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Bill Thayer

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

 p1007  Sandalium

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p1007 of

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

SANDA′LIUM (σανδάλιον or σάνδαλον), a kind of shoe worn only by women. In the Homeric age however it was not confined to either sex, and consisted of a wooden sole fastened to the foot with thongs (Hom. Hymn. in Merc. 79, 83, 139). In later times the sandalium must be distinguished from the ὑπόδημα, which was a simple sole bound under the foot (Pollux, VII.84, with Kühn's emendation), whereas the sandalium, also called βλαύτια or βλαύτη, was a sole with a piece of leather covering the toes, so that it formed the transition from the ὑπόδημα to real shoes. The piece of leather under the toes was called ζυγὸς or ζυγόν (Aristoph. Lysistr. 390, with the Schol.; Hesych. s.v. Ζυγός; Pollux, VII.81; Phot. Lex. p54, ed. Dobr.). The σανδάλια ἄζυγα in Strabo (VI p259) are however not sandalia without the ζυγόν, but, as Becker (Charikles, II. p367, &c.) justly remarks, sandalia which did not belong to one another, or did not form a pair, and one of which was larger or higher than the other. The ζυγόν was frequently adorned with costly embroidery and gold (Cephisodor. ap. Poll. VII.87; Clem. Alex. Paedag. II.11), and appears to have been one of the most luxurious articles of female dress (Aelian, V. H. I.18). The small cover of the toes however was not sufficient to fasten the sandalium to the foot, wherefore thongs likewise beautifully adorned were attached to it (Pollux, VII.92). Although sandalia, as we have stated, were in Greece and subsequently at Rome also worn by women only, yet there are traces that at least in the East they were also worn by men (Herod. II.91; St. Mark, vi.9).

The Roman ladies, to whom this ornament of the foot was introduced from Greece, wore sandalia which appear to have been no less beautiful and costly than those worn by the Greeks and the Oriental nations (Tarpilius, ap. Non. V.24; Terent. Eunuch. V.7.4).

[image ALT: A photo of a pair of rather ratty-looking leather flip-flops. They are Egyptian and date to the 4c AD.]

Egyptian leather sandals
from Qustul, Cemetery Q, tomb 49; dated to A.D. 370‑410;
currently (2006) in the Oriental Institute of Chicago.

My photograph by kind permission of the Oriental Institute.

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Page updated: 1 Jul 13