Ancient Roman Military Clothing

The legions of the Roman Republic and Empire wore fairly standardised dress and armour. However the concept of uniforms was not part of their culture and there were considerable differences in detail. Armor was not standardized and even that produced in state factories varied according to the province of origin. Likewise the Romans had no concept of obsolescence. Provided it remained serviceable, soldiers were free to use armour handed down by family members, buy armour from soldiers who had completed their service or wear discontinued styles of armour if they preferred it to (or could not afford) the latest issue. Thus it was common for legions to wear a mix of various styles that could cover a considerable time period.

Clothing may have been one of the most important aspects of a Roman Soldier's life, the majority of his time would have been spent in peace.In Germany before Arminius' attack on Varus, Roman soldiers were building towns, and the German people were adapting to Roman ways.

Fragments of surviving clothing and wall paintings indicate that the basic tunic of the Roman soldier was of red or undyed (off-white) wool. Senior commanders are known to have worn white cloaks and plumes. The centurions who made up the long serving backbone of the legions were distinguished by transverse crests on their helmets, chest ornaments corresponding to modern medals and the long cudgels that they carried.

Examples of items of Roman military personal armour included:

  • The Galea or soldier's helmet. Variant forms included the Coolus helmet, Montefortino helmet, and Imperial helmet.
  • Greaves, to protect the legs.
  • Lorica (armour), including:
    • Lorica hamata (mail armour)
    • Lorica manica (arm guards)
    • Lorica plumata (feathered armour) for strong use.
    • Lorica segmentata (segmented armour)
    • Lorica squamata (scale armour)

Other garments and equipment included:

  • A tunic
  • The baldric, a belt worn over one shoulder that is typically used to carry a weapon (usually a sword) or other implement such as a bugle or drum
  • The balteus, the standard belt worn by the Roman legionary. It was probably used to tuck clothing into or to hold weapons.
  • Braccae (trousers), popular among Roman legionaries stationed in cooler climates to the north of southern Italy
  • Caligae, heavy-soled military shoes or sandals which were worn by Roman legionary soldiers and auxiliaries throughout the history of the Roman Republic and Empire.
  • The focale, a scarf worn by the Roman legionary to protect the neck from chafing caused by constant contact with the soldier's armor
  • The loculus, a satchel, carried by legionaries as a part of their sarcina (marching pack)
  • The paludamentum, a cloak or cape fastened at one shoulder, worn by military commanders and (less often) by their troops

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