Men's Clothing


The "suit" mentality of modern times did not limit late antique men, who made the same sorts of personal and social fashion statements as did women. Late antique documents provide information about how men arranged for the materials of their specially made clothing --

"Corbolon to Heraclides, greeting. ... I enclosed in the former packet a pattern of white violet colour. I beg you to be good enough to match it for me and buy me two drachmas' weight, and send it to me at once by any messenger you can find, for the tunic is to be woven immediately...."

Letter, 4th-5th c. CE, (P.A. 44)

how men shopped for ready-made garments so as to create personally distinctive wardrobes--

They say that a fellow who sells boots has come from Athens. It is the same person, I think, from whom you bought for me last year some laced shoes. Now, according to my information, he has extended the area of his trade; he has robes in the attic style, he has light summer clothes which will become you, and mantles such as I like for the summer season. Before he sells all these goods, or, at least, the finest of them, invite the stranger here, for you must remember that the first purchaser will choose the best of everything, without troubling himself about those who come to buy after him, and buy for me three or four of these mantles. In any case, whatever you pay, I will repay you ten times over.

Letter from Bishop Synesius to his brother, late 4th-early 5th c. CE

and how those in political factions and social cliques wore readily identifiable styles:

As to fashions in dress, they all insisted on being well clad in fine garments, clothing themselves in raiment too pretentious for their individual rank.... And the part of the tunic which covered the arms was gathered by them very closely about the wrist, while from there to each shoulder it billowed out to an incredible breadth. And as often as their arms were waved about, either as they shouted in the theatres and hippodromes, or urged men on to victory in the customary manner, this part of their garments would actually soar aloft...

Procopius, Secret History, 6th c. CE

As the last quotation suggests, tailoring the boxy shape of the tunic created new silhouettes in late antique fashion.


This garment decoration, part of a neck-band, represents male and female devotees of Dionysus (also known as Bacchus, a pagan god associated with wine). Although this imagery could be worn by either men or women, the large size of this fragment suggests that it came from a man's tunic. Discoveries of textiles with similar pagan ornaments from tombs with Christian goods further suggests that the religious aspects of this imagery did not always predominate. Images of Dionysus and his orgiastic revelers, here represented as mostly nude and dancing with abandon, are found quite frequently on garments from graves and tombs. The popularity of Dionysiac motifs may well reflect nihilistic sentiments concerning life and inevitable death as found, in for example, late antique epitaphs written for tombs:


Often I sang this, and even out of the grave will I cry it:

'Drink, before you put on this raiment of dust.'

Julianus Aegyptus, 6th c. CE



How was I born? whence am I? why did I come to go again?:

How can learn anything, knowing nothing?

Being nothing, I was born;

again I shall be as I was before;

nothing and worth nothing is the human race.

Come then, serve to me the joyous fountain of Bacchus;

for this is the drug that counter-acts all ills.

author unknown, late antique period

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