episode #94 Roman era clothing

Maloja, Switzerland

The civilisation of ancient Rome spanned more than a thousand years. In many aspects, ancient Rome was a modern state with city planning, sewage, hot baths, heated floors, elaborate customs, traditions, and a rich culture. The history of Roman dress is paralleled by that of Roman arts and architecture. They inherited many ideas from the Greeks and Etruscans.

With the expansion of the empire, wider trading was made possible. This increased the availability of more varied and elegant fabrics. Cotton from India and silks from East Asia were accessible to the wealthy.

Roman clothing was highly symbolic, an indication of class, social status, age gender, and occupation. Romans preferred to display around, and to the rest of the world, what their place was in the society. The toga was considered Rome’s “national costume,” but for day-to-day activities most Romans preferred more casual, practical and comfortable clothing; the tunica, in various forms, was the basic garment for all classes, both sexes and most occupations.

Many rich Roman women owned expensive jewellery. They wore precious stones such as opals, emeralds, diamonds, topaz and pearls set as earrings, bracelets, rings, brooches, necklaces and diadems. Men were only allowed to wear one piece of jewellery (ignored by many) – a personalised signet ring that was used to make a mark in wax for sealing documents.

For thousands of years governments have tried to control spending by employing sumptuary laws. The first sumptuary law under the Roman Republic, the Lex Oppia, was enacted in 215 BCE; it ruled that women could not wear more than half an ounce of gold upon their persons and that their tunics should not be in different colours.

Roman influence on the dress of the northern and western countries of the empire was strong until the early 5th century CE. This was to a certain extent, however, a two-way influence since, in the colder northern areas. Useful evidence of local attire in Britain, Gaul, and Germany is graphically illustrated on Trajan’s Column and that of Marcus Aurelius, both in Rome.


Donna Summer: Romeo

Sarah Vaugham: I Feel Pretty

Gorillaz: Empire of Ants

Boards of Canada: Ataronchronon

Ez A Divat: Head

The Beta Band: It’s Not Too Beautiful

Antonio de Lucerna: Entre Dos Aguas

Ronnie Laws: Every Generation

Bonobo: Silver

Lana del Rey: young & Beautiful (orchestral version)

Nino Rota: The Feast At the House of Capulet

A community radio midnight show Through the Bohemian Looking Glass is aired Sunday, Tuesday and Friday night at midnight (GMT), that means you stay late on Saturday, Monday and Thursday. A new episode is aired every Sunday midnight on Wirral Wave radio or AirTime. Later on SoundCloud for some time.