Professor Joann Fletcher of the University of York specialises in ancient dress and adornment and recently wrote and presented the BBC2 Series 'Ancient Egypt: Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings'. In her second article about footwear in the ancient world she explains about...
Shoes that helped build and Empire
The traditional Roman shoe was the 'calceus'. Laced up on top of the foot and sometimes lined with softer leather or fabric to prevent chafing, some were stamped with the maker's name. Each social class had their own colour, from the standard black leather version to the more distinctive red worn by nobles and senators. Julius Caesar himself wore these red shoes, and their flashier, Greek-inspired variants, high red 'shoe boots' featuring feline heads as decoration, which are also found in the statuary of the legendary female Amazons.

Yet for the average Roman soldier, regulation footwear was the 'caligae' (after which the emperor Caligula was named). Made from tanned cow hide, the sole was heavily studded with hobnails, an idea the Romans took from the Greeks and the hobnails making a suitably ominous sound as the massed ranks of troops approached. Yet the nails not only provided the perfect
hardwearing surface on most terrain, they were also adopted by women to create fancy designs on their shoe soles, the more adventurous spelling out phrases such as 'follow me!' in their footprints.

There was certainly plenty of choice for the fashionable, from moccasin-type 'carbatinae' to the slip-on clog-type sandals with wooden soles so practical for use in the bath-house. Even the range of colours was impressive, from the ladies' white leather shoe to yellow bridal slippers, leather sandals called 'crepidae' with multi-coloured layered soles, and the Greek dancing shoes with their cork soles and tie cords of contrasting colours.

Busy Joann has recently guest curated “The Romans Are Coming" exhibition and has been testing out some shoes from the not quite so ancient world, here's what she discovered...
"As someone who spends a lot of time trekking around some pretty far-flung locations, often being filmed at the same time, it's essential to have shoes which are not only comfortable but which look good (and obviously in my favourite colour black). Hotter shoes definitely tick every one of these boxes - I love them!"