Caliga became the typical Roman legionary footwear following a long process – hypothetically in a timeframe between the second half of the 3rd and the end of the 2nd century BCE.

Caligae were the main and almost exclusive type of footwear only for a short period of time. Already at the end of the 1st century CE, caligae were gradually replaced by closed boots, which are described as “calcei militari” or “perones“.

The distinction between perones and calcei seems to be mostly linked to their manufacture. Basically, perones were rough country calcei, while calcei were refined perones (cfr. Goldman 2006, “Roman Footwear”, in “The World of Roman Costume”, edited by J.L. Sebesta and L. Bonfante).

The periodo between the Late Republic and Early Empire was the golden age of the caliga. During this time, perones were mainly linked to the rural world.
This link had a certain manly value. In fact, Juvenal describes the elderly men of the Vestini, Paeligni and Marsi while saying to their youths that there’s no shame in wearing the “high perone” in case of rough weather (Satire 14).

In the literary evidence at the end of the 1st century BCE, perones were indeed link both the rural world and to the noble past of the Roman Republic.
And indeed, most of the frescoes from 4th-3rd century BCE often not only shows Hellenistic sandals, but also closed footwear. These are recurring in the Etruscan, Campanian and Latin art.

From left to right: fresco from Paestum depicting a Lucanian warrior with a prisoner, usually identified as a Roman, 4th-3rd century BCE; perones by Res Bellica; detail of a Roman soldier’s footwear depicted in the Tomb of the Scipios, 2nd century BCE.

Closed boots, on the other hand, never fell out of use in the army, linked to officer figures such as centurions. In such cases, the footwear are calcei.

It’s also interesting to note that Virgil (Aeneid, 7, 722) wrote that the warriors from Praeneste who fought alongside Aeneas used to go in battle with the left foot totally bare, but wearing a “crudus pero” on the right one.

A type of pero was closed on the shin (the “high boot” described by Juvenal), and Virgil probably referred to a raw hide footwear which had to protect not only the foot in case of bad weather, but also the uncovered leg in combat. An archaic ancestor of the greave only on the right leg, as mentioned much later by Vegetius (De Re Militari, 1.20).

Besides the mythological references, the boots which replaced caligae during the imperial period were not new, but most probably marked the return of a footwear which was of common use in a previous period.
A footwear that was used alongside the caliga and that was surpassed by the latter during the periodo of higher mobility of the Roman army.

Perones by Res Bellica

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *