I encountered this

"in I century B.C., during the Julius Caesar consulship, it was promulgated a law that prohibited the theirs [sic] use by the lower classes" RomeAndArt

statement several times, but the source remains unclear. Could anyone help finding the source or debunking the myth, please?

  • 1
    Sounds like you're looking for a specific sumptuary law; I can't find any record of a Roman sumptuary law governing pearls, but I only took a quick skim.
    – MCW
    Apr 19, 2021 at 16:56
  • always update the question, not the comment.
    – MCW
    Apr 19, 2021 at 17:21
  • seems kind of redundant to me, pearls were literally so expensive i doubt anyone who wasnt rich could even dream of owning them (aside from the rare cases of war trophies after a campaign)
    – ed.hank
    Apr 20, 2021 at 13:07

1 Answer 1


Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, "De Vitis Caesarum", 43:

Lecticarum usum, item conchyliatae vestis et margaritarum nisi certis personis et aetatibus perque certos dies ademit.

In classical Russian translation by Gasparov it's "pearls":

Носил­ки, а так­же пур­пур­ные пла­тья и жем­чуж­ные укра­ше­ния он оста­вил в употреб­ле­нии толь­ко для опре­де­лен­ных лиц, опре­де­лен­ных воз­рас­тов и в опре­де­лен­ные дни.

I'm not sure what English translation is relevant. The only one I can find for some reason talks about "jewels" instead of "pearls":

The use of litters for travelling, purple robs, and jewels, he permitted only to persons of a certain age and station, and on particular days.


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