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The Trimontium Museum Archive

Gladius: NMS ref X.FRA 138

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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

 
 
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