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Different Romans wore different togas

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Toga-clad Roman

Toga-clad Roman

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The ancient Romans have been called the toga-clad people, and with reason, even if most of them didn't actually wear the toga very often -- especially by the imperial period.

The toga was a stately symbolic article, described, by Varro, as the earliest dress of both Roman men and women. It was worn from the time of the Etruscan kings through the 4th century A.D., but, especially as it grew in size (from just over 12 feet [3.7 m] to 15-18 feet [4.8-5 m]), the probably semicircular cloth was cumbersome, difficult to put on, and just about impossible to work in. Imagine walking around during the summer clad in that much woolen fabric!

Togati 'the toga-clad' were opposed to armati 'the soldiers,' associating the toga with peace. Togatus was also opposed to rusticus marking a distinction between urban and rural.

Toga Pura

A citizen of Rome might wear the toga pura, a toga made of natural, undyed, whitish wool.

Toga Praetexta

If he were a magistrate or a freeborn youth, he might wear a toga with a woven reddish-purple border known as a toga praetexta. Freeborn girls may have worn these as well. At the end of adolescence a free male citizen put on the white toga virilis or toga pura.

Toga Pulla

If the Roman citizen were in mourning, he would wear a darkened toga known as a toga pulla.

Toga Candida

A candidate made his toga pura whiter than normal by rubbing it with chalk. It was then called toga candida, whence the word 'candidate'.

Toga Trabea

There was also a toga that was purple or purple striped, called a toga trabea. Augurs wore the toga trabea with saffron and purple stripes. The purple and white striped toga trabea was worn by Romulus and consuls officiating at important ceremonies. The imperial purple toga was a toga trabea.Sometimes the equites wore the trabea and it was especially associated with them.

Toga Picta

Generals in their triumphs wore toga picta or togas with designs on them. The toga picta was also worn my praetors celebrating games and by consuls in the time of the emperors.

Sources:

  • The World of Roman Costume, by Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante.
  • Lacus Curtius - Smith's Dictionary - Toga
  • "The Myth of the Toga: Understanding the History of Roman Dress, by Caroline Vout; Greece & Rome (Oct., 1996), pp. 204-220.
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