Roman Emperor Clothing

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Emperor Clothing
The Roman Emperor had great power and unlimited power over millions of people. Public display of status was an extremely important feature of Roman society. The Romans required that their status and rank was immediately recognized, in order to be meaningful, and the the clothing worn by the Roman Emperor, especially on state occasions had to be the most expensive, made from the rarest and finest materials.

The material, style and color of the clothing worn by a Roman Emperor was the very best and the Emperor was instantly recognised by what he wore. Although the colors, decorations and materials used in the manufacture of a Roman Emperors clothing he wore the basic garments of the Romans: The tunic, the toga and the cloak:

  • The Toga was the standard loose flowing outer garment which was elaborately draped around the body

  • The tunic (tunica) was worn below the toga. The original tunic designs reached to the knees and had short sleeves. In the second century AD the style changed and long sleeves were acceptable in the tunic design

  • The cloak called a paludamentum which was fastened at the shoulder with a clasp, called a fibula

Roman Emperor Clothing - The Color Purple and the 'Trabea' Toga
The most associated color with Roman Emperor Clothing is the color purple. Only a Roman Emperor was allowed to wear the 'trabea' which was a toga entirely colored in purple and worn on ceremonial occasions. Statues of gods were also dressed in the purple trabea toga, emphasising the importance of the color and of course associating the Emperor with the Roman gods. The purple toga was also referred to as the Toga purpurea. Lesser mortals such as kings, senators, young sons of senators, augurs and some other important priests were allowed to have purple stripes on their togas. The width of the stripe varied accordance to their status.

Roman Emperor Clothing - Tyrian Purple Dye
Tyrian Purple Dye was an extremely expensive dye which originated in Tyre in Lebanon. The Phoenicians owned the monopoly on this purple dye which was was made by crushing thousands of sea shells called the Mediterranean Murex. It took ten thousand Murex mollusks to make dye just one toga worn as an time of Roman Emperor clothing.  Tyrian purple dye was worth more than its weight in gold and therefore came to symbolise both the wealth and power and the Roman Emperors.

Roman Emperor Clothing - Sumptuary Laws
Roman Sumptuary Laws were imposed by the rulers of Ancient Rome to curb the expenditure of the people in relation to food, entertainment and clothing. The Sumptuary laws of Ancient Rome dictated that only the Emperor could wear a purple toga. Roman Clothing provided an immediate way of distinguishing 'Who was Who' in Ancient Rome - an easy and immediate way to identify rank and privilege, such as only the Roman Emperor was permitted to wear a purple toga. The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life. The Roman Sumptuary laws ensured that their class structure was fully maintained regardless of the wealth of a person - after all it would hardly be proper for a rich slave trader, no matter how rich he was,  to wear the same purple toga as the Roman Emperor.

Roman Emperor Clothing - Toga picta
The Toga picta was another piece of Roman Emperor Clothing, which was also worn on special occasions such as the opening of gladiatorial games. Unlike all other types of toga, the material was not just dyed purple but was also richly embroidered and decorated with gold.

Roman Emperor Clothing - Tunics - Tunica Palmata
The tunic (tunica) was a garment of major importance in Roman clothing. The original tunic designs reached to the knees and had short sleeves. In the second century AD the style changed and long sleeves were acceptable in the tunic design. The Tunica Palmata was another item of Roman Emperor clothing. The Tunica Palmata was highly decorative which was covered in rich, gold embroidery depicting various forms of foliage. The borders on the wrists, neck and bottom edge of the Tunica Palmata were particularly highly decorated areas of this type of clothing.

Roman Emperor Clothing - Cloaks - The Paludamentum
The paludamentum was the name given to the cloak which was first worn by the Roman Emperor, and his generals, over their armor. The length of the cloak varied with time but eventually reached ankle length. The importance of the cloak increased and eventually superseded the toga picta as the state dress, especially during ceremonies involving the Roman Emperors which were held in colder climates such as Britain. The paludamentum cloak when worn as the state dress of the Roman Emperors was usually colored purple but other rich and expensive colors such as red, violet or dark blue were also used. The paludamentum cloak was fastened on the right shoulder of the emperors with an ornamental brooch, called a fibula, which was made of gold and precious jewels. 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.

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