The Ancient World

From Egyptian tombs, dating as far back as 5000 years, enough examples of footwear have survived to give us a clear understanding of the lifestyle of the ancient Egyptians and the relevance of their footwear.

The later Greek and Roman cultures developed distinctly different styles of footwear according to the gender and social position of the wearer. Some of the names for different styles of footwear which were part of the classical vocabulary have come down to us today, such as sandalium (sandal), solea (sole), and soccus (sock).

The centre of the Roman empire moved east during the 4th and 5th centuries to Byzantium (now Istanbul). Under the Byzantines, Christianity was used to reinforce the alliance of what was once Rome's domain. The Christian concept of clothing brought about radical change from the classical ways. According to Christian morality, it was sinful to expose the body, so by the 8th century, shoes, designed to cover the feet, replaced sandals.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of ancient footwear