over the left shoulder, across the back, under the right arm and back to the left shoulder, where it is fastened by a fibula:

    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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  3. shanxi

    shanxi Well-Known Member

    Interesting write up.

    Sometimes there are differences in the same coin type, e.g. compare these two examples of Faustina II RIC 698.

    One bust shows mainly the palla, the other one a palla with clothing below. Since no fibula is visible it's not obvious what it is, sometimes it's called indusium (second tunica) but it could be a stola too.


    Faustina Minor
    AR-Denar, Rome
    Obv.: FAVSTINA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right
    Rev.: IVNONI REGINAE, Juno veiled, seated left, holding patera and sceptre; at her feet, a peacock.
    Ref.: RIC III 698
  4. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the wonderful and informative post! I very much enjoy coins with elaborate drapery, and your post sheds light on some issues I had been wondering about.

    Here are some of my Roman coins showing ancient female costume:

    On the reverse of this denarius, the folds on Juno's stola indicate where she wears a belt. Her palla is serving as a veil covering her head and left shoulder, and is draped around Juno's back, under her right arm, and over the left elbow:
    Rom – Julia Domna, Denar, Juno.png
    Julia Domna, Roman Empire, denarius, 196–211 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IVLIA AVGVSTA; bust of Julia Domna, draped, r. Rev: IVNO, Iuno standing l., holding patera and sceptre, peacock at feet l. 18mm, 3.20g. Ref: RIC IV Septimius Severus 559.

    Pietas in similar dress, yet without covering her head with the palla (veiled reverse varieties exist, though):

    Rom – Julia Maesa, Denar, Pietas.png
    Julia Maesa, Roman Empire, denarius, 218–222 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IVLIA MAESA AVG, bust of Julia Maesa, draped, r., hair turned up low at the back. Rev: PIETAS AVG, Pietas standing facing, head l. raising both hands, burning altar to l. 20mm, 3.65g. Ref: RIC IV.2 Elagabalus 266. Ex FSR 106, lot 270.

    The sestertius version of Pudicitia drawing her palla over her head as veil:
    Rom – Otacilia Severa, Sesterz, Pudicitia.png
    Otacilia Severa, Roman Empire, AE sestertius, 244–249 AD, Rome mint. Obv: MARCIA OTACIL SEVERA AVG; bust of Otacilia Severa, diademed, draped, r. Rev: PVDICITIA AVG; Pudicitia, draped, veiled, seated l., r. hand drawing veil and holding sceptre in l. hand; in exergue, SC. 31mm, 17.62g. Ref: RIC IV, Philip I 209. Ex Artemide, eLive auction 7, lot 271.

    The stola was the garment worn by married Roman ladies. As far as I see, Iuventas, who is shown as a young girl, might therefore instead wear a long tunic in the style of a Greek peplos on this coin:
    Rom – Marcus Aurelius, Denar, Iuventas.png

    Marcus Aurelius (as Caesar), Roman Empire, denarius, 140–144 AD, Rome mint. Obv: AVRELIVS CAESAR AVG PII F COS; head of Marcus Aurelius, bare, r. Rev: IVVENTAS, Iuventas (youth) standing l., dropping incense in candelabrum and holding patera. 17.5mm, 3.16g. Ref: RIC III Antoninus Pius 423a. Ex CNG, e-auction 439, lot 542.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  5. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Denarius of Sabina Circa 128 A.D. Rv. Vesta std left RIC 408 3.21 grms 19 mm sabina7.jpg
    Curtisimo, randygeki, Bing and 4 others like this.
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's an interesting bust type on the second one, indeed!

    My example is a double-die match to your first coin!

    Faustina Jr IVNONI REGINAE seated denarius.jpg

  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Great examples in your own collection! I'm glad my article was informative and useful for you.
    Orielensis likes this.
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