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Marching and Footwear
#1
Up until the modern times, from what I've read at least, it was common for many foot soldiers to march bare footed or with rags wrapped around their feet to preserve their boots, which would fall apart quickly from hard marching. Was this common in the ancient world too? Hobnailed sandals and boots, like the caligae, seem like a great benefit in combat, protecting your feet from sharp objects littering the battlefield and giving traction on soil with their hobnails when slipping can mean death. But from what I've read, with hard use they typically only last 2-3 months at best before needing to be completely repaired or replaced. Could the army afford to replace everyone's footwear 2-3 times a year (allowance for winter quarters). For those that grow up primarily barefooted anyway, I don't see any benefit to wearing hobnailed boots while marching, especially on cobblestone roads. Are there any historical sources which mention this subject? Any reenactors care to share their input?
Thanks!
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#2
Walking on cobblestone roads, if you think of the roman roads, the soldiers and others would walk on the grass besides the road . as would the horses. the road would be used by the cards. in cities the people wore shoes without hobnails.
AgrimensorLVCIVS FLAVIVS SINISTER
aka Jos Cremers
member of CORBVLO
ESTE NIX PAX CRISTE NIX
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#3
Quote:Walking on cobblestone roads, if you think of the roman roads, the soldiers and others would walk on the grass besides the road . as would the horses. the road would be used by the cards. in cities the people wore shoes without hobnails.

I thought the Romans marched between 4-6 abreast on the roads and that the troop trains and the army trains marched behind units, not with them. Any sources to back up what you wrote? I see in your profile pick that you appear to be a reenactor. What are your experiences marching on hard surfaces with caligae?
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#4
marching on hard surfice is a hell of a job sepecialy if they a pollished, calligea have no grip.(as the centurio in jerusalem noticed whe well on the templ stairs and was killed) the legions marching in collums could be done on hostile or unbroken terrain on roads like the via appia it was not thar easy.
AgrimensorLVCIVS FLAVIVS SINISTER
aka Jos Cremers
member of CORBVLO
ESTE NIX PAX CRISTE NIX
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#5
The fact of soldiers not walking on the road they spent a lot of time building has been raised before and I cannot understand why people suppose it was only used by carts?

Walking on the grass on either side would be just as difficult as walking on a cobbled surface - and why do you assume it was cobble stones? My experience of excavating roads suggests very small graded stones on the upper surfaces even allowing for some degradation of the surface over time, with the larger stones lower down the construction. The number of hob nails found on these surfaces suggests they were used.
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
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#6
you are perfectly right Moi, but on paved roads 9 with bolders) its an other pice of cake. Wink
AgrimensorLVCIVS FLAVIVS SINISTER
aka Jos Cremers
member of CORBVLO
ESTE NIX PAX CRISTE NIX
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#7
On top of the fact that the roads weren't usually cleaned so they would have a thick layer of grit, gravel, and animal dung on them for the soldiers' hobnails to dig into.
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#8
I can't imagine the Roman soldiers marching in just bare feet and of course most roads were indeed not cobble stone at all but fine hard pounded gravel, and where we think of the ten mile march for soldiers just try to think what state their feet would be in after that with bare feet.
Then as far as repair or replacement boots I think it has been found from pay records that one of the regular deductions over the year was indeed for Caligae.
Brian Stobbs
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#9
Quote:.................. and where we think of the ten mile march for soldiers just try to think what state their feet would be in after that with bare feet...................

To be fair, there are many examples from the horse and musket period (American War of Independence, Napoleonic and American Civil War) of troops commonly marching in bare feet when poorly made boots/shoes fell apart and were not replaced. And I am certainly convinced that Shaka Zulu would not agree with you!

It may be that, given that most recruits would be used to bare feet before they joined, that caligae were not worn all the time and, if certainly dry and warm at the time, then may have been left off by choice - especially if it's one of the pieces of equipment that would be more regularly used up - and more needed for actual combat.
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
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#10
I can't believe it, I actually agree with Mark! :evil:

But seriously, even if the roads weren't cobblestone and the slipping factor wasn't there, how long realistically do boots like caligae actually last before needing a specialist to either repair or completely replace them? A Roman soldier, campaigning or garrisoning, spent the better part of every year marching. If an army has four legions of Roman soldiers, at 3/4 strength, that means every campaign season they need to provide 45,000 spare boots, of varying sizes, to its men every year. (15,000 men, 1 pair every 3 months, for 9 months). I'm not aware of any of piece of equipment needing to be replaced that often. Could or would they logistically support it?

As another example, in 52 BC, the year Caesar put down Vercengetorix's rebellion, he had a total of 12 Legions in his army. That that means he had to provide approximately 135,000 boots that year alone.

That is if marching in boots wore them out every three months. Need more input on that. But to me, logic says the books were not worn and they either marched barefooted (feet were tougher back then) or they wrapped them in rags. This blew my mind when I thought about it this week.
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#11
Really calligae have to be replaced after 3 month of life? I think those assumption is not really tested.
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#12
Quote:I can't believe it, I actually agree with Mark! ...........

Well, whilst you may think I'm often trying - it's only that I do try - really Confusedmile:

When it comes to actually needing to replace whole boots, however, like many later 'boots' - I wonder if there's not much more replacement of the actual sole (and hobnails) and that the 'upper/inner' sole (with the strap/ties passing in between) and straps lasting longer, especially if kept as clean as practicable.

If that's the case then it may be more likely that suitable tanned hides are provided from which soles are cut and shaped and replaced by even amateur 'cobblers' amongst the soldiers themselves. Overall I would expect rather a lot of general leather care and replacement throughout the panoply of Roman (sic) equipment.

Curiously, whilst thinking about it, and whilst I can see caligulae being useful keeping out of general muck and protecting the soles of the feet from sharp stones and things dropped onto road and wall surfaces, and often being therefore warmer - I do wonder if not wearing them for actual battle is actually a better idea.

Certainly hobnail boots I have worn for drill make nice crisp crunchy noises - but they are worse than useless for wet grass or mud - or even if I was trying to push and shove on roads or walls. If the choice was hobnails or using my toes to grip - I know which I would choose! The same choice Shaka apparently makes.....
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
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#13
Quote:Really calligae have to be replaced after 3 month of life? I think those assumption is not really tested.

From personal experience, I can attest that even expensive modern military boots will start falling apart after a few months of hard daily use. I don't mean just daily walking around or the occasional march, I mean daily foot marches over hard roads or rough terrain. Soles will fall off, stitching comes loose, leather cracks. laces break, etc. As for caligae, I have no idea as I've never worn them. But they don't seem to be constructed out of any material that is impervious to wear and tear. Thongs will break, the hard leather soles will wear out, the holes in hobnails will loosen and the nails will come out.

I'm going to go digging for a bit and try to find out where I read about the 3 month limit. Will be back with the source.

EDIT:
I've found one source that doesn't specify time, though it states distance:
"Experiments with modern reconstruction have demonstrated that, if properly fitted, the caliga is an excellent form of footwear, and can last for hundreds of kilometers"
(Roman Republican Legionary 298-105 BC, Osprey Warrior 162, Nic Fields, Pg 31)

Considering how many miles the average soldier would walk in a day, while just carrying out normal duties, as well as route marches with their unit, those hundreds of kilometers could go by very quickly. I'm sure I read other sources specifying three months though, will continue searching.
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#14
Even if the caligae did need to be replaced every three months or so, there's no reason the cost should have been prohibitive. Leather was always in plentiful supply from the fodder animals that accompanied the army or were delivered to the post. A larger camp or army would mean more men it's true, but it would also mean more animals for food. And the tanners and cobblers would probably be miles, anyway. So the legion would take the cost of caligae out of hide, if you'll pardon the pun. Big Grin
Nate Hanawalt

"Bonum commune communitatis"
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#15
I am not so sure that the Roman soldiers did as much marching as we would like to think they did, for where we take frontier situations such as Hadrian's Wall for instance these were established posts where a unit was based for long periods of time.
There would be those who went off on detatchments of course but as far as this ten miles each day may not have been the case for the troops would have had all kinds of tasks and duties close to the frontier.
Brian Stobbs
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