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Romans wore wigs

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Fresco from Villa Arianna (Stabie), showing a Roman woman correcting her hairstyle. Painting dated to the 1st century CE.
Fresco from Villa Arianna (Stabie), showing a Roman woman correcting her hairstyle. Painting dated to the 1st century CE.

Wigs were worn in ancient Rome. Julius Caesar reportedly wore a wig and a laurel wreath to hide his progressive baldness. The Emperor’s wife herself Marcus AureliusFaustina the Elder (c. 100-141 CE) – had an impressive collection of at least 300 wigs.

Emperor Caligula (12-41 CE), in turn, was known to have the capillameus wig. full wig. According to Suetonius, wigs were also worn by Emperor Otho and Domitian.

Sometimes bald Romans, both men and women, had their hair painted on instead of wearing wigs. Men were suggested to wear hippo skin on their heads, which was said to have a positive effect on hair growth.

Some writers, such as Martial or Juvenal, made jokes in their works of women who wore wigs to look younger, and older men who tried to hide their age. Developing Christianity in the Empire was critical of the wearing of wigs, and considered it a sin to wear fake hair.

The wigs were made of real hair. The most expensive and desirable were blonde (dominant in women in Germania) and brown (mainly India). It is also worth adding that reportedly Emperor Lucius Verus (ruled in 161-169 CE) had natural fair hair, but to make it even brighter, gold dust was splashing on it.

The wigs were divided into (1) full – capillamentum, which made up the entire hairstyle (2), and a half – galerus, which complemented the hair on the head. Due to the relatively humid climate in the northern parts of the Empire, some of the wigs have survived to our times.

  • Michael Grant, The Antonines: The Roman Empire in Transition, London & New York 1994
  • Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars

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