September 6, 2004

Cool new hairstyles, as seen in the Forum...

My son e-mailed me a question, which I made a stab at answering. Maybe others know more about this?

I was doing a little research online with a question about Roman hair styles that's been bugging me. In all Hollywood movies concerning Rome that I've seen no matter what period of Rome that they were trying to portray, the hair styles of the important men were ALWAYS the same. It always seemed to be cut short right above the eyebrows, there apeared to be NO originality among the Roman leaders.

I did some checking online, and lo and behold, statues of Roman Emporers, who could be separated by over two hundred years, along with people protrayed in those pictures made out of tiles, ALL had VERY similar hair styles, almost identical to eachother. I have seen no statues of completly bald men, nor statues with hair parted on one side, or excessivly long hair. Can you think of any reason why this might be so?

Good question. The ancient world does not seem to have had frequent changes in style like we do, either in clothes, hair or beards. But I have no idea why. Emperors probably wanted to look like Augustus Caesar, to help them feel legitimate. Probably they would have been shown with hair even if bald--portraits and statues were part of propaganda and image-building. But I think mainly the style just didn't change.

And keep in mind that there were no photos. Portraits in any era tend to make people look much like a certain ideal that is in the minds of artists. In portraits from around 1660 everyone looks like Louis XIV, or his paramours! Or if you look at illustrations from the Civil War era, the men all have small delicate feet.

Actually even in photos people tend to have a "look" common to their era. Try looking at some magazines from the past. Say a Life Magazine from the 1950' will be amazed at how faces and postures and body-shapes seem to have a certain similarity...

It's funny about Hollywood. Most movies set in other eras make some attempt to really reflect their period. But never movies about ancient Rome, or so it seems to me. They just copy from other movies. Actors seem to have all soaked up a certain way of being "Roman," (probably deriving from the way Shakespeare's Roman plays are acted, but those guys are just copying each other too.) So we get the same diction and style over and over again. I hate it! I can't stand to watch it for even a few minutes.

Posted by John Weidner at September 6, 2004 4:47 PM
Weblog by John Weidner