I Bet They Had Blisters

Last night I was flipping through a history book (looking for something else) when I came across a set of pictures of Roman statues, all cool white marble and carved straining muscles, and I began to noodle on the practicalities, as one does.

Roman sandal on Belvedere Apollo by Pio Clementino

Roman sandal on Belvedere Apollo by Pio Clementino

Not just the argument that the statues were originally painted so they looked lifelike (sounds a bit cheesy to me, TBH).

The notion I found interesting was that when the sculptors hewed the marble, they (or their patrons) cared little for the physical realities of the gladiator/mythological hero/centurion they were portraying in their scanties.

I.E. Roman armour must have chafed something awful.

Especially for those Romans posted to Hadrian’s Wall, where even if you wore woolly undies, the climate isn’t best suited for iron scale mail. Rust, and chafing.

Even blisters. Those sandals don’t look comfortable, even if you do wear them with big woolly socks.

Caligae with nails - Roman sandal

Caligae with nails – Roman sandal via Wikimedia Commons

So where are the scars? The hard skin, the bunions, calluses and ingrown hairs? We don’t see them in the archaeological record – the soft parts don’t preserve too well – but anyone who has taken part in one of those re-enactment societies must know the daily grimness of the garments.

In choosing to portray the perfection of their imagination, do the sculptors betray the lives and great deeds of those they seek to portray?

Or is it just not noble enough to admit that Achilles’ heel was blistered?

Published in: on September 10, 2012 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on I Bet They Had Blisters  
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