Did Roman Legionnaires Really Pierce Their Nipples?

Roman Legionnaires Pierced NipplesFor years now there has been a myth that Roman legionnaires pierced their nipples. Brought on by a statue of Versailles who had a breastplate on and a ring where the cape would usually be found! 🙂

However, the Romans did not pierce their nipples and the person behind the myth thought that it would simply make a great story!

How the Myth Started

This myth is largely popular due to a man named Richard Simonton, otherwise known as Doug Malloy. His theory after seeing the statue of Versailles was that the Roman Legionnaires must have pierced their nipples. To him the rings were clear signs that the nipples were pierced, however to others it just didn’t make sense.

However, that is not to say that the Romans knew nothing about piercings. In fact, a few breastplates have been found with piercings through them. So, there may have been one or two Legionnaires who pierced their nipples, but as a whole most of them didn’t.

The History of Nipple Piercing

Ancient tribes were thought to be responsible for the first nipple piercings. The tribes that lived on the Gulf Coast of Texas used to pierce both nipples with a small piece of cane. After the piercings were done they would cover their bodies in dirt and alligator grease to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Sailors from both Britain and America have also told of how they have had their nipples pierced after passing through a certain longitude. It was done as an initiation ceremony. However, it wasn’t until the 1950’s-1960’s that nipple piercing really took shape. It was a time for self experimentation and two men in particular are known to have made piercings popular. These include Jim Ward and Fakir Musafar.

It is female nipple piercing that has the most notable history. They can be dated back to the 14th century and it was Isabeau of Bavaria who introduced nipple piercing as low neckline costumes were introduced. These garments often went right down to the navel and eventually they were worn with boobs freely on show! 🙂

Well, nipple piercing has been around for a long time and it is possible that SOME Roman Legionnaires pierced their nipples. However, Doug Malloy has freely admitted that his findings make for a good story. So really it is simply a myth that all Roman Legionnaires pierced their nipples.


  1. No, they in fact did not. The stature that Malloy is referring to is more than likely the one at Versailles of Louix XIV in Romanesque/Hellenistic parade armour. NOT an actual Roman of any sort. The rings are not where the cape would attach. They are, in fact, stylized decorations where the shoulder straps ended on the armor. Depending upon the decorative, rank or religious preferences of the purchaser of said armor, they could depict anything from a lion holding a ring in its mouth to a medusa with similar, to a pair torques.

    If malloy is to be taken seriously – with his “alternate reality history” based upon the appearance of the 18th C. stylized armor – then Celtic warriors and Samnite armored infantry – both of which being men – each had three protruding “boobs” (one of which from the stomach), the latter having no nipples whatsoever!

    Furthermore, the information about Isabeau of Bavaria is incorrect as well. The author of the article appears to be drawing from the fiction written by the Marquis de Sade in 1813 entitled, “Histoire secrete d’Isabelle de Baviere, reine de France”. The women of the 15th C did not wear open-fronted dresses. Though in France and Venice there was a very fleeting fashion trend which appeared in the later 18th Century and was confined to the salons of the more notorious, where the dresses were cut-out revealing the breasts.

    (Yes, it is amazing the things you learn while pursuing AND obtaining a Ph.D., isnt it?!) 😉

    1. Ph.D’s are great and all, but we do live in an age of information.. Its something I had already known, since I was in high school really.. Besides being obsessed with history, I have to study a lot of things for the games or comics I work on.

      A lot of people today, are just lazy- and tend to believe almost anything, or let others think for them.. Its sad.

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