Fashionable 2,000-Year-Old Roman Shoe Found in a Well

in History | July 17th, 2016

roman shoe

When the Romans pushed their way north into the German provinces, they built (circa 90 AD) The Saalburg, a fort that protected the boundary between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribal territories. At its peak, 2,000 people lived in the fort and the attached village. It remained active until around 260 AD.

Somewhere during the 19th century, The Saalburg was rediscovered and excavated, then later fully reconstructed. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses the Saalburg Museum, which contains many Roman relics, including a 2,000 year old shoe, apparently found in a local well.

If you think the Italians have mastered the craft of making shoes, well, they don’t have much on their ancestors. According to the site Romans Across Europe, the Romans  “were the originators of the entire-foot-encasing shoe.” The site continues:

There was a wide variety of shoes and sandals for men and women. Most were constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole. Many had large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc. in rows or grid-like patterns. Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces. Some very dainty women’s and children’s shoes still had thick nailed soles.

The image above, which puts all of the Roman’s shoe-making skill on display, comes to us via Reddit and imgur.

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by | Make a Comment (18)

Comments (18)

  1. Droy says . . .
    July 15, 2016 / 7:27 pm

    Nice shoe! How lone before Adidas copies it?

  2. Roger LeRoy says . . .
    July 16, 2016 / 2:00 pm

    Sorry, don’t believe it.

  3. Nic Schoombie says . . .
    July 16, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    There is a softer version , also found in a well in the limes Roman fort next to Oberursel , just south of Frankfurt . It is constructed of soft straps arching upwards from the sole and joined by a centerpiece on the top of the foot

  4. Rose says . . .
    July 16, 2016 / 6:06 pm

    What do you mean you don’t believe it? Yes, museums usually get shoes at Goodwill and pretend they are ancient. SMH

  5. Bruce Wilson says . . .
    July 16, 2016 / 8:16 pm

    Some modern manufacturer should copy it and assign some of the profits to the museum.

  6. Asha Mandapa says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 2:38 am

    Absolutely beautiful! Thankyou for sharing this!

  7. cindy says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 3:54 am

    My thought is that the material would decompose after so long.

  8. Ed says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    Organic material doesn’t decay in anaerobic conditions, such as being buried in mud in the bottom of an ancient well. Of course the material will decay rapidly once exposed to air, so conservation is necessary to prevent decay and preserve it.

  9. Mara Henao says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    Nice piece of shoe design! I want a pair too!!!!

  10. Barbara says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 8:02 pm


  11. A. Nuran says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 9:56 pm

    It’s a lot like other shoes from the same time and place. What’s so hard to believe?

  12. Sandi says . . .
    July 17, 2016 / 11:07 pm

    Wow! Incredible it’s still intact! Amazing discovery!

  13. Oblomoff says . . .
    July 18, 2016 / 4:18 am

    It looks like an even daintier brogue shoe. Outstanding.

  14. Michael Z. Williamson says . . .
    July 18, 2016 / 8:42 am

    As an expert on Roman history, what do you think it is?

  15. Michael Z. Williamson says . . .
    July 18, 2016 / 8:43 am

    Wells are a good place for artifacts to survive. They’re usually some combination of alkali, anaerobic and high in clay.

  16. Barbara acket says . . .
    July 18, 2016 / 3:09 pm

    I am a high school history teacher, at one of the finest public schools in the nation ( that is, according to Forbes Magazine ). Please feel free to include me in email and on line content/media/articles gathered on your web site. Thrilled to connect with an additional source which can be utilized in the classroom!

  17. Willeke van Elk says . . .
    July 19, 2016 / 3:45 am

    Dear Roger Leroy and Cindy,
    Science is not based on thoughts but on facts.
    Yes, they still DO find dinosaurs !

  18. John says . . .
    August 17, 2016 / 7:42 pm

    I’m a little surprised that it’s so obviously built as a LEFT shoe. The overall shape is pretty much what I see in displays at the shoe stores.

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