CHAPTER XII. SOCIAL DAY OF A ROMAN ARISTOCRAT - MORNING
We have seen in what sort of a home a Roman dwelt in town or country. Meanwhile it goes without saying that the non-Roman or non-Romanized populations of the empire were living in houses and amid furniture of their own special type - Greek, Syrian, Egyptian, or as the case might be. They were also living their lives after their own fashion in respect of dress, meals, occupations, and amusements.
We may now look at the manner in which a typical Roman might spend an ordinary day in the metropolis, and endeavour to form some clear idea of the outward aspects of such a life. In the first instance our Roman shall be a man of the senatorial aristocracy, blessed with both high position and ample means, but one who, for the time being, holds no public office, whether as a governor, a military commander, a Minister of Roads or Water Supply, an officer of the Exchequer, or of Justice. Instead of referring to him awkwardly as "our citizen," we will call him Silius. The same name may be borne by a large number of other persons, for it is the name of an early Roman family which in course of time may have divided into several branches or "houses," answering to each other very much as the "Worcestershire" So-and-Sos may answer to the "Hampshire" So-and-Sos, except that the distinction in the Roman case is not territorial. Our Silius will therefore naturally bear further names to distinguish him. One will be the special appellation of his own "house" or branch, derived in all probability from its first distinguishing member. Let us assume, for instance, that he is a Silius Bassus. As, again, there are probably a number of other persons belonging to the same branch and entitled to the same two designations, he will possess a "front name," answering to our "Christian" name, and he shall be called for our purposes Quintus Silius Bassus. It is the middle name of the three which is regarded as the name, but when there is no danger of mistake our friend may be addressed or written of as either Silius or Bassus. In private life among his intimates he prefers to be called Quintus. The individual name, family name, and branch name were frequently followed by others, but at least these three are regularly owned by any Roman with claims to old descent. To us, however, he will be Silius.
He lives, let us say, in one of the larger town-houses on the Caelian Hill, looking across the narrow valley towards the Palatine, somewhere near the modern church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. It is before day-break that the loud bell has awakened the household slaves and set them to their work. In the road below and away in the city the carts, which are forbidden during the full daytime, are still rumbling with their loads of produce or building-material. All night long the less happily housed inhabitants have tolerated this noise, together with the droning and grating of the mills grinding the corn in the bakers' shops. It is however, now approaching dawn, and imperial Rome, which goes to sleep late, wakes early. No few Romans, even of the highest classes, have already been up for an hour or two, reading by lamplight, writing letters or dictating them to an amanuensis, who takes them down rapidly in a form of shorthand. Out in the streets the boys are on their way to school, the poorer ones carrying their own lanterns - at least if it is the time of year when the days are short - their writing-tablets and their reading-books, probably Virgil and Horace, who were standard authors serving in the Roman schools as Shakespeare and Pope do in our own. Boys of well-to-do parents are accompanied by an elderly slave of stern demeanour. In the distance are heard the sounds of the first hammers and the cries of the venders of early breakfasts.
Silius rises, and with the help of a valet, who is of course a slave, dresses himself. His household barber - another slave - shaves him, trims his hair in the approved style and cleans his nails. At this date clean shaving was the rule. Every emperor from Augustus to Hadrian, fifty years later than Nero, was clean shaven, and the fashion set by emperors was followed as closely by the contemporary Roman as "imperials" and "ram's-horn" moustaches have been imitated in later times. The hair was kept carefully neither too long nor too short. Only in time of mourning was it permitted to grow to a negligent length. By preference it should be somewhat wavy, but there was no parting. Dandies had their hair curled with the tongs and perfumed, so at to smell "all over the theatre." If they were bald, they wore a wig; sometimes they actually had imitation hair painted across the bare part of the scalp. If nature had given them the wrong colour, they corrected it with dye. If the exposed parts of the body were hairy, they plucked out the growth with tweezers or used depilatories. But these were the dandies, and we need not assume Silius to have been one of them.
It is to be a day of some formality, and Silius will therefore attire himself accordingly. In other words, he will put on the typical Roman garb. Of whatever else this may consist, it will comprise a band round the middle, a woolen - less often a linen - tunic with or without sleeves, and over this the voluminous woollen toga; on the feet will be shoes. Of further underwear a Roman used as much or as little as he chose. If, like the Emperor Augustus, he felt the cold, he might indulge in several shirts and also short hose. Such practices, however, were commonly regarded as coddling. Breeches were worn at this date only by soldiers serving in northern countries, where they had picked up the custom from the "barbarians." Mufflers were used by persons with a tender throat.