A neat set of “how-to” drawings crossed my FB feed this morning, so I thought… let’s chat about skivvies!
Mosaic of women exercising (the so-called ‘Bikini Girls’), Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily
Romans (both men and women) wore underwear beneath their outer garments. Sometimes. Donning underwear was not universal practice, but enough evidence survives to give us a fairly comprehensive idea of when Roman underwear was worn and how it was worn. The simple piece of cloth wrapped around the glorious bits like a nappie was called a subligaculum. The drawings below give a reasonable accurate representation of how one wore the subligaculum. The cloth could be made from a variety of materials, most often wool or leather (for those special occasions).
Translated best as either loincloth or shorts (short shorts), the subligaculum was often the only dress/costume for slaves, actors, and other ignoble members of Roman society. Free men and women might wear the subligaculum while exercising, as Gaius did during his sword practice in Dominus, Chapter 16.
Interestingly enough, the loincloth was considered an old-fashioned garment and could be worn under the tunic and/or toga as a sign of adherence to traditional Roman values. There are references to certain religious officials wearing only the subligaculum during the performance of archaic sacrificial rites.
Well, time to go back into the writing cave. Time for Gaius to teasingly untie a loincloth or two… with his teeth. 😀