limit to gender justice: lessons of ancient & medieval sumptuary laws

Venetian woman wearing fancy dress

Men historically have carried a highly disparate gender burden of working to provide money for women. Women seeking from men expensive goods (dinners at fine restaurants, diamond rings, fancy dresses, etc.) contributes to this structural gender oppression of men. One distraught man recently described gender-typical difficulties in his relationship with his wife:

She came from a family where she got everything she wanted. I’ve been working for years trying to give her the same kinds of things but I just cannot do it, I lost one of my two jobs and have had to give a lot up. … I see husbands buying their wives Lexus and Mercedes cars and I can’t even dream of doing that.

More than 2200 years ago, the Roman Republic passed Lex Oppia to limit women’s acquisition of gold and women’s display of privilege of riding in carriages pulled by multiple horses. Lex Oppia thus constrained men’s gift-giving to women. Medieval Italian cities similarly passed sumptuary laws on women that limited material demands on men. While reflecting relatively sophisticated understanding of gender relations, such laws typically had little enduring effects. The fourteenth-century Florentine merchant, public official, and literary writer Franco Sacchetti in his Trecentonovelle brilliantly narrated how sumptuary laws on women cannot get beyond a prevalent limit to gender justice.

Many blue-collar men labor at their jobs with little awareness of structural gender oppression. So it was in medieval Italy. Yet Greek and Roman classics were more widely read in medieval Italy than even among all university professors today. To those who encountered their eternal truths, the classics were alive in medieval Italy to an extant scarcely conceivable today. Sacchetti in his Trecentonovelle presented the classical insight of the fourteenth-century Florentine Coppo di Borghese:

There was once a citizen of Florence, wise and very well-to-do, whose name was Coppo di Borghese. He lived across from where the Leoni are now, and he was having his house worked on. Reading one Saturday afternoon in Livy, he came upon a story of how the Roman women, because a law had been made recently against their fancy dress, had run to the Capitol, asking and pleading that the law be lifted. Coppo, although wise, was also haughty and a little weird. He began to fly into a rage, as if the events were happening in front of him. He banged the book and his hand on the table, and sometimes stuck the book with his hand, saying: “Alas, Romans, you will suffer this, you who have suffered that no king or emperor be greater than you?”

{ Fu un cittadino già in Firenze, e savio, e in istato assai il cui nome fu Coppo di Borghese, e stava dirimpetto dove stanno al presente i Leoni, il quale faceva murare nelle sue case; e leggendo un sabato dopo nona nel Titolivio, si venne abbattuto a una storia; come le donne romane, essendo stata fatta contra loro ornamenti legge di poco tempo, erano corse al Campidoglio, volendo e addomandando che quella legge si dirogasse. Coppo, come che savio fosse, essendo sdegnoso, e in parte bizzarro, cominciò in sé medesimo muoversi ad ira, come il caso in quella dinanzi a lui intervenisse; e percuote e ’l libro e le mani in su la tavola, e talora percuote l’una con l’altra mano, dicendo: “Oimè, Romani, sofferrete voi questo, che non avete sofferto che re o imperadore sia maggior di voi?” } [1]

Coppo had good reason to be distraught. Like the Romans, the Florentines were struggling to constrain women acquiring and displaying luxury goods.[2] The masons working on Coppo’s house entered and found him enraged. These men hadn’t been taught about structural gender oppression. They didn’t understand Coppo’s concern for social justice. They simply wanted to be paid for their hard, dirty brick-work.

Coppo’s mind was on matters far bigger than these men’s hard, dirty brick-work. Coppo told them that he didn’t care if his whole house collapsed. He scornfully ignored their request for fair payment for their work:

Eh, go with God today in the name of the devil. I gladly would have never been born in this world, having to think that those brazen ones, those whores, those weeping women, have so much daring that they ran to the Capitol to get back their fancy dress. What will the Romans do with this? For Coppo, who is here, cannot make peace. If I could, I would burn them all, so that whoever remained would always remember. Go away, and leave me alone.

{ Deh, andatevi con Dio oggi al nome del diavolo, ch’io vorrei volentieri non esser mai stato al mondo, pensando che quelle sfacciate, quelle puttane, quelle dolorose, abbiano aúto tanto ardire ch’elle sieno corse al Campidoglio per rivolere gli ornamenti. Che faranno li Romani di questo? ché Coppo, che è qui, non se ne puote dar pace: e se io potessi, tutte le farei ardere, acciò che sempre chi rimanesse se ne ricordasse: andatevene, e lasciatemi stare. }

The working men had no understanding of what had enraged Coppo. One thought that with the word “Romans” Coppo was referring to a stadera, a kind of scale, or perhaps a stadium, a measure of length. Another figured that Coppo’s wife had cuckolded him. A third understood Coppo’s word for “Capitol {Campidoglio}” to mean “I complain of my headache {de capo mi doglio}.” Another thought that the house owner had spilled “a cup of oil {un coppo d’oglio}.”[3] Men’s concerns for gender justice have long been badly understood.

Florence established an Official of Women {Ufficiale delle donne} in the 1330s. Offices for women now exist within most local, state, and national governments. But in medieval Florence, the officials for women didn’t merely seek to promote women’s interests. The medieval Florentine officials for women were concerned for gender equality. They sought to advance gender equality by limiting women’s competition to obtain and display fancy clothes.[4]

The Florentine Ufficiale delle donne was scarcely able to constrain Florentine women. In 1384, Messer Amerigo degli Amerighi of Pesaro was appointed Ufficiale delle donne. Messer Amerigo brought with him a notary and six assistants to staff his office. These sub-officials were all highly competent professionals. Moreover, since they were from a different city, they had some protection against Florentine women’s personal and political power. Nonetheless, the Ufficiale delle donne Messer Amerigo soon declared to the Florentine city leaders:

My lords, I have studied all my life to learn law. Now, when I thought that I knew something, I find that I know nothing. Obeying the orders that you gave me, I went out to seek the forbidden fancy dress of your women. They met me with arguments the like of which are not to be found in any law book. Some of these I will repeat to you. A woman comes with the peak of her hood fringed out and twisted around her head. My notary says, “Tell me your name, for you have a peak with fringes.” The good woman takes this peak, which is fastened round her head with a pin, and holding it in her hand, she declares that it is a wreath. Then going further, he finds one wearing many buttons in front of her dress. He says to her, “You are not allowed to wear those buttons.” But she answers, “Yes, Messer, but I may for these are not buttons but studs, and if you do not believe me, look, they have no loops, and moreover there are no buttonholes.” Then the notary goes to another who is wearing ermine and says, “Now what can she say to this?” And he prepares to write down her name. But the woman answers, “Do not write me down, for this is not ermine, it is the fur of lattizzo.” Says the notary, “What is this lattizzo?” and the woman replies, “It is an animal.” Thus my notary becomes speechless like an animal.

{ Signori miei, io ho tutto il tempo della vita mia studiato per apparar ragione, e ora, quando io credea sapere qualche cosa, io truovo che io so nulla, però che cercando degli ornamenti divietati alle vostre donne per gli ordini che m’avete dati, sí fatti argomenti non trovai mai in alcuna legge, come sono quelli ch’elle fanno; e fra gli altri ve ne voglio nominare alcuni. E’ si truova una donna col becchetto frastagliato avvolto sopra il cappuccio; il notaio mio dice: “Ditemi il nome vostro; però che avete il becchetto intagliato”; la buona donna piglia questo becchetto che è appiccato al cappuccio con uno spillo, e recaselo in mano, e dice ch’egli è una ghirlanda. Or va piú oltre, truova molti bottoni portare dinanzi; dicesi a quella che è trovata: “Questi bottoni voi non potete portare”; e quella risponde: “Messer sí, posso, ché questi non sono bottoni, ma sono coppelle, e se non mi credete, guardate, e’ non hanno picciuolo, e ancora non c’è niuno occhiello”. Va il notaio all’altra che porta gli ermellini, e dice: “Che potrà apporre costei?” “Voi portate gli ermellini”; e la vuole scrivere; la donna dice: “Non iscrivete, no, ché questi non sono ermellini, anzi sono lattizzi”; dice il notaio: “Che cosa è questo lattizzo?” e la donna risponde: “È una bestia”. E ’l notaio mio come bestia. } [5]

The Florentine city leaders understood Coppo di Borghese’s rage at the Roman leaders surrendering to women. Yet those city leaders also understood women’s power in gynocentric society. They told Messer Amerigo and his staff to do only what was feasible in seeking to constrain women according to city law. The men of the medieval Florentine Office of Women understood what that meant:

After this, hardly any officer carried out his orders or gave himself any trouble, but allowed the peaks to pass for wreaths and meddled not with the false buttons and the lattizzo’s fur and the belts. And so goes a Friulan saying: “What woman wants, God wants, and what God wants, will be.”

{ E questo fu detto in tal ora, e in tal punto, che quasi d’allora in qua nessuno officiale quasi ha fatto officio, o datosene fatica; lasciando correre le ghirlande per becchetti, e le coppelle e i lattizzi, e’ cinciglioni. E però dice il Friolano: “Ciò che vuole dunna, vuol signò; e ciò che vuol signò, tirli in birli”. }

The Florentine Ufficiale delle donne effectively couldn’t do anything that women disliked. That office thus faced the limit on gender justice that most government bodies face today.

Men deserve equal blame with women for the failure of sumptuary laws on women’s dress. Writing about the year 1315, an authority in Venice observed:

Sometimes the man follows too much the will of the woman in buying her fancy dress, and this gives rise to much evil and excessive expenditure. The woman is more than ever filled with pride, and for vainglory desires still more to go out and show herself. … If the custom of the city in this respect is extravagant, it should be regulated by laws after the manner of the Romans.

{ El segondo si è ke alguna fiada l’ omo seve tropo la voluntade de la femna en comprarli ornamenti, ke de çò nasce multi mali, sopercle spensarie, e la femena d’ è plù soperba et ella per vanagloria vol plu andar e plu mostrarse. … E se la çitade de çò è tropo larga, sovra de çò se de’ far statuti, sì co fese li Romani } [6]

Men purchased luxury goods for women. Men helped women to evade the sumptuary laws. In addition, men were subject to and paid the fines for women violating sumptuary laws.[7] Some women were so willing to have their men incur fines that they regarded sumptuary laws as merely luxury taxes. The phrase “pay the luxury tax {pagar le pompe}” became a common expression for describing women’s behavioral response to sumptuary laws.[8]

Given the economic importance of restraining women’s demand for luxuries, cites made extraordinary efforts to make such laws effective.  Florentine city officials were ordered to read the sumptuary laws of 1322-5 publicly at least once a month. Moreover, priests were required to read those laws in their churches. Priests were also required to report any violations to city officials.[9] Just as universities now do in the U.S. for sexual offenses, cities in medieval Italy set up means for making secret denunciations of persons who allegedly violated sumptuary laws. Anonymous denunciation boxes, called tamburi, were common in Florence by the fifteenth century.[10]

Nonetheless, city officials’ frustration and despair over women’s power is readily apparent. Florentine city magistrates in 1433 elected new officials in charge of enforcing laws on women’s fancy dress. The magistrates commended the new officials’ character, but highlighted with extreme language the difficulty of their assignment:

In great measure these officials of women’s fancy dress have an honest desire to restrain the barbarous and irrepressible bestiality of women. Not mindful of the weakness of their nature, forgetting that they are subject to their husbands, and transforming their perverse sense into a reprobate and diabolical nature, they force their husbands with their honeyed poison to submit to them.

{ maxime quare cupiditatem honestam magnum in modum habuerunt ad refrenandum barbaram et indomitam feminarum bestialitatem que, non memores sue nature fragilitatis et quod viris subdite sint eorum pravum mutantes sensum in reprobam et diabolicam naturam, ipsos viros cogunt, mellifluis venenis, ipsis subiecte } [11]

Throughout history, few men have been strong enough to stand up to women rather than submit to them. As the magistrates recognized, not constraining men’s weakness for giving women luxurious gifts prompts men to avoid marriage:

It is not in conformity with nature for women to dress themselves with such fancy dress when men, because of this, avoid the bond of matrimony because of the unbearable expense.

{ non est nature conforme ut tantis sumptuosis ornamentis se hornent cum ipsi homines propter hoc desstant a matrimonii copula propter incomportabiles sumptus }

Florentine officials were concerned that if men avoid marriage, women are less likely to have children, and the city population would decline. City officials evidently weren’t willing to encourage immigration into the city. Today, men avoid marriage because police, without any due process of law, will throw men out of their homes on the adverse word of a cohabiting woman. Men also face huge anti-men sex discrimination in family courts. Yet women’s demands for luxury goods still remain a significant deterrent to marriage.

medieval women's dresses with long trains

Medieval officials incurred the wrath of women for prohibiting luxurious dresses. In 1279, Cardinal Latino Malabranca, the papal legate for Lombardy, Tuscany, and Romagna, attempted to constrain woman’s fancy dress:

He enraged all women with the law he made. It restrained women to wear shorter dress — long enough to touch the ground or longer only by the measure of one palm. Previously women had dragged on the ground behind them dress-trains of an arm-and-a-half’s length. Of which Patecchio said: “And dresses so long, they drag the dirt.” And he had this law preached in churches and imposed on women as a religous requirement: no priest could grant absolution to them until they complied. To the women, this law was all the more bitter than death. A certain woman friend told me that her dress train was dearer to her than the total of all the other clothes that she wore.

{ turbavit mulieres omnes cum quadam constituione, quam fecit; in qua continebatur, quod mulieres haberent vestimenta curta usque ad terram et tantum plus, quanta est unius palme mensura. Trahebant enim prius caudas vestimentorum per terram longas per brachium et dimidium. De quibus dicit Patecclus: “Et trappi longhi, ke la polver menna.” Et fecit hoc per ecclesias predicari et imposuit mulieribus sub precepto, et quod nullus sacerdos posset eas absolvere, nisi ita facerent; quod fuit mulieribus amarius omni morte. Nam quedam mulier familiariter dixit michi, quod plus erat ei kara illa cauda quam totum aliud vestimentum, quo induebatur. } [12]

Some women in the U.S. today wear short-shorts so short that their butt-cheeks show. Fashions change, but the way in which women are oppressed remains. Cardinal Latino even imposed additional hardships on women:

In the above law Cardinal Latinus also ruled that every woman — not just young women and young ladies, but even married women and widows and elderly women — must wear a veil on her head. To them, that was burdensome and horrible.

{ Insuper cardinalis Latinus precepit in illa constitutione, quod omnes mulieres, tam iuvencule sive domicelle quam maritate et vidue et matrone, in capitibus vela portarent. Quod grave horribiliter fuit eis. }

Women in Islamic cultures have commonly wore veils on their heads. Like women in Islamic cultures, women in medieval Italy turned veils to their advantage:

They soon came upon a remedy for this tribulation, although they could do very little about their dress trains. They began construct their veils of linen and silk, interwoven with gold. That made them appear ten times better and more greatly attracted lascivious, gazing eyes.

{ isti tribulationi remedium invenerunt, quod minime potuerunt caudis. Nam vela faciebant fieri de bisso et serico, auro intexta, cum quibus in decuplum melius apparebant et magis ad lasciviam videntium oculos attrahebant. }

Many men at this time were peasant laborers, barely earning food, clothing, and shelter by working hard, dirty jobs such as plowing, carting, and brick-laying. In addition, men had to endure these highly privileged women’s sexual harassment of them. As has been commonly the case, law did relatively little to help men.

The limit to gender justice in the ancient Roman Republic has changed little to our day. Men today can imagine a dinner party in which Fortunata, who had as husband Timalchio, entered to greet her friend Scintilla, who had as husband Habinnas. Fortunata sat with Scintilla, kissed her, and held her hand. Their encounter progressed to exchanging intimacies:

Fortunata tugged the bracelets off her extremely fat arms and displayed them to the admiring Scintilla. Finally she even removed her anklets and her golden hairnet, which she said was of pure gold. Trimalchio observed this encounter, and ordered that all the jewelry be brought to him. “You see,” he said, “these are women’s fetters. This is how we foolish milksops are robbed. She must have six and half pounds of them….” Scintilla was no better. From her neck she removed a little gold locket that she called her happy box. From it she produced twin earings and handed each in turn to Fortunata to examine, saying: “Thanks to my husband’s kindness, no one has a better pair.”

{ Fortunata armillas suas crassissimis detraheret lacertis Scintillaeque miranti ostenderet. Vltimo etiam periscelides resolvit et reticulum aureum, quem ex obrussa esse dicebat. Notavit haec Trimalchio iussitque afferri omnia et: “Videtis, inquit, mulieris compedes: sic nos barcalae despoliamur. Sex pondo et selibram debet habere. Et ipse nihilo minus habeo decem pondo armillam ex millesimis Mercurii factam.” Vltimo etiam, ne mentiri videretur, stateram iussit afferri et circulatum approbari pondus. Nec melior Scintilla, quae de cervice sua capsellam detraxit aureolam, quam Felicionem appellabat. Inde duo crotalia protulit et Fortunatae invicem consideranda dedit et: “Domini, inquit, mei beneficio nemo habet meliora.” } [13]

Scintilla’s husband Habinnas responded scornfully to his wife’s masculinity-demeaning compliment:

You really emptied me out, just so I could buy you a glass bead. I tell you straight, if I had a daughter, I’d cut her little ears off. If there were no women in the world, we could live dirt-cheap. But as things stand, what we drink down for our own basic needs is less than we piss away, burning in love.

{ excatarissasti me, ut tibi emerem fabam vitream. Plane si filiam haberem, auriculas illi praeciderem. Mulieres si non essent, omnia pro luto haberemus; nunc hoc est caldum meiere et frigidum potare. }

As husbands, men experience themselves being dessicated. As fathers, despite their great love for their daughters, men cannot protect their daughters from the pernicious gynocentric teachings that pour into their daughters’ ears.

The limit to gender justice is what women want. Sumptuary laws benefit women by constraining competition among women in dress. Sumptuary laws benefit men by limiting competition among men to provide women with the most expensive dress. But neither Lex Oppia in the Roman Republic 2200 years ago nor sumptuary laws in medieval Italian cities effectively endured. Such laws enraged women in their immediate, narrow interests. Those laws were thus either repealed or not effectively enforced. In today’s workplace, men are commonly prohibited from wearing shorts, but women are allowed to wear less-than-knee-length dresses. Read Livy and medieval history, and you will understand.

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Read more:


[1] Franco Sacchetti, Il Trecentenovelle 66, Italian text from Faccioli (1970), my English translation, benefiting from Cornish (2010) p. 16. The subsequent quote above is similarly from Il Trecentenovelle 66.

Coppo di Borghese Domenichi held important Florentine city offices between 1308 and the early 1340s. Boccoccio, among other prominent figures, held Coppo in high regard. Cornish (2010) p. 18. See, e.g. Decameron 5.9.4. Here’s some analysis of Boccaccio’s story of the falcon.

Coppo was reading about the Roman women’s rebellion against Lex Oppia. That rebellion is described in Livy, Ab Urbe Condita Libri (History of Rome) 34.1-8, freely available online in the English translation of Roberts (1905). Livy’s account includes a still-relevant speech by Cato the Elder. Coppo apparently sponsored an Aeneid compendium in Italian that Andrea Lancia made from a Latin compendium about 1316. Cornish (2010) p. 18. Cornish astutely observed that it’s “highly unlikely” that Coppo was reading Livy in the original Latin. Id. p. 19.

Franco Sacchetti, who lived from about 1330 to 1400, was from an old Floretine family of the Guelf faction. In addition to being a merchant and public official, Sacchetti wrote poetry with themes of love, politics, and comedy. He also wrote moralistic pieces similar to sermons. Sacchetti’s Trecentonovelle {Three Hundred Short Novels} is regarded as an early masterpiece of prose writing. He wrote Trecentonovelle between 1392 and 1397. That work regrettably has survived only in part in a sixteenth-century transcription. For English translations of some of the novelles in Trecentonovelle, Steegmann (1908) and Roscoe (1825) vol. 1, pp. 82-93.

[2] The first Florentine sumptuary laws probably were enacted about the 1260s. A comprehensive package of laws regulating women’s fancy dress was established in Florence from 1322 to 1325. Rainey (1985) pp. 44, 50-67. For a freely available overview of sumptuary law in medieval Italy, Facelle (2009).

Women’s political power readily overcame Florentine sumptuary laws. Charles, Duke of Calabria, became ruling lord of Florence in 1325 to lead the city’s defenses against the threatening army of Castruccio Castracani. Florentine women then attacked through Charles’s wife, the Duchess of Calabria. She pursuaded her husband to revoke the prohibition on luxurious silk tresses that Florentine women wore over their (perhaps thinning) hair. Rainey (1985) p. 68.

Having experienced this political reversal first-hand, the eminent Florentine Giovanni Villani lamented that women didn’t even have to use reason to persuade men. What women want trumps any reason men might recognize: “the inordinate appetite of women conquers the reason and good sense of men {il disordinato appetito delle donne vince la ragione e il senno degli uomini}.” Villani, Nuovo Cronica (c. 1348) 10.11. Villani’s own wife Monna and other women pursuaded the Duke of Calabria to order that sumptuary charges against them be reviewed. Rainey (1985) p. 69-70. With respect to his wife Monna’s spending on luxurious clothing and incurring fines for violating sumptuary law, Giovanni Villani, like other men, was in a lose-lose position.

[3] For insightul discussion of this wordplay in relation to levels of linguistic understanding, Cornish (2010) p. 16f.

[4] Writing in northern France about 1115, Guibert of Nogent complained of women’s extravagant dress:

The way they dress is completely different from the simplicity of old: sleeves spread wide open, their tunics worn tight, curled toes on shoes from Cordoba, you might see the surrender of all modesty proclaimed everywhere.

{ Vestium qualitates in tantum sunt ab illa veteri frugalitate dissimiles, ut dilatatio manicarum, tunicarum angustia, calceorum de Corduba rostra torticia, totius ubique jacturam videas clamare pudoris. }

Guibert, Monodiae {Songs of Self} 1.12, Latin text from Bourgin (1907), English trans. from McAlhany & Rubenstein (2011). In ancient Rome, women wore expensive, revealing silk clothes. See note [1] in my post on the silk trade between ancient Rome and China. Both Seneca the Younger in the first century GC (Epistulae morales ad Lucilium {Letters on Behavior to Lucilius} 90.16-20, 45) and Jerome in the fourth century (Life of Paul the Hermit 17) contrasted luxurious clothes of their times with earlier, simpler clothes. Similarly Dante, Commedia, Paradiso 15.97-120.

[5] Franco Sacchetti, Il Trecentenovelle 137, Italian text from Faccioli (1970), my English translation, benefiting from that of Steegmann (1908). The subsequent quote is similarly from this novelle.

One Florentine official recognized the ancient Roman failure and the rage of Coppo di Borghese Domenichi:

I would have you know that the Romans, who conquered the whole world, could do nothing against their women. And these women, in order to lift the rules on their fancy dress, ran to the Capitol and conquered the Romans, obtaining what they wanted to such an extent that when Coppo di Borghese read this story in a book written by Livy, he almost went insane.

{ Io vo’ che voi sappiate ch’e’ Romani non potero contro le loro donne, che vinsono tutto il mondo; ed elle per levar gli ordini sopra gli ornamenti loro, corsono al Campidoglio, e vinsono e’ Romani, avendo quello che voleano; per tal segnale che Coppo del Borghese in una novella di questo libro leggendo in Tito Livio la detta istoria, ne fu per impazzare. }

Il Trecentenovelle 137, cited as above.

This novelle isn’t merely fiction. Florentine city records indicate that Amerigo of Pesara served as the Ufficiale delle donne from March to September 1384. Sacchetti at that time was a member of Florence’s ruling council. He probably heard directly from Amerigo about women evading the sumptuary laws. Rainey (1985) p. 233.

Under details of the the sumptuary laws in effect in Florence in 1384, ermine fur was forbidden, but lattizzo fur wasn’t. The latter type of fur is fairly obscure:

According to some dictionaries a lattizzo referred to a weasel-like animal similar to ermine but with milky white fur, whence its name.

Killerby (2002) p. 123, n. 43.

[6]  Paolino da Venezia (Paolino Minorita), Trattato de regimine rectoris 53, Italian (Venetian dialect) text from  Mussafia (1868) p. 75, English translation (adapted slightly) from Zanda (2010) p. 149, n. 104. Paolino da Venezia was a city official, Catholic bishop, and writer.

[7] Killerby stated:

Of the clothing laws which were targeted primarily at women, the male members of the household were held responsible for payment of the fine, as was customary

Killerby (1994) p. 103. Similarly, Izbicki (2009) p. 45.

[8] Killerby (2002) p. 123, which observes:

In Venice the term ‘pagar le pompe’, or ‘to pay the luxury fine’, became such a common expression that it is found in dialectical dictionaries.


[9] Rainey (1985) p. 165

[10] Frick (2002) p. 182. About half the cases prosecuted originated in anonymous denunciations. Id.

[11] From records of the deliberations of the lords of Florence, Latin text and English translation (adapted) from Rainey (1985) pp. 479 (English), 763 (Latin). The subsequent quote is similarly sourced.

[12] Salimbene de Adam, Cronica {Chronicle}, Latin text from Holder-Egger (1905) pp. 169-70, English translation adapted from Baird, Baglivi & Kane (1986) pp. 160-1, for this and the subsequent two quotes. Salimbene’s quote about dresses dragging in the dirt is “Not Patecchio, but Ugo di Perso’s second answer to Patecchio, l. 65.” Id. p. 674, n. 56. Salimbene later repeated the central political concern about Cardinal Latino Malabranca’s laws: “This legate enraged women with his laws {Iste legatus turbavit mulieres cum constitutionibus suis}.” Similarly from Holder-Egger (1905) p. 436, Baird, Baglivi & Kane (1986) p. 443.

Cardinal Latino Malabranca’s laws are titled De habitu mulierum {On women’s dress}. For their social and political context, Izbicki (2009). Id., Appendix 3.1 provides an English translation of the laws. According to De habitu mulierum:

No woman exceeding twelve years of age will appear publicly in the city in a gown in which the front part is open.

{ Nulla mulier ex quo duodecim annum aetatis exegerit in veste quae ab anteriori parte aperta sit publice per civitatem excedunt procedere }

Latin text from Rainey (1985) p. 89, n. 9, my English translation. Cf. Dante, Commedia, Purgatorio 23.97-105 and Vincenzo Catena’s portrait of a woman (above). For analysis, Olson (2015).

[13] Petronius, Satyricon 67, Latin text from Heseltine & Rouse (1913), my English translation benefiting from those of id. and Walsh (1996). The subsequent quote is similarly from Satyricon 67.

[images] (1) Portrait of a Woman, probably Venetian, gesturing toward her chest. Painting by Vincenzo Catena, made about 1520. Preserved under acc.# 1961.1.31 in the El Paso Museum of Art (El Paso, Texas). Via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Women with long dress-trains in medieval Florentine wedding parade for Boccaccio Adimari and Lisa Ricasoli in 1420, or perhaps another Adimiri wedding twenty years later. Detail from Dance Scene / Cassone Adimari (wedding chest of Adimari), painted by Giovanni di ser Giovanni Guidi (Lo Scheggia) about 1450. Preserved as Inv. 1890 n. 8457 in Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze. Via Wikimedia Commons.


Baird, Joseph L., Giuseppe Baglivi, and John Robert Kane. 1986. The Chronicle of Salimbene de Adam. Binghamton, N.Y.: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies.

Bourgin, George, ed. 1907. Guibert of Nogent. Histoire de sa vie: 1053-1124. Paris: Picard.

Cornish, Alison. 2010. Vernacular Translation in Dante’s Italy: illiterate literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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