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Classics Presents... Dr. Kelly Olson: "Dress and Adornment at the Roman Imperial Court"

Tuesday, November 9, 2021
2:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Watson Hall
Room: 517
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Dr. Kelly Olson
Professor in the Department of Classics and the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at Western University

Dress and Adornment at the Roman Imperial Court
Clothing at the Roman Imperial court was a means of display for individuals and was also part of the politics of display under different regimes; it was the material creator of  social position and an important tool of social regulation. In this paper I begin by examining the dress of the courtiers (that is, companions of the imperial family), then move on to the dress of the emperors and empresses themsevelves. Authors from 30 BCE - 330 CE utilize dress remarkably consistently as a rhetorical tool: as shorthand for an emperor’s  or empress’ good or bad personal qualities, and to shed light on an emperor’s (or imperial family’s) character and rule. The next section, on the splendour of court dress, examines the luxury of clothing items in the imperial treasuries (thesauri), as well as the job titles of those slaves in the aula involved in appearance. The final section, on the impact of court dress, concludes that the imperial court did have some influence on fashions in hairstyle and dress outside court circles, even if the direction and configuration of this influence is shifty and impressionistic.

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