Full Version: Republican era pugio suspension
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Hello, I am aiming for a Late Republican era impression, somewhere around the Gallic Wars, maybe earlier. I have a question/issue about pugio suspension. I have seen an image of a Roman soldier, possibly centurion carrying his pugio horizontally. Most reenactor impressions I see have their pugio vertical. With the pugio that I have, I have to carry it horizontally, because of the way the rings are, unless I thread a cord through the small hole that you can see in the image to hang it vertically. I have made my suspension straps so that it hands at more of a diagonal to keep the pugio from slipping out if I bend over. Does this look o.k., or should it be higher up, or vertical?

The best evidence I know of for the suspension system of a pugio in the Late Republic is the so-called Padua Centurion, probably killed during the Civil Wars of the 40s. He does have this somewhat unwieldy frontal horizontal suspension.

Here is an actual photo off the interwebs:
That's the image I was referring to. It almost looks like it is tied to the belt with some sort of woven strap.
Unfortunately, we do not know how the straps / bands around Minucius Lorianus' uniquely horizontal pugio should be interpreted. All we can say with any certainty is that the pugio is suspended horizontally somehow. The most likely way is by using the two suspension rings on one side, but that is supposition and it is worth noting that on surviving sheaths of the first century AD the lower pair of suspension rings appear to have consistently remained unused. Minucius' pugio may equally be held in place by the visible straps - but if so we don't know how. Sorry that that is not much help.

It would probably be better to attach it vertically to your belt, as this is what was done later and we also know that the Iberian warriors who originally carried the pugio often wore it vertically as well. If you do this though, please do not use the short leather straps you may have seen other re-enactors using (and which you are using on your current arrangement). They are a modern assumption which runs against the surviving evidence, which shows the upper suspension rings of pugio sheaths to have been positioned on the line of the belt with the frog buttons so close to them as to touch. They were probably attached with tightly tied leather thonging and would have been quite steady with little movement or rattling.

On the matter of the arrangement of the suspension rings on your own sheath, I am afraid I must deliver some bad news. Your sheath is based on a well known drawing of the iron frame sheath found at Titelberg. However, reading the report on the Titelberg sheath and looking at the clear drawings contained in the report, it is clear that this drawing is wrong and that the sheath in question actually had the normal arrangement of four suspension rings attached by loops to the sheath. Two of the suspension loops have been lost but the marks left where they were attached are still visible. Both of the remaining suspension loops on the Titelberg sheath have been formed from narrow extensions of the cross hangers, which extend from one end and then pass around to be riveted to the back, enclosing the suspension ring. The other two suspension loops were made from short strips of iron which were bent around and riveted to the iron side guttering of the sheath, each enclosing a suspension ring. Both these latter loops and the suspension rings they retained are now missing, as mentioned above. The pierced lug which has erroneously been included on your sheath (obviously based on the inaccurate drawing mentioned above) is in the position of one of the missing suspension loops.

Here is a rather poor photograph of one of the drawings from the report, showing front (on the left) and back views.


Crispvs, thanks for the info. When I get a bit more experience maybe I can make some modifications to this sheath to make it correct. I am a fair hand at sewing and leatherwork,,,but not so much with metal. For now I will suspend it vertically though.
Why did sheaths have several rings, when they only used two? Always baffled me...

For pugio, gladius, everything.
Mark, that as going to be my next question!
Quote:Why did sheaths have several rings, when they only used two? Always baffled me...

For pugio, gladius, everything.
Perhaps individual preference?
I repositioned the pugio vertically and tied it tight with cords like Crispvs said, that thing is on there tight with little to no wiggle, very secure. I like it.
Good to hear it worked well for you.

"Perhaps individual preference?"

No - it is far more likely that it was because the Romans had a very conservative culture and were very traditionally minded. The Iberians they had originally adopted the pugio from seem to have suspended it in a variety of ways, making use of some or all of the suspension rings.

The Romans, by contrast, (by the time of the Battle of Pydna at least, to judge by the sculptural evidence) seem to have felt it best to hang it vertically from the waist. To do this they only needed to use the upper pair of rings, but because of their doggedly traditional mindset, they continued to produce sheaths in the same basic form as the Iberian originals, with four rings. That some at least of the workshops producing them knew already that the lower rings would be left unused is shown unequivocally by the Velson sheath, which had upper suspension rings made of iron, which were quite worn from usage, and lower suspension rings of silver, which though far softer (and thus more susceptible to wear) than the iron rings, were apparently entirely unworn from use.