Category Archives: Fashion

Clothing of Roman Women

Hello and welcome to Rome Across Europe! In the past we have talked about Roman fashion.

Not shocking, it was from a male perspective and focused primarily for men. It was not too far off from the fashion industry these days.

Because we are trying to get more stories with Roman women as the focus, we found the women of Ancient Rome did indeed actually have clothes.

So today we bring to you the fashion of Roman women!Roman Matron

Palla

PallaThe palla was a woven rectangle made of wool that the Roman matron wore on top of her stola when she went outside. Palla is a traditional Ancient Roman mantle worn by women, fastened by brooches.

The palla is a single piece of material draped over the shoulders and around the body or over the head as well. It was similar to the pallium that a man would wear.

The palla was similar to a shawl that a woman of today would wear. The palla would come in many colors some including blue, green, and yellow.

A palla was like the toga in which both were a woven, not sewn, expanse of cloth that could be pulled over the head. The shape of the palla was rectangular instead of semi-circular as with the traditional toga.

Stola

StolaThe stola was a long, pleated dress, worn over an undergarment called a tunica intima (the Roman version of a slip). The stola was generally sleeveless but versions of it did have short or long sleeves.

These sleeves could belong to the stola itself or be a part of the tunica. The traditional sleeveless stola was fastened by clasps at the shoulder called fibulae.

The stola was typically girt with ribbons, and typically had 2 belts. The first was worn just below the breasts creating a great number of folds. The second and wider belt was worn around the waist.

Stolae were generally made of fabrics like linen or wool, but a wealthy woman could be seen wearing a stola made of silk. The stola was worn as a symbol and represented a woman’s marital status.

A wealthier woman might also have added a limbus to her stola. A limbus was a separate piece of fabric with many folds that was sewn into the hem of the stola creating the appearance of another gown being worn beneath. This created the illusion of layers, a symbol of wealth and status.

Stolae were made in a variety of colors including red, yellow, and blue. Decorations were also added to the neckline and hem.

For common women, these would be a simple band of color or pattern. For wealthier women, more details and embellishments were used.Rich

A wide ornamental border called an instita was often used around the neckline and hem as a display of wealth.

Originally, women wore togas as well. After the 2nd Century BC, however, the toga was worn exclusively by men, and women were expected to wear the stola.

At that point, it was considered disgraceful for a woman to wear a toga. Wearing the male garment was associated with prostitution and adultery, thusly adulterers and prostitutes were forbidden to wear the stola.

Although the stola was a Roman garment, it was inspired by the clothing of ancient Greece. It was a staple of fashion in Ancient Rome spanning from the early Res Publica Romana through the Imperium Rōmānum and Byzantine Empire into the 1st millennium.

A well-known image of the stola is the one worn by the Statue of Liberty in New York City.new-york-statue-of-liberty

Tunica

PlebeianTunicaAlthough not reserved for women, the tunica was part of the Roman costume for women. It was a simple rectangular piece that might have sleeves or might be sleeveless.

It was the basic garment that went on under the stola, palla or toga. It could also be worn alone.

The tunica or chiton was worn as a shirt or gown by both genders. The body garment was loose-fitting for males, usually beginning at the neck and ending above the knee. A woman’s garment could be either close fitting or loose, beginning at the neck and extending over a skirt or skirts.

While men might belt up the tunica, women were expected to have fabric extending to their feet. So if this was all she wore, a Roman woman would not belt it.

She may or may not have had some form of underwear under it.Chiton Originally, the tunica would have been woolen, and would have continued to be wool for those who couldn’t afford more luxurious fibers.

The Roman tunica was adopted from the Greek in the 3rd Century BC. It was worn by citizens and non-citizens alike. Citizens, though, might wear it under the toga, especially at formal occasions.

The length of the garment, the presence or lack of stripes, as well as their width and ornamentation, would indicate the wearer’s status in Roman society. Roman Senators, for example, used the Laticlavus, with broad purple stripes, and members of the equestrian class wore the Angusticlavia, with narrower stripes.

Soldiers, slaves and manual workers generally had tunics to a little above the knee. Those in more sedentary occupations had a length to about the ankle, unless they were expecting to ride a horse, when a shorter one would be worn.

Strophium and Subligaculum

BreastbandThe breast band for exercise shown in the picture is called a strophium, fascia, fasciola, taenia or mamillare. Its purpose was to hold the breasts and may also have been to compress them.

The breast band was a normal, if optional, item in a woman’s underwear.

Women in Ancient Rome adopted a form of the Greek apodesme, known as the strophium ormamillare. Since the Romans regarded large breasts as comical, or characteristic of aging or unattractive women, young girls wore breast bands secured tightly in the belief that doing so would prevent overly large, sagging breasts.

Observation of artifacts and experiments shows bands had to be wrapped several times around the breasts, largely to flatten them in a style popular with flappers in the 1920s. These Greco-Roman breastbands may have flattened big breasts and padded small breasts to look bigger.

Sometimes in the most sexually explicit Roman paintings, the breasts are kept covered by the strophium. The settings in which the paintings are found indicate that the women so depicted may be prostitutes, but it can be difficult to discern why an artist decides in a given scenario to portray the breasts covered by a strophium or exposed.

The so-called “Bikini Girls” mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale (4th Century AD) shows 10 women performing gymnastic or dance routines, weight-lifting, discus throwing, and running, while wearing a garment like a strapless bra and briefs.Strophium and Subligar

Other primitive iterations of a brassiere are depicted earlier in wall paintings preserved at Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

leather subligariaFor the lower half of the body Roman women wore a bikini-style bottom. It was a wrapped loincloth of cloth or leather, was called a subligar or subligaculum (little binding underneath).

The Bikini Girls from Piazza Armenia, some of whom sport the braless look of the late 20th Century, do not depict any propensity of such popularity in style. One bottom, made of leather, from Roman Britain was displayed at the Museum of London in 1998.

There has been no evidence that these bikinis were for swimming or sun-bathing.

The Kings of Naples discovered artifacts in Pompeii, including the one meter tall, almost unclothed statue of Venus painted in gold leaf with something like a modern bikini.Venus in bikini

Reportedly Theodora, the 6th Century Empress of the Byzantine Empire wore a bikini when she appeared as an actress before she captured the heart of Emperor Justinian I.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the clothing of Roman women. Maybe it’s something to look into for your own wardrobe, or maybe not.

In any event, come check us out again soon to see what we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Gill, N.S. Roman Dress for Women.

Huskinson, Janet. Experiencing Rome. Routledge (2000). ISBN 0-415-21284-7.

Judith Lynn Sebesta &, Larissa Bonfante, The World of Roman Costume. Wisconsin Press (1994). ISBN 0-299-13854-2.

McManus, Barbara F . Roman Clothing. The College of New Rochelle (2003).

McGinn, Thomas A. Prostitution, sexuality, and the law in ancient Rome. Oxford University Press (1998). ISBN 0-19-508785-2.

Roman Footwear of the People

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! Not too long ago we began to take a look into Roman fashion.

We started with Caligae – Footwear of Rome’s Fighting Men. The follow-up was learning that the iconic Toga was not for everybody.

It seems that the fashion train has many stops, so we’ll climb aboard. Today we check out Roman footwear of the people!From York, England

Considering how prized modern Italian leather goods are today, it is perhaps not too surprising that there was a good deal of variety in the types of ancient Roman sandals and shoes. The sutor (shoe-maker) was a valued craftsman among his peers.

The Romans were the originators of the entire-foot-encasing shoe to the Mediterranean world. Various other types of leather footwear were worn within the Roman Empire.

There was a wide variety of shoes and sandals for men and women. Most were constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole.

Many had large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc. in rows or grid-like patterns.shoes with openwork leather upper and nailed soles Germany

Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces. Some very dainty women’s and children’s shoes still had thick nailed soles.

Some early shoes had pointed calcei repandi (upward curving toes), and were both laced and strapped into place. Later shoes had rounded toes.

Some shoes had a 1- or 2-piece upper of soft leather which enclosed the foot like a modern shoe. The edges were nailed between the sole layers.

Traditionally, footwear worn by PatriciiSenators, and Magistrates were called calcei, while common people wore perones. But there is much confusion in terminology and most shoes which have nailed soles, and are neither caligae nor sandals, are referred to as calcei.

Calcei senatorii had soft leather uppers and were secured by wide straps which passed under the foot and crisscrossed up the lower leg. They were red with small ivory crescents attached. The Ordo Equester  are shown wearing an identical style, but apparently black in color.Calcei senatorii -patricii

One-piece shoes called carbatinae were shaped like caligae, but had no outer or inner soles added. Besides open-work on the leather, shoes and sandals could be dyed, tooled, embossed, or even have gilded designs.carbatinae

Issandalia or solea were generic sandals with a thong between the toes and a hobnailed or stitched sole. Solea were worn when dressed in just the tunica and stola, but inappropriate for wear with the toga or palla.

The carbatinae was a sandal made from a single piece of leather with a soft sole and openwork upper fastened by a lace. In addition, there were socci (slippers) and theatrical footwear, like the cothurnus. A soccus was a separate leather upper and a sole without hobnails.

The generic calceus was made of soft leather, completely covered the foot and was fastened in front with thongs. The calceus had a hobnailed sole as well.From the Antonine Wall

It’s possible that heavy nailed shoes were for outdoor wear, while lighter sandals and carbatinae were worn around the house.

Sandals were removed before reclining for a feast. At the conclusion of the feast, the diners requested their sandals.

Shoes and shoe-boots were calcei, from the word calx (heel), which were distinctly for wearing with the toga and thus forbidden to slaves.

The black leather senator’s shoe or calceus senatorius had 4 straps (corrigiae). A senator had a crescent shape on the top of his shoes. Except for color and price, the senator’s shoe was similar to the patrician’s costlier red high-soled calceus mulleus fastened with hooks and straps around the ankle.

Winter shoes were usually cork-soled. Wet weather called for a boot called the pero, which was made of rawhide.Sandals with Skins

Calcamen was the name of a shoe that reached midcalf. Sometimes the soles were thickened to provide the imitation of height.

Women wore sandals similar to those of men, but they were of softer, finer leather. Caligae muliebres were unstudded boots for women. Another variation was the calceoli, which was a little shoe or half boot for women.

Udones (socks) were sewn of woven cloth, and could be worn for warmth or as decorative items. In the latter case they would be brightly colored so as to show through the ornate open-work of the shoes, and might leave the toes and heel exposed.Socks

Socks were worn strictly for warmth and not necessarily so colorful. Fancy shoes could also have a colorful cloth lining, eliminating the need for socks.

Just like people of today, the Ancient Romans were keen on footwear. It feels as if they were the trend setters of fashion trend setters.

No matter what, like most things, the Romans were dialed in to form and function. Footwear would have come along no matter what, but we just love how the Romans were the ones to make it happen.

Thanks for stopping by Rome Across Europe. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Making Authentic Caligae http://www.legiotricesima.org/campusMartis/MakingCaligae/MakingAuthenticCaligae.html

http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/clothing/qt/010511-Roman-Sandals-And-Other-Footwear.htm

Gill, N.S. Ancient Roman Shoes. Roman Sandals and Other Footwear. http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/clothing/qt/010511-Roman-Sandals-And-Other-Footwear.htm

Caligae http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Caligae

The Toga – Not for Everyone

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! We have recently started talking about Roman fashion when we discussed the Footwear of Rome’s Fighting Men.

It may not have been exciting for some, but it was a way to get our proverbial foot in the fashion doorway. Now it’s time to move on to a more familiar item of clothing.

When the typical person thinks of Ancient Greece or Rome, there’s typically a single item of clothing associated with these people. Today we’re talking Togas!ancient-roman-man-and-woman

The Ancient Romans have been called the toga-clad people, and with reason. This still holds true even if most of them didn’t actually wear the toga very often, especially by the Imperial period.

The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a cloth of perhaps 20 ft in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was made of wool, and the tunic under it often was made of linen.

After the 2nd Century BC, the toga was worn almost exclusively by Roman men. Women were expected to wear the stola, except for women engaged in prostitution, who were required to wear the toga.

This double standard of toga wearing is weird, but is also something to discuss in the future.

The toga was a stately symbolic article, described by Varro as the earliest dress of both Roman men and women. It was worn from the time of the Etruscan kings through the 4th Century AD.etruscan

As it grew in size from just over 12 ft to the 20 ft in length, the semicircular cloth was cumbersome, difficult to put on and just about impossible to work in.

The toga was based on a dress robe used by Rome’s northern neighbors, the Etruscans. The toga is believed to have been established around the time of Numa Pompilius, the 2nd King of Rome.

It was taken off indoors, or when hard at work in the fields, but it was considered the only decent attire out of doors. This is evident from the story of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.Cincinnatus

Cincinnatus was plowing in his field when the messengers of the Senate came to tell him that he had been made Dictator. Upon seeing them, he sent his wife to fetch his toga from the house so that they could be received appropriately.

While the truth of the story may be doubtful, it nevertheless expresses the Roman sentiment on the subject.

Free citizens were required to wear togas because slaves could only wear tunics. Tunics were a sign of poverty and would let those wearing them work with ease.

Imagine walking around during the summer clad in that much woolen fabric!Wool in Summer

Because the toga was not worn by soldiers, it was regarded as a sign of peace. A civilian was sometimes called Togātus (toga-wearer) in contrast to sagum-wearing soldiers.

Cicero‘s De Officiis contains the phrase “cedant arma togae” (let arms yield to the toga), meaning “may peace replace war” or “may military power yield to civilian power”.

Members of the Praetoriani wore togas for Imperial palace or escort duty during the earlier Imperium Rōmānum, in order to maintain the impression that civilian authority was still dominant.Trajan

The same process that removed the toga from everyday life gave it an increased importance as a ceremonial garment, as is often the case with clothing. The toga also came to be used to signify different types of power.

As early as the 2nd Century BC, the toga (along with the calceus) was looked upon as the characteristic badge of Roman citizenship. It was denied to foreigners, and even to banished Romans, and it was worn by Roman magistrates on all occasions as a badge of office.

In fact, for a magistrate to appear in a pallium and sandals was considered by all as highly improper, if not criminal.

AugustusAugustus was so incensed at seeing a meeting of citizens without the toga, that, quoting Virgil‘s lines, “Romanos, rerum dominos, gentemque togatam” (Romans, lords of the world and the toga-wearing people), he gave orders to the aediles that in future no one was to appear in the Forum Romanum or Circus Maximus without it.

Togātus also opposed torusticus (togas for those living on a farm) marking a distinction between urban and rural togas. This distinction led to the creation of several types of togas.

Toga Pura (Toga Virilis or Toga Alba)Toga Pura

A citizen of Rome might wear the toga pura, a toga made of natural, undyed, whitish wool.

This plain, white toga was worn on formal occasions by most Roman men of legal age, generally from about 14 to 18 years. These were also worn by members of the Roman Senate who did not hold a position as a curule magistrate.

The first wearing of the toga virilis was part of the celebrations on reaching maturity.

Toga PraetextaToga Praetexta

If he were a magistrate or a freeborn youth, a man might wear a toga with a woven reddish-purple border known as a toga praetexta. Freeborn girls may have worn these as well.

It was worn by freeborn boys who had not yet come of age, all curule magistrates, ex-curule magistrates, former dictators, upon burial and apparently at festivals and other celebrations as well.

Even some priests (eg, the Flamen DialisPontifexTresviri Epulones, the Augures, and the Fratres Arvales) wore the toga praetexta.

During the Empire, the right to wear it was sometimes bestowed as an honor independent of formal rank.

Those with the right to wear a toga praetexta were sometimes termed laticlavius (having a broad crimson stripe). It also gave its name to a literary form known as praetexta.

At the end of adolescence a free male citizen put on the white toga virilis or toga pura.

Toga PullaToga Pulla

If the Roman citizen were in mourning, he would wear a darkened toga known as a toga pulla (dark toga). It was worn mainly by those in mourning, but could also be worn in times of private danger or public anxiety.

The Toga Pulla was sometimes used as a protest of sorts. When Cicero was exiled, the Senate resolved to wear togae pullae as a demonstration against the decision.

Magistrates with the right to wear a toga praetexta wore a simple toga pura instead of toga pulla.

Toga CandidaToga Candida

This “Bright Toga” was bleached by chalk to a dazzling white and worn by candidates for public office. Thus Persius speaks of a cretata ambitio (chalked ambition).

Oddly, this custom appears to have been banned by plebiscite in 432 BC, but the restriction was never enforced. The term is the etymologic source of the word candidate, since the Latin candida means pure white.

Toga TrabeaToga Trabea

There was also a toga that was purple or purple striped, called a toga trabea. Augurs wore the toga trabea with saffron and purple stripes.

The purple and white striped toga trabea was worn by Romulus and Consuls officiating at important ceremonies. The imperial purple toga was a toga trabea. Sometimes the Equites wore the trabea and it was especially associated with them.

According to Servius, there were 3 different kinds of trabea: 1) only purple for the gods; 2) purple and a little white for kings; and 3) with scarlet stripes and a purple hem for augurs and SaliiDionysius of Halicarnassus says that those of Ordo Equester wore it as well.

However, the Ordo Equester wore an Angusticlavia largely under the toga so that its narrow stripe was visible.

Toga PictaToga Picta

Generals in their triumphus wore the toga picta (Painted Toga), or togas with designs on them. The toga picta was also worn by Praetors celebrating games and by Consuls in the time of the emperors.

This toga, unlike all others, was not just dyed but embroidered and decorated. It was solid purple, embroidered with gold.

The Praetor Urbanus wore the toga picta when he rode in the chariot of the gods into the circus at the Ludi Apollinares. Magistrates giving public gladiatorial games were known to wear this toga, as well as the Emperor himself on special occasions.

As time went on, though, dress styles changed. Romans adopted the tunica (shirt), which the Greeks and Etruscans wore.

This, in turn, made the toga more bulky and caused Romans to wear it in a looser manner. The result was that it became useless for active pursuits, such as those of war. Its place was therefore taken by the handier sagum or woolen cloak on all military occasions.Sagum and Tunic

In times of peace, too, the toga eventually was superseded by the laena, but it remained the court dress of the Roman Empire around 31 BC.

In several countries, the tradition of the toga party has become popular in recent decades, generally at colleges and universities, as illustrated in and possibly inspired by the film Animal House.Animal House Party

This practice trades on the exaggerated legend of Roman debauchery, and participants dress in togas that are usually makeshift garments fashioned from bed sheets. As such, these togas often bear little resemblance to the Ancient Roman garment, being flimsier and scantier.Sexier

The toga is also used by peoples that can claim descent from Romanized pūnici, such as the Arabized Berbers of Tripolitania in Libya, a prominent example being its use by Muammar Gaddafi.Muammar_al-Gaddafi

Those of us here at Rome Across Europe have not been strangers to a good modern-day toga party. Nor have we denied ourselves the luxury of it for Halloween.

There really aren’t enough times today when society won’t frown upon people wearing togas in public. Quite the shame actually for they are made for relaxing.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the toga, and hope you have a new appreciation for a fashion staple of the Romans. Please come back soon to see what we’ve got for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. The World of Roman Costume.

Lacus Curtius – Smith’s Dictionary – Toga

Caroline Vout. The Myth of the Toga: Understanding the History of Roman Dress. Greece & Rome (Oct., 1996).

William Smith, LLD; William Wayte; G. E. Marindin, ed. (1890). TogaA Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray.

Catharine Edwards. Unspeakable Professions: Public Performance and Prostitution in Ancient Rome, in Roman Sexualities. (Princeton University Press, 1997).

Livius, Titus. Book III: The Decemvirate. Ab Urbe Condita.

Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius (121 AD). The Life of Claudius.

Tattoos of Rome

Welcome back to Rome Across Europe! There has been many fashion senses reveled thus far, but nothing considering self-defacement.

In the modern world, artistic embellishment of one’s body is seen as an art form. In ancient times it was viewed in a completely different mode.

Today we are talking about tattooing and how it was perceived in the Imperium Rōmānum.

Tattooing was only associated with barbarians in early Greek and Roman times. The Greeks learned tattooing from the Persians, and used it to mark slaves and criminals so they could be identified if they tried to escape.

The Romans in turn adopted the practice from the Greeks. In late antiquity when the Exercitus Romanus consisted largely of mercenaries, they also were tattooed so that deserters could be identified.

There is evidence that some Roman Soldiers were indeed tattooed. As tattoos were primarily used to mark slaves and as a form of punishment, it is possible that tattooing was reserved for foreign auxiliaries to discourage desertion.

The textual evidence, dating back to the 5th Century, is a passage from Publius Flavius Vegetius RenatusEpitome of Military Science in which he states that a recruit to the Roman Army “should not be tattooed with the pin-pricks of the official mark as soon as he has been selected, but first be thoroughly tested in exercises so that it may be established whether he is truly fitted for so much effort.”

There is some evidence that a tattoo was placed on a Legionary’s hand. As far as is concerned, an SPQR was as good a guess as an Aquila or any other appropriate symbol.

There is some evidence that a tattoo was placed on a Legionary’s hand. As far as is concerned, an SPQR was as good a guess as an Aquila or any other appropriate symbol.

Pre-Christian GermanicCeltic and other central and northern European tribes were often heavily tattooed, according to surviving accounts. The Picts may have been tattooed with elaborate, war-inspired black or dark blue woad designs.

Julius Caesar described these tattoos in Book V of his Gallic Wars (54 BC). Nevertheless, these may have been painted markings rather than tattoos.Scythian_tatoo

A tattoo on the right arm of a Scythian chieftain whose mummy was discovered at PazyrykRussia. The tattoo was made more than 2,500 years ago.

Tattooed mummies dating to c. 500 BC were extracted from burial mounds on the Ukok plateau during the 1990s. Their tattooing involved animal designs carried out in a curvilinear style.

The Man of Pazyryk, a Scythian chieftain, is tattooed with an extensive and detailed range of fish, monsters and a series of dots that lined up along the spinal column (lumbar region) and around the right ankle.

Just as today, tattoos were seen as both as fashion statement and a statement of personal growth. This is something to be debated for future scholars.

As far as we know, adding ink to oneself is nothing more than a form of artistic expression. Whatever the case may be, tattooing  is no longer the only form of identifying desters.

We love to see modern folks making identifiable markings of Rome’s history in ink. Why wouldn’t we love such a thing?

Hopefully you enjoyed today’s article. We wish that you come back to see our next feature.

Until next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

References:

http://www.vanishingtattoo.com/tattoo_museum/greek_roman_tattoos.html

http://www.quora.com/Did-Roman-soldiers-really-have-tattoos-that-said-SPQR-or-was-that-just-something-they-made-up-for-Gladiator

Kirby, David (2012). Inked Well. Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide: Bedford/St. Martins. ISBN 9780312676841.

Deter-Wolf, Aaron (2013). The Material Culture and Middle Stone Age Origins of Ancient Tattooing.

Mummy tattoos hint at ancient Andean acupuncture. USA Today.

Tattoos: Egyptian Mummies. BMEzine.com Encyclopedia.

Carr, Gillian (2005). Woad, Tattooing and Identity in Later Iron Age and Early Roman Britain. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 24.

Schogol, Jeff (4 August 2012). Marines tighten restrictions on tattoos. Stars and Stripes (Arlington, VA).

The History of Tattoos. The Tattoo Collection.

Caligae – Footwear of Rome’s Fighting Men

Hello and welcome back to Rome Across Europe! If you happen to be joining us for the first time, we hope to not let you down.

We’ve talked a lot about Rome’s fighting forces, their weapons, structure and commanders. What we haven’t discussed is the uniform.

Today we are combing force and fashion as we take a closer look into the footwear of the Roman soldiers.

Caligae (singular Caliga) are heavy-soled hobnailed military boots known for being issued to the Legio Romanus and Auxilia throughout the Res Publica Romana and Imperium Rōmānum. Worn by all ranks, no other shoes in history are as symbolic of the expansion of an empire as the famed Caligae.Boots

These heavy sandals are the classic Exercitus Romanus boot. Numerous examples have been found at 1st Century sites.

The Caligae can resemble modern sandals but were actually marching boots. Sandals proper were not worn outside by the Romans. Rather sandals were regarded as indoor footwear, sometimes even carried by slaves to be changed into for such things as banquets.

Romans have long been renowned for their leather-work. Even the name of Italy is considered by some to come from a word for the fine leather-producing animal, the vitulus. The Romans added the foot-encasing shoe to the Mediterranean, but then took part of it out to create Caligae.Caligae

The open design of Caligae allowed for the free passage of air to the feet and, unlike modern military boots, was specifically designed so as to reduce the likelihood of blisters forming during forced marches. The open design was also meant to eliminate other disabling foot conditions like tinea or trench foot as well.

Socks were not normally worn with Caligae. Although in colder climates such as Britain, soldiers could wear caligas fascias (socks) under their Caligae for warmth. Around the Mediterranean, though, the openings provided plenty of air circulation for comfort.Footwrap

The Caligae were developed by cutting apart the top of the shoes and attaching the sections with ligulae (straps) which then securely wrapped up the leg. The etymology of Caligae is undecided, but ligulae and calx (heel) are the main contenders.

Caligae were constructed from 3 leather layers: an outsole, the middle openwork layer which formed the boot’s upper, and an insole. They were laced up the center of the foot and onto the top of the ankle.

Additionally iron hobnails (clavi caligarii) were hammered into the soles to provide the Caligae with reinforcement and traction like cleats. The hobnails were also an effective weapon against a fallen enemy.Caligae Hobnails

Patterns and materials are available, and construction involves a lot of careful cutting but is otherwise straightforward. The upper is cut from a single piece of 2 to 6-ounce leather, well-oiled or waxed to prevent decay.

The sole is 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick and is made of several thick layers, with the upper sandwiched between the top pair. The layers are held together with hobnails.Patterns

Lay them on an anvil or flat piece of steel, and drive the nails into the sole so that the points go through the innermost layer and bend over as they hit the steel. Cover the clenched points with an insole of thin leather, securing it in place with a few stitches.

Complete the Caligae by sewing up the heel seam with a butted or overlapped seam.

The domed iron hobnails should be about 1/4″ to 1/2″ in diameter. The heads need not be perfect hemispheres.caligae_pattern

Before cutting good leather, make a working mock-up out of heavy cloth. Do not make the soles too wide.

Trace your foot and cut the soles narrower by 1/4″ on each side. Make the tabs extra long and the slits shorter than necessary, and adjust them later.

There was an impressive soldier’s almost-knee-high dress boot with feline head, known asembromides, which may never have been made, but appears in art.

Caligula, Rome’s 3rd Emperor, was a nickname which stemmed from the diminutive of Caliga, meaning Little Boots. His father Germanicus was a well esteemed military officer.In Use

Germanicus’ soldiers nicknamed Caligula, who stayed in camp with them often, after the amusing legionary costume he wore as a child. When Caligula wore Caligae as Emperor, he covered them with precious jewels.

The Caligae seem to have ceased use by the 2nd Century AD. If you were a soldier and walked, with full gear, up to 25 miles a day, you’d probably appreciate the sturdiness and coolness of the Caligae.On the March

It seems now that you know all there is about Caligae, from what they were to how to make them. We hope you enjoyed your time with us today.

Come back soon to see what else we have in store for you. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Gill, N.S. Ancient Roman Shoes. Roman Sandals and Other Footwear.

Caligae

Making Authentic Caligae