You Spin me Right Round - spinning and weaving in the Roman world

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Saturday 18 September 2021, 3pm

Spinning and weaving in the Roman world – what were the tools of the trade? How did they work? Why would a Golden Fleece be so prized? Why is fate associated with sisters who spin, measure, and cut a thread? Are linen mummy wrappings really 1000 threads to the inch – and all done by hand?

Spinning was a ubiquitous & necessary practice, an endless chore performed by women of all social classes, slaves, children, and prisoners – only aristocratic men were exempt. This domestic task represented the organisation of a household & devotion to family that the Romans valued. Often a woman’s epitaph immortalised many years of marriage with ‘She spun well.’

This talk will take a look at the tools used in spinning (and some in weaving), the techniques used to make thread and then cloth, and the types of fibres available to the Romans. We’ll also look at examples of myths in which spinning and weaving featured, as well as how this type of work represented the ideal Roman woman’s character – and why the emperor Augustus bragged that his wife and daughter spun & wove all of the clothing for his household.

The talk will include images of surviving tools such as spindle whorls and epineural as well as many illustrations taken from pottery, frescoes, and coinage showing people at work with their spindles and distaffs. You’ll also have a chance to ask questions during the Live Q&A.

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