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The Franks, Goths, Gauls, Celts, Teutons, Lombards And Ancient Britons

( Originally Published 1928 )

AFTER the fall of Rome the costumes worn in Italy, Spain and France underwent a change. From having been pure Roman they became, like their wearers, Italian, Spanish and French. By the ninth century, Latin had become a dead language among these people commonly called the Romance nations.

Of the wild men responsible, the Ostrogoths, who defeated the Emperor of Western Rome, were overthrown by Justinian, Emperor of the East in 544; the Visigoths (West Goths), who possessed Southern Gaul and the greater part of Spain, were driven south of the Pyrenees by the Franks, who in turn were conquered by the Moors. The Arabs held most of Spain from 711 to 1492 when they were driven from Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella.

The Franks laid the foundation of the French nation; Clovis, their leader, was victorious at Soissons in 486, forever destroying in Gaul the Roman authority which had existed since Julius Caesar enforced it on the natives five centuries before. The Franks were known as Merovingians from 486 to 752, when a new royal line, the Carolingian, was established.

THE FRANKS P> Leg Gartering.—Strips of leather crisscrossed about the leg, usually to the knee but occasionally to the thigh, held cloth or crudely made trousers to the leg. The early costume of the Franks consisted of long trousers either gathered about the ankles or strapped with leg gartering, sandals or bare feet, tunics and hooded cloaks. Later, during the reign of the Carolingians, long, full tunics were draped with voluminous mantles, both displaying wide borders.


Men.—Knee-length tunics were placed over trousers. These garments, together with a cloak worn knotted in front, were cut about the edges in long points, a style distinctly Gothic. Long hair and beards were the rule.

Women.—A double tunic was arranged with the right shoulder and breast uncovered; bare feet and long flying hair accompanied it.


The Gauls are described as follows by Diodorus Siculus, a companion of Caesar : "The Gauls wear bracelets about their wrists and arms, and massy chains of pure and beaten gold about their necks and weighty rings upon their fingers, and corselets of gold upon their breasts. For stature they are tall, of a pale complexion, and red haired, not only naturally, but they endeavor all they can to make it redder by art. They often wash their hair in water boiled with lime, and turn it backwards from the fore-head to the crown of the head, and thence to their very necks, that their faces may be fully seen. . . . Some of them shave their beards, others let them grow a little. Persons of quality shave their chins close, but their mustaches they let fall so low that they even cover their mouths. . . . Their garments are very strange, for they wear parti-colored tunics, flowered with various colors in divisions and hose which they call bracae. They likewise wear checkered sagas [cloaks]. Those they wear in win-ter are thick, those in summer more slender. Upon their heads they wear helmets of brass with large appendages made for ostentation's sake to be admired by the beholders. . . . They have trumpets after the barbarian manner, which in sounding make a horrid noise . . . for swords they use a broad weapon called Spatha, which they hang across their right thigh by iron or brazen chains. Some gird themselves with belts of gold and silver." (From a translation used by Charles Knight.)

That the Gauls made striped and checkered materials and were expert dyers is vouched for by Pliny. When stripes were used they ran diagonally across the garments. Roman sculptures show long trousers, the bracae, gathered about the ankle, and high shoes.

The costuming of the Gauls should always be colorful.

Men.—The men wore a checked or striped tunic; trousers, the saga, either fastened with a clasp on the right shoulder or cut with a round hole in the middle through which the head was passed; a broad heavy sword hanging over the right hip; gold corselets, helmets and belts with the usual barbaric array of jewelry in the form of neck-bands, armlets, rings and bracelets of twisted wire called torques.

Women.—The women wore two tunics, one long to the feet, the other reaching to the hips and confined under the bust by a girdle. The hair hung in long braids over each shoulder.


Men.—Long and short tunics, cloaks made with a hole to pass the head through, and buskins to the knee were worn by the men. The mantles and edges of skirts were cut in points, much smaller, however, than those deco-rating the garments of the Goths. Saffron was a popular color. It was a Celtic fashion to rush naked into battle.

Women.—Fitted bodices, full skirts, bare feet, and hair parted in the middle characterized the women's costume.


They roamed the section between the Rhine and the Danube.

Men.—The hair of the primitive type was tied up on top of the head, thence falling loose; they were mostly naked, the costume being merely a garment resembling trunks. Later (the Germans were barbaric until the sixth century) long trousers were worn under a sleeved tunic reaching to the knee, a draped cloak on one shoulder. Stripes appeared as border decoration; there was also a fashion of running two across the chest. Tunics were slit up the sides and girdled with ropes or leather. Arm-lets, anklets, caps and sandals were all of leather. The armor consisted of a cuirass worn over the tunic, a large circular shield, arrows in a quiver, a sword and a helmet of metal over a leather cap. The cloak was fastened to the right shoulder.

Women.—Garments were fastened over one shoulder, the other being left bare like those of the Goths.. Sandals were of openwork leather.


A barbarian tribe from Germany which conquered a large part of Italy, 568-774. At the latter date Charlemagne, the most noted Carolingian ruler, was victorious over them. Their blood still exists in Lombardy, fair hair and light complexions revealing a German strain. Their clothes were barbarically splendid.

Men.—The men wore tunics, large mantles, leg gartering over cloth and pointed shoes.

Women.—A long, full tunic with wide sleeves ended in embroidered and jeweled borders; an inner gown showed a sleeve tight to the wrist, and over all was worn a large mantle. The hair, parted in the middle, was adorned with crowns and diadems from which veils floated.


To the writings and letters of Caesar and his companions during the conquest of Britain we are indebted for much light on the costuming of its inhabitants. We must believe that in battle they appeared almost naked, their bodies colored blue by the application of woad, a plant of the mustard family whose leaves when ground supplied this stain. All these authorities unite in finding a great similarity in manners and costume between the Britons and the Gauls. Pliny says they excelled in both weaving and dyeing. Fine wool dyed purple, scarlet and other colors was spun into yarn which was woven to produce checks or stripes. It is believed these secrets were discovered by the Gauls, who imparted them to the Britons. The tartan of the Highlanders is called the "garb of old Gaul."

The costume consisted of the usual cloak of fur or cloth, a tunic (Dion Cassius states that the one worn by Boadicea, Queen of Ancient Britain, was "in several colors all in folds") and the leather leg strappings over skins or cloth. The primitive shoe was of skin gathered about the ankles. The men were bearded, the hair of both sexes falling on the shoulders. They wore barbaric jewelry in the form of necklaces, armlets and bracelets of twisted wire called torques, and rings of gold, silver, brass and bronze. Pliny says a ring was worn on the middle finger. A king had golden bands about the neck, arms and knees as emblems of supreme authority. Old armor in the form of battle-axes, bronze swords and round bronze shields is found in collections. After the Roman Conquest the last named were oblong in form.

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (viz., Lancelot, Tristram, Gawaine and Galahad) were semi-legendary heroes.

Of the three divisions of Druids, the ovates or sacred musicians and religious poets wore green; the bards or historians and genealogical poets, blue; and those who performed the duties of priests, white.

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