That’s right! There’s more! There were so many costumes in Cleopatra that I felt I could not cover them all properly in one post.
So far we’ve talked a lot about Cleopatra’s gowns, but let’s talk a little more about the Romans.
Something very important to note was that at this time there were sumptuary laws in place in Rome that made it possible to identify the social class of any Roman citizen purely by their clothing. For example, only full male citizens were legally allowed to wear togas, and they could only do so after reaching their age of majority.
The basic toga was knee-length, so our friend on the right in this picture is showing a little too much skin for the average Roman. The tunics also remained short-sleeved until the second century AD. They were decorated with stripes of color called clavus, which varied in color and width depending on the rank of the wearer.
For example: Only the Emperor was permitted to wear an entirely purple toga, known is the trabea, and white togas with purple bands or stripes could only be worn by the Consul during public festivals and parades. Senators and their sons could wear a variation of this with a narrower purple stripe during these events.
In the case of the men pictured above, the man with the red stripes would be seen as part of the equites class, or equestrian order. Given that this is Marc Antony, then a powerful general, the stripes on his toga should have been gold, in honor of his triumphs.
Though most Roman soldiers wore red or white tunics, the one that that Marc Antony wears here is of a much bolder color than the standard soldier. Unlike other soldiers’ tunics, which would have been dyed with Madder, I would guess that Marc Antony would have elected to have his civilian clothing dyed with kermes, as fabric dyed in this way was much more costly, and it would have made little sense to have such an elaborate show of wealth as the gold embroidery done on a cheap civilian tunic.
One thing that I have found particularly striking in this movies is Cleopatra’s collection of crowns. They range from gold-flower-bathing-cap to could-have-been-taken-from-a-temple-painting, and the range between them is truly impressive.
This design here, featuring the two feathers and the solar disk, was reserved for images of queens after the 13th dynasty. From the 18th dynasty forward, this crown is only used in portraits of goddesses. Also take particular note that instead of gold, this crown is made of silver, which was rarer in Egypt and therefore far more valuable.
Here Cleopatra wears a crown that looks like a hybrid of the blue khepresh war crown, and the red deshret crown of Lower Egypt. The crown worn in the movie is made from woven reeds, which is accurate to how modern Egyptologists believe they were constructed.
Here again we see a hybrid of the khepresh and deshret crowns, only now they are reversed. The shape is closer to the war crown, but the color is that of the deshret. Her starry robe is a particularly modern addition, and looks like it should be featured on an Uncle Sam poster.
During the coronation scene we have a look at some of the best known symbols of the Egyptian pharaohs: the golden crook and flail, and the crown of united Egypt. The lower part of the crown is made of woven reeds, and dyed red. The upper part, which resembles a bowling pin, should have been the same. In this case it appears to have been covered in sequins instead.
We also see Cleopatra in a number of beautifully beaded wigs throughout the movie. As with the crowns in the previous images, these were things that were worn by Egyptian queens, but had not been used since the beginning of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
Cleopatra would have worn her hair in the Greek style, bound back in an updo, likely with a circlet or a crescent-shaped crown.
And not in a sparkly flowered bathing cap.
I don’t know when, if ever, something like this would have been considered stylish, but it definitely wasn’t in Ancient Egypt.
Are there any historically-based television shows or movies you’re curious about? Let me know in the comments and I will feature them in a future article!