Footwear of the Byzantine Empire

Painting, sculptures, jewelry, and ornaments from the Byzantine Empire, which stretched across much of present-day Greece and Turkey from 476 to 1453 C.E. , leave us with a rich record of the clothing and decorative traditions of this powerful empire. Very little is known about Byzantine footwear since the long draped clothing of the Byzantines, which reached to the floor, tended to hide the feet. The sculptures and paintings that have survived offer us just fleeting glimpses of Byzantine footwear.

Much of what we do know about Byzantine footwear is dependent on educated guesses based on other areas of Byzantine life. We know that the Byzantine Empire began as the Eastern Roman Empire in 395 C.E. and that most clothing customs are based on Roman garments, so probably Byzantine footwear was similar to the sandals (solea) and covered shoes (calceus) worn by the Romans. But we also know that the Byzantines were deeply influenced by their trade in the Middle East and the Orient, so it would not be surprising to see, in the rare glimpses of Byzantine footwear, shoes made of embroidered silk and covered with jewels.


Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

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