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Roman clad in toga

The toga was a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome. It consisted of a long sash of cloth, on the order of perhaps twenty feet (6 meters) in length. This sash was wrapped around the body in a particular way and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was invariably made of wool,<ref> "Toga". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. (1890). Ed. William Smith, LLD; William Wayte; G. E. Marindin. London: John Murray. Retrieved on 2006-06-15.</ref> and the tunic under it was often made of linen. For most of Rome's history, the toga was a garment worn exclusively by men, while women wore the stola. Non-citizens were forbidden to wear a toga.


[edit] History

The toga was the earliest costume of the Romans, a thick woollen cloak worn over a loincloth or apron. It was taken off indoors, or when hard at work in the fields, but it was the only decent attire out-of-doors. (We learn this from the story of Cincinnatus: he was ploughing in his field when the messengers of the Senate came to tell him that he had been made dictator, and on seeing them he sent his wife to fetch his toga from the house so that they could be received appropriately.<ref>Livius, Titus (ca. 1st century BCE). "Book III: The Decemvirate", chapter 26, Ab Urbe Condita.</ref> The truth of the story may be doubtful, but it nevertheless expresses the Roman sentiment on the subject.)

As time went on, the garments changed. They adopted the shirt (tunica, or in Greek chiton) which the Greeks and Etruscans wore, made their toga more bulky, and wore it in a looser manner. The result was that it became useless for active pursuits, such as those of war. Thus, its place was taken by the more handy sagum (woolen cloak) on all military occasions. In times of peace, too, the toga was eventually superseded by the laena, lacerna, paenula, and other forms of buttoned or closed cloaks. However, the toga did remain the court dress of the Empire.<ref>Spart. Sever. 1, 7. As cited by The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.</ref>

[edit] Significance

The same process that removed the toga from every-day life gave it an increased importance as a ceremonial garment, as is often the case with clothing. As early as the third century B.C., and probably even before, the toga (along with the calceus) was looked upon as the characteristic badge of Roman citizenship. It was denied to foreigners,<ref>Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius (121 CE). 15.2, The Life of Claudius. "In a case involving citizenship a fruitless dispute arose among the advocates as to whether the defendant ought to make his appearance in the toga or in a Greek mantle..."</ref>, and even to banished Romans,<ref>Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Gaius (ca. 105 CE). Line 3, epistle 11, book 4, Epistulae. "Idem cum Graeco pallio amictus intrasset—carent enim togae iure, quibus aqua et igni interdictum est..." ("Likewise he would have gone clothed with the Greek garb—for those who have been barred from fire and water are without the right of a toga...")</ref> and it was worn by magistrates on all occasions as a badge of office. In fact, for a magistrate to appear in a Greek cloak (pallium) and sandals was considered by all, except unconventional folk, as highly improper, if not criminal.<ref>Tullius Cicero, Marcus (63 BC). Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo ("For Rabirius on a Charge of Treason"). "Rabirius... was now accused of... wearing the dress of an Egyptian."</ref> Augustus, for instance, was so much incensed at seeing a meeting of citizens without the toga, that, quoting Virgil's proud lines, "Romanos, rerum dominos, gentemque togatam" ("Romans, lords of the world, the race that wears the toga"), he gave orders to the aediles that in the future no one was to appear in the Forum or Circus without it.<ref name="Suetonius_Augustus_405" />

Because the toga was not worn by soldiers, it was regarded as a sign of peace. A civilian was sometimes called togatus, "toga-wearer", in contrast to sagum-wearing soldiers. Cicero's De Officiis contains the phrase cedant arma togae: literally, "let arms yield to the toga", meaning "may peace replace war", or "may military power yield to civilian power." This phrase became the motto of the U.S. state of Wyoming.

[edit] Varieties

There were many kinds of toga, each used differently.

  • Toga virilis (or toga alba or toga pura): A plain white toga worn on formal occasions by most Roman men of legal age, generally about fourteen to sixteen years and older.<ref>cf. Mart. viii. 28, 11. As cited by The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.</ref>
  • Toga candida: "Bright toga"; a toga bleached to a dazzling white by chalk (Isidorus Orig. xix. 24, 6), worn by candidates for public office.<ref>cf. Polybius, x. 4, 8. As cited by The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.</ref> Thus Persius speaks of a cretata ambitio, "chalked ambition". Oddly, this custom appears to have been banned by plebiscite in 432 BC, but the restriction was never enforced.<ref>Liv. iv. 25, 13. As cited by The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.</ref> The term is the source of the English word candidate.
Those with the right to wear a toga praetexta were sometimes termed laticlavius, "having a broad crimson stripe". It also gave its name to a literary form known as praetexta.
Image:Contemporary portrayal of a toga picta.jpg
A contemporary portrayal of a toga picta
  • Toga pulla: Literally just "dark toga". It was worn mainly by mourners, but could also be worn in times of private danger or public anxiety. It was sometimes used as a protest of sorts—when Cicero was exiled, the Senate resolved to wear togae pullae as a demonstration against the decision.<ref>post red. in Sen. 5, 12. As cited by The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.</ref> Magistrates with the right to wear a toga praetexta wore a simple toga pura instead of pulla.
  • Toga picta: This toga, unlike all others, was not just dyed but embroidered and decorated. It was solid purple, embroidered with gold. Under the Republic, it was worn by generals in their triumphs, and by the Praetor Urbanus when he rode in the chariot of the Gods into the circus at the Ludi Apollinares.<ref>cf. Liv. v. 41, 2. As cited by The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.</ref> During the Empire, the toga picta was worn by magistrates giving public gladiatorial games, and by the consuls, as well as by the emperor on special occasions.

[edit] Modern usage

In several countries, the tradition of the toga party has become popular in recent decades, generally at institutions of tertiary education. This practice trades on the myth of Roman debauchery, and participants dress in togas, which are usually makeshift garments fashioned from bed linen. As such, these "togas" bear little resemblance to the Ancient Roman garment, being both flimsier and scantier.

[edit] Notes

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[edit] External links

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities by William Smith (1870).bg:Тога da:Toga de:Toga eo:Togo (vesto) gl:Toga he:טוגה ka:ტოგა la:Toga nl:Toga (kledingstuk) pl:Toga ru:Тога fi:Tooga sv:Toga


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