Baldness and Hair Care in Imperial Rome


Martial, 6.12 and 6.57

“Fabulla claims as her own the hair she buys!
Hey Paul—wouldn’t you say that she lies?

Iurat capillos esse, quos emit, suos
Fabulla: numquid illa, Paule, peierat


“You make fake hair with gel, Pheobus—
Your filthy scalp is covered with drawn-in hair
You don’t need to summon a barber for that head:
A sponge can give you a better shave, Phoebus.”

Mentiris fictos unguento, Phoebe, capillos
et tegitur pictis sordida calua comis.
Tonsorem capiti non est adhibere necesse:
radere te melius spongea, Phoebe, potest.

The loss of hair was a sensitive issue in antiquity too. Suetonius (Life of Domitian, 18) records the emperor Domitian was extremely touchy about his premature loss of hair:

“His baldness offended him so much that he took it as a personal insult if anyone else was slighted for it in humor or seriousness. Nevertheless, in the pamphlet he…

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