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Roman Clothing

1st Century - Paenula
Sumner Cloak Drawings
Sumner Paenula Drawing
Sumner Paenula Toggles



The paenula was a hooded semicircular or ovoid cloak that served as the dominant cloak used by the Roman military in the 1st-2nd centuries AD. Pliny the Elder states that it had a long, pointed hood which hung down the soldier's back when not in use "like a bindweed leaf." The Camomile Street Soldier relief depicts the use of four toggles on the front of the cloak, two of which were bronze and probably of the Wild Type-IV or Type-V, and the bottom two of which may have been wooden toggles similar to the Wild Type-IX (see image 5). Another depiction from Chatsworth shows the use of four bronze toggles, while a third depiction of S. Ennius Fuscus shows a fastening using laces. Like the belt, it's possible that the use of bronze or precious metal toggles for the cloak was representative of status and a display of wealth.

The color of the Paenula is up for some debate. Tabula Vindolanenses 87.598 makes it clear that the paenula of the cohort commander (tribunus cohortis) was a fine, stark white wool. Depictions of soldiers tend to show paenulae in a pale yellowish-tan color, or sometimes red. In terms of color, alder, tansy, lady's bedstraw, and gorse all achieve a pale yellowish-tan color similar to the soldier's paenula. One of the Nahal Hever tunics was dyed yellow with saffron (an incredibly expensive dye to use and maintain), while weld is evidenced in the Germanic world and Roman Britain, and was likely the most common. Reds could be achieved with madder and European cochineal. However, dyeing isn't necessarily a requirement, as wool that retains its natural lanolins could achieve a color from off-white, to tan or brown, to a reddish-brown.

1st Century - Fringed Sagum
Sagum Fringe
Sumner Sagum Drawings
Sagum Folding


The sagum was another common cloak in use by the Roman army, being of a simple rectangular form, with either an undecorated or fringed edge. The size of the cloak is evidenced textually, with the papyrus BGU VII 1564 stating that it should be six cubits long by four cubits wide (2.66m x 1.78m), weigh 3.75 minae (1.6 kg) and cost 24 drakhmai (6 denarii) each. It also states a blanket should be the same size, but a heavier weight and cost 28 drakhmai (7 denarii); on campaign the sagum could be used as a blanket or even a temporary shelter, if needed. However, lighter versions of the sagum used in the summer or in hot climates also existed. Archaeological examples from the middle East and the Germanic bog finds range from 1.75-2.70m long and 1.05-1.77m wide, with the majority tending to the upper end of the scale.

The sagum may have been the most popular cloak for soldiers by the time of Trajan's Dacian war, with the majority of cloaks depicted on the column being saga. Appian, Historia Romana, 5.100 and Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Civili, 1.5.6, both refer to the "military cloak" (sagum militarium), and a wooden tablet from Carlisle survives which records an order for ten such saga militaria. Cassius Dio, Epitome, 50.4 points out that upon the declaration of war against Mark Antony and Cleopatra, the soldiers immediately donned their saga militaria; although probably an embellishment by Dio, it emphasizes the symbolism and status the military cloak would bear on his Roman audience. The sagum was probably used alongside the paenula due to its versatility; whereas the paenula would best serve to protect ones' equipment on the march, the sagum could be used as a groundcloth, a blanket, or a temporary shelter. The 4th century author Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Epitoma rei Militaris, 4.6 remarks how cloaks of double thickness could be used as mats to cover battlements, while Tacitus, Historiae, 5.22 records how in an emergency it could be wrapped around the arm to act as a makeshift shield (a technique also known from much later renaissance fencing treatises). Tacitus, Historiae, 5.23 also remarks that the batavi sewed their saga together to create a makeshift sail.

The color of the sagum is once more up for debate. Like the paenula, both red and a pale yellowish-tan color were common, although some tombstones with surviving pigmentation and the famous Fayyum mummy portraits suggest blue may have been used by some centuriones, line officers, or possibly wealthier soldiers. Martial, Epigrammaton Libri, 8.10, 8,48, 14.131, and 14.136 lists the use of red (coccinus), white (albus), and tyrian purple for the abolla and the lacerna, which were slight variations on the sagum. The Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Pertinax, 8.2-4 mentions the use of "fringed military cloaks." Like tunics, the sagum was typically made in 2/2 or 2/1 twill (plain twill or "tabby weave"), although diamond twill is also evidenced.

We recommend members of Legio VI acquire both a sagum and a paenula in YELLOW-TAN or RED.

Recommended Suppliers

Soul of the Warrior - Owned by the Centurio of Legio VI, this site will cover many of your clothing-based needs.

Medievaldesign - Makes a wool paenula and a fringed wool sagum, as well as a paludametum.

Caleb Burch - Can make a variety of wool cloaks based on custom measurements, and can offer fringing. One of the best historical tailors in the U.S.

Valeria Corvina - An excellent seamstress specializing in Roman-era garments, she can make any wool cloak you need.

Marled Mader - One of the best weavers and seamstresses in Europe. Can make tunics in hand-woven, hand-dyed fabric.


Fabrica Cacti - Can make a diamond twill wool cloak in any authentic color. Based in Poland.


Made in Duendecya - Can make a wool sagum or paenula in any authentic color. Based in Spain.

B. Black and Sons Fabrics - Offers a variety of 100% wool in different weights and twills.

Dorr Mill - Offers a variety of 100% wool in different weights and twills.

Woolsome - Sells a variety of 100% wool in different weights and twills in undyed, bleached, and modern dyes. Run by Legio XXI in Poland.

OldCraft Workshop - Sells a variety of fine quality woolen saga in various shades, both artificially and naturally dyed, and can make other historical garments too.

ECHO Historical Textile - Sells a variety of fine quality fabrics, woolen cloaks, and other historical garments in naturally dyed colors.

Kram Bu - One of the best weavers and seamstresses in Europe, sells a variety of reproductions of Iron age and Viking age garments, and can weave naturally dyed cloaks.

Elizabeth Da'Born Art and Textile - Again one of the best weavers and seamstresses in Europe. Can make a variety of reproductions of Iron age or Viking age garments.

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