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Евсеенков А.С.

Focale (Latin: focale) was a Roman neck cloth designed to cushion armor and protect the neck from chafing. It is possible that the focale also served as a fashion accessory in ancient times or was used for insulation in harsh weather conditions. Evidence of this can be found in a relief depicting the worker Apinosus wearing a long scarf. This suggests that this garment item was not only used by legionaries and auxiliaries but also by military officers and ordinary inhabitants of Ancient Rome.

The focale was made of wool or linen fabric. The fabric could be left loose at the ends, as can be seen in the relief with Apinosus (folded ends are more common). There were several types of focale that differed in style of wearing. Wide focale were most likely used for cushioning armor, with a small, even layer peeking out from under the armor. In this case, a sufficient layer of fabric was placed on the shoulders to reduce the load from the armor. Narrower focale could be used for decorative purposes or to protect the neck from cold. In such cases, the fabric was tied in a knot similar to a tie or wrapped around the neck several times, like modern scarves. It should also be noted that, judging by the reliefs, the focale was not a mandatory garment item, and Roman soldiers and craftsmen could do without it.

Roman tombstone with a craftsman in the basement. Nievre, France. Inv. No. 52733. 2nd century AD
Tombstone of the flag bearer auxilarius Tib. Iulius Pancuius with focale of the Lusitanorum cohort (Neuss-Grimlinghausen). Inv. Nr. R 5017. 1-2 century AD
Auxiliaries with Phocale from Trajan's column, early 2nd century AD

The pattern of the focale does not have distinctive features and consists of a rectangle, so it is impossible to identify small fabric fragments as focale. When studying this garment item, one should rely solely on pictorial sources.


Wool or linen would be suitable materials for making a focale. Wool is preferable as it is more durable, and the focale would be subject to fairly harsh operating conditions. If you intend to use it for cushioning armor, it is advisable to make a wider pattern so that it covers the shoulders, and fasten the ends with a fibula. Fringes can be added to the ends of the focale for additional decoration. If you want to tie a knot or wrap the focale around the neck, it is recommended to use a narrower and longer piece of fabric.

Legionnaire with hamata in focala, reconstruction
Legionnaire with segmentata in focus, reconstruction
Auxilarium with hamata in fokala, reconstruction

Related topics

Legionnaire, Auxiliaries, Fibula