Roman Reenactment Guide: Caligae Patterns

We were using two different but similar patterns for caligae, the “standard” one being based on those seen in Simkins’ Warriors of Rome and Peter Connolly’s books.  While it served fairly well, we have had problems with the upper tearing at the heel where it meets the sole, partly due to the very square  corners of the rectangular cutouts–those create weak points.  A look at drawings and photos of original caligae shows that Simkins’ pattern is too “squared” and precise to reflect reality.

These new patterns are based on the example from Mainz shown in Bishop and Coulston’s Roman Military Equipment (p.101).  I have straightened out most of the wiggly parts to make a cutting pattern which would make a caliga reasonably close to that original.  Be aware, however, that I have simplified it somewhat, omitting the 4 odd tabs coming off the front outside edge of the upper–one of them has a single hole, and two others have enlarged ends.  In addition, the 4 small tabs on each side are shown on the original with a small hole beyond the end of the slit, which I have also omitted.  These extra tabs seem to be built-in laces for fastening the front 4 or 5 tabs on each side, passing through the small holes, leaving only the tabs at the instep and ankle to be laced with a separate thong.  You can easily re-draw these features on your patterns before cutting, for better authenticity, and experiment with the built-in laces if you like.  Let us know how they work!

A WORD OF CAUTION:  I have not actually made a pair of caligae using these new patterns!!  My mockup suggests that they will fit, and also makes it clear that the heel seam will not extend all the way down to the sole–there will be a small triangular opening at the base.  If anyone can find a photo of the rear of an original caliga, or details of the stitching holes in that area, we can find out if we’re doing it right or not!

     The patterns are shown in 2 halves so that they can be printed and then put together to make a whole.  They are supposed to print out full size, but of course your computer and printer might have other ideas.  The patterns are roughly a modern men’s size 10, so you may have to fiddle with them to get them to fit.


Left Half

Right Half

The core content of this guide was originally created by Matthew R. Amt and published at It is republished here to provide the reenactment community a wiki-like venue to expand and update this excellent content in order to improve the hobby.
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