lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2012

The War Against False Hair

 

Many of the censors from whose pages we are obliged to form our estimate of the age were men who judged human frailties with all the fastidiousness of ascetics, and who expressed their judgments with all the declamatory exaggeration of the pulpit. Modern critics will probably not lay much stress upon the relapse of the Christians into the ordinary dress and usages of the luxurious society about them, upon ridicule thrown by Christians on those who still adhered to the primitive austerity of the sect, or upon the fact that multitudes who were once mere nominal Pagans had become mere nominal Christians. We find, too, a frequent disposition on the part of moralists to single out some new form of luxury, or some trivial custom which they regarded as indecorous, for the most extravagant denunciation, and to magnify its importance in a manner which in a later age it is difficult even to understand. Examples of this kind may be found both in Pagan and in Christian writings, and they form an extremely curious page in the history of morals. Thus Juvenal exhausts his vocabulary of invective in denouncing the atrocious criminality of a certain noble, who in the very year of his consulship did not hesitate not, it is true, by day, but at least in the sight of the moon and of the stars
with his own hand to drive his own chariot along the public road.

Seneca was scarcely less scandalised by the atrocious and, as he thought, unnatural luxury of those who had
adopted the custom of cooling different beverages by mixing them with snow. 2 Pliny assures us that the most monstrous of all criminals was the man who first devised the luxurious custom of wearing golden rings. 3 Apuleius was compelled to defend himself for having eulogised tooth-powder, and he did so, among other ways, by arguing that nature has justified this form of propriety, for crocodiles were known periodically
to leave the waters of the Nile, and to lie with open jaws on the banks, while a certain bird proceeds with its beak to clean their teeth

If we were to measure the criminality of different customs by the vehemence of the patristic denunciations, we might almost conclude that the most atrocious offence of their day was the custom of wearing false hair, or dyeing natural hair.

Clement of Alexandria questioned whether the validity of certain ecclesiastical ceremonies might not be affected by wigs ; for, he asked, when the priest is placing his hand on the head of the person who kneel before him, if that hand is resting upon false hair, who is it he is really blessing ? Tertullian shuddered at the thought that Christians might have the hair of those who were in hell, upon their heads, and he found in the tiers of false hair thatwere in use a distinct rebellion against the assertion that no one can add to his stature, and, in the custom of dyeing thehair, a contravention of the declaration that man cannot make one hair white or black.

Centuries rolled away. The Roman Empire tottered to its fall, and floods of vice and sorrow overspread the world ; but still the denunciations of the Fathers were unabated. St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and
St. Gregory Nazianzen continued with uncompromising vehemence the war against false hair, which Tertullian and  Clement of Alexandria had begun..."

W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus To Charlemagne

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