For those of you who enjoyed What the Well-Dressed Roman General Is Wearing, here’s an update. They have auctioned off Caesar’s triumphator costume from the HBO series Rome! I can only hope that the auction winner was a museum of television history or fashion that will make the costume available for study. But it was probably some bloke with a few extra K lying around who fancies getting dressed up like Caesar. Actually, that is not such a bad idea, when I consider how sexy this costume is.
In case you’re wondering, the item sold for $4345 after 23 bids. Fortunately for us impecunious Rome fans, there is a visual record of the costume to examine in loving detail.
The company that sold the costume ironically declared it “Fit For A King.” I’m not sure whether they intended it as a joke on the reason for Caesar’s assassination. Probably not… In any case, the ensemble included a royal red cloak with a fastener, and a matching neck cloth.
This is much better view of the body armor than one gets in the relatively brief triumph scene. It has the customary musculature and pteruges attached to shoulders and hips. According to the listing, the cuirass is made of “metal and leather.” It’s fun to compare Roman armor (mostly known from statues) with the real-life Classical Greek armor recovered from excavations. Early Greek armor tends to have stylized musculature and is not particularly pumped up.
Later, as Greek sculptors got more interested in the body, armor began to take on a gorgeous, naturalistic look, so that every Greek warrior could have a chest like Zeus, the King of the Gods!
The Romans took it even further, with big, heavy, Herculean torsos.
Back view of the costume without the red cloak. The whole set was custom-made to fit Ciarán Hinds, who played Caesar.
Underneath was this rather fetching leather skirt with a modern-style belt to secure it. It’s a bit flirty, a bit Jean-Paul Gaultier. In the unlikely event that I ever become Queen of the World, my first order of business will be to decree this the new garb for all Beautiful Men. And after that, I’ll attend to world peace…
The wrist cuff and greaves have repoussé motifs. The material is an unidentified metal. I was disappointed in the dull look of these pieces because onscreen, they look more like real gold with brilliant silver repoussage.
Now let’s talk about what was left out of the auction. In the triumph scene, Hinds wore a number of additional items. First of all, beneath the other elements was a long-sleeved red tunic.
Caesar must have done the same; it is unlikely that he would have worn his cuirass next to his skin. The tunic was probably at least thigh-length, providing coverage beneath the skirt of leather strips. (Otherwise the assembled crowds would have been treated to repeated glimpses of the Julian fascinum.)
I’m not sure why warriors wore these slit skirts, since they could not have provided much in the way of protection for the groin area. They were sometimes made of fabric, so perhaps the point was to have a garment that allowed maximum body movement. And yet, the Greek versions of this armor typically show the pteruges arranged around the upper hips, not the thighs. They ended just above the genitals, which were left quite vulnerable.
As seen in this Athenian vase painting, the Greeks wore a mini-tunic that reached to upper or mid-thigh. Greaves were optional; this warrior sports a charming pair. On the subject of greaves, I feel compelled to show this image from the movie 300, in which the Spartans are depicted wearing leather Speedo bikinis and no armor… except for those sexy, all-important greaves!
But I digress. In the triumph scene, Hinds also wore a sword in a red scabbard, a gold wreath, and TWO wrist cuffs, not one. On his feet were leather sandals. Whatever happened to these other items, they didn’t make it into the auction. I wonder if one or more of them was given to Mr. H. as a souvenir.