Full Version: Check(er)ed clothing in the Roman army, 1st C
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2 3 4
Is it known to what extent locally produced, checked clothing was used in the Roman army? I guess not that much in the legions(?), but I wonder about the auxilia troops. Soldiers sometimes received clothing from their parents (papyri were found, if I'm not mistaken), and must also have bought clothing from 'local markets'.

The period I want to know about is first century (more specifically the second half). And if it indeed was used, for what garments would it be? For a sagum? A long-sleeved tunic?

PS: what is the correct word? Checked or checkered? I'd think they're both possible, but what is most regularly used?

The myriad of possibilities for that type of fabric pattern and different color combinations I've always known to be plaid.

That's all I'm good for regarding your questions.

Best regards,
Greetings, I can only say at Vindolanda from sealed levels the predominant cloth was Diamond Twill, about two thirds of the cloth finds most of which had been cut up for re-use. Diamond Twill is a common northern cloth and the sample appears to be made in the northern provinces.

Does the use of diamond twill exclude the possibility of checkered cloth then? :-? I don't know that much about textile and types of weave...
No, but you wouldnt weave a checked cloth from diamond twill, checked cloth is rare at least at vindolanda(one sample? from Hundreds)which might suggest a different type of cloth/weave was being worn generally, Vindolanda is fairly well documented(see )the wooden forts at this time were regularly levelled and the refuse buried at less then 10 year intervals, this is at the edge of the world(to a Roman)so you might expect to find a much higher quantity of local or at least regional products and if this included checked cloth in any quantity...
Unfortunatly cloth does not survive well so you have to get your evidence where you can...

Some germanic tribes are associated with checkered textiles, but for tunics and cloaks. I would have to look up the references, though.
Jurjen, I do seem to remember seeing a photograph of you, portraying a Batavian auxiliasoldier (with a lorica segmentata), wearing a checkered tunic. What did you base that on?
[Image: batavian.jpg]

This one you mean? Well, like I said in my previous post, we can link checkered clothing to germanic tribes (I think we can even include a reference specific to Batavians in here, but really have to look all this up again). The use of a segmentata is based on the enourmous amout of segmentata parts in Auxilia castella and rural settlements in the lower rhine delta and auxilia fortresses in Hadrians wall area, both populated with Batavians in the time the segmentata was in use.
Hi, i am not expert of the roman textiles, but i was researching some links etc... That's correct that in the late roman time some textiles were designed by different weaving types (like diamond twill, normal twill, fishbone-twill, etc .. ) but of the checkered clothes i didn't found any evidence for the tunic by the Romans. About the paenula patterns are some interpretations that the paenula could have patterns of lines but the tunic are usually monochrome (with clavis or with other ornaments). In GB are some mocaisc with tunic, too and they are monochorme: natural (beige), brown or madder red. Other tunic i didn't found on mosaics in GB.
But some textiles experts from Germany think, that some fragments of the checkered clothes in 1. st. AD were mixed - adoppted from the native celtic&germanic tribes. Other casse: I know some roman costumes of the Karina Grömer from Vienna Natural History Museum, too: and she made recos of sagum in checkered patterns, but not the tunic.
My personal opinion is that for the military tunic is better to use normal tabby with monochorme colour or 2/2 twill because i mean that the clothes for the roman army were produced by massive way (not individual like tunic for the senators and some other reach people).
But i told you - i am not expert for the roman clothes. ( i am interested for the clothes of the 1. cent. BC)

There are very few reliable images of soldiers in Roman art and I have never seen any in any check or plaid clothing either tunic or cloak.

There are certainly a lot of striped textiles from Egypt which again do not appear in the painted portraits of those who appear to be soldiers. I think I may have seen one mosaic from Egypt which shows a man, although no evidence he is a soldier, wearing something with checks on.

Something else to bear in mind. It is frequent, even in fairly recent times when a new dominant culture arrives on the scene that the local men adopt the new fashion but the women retain or are made to retain the traditional fashions. We can see this on Danubian tombstones. So in places like Britain and Gaul it is quite possible that check clothing continued to be worn by women for many years after the Roman conquest while many men adopted the plainer Roman fashions. There is a nice portrait bust of an empress where the marble is used to show a checked cloak.

The foreign styles that are adopted by the army are at first the tailored long sleeved tunic and trousers from the north and the elaborate decoration from the east. This evolves into the familiar patterned tunics and cloaks from the later empire but no evidence for soldiers wearing checked clothing. I have mentioned before that there are a couple of cases of senior commanders wearing local clothing. In some of those it is clear the reference is made to insult that person and in a couple of examples I am sure it is really a case of a Gallic rebel emperor obviously must dress in Gallic clothing, whether he did in reality or not.

One oddity, although it is shown on many reliefs, I may be wrong but I have never seen any re-enactor wearing the so called 'Gallic coat'. This certainly something that was widespread for both men and women but no one seems to bother recreating. Perhaps in modern eyes a simple tunic does not conjure up the 'Gallic' look which should be trousers and tunic. Proving we can be as biased as the Romans in our view of Gallic clothing.

Of course it is always possible that Auxiliaries and later Legionaries did wear local styles but that this was something not worth recording in the art and literature of the day.

I've seen one reenactor reconstruction of a gallic coat, it appeared as a simple, unbelted over sized tunic, is this correct? Any links to contempary sources would be great as i'll have a go at making one.
it appeared as a simple, unbelted over sized tunic, is this correct?

That sounds about right and if it looked like an old nightshirt! Any pictures or can you remember the re-enactor's group?

I've actually seen two, one on the rent a peasant site and theres one on the Vicus web site.
Yes, i agree about the tunic-patterns etc ...
Vicus's link abouth the Byrrus Britanicus is here:

In the Kelticos forum is thread about the same theme:

The shape od the gallic coat is here:

but in the RAT is theme with this topic, too:

Well, some roman solders with their tunic are here:

etc ...

But at the end would like to say something about the tradit. native clothes (Gallic&Germanic)of the la Tenne time and their patterns: they were usually non-chekered; monochrome or with the lines (but not allways checkered-designed like the tartan: that is myth that the native clothes were usually checkered). The "mixed" clothes of the galloromain time in Noricum&Pannonia of the womens are usually reconstructed monochrome - without checkered-patterns.
Link to the Gentes Danubi HP (see Johanna and Anita):
And drawing of the Johanna of our childreens in the school (i am teaching them art):

There are very few reliable images of soldiers in Roman art and I have never seen any in any check or plaid clothing either tunic or cloak.

Thanks for your reply. However, in one of your drawings (Pullo and Vorenus, Caesarian soldiers), you gave the centurion a paludamentum of plaid cloth. Is there any reason for this? (I know it is about a hundred years earlier than the period I want to know about, but still.)
Pages: 1 2 3 4