Full Version: Did Auxiliaries use the Pugio?
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The short, fat dagger - the pugio - is one of the iconic weapons of the Imperial legionaries. But I am curious to find if it was used by the cavalry, or by the soldiers of the auxiliary infantry cohorts? I am an (amateur) artist and plan on drawing some auxiliaries, but I need to know if I should show them with daggers. :?

Thank you in advance!
Hello Jaida

Presumably you mean first century A.D. Auxiliaries? In which case the answer is yes. A number of tombstones of Auxiliaries from regular infantry Cohorts based in the Rhineland region of Germany show Auxiliaries with very similar swords and daggers to Legionaries.

Trajans Column however dating from the first half of the second century A.D. shows Auxiliary infantry without daggers.

There is not so much evidence for cavalry with daggers and many sculptural renditions show cavalry from the sword side which does not help either. A document mentions a cavalryman using a dagger as collateral for a loan but it may not have been his own sidearm just his property.

If you are drawing daggers in a painting good luck they are a very difficult item to illustrate because if you view the figure from the front then the dagger itself is side on and both the handle and fastening system are not so clear from that viewpoint. You will need some decent photographs to work from as well as some good source archaeological line drawings.

Best wishes.

Thank you so much for your reply, it was very helpful. Yes I was planning on illustrating auxiliaries of the mid-late 1st Century.

Another dagger-related question, if you please:

Trajan's Column and to my knowledge Marcus Aurelius' Column do not show daggers on legionaries, so I'm guessing that the pugio fell out of use for most or all of the 2nd Century. I've also read that the grave of a soldier that died at the 193 AD battle of Lugdunum was buried with a sword but without a dagger.

Yet Cassius Dio says that Septimius Severus took away the belts and daggers of the Praetorian Guards that murdered his predecessors. And an Osprey book on Roman legionaries 161 - 284 AD also states that the dagger was in use for most or all of the 3rd Century.

So, did the dagger fall out of use in the 2nd Century but then suddenly reappeared early in the 3rd Century? Why is that? Or perhaps the artists who designed the Imperial columns of the 2nd Century, for reasons of their own, did not show daggers? Is there archaeological evidence for any continuation of daggers in the 2nd Century?
Quote:The short, fat dagger - the pugio...

From this day forward, I will refer to my private part as "the pugio."

[size=85:eguwb02p]Sorry. I'll get my coat...[/size]
Quote:The short, fat dagger - the pugio...

From this day forward, I will refer to my private part as "the pugio."

[size=85:4ksmqtnc]Sorry. I'll get my coat...[/size]

Confusedhock: :oops:
I laughed :lol: That was good.
When I was studying Latin I came across the theory that the Romans in fact used the word 'gladius' to describe the male genitals and the latin word for 'sheath' (forgotten what it is) for female genitals... anyway...

I am no expert on the auxiliaries, but I don't believe it would be common-place to see one with the Roman pugio, as it wasn't (as far as I'm aware) even a standard piece of equipment for the legionary. I'd like to think that auxiliaries would have carried their native daggers/knives e.g. hunting knives with them, but I can't find any solid evidence to fully justify the theory. But maybe I'm wrong? Is anyone aware of anything that may support the idea?

But whether they would have carried one or not would probably have depended on their role on the battle-field, which would have influenced what equipment they wore. I suppose if they were for example the German auxiliaries we see on Trajan's column the answer would be no, and that they would have carried their own native equipment - but I could be wrong there too.

As I said, I'm no expert, but it seems plausible.

- Lorenzo
Vagina.....I'll get my coat too.

As to did Auxiliaries use pugios...please just look at some evidence...funeral stelae for example that can be found on this very site.
Yes, as Sulla Felix says, have a look at the imagebase. ... Itemid,94/

As a couple of added points, when looking for pictures of pugios to copy, DO NOT copy any that show brass plates on the sheaths. This is a modern misinterpretation of a line drawing and although commonly seen in reconstructions, is absolutely wrong. If you are looking at the Wikipedia pugio page please be aware that although I have been able to rewrite much of the false information which was previously there I have not been able to delete the pictures which accompany the article. Both pictures show dagger sheaths which do not look at all like genuine Roman ones. I also cannot prevent uninformed individuals overwriting my corrections to the pugio page on wikipedia.

There are plenty of pictures of genuine pugios to be found amongst postings here on RAT and you may also want to have a look at my drawing of the three types of sheaths which were in use in the mid first century AD here:
<!-- l <a class="postlink-local" href="">viewtopic.php?f=22&t=13523&start=40<!-- l

Have look at this link as well, where you can see pictures of a number of originals. Bear in mind that most of these are damaged in some way. Some are missing their terminals and a number are now without their suspension rings.

I would also suggest a look at my short article on the carriage of weapons in the first century AD, which can be found here:

It is true that daggers are not shown on Trajan's Column or the Adamklissi metopes but there is evidence from tombstones that they were still in use at that time. Archaeological evidence suggests that they may have been much less common throughout the second century AD but there is enough archaeological evidence to show that some soldiers were centainly carrying them throughout the second century AD. During the second century AD the form of the pugio changed somewhat, with the blade becoming somewhat larger, the shape of the pommel expansion changing, and the sheath design changing to a form similar to the form well known from third century AD contexts.

I hope this helps with your project.