The Ultimate Sword: Roman Style

The article I did on Rob Criswell’s modern katanas in…

The article I did on Rob Criswell’s modern katanas in the May 2007 issue of Tactical Knives (along with the bundle of wara mats I had left over) started me searching for other historical blades I could evaluate. One weapon that probably had about as much impact on warfare in its period as the AK-47 rifle has in modern times was the Roman “Gladius.”

sword2.jpgStrictly speaking, “Gladius” simply means “sword” in Latin, but most modern scholars associate the term with a particular style of short-bladed weapon carried by the Roman Legion’s infantry. Historians feel that the Gladius was a modified form of a Spanish weapon the Romans first came in contact with around 200 B.C. Early variations of the Roman sword are often referred to as “Gladius Hispanienis.” These seemed to have been a little longer than later versions of the Gladius, with blades running in the 26- to 28-inch range.

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  • Troy, you are absolutely correct. The Romans were famous for adapting acquired technologies. The spada gave the Roman cavalry the reach they needed to more easily attack infantry. The blade profile was the same as the gladius Hispanienis. The original gladius had a broader and shorter blade with a shorter tip. After the conquest of the Iberian peninsula is when we see the Gladius Hispanienis emerge as a standard issue weapon for the legions. Infantry also carried a dagger know as pugio. It was use for CQB / backup and or assassinations because it could be cloaked very easily.

  • troy

    from what I understand, the “long gladius” were called a spada and were used by the roman cavalry in the late empire?

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