The footballers Rooney and Giggsy are doing a Donald Trump and spending thousands of pounds on their bald patches. Poor darlings! But they are not alone. The topic was of such interest in Rome that the emperor Domitian even wrote a treatise on it. So too did Cleopatra.
The doctor Galen (c. AD 129-216) quotes from Cleopatra’ book on ‘Adornment’ as follows: ‘For bald patches, powder red sulphuret of arsenic and take it up with oak gum, as much as it will bear. Put on a rag and apply, having soaped the place well first. I have mixed the above with a foam of nitre, and it worked well.’ But you can do better than that, she goes on. ‘The following is the best of all, acting for fallen hairs, when applied with oil or pomatum; acts also for falling off of eyelashes or for people getting bald all over. It is wonderful. Of domestic mice burnt, one part; of vine rag burnt, one part; of horse’s teeth burnt, one part; of bear’s grease one; of deer’s marrow one; of reed bark one. To be pounded when dry, and mixed with plenty of honey till it gets the consistency of honey; then the bear’s grease and marrow to be mixed, the medicine to be put in a brass flask, and the bald part rubbed till it sprouts.’ Alas, it did not work for Julius Caesar, a notorious dandy who was very worried by his baldness, 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 satirist Martial (AD 40-104) 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, the wind soon blew 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?