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Full Version: Herculaneum sword, balteus, pugio on Pompeii exhibit
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I just had the opportunity to go to Chicago and see the Pompeii exhibit. The Herculaneum sword, pugio and belts are there, and there were a few things that are apparent or stated that I didn't know about the artifacts:

1. they're all silver
2. the pugio frogs are as big as the belt plates
3. there are plates attached by silver ropes running down the side of the scabbard: what are these? they're laying on top of the scabbard that appears to be normally decorated. The leather appears to be there and there is some wood showing.
4. the grip shows clearly in the exhibit, but the photo in the exhibit book is encrusted. The ridges on the black grip are deep and sharp.
5. contrary to the reproductions from Albion et al, the silver belt plates have ridges on the rolled edges. The rivets are large silver Frankenstein sized bolt heads
6. the pendants are fastened to the leather not by little rivets, but by medallions, about 1cm across
7. The two buckles are quite diffeent, one being very chunky in style.
8. there is a small bronze buckle, maybe the adjustment to the sword belt? embedded in the pugio scabbard.

I suspect the poor sod was mashed flat by the pyroclastic flow hitting him.
Other observations?
I did have a few photos that I snuck in, if anyone's interested and won't tell the Field museum..

Anyone else notice other aspects?

Grip
Pendants
buckles
Scabbard
Many thanks, Rich! Big Grin
And don't worry, we shan't tell it to anybody... :wink:

Aitor
"1. they're all silver"

I seem to remember the Elder Pliny mentioning that soldiers had tired of base metals and by his time were decorating their belts with silver. He was of course caught in the same pyroclasic flow (I think) as the Herculaneum soldier, meaning that they are exactly contemporanious.

"2. the pugio frogs are as big as the belt plates"

There are a few other examples this big, although most of those known are smaller.

"3. there are plates attached by silver ropes running down the side of the scabbard: what are these? they're laying on top of the scabbard that appears to be normally decorated."

I'm not clear on this. Are the plates part of the scabbard's decoration or are they belt plates. If they are belt plates I seem to remember reading somewhere a few years ago that the finials of type 'B' belt plates were connected to those of their neighbouring plates by wire which was passed around them. I'm not at home right now so I can't check the reference. If this was the case, could the silver ropes be largely decorative connecting wires?

"5. contrary to the reproductions from Albion et al, the silver belt plates have ridges on the rolled edges. The rivets are large silver Frankenstein sized bolt heads"

The finish of belt plates varies between examples. It probably depended on the regional style, the competence of the craftsman who made the plates and the amount of money spent on the plates.

"6. the pendants are fastened to the leather not by little rivets, but by medallions, about 1cm across"

Interesting. Do you have a better photo of this feature. I can't see it in the photo of the terminals in your link.

"7. The two buckles are quite diffeent, one being very chunky in style. "

A number of the 1st century Rhineland stelae show belts worn in non-matching pairs and some even show different plates on the same belt. A Mainz type sword from Vindonissa was found with the remains of a belt apparently wrapped around it and each of the five belt plates was different.
Here is a page from the article in Arma, showing the plates, an associated button and loop fastener and the remains of a small buckle.

[Image: belt.jpg]

The differing buckles of the Herculaneum soldier are probably an example of the same variety.

"8. there is a small bronze buckle, maybe the adjustment to the sword belt? embedded in the pugio scabbard."

I find this very interesting. There were two small buckles found with the Delos sword, corresponding to the two suspension rings, and the sword I mentioned from Vindonissa was found with the remains of the small buckle pictured above, which seemed too small to fit with the belt plates. This small buckle you mention seems to be a third example of a small buckle associated with a sword scabbard. The more of these I hear about, the more I am inclined to feel that sword scabbards may have been buckled onto their belts and baldrics rather than sewn into them. This might account for the near horizontal positions of a number of swords shown on Rhineland stelae.

Crispvs
3: they appear to be a belt of material of plates linked by silver stranded ropes, and this length is laying on top of the scabbard slightly askew. I seem to remember in the National Geographic painting of the soldier he's leading a horse: could this have been a part of the harness in silver? Maybe the horse landed on top of him.

6. I thought the medallions in the 'pendants' photo, look at the two at the left central, had similar medallion looking embossing. Maybe hard to tell as the corrosion is awful, but they seem to have a regular rim and something in the center.

8. this little buckle squashed into the pugio scabbard looks like nothing more than a lorica buckle; same cut and bent bronze sheet and tongue. Very cheap looking compared to everything else. I thought it could only be a part of the baldric, but then, why two belts? did the pugio suspension have an adjustment?