Shoe of an ordinary Roman soldier, a legionary, discovered while excavating a Roman fort in Germany. These were just workday shoes, perhaps not worn on campaign but certainly when tooling around the camp in the long months between. Just ordinary Roman footwear. The workmanship and detail look like something you’d pick up at Target today. It’s so easy to underestimate the day to day sophistication of Roman civilization, which makes the plunge into several centuries of the Dark Ages all the more stunning. The Roman Empire in the west, the part ruled from Rome, was swept away in the space of a century (the empire in the east, ruled from Constantinople, hung on another thousand years, till 1453), and with it disappeared so many skills, from running water sewage systems to the cobbling of comfortable shoes, and it took nearly a thousand years to remember how to do it again. Now, two thousand years later, we can make shoes just like this, and out of plastic, and in a riot of colors. And if that ain’t progress, I don’t know what is.