Facts About the Roman Toga

Written by helen fitzgerald
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Facts About the Roman Toga
A toga was one of the most popular types of dress in ancient Rome. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

A toga is a garment that drapes across the body. It is made from one piece of fabric, usually wool, and was made famous by the Romans in the years leading up to the Christian era. Citizens of Rome all wore togas of varying kinds. Non-citizens, slaves or exiles were not allowed to wear them.

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History

From around the second century BC, Roman men wore the toga on top of a tunic, and from then onwards it became a tradition of the Roman Empire. The colour, style and bordering on the toga indicated official status, social class and education levels. Women also wore togas, however, with time they began to prefer the stola, a dress previously worn only by married women. Toga parties have been a tradition at universities and colleges all over the world, when the students all dress up in togas, many of which are homemade.

Description

The word "toga" comes from the Latin word "tegere" which means to cover up. The toga is a loose fitting wrap garment with no sleeves that is open from the waist up. Togas were usually made from large pieces of woollen cloth, but can also be made from other textiles. The borders of the cloth were often embroidered with stripes and other designs the colour, which indicated status. The toga was gracefully wrapped around the body and the end piece was thrown over the left shoulder.

Different Types of Togas

There are seven main types of togas from classical Roman times. The pura toga was made of raw wool and was white. The toga virilis was also a while toga that young men wore when they reached maturity. Only the emperor wore the trabea, the pure purple toga. The toga candida was bleached with white chalk and was worn by candidates running for public office. The Toga praetexta was worn by both children priests and consuls and had a crimson border. The toga pulla was a black toga used for mourning. The toga picta was a highly decorated purple emperor's toga embroidered with jewels and gold. It was only used for special public appearances of the emperor.

Symbolism

The toga was a symbol of peace, and subsequently Roman soldiers did not wear the toga. Each type, colour or style of toga symbolically represents the status of the wearer. The pure purple togas only the emperor wore symbolised the divinity of the emperor and were also used to dress statues of Roman gods. Only the augurs were allowed to wear a saffron toga, the colour being symbolic of the augur. A toga with stripes on the border symbolised the status of the wearer, and was used to identify senators and magistrates. The toga palmata was a toga with a gold border, which only generals could wear in their triumphs, the gold symbolic of the victory.

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