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For Smith's general article on Roman shoes, see CALCEUS.

p366 Cothurnus

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p366 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

COTHURNUS (κόθορνος) a boot. Its essential distinction was its height; it rose above the middle of the leg, so as to surround the calf (alte suras vincire cothurno, Virg. Aen. I.337), and sometimes it reached as high as the knees (Millin, Vases Ant. vol. I pl. 20 and 72). It was worn principally by horsemen, hunters, and by men of rank and authority. The ancient marbles, representing these different characters, show that the cothurnus was often ornamented in a very tasteful and elaborate manner. The boots of the ancients were laced in front, and it was the object in so doing to make them fit the leg as closely as possible. It is evident from the various representations of the cothurnus in ancient statues, that its sole was commonly of the ordinary thickness. But it was sometimes made much thicker than usual, probably by the insertion of slices of cork (Serv. in Virg. Ecl. ll. cc.). The object was to add to the apparent stature of the wearer; and this was done either in the case of women who were not so tall as they wished to appear (Juv. Sat. VI.507), or of the actors in Athenian tragedy, who assumed the cothurnus as a grand and dignified species of calceamentum, and had the soles made unusually thick, as one of the methods adopted in order to magnify their whole appearance (Vir. Ecl. VIII.10; Hor. Sat. I.5.64; Ars Poët. 280). Hence tragedy in general was called cothurnus (Ov. Trist. 1.393; Juv. VI.633, XV.29).


[image ALT: An engraving of two legs from different statues, each wearing a high open-toed laced boot. They are examples of cothurni (plural of cothurnus), an ancient Roman boot.]

As the cothurnus was commonly worn in hunting, it is represented both by poets and statuaries as part of the costume of Diana. It was also attributed to Bacchus (Vell. Pat. II.82), and to Mercury (Hamilton's Vases, vol. III pl. 8). The preceding woodcut shows two cothurni from statues in the Museo Pio-Clementino (vol. II pl. 15, and vol. III pl. 38).


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