a thick woollen cloak or plaid fastened round the neck
with a brooch, was the distinctive garb of the Roman citizen in time of war.
It was worn not only on the field, but was put on by the whole male
population of the city on the occasion of a tumultus
or other sudden alarm, the consuls alone retaining the
toga (Cic. Phil. 5.12
). Hence it is contrasted with the toga, the dress of peace, in such
phrases as saga sumere, in sagis esse,
ad saga ire.
As one would expect in the
case of militia providing their own equipment, the sagum was in no sense a
uniform, and was worn by country-folk (Plin. Nat.
) and slaves (Dig. 34
), and was chosen by
soldiers as allowing the arms full play. It is shown on countless monuments,
the most important being Trajan's Column and the many grave-reliefs found on
the banks of the Rhine. These show that it was put on and fastened in the
same manner as the paludamentum,
which was in
fact the special sagum which the Imperator wore. The word sagum
has, besides this, a wider and more general meaning,
and is applied to the varieties of cloak known as birrus,
(cf. Martial, 8.58
), and abolla
(cf. note in Marquardt, Privatl.
Besides this, the national dress of the Germans (Tac. Germ.
17), Gauls (Caes. Gal. 5.42
(Strabo iv. p.202
), and Spaniards
(V. Max. 3.2
; Liv. 29.3
), which still survives in the plaid of the Scotch Highlander and
the cloak of the Spaniard, not only went by the same name, but was believed
by the Romans to be the original form of the garment, even the name being
borrowed from the Celtic. However this may be, cloaks fastened at the neck
with a pin are known all the world over; the Greek χλαμὺς
being, for instance, as much akin to the sagum as the
German varieties. In fact, in later Latin chlamys
in ordinary use supplanted the old word. There was
naturally much variety in shape, cut, and material in saga; and [p. 2.589]
we know that while the Gauls preferred cloth of a
check pattern ( “virgatis
Verg. A. 8.660
: cf. Tac. Hist. 2.20
), the Spaniards were fond of black (Strabo iii. p.155
). In the late Empire the
excellence of the Gallic and Spanish cloth made it popular at Rome, and we
hear of saga Atrebatica
the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. It would further seem that sometimes the
sagum was worn with a hood, and also that, as in many Gallic instances, the
fibula was occasionally dispensed with (cf. Trebell. XXX.
The sagum being made for the roughest usage, was of stout stuff, and, like
all cloaks which are fastened with a pin, served many other purposes, the
most interesting being perhaps that of the “blanket” in which a
person was “tossed,” this pastime being known as sagatio.
561-6; Becker-Göll, Gallus,
s. vv. Toga