Children's Sandals in Ancient Societies

Children in ancient socities went barefoot. Clothing was much more expensuve in real terms in ancient socities than it is today. Thus even in socities that developed to the point that sandals were widely available, children probably continued to go barefoot. Chilren from wealthy families may have worn sandals, but most children probably did not. As socities developed, more and more people including children began to wear sandals.

Ancient Greece

Many Greek city states apparently developed to the point that some children did wear sandals. Although the Spartans, as with many other matters, differed from the other Greek city states.

Figure 1.--???.

Xenophon (circa 431-circa 352 B.C.) is a highly regarded Greek historian. In his account of Spartan culture he gives many details of the laws set out by the Spartan Lycurgus (9th century B.C. Spartan lawgiver) who was the traditional founder of institutions designed to produce tough, able warriors. Just think, the policies he is referring to were set down nearly three thousand years ago!! Xenophon was trying to evaluate what made the Spartans such a formidable adversary (even though their region was so thinly populated).

Here are some relevant extract from the Constitution of the Lacedaimonians (Spartans):

[2.1] Having dealth with the subject of birth, I wish next to explain the educational system of Lycurgus, and how it differs from other systems.In the other Greek states parents who profess to give their sons the best education place their boys under the care and control of a moral tutor as soon as they can understand what is said to them, and send them to a school to learn letters, music and the exercises of the wrestling-ground. Moreover, they soften the children's feet by giving them sandals, and pamper their bodies with changes of clothing; and it is customary to allow them as much food as they can eat.

[2.2] Lycurgus, on the contrary, instead of leaving each father to appoint a slave to act as tutor, gave the duty of controlling the boys to a member of the class from which the highest offices are filled, in fact to the "Warden" as he is called. He gave this person authority to gather the boys together, to take charge of them and to punish them severely in case of misconduct. He also assigned to him a staff of youths provided with whips to chastise them when necessary; and the result is that modesty and obedience are inseparable companions at Sparta.

[2.3] Instead of softening the boys' feet with sandals he required them to harden their feet by going without shoes. He believed that if this habit were cultivated it would enable them to climb hills more easily and descend steep inclines with less danger, and that a youth who had accustomed himself to go barefoot would leap and jump and run more nimbly than a boy in sandals.

Christopher Wagner

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Last updated: July 25, 1998