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Hair Styles of Ancient Rome

Funerary Portrait Painting of a Young Woman from the Roman Period

Funerary Portrait Painting of a Young Woman from the Roman Period

Hairstyles of the Past are still fresh Today

The Ancient Romans were very much like us.

When you take away the visible slave presence and much of the particularly grisly criminal justice, you'll find that we have a lot in common. Things like ancient Roman food, many leisure activities and their art are quite at home with us today.

Just like us, they paid a lot of attention to their dress, and hair styles were very important.

Hair Styles of Elegance for the Rich

In Ancient Rome, your hairstyle showed who you were and where you stood in society.

Wealthy women could, and did, wear extravagant styles which might take an hour to dress. Specialised slaves, Ornatrices, did nothing but wash, brush, colour, cut, curl the tresses of their mistress. It was a privileged position - for a slave.

These wealthy women had plenty of time to sit in front of a mirror while their hair was being ornately dressed. Dyes were used to colour hair, such as henna (which we still use today) and saffron, another expensive import for Roman matrons.

Faustine Minore Giovane

Faustine Minore Giovane

Empress Faustina the Younger

I was moved very close to tears by this statue of Faustine Minore (Faustina the Younger) at the Capitolene Museum in Rome.

It wasn't just the genius of the unknown stone artist ,but the very real impression of a young woman. It seemed as if she could turn to me and speak. I wanted her to speak to me, I wanted to hear about her husband, Marcus Aurelius, one of my favourite Emperors. I wanted her to tell me what her life was like, with her children, her travels and her exalted position.

Would she tell me of her great uncle, Hadrian?

Faustina, what was it like making your home in a military camp for two years?

If only stone could speak.

Of course, I was fascinated with her hairstyle too.

Hairstyle of Faustina the Younger - About 160 CE

Late 1st Century - The Orbis Comarum

Hairstyles were a sign of Value

Hairdressing was part of a woman’s cultus, the practice of self-cultivation and improvement, which was central to the lives of elite Roman citizens.

For the Romans, a woman’s ability to afford the time and manual labor necessary to have her hair styled was not only a sign of wealth, but also of her value within the household.

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About 40 BCE - The Tutulus Style

Janet Stephens

Hairdresser and Amateur Archaeologist

Janet Stephens, hairdresser extraordinaire, recreates the Ancient Roman coiffure using the styling tools available at that time. Even this simple Tutullus style is intricate.

These videos show how she goes about it.

How about you?

Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar

Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar

Hair Styles for Roman Men

Roman men kept their hair cut short, it was the 'barbarians', after all, who grew it long. A good enough reason, the Roman men obviously felt, to keep their crop trimmed.

Romans thought the barbarians were too primitive to keep their hair short, too somehow ..foreign .. with their thick clay-decorated pony tails and painted faces.

The specialised Roman slave hairdressers created the master's hairstyle each day, pulling out any grey hairs and keeping the ears and nostrils neat and tidy. .

You can see in the bust of Julius Caesar that his hair is thinning and it's combed forward in an attempt to disguise this. But a comb-over never conceals baldness and soon enough the busts showed Caesar with his hair cut right back to the scalp.

Emperor Hadrian

Emperor Hadrian

Hadrian and his Beard

When Hadrian (76-138) became Emperor, he chose a completely new style for himself.

He didn't go for the lean, ascetic lines of the Caesar cut, he didn't want the elaborate curls and sideburns which framed the face of Nero, he chose his own individual look.

Hadrian wore his brown, wavy hair au naturelle, cut to the length that most men now have in the western culture.

He also wore a close beard - a startling departure from former Emperors. It was quite a shock at the time and he was accused of turning his back upon the traditional Roman manly virtues and, instead, becoming just like a decadent Greek or an even more decadent Persian.

Needless to say, soon every man of note in Rome was sporting a similar beard.

The Modern Caesar Cut


How about you? What do you think of the modern Caesar cut?

© 2013 Susanna Duffy

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RomeFan on December 22, 2013:

Wow, it's nice to see the various ancient hairstyle for men and women. If only I have enough hair, and if I have someone to do the hair dressing thing, I would love to try these ancient Roman hairstyle. Well, I am just curious and fascinated about the idea. Great lens, thanks for the info.

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on November 22, 2013:

I barely have enough hair to wear a modern hair style, but you betcha! If I lived back then and had enough hair, I'd have been right in style. Fun lens!

Agapantha on August 09, 2013:

I think I've been wearing an Ancient Roman hairstyle without realizing

mariacarbonara on August 07, 2013:

Love Hadrian and his beard. The great thing about being the emperor is that you can do whatever you like

Ask_Me on July 01, 2013:

These hairstyles are really cool - could be modern

Glendame on June 15, 2013:

You're right! We're still wearing these hairstyles today!

Science-Fiction-Fan on June 14, 2013:

I'm a fan of the Caesar cut

CannyGranny on June 14, 2013:

I may not be an Ancient Roman but I still wear very similar hairstyles

Vladimir from Australia on June 13, 2013:

My fur is too short for the big styles and too thick for the Caesar styles.Can I slick it down with fish sauce?

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on June 09, 2013:

I enjoyed seeing these ancient hair styles. I would have been up the creek, for sure, as my hair will not hold a single curl. Just straight as a stick.

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on June 09, 2013:

This is really fun. I love the modern hairstyle based on the Roman look. My daughter wants her hair like the big image. Nice job. Interesting and original.

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on June 09, 2013:

I love the hairstyle of Faustina.All those beautiful thick plaits.

oztoo lm on June 09, 2013:

Some of these styles must have taken ages to create but it's interesting that many of them could still be fashionable today.

Angela F from Seattle, WA on June 09, 2013:

Faustina's hairstyle is apparently so popular its made its way apparently into every century - what a beautiful sculpture too!

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