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Евсеенков А.С.

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Paenula (Latin: paenula) — an ancient Roman wide cloak without sleeves, which was fastened in front and protected from the cold and precipitation.

One of the most ancient images of penula is a bas-relief with a shepherd in Lucera, which dates back to the 4th-2nd century BC. There are also written references: for example, Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus mentions speakers "squeezed and as if locked in penula". This description confirms that the penula covered and covered the person almost completely. The raincoat could be fastened in front with a fibula or button. A distinctive part of the penula is the hood, which apparently could cover the head even with a helmet. The main material for sewing penula was coarse wool and cloth, in rare cases, raincoats could be sewn from leather. The color scheme was usually non-marking dark shades. The penula was usually quite long and fell below the knees, sometimes almost reaching the beginning of the foot.

The penula was worn by both the military, mainly legionnaires and auxiliaries, and ordinary citizens, including women. Similar items of clothing existed among other peoples, for example, the Celts.

Bas-relief of a shepherd in Lucera, 4th-2nd century BC
Fragment of a tombstone with a penula and buttons. Find from Camomile Street, near the remains of the Roman Wall near London. 1-2 century AD
Bas-relief with a Praetorian guard from Pozzuoli, 2nd century AD.

A good example of a well-preserved penula is the "Cape with Hood from Lahuna", which is now in the University Museum of Philadelphia. It is made of wool dyed brown and yellow, heavy twill weave with a maximum geometric dimensions of 1:2. It has a long seam in the front and is an example of a type of Roman semicircular cloak and around the 4th century AD became known in Latin as "casula", or "house" (Wilson 1938). The diagram below shows that here the semicircle has a two-tiered rectilinear continuation, forming the upper shoulder area and hood. The raincoat is preserved in Philadelphia and is part of a collection of fabrics donated to the University Museum by Mrs. John Harrison in 1895. Mrs. Harrison was a sponsor of the British archaeologist William Flinders Petrie. Petrie, in a letter to the university museum, claims that he bought the fabrics in Lahun, in the Fayum district of Egypt, in the winter of 1884-1885 and that they date from about 600 AD. Подробнее о находке можно почитать в "Weaving Clothes to Shape in the Ancient World' 25 years on: Corrections and Further Details with Particular Reference to the Cloaks from Lahun. Granger-Taylor, 2007".

Penula from Lahuna. 600s A.D.
Penula from Lahuna. 600s A.D.


Penula can be present in the wardrobe of any reenactor of antiquity, both military and civilian. However, it should be borne in mind that representatives of different social groups wore penuls differently.

To create such a raincoat, you will need at least 3 meters of dense fabric - wool or cloth of a dark shade. Penul patterns differ in the shape of the hood.

Legionnaire in Penul, reconstruction
Restored penula patterns. Upper-cloak from Lahum, Egypt, 1.98*3 m. The bottom is a raincoat from Ballana, Egypt. 1.66*2.83 m. 1-3 century AD
Penula pattern recovered from finds in Augst, 1st-3rd century AD.

Related topics

Sagum, Legionnaire, Auxiliaries, The Celts


Giro P. Private and public life of the Romans

See Bartholinus "Commentarius de paenula", in Grevius ' Thesaurus (vol.VI); Marquardt, "Privatleben der Römer" (1886, p. 564).

Sumner G. Roman Military Dress 2009

Weaving Clothes to Shape in the Ancient World' 25 years on: Corrections and Further Details with Particular Reference to the Cloaks from Lahun. Granger-Taylor, 2007


A bas-relief with three "geniuses" in penulae, found in a settlement near Hadrian's Wall, 2nd AD.
Bronze statue of Priapus, consisting of two parts. Found in Rivery. Picardy Museum in Amiens. 2nd half of the 1st century AD
Small bronze statue of a farmer (plowman) in Penul from the Trier region, 3rd century AD.
Telesfor. Bronze statuette. Florence, National Archaeological Museum. Inv. no. 2321. 1-2 century AD