Roman Cloaks

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Cloaks
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about Roman Cloaks. Roman cloaks were a practical accompaniment to the basic clothes worn by Roman men and women such as the tunic, the toga and the stola. The purpose of Roman Cloaks were primarily to provide protection from the cold and rain.

Some had hoods, the cucullus, attached to them, but not all. Leather was the most commonly used material for making weather proof outer clothes. Roman Cloaks were made from a variety of styles, colors and materials according to the wealth and the status of the wearer.

Roman Cloaks
There were many different styles of Roman Cloaks which depended on the cost of manufacture and the status of the Roman wearing the cloak. The style of cloaks ranged from short shoulder length styles to hip-length garments to knee length down to ankle length. There were different names given to specific types of Roman cloaks:

  • The paenula was a simple form of cloak, worn by both sexes

  • The sagum was the name given to the dull red cloak worn by Roman Soldiers and the bright scarlet cloak worn by Roman officers

  • The lacerna was the purple cloak that visually distinguished a general from all other officers, it was fastened by a large brooch on one shoulder).

    • The lacerna was also worn by Roman senators over their toga as extra protective covering. The lacerna was always removed before work in the Senate commenced

  • The paludamentum was an expensive ankle length cloak which was worn at state occasions worn by the Emperors of Rome fastened with a gold or jewelled clasp or brooch

  • The laena was thick, round woollen cloak which was folded double at the shoulders with a fringed edge, and was worn over the toga of a flamen (priest) with a clasp holding it around his throat.

  • The pallium was a colourful decorated cloak worn by the wealthy

  • The abolla was the name of a cloak worn by wealthy and aristocratic Patricians and were made of different types of rich, costly materials

Roman Cloaks - the Sagum
The sagum was the name of the cloak worn on top of the armor by members of the Roman military during the periods of the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. The sagum consisted of a simple rectangular segment of heavy material, knee length, open in the front and fastened by a metal or leather clasp or safety-pin-like “fibula”. The sagum symbolised a garment of war as opposed to the toga which symbolised a garment of peace. The sagum cloaks also doubled as bedrolls for the soldiers. A shorter version of the Sagum was called the Sagutum. The color of the sagum worn by common soldiers was usually a dull red, whereas the cloaks of higher ranking officers were dyed in a more expensive bright scarlet. Cloaks of brown-yellow and blue-gray were also worn.

Roman Cloaks - the Paenula
The paenula was a very simple type of Roman cloak consisting of a piece of material with a central hole allowing the wearer to slip the cloak over the head. It was worn by both men and women, generally used as protection against bad weather. The paenula was made of either leather (paenula scortae), or very heavy felt (paenula gausapina). Only the cheapest materials were used for slaves and laborers which were made in the plainest of colors. Felt was one of the cheapest materials to produce by matting, condensing and pressing fibers, predating weaving and knitting. How felt is produced is conveyed by the old legend about Saint Christopher who, when fleeing from persecution, packed his sandals with wool to prevent blisters. The friction and movement combined with sweat turned the wool into felt socks.

Roman Cloaks - the Paludamentum
The paludamentum was an expensive ankle length cloak, like a semi-circular cape, fastened on the right shoulder with a gold or jewelled clasp or brooch, which was worn on state occasions.  The paludamentum was a bright red cloak first worn during the period of the Roman Republic by generals over their armor or consuls and dictators. The paludamentum was presented as part of the ceremony of inauguration on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. During the period of the Roman Empire the paludamentum was worn at state occasions as a symbol of imperial power by the Roman Emperors. The paludamentum worn by the Roman Emperors was usually colored purple but they also wore other expensive colors such as red, violet or dark blue. The shape of the material used to make the paludamentum was at first rectangular but as time passed the top corners of the material were cut to fit the shoulders in a more snug fashion.

Roman Emperor Clothing
Roman Clothing Materials
Colors of Roman Clothing
Roman Colosseum
Roman Clothing

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