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The Abandonment of the Gladius for the Spatha - Why?
#31
Quote:As long as you are fighting with blunt swords and not any intention to hurt your opponent, you'll be able to be more sure of some conclusions but I maintain that you are not too different from the 'show-fighters'. That will always be the case when you're not using sharp weapons and aiming for a kill. I mean, it's still a hobby or science at best - not bloody survival as it would be if you were training for war, would it? It's that last step which nobody is (should be?) prepared to take.

I want to stress that we train in all sence as gentlemen and don´t try to kill eachother. We use aluminium or wooden waisters when wedo full contact. Have protectiv headgear and riotgloves. We try to have the mindset though of training for war or deadly combat but hope to have our sparringpartners on our flanks should it hapen we find ourselfs in a timemachinewarp an ends up in a medieval or ancient war. In full contact sparring we don´t hold back more than a soldier would in hard training in past times. Sometimes small injuries and bruises occur but most sessions don´t endthat way.

Back on topic. I agree that the crossguard would help. But I think (as I always do) that we are missing somethin techniquewise here. That the spatha is maybe more of a Roman version of the Rapier maybe?!? Why? It has a presence of this in my eyes, it reminds me of the much earlier bronsage "rapiers", and linger blades are often intended for more stabbing and slashing than a head on chop. The other reason is the gladius was a stabber (or so I heard and belive) and if the tradition is to stab why don´t stick with a good consept, even if the need for a longer blade is there. And the last is that the swinging of the sword is IMO a overrated princip ov all swordsmanship. According to Hanko Döbringers manual from the late 14th C one should use the thrust and drawcut each in the same degree as a chop, and this is longswords we talking about.

This is not somthing I can prove here in a forum by talking but something one needs to see, and I plan on giving you all examples later on (if I´m right Tongue ) in videos.

Thanks for a wonderful discussion so far.

Keep ém comming :lol:
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#32
I seem to recall sometime earler the fact was brought up that the late Roman army, especially the frontier troops, would have fought fewer battles formed up in formations, mostly responses to raids, and that the spatha, again, a more versatile weapon would have been useful. I think that this is probably one of the main reasons.

But I also think that the spatha reflected an entire change in Roman warfare. First, as has been already said, the shield changed. But also, something else happened. Armor became more substantial. Rather than the short-sleeved curiasses of the imperial period, the late legionary frequently wore full-sleeved hamata that became increasingly similar to a hauberk. The helmets also became more substantial. In the histories of Tranjan's Dacian wars, it was remarked that wounds to the face were common. But soon, you see huge helmets like the Von Gravert style, which almost completely encloses the face.

All of this probably contributed to the spatha being preferred over the spatha in this style of fighting.
-thanks for reading.

Sean
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#33
Quote: but hope to have our sparringpartners on our flanks should it hapen we find ourselfs in a timemachinewarp an ends up in a medieval or ancient war.

If I thought this was possible I would carry my firearm at all times!!

Antibiotics too! :lol:
Theodoros of Smyrna (Byzantine name)
aka Travis Lee Clark (21st C. American name)

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#34
Looking at pictures and reproductions of most spathas, they're nothing more than a gladius with a longer blade. However, they do tend to resemble early versions of the famed Norman Sword carried after 1000AD. Could it be possible that new developments in the defenses of Rome's enemies required a blade that was longer and heavier to deliver a stronger cut or slash into an opponent? The short sword was designed to be a thrusting sword, even with its restricted length; however, a spatha clearly looks like it was intended for hacking away at an opponent, the primary reason it was carried by the cavalry. Maybe the infantry units realized that instead of trying to get in close and stab their opponent they were much better off to just slash away and hope that the weight of the blade would be enough to incapacitate their opponent?

Just a thought, I'm no sword expert, but I think the longer reach and heavier cut was a must have for the Romans....

-Trey
Gaius Tertius Severus "Terti" / Trey Starnes

"ESSE QUAM VIDERE"
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#35
About increaded armour and more substantial helmets, there's a rub - the enemy may indeed have been armed more with these, but the main enemy of the Roman Empire already had that. I mean, when you look at the most armoured foe (Parthians and Persians) there were not many developments. And in civil wars, Romans were quite heavily armoured already.
Also, the later Roman armies tend to get less quality and quantity in armour. Some helmets are still closed (the Berkasovo series) but others are more open (the Intercisa series). That speaks agianst such a development. Also the enemy in Europe does not seem to be wearing all that more armour.

Therefore my bet is still on the battlefield development, somehow causing gladii to be less effective and spathae being the answer.
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#36
Like others have said I think there is a huge danger of overinterpreting changes that happened over a long time, like the move from shorter to longer swords. With that in mind, here are some ideas:

It's my understanding that some Roman cavalrymen and skirmishers, including "elite" skirmishers in the legion (mentioned in one of Ross Cowan's Osprey books), always used round shields. The oval or square shield was only really useful for heavy infantry fighting in formation, and in many other situations it was actually more of an encumbrance (like when on the march). The adoption of the round shield may thus have been a simple process of diffusion, perhaps speeded up by pitched battles becoming more rare.

(Diffusion happens all the time of course. For modern examples, look at how the average US infantryman in Iraq has picked up tons of special forces gear from 10-15 years ago like kneepads, carbines, rail attachments etc).

One can of course also speculate in a change in tactics occurring at the same time and for the same reasons. As I understand it the round shield is better for the skirmisher or cavalryman because it allows easier movement and better allaround protection when fighting in loose formations. Thus, if the role of the legionary shifted more towards force marching and chasing barbarians through the woods in open order than marching in columns and fighting in close formation, then the move towards a round shield (and, perhaps, different weapons) would be a logical result. With round shields already available to other troop types, the diffusion process would start quite easily (cf. the modern example above).

As for the swords, I'm inclined to speculate in diffusion again. Longer swords were available (as I understand it gladius length varied a lot to begin with), and over time people started picking up the longer swords. I don't really believe legionary fighting techniques or weapons were ever as stereotypical as some authors suggest. Probably there was always a good deal of variation, with professional legionaries even during the "classical" short-gladius era being able to use different weapons, formations and tactics as the situation required.

(BTW isn't "short sword" a bit of a misnomer for the gladius to begin with? As I understand it the blades could be up to 60 cm long, and that's hardly a short sword for a Roman who's maybe about 1,65-,170 m tall on average.)
Regards, Nicholas.
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#37
Pompeius

I think you have hit the nail on the head as I have seen the term semi-spatha bandied about.

The glaidius Hispaniesis was a develpement of a Cetlic type sword of a about 65cm in lenghth .... a cut and thrust sword. It was shortened to 55cm for Mainz/Fulham & Pompeii types ... in my view due to use of body armour making it possible to reduce scutum size and a preference for thrust over cut as this was best way in defeating spear armed Phalanx and wild tribesmen. This as Vorty says is a battlefield developement so we need to look for a similar reason for a move to the spatha. Could it be an increased need to deal with horsemen from foot .... i.e. spear and longer sword better than short sword ?

Has anyone doen a study of the mean/average lenghth of spathas? To me they seem to to vary in size and width an awful lot ?
Conal Moran

Do or do not, there is no try!
Yoda
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#38
Didn't the equipment of infantry and cavalry soldiers in general became increasingly similar during the 2nd century untill both were looking almost identical? (Niederbieber-helmet, mail-shirts without shoulderdoublings, oval shields, spear, spatha, long trousers)
--- My 3d reconstruction of a biremis: http://home.arcor.de/berzelmayr/bireme.html ---

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#39
Conal, you can find some basic information on average spatha dimensions in Bishop&Coulston, 1993, p. 126.

A short summary:

Ulbert has placed swords from the (late 2nd?) and 3rd century into two basic categories.

a) Straubing/Nydam = long and slim, blade length 65 to 80 cm (26 - 31 inches), max. width of ca. 4,4 cm (1 3/4 inches).

Length to breadth ratio 15-17 : 1.

a typical sword for cavalry ?

I have seen one of them at the Straubing museum, and they look rather like two-edged straight sabres than swords [I have got a few images - not very good, but if someone is interested, send me a pm].

b) Lauriacum/Hromowka = shorter and broader, blade length ca. 55,7-65,5 cm (22-26 inches), width 6,2-7,5 cm (2 1/2 - 3 inches).

Length to breadth ratio 8-12 : 1.

better suited for infantry ?

Cowan, R., 2003, Imperial Roman Legionary 161 - 284, Oxford (Osprey)p. 60 shows a nice drawing of different sword finds from bogs in Denmark. Some of the blades look totally different in shape, length, width, etc.


Now to give a contrast, a hellenistic gladius found at Jericho had a blade length of 76 cm, and an blade width of ca. 5,1-5,3 cm !

(cp. Stiebel, G.D., 2004, A Hellenistic Gladius from Jericho, in: Netzer, E., Hasmonean and Herodian Palaces at Jericho, Final Reports of the 1973-1987 Excavations, Vol. II, Jerusalem, 2004, pp. 229-232).

This is certainly not a short sword ! In fact, it was definitely longer than a number of swords from the 3rd century which we would call a spatha (although - as has been pointed out - their technical term was most likely still gladius).

On the other hand... there is a scene in 'The Golden Ass' by Apuleius, where a soldier loses his 'spatha' (not his 'gladius').
But I am more in with footwear, and don't know too much about swords.
Therefore...

Come ye experts, who love to describe swords, assist me here !!!
(= Caius and/or Sassanid, I know you have much more detailed information about swords than I have, can you help ?)
Florian Himmler (not related!)
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#40
Quote:The glaidius Hispaniesis was a develpement of a Cetlic type sword of a about 65cm in lenghth .... a cut and thrust sword.
Was it? I had heard it was an absolute thrust sword, with only later ones also cut swords.
_________________________________
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MODERATOR: Forum rules
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THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#41
Quote:Sounds to me as if the sword wasn't the primary arms in the formations any longer. Maybe the oval shield is a suggestion that the spear is the offensive weapon and the spatha is more of what they call an armingsword in medieval classification. A secondary tool to use when formation is broken or you find yourself in more of a man to man type of combat as in a skirmish or duell.

But wouldn't the fact that the sword got bigger and longer argue against it becoming a secondary weapon? It seems to me there is a general tendency throughout the ages for swords to get longer, culminating in the huge two-hand and one-and-a-half-hand swords that were introduced around 1300 after plate armour made the shield obsolete and freed both hands for using weapons.

The only time swords become shorter seems to be when they are definitely backup weapons, like the Katzbalger swords used by the German landsknechts or the smaller swords used by medieval archers.

Quote:I had heard it was an absolute thrust sword, with only later ones also cut swords.

I'm a bit sceptical about the entire idea of thrust-only swords. For one thing it seems terribly unpractical. It also seems there are very few examples, e.g. the medieval thrusting swords designed for piercing plate armour could also be used for thrusting.

The gladius seems to have acquired a reputation as a thrusting sword somehow, but how much evidence is there really that it wasn't always a cut and thrust sword? Cf. the persistent idea of calling the gladius a short sword even though it's in fact quite debatable if you look at blade length. Maybe the thrusting gladius is simply one of those old ideas that have gotten stuck somehow?
Regards, Nicholas.
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#42
Quote:But wouldn't the fact that the sword got bigger and longer argue against it becoming a secondary weapon? It seems to me there is a general tendency throughout the ages for swords to get longer, culminating in the huge two-hand and one-and-a-half-hand swords that were introduced around 1300 after plate armour made the shield obsolete and freed both hands for using weapons.

The only time swords become shorter seems to be when they are definitely backup weapons, like the Katzbalger swords used by the German landsknechts or the smaller swords used by medieval archers.

That is to simplefy it a little bit! And the spathae is still smaller than a spear!

Quote:I'm a bit sceptical about the entire idea of thrust-only swords. For one thing it seems terribly unpractical. It also seems there are very few examples, e.g. the medieval thrusting swords designed for piercing plate armour could also be used for thrusting.

I don´t follow you here ?!

Quote:The gladius seems to have acquired a reputation as a thrusting sword somehow, but how much evidence is there really that it wasn't always a cut and thrust sword? Cf. the persistent idea of calling the gladius a short sword even though it's in fact quite debatable if you look at blade length. Maybe the thrusting gladius is simply one of those old ideas that have gotten stuck somehow?

Of course you could chop with a gladius! But! I think it is more of a stabber than a striker.
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#43
Quote:The gladius seems to have acquired a reputation as a thrusting sword somehow, but how much evidence is there really that it wasn't always a cut and thrust sword? Cf. the persistent idea of calling the gladius a short sword even though it's in fact quite debatable if you look at blade length. Maybe the thrusting gladius is simply one of those old ideas that have gotten stuck somehow?

Now just to set this up, I know about as much about sword-fighting as I do about quantum mechanics. That' rear-covering qualifier out of the way, I have to say I couldn't agree more with the above.

Fencing today is all-about thrusting, yet the foils is thin and sharp. Doesn't that describe the spatha and not the Gladius? Likewise when you butcher a chicken you want a big heavy wide blade for chopping, and a thin knife for carving.

A gladius seems like a glorified meat cleaver to me, meant to sunder fingers from hands and limbs from bodies. I can't imagine trying to perry and thrust with the thing, but that's just me.

Travis
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#44
Quote:
Quote:A gladius seems like a glorified meat cleaver to me, meant to sunder fingers from hands and limbs from bodies. I can't imagine trying to perry and thrust with the thing, but that's just me.

I disagree!

If you look at the early gladii they are more of a large dagger. The long point is for stabbing. The Pompeii could with some imagination be a used to do a strike, but it is also still mainly a stabbingweapon.

Strikes and swinging is possible to do when you are in loose formation or in man to man combat. In closed formations you don´t have room to swing about. And if you have room to do that you want a longer sword. The tip speed is going to be higher and therefor a more powerful hit. Still the blade on a spathae also mostly a thrusting one. Strikes and swinging is I think quite over estimated in swordplay and especially in ancient times. The swinging is a thing from theatre fencing that has been over exposed in films. This is a thing I always has to struggle with when I get new students in my ARMA studygroup.

Martin
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#45
Quote:Strikes and swinging is I think quite over estimated in swordplay and especially in ancient times. The swinging is a thing from theatre fencing that has been over exposed in films. This is a thing I always has to struggle with when I get new students in my ARMA studygroup.

Martin

I' guess I'll have to trust you on this one, as I said, I'm no expert, but I just can't see it.

Seems we need two re-enactors with death-wish to settle the matter.
Theodoros of Smyrna (Byzantine name)
aka Travis Lee Clark (21st C. American name)

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