Tuesday, July 17, 2012



Hello My Friend and Welcome. 

Do inaccuracies in fiction bother you as much as they bother me? For the fictive dream to become reality, the reader/viewer must relinquish control to the author, entering their world and experiences.  This entails the tacit agreement that the author will not play fast and loose with facts and emotions.  When non-congruous facts and details enter the narrative, they diminish the author’s credibility and destroy the fictive dream.  

For example, last night I watched a TV show in which a woman, who was supposedly marooned on a desert island, lost her wedding band. Earlier, she’d had been digging in the sand with her hands and when she returned to the spot her ring was there in the hole. This is when everything went awry. She reached into the hole, picked up the ring and put it back on. In so doing, she held her hand up to the light. Her long, neatly manicured fingernails were clearly visible. This was only the first of many inconsistencies and impossibilities.  

There are several things that could be going on here. A. The writer didn’t know and never bothered to find out, B. The director either didn’t care about accuracy or also didn’t know, or C. They assumed the viewer is too stupid to notice. But at least some of us do.

One of the most common misrepresentations of ancient dress is the toga. It becomes almost a cliché — ancient times, everyone wears togas. Not true. 

The toga, which most everyone has seen in movies and paintings, began as a simple wool wrap that was thrown on like a cape when going out in cool weather. From there, it grew and grew, becoming longer and longer and less and less practical. This distinctive Roman garment eventually became a twenty feet long piece of woolen cloth which was wrapped around the body over a linen tunic. The first togas were unisex garments, but that all changed around the second century BC. After that, the toga became exclusively a man’s garment and women were expected to wear the stola, a long, loose tunic.

A number of rules evolved regarding togas. For instance, only Roman citizens were allowed to wear them. The toga was considered the only decent attire when out-of-doors. Harkening back to their more humble origins, they were typically taken off indoors. They were also removed when performing physical labor. This is evident from the story of the Roman General, Cincinnatus, who was plowing his field when the messengers of the Senate arrived to tell him he had been made dictator. On seeing them approach, he sent his wife in to fetch his toga from the house so that he could be properly attired to receive them.

The toga gradually gained increased importance as a ceremonial garment and came to signify different stations within society. As early as the second century BC the toga became the characteristic badge of Roman citizenship. It was worn by magistrates on all occasions as a badge of office. It would have been highly improper for a magistrate to appear in any other attire.  

Augustus grew so upset when he observed a meeting of citizens without togas that he quoted Virgil's phrase, “Romanos, rerum dominos, gentemque togatam” —Romans, lords of the world, the toga-wearing race — when giving the order that no one was to appear in the Forum or Circus without it. 

Formal occasions demanded a plain white toga for Roman men of legal age. The first wearing of this toga virilis, also known as a toga alba or toga pura, became part of a boy’s maturation celebrations. There was also the toga candida a toga bleached to a dazzling white and worn by candidates for public office. Our term, candidate, was derived from the word candida, Latin for bright white; hardly appropriate in today’s political climate. During the Imperial period, the right to a wear the toga praetexta, an ordinary white toga with a broad purple stripe on its border, signified the honor of high rank.  

There was also the toga pulla, or dark toga. It was worn mainly by mourners, but could also be worn in times of private danger or public anxiety. It could also be used as a protest. For instance, when Cicero was exiled, the Senate resolved to wear togae pullae to protest his banishment.

Most elaborate of all was the toga picta a solid purple garment, embroidered with gold. Magistrates giving public games wore them, as did consuls and the emperor on special occasions. 

Many, if not most, of the paintings of Christ and his disciples depict them wearing one form or another of what appears to be a toga. Is this portrayal accurate, possible, reasonable? No, of course not. They were Jews who would have most likely rejected all aspects of the Roman culture. They wore an ankle length tunic accompanied by a long-sleeved robe, or cloak, when needed for warmth.

Of all the apostles, only Paul of Tarsus was a Roman citizen and therefore entitled to wear a toga. He very well may have worn one on his missionary journeys to enhance his credibility in cities such as Athens or Corinth. Whether he did or not, of course, we can never know. What we can know is that, even in Rome, Peter never wore a toga. He was forbidden to by Roman law. 

On Friday we’ll be adding our link to the Christian Writers Blog Chain. Until then, we wish you Peace and Blessings. 

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1 comment:

Gale said...

I've thought often times that most famous paintings of Jesus were from the Renaisance, and I imagine the painters didn't have access to information about clothes and many other details. So you see pictures of the virgin mary which are dressed in Europeon clothes and such. But they're beautiful anyways.