Birrus (or Byrrhus, βῆρος, βήριον) was an old Latin word equivalent to "rufus" or red, and identical probably with the Greek πυῤῥός. No traces of the word, as the name of a garment, are to be found before the Christian sera. The earliest known instance of such a use is early in the 2d century. Speaking of the significance of various articles of dress, when seen in dreams, Artemidorus (Oneirocrit. ii, 3) says that the chlamys (a short military cloak), "which some call manzdyas, others ephestris, others berion, portends trouble and difficulty, and to prisoners under trial portends colndemnation, by reason that it compasses about and confines the body." Other writers identify it with the "amphibalus" (q.v.). A fresco in the cemetery of Pontianus, in which are represented three laymen, Sts. Milix, Abdon, and Sennes, and one ecclesiastic, St. Vicentius, will probably give a good idea of the difference between the chlamys, the birrus, and the casula (or planeta). St. Milix is represented wearing a chlamys; Abdon and Sennes a heavy cloak reaching from the shoulders to the back of the knee, and in form differing but little from the chlamys. SEE ABDON. But the birrus (if such be the garment intended) is provided with a hood, or cowl, for wearing over the head, as were most such outer garments when intended, as was the birrus, for out-door use, and represented as worn on the head. Such a rough birrus as this was allowed to be worn by slaves under the provisions of the Theodosiancode. Hence some have inferred, though wrongly, that the birrus was at that time regarded as a garment suitable only for persons of the lowest class. This was not so. There were "cheap cloaks," such as those here allowed as a privilege to slaves; there were "costly cloaks," such as those of which St. Augustine says that they might perhaps be fitting for a bishop, but not fitting for Augustine, "a poor man, as his parents had been poor before him "(De Diversis, 5, 1579). From the 4th century onward the mention of the birrus is not unfrequent as of an out-door dress used alike by laymen and by ecclesiastics. In these later notices it is almost always referred to as being either a somewhat expensive dress or as having a certain secular character attaching to it as compared with the dress worn by monks. Thus Cassianus (cir. 418 A.D.), describing the dress of monks, says that they avoid the costliness and the pretence to dignity implied in the planeta and the birrus (De Habitu Monach. i, 7). St. Isidore, in like manner, couples together the planeta and the birrus as garments which are not allowable to monks (Regulac, 13). This will account for the peculiar language of the Council of Gangra (319), warning men against attributing too much importance to the monastic dress for its own sake, and despising those who wore "birri." Towards the close of the 6th century we find St. Gregory the Great using the term "birrus albis," in speaking of the white "christening-cloak" worn by the newly baptized (Epist. 5). SEE BIRETTA.

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