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

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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Comments (19)
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  • Droy says:

    Nice shoe! How lone before Adi­das copies it?

  • Roger LeRoy says:

    Sor­ry, don’t believe it.

  • Nic Schoombie says:

    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

  • Rose says:

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

  • Bruce Wilson says:

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

  • Asha Mandapa says:

    Absolute­ly beau­ti­ful! Thanky­ou for shar­ing this!

  • cindy says:

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

  • Ed says:

    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.

  • Mara Henao says:

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

  • Barbara says:


  • A. Nuran says:

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

  • Sandi says:

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

  • Oblomoff says:

    It looks like an even dain­tier brogue shoe. Out­stand­ing.

  • Michael Z. Williamson says:

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

  • Michael Z. Williamson says:

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

  • Barbara acket says:

    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!

  • Willeke van Elk says:

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

  • John says:

    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.

  • Mariam Visagio says:

    I don’t buy it! This must be a joke!

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