Thursday, December 23, 2010

Etruscan Sandals

The Etruscan civilization  (700 – 100 BCE) was constrained to the area corresponding roughly to modern Tuscany and flourished in three city confederacies. No one knows the origins of the Etruscans but it is widely believed they were indigenous plus an influx of people from Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The Etruscans were influenced by Greek traders and the Greeks in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic civilization of southern Italy. There is considerable evidence early Rome was dominated by Etruscans and they were eventually assimilated by Rome around 500 BCE. The end of the Etruscan civilization came with the sacking of Veii in 396 BC, by the Romans. They were eventually brought under Roman rule in 250 B.C.E. By 80 B.C.E. their culture had been virtually destroyed. When iron became the preferred metal, iron mines and the routes to them determined power and in the western Mediterranean and the iron mines and routes to them were controlled by the Etruscans.  The civilization was based on both copper and iron and they became great artisans and developed a thriving culture distinctive from Greece.

The Etruscan people had well-developed costume traditions that combined the influences from Greece and Asia. Clothes of the wealthy were made of fine wool, cotton, and linen, and colour was a major feature. Etruscan women wore elaborately patterned garments and men wore a loin skirt to cover the genitals. Many adopted a Greek-style tunic.  By the middle of the sixth century B.C.E., the distinctive tebenna became the most common male garment. Similar to the Greek chlamys, the tebenna was a long cloak that was draped over the left shoulder and then wrapped around the torso under the right arm. It was often decorated with clavi, stripes of colour to indicate status or rank in society. Later the tebenna became the model for the Roman toga.

According to Turner Wilcox (2008), the Etruscans became adept shoe makers. The most common types of footwear were high sandals, mules, slippers, ankle boots and one characteristic type of shoe, with upward curving toes. The latter may have been a reference to the Phrygian (Turkish) origins of the Etruscans where turned up shoes were previously known. Fashionable women in the late 6th c BCE wore red shoes with turned up toes. Pointed toed shoes were replaced with sandlas by the 5th c BCE. Later shoes made by Etruscan craftsmen became highly sought after in ancient Rome and Greece. 

Boots with tight peaked toes

Sandals with hinged wooden soles reinforced with bronze were especially popular and commonly referred to as ‘Tyrrhenian sandals.” According to Rossi (2000) the hinged sandals helped natural foot flexion.  

Leather Sandals
Fine leather uppers of various colours were often embroidered, painted and sown with jewels. These were fastened with gilt or golden straps.    

Soft leather shoe sewn with jewels

Etruscan shoe makers developed a technique to attach the sole of the sandal to the upper with metal tacks. Prior to this, sandals were stitched and could with wear break easily. Tacks not only secured a better bond but also offered greater traction to grip the ground. This small but important innovation meant with more robust footwear the Roman Empire could expand.  The Greek endormis (fur lined boot), was also worn to protect the legs from the cold.  Etruscan soldiers fought bare footed but had metal or leather greaves to protect their shins. By the Second Century BCE slippers made from fine leather and dyed yellow  or cloth became fashionable.

Boucher F 1988 A history of costume in the West Thames and Hudson: London
Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.Turner Wilcox R  2008 The mode in footwear Dover Punblications: NY.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shoes of Ancient Greece: Sandals

According to Cosgrove (2000) the arrangement of the sandal straps, worn in Ancient Greece, varied but usually consisted of a broad band across the front of the foot, and a thong between the toes. The thong was sown to the sole about one to two inches from the end. This was pulled through between the first and second toes and sometimes between the second and third toes to meet with four other laces anchored to the sole. The complete intertwined system finished above the ankle. Sandals were worn by both sexes and fastened in varied ways. Straps were both light and elegant, leaving the foot almost bare. Some were purple with piped edges attached to clasps elongated by short cords of plaited leather. Others were simpler, with a fan like spread of straps passing through the toes. The colour of sandals varied and were either worn in the natural colour of leather or dyed red, white, vermillion, scarlet, saffron, green, or black (Yue and Yue, 1997). Female footwear was usually adorned with embroidery, gilt and pearls but commoners wore wooden sandals (Yue and Yue, 1997). Cheap sandals made of wood, felt or linen were worn by countrymen, priests and philosophers and these were called phaecasium.  Phaecasium style boots were usually worn during sacrificial ceremonies. These were neat fitting and made from white leather which laced part way down the front and often heavily embroidered.

 Priest also wore phaikas which was a sandal ornamented with animal figures.  

Slaves or maidens carried a  sandalthique for their wealthy mistress which was a carpetbag containing various pairs of sandals  (Rossi, 2000; and Yue and Yue 1997).  The Talaria was a mythical winged sandal worn by the Greek god Hermes (Mercury in Roman mythology).


Cosgrove B (2000)Costume & Fashion: A complete history Hamlyn: London.
Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.

Yue C and Yue D 1997 Shoes:Their history in words and pictures Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston.

Shoe styles of Ancient Greece: Assorted

The Persian luxury basket weave slipper was popular among upper class Greek women and made from plaited straw.


Persian shoes made in delicate colours became popular with women around 6th BCE.


These were wedding shoes.

More of a slipper than a sandal the soft upper  was made of luxurious materials such as silk or other costly fabrics and embroidered with gold and pearls. Thought to have originated in Asian/Persian origin and became popular  mule style house slipper in Ancient Greece.  According to Yue and Yue (1997) luxurious slippers were worn in the home and sometimes sandals were used as protective overshoes or pattens to walk outside.


These shoes came originally from Sicyon and were made from light coloured leather with an open, sandalised design. These later became adopted by young Roman dandies (Rossi, 2000) which is consistant with Yue and Yue (1997) claim many Greek styles were subsumed into Roman costume.


A soft leather boot worn by comedy actors Similar to the later Roman soccus. The boot is thought to have originated in Persia.


Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.
Yue and Yue 1997 Shoes: Their history in words and pictures Houghton Miffin: Boston.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Shoe Styles of Ancient Greece: Krepis (Crepida)

Lady's Fashionable Krepis
The Krepis evolved from the Pedila which originated in Persia (Yue and Yue, 1997). Greeks adopted the Pedila (Greek word for sole) during the Epic Age (c. 1000 -7000 BCE). Krepis were thick soled bootees with leather sides (vamps); the heel counter protected the foot and gave greater comfort. The toes were left uncovered. Other styles included half boots and sandals made with a thick cowhide leather sole (often raised in low platform style). The sole was pierced along the top with several holes through which a thong was passed through and tying it to the instep, (Rossi, 2000). The Krepis were developed for military use and the uppers were cut in a reticulated design (as in crossed striped). The tongue (lingual or ligula) over the mid step protected the top of the foot as well as an anchor for the thongs. Sometimes the leather tongue had a metal (silver, gold or ivory) plate (Yue and Yue, 1997). The later significance of the ligula was it indicated a citizen or freeman. Gods and heroes were often depicted wearing the Krepis but eventually the shoes were worn by both sexes.  

Soldier’s legs were protected by leather leggings called ‘cnemis’  (Yue and Yue, 1997). At times these were worn with a sandal called a ‘greave.’ It was not uncommon for Greek warriors to wear one sandal only in conflict (right foot). The left foot was protected by a combination of greave and cnemis.  The Romans called the Krepis, ‘Crepida’ and the Greeks were often referred to as “Crepidali.” The crepida was similar to the Roman carbatina (or karbatine).

Simple Pedila

Military Krepis

Yue C and Yue D 1997 Shoes: Their history in words and pictures Houghton Mifflin Co : Boston.

Shoe styles of Ancient Greece: Kothornos (Corthornus)

The was term derived from the Cretan dialect and Greek actors wore these as raised sandals made from leather soles with thick cork insertions. Both actor and role were distinguished by body height. The stage prop is thought to have been introduced by Aeschylus circa. 450 BCE. Platforms were often as high as 6 inches (15.24 centimetres) from the ground and the swaggering gait was understood to be so erotic it sent females into ecstasy. The Kothornos was thought unsightly and always hidden by long robes. The association with tragedies however was such the genre eventually became known ‘cothurna’. Greek comedians wore low soled boots.

Platform sandals became fashionable with Greek women and according to Turner- Wilcox (2008), the style was carried to such an extreme it aroused criticism. The Korthonos later evolved into the buskin or half boots worn by hunters (Rossi, 2000), and the platform style may have been the inspiration for the 15th century chorine. The19th century neo-classic sandals which were tied with laces and criss-crossed the leg bore the same name. According to Turner-Wilcox ( 2008) one variation of the kothornos from Lydia in Asia Minor had a peaked toe. This was called the Scythian boot and made of soft leather, cut to fit, either foot. Similar looking boots are still worn by the horsemen of the Steppes.

Covereed cothurnus

Cothornus Sandal

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shoe Styles of Ancient Greece: Karbatine (carbatine, carbatina, or carbatinae)

According to Turner Wilcox (2008) a common shoe was the karbatine . Like a moccasin this was made from one piece of rawhide with holes punched along the edge. Lacing thongs were pulled through holes cut in the rawhide drawing the uppers together and tying around the ankle. Later these acquired a sole (Rossi, 2000) and some were hobnailed. Carbatines were peasant’s shoes often worn by shepherds. Similar footwear was worn by the Teutons and up until the 16th century German peasants also wore karabtines. This simple footwear can still be seen in the traditional footwear of Romanian and Slovak countries. In France the term carbatine refers to undressed hides.

Rossi W The complete footwear dictionary (2nd Ed) 2000 Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.
Turner Wilcox R 2008 The mode in footwear Dover Publications Inc NY.

Shoe Styles of Ancient Greece: Boots (Buskins and Endromis)

The sandals, shoes and boots available to the Greeks can still be seen in the many monuments that remain. Shoes were the logical extension of sandals but the toes with the toes often left. Sometimes the footwear incorporated a small heel and hobnails were added for added life. At first women did not wear sandals but as both quality improved sandals were stylised for women. The following is a brief description of some footwear styles of Ancient Greece.

Boots (Buskins and Endromis)
Low buskin
Boots were known before 1000 BCE. and worn by the Greeks of the Aegean region (Ledger,1985). The boots were made of rawhide (i.e. dressed but untanned hide) and came in two varieties i.e. low and high boots. Buskins laced at the front from the top to the instep with laces (things) thread through small hooks. Wooden and leather soled boots fitted either foot and had a broad tongue. Soldier would ornament their boots with small animal’s muzzle or a pair of paws. Later the fashion became vogue to decorate buskins with lappets of leather or fur hanging from the tops (Ledger,1985). Low buskins were popular by the 5th century BCE and later hunters wore high boots (cothurnes) which covered the whole foot and leg up to the calf level. These laced at the front over a broad tongue. Greek Gods were often depicted wearing endromis or lined boots. Fur lined buskins were popular among athletes, hunters and travellers. These boots were adopted by the luxury loving Romans. Young Spartans were reported to wear red boots to hide the flowing blood from wounds.