Dress, Posture, and Self-Presentation: Women
- The cultural expectations on Roman women to wear make up;
- The types of make up that Roman women used;
- Male pressure on women to use make up ‘appropriately’ and criticism of them for using it wrongly;
- The links between cosmetics and luxury and depravity in the eyes of critics.
ROMAN WOMEN WEARING MAKEUP
As is the case with nearly all subjects concerning women in antiquity, the extant sources available to the modern scholar describing the use of cosmetics in Rome are all written by men. Thus, the descriptions of these beautifying substances and their use by women (and sometimes men) are heavily affected by the authors’ views on women as a whole which were often inherently negative and sexist. Though comments about cosmetics are varied across the sources, ranging from recipes to purely hateful remarks, cosmetics and the women who wore them were generally viewed as deceitful and therefore harmful to men, and even to the moral fibre of the woman herself. In fact, cosmetics were frequently associated with courtesans and adulterous women, essentially equating wearing makeup to being sexually promiscuous and lacking proper commitment to one’s husband and children.
It is worth noting that one’s outwards appearance was highly valued in Roman society. An unpleasant physical exterior was seen as indicative of an unpleasant interior. Due to these high standards of beauty and grooming for both men and women, Roman citizens were encouraged to take care of their physical appearance. This, coupled with the fact that women in an unadorned and natural state were generally not considered beautiful by male authors, made it difficult for women not to attempt to improve their appearance through the use of makeup and related substances.
At the same time, Roman authors highly valued simplicity and modesty, especially under the rule of the Emperor , who placed significant emphasis on ‘traditional’ Republican values during his reign. As a result, a Roman woman seeking to conform to beauty standards would almost inevitably be attacked for vanity while at the same time one who used no substances to improve her appearance would be attacked for ugliness. Clearly, it was nearly impossible to be the ideal Roman woman, and nearly all women who used makeup were considered to be ‘unRoman’.
WHAT WERE COSMETICS MADE OF?
Despite the attacks and judgment received for wearing makeup, women continued to express themselves through adornment, a fact which is clear both from the continued mention of it in sources and from archaeological evidence. In a society where women would inevitably be attacked whether they wore makeup or not, yet simultaneously fixated on physical beauty, it is not difficult to understand why women continued to gravitate to cosmeceuticals and cosmetics.
Though by no means does , who wrote under the Emperor Augustus, provide us with a fair treatment of women and their use of makeup. His views are significantly different from his contemporaries’ in that he tended to encourage the use of cosmetics rather than deem them unsuitable for a Roman woman. The following is the first of five recipes from his Medicamina Faciei Feminae, a semi-didactic poem intended to be read by women. The word medicamina can be defined as meaning remedy, medicine, or cosmetic, highlighting the blurred boundaries between what constituted a cosmetic versus a cosmeceutical. Though beauty ideals shifted across time and obviously varied depending on personal preferences, a bright and unblemished complexion was one of the most valued components of what was considered to be a beautiful Roman woman. Hence why the first recipe in the poem is for a face-pack, which Ovid promises will lead to a brighter and more smooth complexion if made and applied correctly
Learn, when sleep has released your tender limbs, how your face could shine radiantly.
Strip the barley, which farmers from Libya have sent by ship, of its husks and coverings:
An equal measure of bitter vetch is soaked in ten eggs: but the stripped barley should amount to two librae.
Once drive by gusty breezes, have these crushed on a rough millstone by a slow female donkey.
Grind into this the first horns that fall from a long-lived stag — see that a sixth of a whole goes in.
Next, having mixed this into the pounded meal, you must immediately sift every last granule through closely-meshed strainers;
Add twelve narcissus bulbs without the rind (which a vigorous right-hand should grind on clean marble) and let gum along with Tuscan seed weigh one-sixth of an as;
An to it let there go nine times as much honey.
Any woman who applies this treatment to her face will gleam more smoothly than her own mirror.”
Ovid’s Medicamina 51-100
wrote the Natural History, a monumental work made up of 37 books, in the first century CE. Being the ancient counterpart to a modern-day encyclopedia, Natural History covers a wide veriety of topics, from astronomy to zoology to geography. Pliny was essentially aiming to compile all his knowledge on the natural world (or what he considered to be the natural world) into one work. Though not all the information Pliny includes is completely accurate or factual, he even wrote about things like the Cynocephali (people with dog heads), scattered throughout his work are references to cosmetics that are very useful. Because of the purpose of his work and writing style, Pliny offers a more informational view of cosmetic use than his contemporaries and thus provides a lot of knowledge about which ingredients were used and the process of making them. However, this does not mean that some of his passing remarks about makeup are not tainted by the bias that pervaded male perceptions of female activities in the ancient world.
In most cases, when Pliny mentions an ingredient that can be used as a cosmetic, it is used to improve the appearance of the skin. As noted above, unblemished and bright skin was considered highly beautiful in Rome, and the many references in Natural History certainly underscore the aim to improve the appearance of one’s skin. What follows are two excerpts from book 28, one discussing how the milk of a donkey served to maintain luminous skin and the other outlining how to use pig’s fat for the same purpose:
It is generally believed that asses’ milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and preserves its whiteness: and it is a well-known fact, that some women are in the habit of washing their face with it seven hundred times daily, strictly observing that number. the wife of the Emperor Nero, was the first to practise this; indeed, she had sitting-baths, prepared solely with asses’ milk, for which purpose whole troops of she-asses used to attend her on her journeys. The grease of a sow that has never given birth, is the most useful of all cosmetics for the skin of females; but in all cases, hogs’ lard is good for the cure of itch-scab, mixed with pitch and beef-suet in the proportion of one-third, the whole being made lukewarm for the purpose. Fresh hogs’ lard, applied as a pessary, imparts nutriment to the infant in the womb, and prevents abortion. Mixed with white lead or litharge, it restores scars to their natural colour; and, in combination with sulphur, it rectifies malformed nails. It prevents the hair also from falling off; and, applied with a quarter of a nutgall, it heals ulcers upon the head in females. When well smoked, it strengthens the eyelashes.
Natural History 28
Apparently people also used salt to achieve glossier skin, here is a section from book 31 which reviews different types of salt and their benefits:
Of the various kinds of sea-salt, the most esteemed is that of Salamis, in Cyprus; and of the lake-salts, that of Tarentum, and the salt known as Tattæan salt, which comes from Phrygia: these last two are also good for the eyes. That of Cappadocia, which is imported in small cubes, imparts a fine colour, it is said, to the skin; but, for effacing wrinkles, that which we have already spoken of as the salt of Citium is the best: hence it is that, in combination with gith, it is used by females as a liniment for the abdomen after childbirth.
Natural History 31
The next few excerpts not only emphasize the ultimate goal to achieve shiny and smooth skin and the rather outlandish things people would apply on it in order to achieve this goal, but also serve to show how closely cosmetics were associated with remedies for various medical conditions. What Pliny would often do was discuss one ingredient, such as oyster shells and antimony (book 33), and then survey all the things that it could be used for, jumping back and forth between purely aesthetic uses and more scientific ones. The second source gives an in-depth description of the complex procedure used to make tablets of antimony.
Calcined oyster-shells, mixed with honey, cure affections of the uvula and of the tonsillary glands: they are similarly used for imposthumes of the parotid glands, inflamed tumours, and hardening of the breasts. Applied with water, these ashes are good for ulcerations of the head, and impart a plumpness to the skin in females. They are sprinkled, too, upon burns, and are highly esteemed as a toothpaste. Applied with vinegar, they are good for the removal of prurigo and of pituitous eruptions.
Natural History 32
Stimmi is possessed of certain astringent and refrigerative properties, its principal use, in medicine, being for the eyes Hence it is that most persons call it “platyophthalmon,” it being extensively employed in the calliblepharie preparations of females, for the purpose of dilating the eyes … The method of preparing it, is to burn it, enclosed in a coat of cow-dung, in a furnace; once that is done, it is quenched with woman’s milk, and pounded with rain-water in a mortar. While this is happening, the thick and turbid part is poured off from time to time into a copper vessel, and purified with nitre. The lees of it, which are rejected, are recognized by their being full of lead and falling to the bottom. The vessel into which the turbid part has been poured off, is then covered with a linen cloth and left untouched for a night; the portion that lies upon the surface being poured off the following day, or else removed with a sponge. The part that has fallen to the bottom of the vessel is regarded as the choicest part, and is left, covered with a linen cloth, to dry in the sun, but not to become parched. This done, it is again pounded in a mortar, and then divided into tablets. But the main thing of all is, to observe such a degree of nicety in heating it, as not to let it become lead. Some people, when preparing it on the fire, use grease instead of dung. Others, again, bruise it in water and then pass it through a triple strainer of linen cloth; after which, they reject the lees, and pour off the remainder of the liquid, collecting all that is deposited at the bottom, and using it as an ingredient in plasters and eye-salves.
Natural History 33
The last source by Pliny from book 34 discusses how to make tablets of white lead which women used to whiten their skin. The Romans were aware of the poisonous properties of lead yet, like many other cultures, did not refrain from using it in the name of beauty.
Psimithium, which is also known as ceruse, is another production of the lead-works. The most esteemed comes from Rhodes. It is made from very fine shavings of lead, placed over a vessel filled with the strongest vinegar; by which means the shavings become dissolved. That which falls into the vinegar is first dried, and then pounded and sifted, after which it is again mixed with vinegar, and is then divided into tablets and dried in the sun, during summer. It is also made in another way; the lead is thrown into jars filled with vinegar, which are kept closed for ten days; the sort of mould that forms upon the surface is then scraped off, and the lead is again put into the vinegar, until the whole of the metal is consumed. The part that has been scraped off is triturated and sifted, and then melted in shallow vessels, being stirred with ladles, until the substance becomes red, and assumes the appearance of sandarach. It is then washed with fresh water, until all the cloudy impurities have disappeared, after which it is dried as before, and divided into tablets. Its properties are the same as those of the substances above mentioned. It is, however, the mildest of all the preparations of lead; in addition to which, it is also used by females to whiten the complexion. It is, however, like scum of silver, a deadly poison.
Natural History 34
USING COSMETICS ‘PROPERLY’
A poem written by Ovid in 2 CE has a similarly instructional function, yet the three books were targeted to different audiences. The first two are intended to teach men the ways of love and romance, but the one of interest to this topic is the third book, which aims to teach women how to secure a man’s love. The entire poem is based on a very simplified understanding of gender relations and how women should behave, though this is to be expected from an ancient source. In his own words taken from the opening of the poem: “Woman is soft, and of a tender heart, apt to receive and to retain love’s dart; Man has a breast robust, and more secure, it wounds him not so deep, nor hits so sure.” In this poem, Ovid goes over various ways to improve one’s looks, touching on subjects like fashion and clothing, hairstyles, and personal hygiene.
As discussed above, Ovid was more open to the use of makeup by women, and in this work as well he specifies that women should take care to maintain their physical appearance in order to be presentable and acceptable to men in their society. The mildly sexist message of the poem is frustrating to read in a modern context, because Ovid essentially is saying women were only viable partners for men if they were physically attractive. He also reinforces the notion that women were completely unattractive once they showed signs of aging, and that youthful and clear skin was to be strived for: “Alas, how soon a clear complexion fades! How soon a wrinkled skin plump flesh invades!” He begins by assuring his reader that natural beauty is a gift not bestowed to many, and that it should be cultivated and not neglected.
And, first, we speak of dress. The well-cared for vine
Produces plumpest grapes, and richest wine;
And plenteous crops of golden grain are found,
Alone, to grace uncultivated ground.
Beauty’s the gift of gods, women’s pride!
Yet to how many is that gift denied?
Art helps a face; a face, although divinely lovely,
May quickly fade because of necessary care.
In ancient days, if women slighted dress,
Then men were ruder too, and liked it less.
Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.101-108
Next, Ovid reminds us of the delicate line women walked between needing to maintain their appearance but not seeming too obsessed with how they look, by saying they should take care not to weigh themselves down with overly lavish clothing and accessories. He also explains a rule of beauty that is still relevant today: that what flatters one woman may not flatter another, and informs his reader that she should choose hairstyles that suit her features:
Let not the nymph with pendants load her ear,
Nor in embroidery, or brocade, appear;
Too rich a dress may sometimes suppress desire,
And cleanliness rousse love’s fire more,
The hair arranged, may gain or lose a grace,
And much become or misbecome the face.
What suits your features ask your mirror.
For no one rule is fixed for head attire,
A face too long should part and flat the hair.
Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.129-137
Next the poem takes a misogynistic turn as Ovid begins to discuss how women should hide the fact that they used cosmetics to improve their appearance. Even though they had to use makeup to be deemed suitable enough to marry, it was basically disgusting to see the evidence of their ‘deceit’. Ovid advises readers to apply makeup while men think they are sleeping so as to avoid them seeing the vile truth behind a woman’s appearance. The contradictory nature of cosmetics reveals itself once again by Ovid insisting their application is an offensive sight yet also consistently referring to it as an art.
I need not warn you of too powerful smells,
Which sometimes health or kindly heat expels;
Nor from your tender legs to pluck with care
The casual growth of all unseemly hair.
Though not to nymphs of Caucasus I sing,
Nor such who taste remote the Mysian spring
Yet let me warn you that through no neglect
You let your teeth disclose the least defect.
You know the use of white to make you fair,
And how with red lost colour to repair;
Imperfect eyebrows you by art can mend,
And skin, when wanting, o’er a scar extend;
Nor need the fair one be asham’d, who tries
By art to add new lustre to her eyes.
A little book I’ve made, but with great care,
How to preserve the face, and how repair.
In that, the nymphs by time or chance annoy’d,
May see what pains to please ’em I’ve employ’d,
But still beware that from your lover’s eye
You keep conceal’d the med’cines you apply:
Tho’ art assists, yet must that art be hid,
Lest whom it would invite it should forbid.
Who would not take offence to see a face
All daub’d and dripping with the melted grease?
And tho’ your unguents bear th’ Athenian name,
The wool’s unsav’ry scent is still the same.
Try not marrow of stags, nor your pomades,
Nor clean your furry teeth when men are by;
For many things, when done, afford delight,
Which yet, while doing, may offend the sight.
While we think you sleep, repair your face,
Locked away from observers, in some secret place;
Add the last hand before you show yourselves ,
Why does your lover need to know of your need of art?
For many things when most concealed are best,
And few of strict enquiry bear the test.
Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.193-218, 225-230
Livy was a Roman historian who wrote in the 1st century BCE and the next two sources are from his only surviving work, From the Founding of Rome. His comments are significantly more restrained, though they do make some generalizations about sex and gender. In both sources Livy argues that things like adornment, fashion, and makeup were the domains of women, whereas war and politics were the realms of men. Sources like these remind us that though men treated women who wore makeup extremely disrespectfully there was nonetheless an unspoken expectation that they would wear makeup in order to look nice.
Elegance, grooming, a fine appearance—these are the women’s insignia. These are their pride and joy. This is what your ancestors called ‘woman’s embellishment.
No offices, no priesthoods, no triumphs, no decorations, no gifts, no spoils of war can come to them; elegance of appearance, adornment, apparel —these are the woman’s medals; in these they rejoice and take delight; these our ancestors called the woman’s world.
Livy, From the Founding of Rome 34.7-8
NEGATIVE VIEWS OF FEMALE COSMETICS
For example, in this quote from book 11 of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, some of the condescension with which some men regarded the use of makeup is apperent. Notice the contrast between what eyelashes are supposed to be for and what women do with them:
Men have eyelashes on the eyelids on either side; and women even make it their daily care to stain them; so ardent are they in the pursuit of beauty, that they must even colour their very eyes. It was with another view, however, that Nature had provided the hair of the eyelids — they were to have acted, so to say, as a kind of rampart for the protection of the sight, and as an advanced defence against the approach of insects or other objects which might accidentally come in their way.
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 11
As you can see from the above, two major sources for the use of cosmetics in ancient Rome are Pliny’s Natural History and Ovid’s Medicamina, which coincidentally also provide the two slightly more positive reviews of their use. Besides them, no other author made an effort to write a work about this topic, though fleeting remarks about makeup and beautification are still sprinkled throughout their works. Many of these comments are somewhat cruel jokes made at someone’s expense, ridiculing both men and women for allegedly using cosmetics in an attempt to improve their appearance. Some of the sources are more general remarks about standards of beauty or just comments that confirm that cosmetics were indeed widely used by women, and were sometimes considered to be a part of traditionally female pursuits.
Horace, a poet who also wrote under Augustus, represents the view of cosmetics as deceitful and not aligning with upstanding morals. In the first source he defines a ‘decent’ woman as one who does not attempt to look prettier, even though he and his contemporaries attacked women for being ‘ugly’:
Let her be fair, and straight, and so far decent as not to appear desirous of seeming fairer than nature has made her.
Horace, Sat. 1.2.123
This next source, also by Horace, shows that often in male eyes using makeup was synonymous with a woman being sexually depraved. Despite the hostility he and others write with, sources like these can still be somewhat useful to glean information about what ingredients women used in cosmetics. In this case, crocodile dung as blush. Though it is safe to assume Horace picked the most gross ingredient to mock this woman and that it was not actually widely used by women:
What a sweat and what a nasty smell comes from her withered limbs when, finding my penis limp, she presses on to satisfy her wild lust, her chalk makeup grows damp, and, along with the rosy colour produced from crocodiles’ dung, begins to run, and now in her animal heat she breaks the thongs of the bedstead and its canopy!
Horace, Epode 12
The next sources are from two satirical poets, Juvenal and Martial, who were both writing in the 1st century CE. Martial tended to write shorter epigrams often packed with insults towards specific people, yet both authors are significantly nastier than their contemporaries.
In the source by Juvenal he takes the negative reputation of cosmetics as evidence of moral corruption a step further by saying that a woman will wear greasy makeup in the presence her husband but take it all off for her lover. The source ends by him comparing a woman’s face to an actual ulcer.
But earlier in the process
She presents a sight as funny as it’s appalling,
Her features lost under a damp bread face-pack,
Or greasy with vanishing-cream that clings to her husband’s
Lips when the poor man kisses her — though it’s all
Wiped off for her lover. She takes no trouble about
The way she looks at home: those imported Indian
Scents and lotions she buys with a lover in mind.
First one layer, then the next: at last the contours emerge
Till she’s almost recognizable. Now she freshens
Her complexion with asses’ milk. (If her husband’s posted
To the godforsaken North, a herd of she-asses
Will travel with them.) But all these medicaments
And various treatments — not least the damp bread-poultice —
Make you wonder what’s underneath, a face or an ulcer.”
Juvenal, Satire 6.460-473
BODY MAKEUP AND PHYSICAL BEAUTY
The sources from Martial focus on how hideous women were considered to be in a natural state. He ridicules women for having bodies that are not in their physical prime, calling them out for having things such as stretch marks on their belly (things that would be expected after having borne children), like he does with a woman named Polla in the first source. The language he uses in the following sources can be quite offensive and his views are, on the whole, incredibly sexist. These sources demonstrate how men used women’s physical appearance as a way to attack them, and how women perhaps used cosmetics as a way to avoid these insults. They also stress that pale and smooth skin was the ideal in Rome, as wrinkles and marks on the skin are consistently brought up by Martial in his abrasive remarks.
You try to hide your belly’s wrinkles with bean-meal, Polla, but you smear your stomach, not my lips. Better that the blemish, perhaps a trifling one, be honestly shown. Trouble concealed is believed to be greater than it is.
This brief excerpt makes fun of a woman named Lycoris for going to Tibur (modern day Tivoli) with the hopes of whitening her skin and instead returning with even darker skin:
Hearing that the ivory of an ancient tusk turns to white in the suns of Tibur, dusky Lycoris went to Hercules’ hills. How potent is the air of lofty Tibur! In a short time she returned black.
Here Martial degrades a woman named Saufeia for not wanting to bathe with him (personally, I wouldn’t want to take a bath with Martial either), and sees this as evidence that she is hiding a revolting body from him. There truly is no way to win with Martial, he believes this means Saufeia is either incredibly ugly or is overly weak and insecure.
You want to be fucked, Saufeia, and you don’t want to take a bath with me. I suspect there’s something here very bad indeed. Either your breasts hang from your bosom like rags, or you’re afraid of betraying your belly’s furrows in the nude, or your split groin yawns with a bottomless cavern, or something protrudes from the mouth of your vagina. Oh, but there’s nothing like that, I’m sure, you are most beautiful in the nude. If that’s true, Saufeia, you have a worse blemish: you’re a prude.
Martial uses angry language in the above section when he is denied something he believes that Saufeia owes him. How does Martial lashing out reflect contemporary ideas of men being owed sex?
This last source, which is especially vicious, demonstrates how ancient authors consistently equated cosmetics with deceit. Martial is comparing the odour of a woman, Thais, to various foul-smelling things to underscore how bad he thought she smelt. He then says she hides her true smell behind layers of cosmetics as one of her many tricks (though if she really smelt as bad as he says it seems it would be almost impossible to cover up).
Thais smells worse than the veteran crock of a stingy fuller, recently broken in the middle of the road, or a billy goat fresh from his armours, or a lion’s mouth, or a hide from beyond Tiber torn from a dog, or chicken rotting in an aborted egg, or a jar polluted with putrid . In order to exchange this stench for a different odor, whenever she takes off her clothes to get into the bath, the crafty lady is green with depilatory or lurks under a lining of chalk and vinegar, or is coated with three or four layers of thick bean meal. A thousand tricks, and she thinks she’s safe. But when all’s done, Thais smells of Thais.
Makeup and the cultivation of physical beauty in ancient Rome seemed to be a lose-lose situation for women. Perhaps if the sources we still have weren’t exclusively created by male authors, the overwhelming misogyny evident in our sources might not have been so ubiquitous.
Bibliography and Further Reading:
D’Ambra, Eve. Roman Women. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Johnson, Marguerite. Ovid on Cosmetics: Medicamina Faciei Femineae and Related Texts. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.
“Making Up a Woman The Face of Roman Gender” in Richlin, Amy. Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed March 3, 2019).
Olson, Kelly. Dress and the Roman Woman. New York: Routledge, 2008.
- Bitter vetch is a plant in the legume family. It was likely used as a thickener in creams and also had emollient properties. ↵
- Eggs were often included in ancient beauty recipes and are still an ingredient in many cosmetics because of their various benefits for the skin. Egg whites tighten the skin and improve circulation while egg yolks add moisture. ↵
- A unit of measurement equivalent to ll.6 ounces. ↵
- Narcissus bulbs were commonly used to treat various skin ailments. Other sources mention that when combined with honey they were also useful for treating burns, sores, and wounds. ↵
- Most likely a type of wheat from which oil is extracted and used in cosmetics for its emollient qualities. ↵
- A Roman coin. ↵
- Honey has a large variety of benefits when used on the skin and is a popular ingredient in modern cosmetics and DIY skin treatments. Honey is naturally anti-bacterial, thus fights blemishes, it also brightens and smooths skin creating a more glowing complexion. ↵
- This cannot be true. Pliny either made a mistake or was deluded enough to think women had the time and effort to wash their faces 700 times a day with donkey milk. ↵
- A sticky, dark-coloured substance similar to resin. ↵
- Suet is a type of fat that is hard and white. ↵
- A pessary would be inserted vaginally. ↵
- Lead monoxide. ↵
- Notice that a primary aim was always to diminish the appearance of scars and other unbecoming marks on the skin. ↵
- A nutgall, also known as just a gall, is an abnormal growth that forms in trees (usually oak trees). ↵
- A city in southern Italy, modern Tarento. ↵
- Phrygia was a kingdom in what is now Turkey. ↵
- A region in Turkey. ↵
- Citium (or Kition) was a city on the island of Cyprus. ↵
- Prurigo is a skin ailment that causes intense itching. ‘Pituitous’ is an adjective now rarely used, but in this case refers to eruptions having to do with an excess of mucus or phlegm. ↵
- ‘Stimmi’ here means antimony, which is a chemical element better known by its Arabic name, kohl. It has a metallic grey colour and was frequently used in both cosmetics and medicine in the ancient world. ↵
- The Greek word ‘Platyophthalmon’ means ‘eye-dilating’. As is common in many cultures, it seems women wanted to achieve bigger and wider looking eyes. As Pliny says, antimony had astringent properties and so perhaps was applied to the eyelids in order to make the skin contract and literally widen the eyes. ↵
- The word ‘calliblepharie’ comes from the Latin word ‘calliblepharum’ which referred to cosmetics or dyes for the eyebrows. ↵
- ‘Psimithium’ and ‘ceruse’ are two archaic terms for white lead. ↵
- A Greek island. ↵
- Sandarach is a resin that can be obtained from a certain kind of African tree. ↵
- The ancients were fully aware of the poisonous properties of lead. ↵
- The Romans were big on hair-removal. ↵
- Caucasus is a mountainous area in Eurasia between the Caspian and the Black Seas. ↵
- Mysia was an area in ancient Asia Minor ↵
- Bone marrow was used in both cosmetic and medicinal mixtures. ↵
- Juvenal emphasizes the use of expensive and imported cosmetics here to stress the woman’s corrupted morals. ↵
- A paste made of beans, used to treat wrinkles. ↵
- Fullers cleaned clothing using human urine, thus making their work very smelly indeed. ↵
Born with the name Octavian (He later took the name Augustus when he became Emperor), Augustus was the great nephew of Julius Caesar, who adopted him in his will. He was the first emperor of Rome, and left behind a written record of his achievements, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti (The Deeds of the Divine Augustus, which was inscribed in bronze on his mausoleum and also in at least one province (possibly more). Despite a rather exciting and dissolute youth, when he became the most powerful man in Rome after defeating Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BCE, he set himself the task of improving the morality of Rome and refounding it on 'ancient' principles. He also exiled his daughter and granddaughter (both called Julia) for adultery.
Publius Ovidius Naso was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus Caesar in the early Roman empire. Instead of focusing on law and rhetoric as expected of one in his rank, Ovid set aside the minor public posts he did hold early in his life to become one of the most prominent Roman poets we know of today. A notable work by Ovid is the Metamorphoses, a Latin poem that follows a main theme of love and transformation and has been an important source for many myths. Other works by Ovid include Amores and Ars Amatoria, both of which touch upon controversial subjects that were considered to be morally corrupting to the reader; for example, extramarital affairs and explicit sexual acts. In 8 CE, Ovid was banished to Tomis by the Emperor Augustus. He died there in 17/18 CE .
An as was a Roman coin made of copper, which could also be used as a unit of measurement.
Pliny the Elder was a prominent intellectual Roman author and historian who lived during the Early Roman Empire and came from northern Italy, known to the Romans as Cisalpline Gaul. He was an elite, well-educated Roman man and held the rank of equestrian. He was the uncle of Pliny the Younger. Pliny the Elder also became close to the Emperors Vespasian and Titus, the latter of which he dedicated his most famous work to, the Historia Naturalis (Natural History) which was an encyclopedia that encompassed all the knowledge about the natural world that Pliny had compiled from research and experience into 37 books. Pliny also wrote several lengthy historical accounts in the course of his literary career, among other works regarding his experience working in a legal capacity during the reign of Nero. He died leading a rescue effort to Stabiae, a coastal town that was affected by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE.
Poppaea Sabina the Younger was the second wife of the Emperor Nero. She was legendarily beautiful.
Garum was a fermented fish sauce which the Romans used widely in different dishes.