Video © National Museums Scotland
Gladius found at Trimontium during the 1905-1910 excavations by James Curle. Made of iron, the blade and tang survive although the edges of the sword are imperfect. The blade measures 19.5 inches in length, and is 2 inches wide, without any tapering until 3 inches from the point.
The Latin word “gladius” means ‘sword’, in a general sense. More specifically, it refers to the classic short sword used by the infantry (4th century BC – 3rd century AD). Roman gladii were shorter than the cavalry spathae, which were also found at Trimontium.
This type of sword was made with two sharp edges tapering to a pointed end, making it particularly effective for thrusting, stabbing and hacking in close fighting.
The gladius changed over time and several different designs have been identified. The ‘gladius hispaniensis’: the earliest, longest and heaviest model. The Mainz gladius: slightly shorter, with a long point. The Fulham Gladius: a version of the Mainz found in Britain and the Pompeii Gladius.
The Trimontium gladius pertains to the latter category. Which was the most common type, characterized by parallel cutting edges, a narrower width, a triangular tip and shorter length.
Part of the National Museums Scotland collection.
For comparison and more information, the Fulham Gladius can be seen at the British Museum.
Photo Credit: National Museums Scotland