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Republican Roman colours


I'm about to paint my horde of Republican Romans as a prelude to their destruction in a Cannae style massacre at the hands of the Carthagians.

What colour did they swan around in?

The popular examples include whitish clothing with red shields, which I shall have as the first cohort, but I've seen other other colour variations in popular magazines: blue, green, yellow.....

Can anyone give a definitive list of
a) clothing and
b) shield combinations?


Re: Republican Roman colours

I recall that the evidence and sources vary, but I don't know of many references to tunic colors for the Punic Wars. Most primary sources for tunic color are from later eras.

Tradionally the legions were thought to wear red tunics, but this is challenged by more recent scholars that favor white(Fuentes). another idea is that the troops wore white tunics most of the time, but reserved red tunics for battle-red being the color of Mars(Sumner suggests this}

And of course not many color sources excist for the Punic wars!!

I decided on a compromise and will give my velites and hastati off-white tunics, my princeps and triarii red tunics, and the senior officers 'shining white' tunics edged purple. My reasoning is that the younger and poorer guys are equipped by the state so get whatever undyed tunics that happen to be lying around, the older and wealthier men will purchase red tunics for show and piety, and of course the upper class politicos will dress like their running for office.
That's my ideas, but I have seen some that vary the colors of their units -red 1st cohort, blue 2nd cohort.... etc
It all happened several centuries ago so it will be hard to prove you wrong whatever you do

Re: Re: Republican Roman colours

I agree. I think the point is no one knows what colours might have been used but the idea of undyed woolen cloth (so an off-white colour) seems the most likely.

Re: Republican Roman colours

At the time of the Punic wars the Soldiers of Rome payed for, and provided their own clothing, so it is doubtful that there was actually much uniformatiy within the Roman ranks. Richer men would have far better armour than poorer men would, and would have more colourful tunics. White or off white been cheap would probably have been the most popular, with the poorer men using what armour they could afford or could maybe scavange from dead men after any battle.
If they were fighting far from Rome, Local clothing would be bought, which could be very different to what was available in rome.

Re: Re: Republican Roman colours

I agree there wasn't an "uniform" at that time, neighter as often than usualy supposed also later.

The red color then was very expensive, is duobtfull that could be very diffused parform than between who was raely very rich, and/or eventualy kept only for parades. same thing for crests, plumes and other large decorations on the helmets.

Parform than for the leaders, usualy out of range and protected by a guard, even in battle the red clothing probably was too precious to risk, and also a bright invite to target the few who eventualy were wearing it.

More probable to imagine other cheaper decorations, is not unusual for soldiers to work on their uniforms and gear to personalise it during the inactive periods, even in regular armies where it's supposed to be forbidden.
Eventualy more elaborated, brighter and colored for the princeps etc. and few, poorer and brownish or black for the troop.

Also the white or light color clothing is not so proper for troops, parform than for foulards or scarves, no much probable that a simple soldier could wash often and very well his clothes, any white or black, light or dark color cloth probably would turn quickly in a lighter or dark brownish-grey.
Infact often in the recent movies the clothes are represented in very dark unclear colors, especialy in the ones considered more accurate for the costumes.

But after all it's a matter of taste as there aren't enough evidences, some fantasy licenses are unavoidable, some other are to be avoided if you care the historical accuracy.
The red make all "so roman" in the common immagination, so we see it still in most of cases, same as the abuse of squared shields, completely wrong parform than during Trajan; and the shape of helmets that during the punic wars wasn't standardised yet in the tipical roman "montefortino" or galea type.



Hi, Leo, we see an illustration in a book, based on a single rock carving, painting or statue.
A plastic manufacturer does his research & bases an entire troop type on what may have been a unique mode of dress.
No offence to HaT but look at their Carthaginian allies set.
Of course, what else can you do?
My Polybian Romans have tunic colours based on whether they're velites, hastati, princepes or triarii.
Historical? Of course not but a useful device when wargaming.

Re: compromises

Of course,
changes of taste, deeper research, and mistakes all apart, I have many "red romans" too! Some also recently painted.

I can say that the visual impact of the (supposed) more accurate messy colors (and perhaps panoply too) is less spectacular and beautyfull than the standard.

After all untill we'll have a time machine we can only make suppositions.

The wargming has it's particularities and needs, that may be different from dioramas and even more from our "attempts" of historical reconstructions. That may be wrong.

Anyway both ways can be interesting and beautyfull to see, all the ways can coexhist and enrich each other at least in the techniques, and as more variety we can see as more enjoyable is our hobby.


Time Machine

They certainly will not invent a time machine during my lifetime. How can I be so sure? If they did then I would have gone back to when I was about 10 and forced myself to buy all the Atlantic Colosseums I could find so by now I would be very rich

Re: Republican Roman colours

You can find out what little is known about Republican Shields here.

dyeing textiles in the Roman Republic?

Does anyone know how common dyed cloth was during the Republic?

I have read that the Oscan tomb paintings at Paestum and Capua show warriors in multi-colored tunics. Some red or white with contrasting colors. Also Etruscan paintings show some colored clothes. What was used for red? Madder? What about other colors? I'm sure purple was costly and restricted to the social elite, but what about cheaper dyes?

Now I'm thinking of Etruscans and Samnites to fight the Romans!


Thank you for all the information and comments.

I shall defer painting them until I have researched further (couple of days). I have added a splash of paint to each of them, but these will need to be re-painted to my satisfaction before the carnage commences.

I'm favouring dividing them up on three martial lines, as suggested by other posters, resulting in a number of sections of troops, each with a different colour scheme.

In the meantime, I'm painting Strelets medieval cavalry and Caesar Chinese infantry.....

Re: Colours

Anyway there were some particular cases of more common colors that could distinguished somehow the troops.
As in the case of the samnite Linteata legion, that aparently was wearing mostly white linen.

There's an article i italian only but with some illustrations here: