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Pertinax

Roman Hair and Shaving

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Trajan's column depicts many bearded legionaries in contrast to the emperor himself who is shown clean-shaven. I've always found this very striking. I don't know if it is intended to show the fact that soldiers had no time to shave during war or if having a beard had actually become fashionable in the army by then.

 

Maybe the soldiers were not truly Romans, but Germanic mercenaries hired to fill in the army? Or was this practice done later in the Empire?

 

Indeed, perhaps they are bearded precisely to show that provincials from all over the empire served in the Roman legions at that time? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Hadrian start the real 'fashion' for beards among Romans?

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Hadrian start the real 'fashion' for beards among Romans?

 

Yes, actually Hadrian (of my favorite period in Roman history) revived the fashion of wearing beards (which had gone out of style after 300 B.C.E.) due to his admiration for Periclean Athens.

 

-- Nephele

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Trajan's column depicts many bearded legionaries in contrast to the emperor himself who is shown clean-shaven. I've always found this very striking. I don't know if it is intended to show the fact that soldiers had no time to shave during war or if having a beard had actually become fashionable in the army by then.

 

Maybe the soldiers were not truly Romans, but Germanic mercenaries hired to fill in the army? Or was this practice done later in the Empire?

I don't know, the legionaries are depicted in full legionary uniform - lorica segmentata etc. Did mercenaries wear that kind of armour and helmets?

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Trajan's column depicts many bearded legionaries in contrast to the emperor himself who is shown clean-shaven. I've always found this very striking. I don't know if it is intended to show the fact that soldiers had no time to shave during war or if having a beard had actually become fashionable in the army by then.

 

Maybe the soldiers were not truly Romans, but Germanic mercenaries hired to fill in the army? Or was this practice done later in the Empire?

I don't know, the legionaries are depicted in full legionary uniform - lorica segmentata etc. Did mercenaries wear that kind of armour and helmets?

 

Perhaps not mercenaries, Gladius - but what of provincials who were given citizenship and enrolled in the legions? I was thinking more along those lines. But we're all guessing, of course.

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Perhaps the sculptor was trying to depict legionaries in the field who had probably left non essentials like razors back at the fortress. Certainly, all it takes for me to grow a fairly luxurient beard is a prolonged period of night shifts, or a weekend 'travelling light' on the motorbike.

Edited by Northern Neil

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The constant social factor is the act of being shriven -rather than shaving oneself which is a very modern activity. To be shaved once a week by a barber/tonsor is suggested as a civilised norm (at least in European cultures) until Gillette cunningly invented the safety razor as a "disposable consumer good".

Perhaps this helps us to understand the importance attached to bathhouses at Fort sites, as the civilizing epicentre of depilatory excellence?

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Arriving at the final word on this is not going to be easy. Augusta is right - we can only speculate. However I would lean more towards the idea that the sculptor/sculptors of Trajan's column wanted to give a more realistic picture of what legionaries on campaign would have looked like than that they were naturalized barbarians who retained some of their old grooming habits.

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Trajan's column depicts many bearded legionaries in contrast to the emperor himself who is shown clean-shaven. I've always found this very striking. I don't know if it is intended to show the fact that soldiers had no time to shave during war or if having a beard had actually become fashionable in the army by then.

 

Maybe the soldiers were not truly Romans, but Germanic mercenaries hired to fill in the army? Or was this practice done later in the Empire?

I don't know, the legionaries are depicted in full legionary uniform - lorica segmentata etc. Did mercenaries wear that kind of armour and helmets?

 

Almost certainly german troops, who usually get depicted that way. Now you come to mention it, most of the legionary depictions are indeed clean shaven. I suspect many were anything but, soldiers being soldiers on campaign. Back at their barracks it was something else of course...

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Trajan's column depicts many bearded legionaries in contrast to the emperor himself who is shown clean-shaven. I've always found this very striking. I don't know if it is intended to show the fact that soldiers had no time to shave during war or if having a beard had actually become fashionable in the army by then.

 

Maybe the soldiers were not truly Romans, but Germanic mercenaries hired to fill in the army? Or was this practice done later in the Empire?

I don't know, the legionaries are depicted in full legionary uniform - lorica segmentata etc. Did mercenaries wear that kind of armour and helmets?

 

Almost certainly german troops, who usually get depicted that way. Now you come to mention it, most of the legionary depictions are indeed clean shaven. I suspect many were anything but, soldiers being soldiers on campaign. Back at their barracks it was something else of course...

 

I think at this point the Roman army was about half citizen legionaries and half non citizen auxiliaries. Although not all or even mostly Italians, the legionaries were citizens at this time. This period is considered to be the height of the Roman Empire, far before the crisis of the third century.

Also, I don't think we should take Trajan's column as any real depiction of soldiers' appearance, for the soldiers on the column are all depicted as having the exact same uniform, almost like armies out of Rome Total War, but we know that that even if they were equipped relatively similarly for the time, their appearance would have had a good deal of variance considering that soldier's armor and clothing were not mass produced as in a modern army, but all made separately and at different locations. Trajan's column was meant as a glorification and idealization of the conquest of Dacia, not an accurate historical record.

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I see that "psilothron" and "acidi" (sp?) are mentioned as strong depilatory creams/ungents for those too horrified of the iron blade and tweezer, could any of our linguists suggest the nature of the first item (the second seems to hint at caustic exfoliation)?

 

I'm resurrecting this thread, as I'm currently reading Vicki Le

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Salve, Lady N!

 

This comes from the Quik Shave Razor commercial site.

I don't know their sources.

 

"500 B.C. -

 

In GREECE, it is popular for men to crop hair very short and shave the face. ALEXANDER THE GREAT is pretty much the guy responsible for this trend because he is obsessed with shaving. He even shaves during wartime, and will not allow himself to be seen going into battle with a five o

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Salve, Lady N!

 

This comes from the Quik Shave Razor commercial site.

 

What a fun website! In the book I'm reading, Working IX to V, there's mention made of an ancient class of bathhouse guild worker whose job description was "armpit plucker". Author Vicki Le

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So am I to assume the plucking of nostrils to be a separate occupation? I jest ye not.

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So am I to assume the plucking of nostrils to be a separate occupation? I jest ye not.

 

You assumed correctly, Pertinax. Nostril plucking 'snot the same as armpit plucking.

 

-- Nephele

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So am I to assume the plucking of nostrils to be a separate occupation? I jest ye not.

 

You assumed correctly, Pertinax. Nostril plucking 'snot the same as armpit plucking.

 

-- Nephele

 

Ah... I guess those were the days, especially if you were born right. If you were born a slave, you would be the one plucking nostrils for a living.

 

I can just imagine a Roman knight's typical day, which must have included several hours of grooming, done at the bath house and performed by slaves who were ultra specialized in what they did - one for the nostrils, one for the feet, another for the hands, then the shave, the massage with perfumed oils, followed by some time in the steam room and then the hot and cold dips .....

 

This would have been followed by a leisurely stroll through the crowded Forum, maybe a quick stop by the office and then off to some party in the evening or maybe to the theater or even a lupanar or taverna where other friends would stop by.

 

For the few, the privileged few, life offered luxuries beyond compare - at the expense of other poor souls, who were doomed to toil for the few to the end of their days.

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