The ancient Romans were known for their sophisticated culture, art, and architecture, but also for their obsession with personal hygiene and grooming.
Long before the advent of modern hair removal methods, the ancient Romans were already practicing the art of hair removal. Their obsession with cleanliness and beauty led them to develop tools that resemble modern tweezers.
Recently, a museum in Wroxeter, a city in Roman Britain, unveiled an exhibition featuring 50 pairs of these ancient tweezers, along with various other grooming artifacts.
The tweezers discovered in Wroxeter date back to the second to fifth centuries C.E., a time when hair removal was common throughout the Roman Empire.
However, different individuals had distinct reasons for engaging in this practice. According to Cameron Moffett, the curator at Wroxeter, women were expected to remove body hair to enhance their attractiveness to men, while men primarily removed body hair for sports and physical activities.
Wroxeter, formerly known as Viriconium Cornoviorum, was a thriving Roman city and one of the largest settlements in Roman Britain, rivaling the size of Pompeii.
The city’s residents were dedicated to upholding the aesthetic customs of the Roman capital. Archaeological excavations have revealed various structures, including a forum, market, bathhouse, and a reconstructed townhouse, providing valuable insights into the daily lives of its inhabitants.
The Romans considered personal grooming and cleanliness as important status symbols that set them apart from other cultural groups in Europe.
Untidy or unkempt hair, along with poor hygiene, was believed to reflect poorly on an individual’s inner state. Achieving the desired hairless look often involved the painful process of hair removal, which was usually performed by enslaved individuals, who constituted a significant portion of the population.
Both men and women were expected to adhere to hair removal practices. Male body hair removal was particularly important for those engaging in sports and physical activities that required minimal clothing.
Poets like Pliny and Ovid wrote about the necessity for women to remove body hair to be considered attractive, a sentiment that persists today. However, in Roman times, the emphasis on hair removal applied to both sexes.
The exhibition at Wroxeter Roman City showcases over 400 artifacts that shed light on the Romans’ fastidiousness in maintaining health and beauty.
Alongside the tweezers, visitors can marvel at strigils, perfume bottles, copper cosmetic sets, and other items related to grooming practices. The presence of such a vast number of tweezers in Wroxeter attests to the city’s prosperity and the scale of its population.
The new museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the Romans’ dedication to personal grooming and beauty standards. The collection of tweezers and other artifacts showcases their commitment to cleanliness and the efforts they made to distinguish themselves from “barbarians.”
Visitors can also explore the well-preserved structures and other archaeological finds, which contribute to a deeper understanding of life in Roman Britain.