Why Did Romans Not Wear Pants

Romans cannot wear pants or boots within the city in the late Roman empires as it was banned.

Did Romans wear underpants? Except for Roman soldiers, Romans did not wear pants because it was banned eventually and associated with barbarians or tribes such as Persians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Eastern, and Central Asian peoples. Only male citizens of Rome were allowed to wear togas, a large piece of cloth around 18 feet long and 6 feet wide, draped across the shoulders and around the body, over a plain white linen tunic. 

By 397, Emperors Honorius and Arcadius in the late Roman empire bans pants in the code.

Within the venerable City no person should be allowed to appropriate to himself the use of boots or trousers. But if any man should attempt to contravene this sanction, We command that in accordance with the sentence of the Illustrious Prefect, the offender shall be stripped of all his resources and delivered into perpetual exile.

The breeches are a symbol of "otherness" and were used to show the relationship with the tribes to the north, according to Susanne Elm, a historian from the University of California, Berkeley.

“Good orators were using rhetoric in a rather sophisticated way—they were picturing foreign tribes in the way that mostly suited their needs, from fierce aggressors to backwards folks and they were relying on visual imageries to make sure that ‘barbarian otherness’ would stand out”

Marcus Tullius Cicero was defending Fonteius from accusations of extortion, and he cited the wearing of pants as a sign of the "innate aggressiveness" of the Gauls.

Are you then hesitating, O judges, when all these nations have an innate hatred to and wage incessant war with the name of the Roman people? Do you think that, with their military cloaks and their breeches, they come to us in a lowly and submissive spirit, as these do (…)? Nothing is further from the truth.

As per Wikipedia, Greek which influence many Romans culture also shared the same distaste in trousers.

The ancient Greeks used the term "ἀναξυρίδες" (anaxyrides) for the trousers worn by Eastern nations and "σαράβαρα" (sarabara) for the loose trousers worn by the Scythians. However, they did not wear trousers since they thought them ridiculous, using the word "θύλακοι" (thulakoi), pl. of "θύλακος" (thulakos), "sack", as a slang term for the loose trousers of Persians and other Middle Easterners.

  • Did Roman soldiers wear pants?

Yes, the Roman soldiers wear togas and leggings based on ancient carvings in the spiral bas-relief of Trajan’s Column, the 98-foot-tall, 12-foot-thick marble monument erected in 113. Even though the wearing of pants and boots was later banned by Emperors Honorius and Arcadius.

Source: University of St Andrews

  • When did Romans start wearing trousers?

When the Roman Empire started extending beyond the Mediterranean, pants became common among Roman soldiers and would continue to remain popular throughout the Byzantine period and beyond.

However, women do not even wear pants and was restricted to knee-length tunics.

In fact, even in the US, women were only allowed to wear trousers on the US Senate floor after an act of defiance in 1993. In 1993, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore trousers, and female support staff followed soon after; the rule was amended later that year by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope to allow women to wear trousers on the floor so long as they also wore a jacket.

  • When did Romans stop wearing a toga?

The Romans started wearing a toga in the early days of the republic when Roman society first became quite organized and identifiable. The toga was adapted from Greek culture and was a rather small elongated oval of woolen fabric and was easily worn over the top of the tunica, or shirt. 

Based on the encyclopedia, a Roman writer and an observer of Roman costumes named Tertullian (c. 155–c. 220 c.e.), quoted in Michael and Ariane Batterberry's Fashion: The Mirror of History, said of the toga:

"It(Toga) is not a garment, but a burden."

  • What did Roman slaves wear?

Roman slaves who engaged in hot, sweaty, or dirty work will wear loincloths under a tunic or just loincloths on their own. Women wore both loincloth and strophium (a breast cloth) under their tunics, and some wore tailored underwear for work or leisure.

  • What did Roman emperors wear?

For comfort and protection from cold, both sexes could wear a soft under-tunic or vest (subucula) beneath a coarser over-tunic; in winter, Emperor Augustus, whose physique was never particularly robust, wore up to four tunics, over a vest. Some of these silk fabrics were extremely fine – around 50 threads or more per centimeter.


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