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Bill Thayer

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

 p200  Baxa

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp200‑201 of

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


[image ALT: An engraving of two unmatched sandals, one of which looks very much like a modern 'flip-flop'. They are made of plaited reeds, and are samples of ancient Egyptian footwear known as 'baxae', from the British Museum.]

BAXA, or BAXEA, a sandal made of vegetable leaves, twigs, or fibres. According to Isidore (Orig. XIX.33), this kind of sandal was worn on the stage by comic, whilst the cothurnus was appropriate to tragic actors. When, therefore, one of the characters in Plautus (Men. II.3.40) says, Quî extergentur baxae? we may suppose him to point to the sandals on his feet. Philosophers also wore sandals of this description, at least in the time of Tertullian (De Pallio, 4) and Appuleius (Met. II and XI), and probably for the sake of simplicity and cheapness. Isidore adds, that baxeae were made of willow (ex salice), and that they were also called calones; and he thinks that the latter term was derived from the Greek κᾶλον, wood. From numerous specimens of them discovered in the catacombs, we perceive that the Egyptians made them of palm-leaves and papyrus (Wilkinson, Manners and Customs, vol. III p336). They are sometimes observable on the feet of Egyptian statues. According to Herodotus, sandals of papyrus (ὑποδήματα βύβλινα, II.37) were a part of the required and characteristic dress of the Egyptian priests. We may presume that he intended his words to include not only sandals made, strictly speaking, of papyrus, but those also in which the leaves of the date-palm were an ingredient, and of which Appuleius makes distinct mention, when he describes a young priest covered with a linen sheet and wearing sandals of palm (linteis amiculis intectum, pedesque palmeis baxeis indutum, Met. II). The accompanying woodcut shows two sandals exactly answering to this description, from the collection in the British Museum. The upper one was worn on the right foot. It has a loop on the right side for fastening the band which went across the instep. This band, together with the ligature connected with it, which was inserted between the great and the second toe, is made of the stem of the papyrus, undivided and unwrought. The lower figure shows a sandal in  p201 which the portions of the palm-leaf are interlaced with great neatness and regularity, the sewing and binding being effected by fibres of the papyrus. The three holes may be observed for the passage of the band and ligature already mentioned.

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Page updated: 3 Sep 06