A Roman Revolution: The Gladius

You have heard the saying, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”  And the Romans were no fools in following to these words.  They did not reinvent the wheel, but they instead strengthened it.  Building on the weapons of the nations they conquered, they took the best ideas and improved them to their advantage.  One of the prime examples of an enhanced weapon was the gladius, which is a Latin word for sword.  Originally known as the gladius Hispaniensis (“Hispanic sword”), the Romans adapted this sword, based from Celtic design, after the second Public War (200 BC).  In time, gladius became the name for any type of sword.

Roman Gladius II:

Roman Gladius II

At its origin, the original gladius was a 27 inch straight sword, which broadened at the handle to give a curvature.  The sword had a two edged blade and a tapered point, with a comfortable hilt, often with ridges for the fingers.  Some swords were also accented with ornate décor.  Specifically, the blades used by the Roman infantry were engraved with a crest and the owner’s name (especially those of high rank).  The gladius was popular among members of the Roman army and made numerous appearances in the famous Colosseum arena.  It is this sword after which the gladiator fighter was named.  This was the main weapon of the gladiator, who carried it with their body shield.

The gladius served its fighters on a few levels.  The sword’s tapered point provided a use for thrusting and stabbing, with the benefit of being able to penetrate through an opponent’s armor.  In addition, the two edged blade proved useful for cutting and slashing.  In short, a Roman with a gladius was a force to be reckoned with!

Pompeii Gladius Roman Sword:

Pompeii Gladius Roman Sword

Over time as weaponry advanced, the Romans kept up with changing times and thus improved the gladius design by drawing on influence of their enemies’ swords.  As a result, a few different types emerged.  Originally used by the Greek hoplites, the Gladius Graecus was a short leaf-shaped sword.  Then there was the Mainz, distinct with a long point and slight waist running the length of the blade.  And last, but not least, was the Pompeii, featuring a triangular tip and parallel cutting edges.  These were the main gladius designs, although there were others that had slight variations.  The sword blades were protected by scabbards, which were made of wood, covered by leather.  They were mounted on the belt or by a shoulder strap, making the gladius easy and efficient to carry and quickly pull out when the need arose.

As modern weapons have taken over, the gladius has not been forgotten.  You can see this nifty sword in historical movies such as Gladiator, at weapons conventions, or at reenactments at festivals.  To get your hands on your very own gladius, scan our collection at:  http://www.armorvenue.com/

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