About a month ago, I wrote about my tender feet and expressed surprise that the Roman Empire conquered most of the known world 2,000 years ago using soldiers who wore only skimpy sandals. I observed that I never could’ve been an effective Roman soldier, unless some military contractor quickly invented and then supplied me with a pair of regulation Army boots.
If I had to go into battle wearing what they wore — flip-flops with a thin strap around the ankle — I would’ve limped over to the aid station within five minutes of the first shot being fired. Oh wait, that was 2,000 years ago. I mean, within five minutes of the first arrow being launched.
I can just see it now: after assisting soldiers who had limbs chopped off, arrows lodged into their necks, and various other battle injuries, the Roman doctor gets to me and says, “Where are you wounded?” and I reply, “Well, you see, I have kind of a hot spot on the ball of my foot, and I can just tell it’s gonna turn into a blister if I keep walking on it. So, I think I’ll hang out here for the rest of the day and soak my foot in water, OK?”
Yeah, I’m sure that would’ve gone over really well with the commanding officer, as soon as Dr. Hawkeyeicus Piercius turned me over to the MPs.
Anyway, after that essay appeared in the paper, a reader sent me an email and agreed that I never would’ve made it as a Roman soldier. However, he said it would not have been because of my sore feet. Instead, he pointed out that long before my feet started to hurt, my fair Irish skin would’ve been burnt to a crisp by the harsh Mediterranean sun.
That’s a good point. There probably were very few Roman soldiers who got sunburned from sitting next to a 60-watt light bulb. Oh wait, this was 2,000 years ago. I mean, from sitting next to a 60-watt oil lamp. (Yes, I’m exaggerating. I’ve never gotten sunburned from a 60-watt light bulb. But I did turn ruby red after sitting by a pool in Florida for no more than 20 minutes. I spent the remainder of the vacation hiding indoors applying Noxema to my shoulders with a kitchen spatula while everyone else had fun.)
If the military back then did not even have halfway decent footwear for the soldiers, I’m pretty sure they were not handing out bottles of SPF-50 sunblock to the troops.
There are actually many reasons why I never would’ve made it as a Roman soldier. I suppose the most obvious reason is the fact I was born in 1957 while the Roman Empire collapsed in the year 476. But assuming I happened to live back then, I still would’ve washed out of Roman boot camp. Oh wait, that was 2,000 years ago. I mean, Roman sandal camp.
First, I’m a wimp. I get squeamish at the sight of blood, especially my own. Next, I get very cranky if I happen to be in a place with poor wifi service, and I understand Roman soldiers rarely got online with their iPads. That would’ve driven me nuts.
Also, I am lactose intolerant. If the Roman soldier diet 2,000 years ago was anything like Italian restaurants today — that is, loaded with formaggio — I would’ve spent most of my military enlistment in the men’s room. Oh wait, that was 2,000 years ago. I mean, in the woods.
I am very glad I was never a Roman soldier. And I’m sure the Romans are glad, too, since if I was fighting for them, the Empire would’ve collapsed a hundred years sooner.