|Place of origin||Ancient Rome, as gladius, based on the Celtiberian gladius hispaniensis.|
|In service||3rd century BC – 3rd century AD|
|Used by||Roman foot soldiers during wars|
|Wars||Roman Republic and Roman Empire|
|Mass||0.7–1 kg (1.5–2.2 lb)|
|Length||60–85 cm (24–33 in)|
|Blade length||45–68 cm (18–27 in)|
|Width||5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in)|
|Blade type||Iron of varying degrees of carbon content, pointed, double-edged|
|Hilt type||Wood, bronze or ivory|
|Part of a series on the|
|Military of ancient Rome|
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Gladius (Latin: [ˈɡɫad̪iʊs̠] ) is a Latin word meaning "sword" (of any type), but in its narrow sense, it refers to the sword of Ancient Roman foot soldiers. Early ancient Roman swords were similar to those of the Greeks, called xiphe (plural; singular xiphos). From the 3rd century BC, however, the Romans adopted a sword based on the weapons used by the Celtiberians in Hispania late into the Punic Wars, known in Latin as the gladius hispaniensis, or "Hispanic sword".
A fully equipped Roman legionary after the reforms of Gaius Marius was armed with a shield ( scutum ), one or two javelins ( pila ), a sword (gladius), often a dagger ( pugio ), and, perhaps in the later empire period, darts ( plumbatae ). Conventionally, soldiers threw pila to disable the enemy's shields and disrupt enemy formations before engaging in close combat, for which they drew the gladius. A soldier generally led with the shield and thrust with the sword.
Gladius is a Latin masculine noun. The nominative plural of it is gladiī. However, gladius in Latin refers to any sword, not only the sword described here. The word appears in literature as early as the plays of Plautus (Casina, Rudens).
Gladius is generally believed to be a Celtic loan in Latin (perhaps via an Etruscan intermediary), derived from ancient Celtic *kladi(b)os or *kladimos "sword" (whence modern Welsh cleddyf "sword", modern Breton klezeff, Old Irish claideb/Modern Irish claidheamh [itself perhaps a loan from Welsh]; the root of the word may survive in the Old Irish verb claidid "digs, excavates" and anciently attested in the Gallo-Brittonic place name element cladia/clado "ditch, trench, valley hollow").
Modern English words derived from gladius include gladiator ("swordsman") and gladiolus ("little sword", from the diminutive form of gladius), a flowering plant with sword-shaped leaves.
According to Polibius, the sword used by the Roman army during the Battle of Telamento in 220 BC, though deemed superior to the cumbersome Spanish swords, was mainly useful to thrust.These thrusting swords used before the adoption of the Gladius were possibly based on the Greek xiphos . Later, during the Battle of Cannae in 215 BC, they found Hannibal's Celtiberian mercenaries wielding swords that excelled at both slashing and thrusting. A text attributed to Polybius describes the adoption of this design by the Romans even before the end of the war, which canonical Polybius reaffirms by calling the later Roman sword gladius hispaniensis in Latin and iberiké machaira in Greek. It is believed Scipio Africanus was the promoter of the change after the Battle of Cartagena in 209 BC, after which he set the inhabitants to produce weapons for the Roman army.
In 70 BC, both Claudius Quadrigarius and Livy relate the story of Titus Manlius Torquatus using a "Hispanic sword" (gladius Hispanus) in a duel with a Gaul in 361 BC.However, this has been traditionally considered a terminological anachronism caused by the long established naming convention. Still, some believe the Celtiberian sword was adopted after encounters with Carthaginian mercenaries of that nationality during the First Punic War (264-241 BC), not the second. In any case, the gladius hispaniensis became particularly known in 200 BC during the Second Macedonian War, in which Macedonian soldiers became horrified at what Roman swords could do after an early cavalry skirmish. It has been suggested that the sword used by Roman cavalrymen was different from the infantry model, but most academics have discarded this view.
Arguments for the Celtiberian source of the weapon have been reinforced in recent decades by discovery of early Roman gladii that seem to highlight that they were copies of Celtiberian models. The weapon developed in Iberia after La Tène I models, which were adapted to traditional Celtiberian techniques during the late 4th and early 3rd centuries BC.These weapons are quite original in their design, so that they cannot be confused with Gallic types. As for the origin of the word gladius, one theory proposes the borrowing of the word from *kladi- during the Gallic wars, relying on the principle that K often became G in Latin. Ennius attests the word gladius may have replaced ensis, which until then was used mainly by poets.
By the time of the Roman Republic, which flourished during the Iron Age, steel and the steel-making process was not unknown to the classical world. Pure iron is relatively soft, but pure iron is never found in nature. Natural iron ore contains various impurities in solid solution, which harden the reduced metal by producing irregular-shaped metallic crystals. The gladius was generally made out of steel.
In Roman times, workers reduced ore in a bloomery furnace. The resulting pieces were called blooms,which they further worked to remove slag inclusions from the porous surface.
A recent metallurgical study of two Etrurian swords, one in the form of a Greek kopis from 7th century BC Vetulonia, the other in the form of a gladius Hispaniensis from 4th century BC Clusium (Chiusi), gives insight concerning the manufacture of Roman swords.The Chiusi sword comes from Romanized etruria; thus, regardless of the names of the forms (which the authors do not identify), the authors believe the process was continuous from the Etruscans to the Romans.
The Vetulonian sword was crafted by the pattern welding process from five blooms reduced at a temperature of 1163 °C. Five strips of varying carbon content were created. A central core of the sword contained the highest: 0.15–0.25% carbon. On its edges were placed four strips of low-carbon steel, 0.05–0.07%, and the whole thing was welded together by forging on the pattern of hammer blows. A blow increased the temperature sufficiently to produce a friction weld at that spot. Forging continued until the steel was cold, producing some central annealing. The sword was 58 cm (23 in) long.
The Chiusian sword was created from a single bloom by forging from a temperature of 1237 °C. The carbon content increased from 0.05–0.08% at the back side of the sword to 0.35–0.4% on the blade, from which the authors deduce that some form of carburization may have been used. The sword was 40 cm (16 in) long and was characterized by a wasp-waist close to the hilt.
Romans continued to forge swords, both as composites and from single pieces. Inclusions of sand and rust weakened the two swords in the study, and no doubt limited the strength of swords during the Roman period.
The word gladius acquired a general meaning as any type of sword. This use appears as early as the 1st century AD in the Biography of Alexander the Great by Quintus Curtius Rufus.The republican authors, however, appear to mean a specific type of sword, which is now known from archaeology to have had variants.
Gladii were two-edged for cutting and had a tapered point for stabbing during thrusting. A solid grip was provided by a knobbed hilt added on, possibly with ridges for the fingers. Blade strength was achieved by welding together strips, in which case the sword had a channel down the center, or by fashioning a single piece of high-carbon steel, rhomboidal in cross-section. The owner's name was often engraved or punched on the blade.
The hilt of a Roman sword was the capulus. It was often ornate, especially the sword-hilts of officers and dignitaries.
Stabbing was a very efficient technique, as stabbing wounds, especially in the abdominal area, were almost always deadly.However, the gladius in some circumstances was used for cutting or slashing, as is indicated by Livy's account of the Macedonian Wars, wherein the Macedonian soldiers were horrified to see dismembered bodies.
Though the primary infantry attack was thrusting at stomach height, they were trained to take any advantage, such as slashing at kneecaps beneath the shield wall.
The gladius was sheathed in a scabbard mounted on a belt or shoulder strap. Some say the soldier reached across his body to draw it, and others claim that the position of the shield made this method of drawing impossible. A centurion wore it on the opposite side as a mark of distinction.
Towards the end of the 2nd century AD and during the 3rd century the spatha gradually took the place of the gladius in the Roman legions.
Several different designs were used; among collectors and historical reenactors, the three primary kinds are known as the Mainz gladius, the Fulham gladius, and the Pompeii gladius (these names refer to where or how the canonical example was found). More recent archaeological finds have uncovered an earlier version, the gladius Hispaniensis.
The differences between these varieties are subtle. The original Hispanic sword, which was used during the republic, had a slight "wasp-waist" or "leaf-blade" curvature. The Mainz variety came into use on the frontier in the early empire. It kept the curvature, but shortened and widened the blade and made the point triangular. At home, the less battle-effective Pompeii version came into use. It eliminated the curvature, lengthened the blade, and diminished the point. The Fulham was a compromise, with straight edges and a long point.
The Gladius Hispaniensis was a Roman sword used from around 216 BC until 20 BC. The length of the blade was 60–68 cm (24–27 in). The length of the sword was 75–85 cm (30–33 in). The width of the sword was 5 cm (2.0 in). The Gladius Hispaniensis was the largest and heaviest of the gladii. It was also the earliest and longest blade of the gladii, pronounced leaf-shape compared to the other forms. The sword weighed 1 kg (2.2 lb) for the largest versions, most likely a standard example would weigh 900 g (2.0 lb).
The Mainz Gladius is made of heavily corroded iron and a sheath made of tinned and gilded bronze. The blade was 50-55 centimetres long and 7 centimetres in width. The sword was 65 to 70 centimetres long. The sword weighed 800 grams. The point of the sword was more triangular than the Gladius Hispaniensis. The Mainz Gladius still had wasp-waisted curves. The decoration on the scabbard illustrates the ceding of military victory to Augustus by Tiberius after a successful Alpine campaign. Augustus is semi-nude, and sits in the pose of Jupiter, flanked by the Roman gods of Victory and Mars Ultor, while Tiberius, in military dress, presents Augustus with a statuette of Victory.
The Fulham gladius or Mainz-Fulham gladius was a Roman sword that was used after Aulus Plautius' invasion of Britain in 43 AD. 50–55 cm (20–22 in). The length of the sword is 65–70 cm (26–28 in). The width of the blade is 6 cm (2.4 in). The swords weighs 700 g (1.5 lb) (wooden hilt). A full size replica can be seen at Fulham Palace, Fulham.The Romans used it until the end of the 1st century. The Fulham gladius has a triangular tip. The length of the blade is
The Pompeii gladius was named by modern historians after the Roman town of Pompeii. This type of gladius was by far the most popular one. Four instances of the sword type were found in Pompeii, with others turning up elsewhere. The sword has parallel cutting edges and a triangular tip. This is the shortest of the gladii. It is often confused with the spatha , which was a longer, slashing weapon used initially by mounted auxilia. Over the years, the Pompeii got longer, and these later versions are called semi-spathas. The length of the blade was 45–50 cm (18–20 in). The length of the sword is 60–65 cm (24–26 in). The width of the blade is 5 cm (2.0 in). The sword weighs 700 g (1.5 lb) (wooden hilt).
^ This is only true for the nominative case; For more information, see the Latin declension page.
A dagger is a knife with a very sharp point and usually two sharp edges, typically designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. Daggers have been used throughout human history for close combat confrontations, and many cultures have used adorned daggers in ritual and ceremonial contexts. The distinctive shape and historic usage of the dagger have made it iconic and symbolic. A dagger in the modern sense is a weapon designed for close-proximity combat or self-defense; due to its use in historic weapon assemblages, it has associations with assassination and murders. Double-edged knives, however, play different sorts of roles in different social contexts.
A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.
A rapier or espada ropera is a type of sword with a slender and sharply-pointed two-edged blade that was popular in Western Europe, both for civilian use and as a military side arm, throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
The spatha was a type of straight and long sword, measuring between 0.5 and 1 m, with a handle length between 18 and 20 cm, in use in the territory of the Roman Empire during the 1st to 6th centuries AD. Later swords, from the 7th to 10th centuries, like the Viking swords, are recognizable derivatives and sometimes subsumed under the term spatha.
Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, which is a type of sword.
The English language terminology used in the classification of swords is imprecise and has varied widely over time. There is no historical dictionary for the universal names, classification or terminology of swords; A sword was simply a double edged knife.
The term kopis in Ancient Greece could describe a heavy knife with a forward-curving blade, primarily used as a tool for cutting meat, for ritual slaughter and animal sacrifice, or refer to a single edged cutting or "cut and thrust" sword with a similarly shaped blade.
The xiphos is a double-edged, one-handed Iron Age straight shortsword used by the ancient Greeks. It was a secondary battlefield weapon for the Greek armies after the dory or javelin. The classic blade was generally about 45–60 cm (18–24 in) long, although the Spartans supposedly preferred to use blades as short as 30 cm (12 in) around the era of the Greco-Persian Wars. The xiphos sometimes has a midrib, and is diamond or lenticular in cross-section. It was a rather light weapon, with a weight around 450 to 900 grams or 1-2 lbs. It was generally hung from a baldric under the left arm. The xiphos was generally used only when the spear was broken, taken by the enemy, or discarded for close combat. Very few xiphe are known to have survived.
The pugio was a dagger used by Roman soldiers as a sidearm. It seems likely that the pugio was intended as an auxiliary weapon, but its exact purpose for the soldier remains unknown. Officials of the empire took to wearing ornate daggers in the performance of their offices, and some would wear concealed daggers for defense in contingencies. The dagger was a common weapon of assassination and suicide; for example, the conspirators who stabbed Julius Caesar used pugiones. The pugio developed from the daggers used by the Cantabarians of the Iberian peninsula.
The falcata is a type of sword typical of pre-Roman Iberia. The falcata was used to great effect for warfare in the ancient Iberian peninsula, and is firmly associated with the southern Iberian tribes, among other ancient peoples of Hispania. It was highly prized by the ancient general Hannibal, who equipped Carthaginian troops with it during the Second Punic War.
The rhomphaia was a close-combat bladed weapon used by the Thracians as early as 350-400 BC. Rhomphaias were weapons with a straight or slightly curved single-edged blade attached to a pole, which in most cases was considerably shorter than the blade. Although the rhomphaia was similar to the falx, most archaeological evidence suggests that rhomphaias were forged with straight or slightly curved blades, presumably to enable their use as both a thrusting and slashing weapon. The blade was constructed of iron and used a triangular cross section to accommodate the single cutting edge with a tang of rectangular cross section. Length varied, but a typical rhomphaia would have a blade of approximately 60–80 cm and a tang of approximately 50 cm. From the length of the tang, it can be presumed that, when attached to the hilt, this portion of the weapon would be of similar length to the blade.
Roman military personal equipment was produced in small numbers to established patterns, and used in an established manner. These standard patterns and uses were called the res militaris or disciplina. Its regular practice during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire led to military excellence and victory. The equipment gave the Romans a very distinct advantage over their barbarian enemies, especially so in the case of armour. This does not mean that every Roman soldier had better equipment than the richer men among his opponents. According to Edward Luttwak, Roman equipment was not of a better quality than that used by the majority of Rome's adversaries. Other historians and writers have stated that the Roman army's need for large quantities of "mass produced" equipment after the Marian Reforms and subsequent civil wars led to a decline in the quality of Roman equipment compared to the earlier Republican era:
"The production of these kinds of helmets of Italic tradition decreased in quality because of the demands of equipping huge armies, especially during civil wars...The bad quality of these helmets is recorded by the sources describing how sometimes they were covered by wicker protections, like those of Pompeius' soldiers during the siege of Dyrrachium in 48 BC, which were seriously damaged by the missiles of Caesar's slingers and archers."
"It would appear that armour quality suffered at times when mass production methods were being used to meet the increased demand ..." and "...the reduced size curiasses would also have been quicker and cheaper to produce, which may have been a deciding factor at times of financial crisis, or where large bodies of men were required to be mobilized at short notice, possibly reflected in the poor-quality, mass produced iron helmets of Imperial Italic type C, as found, for example, in the River Po at Cremona, associated with the Civil Wars of AD 69 AD; Russel-Robinson, 1975, 67"
"Up until then, the quality of helmets had been fairly consistent and the bowls well decorated and finished. However, after the Marian Reforms, with their resultant influx of the poorest citizens into the army, there must inevitably have been a massive demand for cheaper equipment, a situation which can only have been exacerbated by the Civil Wars..."
The Migration Period sword was a type of sword popular during the Migration Period and the Merovingian period of European history, particularly among the Germanic peoples and was derived from the Roman era spatha. It later gave rise to the Carolingian or Viking sword type of the 8th to 11th centuries AD.
Swords made of iron appear from the Early Iron Age, but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC.
The sica was a short sword or large dagger of ancient Thracians, Dacians and Illyrians, used in Ancient Rome too, originating in the Halstatt culture. It was originally depicted as a curved sword and many examples have been found in what are today Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. It is also depicted on Trajan's Column; notably the Dacian king Decebalus is depicted committing suicide with one.
A Samnite was a Roman gladiator who fought with equipment styled on that of a warrior from Samnium: a short sword (gladius), a rectangular shield (scutum), a greave (ocrea), and the helmet. Warriors armed in such a way were the earliest gladiators in the Roman games. They appeared in Rome shortly after the defeat of Samnium in the 4th century BC, apparently adopted from the victory celebrations of Rome's allies in Campania. By arming low-status gladiators in the manner of a defeated foe, Romans mocked the Samnites and appropriated martial elements of their culture.
The Roman army of the mid-Republic, also called the manipular Roman army or the Polybian army, refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid-Roman Republic, from the end of the Samnite Wars to the end of the Social War. The first phase of this army, in its manipular structure, is described in detail in the Histories of the ancient Greek historian Polybius, writing before 146 BC.
The Mainz Gladius or Sword of Tiberius is a famous ancient Roman sword and sheath that was found in the Rhine near Mainz in Germany. Since 1866 it has been part of the British Museum's collection, when it was given to the museum by the philanthropist Felix Slade. A replica of the Mainz Gladius can be found in the Romano-Germanic Central Museum (Mainz). The type of gladius was first introduced to the Romans in 20 BC. Eventually the Mainz Gladius was overtaken in popularity by the Pompeii Gladius.
The Caetrati were a type of light infantry in ancient Iberia who often fought as skirmishers. They were armed with a caetra shield, swords, and javelins.
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