Torcs were worn by various peoples from the Bronze Age, about 1000 B.C.E., until about 300 C.E, including the Galatians (or Anatolian Celts), various Germanic tribes the Scythians and the Persians. However, it is best known as the typically Celtic necklace worn especially by Britons, Gauls, and Iberians.
One of the earliest known depictions of a torc can be found on the Warrior of Hirschlanden, a statue of a nude ithyphallic warrior made of sandstone, the oldest known iron age life-size anthropomorphic statue north of the Alps. It was a production of the Hallstatt culture of the early Iron age (800-475 BC). It is now in the Württembergisches Landesmuseum in Stuttgart Depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology frequently show them wearing torcs.
The famous Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture The Dying Gaul, depicts a wounded gladiator naked except for a torc. Examples have been discovered in Britain and Europe during archaeological surveys . A notable and exquisite example was found at the Anglo-Saxon Sutton Hoo burial mound.
It was said by some authors that the torc was an ornament for women until the 4th century B.C.E., when it became an attribute of warriors. But most authors disagree, saying that it was a sign of nobility and high social status: a decoration awarded to warriors for their deeds in battle, as well as a divine attribute, since some depictions of Celtic gods wear one or more torcs. Images of the god Cernunnos wearing one torc around his neck, with torcs hanging from his antlers or held in his hand, have been found. Torcs have also been found in the tombs of Celtic princes.
The Roman consul Titus Manlius once challenged a Gaul to single combat and killed him, and then took his torc. Because he always wore it, he received the nickname Torquatus (the one who wears a torc). After this, Romans adopted the torc as a decoration for distinguished soldiers and elite units during Republican times.