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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A Question of Soles

For my Tuesday Time Table, I explored Roman civilian shoes. I studied a collection of leather soles found on Walcot Street and used modern replicas to show usage and construction.

Finding well-preserved organic material, such as leather, is great because it often doesn’t survive, due to various geological factors, such as acidic soil. In the case of the Walcot Street pit, a clay layer allowed the leather to stay damp and preserved.

I have been looking at two main types of shoe: The ‘Carbatina’ and the ‘Calceus’. Both types of shoe would have been worn as outdoor shoes, covering most of the foot. The soles show evidence of hobnailing - providing protection for the soles against the damp ground.

The stereotypical image of a Roman wearing sandals and a toga is not a Romano-British one - would you wear sandals in the middle of a British winter?! In Rome, flip-flop like ‘Solea’ were worn as house shoes, although in Rome it was deemed uncivilised to wear sandals with a toga.

The collection of shoe pieces found at Walcot Street also contains evidence of Roman ‘Soccus’, a slipper-type shoe. It is also likely that Romano-British wore socks under their Calcei to keep their feet warm.
A Man wearing Soccus

It is believed that Walcot Street pit was situated near a cobbler’s shop and this would explain the large quantity of shoe soles and leather offcuts.

Hobnailed sole
Mystery Sole: This collection of soles lacks the evidence for house shoes, as most of the soles are hobnailed. This poses an important question: did the Romano-British buck the trend and go barefoot in the home?

I believe it more likely that they wore Soccus or cloth socks instead of Solea, which wouldn’t have kept the feet warm. The fragile nature of these cloth shoes would mean that they were less likely to have been preserved in the pit.

Make your own Carbitina!

Georgina - Roman Baths Volunteer


  1. Wow awesome shoes, they look a lot like the real ones but actually better :) Women Sandals

  2. Fascinating! Thank you. I love the idea of Romano-British sock-wearers. Warms the cockles of one's heart. ;)

  3. So... what DID they wear sandals with?