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Thread: Why did Romans shave?

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    Why did Romans shave?

    To my understanding most civilisations highly valued men with beard (except maybe the period of Alexander, where they had to shave for practical, war, reasons).
    Οι ηδονές είναι θνητές, οι αρετές αθάνατες.

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    From Wiki...Ancient Rome

    Shaving seems to have not been known to the Romans during their early history (under the Kings of Rome and the early Republic). Pliny tells us that P. Ticinius was the first who brought a barber to Rome, which was in the 454th year from the founding of the city (that is, around 299 BC). Scipio Africanus was apparently the first among the Romans who shaved his beard. However, after that point, shaving seems to have caught on very quickly, and soon almost all Roman men were clean-shaven; being clean-shaven became a sign of being Roman and not Greek. Only in the later times of the Republic did the Roman youth begin shaving their beards only partially, trimming it into an ornamental form; prepubescent boys oiled their chins in hopes of forcing premature growth of a beard.[22]
    Still, beards remained rare among the Romans throughout the Late Republic and the early Principate. In a general way, in Rome at this time, a long beard was considered a mark of slovenliness and squalor. The censors L. Veturius and P. Licinius compelled M. Livius, who had been banished, on his restoration to the city, to be shaved, and to lay aside his dirty appearance, and then, but not until then, to come into the Senate.[23] The first occasion of shaving was regarded as the beginning of manhood, and the day on which this took place was celebrated as a festival.[24] Usually, this was done when the young Roman assumed the toga virilis. Augustus did it in his twenty-fourth year, Caligula in his twentieth. The hair cut off on such occasions was consecrated to a god. Thus Nero put his into a golden box set with pearls, and dedicated it to Jupiter Capitolinus.[25] The Romans, unlike the Greeks, let their beards grow in time of mourning; so did Augustus for the death of Julius Caesar.[26] Other occasions of mourning on which the beard was allowed to grow were, appearance as a reus, condemnation, or some public calamity. On the other hand, men of the country areas around Rome in the time of Varro seem not to have shaved except when they came to market every eighth day, so that their usual appearance was most likely a short stubble.[27]
    In the second century AD the Emperor Hadrian, according to Dion Cassius, was the first of all the Caesars to grow a beard; Plutarch says that he did it to hide scars on his face. This was a period in Rome of widespread imitation of Greek culture, and many other men grew beards in imitation of Hadrian and the Greek fashion. Until the time of Constantine the Great the emperors appear in busts and coins with beards; but Constantine and his successors until the reign of Phocas, with the exception of Julian the Apostate, are represented as beardless.


    Non si fa il proprio dovere perchè qualcuno ci dica grazie, lo si fa per principio, per se stessi, per la propria dignità. Oriana Fallaci

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    I can understand the idea of Romans shaving as a sociologic phenomenon, especially if it was also an issue of class distinction - I'd question whether slaves or dirt farmers shaved regularly. I think it's much more of a mystery as to how upper class Romans were persuaded to tolerate the toga for so long.

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    1 members found this post helpful.
    The practice of Shaving was common since the Bronze-age i.e. Bronze razors of the Urnfield and Hallstatt zones;

    http://www.academia.edu/2459391/Razo...the_Bronze_Age
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.230...21104249058693

    p.4 - Hallstatt razors (top left)
    http://www.heimatgilde-frohsinn.de/_...achkundeHa.pdf
    Hallstatt razor France (two-edge razor)
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi...cy-Romance.jpg
    Germanic (Nordic/Danmark) razors -
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/ataw/img/25600.jpg
    https://www.beloit.edu/logan_online/...pe/denmark.php

    One thing is Hollywood the other actual archaeology;
    Bronze razors were known in Italy ever since the Terremare culture and further manifested by the Indo-European Urnfield cultures Villanova/Golasecca/Este; Thus the Romans shaved because they had the technology (like most others);

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nobody1 View Post
    The practice of Shaving was common since the Bronze-age i.e. Bronze razors of the Urnfield and Hallstatt zones;

    http://www.academia.edu/2459391/Razo...the_Bronze_Age
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.230...21104249058693

    p.4 - Hallstatt razors (top left)
    http://www.heimatgilde-frohsinn.de/_...achkundeHa.pdf
    Hallstatt razor France (two-edge razor)
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi...cy-Romance.jpg
    Germanic (Nordic/Denmark) razors -
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/ataw/img/25600.jpg
    https://www.beloit.edu/logan_online/...pe/denmark.php

    One thing is Hollywood the other actual archaeology;
    Bronze razors were known in Italy ever since the Terremare culture and further manifested by the Indo-European Urnfield cultures Villanova/Golasecca/Este; Thus the Romans shaved because they had the technology (like most others);

    One thing is sure, Greeks did not shave their beard!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nobody1 View Post
    The practice of Shaving was common since the Bronze-age i.e. Bronze razors of the Urnfield and Hallstatt zones;

    http://www.academia.edu/2459391/Razo...the_Bronze_Age
    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.230...21104249058693

    p.4 - Hallstatt razors (top left)
    http://www.heimatgilde-frohsinn.de/_...achkundeHa.pdf
    Germanic (Nordic/Denmark) razors -
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/atl/ataw/img/25600.jpg
    https://www.beloit.edu/logan_online/...pe/denmark.php
    Hallstatt razor France (two-edge razor)
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fi...cy-Romance.jpg

    One thing is Hollywood the other actual archaeology;
    One thing that always surprised me is how easy and natural it feels for a man to shave, to live without a beard. If man's default is having beard for millions of years, why it feels quite natural to walk around without one. We should really like having a beard.
    Perhaps this means that men was shaving for much longer than we think, even with flint stone tools. Perhaps from the times we've been infested with lice, and beard is excellent hiding place for them. Shaving means getting rid of lice on our face, the last place we can tolerate them.
    Obviously we lack hard-wiring, in our brain, for or against wearing a beard. We totally lack strong feelings about facial hair. In contract we really like heaving hair on our head, especially women.
    Part of explanation might be our learning nature. We are very adaptable species, we have great ability get used to changes in our lives, to the point that after some time the change feels natural.
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    Advisor Angela's Avatar
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    It appears that shaving went in and out of fashion in different cultures at different times.
    See...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beard


    During the Roman era, this is how the various peoples with whom they came into contact were depicted...

    Celtic tribesmen of the Po Valley


    A Gallo-British god...Sucellus


    The Goths:



    The Sarmatians:


    Given the hit or miss level of hygiene in ancient cultures depending on the specific culture, wealth, status etc., shaving sounds like a very good idea! Just think what could have been living in some of those beards!

    I would agree that the toga is an incomprehensible item of clothing. I had to make one for my son for a school play and he was tripping over it constantly. That's undoubtedly why he was underwhelming in his portrayal of Caesar.

    Fashion is often inexplicable, however. Another item of clothing that is torture to wear is a corset. Victorian women's internal organs must have been mangled all out of shape.

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    Hero of Marathon Echetlaeus's Avatar
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    In Ancient Greece it was a sign of manhood. Men without beard were considered women like.

    I do not think that it was that difficult to get shaved, even with the simplest sharp tool, so I reckon it must be related to the specific society.

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    I think they shaved for looks. Mediteranean men with a beard often look older than they are, especially when it turns from black to grey. A yellow or red beard is better for hiding age.

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    Tarim Basin people shaved.



    Ramzes II shaved, and it is hard to find bearded Egyptians on frescoes.


    Pazirik shaved.


    so did Minoans.


    But Mycenaeans were bearded.


    and scythians

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    so they dont look like greeks


    I think i read that somewhere

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    I think the Greek or Macedonian guy Yetos who doesn't seem to post here anymore mentioned that shaving was a ritual for burial. So Alexander shaved just in case he died in war.

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