Changes in clothing

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1. Clothing in the pre-Roman period

The information known from the ancient authors about Thracian clothing is not very exhaustive and concerns mainly the differences. Thracians made their clothes from hemp, flax or wool, usually in natural colours. The lexicographer Hesychius notes that they also wore coloured or embroidered clothes, or clothes made of fabrics in different colours. It was Herodotus who first described their multicoloured hooded cloaks, called zeira. They reached the ankles and were made of thick woolen fabric, decorated with single or double coloured stripes, meanders and lines of buds (fig. 1). Usually the zeira have an attached hood and are fastened under the chin.
Other outer garments mentioned by Ovidius and worn by the Getae in Moeasia are the fur coats, worn by women and men alike. According to this author, people protected themselves against the freezing weather in Dobrudjha by wearing loose “Persian” pants, like the ones pictured on the later monuments from tropeumi Adamclisi and on the Trajan’s Column.

According to the written literary tradition (Herodotus, Xenophont), high boots of deer skin with an upturned upper part are characteristic of the Thracians (fig.2). Polux claims that these are their own invention and could also be decorated in the upper part with triangles or other cut-out shapes.
Another typical element of the Thracian costume mentioned by the ancient writers is the leather hat of fox skin, which covered the ears and reached down to the neck (fig. 2) (Herodotus, Xenophont). Another type of caps worn by the Getae and the Dacians are the pointed fur caps – “pilose”, made of felt or leather, with the fur worn outside. They were a sign of noble descent and belonging to the priesthood class.
Unfortunately, the clothing described by ancient writers (except for that on the Greek vessels with red figures) is not confirmed by the images coming from Thracia itself. A rather different costume is featured there, with a lot of “Barbarian” elements. There are a large number of applications on metal vessels and other objects of toreutics or on tomb murals, which give an idea of what the Thracians’ traditional clothing was like.

The data about 5th – 4th c. BC show that Thracians’ clothing differs significantly from that of their neighbours, the Greeks. One of the best examples is provided by the applications from Letnitsa, Lovech region. They feature women’s clothing which consists of a long-sleeved, long, loose and strongly pleated garment with a lot of folds. On the application, which also shows a three-headed dragon, the upper part of the garment is smooth, frilled at the neck, and the lower is pleated and decorated with round motifs (fig. 3). It is even possible that this is a separate skirt, put on over an undershirt. Examples of skirts can also be seen among the Dacian examples of clothing depicted on Trajan’s Column.
The female figure on another application from Letnitsa also wears a long frilled garment (fig. 4). It can be seen how the loose dress forms fake sleeves and falls down in large folds, unfortunately not very successfully recreated. In both cases it is very hard to judge whether the dress was belted or fell down loosely.
The clothing depicted on the small jug with the goddess riding a lioness from the Rogozen treasure, Vratsa region, is slightly different (fig. 5). There, the extremely loose chiton or shirt forms fake short sleeves. A cloak similar to the himation is draped over the left shoulder. Similar loose and long undershirts can be witnessed in later periods as well. For example, among the reliefs from Adamclisi, there is a female figure wearing a loose long robe frilled at the neck, which forms fake sleeves and is tied with a linen belt at the waist.

Another possible interpretation of the clothing on the jug from Rogozen is that it comprises a very long stripe of cloth and is wrapped around the body, similar to the modern sari, which covers the shoulders and whose end falls loosely to one side. The jug is dated to the middle of 4th c. BC. The goddesses depicted on the rhyton from Poroina (Romania), which is dated to the end of 4th and beginning of 3rd c. BC, are wearing almost the same costume. The repetition of one and the same attire on different monuments is a prerequisite for assuming that such clothes were actually worn during this period.

The clothing on the phalera from Galiche, Byala Slatina region, dated at 2nd – 1st c. BC, should be reviewed separately (fig. 6). This is the first example of a dress with straps – a tunic (soukman), probably worn over a smooth undershirt, with a rich decoration. It is very loose and falls down in thick folds. Its straps are slightly lowered at the shoulders and the neckline is shaped through a band with ornaments of the type “running wave”, which goes through the middle of the dress and probably reaches its lower end. Additional decoration of triangles is visible along the straps and neckline.
The ornament of 8 rings, similar to torques, strung on top of each other on the neck is of special interest. They, together with the hairstyle of two plaits, which cannot be found in other female images from Moesia, are signs of belonging to a different ethnic group. The location of the treasure in Northwest Bulgaria relates it to the tribe of the Triballi, who were under strong Celtic influence. This is probably the reason for the differences in the clothing and ornaments of the figure from the phalera, as well as the presence of numerous torques.

The Yakimovo treasure, Montana region dated to 1st c. BC is from the same region (fig. 7). The female figure on one of the silver phaleras is wearing similar clothing to the one described above. The pleated dress also falls down in thick folds. The neckline is decorated with triangles and the strap is visible on the left arm. However, the plaits here are replaced by large curls. The second phalera from this treasure has the image of a man and is of high-quality craftsmanship (fig. 8). The bearded figure is wearing a cloak, fastened with a round fibula on the right shoulder. No chiton or tunic is visible beneath it, which means that the cloak is worn with nothing underneath. The man is wearing torques on his neck, which again relates him to the Celtic traditions.
All monuments from Northwest Bulgaria described so far show that in comparison with the rest of Moesia, this is a zone of different clothing, which is probably related to the ethic differences.

The men’s clothing which can be seen on the applications from Letnitsa is even more interesting. They depict horsemen wearing tight trousers, which cover the feet as well (fig. 9). The upper part of the body is enveloped in a tight-fitting long-sleeved garment which reaches the waist and is belted. Similar images can be seen on Trajan’s Column, where they have been interpreted as Sarmatae. However, this fashion was most probably widespread and covered the whole Carpathian-Danube region, as well as the steppe part of Ukraine. A scaly chain-mail, which reaches to the middle of the thighs, is put over the above described clothing (fig. 10).
Similar clothing is depicted on a small jug from Rogozen. The horseman there is wearing the same tight-fitting trousers covering the feet and a cloak of the himation type. It is crossed at the chest and forms a skirt, which reaches the knees. The similarity in the clothes from the Letnitsa applications and on the jugs from the Rogozen treasure is of interest.

The clothing depicted is not everyday one but military, for horsemen who in all cases are high up in the social hierarchy. Trousers, however, are also characteristic of the Getae from North Bulgaria and are evidenced both by Ovidius and the Tropeum Traiani (Adamclisi) monuments and Trajan’s Column in much later times.
At the same time, the adoption of the purely Greek fashion in clothing must be noted. Naturally, it was characteristic of the Greek colonies along the west Black sea coast (fig.11), where the closed communities of Hellinistic settlers preserved their own style of clothing, although according to Ovidius they adopted the local fashion of wearing trousers to protect themselves from the cold.
During the Hellinistic period an increasingly widespread adoption of the Greek fashion can be observed on Thracian territory. Examples can be seen in the murals from the Kazanluk Tomb and the images on the small jug from the treasure from the village of Borovo, Russe region. There, the Maenads and other characters from Dionysus’s circle are clad in typical Greek clothing. The dancing Maenad is wearing an Ionic, loose, embroidered belted at the waist chiton with a hem reaching the thighs (fig. 12). Another figure, also in an Ionic embroidered chiton has a mantle tied at the waist (fig. 13) – a custom which can be observed in later times among the Dacian women depicted on Trajan’s Column.

2. Changes in clothing during the Roman Age

With the establishment of the Roman rule in Moesia at the beginning of 1st c., changes took place in the settlement structure and cities appeared, settled both by Roman citizens and local people and residents from other provinces. At the same time, a large number of soldiers from all parts of the Empire occupied the camps and settlements near the camps along the whole limes. All this led to a change in the composition of the population – a prerequisite for the mixture of different cultures and traditions, including clothing.
The information we have about clothing during the Roman Age comes from the tombstones and statues of honoured citizens in the cities. There are, however, very scarce data about the local population. Only the images from Tropaeum Trajani in Adamclisi and Trajan’s Column can shed light on what this clothing was like, provided, of course, that we assume that the residents of Moesia wore similar clothing to that of the residents of Dobrudzha and the areas to the north of the Danube river.

The least amount of data available is about 1st c. There is a tombstone from Kunino, Vratsa region (fig. 14 а and b) on which there is a woman with a long chiton to the ground, belted under the chest and a himation over her head. This combination is classically Greek and demonstrates the influence of Hellinism on clothing.
In 2nd c. the typical Roman fashion spread in the cities, consisting of a tunic and pallium (palla). Similar clothing is worn by the sitting figures on the tombstone from the Roman colony Ratiaria (present-day village of Archar, Vidin region) (fig. 15). From 2nd c. on, a characteristic of the outer garments in North Bulgaria is the lack of the classical draping. This refers them to the pallium and palla and not the himation, which remains predominant in South Bulgaria. Usually the cloak is small in size and the female figures do not wear it over the head.

Other tombstones from Ratiaria depict cloaks with fastening, most often of the type laena. Similar examples can be found in other Roman cities along the limes, like Durostorum (present-day city of Silistra) (fig. 16) and village of Gorna Beshovitsa, Vratsa region (fig. 17 а and b).
Long-sleeved tunics became widespread during 3rd c. A sarcophagus from Dolna Beshovitsa, Vratsa region (fig. 18) shows characteristic of these circles and second half of 3rd c. clothing. It consists of a long tunic, over which a collobium is worn. The head is covered by a small shawl, most probably a palla. The same monument shows the typical of the time military clothing – a short knee-length belted tunic and a cloak with fastened at the shoulder of the type laena.
A relatively large number of statuary images have been found in Moesia. Predominant among these are the statues of citizens wearing togas, called togatus. In contrast with Thrace, however, there are no figures wearing himations. The earliest statue is from the time of Nero (54 – 68) and comes from the legionary fortress of legio V Macedonica by the village of Gigen, Pleven region (fig. 19). It is of a man with a short-sleeved loose tunic and toga. The marble statue from the tomb-mausoleum from Ludjene (present-day Chavdartsi), Lovech region has also been dated. The toga is widely draped, which is characteristic of the early 2nd c. A similar statue is known from the times of the Antoninus from Durostorum.

Another type of male statues is that of the military. The torsos from Chiren, Vratsa region (fig. 20) and from Mala Kutlovitsa, Montana region have been preserved. Both feature the long-sleeved tunic, belted with a wide military belt with a round buckle, and a cloak over it, fastened with a fibula on the right shoulder. Similar clothing is characteristic of the soldiers during 3rd c. A torso from Oescus, kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia is from a statue of a soldier on a horse. He is depicted in an anatomical chain-mail, worn over a leather one and a tunic and covered with a sagum, fastened on the left shoulder (fig. 21). The statue was built at the end of 2nd or very beginning of 3rd c.

Probably the male bust from Novae (Svishtov) is of a military clerk (fig. 22). He is wearing a loose, pleated tunic and has a sagum fastened on the left shoulder.
Most often the female statuary images from North Bulgaria repeat the Large Herculanean Type. Much more rarely is pictured the Small Herculanean Type of female statues. There are known only two cases. All these statues come from the large Roman cities or their surrounding areas - Ratiaria (fig. 23), Ludjene (present-day Chavdartsi), Lovech region, Vurbovka, Sevlievsko, Byala Cherkva, Veliko Turnovo region (fig. 24), Tsarevets, Svishtov region (fig. 25).

All images observe the canon and show a woman wearing a long chiton reaching the ground and a himation, which completely covers the right arm and is wrapped around the left one. The sculptures date back to different periods – from 1st c. to the end of 3rd c. and do not have a significant importance for defining the clothing since they are replicas of an earlier Greek statue. Nevertheless, they evidence the Romanization of the population, which was adopting the universal Roman culture to a larger and larger extent.

The same holds true for the Small Herculanean Type known from Oescus and Svishtov (fig. 26). Only the draping of the himation is different. It completely covers the right shoulder and both ends are held at the left shoulder by the right hand.
The statues type “togatus” and “Large or Small Herculanean” come from the mausoleums, which were built in the big villa rustica sorrounding the Legion’s camp of the Legio I Italica in Novae, or in the territory of the roman town Nicopolis ad Istrum. This shows that, they were connected with the roman citizans. The lands they were became as a veterans of the roman army or as the state officials.The statues themselves were probably made and imported from the Greece or Asia Minor. The other possibility is they were prepared of the artists, who were been comming from these regions.

In terms of clothing, the Black Sea region remains a separate group. The images feature the same type of clothes, which for the men consist in a loose chiton with fake sleeves and a classical draped himation, rolled at the waist and draped over the left shoulder and arm. In all cases it ends with a tassel (fig. 27, 28).
The women are wearing long chitons, belted under the chest and with a himation over the head, covering the right arm. The images of servants on the tombstones show that they, too, wear chitons and the women have a very long hem, which reaches the middle of the thighs, and are belted at the waist. The men servants are wearing short knee-length chitons, belted at the waist, sometimes also with a long hem.
The tombstones from Varna and the Varna region are dated at 1st to 3rd c. and show invariability in clothing. The Greek combination of chiton and himation remains unchanged until the end of 3rd c. The names registered on the stones are mainly Thracian and from Asia Minor, which shows that the ethnic composition in the Hellinistic cities along the Black Sea coast remains almost unchanged, together with the classical Greek fashion.

If we use the date of the metal parts of the clothing ( brooches and belt’s buckles) can make the following conclusions: in the province Thrace was thraditional the elemnts of the Greek clothing and it was reflected in the province Moesia.There were the metal parts only by the travelling clothing – mantles and cloaks. As opposed in the daily life the people prefered the drapered clothing – chimation or palium. Only the soldiers use the mantle with buttons are the usualy clothing. By this kind of manthle the metal brooches were wide currency. The same was by the belt’s buckles and other decoration, which were favour for the militaryman up to 4th century AD.
Amoung the roman brooches (fibula) from Moesia can be fix all known type. A special feature were the imported articles and them from North Italy and nowadays Northwestern part of the Switzerland dominated during the 1st century AD. There were spead those which were prodused in Dalmatia or Pannonia too, but they were less (Plate I). From the 2nd century AD predominate the local shape of the brooches, which were known only from Moesia and Dacia. Some single esemplares of them were spred in Pannonia too ( Fig. 29) (Plate II).


A number of conclusions about the changes in clothing can be drawn from the reviewed monuments from North Bulgaria. Most probably the Thracian attire of trousers and a short outer garment was preserved amongst the local population. The images from Adamclisi and Trajan’s Column can also be said with a great degree of truth to refer to the Bulgarian lands. This line of thought should also be followed regarding women’s clothing. Probably the loose shirt, worn like a dress, continued to be used not only among the Dacians, but also among Getae women.
On the other hand, however, there is a strong Romanization in terms of clothing, which adopts a typical Roman combination of tunic and pallium. There is also significant presence of the military who are depicted mainly in a tunic and cloak, most often a sagum, although other types can also be observed. In 3rd c. the introduction of the long-sleeved tunic and dalmatica began. The strongest Roman influence can be felt in the settlements along the limes and the areas around the big cities, as well as in the large rural mansions –villa rustica.
The Black Sea coast preserved its specific character and does not change the classical Greek combination of a chiton and a himation. The other region, which is also distinguished in terms of clothing in the pre-Roman period –Northwest Bulgaria, does not continue this trend. On the contrary, it was the first region where Romanization there began and can be observed most fully.

Evgenia Gencheva


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