History of Roman swords
Learn all the things you need to know about the history of Roman armors and swords
How brave were the Romans? Brave enough to rule the face of the ancient world.
This is not surprising as the Romans were said to have descended from the gods. Rhea Silvia, a Vestal Virgin who was tasked to protect the fire of the gods from being put out, was raped one night by the god Mars, the Latin equivalent of Ares, the Greek god of war. The children of Rhea were Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome.
History of Roman swords
The Empire of the Romans started out as a small community nestled on a hill (called Palantine Hill) along the riverbanks of Tiber, Italy. Its civilization is divided onto three stages: Establishment of the Kingdom, the Republic, and the Monarchy.
Establishment of the Kingdom
It is said that the Romans built their settlement in the Italian peninsula at around 8th century BC. Ancient Roman swords at this time are considered influences from the Greek swords, such as kopis. Romulus and his successors ruled the city with absolute power, making the government of ancient Rome under a dictatorship. When the citizens revolted at 500 BC, the last of the kings of Rome was deposed and a Republic was founded.
Ancient Roman swords were made of iron. It must be explained that blacksmithing at this time was relying heavily on the mining of iron ores. Steel was not a recognized ingredient in hardening sword-making.
It is from the Republic period that ancient Roman short swords appeared for the very first time. They were made from iron ores still, but with bands of steel in their blades. Historians dispute the claim that sword smiths, in the history of Roman swords, knew the benefits of steel. The combination of iron ore and carbon was made possible because the smiths were using charcoal for melting wrought iron.
The Roman Republic quickly rose to ranks and power as it conquered nearby territories, like Carthage, Hispania, and Sicily. The famous Roman gladius sword was the weapon that conquered the world of the ancient. Legionnaires and mercenaries found it useful as they defeat outlying mountainous territories.
The cavalry was fitted with a different type of sword. The gladius was deemed insufficient for its length. Instead the longer spatha was introduced, which was actually derived from Celtic swords.
The Roman gladius swords and spathae have had many reproductions and designs in the course of time. As the Roman army grew and made many successfully campaigns, they incorporated the designs of weaponry from the conquered tribes. Today, there are about five versions of the gladius.
Roman sword fighting had also greatly benefited from the conquests and successes from campaigns. As the legions experienced war and encountered different enemy tactics, they proved themselves resilient as they quickly change and innovated their army formations.
The Empire was established in 27 BC. It was at this time that Rome reached its Golden Age, with the advancement of its architectural, trade, and military successes. The empire expanded to include the modern day England, Italy, Turkey, and Syria.
The first Roman dagger appeared before Rome became the seat of absolute power. Historians like Cicero were witnesses to the assassination of Julius Caesar. The weapon chosen was the pugio. It was a standard military weapon, which was used alternatively as a knife when an infantryman was not in the battlefield. For more information on gladi and spathae and pugio, see What is a Roman sword.
The Roman Armor and Swords
Legionnaires and cavalrymen carried with them the following items:
• Hasta or spear.
• Pilum or javelin.
• Plumbatae or darts.
• The standard shield called scutum. It is a round shield made of iron.
• Gladius for infantrymen and the longer spatha for cavalrymen. Roman sword replicas, as seen through the recent movies, have produced many accurate versions of these swords.
• Iron chainmail made of iron hoops. Like all other weapons and armors, the chainmail underwent several redesigning.