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The Abandonment of the Gladius for the Spatha - Why?
#46
Quote:
Martin Wallgren:2kjkl5id Wrote: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.

Hehe! Well could be!

Here we try to do it one or two steps less bloody. Padded weapons or wooden and good protection on vital areas of the body. Groin and face protection, and the full out fighting! Alot changes by just a little thing as being subject to attacs directly aimed at the face. But this is not the tread to talk about it. I will get examples up in a near future with videoclips and stuff.

Stay tuned!

Thanks again for a great discussion.

Martin
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#47
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 parry and thrust with the thing, but that's just me.

You weren’t really supposed to parry with the sword, which was way too brittle and expensive. The shield was there for parrying and absorbing blows.

Quote:Strikes and swinging is I think quite over estimated in swordplay and especially in ancient times.

I dunno. I realize there is a tradition of viewing the gladius as primarily a stabbing weapon and the Roman legionary as scientifically trained to always stab in preference of slashing, but I find it a bit hard to believe.

For one thing the slash or cut is the most natural and instinctive way of wielding a sword. It also offers more reach than a thrust, especially if you’re using a shield and can’t lunge like a fencer does. Reach is of course a very good thing in combat, when I presume even a trained soldier is instinctively trying not to get too close to an opponent who is wielding an equally sharp instrument.

I just don’t buy the entire idea about the legionary as a robotic stabbing machine in combat. Besides, the slash is also the attack of choice when cutting someone down from behind (which is how most ancient warriors probably died, i.e. during the pursuit) and for a cavalryman.

Quote:Fencing today is all about thrusting, yet the foils is thin and sharp. Doesn't that describe the spatha and not the gladius?

A spatha may be thinner than a gladius, but it’s not thin in the sense of a fencing sword!

I actually believe fencing may have something to do with the fascination about thrusting legionaries. The key move in fencing is the lunging thrust, which is superior to slashing because it allows the fencer to pinpoint the strike and uses the legs for power. Fencing, however, was developed late in history. In fact it was developed when swords were already being relegated to secondary status on the battlefield in the 15/1600s.

Fighting with a shield and a heavier sword on the battlefield is a totally different thing from fencing, and a move like the lunge exposes the attacker far too much and also assumes that you can use the sword to quickly parry a counterattack. With a heavier sword, like most battle swords throughout history, this is simply not possible and the footwork required isn’t possible either if you’re wearing armour.

This was kind of longwinded, but I suspect (with no concrete evidence to back it up) that the mental image of fencing and its preference for the thrust may have influenced our perception of older fighting techniques. Wild speculation on my part of course, but it wouldn’t be the first time it happened.

Goldsworthy, for example, explains how historians have interpreted the Roman rank system to fit with that of their own country: German historians assumed lots of NCO ranks because that’s how the German army did it in the late 1800s and early 1900s, British historians saw the centurions as having the same important role as their NCOs because that’s how the British army does it, etc.

There's also the fact that the actual mechanics of combat in the medieval and other areas have been poorly understood (and probably still are; witness the continued debates over the role of the longbow or mounted knights), so it's hard to make comparisons with other "relevant" eras. When dealing with so precious little evidence as there usually is in an ancient context, it’s very easy to over interpret or go off on the wrong tangent.

Quote:…e.g. the medieval thrusting swords designed for piercing plate armour could also be used for thrusting.

Quote:I don´t follow you here ?!

Sorry, a typo on my part. What I meant was that even the medieval thrusting swords that were designed specifically for piercing plate armour (which was impervious to cuts) could also be used for cutting, they were just better at stabbing than other swords.

My point was that dedicated stabbing swords seem to be very rare throughout history, and my guess (this post is full of them) is that a sword that isn’t general-purpose is fairly impractical on the battlefield. So it’s part of my questioning of the stabbing gladius hypothesis.

Anyway, this post is full of guesswork and ramblings so go ahead and shoot it down. Smile
Regards, Nicholas.
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#48
Yeah, I don't buy the "stab only" theory about the gladius either. Given it's size it would make for one heck of a butcher's weapon, and given the opportunity to slash an opponent, was the legionary supposed to pass it by and wait for a chance to stab instead? Given the fortuitous instances that actual combat would present for a slash, why wouldn't it be part of their training regime?

Oh, I know...there's no solid evidence for it, but what else is new?
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#49
Salvete.
This is an interesting thread with
enough parrying for any swordsman.

I probably have no business in
this discussion but to me it seems
that swords meant mostly for slashing
have a rounder point,i.e. Viking or Celtic/Gallic swords.
As plate armor came into being, swords seem to
get longer and more pointed so as to exploit
small openings in the armor.
I would guess that the gladius was meant to
be an all purpose sword.Short enough for
carrying on foot,wide for slashing,pointy
for stabbing.
If I lacked armor I would want to be as far away from the
enemy as possible.A long slashing sword would do this.
If heavily armed(body armor,large shield) I could get in close.
Smile
Andy Booker

Gaivs Antonivs Satvrninvs

Andronikos of Athens
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#50
That´s not long from the truth, man!

But I am ready to prove my point (hehe) in sparring anytime. In a safe way for both partisipants of course. But trust me I am training two to three days aweek with different swords and I can say that trusting and drawcuts is about 75% of the winning attacks with any sword with a point that can stab.

In my experience!
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#51
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 parry and thrust with the thing, but that's just me.

You weren’t really supposed to parry with the sword, which was way too brittle and expensive. The shield was there for parrying and absorbing blows.

I agree. If one have to use a blade to defend yourself, do a displacement. Don´t block static or chop into the other weapon. Deflect in so the opponents weapond glides of your blade and keep agression and counterattack. Use all means you got, kick hit with the shield or secondary weapon. And one thing many inexperienced fighter often forget is to movement and fottwork. Don´t come in in a straight line. Imagine that you have a clock under your feet with 12 in the direktion of your opponent. Move in between 1 and 2 on the right or 10 and 11 on the left.

Quote:
Quote:Strikes and swinging is I think quite over estimated in swordplay and especially in ancient times.

I dunno. I realize there is a tradition of viewing the gladius as primarily a stabbing weapon and the Roman legionary as scientifically trained to always stab in preference of slashing, but I find it a bit hard to believe.

For one thing the slash or cut is the most natural and instinctive way of wielding a sword. It also offers more reach than a thrust, especially if you’re using a shield and can’t lunge like a fencer does. Reach is of course a very good thing in combat, when I presume even a trained soldier is instinctively trying not to get too close to an opponent who is wielding an equally sharp instrument.

For us who have seen it done in that way in movies all our life, yes. However a friend of mine, Peter Johnson who is a swordsmith, headdisgner on Albion Swords and one of the leading researchers on swords in the world, said to me that one of the big mistakes people make when they think of swords is that it is a sharpened metal club when it rather is a prolonged spearhead with a shortened shaft.

Quote:I just don’t buy the entire idea about the legionary as a robotic stabbing machine in combat. Besides, the slash is also the attack of choice when cutting someone down from behind (which is how most ancient warriors probably died, i.e. during the pursuit) and for a cavalryman.
Why is it the attack of choice! A stab is more likely to kill, it goes deeper generally.

Quote:Fencing today is all about thrusting, yet the foils is thin and sharp. Doesn't that describe the spatha and not the gladius?

Quote:
A spatha may be thinner than a gladius, but it’s not thin in the sense of a fencing sword!

I actually believe fencing may have something to do with the fascination about thrusting legionaries. The key move in fencing is the lunging thrust, which is superior to slashing because it allows the fencer to pinpoint the strike and uses the legs for power. Fencing, however, was developed late in history. In fact it was developed when swords were already being relegated to secondary status on the battlefield in the 15/1600s.

Well, what about the very early bronzesword without tang that at least Eward Oakeshott thought of as pure stabbing swords. They are actually clled "Rapiers" if I´m not mistakend.

Quote:Fighting with a shield and a heavier sword on the battlefield is a totally different thing from fencing, and a move like the lunge exposes the attacker far too much and also assumes that you can use the sword to quickly parry a counterattack. With a heavier sword, like most battle swords throughout history, this is simply not possible and the footwork required isn’t possible either if you’re wearing armour.

I disagree! It is quite the same. It is the sidestepping that is the key.

Quote:This was kind of longwinded, but I suspect (with no concrete evidence to back it up) that the mental image of fencing and its preference for the thrust may have influenced our perception of older fighting techniques. Wild speculation on my part of course, but it wouldn’t be the first time it happened.

It is healthy to speculate and it is good for the development of the mind. It is also good to chalenge old doctrines.

Quote:Goldsworthy, for example, explains how historians have interpreted the Roman rank system to fit with that of their own country: German historians assumed lots of NCO ranks because that’s how the German army did it in the late 1800s and early 1900s, British historians saw the centurions as having the same important role as their NCOs because that’s how the British army does it, etc.

Doesn´t sound unlikley. My angle is from the practisioner of Western Martial Arts though, based on manuals from the 13th, 14th, and 15 century.

Quote:There's also the fact that the actual mechanics of combat in the medieval and other areas have been poorly understood (and probably still are; witness the continued debates over the role of the longbow or mounted knights), so it's hard to make comparisons with other "relevant" eras. When dealing with so precious little evidence as there usually is in an ancient context, it’s very easy to over interpret or go off on the wrong tangent.

you could be right, but I think we who do practise WMA is closer than one who don´t.

Quote:…e.g. the medieval thrusting swords designed for piercing plate armour could also be used for thrusting.

Quote:I don´t follow you here ?!

Quote:
Sorry, a typo on my part. What I meant was that even the medieval thrusting swords that were designed specifically for piercing plate armour (which was impervious to cuts) could also be used for cutting and stabbing, they were just better at stabbing than other swords.

No worries!

Quote:My point was that dedicated stabbing swords seem to be very rare throughout history, and my guess (this post is full of them) is that a sword that isn’t general-purpose is fairly impractical on the battlefield. So it’s part of my questioning of the stabbing gladius hypothesis.

Anyway, this post is full of guesswork and ramblings so go ahead and shoot it down. Smile

I think we agree on that it is multipurpose we are discussing here. I just say Thrusting was more common than people think! Of cource warrior did slash! But they did not only do that, and a gladius and a spathae is ment to be thrusted into somebody else, but they still hur alot if you strike with it.
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#52
Ok Martin,

We are at an impasse, seems we need the videos.

When can we see them?

Travis
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aka Travis Lee Clark (21st C. American name)

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#53
Quote:Ok Martin,

We are at an impasse, seems we need the videos.

When can we see them?

Travis

Well. I have a few I can send to you on medieval fighting already. But due to half a meter snow and harsch weather we haven´t filmed anything on the roman fighting yet.

Is there something special you are interessted in seeing?

As I can make a few vids this weekend and have them ready to send on demand next week, but it will be filmed with a cellphone Wink Haven´t got a real handycam personaly so more "professional" vids have to wait untill later.

We are going to have a gathering in April in Uppsala (500km from my location) that will involve bigger groupfighting and I gonna insist on some testing of our training. This is going to be a ARMA meeting so don´t expect good kit, we fight in modern trainingclothes mostly.

Thanks for the interesst!


Quote:We are at an impasse

BTW, exuce my poor english, not my native language, whats an impasse?

Martin
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#54
Martin,

April will be fine, so don't hurry, but I will want to see them.

Quote:We are at an impasse

BTW, exuce my poor english, not my native language, whats an impasse?

Martin[/quote]

Well my Great Grandfather & Grandfather were Lassons, straight off the boat from Sweden so I should be apologizing for not knowing Swedish! That and I married a Johnson who's also mostly Swedish, so I have even more reason to know it.

'Impasse' means we can't come to an agreement or understanding, specifically an impasse is an obstacle in a path or road.

Basically I was saying we all have different opinions and assumptions and no empirical evidence. So we need the videos, but we can wait til April.

Thanks again,

Travis
Theodoros of Smyrna (Byzantine name)
aka Travis Lee Clark (21st C. American name)

Moderator, RAT

Rules for RAT:
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#55
may or may not be relevant, but a vietnam veteran who served in the special forces once lectured me on knife fighting. From what I gather he really greatly preferred the thrust because it puts the enemy out of action quick and for good, of course this is with a knife, not a sword, so probably not the same idea.
aka., John Shook
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#56
Quote:may or may not be relevant, but a vietnam veteran who served in the special forces once lectured me on knife fighting. From what I gather he really greatly preferred the thrust because it puts the enemy out of action quick and for good, of course this is with a knife, not a sword, so probably not the same idea.

Intressting. I think it has a common ground. IMO it is relevant but thats me!

Salve Travis!

Thanks and of course I will give you videos.

Ha en bra dag Mannen! (have a nice day, man!)

Martin
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#57
idem to the spatha... There are no abandonment rather an come back for infantry if we compare with the late républican blades. But to the causes, honnestly I don't know... (just one or two idéa but nothing serious...)
Paulus Claudius Damianus Marcellinus / Damien Deryckère.

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#58
Greetings,
....would the Spartha have been adopted as the Roman army was moving more into using cavalry and skirmish tactics than marching legions...?
If all soldiers were armed with a cavalry sword they were also more adaptable in the roles they played and also the Spartha had a longer reach if the fighting was becoming more independant of the shield line up.
regards
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#59
Well,

I have been a lurker on Roman Army Talk for awhile but never posted before. I've found this particular thread so provocative that I had to register so that I could post.

Although I don't want to describe myself as an expert on ancient Roman martial practice I do know something about swordplay, in that I have been studying and teaching it for 35 years. I've always had a particular interest in studying ancient and Medieval forms as well as more modern ones.

Regarding the Gladius and it's use, I believe it's form was greatly influenced by the close formation tactics that were praticed by the legionaries. A shorter weapon could be wielded both in cutting and thrusting with less chance of inadvertently striking the comrades that were literally fighting at your sides and possibly also from behind you. It also encourages you to close a couple of feet nearer to your enemy once he gets to his longer effective striking range. The tactics and dynamics of efficient melee weapon use on the battlefield would have to have been greatly effected by the types of weapons used.

Looking at ranges, the pilum could be thrown some distance from formation, a bit further if the thrower could make a running throw. The heavier forms could also be thrown at need, and while not having as much range would have greater penetrative power. The light pilum makes a pretty effective battlefield melee weapon wielded one-handed in line formations. I wonder if in fact more use was sometimes made of them for melee fighting in formation than gladii (is that the correct plural form?). Certainly the gladius cannot reach as far in melee as a spear, and of course a spear or pilum would not normally be swung around, as a sword might.

The problem with larger swung weapons such as clubs, large bladed swords, axes, etc. (weapons often used by Rome's enemies) is that their use, it seems to me, tends to lend itself more to open formations of fighting men, not close packed ranks. In combat then, the Romans could often confront their foes with more Romans per front line foot than their enemies could effectively manage. And if their enemies did pack in too tightly they would often diminish the effectiveness of their own larger swung weapons.

My thoughts on the abandonment of the gladius for longer bladed swords is that perhaps their field tactics had changed to where their units more often fought in open order or in skirmish order than they typically did in the earlier period of the gladius. I'm not saying they abandoned close formations, but I expect they made as much (or more) use of the spear as the spatha when they did fight that way, and when the spatha was used in close ranks it would be primarily to thrust, not to cut.

Regarding the use of the sword, whether spatha or gladius, thrusting would be very effective. A thrusting hit could be 'quickly developed' by twisting and levering it in the wound in order to greatly increase the damage done. Cuts with the gladius or spatha would have less of a chance of immediately incapacitating an opponent. Some common forms of gladii, the Fulham and Pompeii, had rather narrow short blades, ill suited for cuts against an armored foe. The Mainz pattern, although short, was a bit wider and probably cut noticeably better as a result. The Hispaniensis pattern gladius was longer (although not typically broader) and posessed good edge geometry for slicing cuts in that it's edge smoothly arced from point of ideal percussion to tip. It should therefore have cut better.

Now with cuts there are different ways to strike with the blade. The common Hollywood style we are so used to seeing is a kind of chopping cut, almost like swinging a handaxe. It has a concussive effect somewhere around the middle of the fore-edge but doesn't make very efficient use of the edge. Hollywood uses it because it's less likely to slip off a choreographed parry unintentionally. If an enhanced penetrative effect is really what you want it might be better to swing and strike with the tip. This potentially maximizes reach and penetration and may be practiced such that it may initially look like a cut but develop as a thrust. Of course footwork and body english would have a lot to do with it, too, but that's a separate issue. A better way to cut is to swing powerfully and simultaneously slice with the edge by drawing the blade in toward you at the moment of impact. The ideal point of impact, depending on the architecture of the blade, is usually about a third of the way down from the tip. The edge from that point of percussion to the tip is what really can slice open an opponent or even lop off a limb. On shorter blades this most effective part of the edge is more limited. Also, and at least as important, the physical power of a cut is potentially MUCH greater with a longer and heavier blade. In brief, a shorter blade does not posess the potential cutting power of a longer blade of similar width and thickness. But it can be just as deadly in a thrust if it hits.

Sharp steel cutting practice on various types of targets can be very instructive in these techniques. I recommend it.

While skirmishing on foot man to man in open order I would prefer the spatha to the gladius. Those few extra inches of blade length can make a big difference in the fight dynamic; this difference being somewhat mitigated if both parties bore shields and knew how to use them in open order.

I think I would also select spatha and shield over a spear and shield if skirmishing against an opponent using a spear and shield. Of course, I've far more experience with swords than with spears. What do you fellows think?
David Glaeser

[size=75:1dd4unk4]"Si vis pacem, para bellum." -- Flavius Vegetius Renatus[/size]
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#60
Quote:Although I don't want to describe myself as an expert on ancient Roman martial practice I do know something about swordplay

The question however, is how much do you know about light sabers?
:wink:

Seriously - Great post!

Thanks

Travis
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aka Travis Lee Clark (21st C. American name)

Moderator, RAT

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