Donald Trump, showing an unexpected degree of self-awareness, has concluded that, all said and done, many men his age would be delighted if they had his locks. Nothing new here: the topic of hair was of such interest in ancient Rome that essays were written in praise both of hair and of baldness. The emperor Domitian even wrote a treatise on it for a friend, saying: ‘I bravely put up with having an old man’s head before my time. Nothing is more pleasant than beauty, yet how quickly that stage passes.’
The famous Egyptian queen Cleopatra also had thoughts on the topic of longevity and hair, perhaps prompted by her lover Julius Caesar. He was very sensitive about his baldness, combing his thinning hair upwards over his crown. Here is a quotation from her extensive essay:
‘The following is the best cure of all, acting for fallen hairs, when applied with oil or ointment. It also acts when eyelashes fall off or people go bald all over. It is wonderful. It consists of one part of burnt domestic mice; one part of burnt vine rag; one part of burnt horse’s teeth; one part of bear’s grease; one part of deer’s marrow; and one part of reed bark. Pound when dry, and mix with plenty of honey till it gets the consistency of honey; then mix in bear’s grease and marrow, put it in a brass flask, and rub the bald part till it sprouts.’
Worth a try, I suppose.
Alas, it did not work for Julius Caesar, or perhaps he ignored his mistress’s advice. The problem was solved when the senate allowed him to cover up by wearing a laurel wreath at all times.
The Roman satirist Martial had great fun with barbers, of which Rome boasted a hatful. One he mocked for taking so long that a second beard grew before he had cut the first. As for the balding man artfully piling up curls on the top of his head, he pointed out that the wind would soon blow them back, leaving the dome bald as ever, but now fringed with ringlets. What, he concluded, could be more repellent than a bald man covered in hair? Your views, Mr President?
This article is in The Spectator’s October 2019 US edition.