Daggers and their Sheaths

The pugio (plural, pugiones) was a dagger used by Roman soldiers as a secondary weapon. The main weapons were the pilum (a javelin) and the gladius (a sword).

The dagger blade was about 20cm long, 5cm wide, and made of iron. Some were longer and thinner. The blade also had a groove or ridge down the centre. Right is a picture of a real Roman dagger with its sheath.

The sheath was usually made of iron (or wood and leather). It was attached to a belt or shoulder strap with rings. The sheath could be highly decorated or quite simple. Three ancient dagger sheaths are shown below right.

Little is known about how the pugio was used by soldiers. It was not a utility knife (a knife for everyday jobs in camp), as lots of utility knives have been found. It was useful for assassinations, though, as it could easily be hidden in clothes. Julius Caesar was murdered by senators using pugiones.

Below is a photo of a reenactor showing his pugio. Notice the sheath on his belt, and on the other side his sword. Below that is a modern copy of a pugio and its sheath.

After the 1st century AD soldiers stopped carrying daggers. Later, in the 3rd century, the dagger came back but it was larger.