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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Qui Dignes Es!

Hair in Roman times, as it is today, was a woman’s crowning glory. With it, a lady could promote her social status, her identity and even her sexual availability.

Along with jewellery, hair was a woman’s way of expressing herself; from simple straight locks to elaborately shaped wigs and hair pieces, Roman vogue was heavily varied.

One of the most common techniques women, or their slaves, would have used to fashion the complicated styles was that of plaiting, or braiding. The plaits were often wrapped around or across the head to create textured and complex looks. (Have a look at our attempt….).

Along with the use of plaits, curling irons were frequently applied to hair to make voluptuous piles and layers, screaming wealth and status. The irons were also used to crimp the hair in order to bulk out certain parts of the design or add texture.

To hold stray hairs in place, animal fat was used much like a modern hair gel or spray. It must have been a nightmare to wash out!

As complicated as the styles sound already, the Romans took the next step up by attaching hair pieces and/or wigs to bulk up their already colossal dos; many of the styles depended on this. False hair (that is, not belonging to the wearer) was used as extra padding to heighten or bulk out styles.

'So important is the business of beautification; so numerous are the tiers and storeys piled one upon another on her head! In front you would take her for an Andromanche; she is so tall behind; you would not think it was the same person.'

- Satire 6, 501-504, trans. P. Green

Some conservative opinions suggest that the use of such wigs and adornments were worn as disguises to hide a woman’s identity. Others believe that the shaped hair styles represented the beholders social standing, such as with styles moulded to show regal headdresses, or the woman’s faith through hair resembling turbans, crests or crowns.

Bel and I (who are currently volunteers here at the Baths, from Durham University) had a go, much to our amusement, at creating some of the designs on each other. We concluded that the Romans definitely had the upper hand in hairdressing.

Fi – Collections placement
Qui dignes es translates to “Because you’re worthy!”

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJuly 27, 2011

    This is great! Now I know what kind of hairstyles to wear with my toga for Halloween!