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Евсеенков А.С.

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Subligaculum (Latin subligaculum) - underwear, cloth or leather loincloth in ancient Rome.

The subligaculum could resemble modern underwear or be a T-shaped piece of fabric with two ties. It was present in the wardrobe of representatives of almost all social strata of the Roman state: under the tunic , the subligaculum was worn by both military and civilian, both men and women. There is information about wearing one subligaculum without outerwear: so performed gladiators, athletes and wrestlers.

Archaeologists have found only leather subligaculums, as the skin is better preserved. The whole fabric products that could be identified as subligaculum were not preserved. In a buried Roman well on Queen Victoria Street in London, a leather subligaculum belonging to a woman was found: it is a thin leather underpants tied at the sides with laces. These were probably worn by young female dancers or gymnasts. This specimen remained a unique archaeological find for many years, but then other specimens of leather subligaculums were discovered, including richly decorated ones. Almost all of the finds were made in Roman London, with one in Mainz in Germany.

Leather Women's Subligaculum, London Museum, 40-100 AD
Mosaic with girls in subligacums. Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily, Italy. 4th century AD

There are a lot more visual sources of information about subligaculums: a mosaic with gymnastic girls, as well as many images of gladiators. It should be noted that there is evidence of the use of subligaculum not only by Roman citizens, but also by representatives of other peoples, for example, the ancient Egyptians.

Subligaculum for gladiators

Subligaculum is one of the main items of gladiator clothing. Gladiators wrapped the short ends of the subligaculum in a T-shape around the waist and tied it in a knot in front, the long end remaining behind was stretched forward and thrown over the knot, over which it hung. The bandage was secured with a leather balteus, which could completely cover the upper part of the subligaculum or leave a little cloth sticking out from above. The gladiator subligaculum was made exclusively of fabric (fine wool or linen) of various colors: blue, red, white, and yellow shades were seen.

There are bas-reliefs with an "inverse" version of wearing a subligaculum, which clearly show that the long end is fixed at the back under the balteus.

Gladiator in a subligaculum, completely covered with a balteus on top. Colosseum (Amphitheater), Colosseum Valley, Rome, AD 20-40
Tombstone of the retiarium with the upper part of the subligaculum uncovered by the balteus. Smyrna (Turkey), Ashmolin Museum. 50-100 AD
Bas-relief with gladiatorial combat," inverse " binding of the subligaculum. Necropolis in Kibir, Burdur Museum. 2-3 century AD


Subligaculum can be used in the reconstruction of any images of ancient Rome, for gladiators, this item of clothing is basic. As a material, you should choose fine wool or linen, to save fabric, you can sew a T-shaped subligaculum from several pieces.

Subligaculum donning scheme
Subligaculum pattern
Provocateur in the T-shaped subligaculum, reconstruction

Related topics

Gladiator, Tunic


Bas-relief with gladiatorial combat," inverse " binding of the subligaculum. Necropolis in Kibir, Burdur Museum. 2-3 century AD
Battle of retiarius against secutor. Mosaic of gladiators in a Roman villa in Nennig, Germany. Early 3rd century AD
Mosaic with a secutor in the subligaculum. House of Gladiators, Kourion, Cyprus. Late 3rd century AD.