For years I’ve had it in the back of my mind to prepare a study called Posture and Gait in Classical Antiquity. We have a variety of sources that could help us reach conclusions about how various types of people tended to stand and move in ancient times. There are literary descriptions of posture and gait, visual artworks depicting people standing and walking, clothes that required a particular posture and gait if they were to stay on the wearer’s body, shoes that exhibit particular patterns of wear, buildings with entryways that accommodate some strides better than others. Were such a study completed, it could open the door to investigations in topics ranging from dance to infantry operations to architecture to the status of the disabled and the expression of social class in antiquity.
I’ve never got around to beginning such a study, and now I find that someone has had a similar idea. Timothy M. O’Sullivan of Trinity University has written a book called Walking in Roman Culture. According to a review by Alana Lukes that circulated on an email list of members of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, a professional organization of American classicists, Professor O’Sullivan’s book presents “a compilation of citations from ancient sources which mention the physical activity of walking by the ancient Romans,” and does not go into depth on any other sort of evidence. Still, that’s quite enough material for one book. The magnum opus I have occasionally toyed with the idea of creating would be the work of decades, and Professor O’Sullivan appears to be quite a young fellow. So perhaps he’ll end up writing such a thing.