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1. The most primitive form of footgear is the sandal. It consists simply of a sole of matting, leather, felt, or wood bound to the foot by thongs and straps. It was not only worn by the Greeks and Romans of all periods, but still survives. In studying its use in classical times, there is great difficulty in distinguishing it from the various forms of boots and shoes which were used side by side with it. Even if we were able to identify the various shapes mentioned in literature with those shown on the monuments, the question would not be settled, for the transition from one class to another is represented by so many intermediate forms that a hard and fast line cannot be drawn.

In the Homeric age the πέδιλα, which were worn by men (Il.. 2.44, &c.), are doubtless sandals, for they are called ὑποδήματα (Od. 8.368) and bound to the foot (Il. 24.340, &c.). Whether women used them or not is doubtful, though goddesses wore them out-of-doors (Il. 14.186), The epithets καλά, χρυσεῖα, ἀυβρόσια, given to them, convey no information as to their shape and make. Those, however, worn by common folk must have been simplicity itself, for we are told how Eumaeus, when setting out for the city, made himself a pair out of a well-dressed ox-hide (Od. 14.23). Such sandals remained in use in the country, being mentioned by Sappho (Frag. 98, Bergk, τὰ δὲ σάμβαλα πεμπεβόηα), and Hesiod's advice to have them lined with felt (Op. 541) suggests that they were of the same kind as the sandals, worn over very thick stockings by the peoples of the lower Danube, the form adopted by the Bulgarian army being the best known. Such sandals were made in extremities even out of raw hide, and were known as καρβατίναι (Xen. Anab. 4.5).

In classical times it was not unusual among the Greeks to go barefoot. With the Spartans this was indeed part of their discipline (Xen. Rep. Lac. 2.3, and passages on ἀνυποδησία in Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.267), and philosophers [p. 2.685]and others of an ascetic turn adopted the custom of Athens and elsewhere (cf. Theocr. 14.5, Πυθαγορικτὰς ὠχρὸς κἀνυπόδητος). Yet even Socrates, the best known of the barefoot philosophers (Aristoph. Cl. 103), though he wore no shoes in the snow and ice at Potidaea, put on slippers when going to Agathon's supper (Plato, Symp. 174), as was the fashion (Aristoph. Kn. 889). The cut and fit of his sandals and shoes was indeed not one of the least of the Greek dandy's anxieties (Plato, Phaedo, p. 64 D), and many are the jokes at ill-fitting boots (Aristoph. Kn. 321), which were the sure mark of a boor (Theophr. Char. 4). The general name for all sandals is ὑπόδημα, the word σανδάλιον or σάνδαλον being also used in the same sense (the old distinction between these words is due to a mistake of Salmasius; cf. Pollux, 7.84, ed. Kuhn).

The sole of the sandal (πέλμα, κάττυμα) was of one piece or several layers of leather. One, for instance, discovered in the Tauric Chersonnese and now at St. Petersburg, has a sole made of eleven or twelve layers of leather, the upper surface being ornamented with gold (Stephani, Compte Rendu, 1865; cf. 1881, p. 142, and Taf. 3.4 and 5). Thick soles were in fact worn, like modern high heels, to give ladies greater height (cf. Xen. Oec. 10, 2). Wood was used as well as leather, not only for coarse cheap clogs (κρούπεζαι, sculponeae), but for expensive and delicate sandals for ladies' wear (τυρρηνικά,, Poll. 7.92; Clem. Alex. Paed. 2.11, 116). A specimen, which however probably belongs to Roman times, was discovered in 1876 near Kertsch in the Crimea. It is formed of three layers, joined together by pegs, the top layer being painted red and covered with leather. Round the edge are a number of pairs of holes for attaching strings or thongs (Compte Rendu, 1881, p. 143, with fig.). Cork was also used for soles (cf. Alexis ap. Athen. 13.568).

The most characteristic feature of the sandal was the ζυγὸς or ζυγὸν, a strap which passed across the toes and held it on the foot (Arist. Lys. 416, and Schol. ad loc.). (In Strabo vi. p.259, however, ἄζυγα σανδ. certainly means, as Becker takes it in opposition to Bötticher, odd sandals, i. e. not a pair.) To the ζυγὸς was attached a thong, which passed between the great toe and the second toe. This and the other straps which held the other parts of the sole were, as a rule, kept tight by a latchet (lingula) over the instep. This was of metal, and of a heart-or leaf-shape. It was part of Parrhasius's magnificence to have had latchets of gold on his slippers (χρυσοι_ς τε ἀνασπαστοῖς ἐπέσφιγγε τῶν βλαυτῶν τοὺς ἀναγεγέας, Ath. 12.543 f). The network of straps and thongs was sometimes so thick as to make the sandals practically a shoe, and often reached as far as the calves. Such were doubtless the ῥαΐδια,, which Pollux (7.64) explains as πολυέλικτον ὑπόδημα.

Of the different varieties, for the βλαῦται see CALCEUS Vol. I. p. 332. The βαυκίδες, which were also fashionable and expensive (Poll. 7.94), were probably somewhat the same, but only worn by women. Aristophanes also mentions περιβαρίδες as a luxurious form of sandal (Lys. 45, 47, 53), though Pollux says that it was only worn by slaves. [For the κρῆπις, see CREPIDA]

As we have said, ὑποδήματα is a word used vaguely, and, though generally meaning sandals, stands sometimes for shoes. Thus in the Edict of Diocletian we have ὑποδήματα Βαβυλωνικά,, the Latin equivalents being soleae Babylonicae (9.17) and socci Babylonici (9.23). Again, the περσικαί, a favourite woman's shoe at Athens (Arist. Thesm. 734; Eccl. 319), must have had a close upper (cf. Id. Nub. 151).

At Rome it was not the custom to go about barefoot, and all freemen wore boots or shoes when out of doors. Sandals and slippers were reserved for indoor use; and to wear them outside, in Greek fashion, was considered effeminate. Indeed, this was the favourite gibe which the Romans of the old school cast at those who found the pallium and crepidae more comfortable than the toga and calceus. Scipio the elder (Liv. 29.19, 12), Verres (Cic. in Verr. 5.33), Antony (Cic. Phil. 2.30), Germanicus (Tac. Ann. 2.59), and Caligula (Suet. Cal. 52) scandalised the sticklers at propriety in this way, and the prejudice lingered on even until the age of Hadrian (Gel. 13.22, 1).

The wearing of sandals or slippers when going out to supper was, however, quite a recognised one; for as it was the custom to have one's slippers taken off by the slave on reclining at the table (soleas demere, Plaut. Trucul. 367; soleas deponere, Mart. 3.50, 3), sandals were much more convenient than boots. Hence the phrase soleas poscere (Hor. Sat. 2.8, 77, &c.), “to prepare to take leave.” Most guests came in a litter, but those who could not afford this walked in boots and carried their soleae under, their arm (Hor. Epp. 1.13, 15). The general name for sandals in Latin is solea, sandalium being a transliteration which never became naturalised at Rome. [For CREPIDA see that article.] Of other varieties the gallicae are the best known and were longest in use. The Edict of Diocletian mentions a number of different kinds for men and women with single or double soles, for travelling or country wear (gallicae viriles rusticanae bisoles, gallicae viriles monosoles, gallicae cursoriae, taurinae muliebres bisoles and monosoles, 9.12), which shows that their use must have been popular and very extended. Of other sorts, those from Patara and Babylon and the Tyrrhenian (v. ante) were not peculiarly Roman, but worn all over the Hellenistic world.

The monuments showing Roman sandals do not differ in any important respect from the Greek shapes. (Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.267, 281; Gallus, 3.227;--Hermann-Blümner, Lehrbuch, 181 foll., 196; Guhl and Koner, p. 225; Iwan Müller, Handbuch, iv. pp. 404, 409, 427, 432, 806, 880, 930; Marquardt, Privatleben, 1886, pp. 322, 595, 705; Baumeister, Denkmäler, art. Fussbekleidung; Daremberg and Saglio, Dict. d'Antiq., arts. Blautai, Crepida;--Blümner, Technologie, 1.276; Leben u. Sitten, 1.60;--Büchsenschütz, Hauptstätte, p. 91.) [W.C.F.A]

2. Solea, a shoe for horses or mules. It is a matter for dispute at what date horses were shod for ordinary use in Europe; and a further and different question, when horse-shoes, were first attached by nails. In Greek literature of a date before the Roman conquest there is no trace of any shoe for animals at all, except in the case of camels, who, according to Aristotle [p. 2.686]H. A. 2.6 = p. 499 a), on a campaign had a sort of shoe (καρβατίνη bound beneath the foot; but his remark, that this was done because the camel's foot was soft (σαρκώδης), makes this passage an argument against the existence of horse-shoes in Greece at that date. It is perhaps hardly necessary to point out that the Homeric epithet χαλκόπους (Il. 13.23), like χαλκοκρότος in Aristoph. Kn. 551, merely refers to the noise of the horses' hoofs, and is no more an argument as to material than χαλκεόφωνος. Further than this we have in Xenophon's de Re Equestri not only the argument of his silence about shoes, but also the fact that he gives (ch. 4) directions for the sort of pavement in the stable or stable-yard which would best harden the hoofs. In the Anabasis (4.5, 36) he describes a practice in the Armenian hill-country of binding bags (σακκία: unless we are to read σακία, i. e. discs, like small shields) under the feet of horses and mules; but this was only in the snow, to prevent them from sinking: some kind of “bog-shoes” is similarly used for horses to this day in Holland and in parts of Scotland (Fleming, Horse-shoes, p. 319). Lastly, the evidence of ancient art points the same way. We have no representation of shoes on horses, though on the frieze of the Parthenon, for instance, we should expect to see traces of shoes had they existed, as well as of bridles. It is quite possible that with all their methods for hardening the hoofs, they may have worn out quickly on roads: and as a fact historians note that this happened (Thuc. 7.27; Diod. 17.94).

In Roman literature we find a very slight mention of shoes for mules: the ferrea solea left in the mud (Catull. 8.23): the shoeing of Vespasian's mules (Suet. Vesp. 23): the silver shoes of Nero's mules (Id. Ner. 30), and the golden shoes of Poppaea's (Plin. Nat. 33.140; cf. D. C. 62.28). Upon these passages it must be remarked (1) that all refer to mules, (2) that they are probably exceptional cases, either for mules with weak or injured feet, or, as in the last two cases, for ostentation. We can have little doubt also that these shoes were not nailed, but bound on as will be described below: Arrian (in Epict. 3) speaks of ὑποδημάτια for asses.

The use of shoes or sandals made of hemp (spartei), bound on injured hoofs, is noticed by Columella (6.12), Galen (de Alim. 1.9), and Vegetius (1.26), who gives precise instructions that in case of tender or injured feet they should be calceati, the shoes being either iron or hempen and attached by lemnisci or fasciolae. It is clear that these writers are speaking of use for exceptional cases; and moreover in Columella, 1.73, we find a recommendation that stables should have oak floors, “nam hoc genus ligni equorum ungulas ad saxorum instar obdurat,” which implies that he did not mean the horses to be shod. The same deduction, that shoes were only for exceptional cases, may be made from their absence in the list of ἱππικὰ σκεύη given by Pollux, 10.56.

As regards nailed shoes, though the lines of Tryphiodorus (Ἰλίου ἅλωσις, 86) οὐ μὲν ἐπὶ κνήμῃσιν ἀχαλκέες ἔξεχον ὁπλαί, &c. scems to show that in his time (? 5th century A.D.) it was customary to shoe horses, yet it is impossible to say whether he means nailed shoes or sandals. Beckmann, in the passage which he cites from Leo (Tactica, 5.4), is probably right in setting down as the earliest mention of nailed horseshoes. The words there (describing part of the cavalry equipment) are σεληναῖα σιδηρᾶ μετὰ καρφίων, i. e. “iron horse-shoes with nails.” That this mention in the 9th century A.D. marks the earliest use of nailed horse-shoes shaped as they are now, is, we think, a wrong conclusion. Not only have we the relief from Gaul (see Baumeister, Denkm. fig. 2322) of a carruca drawn by horses with nailed shoes, but also numbers of ancient horses' shoes, not differing in shape from those now in use, have been discovered in France, Switzerland, and Germany, and a few in this country. A description of them with illustration will be found in Fleming (op. cit. ch. 3-6). That they are of a high antiquity there is no doubt, but we think him wrong in making some of them as old as the time of Julius Caesar. The evidence from position is not so clear as to necessitate any such belief, and had they been then in use in Gaul we can hardly doubt that they would have been adopted at least to some extent in Italy; and in that case, though it is quite possible that there might be no mention of them in general literature, we should expect it in Vegetius; and still more we should certainly find a forge at Pompeii. It would besides be strange that Caesar does not notice them. We should rather conclude that the Gauls began to nail horse-shoes considerably later than Caesar's time, perhaps after the date of Vegetius, and that the invention spread thence to Italy and Greece. Whether Greece had then, as now, the practice of nailing on iron plates with merely a hole in the centre is uncertain: but, inasmuch as it is the Turkish system now, we should judge that this pattern of shoe was brought into the Morea by the Turks, and that the true horse-shoe shape is marked by Leo's word σεληναῖα. The objects figured below represent what are often called “Roman horseshoes.” They are found in France and elsewhere: several are in the Museum of Besançon: fig. 1.

Fig. 1.

shows one in the British Museum, found at Reignac (Indre et Loire); another exactly like it

Fig. 2.

Fig. 3.

was found in the Thames among Roman relics, and is described in the Archaeological Journal, xi. [p. 2.687]p. 416, as a lamp-stand. Fig. 2 (from Fleming) shows one preserved at Besançon. Mr. Fleming (ch. 7) thinks that they are slippers or skids for a wheel [SUFFLAMEN: but many, if not all, are ill adapted for that purpose. We think that the more correct view is to accept them as “horse-sandals,” attached as represented in fig. 3, but used only exceptionally for injured or cracked hoofs. This will account for their not being found more frequently, and also for the fact that they have been discovered close to ancient nailed horse-shoes. (See also Beckmann, Hist. of Inventions, 2.270 ff.; and for still fuller details, Fleming, Horse-shoes and Horse-shoeing, ch. 1-7.)


hide References (23 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (23):
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 889
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 321
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 551
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.94
    • Homer, Odyssey, 14.23
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.368
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.27
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 4.5
    • Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, 2.3
    • Xenophon, Economics, 10
    • Homer, Iliad, 13.23
    • Homer, Iliad, 14.186
    • Homer, Iliad, 24.340
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 103
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.30
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 52
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.59
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 19
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 13.1
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 13.22
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.3
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.50
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