Caligae

Caligae (Latin; singular caliga) are heavy-soled hobnailed military boots known for being issued to Roman legionary soldiers and auxiliaries throughout the Roman Republic and Empire.

Caligae from side
A reproduction of a Roman caliga

Name and history

Caliga Qasr Ibrim
An original caliga found at Qasr Ibrim, Egypt, c. 1st century BC – 1st century AD.

Caligae (singular caliga) were heavy-duty, thick-soled openwork boots, with hobnailed soles. Caliga comes from the Latin 'callus' meaning hard, as hobnails were hammered into hard leather soles before being sewn onto a softer leather lattice. They were worn by the lower ranks of Roman cavalrymen and foot-soldiers, and possibly by some centurions.[1] A durable association of caligae with the common soldiery is evident in the latter's description as caligati ("booted ones").[2] In the early first century AD, the soldiery affectionately nicknamed the two or three year old Gaius "Caligula" ("little boot"), because he wore a diminutive soldier's outfit, complete with small caligae.[3][4] Occasionally, hobnailed caligae must have proved inconvenient, especially on hard surfaces; Josephus describes the killing of a caliga-shod Roman centurion who had slipped on the Temple of Jerusalem's marble floor during an attack.[5] Nevertheless, the design of the caliga allowed for its adjustment, which would have helped reduce chafing; it probably made an "ideal marching boot",[6] and "the thunderous sound of an attack by a hobnailed army (caligati) must have been terrifying."[7]

Caligae would have been cooler on the march than enclosed boots. In warm, Mediterranean climates, this may have been an advantage. In northern Britain's cold, wet climate, additional woven socks or raw wool wadding in winter may have helped insulate the feet; but caligae seemed to have been abandoned there by the end of the second century AD, in favour of civilian-style "closed boots" (carbatinae).[8] By the late 4th century, this seems to have applied throughout the Empire. The emperor Diocletian's Edict on Prices (301) includes set prices for caligae with no hobnails, made for civilian men, women and children.[9]

Design and manufacture

The caliga's midsole and the openwork upper were cut from a single piece of high quality cow or ox-hide. An outsole was fastened to the mid-sole, using clinched hobnails, usually of iron but occasionally bronze. The clinched hobnail ends were covered by an insole. Like all Roman footwear, the caliga was flat-soled. It was laced up the center of the foot and onto the top of the ankle. Isidore of Seville believed that the name "caliga" derived from the Latin callus ("hard leather"), or else from the fact that the boot was laced or tied on (ligere). Strapwork styles varied from maker to maker and region to region. The placement of hobnails is less variable; they functioned to give both grip and foot-support, much like a modern sports shoe. At least one provincial manufacturer of army caligae has been identified by name.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ Scholarly assertions that either all or no centurions should be considered caligati rest on assumptions that the conditions among the centurion class remained constant throughout the army, without exceptions. The problem is discussed in J. F. Gilliam, "Milites Caligati", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 77 (1946), pp. 183-191, Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, DOI: 10.2307/283455, available at JSTOR (subscription required) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/283455
  2. ^ Goldman, N., in Sebesta, Judith Lynn, and Bonfante, Larissa, editors, The World of Roman Costume: Wisconsin Studies in Classics, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1994, pp. 122, 125
  3. ^ Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Caligula 9.
  4. ^ S. J. V. Malloch, "Gaius and the nobiles", Athenaeum , (2009), pp. 489-506.
  5. ^ J. F. Gilliam, "Milites Caligati", Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 77 (1946), pp. 183-191, Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, DOI: 10.2307/283455, available at JSTOR (subscription required) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/283455
  6. ^ Carol van Driel-Murray, "Vindolanda and the Dating of Roman Footwear", Britannia, Vol. 32 (2001), p. 185-197, Published by: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, DOI: 10.2307/526955, available at JSTOR (subscription required) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/526955
  7. ^ Goldman, N., in Sebesta, Judith Lynn, and Bonfante, Larissa, editors, The World of Roman Costume: Wisconsin Studies in Classics, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1994, p. 122
  8. ^ Carol van Driel-Murray, "Vindolanda and the Dating of Roman Footwear", Britannia, Vol. 32 (2001), p. 193 - 195, Published by: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, DOI: 10.2307/526955, available at JSTOR (subscription required) Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/526955
  9. ^ Goldman, N., in Sebesta, Judith Lynn, and Bonfante, Larissa, editors, The World of Roman Costume: Wisconsin Studies in Classics, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1994, pp. 122, 125, citing Isidore of Seville, Origines, 9. 34
  10. ^ Goldman, N., in Sebesta, Judith Lynn, and Bonfante, Larissa, editors, The World of Roman Costume: Wisconsin Studies in Classics, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1994, pp. 104, 122, 123, citing Isidore, Origines, 9. 34, and van Driel-Murray, "Vindolanda and the Dating of Roman Footwear", (2001), p. 194

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