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Replica pseudo-Pompeii gladius.


  Ancient Rome as gladius, Celtic
Europe before then.


   4th century BC through 2nd

century AD.

  Legionary in Roman service,

Roman-influenced other forces.

  Roman Republic and Roman



   1.2-1.6 kg(should be ~700g)

þ   64-81 cm(sword length should
be ~60cm)

 4-8 cm (blade width should be


    steel of varying degrees of

carbon content, pointed, two-

   Wood, bone or ivory.


c  is a Latin word for sword. Early ancient Roman swords were similar to those used by
the Greeks. From the 3rd century BC, the Romans adopted swords similar to those used by the
Celtiberians and others during the early part of the conquest of Hispania.[   ] This kind of
sword was known as the c  
, or "Hispanic Sword." It was once thought that
they were similar to the later Mainz types, but the evidence now suggests that this was not the
case.[1] Rather these early blades followed a slightly different pattern, being longer and narrower,
and were probably those that Polybius[2] considered good for both cut and thrust. Later extant
Gladii are now known as the Mainz, Fulham and Pompei types. In the late Roman period Publius
Flavius Vegetius Renatus[3] refers to swords called    (or   ) and   , for
both of which he appears to consider gladius an appropriate term.

A fully-equipped Roman soldier would have been armed with a shield (scutum), several javelins
(pila), a sword (gladius), probably a dagger (pugio) and perhaps a number of darts (plumbatae).
Conventionally, the javelins would be thrown before engaging the enemy, at which point the
gladius would be drawn. The soldier generally led with his shield and thrust with his sword.
Despite the gladius being designed for thrusting at the enemy from behind the protection of the
shield, all types of gladius appear to have been suitable for slashing and chopping motions.


@p 1 Etymology
„p 1.1 Celtic origin
„p 1.2 Acquisition by the Romans
„p 1.3 Gladius and gladiator
@p 2 Manufacture
@p 3 Description
@p 4 Types
@p 5 Hilt
@p 6 Notes
@p 7 References
@p 8 External links
„p 8.1 Pictures of ancient swords
„p 8.2 Reenactments, reconstructions, experimental archaeology
„p 8.3 Articles on the history or manufacture of the sword
@p â See also


The name is a Latin -stem noun, its plural being . Gladius is used in literature as early as
the plays of Plautus (,   ).

Words derived from the word   include gladiator ("swordsman") and gladiolus ("little
sword," from the diminutive form of  ).    is also the name of a flowering plant
with sword-shaped leaves.

Origin of the word can be derived from the level of weapon finish technology (smooth finishing)
in ancient Indo-European languages : Proto-Germanic *glaðo- (³µsmooth¶´), from Proto-Indo-
European. Cognate with Old High German glat (³µsmooth¶´) (German glatt (³µsmooth¶´), Old
Norse glaðr (³µsmooth; happy¶´), Old Bulgarian: ɝɥɚɞɴɤ (gladak) (³µsmooth¶´).

Î ë 

It was a Roman short sword. According to Julius Pokorny the term would be of Celtic origin,
from Gaulish   , cognate to Welsh   and Bretion   (Old Irish 
is from the
Brythonic, compare   ), all meaning "sword", ultimately from a base   (extended
from a root  ) cognate to Latin   "injury, damage, defeat".[4]   could also be a
term used to describe a dagger, Pugio.[5]


A sword of the Cogotas II culture in Spain, which began about 700 BC. The shape is
indistinguishable from the gladius hispanus.

The Hispanic sword was probably not acquired from Hispania and not from the Carthaginians.
Livy[6] relates the story of Titus Manlius Torquatus taking up a Gallic challenge to a single
combat by a large-size soldier at a bridge over the Anio river, where the Gauls and the Romans
were encamped on opposite sides of the river. Manlius strapped on the Hispanic sword (c 
[7]). During the combat he thrust twice with it under the shield of the Gaul, dealing fatal
blows to the abdomen. He then removed the Gaul's torc and placed it around his own neck, hence
the name, torquatus.

The combat happened in the consulships of C. Sulpicius and C. Licinius in about 361 BC, much
before the Punic Wars, but during the frontier wars with the Gauls (366-341 BC). One theory
therefore proposes the borrowing of the word gladius from *kladi- during this period, relying on
the principle that k becomes g in Latin only in loans. Ennius attests the word. Gladius may have
replaced , which in the literary periods was used mainly by the poets.[8]

The debate on the origin of the gladius Hispanus continues. That it descended ultimately from
Celtic swords of the La Tene and Hallstat periods is unquestioned. Whether it did so directly
from Celtiberian troops of the Punic Wars or through Gallic troops of the Gallic Wars remains
the question of the Hispanic sword.

Î c  

generally was a slave (more rarely a free volunteer) who fought to the death using
a gladius in a display called a , "game"²in origin held as part of the funeral celebration in
honor of a notable warrior. The time the custom began is lost in the prehistoric Bronze Age.
Etruscans held funeral ludi of an unknown provenance. They passed the custom on to the
Romans. In Roman gladiatorial theory, prisoners of war were to be sacrificed as a duty to the
deceased warrior; hence the games were called  , "services." Over the centuries, services
were rendered through many forms of combat. The sacrificed went by many names.

Even among the Romans, combat and weapons were of many forms. That being so, the choice of
the word gladius needs to be explained. It must have been appropriate when displays began at
Rome. Games were held first by Latin speakers at Capua, a renamed Etruscan city. Livy explains
that in 308 BC the Samnites were defeated by the Campanians, who captured a large cache of
new and ornate arms, only acquired by the Samnites in 310 BC. The Campanians gave these to
their gladiators, innovating a new class of gladiator, the Samnites. They fought with the

When the Romans instituted the games at Rome in 264 BC, they displayed 3 pairs of matched
gladiators. They were probably called gladiators then, though the only evidence is Livy's word
for it. He may have been speaking anachronistically; however, his description of the Gallic
combat above matches the use of the gladius. The dates 13âB.C.-25A.D., certainly, are right. In
that same year, the Punic Wars began.

Î !  
By the time of the Roman Republic, which flourished during the Iron Age, the classical world
was well-acquainted with steel and the steel-making process. 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 Chalybes of the Caucasus region were metallurgists for Iron-Age Europe and they had found
that increasing carbon content produced harder steel. In Roman times ore was reduced in a
bloomery furnace, as the blast furnace had not yet been invented, at least in western society. The
temperature did not become high enough to actually melt the metal. The result was pieces of
slag, or blooms, which were forged into the desired shape. Forging continued until the metal
cooled (cold forging).

A recent metallurgical study of two Etruria swords, one in the form of a Greek kopis from 7th
century BC Vetulonia, and one in the form of a gladius Hispanus from 4th century BC Chiusa,
gives some insight concerning the manufacture of Roman swords.[10] The Chiusa 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 long.[10]
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 some form of carburization may have been used. The
sword was 40 cm long and was characterized by a wasp-waist close to the hilt.

Roman swords continued to be forged both as composites and from single pieces. Inclusions of
sand and rust weakened the two swords of the study and no doubt limited the strength of swords
during the Roman period.

Î "  

The word gladius acquired a general meaning as any type of sword. This use appears as early as
the 1st century AD in the ï   ! "    by Quintus Curtius Rufus.[11] 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.

Stabbing was a very efficient technique, as stabbing wounds, especially in the abdominal area,
were almost always deadly (see the quotation from Vegetius under pugio). 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

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 on the
right, some say on the left (refer to the articles cited in the notes). Some say the soldier reached
across his body to draw it, and others affirm 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.[13]

Towards the end of the second century A.D. the spatha took the place of the gladius in the
Roman legions.

Î # 
French infantry gladius, model 1831

Several different designs were used; among collectors and historical reenactors, the three
primary kinds are known as the  , the    , and the #   
(these names refer to where or how the canonical example was found). More recent
archaeological finds have uncovered an earlier version, the  $  ("Hispanic

The differences between these varieties are subtle. The original Hispanic sword, had a slight
"wasp-waist" or "leaf-blade" curvature.[14] It was used in the republic. 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 Pompei 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.[15]

Descriptions of the main types follow:

@p c  : Used from no later than 200 B.C. until 20 B.C. Blade length ~60-
68 cm. Sword length ~75-85cm. Sword width ~5cm. This was the largest and heaviest of
the gladii. Earliest and longest blade of the gladii, pronounced leaf-shape compared to the
other forms. Max weight ~1kg for the largest versions, most likely a standard example
would weigh ~â00g(wooden hilt). (Realistic replica 1), (Realistic example 2, the longer
gladius to the left) Both these gladii have been made by Mark Morrow.

@p !$: Mainz was founded as the Roman permanent camp of Moguntiacum probably in
13 BC. This large camp provided a population base for the growing city around it. Sword
manufacture probably began in the camp and was continued in the city; for example,
Gaius Gentilius Victor, a veteran of Legio XXII, used his discharge bonus on retirement
to set up a business as a 

  , a manufacturer and dealer of arms.[16]
Swords made at Mainz were sold extensively to the north. The Mainz variety is
characterized by a slight waist running the length of the blade and a long point. Blade
length ~50-55 cm. Sword length ~65-70 cm. Blade width ~7 cm. Sword weight
~800g(wooden hilt). (Replica with unrealistic scabbard), (Realistic replica)

@p V  or !$%V : The sword that gave the name to the type was dredged from
the Thames near Fulham and must therefore date to a time after the Roman occupation of
Britain began. That would have been after the invasion of Aulus Plautius in 43 AD. It
was used until the end of the same century. It is considered the conjunction point between
 and #  . Some consider it an evolution or the same as the  type. The
blade is slightly more narrow than the Mainz variety, main difference is the triangular tip.
Blade length ~50-55 cm. Sword length ~65-70cm. Blade width ~6cm. Sword weight
~700g(wooden hilt). (Realistic replica 1)

 ): Named by moderns after Pompeii, a Roman town
in which many lives were lost²despite efforts of the Roman navy to evacuate the
residents²when it was destroyed by volcanic eruption in 7â AD. Four instances of the
sword type were found there, with others turning up elsewhere. The sword has parallel
cutting edges and a triangular tip. This is the shortest of the gladii. Observe that it is often
confused with the spatha which was a longer, slashing weapon used by the auxilia from
horseback. Over the years the pompei got longer, these later versions are referred to as
semi-spathas. Blade length ~45-50cm. Sword length ~60-65cm. Blade width ~5cm.
Sword weight ~700g(wooden hilt). (Realistic replica 1), (Realistic replica 2)

The hilt of a Roman sword was the   . It was often ornate, especially the sword-hilts of
officers and dignitaries.