What Are the Names of the Two Types of Footwear Worn by Actors in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, actors wore distinctive footwear that played an essential role in their performances. These two types of footwear were known as cothurni and soccus.

Cothurni:

Cothurni were tall, thick-soled boots or platform shoes worn by tragic actors in ancient Greek theater. They were made of leather or wood and elevated the actors’ height, giving them a more imposing presence on stage. The height of the cothurni varied depending on the character being portrayed.

The purpose of wearing cothurni was not just to increase the actor’s stature but also to enhance their visibility to the audience. The exaggerated height helped distinguish the actors from the chorus members, who typically wore simpler footwear.

Soccus:

Soccus, on the other hand, referred to a type of low shoe or slipper worn by comic actors in ancient Greek theater. These shoes were made from soft materials such as cloth or leather and had a thin sole. Unlike cothurni, soccus shoes did not have any significant elevation or platform.

The soccus footwear was designed to provide comfort and flexibility to comic actors, allowing them to move with ease during their lively performances. The lightness and simplicity of soccus shoes contrasted with the grandeur and height associated with cothurni.

Differentiation between Cothurni and Soccus:

The distinction between cothurni and soccus was not just limited to physical characteristics but also extended to the types of characters portrayed by actors wearing them.

  • Cothurni:
    • Tragic actors
    • Heroes
    • Gods
    • Nobility
  • Soccus:
    • Comic actors
    • Servants
    • Commoners

Conclusion:

The names of the two types of footwear worn by actors in ancient Greece were cothurni and soccus. Cothurni were tall, platform shoes worn by tragic actors, while soccus referred to low shoes or slippers worn by comic actors. These footwear choices not only provided practical benefits but also served as visual cues for the audience to distinguish between different character types.

Awareness of the different types of footwear used in ancient Greek theater adds depth and understanding to our appreciation of the performances and theatrical traditions of that era.