Tuesday, 4 September 2012

When is a tunic just a mini-skirt?

One of the things that annoys me most about the great Roman epics from the sixties is watching some Hollywood legend with knobbly white knees prancing about in a tunic so short he would have been arrested if he'd gone off set. Let's set things straight. Throughout the classical age, the tunic was the go to ensemble for a whole range of peoples - the Celts wore them, so did the Greeks, and of course the Romans. It was the T-shirt and jeans we would wear today. And yes, tunic hems did go up and down. The Gauls wore trousers so they didn't need long tunics, and the Greeks weren't afraid of showing some thigh during the 4th-century. But the Romans were always a little more modest than the Greeks, in much the same way the English used to compare themselves to the French - and it showed in their tunics. By the 1st-century BC - when most of our great Roman epics are set - the Roman tunic was knee-length, and actually slightly longer at the front than the back...so that sitting on a public privvy didn't reveal any more than a dietary issue. The Romans were all about practicality, which even showed in their clothes...apart from their togas - but that's another post.

Find out if Calvus liked his tunics short