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The 1,500-Year-Old Lady’s Sandals With Sweet Message in Greek

Sandals Byzantine
The ancient sandals were discovered almost intact in the Istanbul dig. Credit: Twitter/@NkayaMuhittin

A pair of 1,500-year-old lady’s sandals with a sweet message in Greek was discovered during a dig in Istanbul. The sandals have become one of the major attractions of the city’s archaeological museum.

There is a message in Greek on them which reads: “Use in health, lady, wear in beauty and happiness.”

The astonishing find was discovered during digs prompted by the Marmaray project, the undersea railway tunnel connecting the Asian and European sides of Istanbul under the Bosporus.

The excavations, which started in 2004, have revealed new historical aspects of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Some sixty thousand artifacts, unearthed over a span of around nine years, are being preserved in the Istanbul Archeological Museum until a special museum is built to house them, the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reports.

The Byzantine Empire was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD and continued to exist for another thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. During most of its existence, the Empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe.

Sandals belonged to a Greek woman

Scientists say the sandals discovered are more than 1,500 years old, and they belonged to a woman. The Byzantines loved color and patterns, and they made and exported very richly patterned cloth, especially Byzantine silk, which was woven and embroidered for the upper classes and resist-dyed and printed for the lower.

Modesty was important for all, and most women appeared to be almost entirely covered by rather shapeless clothes. There has been a considerable amount of footwear recovered in this excavation project, with sandals, slippers, and boots to the mid-calf, commonly seen in manuscript illustrations, which were also found in the dig. Many of the items are richly decorated in various ways.

The color red, reserved for Imperial use in male footwear, is actually by far the most common color for women’s shoes. Purses are rarely found and seem to have been made of textile matching the dress or perhaps tucked into the sash.

Byzantine sandals
Byzantine men’s shoes of partially gilded leather, 6th century. Credit: Walters Art Museum/Public Domain

Istanbul excavations reveal gems from Byzantine Empire

The excavations have found the first traces of civilizations from different periods, including the skeletons of the first Istanbulites. Other finds included 8,500-year-old footprints; the Harbor of Eleutherios (Theodosius), a port known in world literature—no traces of which had been found previously; and the world’s largest medieval sunken ship collection. In addition, there were sixty thousand animal bones of fifty-seven species, along with plant fossils.

The Harbor of Eleutherios, which was one of the ports of ancient Constantinople, is located beneath the modern Yenikapi neighborhood of Istanbul. It was built at the mouth of the Lycus River, which ran through the city to the Propontis.

The harbor was built in the late fourth century, during the reign of Theodosius I and was the city’s major point of trade in Late Antiquity. It continued to be used until the eleventh century. Silt from the Lycus eventually filled the harbor entirely, and the area was later transformed for agricultural use due to the effects of upstream erosion and deposition. In Ottoman times, the area was entirely built over.

In November 2005, workers on the Marmaray project discovered the silted-up remains of the harbor. Excavations produced evidence of the fourth-century Portus Theodosiacus. There, archaeologists uncovered traces of the city wall of Constantine the Great, and the remains of over thirty-five Byzantine ships from the seventh to tenth centuries, including several Byzantine galleys, remains of which had never before been found.

Byzantine finds
Various findings from the Byzantine era. Credit: Gryffindor , CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia

Furthermore, the excavation has uncovered the oldest evidence of settlement in Constantinople, with artifacts, including amphorae, pottery fragments, shells, pieces of bone, horse skulls, and nine human skulls found in a bag, dating back to 6000 BC.

Related: Constantinople Greeks: The Cosmopolitans of the Byzantine Capital


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