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Spatha/Pugio and the 4th/5th C Germanic Warrior
Wassail!.Having recently opened a debate with a compatriot over an old argument i was told that a Germanic Warrior,c400C.E could not have worn a 3rd Century C.E Spatha and Pugio.Is that opinion valid?,i put forward the notion of"heirloom pieces"but it did'nt stick,so,who is correct on this point?,and why?,if anybody has an answer please post it as it's driving me dafter than i already am :? .
Iain Victory is Mine..stewie griffin
I say that the 3rd c spatha is very possible to own for a wealthy household. To wear for the purposes of battle.... that part I question and would be very case specific. If it was an heirloom piece it would be treasured and intended to be passed down and risked as little as possible. It better be one hell of a battle to risk losing or damaging such a piece. Plus the longer used, more sharpened etc. the less life the blade is likely to have in the future. One doesn't risk treasured items often and odds are that if you're wealthy enough to keep treasured swords from the past instead of wearing them out you probably own one or more swords you could use alternately.

Now the pugio I find more unlikely since it is less likely to have the "heirloom" status as the spatha and would probably was discarded once it stopped being fashionable and wore out. I haven't seen anything indicating that the older style pugio had the same nostalgia we view it with during those times. It was a utilitarian piece and unlikely to have been set aside for safekeeping unless it had some special meaning other than purely its design.
Derek D. Estabrook
Thanks Ironhand Smile D ).
Iain Victory is Mine..stewie griffin
I wouldn´t use a 3rd c CE spatha or Künzing daggerfor an impression of around 400 A.D.
For the spath in combination with a Künzing dagger we have a fabrication terminus post quem non of in the best case 259/60 CE but probably earlier (Künzing from where the youngest known example derives). That would mean that the pieces would have been passed down for some 140 years at least. In generations this means 4.6 at that time. Quite improbable.
Two other factors come in:
- There are no findings of weapons of that type from around 400 CE
- Swords were comparatively rare among the Germanic tribes, so the piece, even if a heirloom, it would most certainly have been worked over to fit the contemporary taste in decoration / handle, hilt etc.
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.


[Image: BannerAER-1-1.jpg]
I am with Christian on this one.

Even if I were to buy the "heirloom" theory, it would mean that the pieces would never be anywhere near an event, except one based around one with houses (where such an important piece would be stored, of course, as it would be of no practical use whatsoever and therefore noone would be wearing/carrying it ) :twisted:
Andreas Riegel
Quote:I say that the 3rd c spatha is very possible to own for a wealthy household.

Swords were rarely used as 'something to hang on the wall'. A wealthy man's sword was either used in battle (and I would suggest that it would not survive 140 years of such use) or it was put in his grave for him to use in the Otherworld. If passed to his son (possible) the two above would apply - for a sword to be left unused for 140 years would be extremely improbably in a Heroic society.

For a common warrior, a sword was something to use in battle. it would be a gift from his lord, to be handed back after he fell or died, not his posession and therefore not automatically handed to his son. Such a sword would even be less likely to survive a 140 years.

My conclusion would be - no, best not use this for a 5th c. warrior impression.
Robert Vermaat
FECTIO Late Romans
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Although I tend to agree with the others that it is fairly unlikely that a sword would survive that long, it is not impossible.

We know that some high status items were passed through many generations, e.g. the rich Germanic grave in Musov which is dated to the last quarter of the 2nd century AD contained Campanian silver ware produced around 0 AD, if I remember correctly.

Also, there is some evidence on the use of special "parade" swords in the form of graves containing two swords of which one is often markedly more elaborate that the other (Silistra comes to mind, but the exhibition catalogue on the Huns exhibition in Worms last year also contained a few later Hunnic/Germanic examples).

On the other hand a dagger would hardly be considered a treasured heirloom and I am not aware of any evidence that the Germans used it at all.

Jens Horstkotte
Munich, Germany
Hi All,

Don't forget that the power and prestiege of an heirloom sword would have come, in part at least IMO, from the 'deeds' that blade had performed - I agree it would not hang on the wall but would be brandished and the warrior would probably pronounce the lineage of the blade (with the intended message of 'I can't possibly lose, my blade is better (and more 'experienced') than yours and you are going to be it's next victim. Run away now if you don't want to be added to the list of its victims' - I love the idea of the flyting with every warrior who had something to say about their weapon coming forward and declaiming its lineage - now that would have been something to witness - but I digress).

The blades in myth from Excaliber to Tolkein's Glamdring etc have their origin in a real tradition of naming (heirloom) weapons - and by naming any weapon, it is given power. The tradition of taking the blade or weapons of a victim on the battle field would also add to such a lineage 'this is the sword taken from ... and used to smite ...' etc' So no, they wouldn't sit on the wall - nor would they last 140 years of use (we shouldn't envisage the scenario 'this is the sword who killed so-and-so you have never heard of and it hasn't done anything since' and of course some could be buried with the man who earned them or who performed the deeds for which the blade was known.

If you are determined to give your impression a 3rd C Spatha and pugio you could create a myth for your spatha. Your 5th C warrior could have found it in a grave (disturbed by someone else so as not to make him a grave-robber :wink: ) and then (given its state of preservation because it had been buried 'relatively' recently) used it himself. Perhaps too fictional for a 'historical' impression but I'd buy it if a 5th century Germanic warrior told me the story of how he came by his unusual sword and the deeds it had performed since.

Well, that turned into a little rant. sorry about that.


Murray K Dahm


\'\'\'\'No matter how many you kill, you cannot kill your successor\'\'\'\' - Seneca to Nero - Dio 62

\'\'\'\'There is no way of correcting wrongdoing in those who think that the height of virtue consists in the execution of their will\'\'\'\' - Ammianus Marcellinus 27.7.9
Jens, Murray,

I do not disagree with yyou, but I guess we all agree that such 'long-lived' swords were something very special and very rare?

NOT something for an ordinary warrior to hang from his belt, but only fit for a king or to be carried around at special occasions?

The original question was not for something special like that, but about a common warrrior's posession.
Robert Vermaat
FECTIO Late Romans
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Thanks guys,i see your point,anyone interested in a couple of weapons going cheap? Sad P .
Iain Victory is Mine..stewie griffin
You have my respect, a decision like this is something You rarely see in our hobby.
Andreas Riegel
Japanese officers in WWII sometimes carried ancestral swords into battle in 20th century gunto mounts. They were often given by family members who hoped the blade would bring the young man luck in battle. I once asked a Japanese friend who is of samurai ancestry (Minamoto ancestry, in fact), why people would put an ancestral sword at such risk. He said,"What is even a great sword, compared to the life of a son?"
Pecunia non olet
Many thanks indeed Andreas,it's very nice of you to say so Big Grin .
Iain Victory is Mine..stewie griffin
I agree that a 3rd century pugio would be very unlikely to be used. Even more unlikely is a seax. We don't see such large knives around until the early 7th century in the UK. Carrying such a thing is a typical re-enactorism.

But the Germanic type 1 hilt was around from the 3rd-early 8th century. Individual hilt fittings would have worn out. Blades could have very very very long life spans. But the basic form of hilt is around 500 years. Just go for a simple type 1 with an organic hilt, and make sure the scabbard fittings are kept basic.

Give the sword a story if you wish. But I would have no problem with such a hilt shape being used in the 3rd or 5th century.
John Conyard


A member of Comitatus Late Roman
Reconstruction Group

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"Any pictures of the sword and pugio if your getting rid of them?", asked the vulture? Smile
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel

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