Barbara Bell, the creator of the Minimus Latin course has a step by step guide to making your own pair of Roman sandals.

It involves cutting out wood for the soles, so you’ll need a power tool and somebody who can safely use it, but you can make a very authentic looking pair of sandals, even though the Romans didn’t have MDF or staple guns…

If you feel more like a Roman soldier than a civilian, you could put some metal studs in the soles. There is a lovely story about a little boy whose father was an army general. He accompanied his father around the army camps when he was on campaign in Germania (Germany). The soldiers were amused that the little boy of two or three was dressed in a miniature soldier’s uniform, even down to his booties. The Latin word for an army boot is caliga and so the little boy was given the nickname Caligula – little boots. He grew up to be one of Rome’s most famous and most bonkers emperors – but his childhood nickname stuck, apparently much to his disgust.

The father was the hugely popular general Germanicus Caesar, and the son was actually called Gaius. He became the third Roman emperor when he succeeded Tiberius in 37 AD.

The ancient biographer Suetonius describes him

“He was tall, of a pale complexion, ill-shaped, his neck and legs very slender, his eyes and temples hollow, his brows broad and knit, his hair thin, and the crown of the head bald. The other parts of his body were much covered with hair. On this account it was reckoned a capital crime for any person to look down from above as he was passing by, or so much as to name a goat. His countenance, which was naturally hideous and frightful, he purposely rendered more so, forming it before a mirror into the most horrible contortions.”

Suetonius, Life of Caligula, 50.

Bust of Caligula

Bust of Caligula

This bust of Caligula has been restored to its original colours by identifying particles of the original paint trapped in the marble. He looks rather more handsome than Suetonius’s description, doesn’t he?! That could be because the bust is especially flattering, as all imperial statues were, and Caligula had a huge number of them commissioned; or because Suetonius exaggerates his looks to go alongside his descriptions of his cruelty…

He ruled until 41 AD, when he was assassinated by conspirators from the Praetorian Guard (the Imperial bodyguard). Although his reign started well, he was extravagant and either insane or psychopathic depending on which historian you read. We will probably never know whether he was mad or just bad – Suetonius attributes his madness and terrible behaviour to his childhood epilepsy; modern historians have speculated it might have been lead poisoning. Caligula allegedly had incestuous relationships with his sisters; intended or actually did make his favourite horse, Incitatus, a Senator and did make him a priest; at some games he was presiding at, had an entire section of the crowd thrown to the wild animals, because there were no criminals to kill and he was bored…

You’re unlikely to grow up to be an emperor, much less a bonkers one, but you could have a very jolly time making and wearing these shoes over the holidays…

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