Roman Swords

The standard sword used by a Roman legionary (soldier) was called a gladius. This is where gladiators get their name from - gladiator means 'sword fighter'. The gladius was a medium length sword (about 75cm, with the blade about 50cm), double edged and with a very sharp point. It weighed about 1kg.

The blade was made of iron and the handle of wood and sometimes bone. The sword was kept in a sheath made of wood surrounded by leather and sometimes bronze or tin. The sheath had rings so the sword could be attached to the soldier's belt with straps.

The full name of the sword was the gladius hispaniensis, which means Spanish sword, as it originally came from Spain. It was not used for slashing in battle, as there was not enough room and the soldier might hit his own men. Instead he stabbed with it.

On the right you can see some ancient swords in museums. Below are some modern replicas.





The Sword of Tiberius

In the British Museum in London there is a beautiful sword and sheath, found in Germany. It is called the sword of Tiberius because on the sheath you can see the Emperor Tiberius presenting his victories in war to his stepfather, Augustus. It was made around 15AD, from bronze covered in tin, as well as some parts in gold. It would have been owned by an officer.

The photos right and below show the amazing details on the sheath.