The garment, dating back to the fifth century BCE Greece, encircled the torso and was pinned at one shoulder and girded at the waist.
Made of two rectangles of fabric, usually linen, stitched together at the sides to form a cylinder, it left enough space at the top for the arms and the head. The cylinder was gathered at the waist with a cloth belt. To allow freedom of movement to the right arm, the seam at the right shoulder was taken apart, and the right hand was passed through the head opening.
We encounter this garment in the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series when Sergius, the one-armed ex-gladiator, makes his first appearance in THE DEADLIEST LIE (see last week’s blog). Did Sergius actually exist? Scholars disagree (of course), but he was mentioned in a collection of poems known as the Satires written by the Roman poet, Juvenal. The Satires, a critique of pagan Rome, are a vital source of information, but because of their satiric nature, their content cannot be accepted as entirely factual.
My favorite story about Sergius is that Eppia, the wife of a senator, had given up her several hundred slaves, her villa in Rome, and her seaside estate at Antium after falling hopelessly in love with him. And so, I included Sergius in my stories despite the fact that Juvenal wrote about him a few decades after Miriam’s time. I hope Miriam bat Isaac fans will indulge my one deliberate departure from the historical record.