We are open for 2024! Come and find out the story of Roman & Iron Age Scotland. Open throughout the February holidays 1030-1600. Find out more about us

The Trimontium Museum Archive

Gladius: NMS ref X.FRA 138

Home | Archive | Gladius: NMS ref X.FRA 138

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

This site uses cookies.
ConfigureHide Options
Read our privacy policy

This site uses cookies for marketing, personalisation, and analysis purposes. You can opt out of this at any time or view our full privacy policy for more information.