What have the Romans ever done for us (socks and sandals excepted)?

They gave the world decent roads, indoor plumbing and some of the goriest spectator sports known to man, but now it appears that the Romans made a hitherto secret contribution to global civilisation by pioneering the wearing of socks with sandals.

It is a look which in recent years has become popularised – if that is the right word – by off-duty geography teachers and embarrassing dads, yet new archaeological evidence suggests that the Romans' famous Italian stylishness may have been ditched to help the colonists cope with the chilly British climate.

Excavations carried out as part of the upgrading of the A1 between Dishforth and Leeming in North Yorkshire have found that rust on the nail in a Roman shoe appeared to bear the impressions of fibres, enough to convince archaeologists that the invaders sported sock-like garments.

The discovery was made at what is believed to have been an ancient industrial estate, including a water-powered mill used to grind flour and grain, close to the site of a forgotten fort at Healam Bridge, which formed part of the Roman frontier 2,000 years ago.

It is believed that the area would have supplied the garrison with provisions before becoming a fully established settlement in its own right.

The Roman road of Dere Street follows much of the route of the modern A1. Cultural heritage team leader Blaise Vyner said the discovery of the fort was likely to tell us more about everyday Roman life in Britain.

"We know a lot about Roman forts, which have been extensively studied, but to excavate an industrial area with a mill is really exciting. We hope it can tell us more about how such military outposts catered for their needs, as self-sufficiency would have been important," he said.

The invaders first landed in Britain in 55BC and again the following year, led by Julius Caesar, the general who had been fighting the Gauls in France.

However, his attempts were thwarted, and it fell to the Emperor Claudius in 43AD to finally deliver on the Romans' long-held ambition of pacifying the problematic Iron Age tribes of Britannia. He ordered 40,000 troops to cross the Channel, bringing much of the country under central control for the first time. The Romans remained in Britain for the best part of the next four centuries.

During this period many of the Romans, who were often from the sunny parts of modern day France and Italy, struggled to cope with the harsh realities of the British climate, especially those billeted in the North.

Letters have been recovered from a garrison at Hadrian's Wall have revealed officers and their men begging family back home to send them extra subuclae (vests) and abollae (heavy cloaks).

Another soldier urged his loved ones to send him "Paria udonum ab Sattua solearum duo et subligariorum duo" which translates as "socks, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants".

The latest evidence corroborates the socks and sandal theory which first emerged when a Roman copper razor handle was recovered from the Tees near Darlington. It was in the shape of a foot adorned with an open-toed sandal and woollen sock.

Ironically, the much-maligned look has been making something of a comeback on the international catwalks this summer, with designers from Burberry to Dior all producing variations on the theme.

So perhaps the Romans were right all along.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea