In the ancient world, hand and foot washing of guests or travelers was an act of hospitality, the sign of a meal to come. When Romans arrived at a banquet, their shoes were removed by slaves, who washed their feet and replaced the shoes, only to remove them again when the guests arrived in the dining room and lay down to eat on couches. In Petronius‘ Satyricon, the foot washing slaves perform something of a pedicure for the guests. Foot washing always had servile connotations. In the Gospel According to John, when Jesus bent down to wash the feet of his disciples at the last supper, Simon Peter was scandalized. “Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet! Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).
Foot washing was also a sign of preparation, hence the saying, “with unwashed feet,” to describe someone who jumps into a task without thinking.