Wednesday 28 November 2012

A close shave

A Roman steel razor - going to the barber for a scrape
Of course, Romans didn't just have their nails to worry about, throughout much of classical history, the clean-shaven look was the in thing - until Hadrian came along with a bad case of acne scars and grew the first all-over Imperial beard. There was a practical point to shaving in ancient times too - Roman soldiers shaved so enemy combatants didn't have any whiskers to grab during hand-to-hand combat. And, as a whole, Roman society eschewed all body hair below the scalp (and I mean all hair), initially to combat body lice, but no doubt, as now, because it was fashionable. That's not to say Romans invented shaving, a flint razor dates the first smooth face to at least 18,000BC, and by 3000BC copper razor blades were doing the rounds. As for what passed as a razor blade during the age of Rome, there appears to have been a number of avenues. Flat-faced steel razors that look more like a paint scraper - and developed from much earlier copper and bronze designs - were certainly in vogue. But, as many men carried small folding pen-knives with a cut-throat shaped blade, the latter may have been the budget alternative to a trip to the barber.

The blade from a Roman folding pen-knife -
sharp enough for a smooth finish

Find out if Calvus shaved as close as a blade or got his money back

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