Gladius -- Sword
Last Updated: 04-08-10
There are three types of gladii
that are accepted for use in the era the Legio VI recreates. The Fulham, Mainz, and Pompeii types.
The Mainz type blade is so named because the first examples were found in Mainz,
Germany. Numerous examples have been found in Ausgustan sites, which suggest it was in wide spread use during the reign
of Augustus. Some examples have been found in England which suggests that it was in use up until the invasion of Britian in
AD 43. The common length of this type varied from 16 in to 22 in(excluding tang), and the common width taper from
2-3 in to 2-2.5 in.
The scabbards started out simple and became more complex as time went by.
They started out with a simple tubular frame design and developed into having metal plates placed over the scabbard.
What to look for:
There are two different Mainz pattern gladius that are readily available to
us. The first being the all brass scabbard that is based off a find in Vindonissa, in modern day Switzerland, the hilt,
and handle are also based on finds from the same location. The pommel on the other hand is not based on any find,
it is something that Deepeeka just put in there. Most of trim this piece down to make it not as wide and more acceptable.
It is made by Deepeeka (AH4209).
The second being the one that has a tinned front with a uniquely cut out brass
facing. It is based off a find from the Rhine River at Mainz. Now Deepeeka and Al Hamdd Trading Post make this
sword and here are the differences between them. The one made by Deepeeka, the scabbard is too large and the hilt, handle,
and pommel are not based on any archeological find. The one made by Al Hamdd Trading Post (ATP008) has a smaller
scabbard and the hilt, handle, and pommel are based off a find on the Rhine River at Mainz.
The Fulham type is so named because it was discovered in Fulham, England. Now, only a few examples of this type
have been found. It is almost exactly the same as the Mainz type except for one thing. One side of the blade is
curved in more than the other. Scholars differ if this is because a soldier sharped his blade to much on that side,
or if it was a manufacture defect.
What to look for:
There is only one Fulham gladius that is readily available to us and it is offerd by Find-it Armory (SDK1173).
The only thing that is incorrect is the handle, it should be made of bone and not wood.
The Pompeii type is so named because the first examples were found in Pompeii, Italy. It is believes that
the Pompeii type phased out the Mainz style during the middle of the first century AD. The common length
of this type varied from 17 in to 20 in and the common width of about 2 in.
The scabbards were a simple form fitting metal cap on the end of the scabbard ,with another metal sleeve on the
top of the scabbard. These two metal pieces can be simple in design or highly decorated with punched out designs.
What to look for:
There are two Pompeii gladius out there that are readily available to us. One is made my Deepeeka (AH4211N) and
is ready to go right off the shelve. The other is made by Soul of the Warrior (SW012NH-R), and is ready to go also.
The unique that about the one offerd by Soul of the Warrior is that it comes un-dyed so you can dye it any color you like.
For legionary it is proper to
wear the gladius on the right. It is accepted, that with the wearing of the lorica
segmentata, a baldric is required to hang the gladius. There have been no evidence
that the baldric had any fasteners of any kind, since it could be slip over the head and shoulder. Although attempts to identify cavalry harness fasteners as baldric fittings continue, despite the differences
in decoration between infantry and cavalry equipment.
The gladius may also be suspended
from it own belt, a second belt. This was more common with earlier periods and
only worn with the lorica hamata. This belt would have no apron, and could consist
of two frogs to suspend the gladius like the pugio or not. If no frogs were used using
leather straps put threw the rings on the scabbard and around the belt would attach the gladius
Only legionary with the rank
of Centurion or better wore there gladius on the left.
Here is what “Roman
Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome” by M.C. Bishop & J.C.N. Coulston has to say about the
and Pompeii gladii.
Contrary to popular belief, the
term “gladius” can mean any sword and is certainly not specific to short weapons.
The infantry sword underwent an important metamorphosis some time after the middle of the 1st century AD. The familiar long-pointed, taper-bladed weapon of the Republic, the so-called gladius
Hispaniensis (which survived as the ‘Mainz’ type), was phased out in favor of the
parallel-edged, short pointed replacement (the “Pompeii”
type). These two swords are, it has been suggested, symptomatic of a change in
the style of Roman fighting. Examples of the Mainz type sword (so-called because
so many examples come from the Rhine at Mainz) and its associated scabbard fittings are found throughout the first half of
the century and it was clearly still in use at the time of the invasion of Britain in AD 43.
The blade (excluding tang)vary between 400 mm and 550 mm in length and blade widths taper from something like 54-75
mm to 48-60 mm, with the length of point varying between 96 and 200 mm. The handle
assembly consisted of a handguard, an octagonal-sectioned handgrip usually made from a cow longbone, and then a pommel of
slightly flattened ovoid appearance. The pommel and handguard were often made
of wood, as example from Vindonissa show, but could also be of bone or ivory. These
pieces were held onto the tang by a copper-alloy rivet. The sword from Rheingonheim
had a silver plated wooden handle and the rivet originally possessed a ‘small ring from a bronze chain’, recalling
a gladiator relief from Rome where the sword is suspended
form the gladiator’s wrist by a cord or chain.
parallel-edged Pompeii type (with blade lengths between 420 and 500 mm and widths between 42
and 55 mm) was named after four examples found at Pompeii
with the well-known terminus ante quem of AD 79.
Examples of the weapon and its scabbard-fittings give a rather different distribution by comparison with the Mainz-type
sword and one piece of scabbard from Verulamium is dated to before the Boudican revolt (AD 60/1), possibly the earliest archaeological manifestation of the weapon.
Finds of Pompeii-type scabbard-fittings from Wadden Hill seem to belong to some time before AD 64, although the earlier
terminal date for Hod Hill (which has also produced Pompeii-type fittings) has been questioned. The handle assemblies differ markedly from those of the Mainz-type sword, with the handguard now more pronounced
and the pommel resembling a flattened sphere.
Soul of the Warrior: sells the Deepeeka Mainz and Pompeii gladius. They also have their own version of the Pompeii gladius that can come
in any color you choose.
Find-it Armory: sells the only Fulham gladius out there and with a little modification it is completely acceptable in the Roman genre.
Mark Morrow: makes Pompeii, Mainz, and Fulham balde at so much per Inch and for a little extra he can hilt it and make a simple scabbard.
Armamentaria: sells Deepeeka gladius but also has a growing line of his own designs. He is also improving on some already existing
Matt Lukes does excellent work on scabbards for any make of gladii. He can be contacted through the market place
section on RAT. Just plan for a bit of a wait.