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In general, fashions from the Ancient Greek and Roman periods and before were simple, as clothing expressed practical function over stylistic form.
Generally, women's garments were not loose and flowing, never tight-fitting. Tunics, often covered with layers of draped fabric, were worn by both
men and women. The most basic garment for women of Ancient Greece, for example, was the "Doric peplos," commonly worn through the beginning of the
sixth century B.C. Made from a rectangle of woven wool, the Doric peplos measured about six feet in width and about eighteen inches more than the
height of the wearer from shoulder to ankle in length. The fabric was wrapped around the wearer, with the excess material folded over the top and
pinned on both shoulders. The excess material was allowed to fall freely, giving the impression of a short cape. Pins used for fastening the shoulders
of the peplos were originally open pins with decorated heads, but they were later replaced by fibulae or brooches.
Fabrics were plain and for the most part, undecorated. This was the general rule in the Western world. In particular, during the Archaic period, clothing were generally white or
off-white, and commoners were forbidden to wear red in theaters or public places. By the fifth century, however, clothing began to feature a
wider range of colors. In places such as China, India and Africa, women adorned themselves with more colorful fabrics and ornamentation as
compared to the Western hemisphere. China, for instance, began developing silk weaving and embroidery techniques during the Ancient era,
and used such details in their clothing design and manufacturing. However, while clothing may have been simpler, women from all cultures
adorned themselves with jewelry such as earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings fashioned from earthy materials such as stones and gems.
Cosmetics were also used by women from ancient times. As for hair, women often braided their hair or kept their head covered by fabric
draped about the face like a hood.
Food and Cooking
Historians figure that the earliest prehistoric peoples trapped and ate insects, snails, mollusks and other sea creatures, lizards and birds. The New Testament records that the prophet John survived in the desert on locusts and honey, a balanced diet (for the short-term, at least) of proteins, fiber, fats and sugar.
Early records also make mention of onions, olives and pomegranates. Around 4000 B.C., onions, radishes and garlic were the mainstay of the diet of Egyptian slaves who built the Great Pyramid at Gizeh. A century later, olives were introduced to ancient peoples in Asia and Asia Minor. Olives were cultivated in the Mediterranean for about 5,000 years, making them one of the oldest fruits. Olives were revered by the ancients. Egyptians considered olive oil sacred, and the Sumerians used the oil for their bodies as well as for cooking. Pomegranates are believed to have originated in Persia. Their skins were used to dye wool and the fruit was a fertility symbol in many ancient cultures, undoubtedly because it has so many seeds.
During the period between 3000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., the Romans discovered the process of fermentation and began making primitive wine and beer. In Egypt, this led to leavened bread. The agricultural revolution during this period brought the shift to a largely grain diet. Settlers clashed with the more aggressive, meat-eating nomads. Forms of salting and drying, as well as the use of snow and ice, were developed for food preservation.
During the Ancient period, food often reflected one's social status. In ancient Rome, for example, slaves and
soldiers ate simple meals, while the wealthy landowners and senators enjoyed more diverse and lavish foods.
Generally, meals were eaten three times a day, with dinner being the main meal. Breakfast and lunch
were usually comprised of bread, fruit and cheese. The lower classes often ate cold biscuits (dry or dipped in wine) for
breakfast and skipped their lunch. Dinner was usually comprised of three courses: appetizers, meat and
vegetables, and dessert. The lower classes usually ate healthier foods than the wealthy classes. Country
dwellers lived off the produce of their land, mainly beans and vegetables. Sometimes olives, cheese, or
raisins were sprinkled on the bread. During the first century, it became the custom to distribute bread daily to the unemployed.
Workmen, on their way to work, grabbed some bread, and ate it on the way.
The upper class Romans, on the other hand, enjoyed a breakfast of
fresh meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and bread. Slaves prepared and even cut their food for them, as they didn't use forks or knives,
but ate with their fingers or a spoon. A wet towel was handy (or brought by slaves) to tidy up after a meal.
Luncheon for all classes was usually a cold meal, perhaps of bread, salad, olives, cheese, fruit, nuts, and cold meat left over
from dinner the night before. During the Republic, dinner was mostly a simple meal of vegetables. A
table was set up in the atrium of the house, and the household members gathered on stools to dine.
During the last two centuries of the Republic, this simple style of living changed a bit.
A separate dining room was designed, and in the place of benches or stools, there were dining couches.
The middle and upper classes of society had more formalized dinners, served around a
low table where guests reclined on pillows.
If a guest of honor was invited, he was usually seated close to the host. When Jesus ate the Passover dinner
with His disciples, they were seated in this manner, with Judas and John seated closest to Jesus. All other
guests were seated according to their social and relational positions. The very wealthy had large and extensive
dishes which included exotic foods and meats like pheasant, boar and antelope.
During the Imperial Age, the lower class enjoyed a dinner of porridge made of vegetables, or, when they could afford it, fish, bread, olives, and wine,
and meat on occasion. The upper class Romans had dinners that were quite elaborate. The men had the dinner parties; (decent) women and
children ate separately. They ate many different foods, drank lots of wine, and spent hours at dinner. Quite often, the men's dinner parties had
entertainment, such as dancing girls or a play, or both. Men reclined on couches, arranged around the dinner table. In their separate dining
quarters, women and children usually sat on chairs.
The sea provided the ancient Greeks with many things, including a source of food. Many types of seafood were popular and were eaten by most people.
Farmers grew some grains, like wheat and barley, and kept goats to provide milk and cheese. Most people also raised chickens and ate eggs regularly.
Although the soil was poor for growing many types of grains, olive trees and grapes grew quite well in Greece. Thus, olives and olive oil were
part of the basic diet. additionally, wine was usually mixed with water and served at any meal.
Sports, Games and Leisure
In Ancient Greece, one's leisure activities depended on age and gender. Men living in ancient Greece often went to the theater to see dramas
performed in honor of the gods. Theaters were built outside, usually along the slope of a hillside. All of the actors were men, even those in
female roles. Additionally, each actor played several parts in the play by wearing a different mask for each part. Women were not allowed into the theater,
and their lives were closely tied to the home. They learned spinning, weaving, and other skills that would be useful in running the household.
In the home, the women's quarters were in the back, far away from the entrance to the house. The front rooms were sometimes used by the men in the
household for "symposia" (banquets). The only women who attended these parties were the entertainers who played music and danced for the guests.
Greek children played games in their free time, and many toys (such as baby rattles and clay dolls) have been discovered from ancient Greece.
The Ancient Romans enjoyed sports and games, and they invented many of the pasttimes of our modern world. The campus in ancient Rome was an area
where men, children and women went to relax. It had been used in the past as a drill ground for soldiers, and was a large section of plain near the
Tiber River. Over time, it became a field and track playground and the Ancient Romans went there to play and exercise. There was a large lake and bathhouse
nearby, where people swam and took long baths. The Romans enjoyed a variety of ball games, including Handball (Expulsim Ludere), Trigon, Soccer,
Field Hockey, Harpasta, Phaininda, Episkyros, and certainly Catch and other games that children might invent, like perhaps Dodge Ball.
Additionally, Ancient Romans played board games such as Roman checkers, chess, backgammon, dice, and tic-tac-toe.
In ancient Rome, several different types of shows all took place in the arena of an amphitheater. Amphitheaters were most commonly used for
gladiatorial matches which had been adapted from Etruscan funeral rites (munera). By the last 1st century B.C., however, the games had lost their
ritualistic significance. Gladiators were men who played a violent sport in the arena. Gladiators either slayed animals such as lions or tigers, or other gladiators.
They were often condemned criminals (damnati), prisoners of war, or slaves brought for the purpose of gladiatorial combat by a lanista (owner or gladiators).
Professional gladiators were free men who volunteered to participate in the games for a fee. Originally, there were gladiatorial schools, but these came
under state control in the 1st century B.C. to avoid them becoming private armies.
Chariot racing was also a very popular sport in Ancient Greece and Rome. Greek chariot races were held in hippodromes in the east, but in the west
they were held in circuses. Other events eventually infiltrated the circus games, such as Greek athletics and wrestling, but chariot racing
remained the popular favorite. As a sport, it was highly expensive, but organized into a highly profitable business. There were four
chariot racing factions, the blues, greens, whites, and reds, the colors of which were worn by respective charioteers during races.
A famous arena to hold the chariot racing was the Circus Maximus.
Children in ancient Rome played with balls, board games, hobbyhorses, kites, and tiny models of people and animals.
Boys walked on stilts and played games with balls. They played tic-tac-toe, and a game called "knucklebones", which is a lot like jacks, only
played with bones. Boys also played war-type games, fighting with wooden swords or engaging in "Troy" (lusus Troiae), in which a team of boys tried to
drag a player across a line. Girls played with rags dolls and dolls of wax or clay. Some dolls even had jointed legs and arms.
Girls also played board and ball games, and even lifted weights.