Located on the Tiber River near the western coast of central Italy, the city of Rome is in an excellent location to encounter numerous different cultures. During the first few centuries of Rome’s recorded history, fashion would have been influenced by native Italian cultures, like the Etruscans, who controlled several towns to the north of Rome. Images of Etruscan-made jewelry, for example, can be easily found on the internet.
Besides being influenced by local Italian fashion, the Romans would have also been influenced by the fashion of other cultures around the Mediterranean region. As time went on, Rome began to add various provinces to her territorial holdings. In 241 B.C.E., Rome acquired her first province. By 120 A.D., Rome had more than 50 provinces. By the middle of the second century B.C.E., Greece had come under Roman control and the Romans were fascinated by Greek culture. Roman women especially wore garments, such as the peplos and chiton, that were influenced by the Greeks.
In the latter half of the first century B.C.E., Rome gained control of Egypt and this African countries fashions and customs also influenced the Romans. We know of some Romans being mummified and one Roman, Caius Cestius, even had a small pyramid built to house his remains (this pyramid can still be seen in Rome). The Egyptian queen Cleopatra, the lover of Julius Caesar and later Marcus Antonius, had some famous pearls. Speaking of pearls, these became a highly desired part of Roman fashion accessories. Julius Caesar, in the mid-50’s B.C.E., allegedly invaded Britain in search of pearls.
The Romans’ connection with Egypt also brought them into contact with the famous Silk Road, which would have allowed the Romans to acquire that wondrous fabric from China.