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Source Example[edit]

I removed the number 1 source for the Gladius Hispaniensis because it opened to a "file not found" screen, and renamed the other two as no. 1 & 2 respectively. Spartan198 (talk) 11:13, 24 May 2008 (UTC) Spartan198


Modern Gladius

The picture seen on the right used to be on this page. However, comparing it with the pictures in the external links, the proportions are totally wrong - this is a knife, not a sword. It is also inscribed with what appears to be Tengwar. I think it's better to have no picture than a misleading one, but in case someone disagrees I'm preserving it here. --Andrew 21:57, Apr 10, 2005 (UTC)

I don't think anyone will disagree with you there. Any way besides replicas there are no (functional) modern Gladii so no mention of them is needed. Robrecht 01:49, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Tengwar - IBYP!? The inscription is "700 Jahre eidgenossenschaft". At the base of the blade, there is also the emblem of the Swiss Confederation (i.e. Eidgenossenschaft). "Jahre" means "years", so this was obviously crafted for the 700th anniversary of the SC in 1991. The one thing we can agree on is that this is, of course, not a Gladius. Aragorn2 12:42, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

This is actually a traditional Swiss dagger. It was mistaken for a gladius, but clearly is not one. Rama 13:19, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

Indeed it is a Swiss dagger. Initially it was designed by Hans Holbien and it was popular with the Swiss Pikemen. Later it was copied by the Third Reich.

Horizontal blade[edit]

The blade was held flat, relative to the ground, so as to slip through ribs or ribbed armor

I have serious doubts about this claim. Stabbing was the main tactic of Roman legionaries, but sources and depictions show that gladii were also used for slashing which would have been awkward with a blade held horizontally. Furthermore the Romans favourite target was the stomach were there are no ribs to worry about; as for vertically segmented armour, that was mostly carried by themselves and there was relatively little legionary vs legionary combat in the imperial period. This tactic could of course have been used in certain situations, but the article seems to suggest it was the standard method of a Roman legionary.

I've been wondering about this myself. It would be nice if the original poste would add a source, but unfortunately they were anonymous and thus far have not responded to the request I put on their talk page. --Iustinus 19:50, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

I understood it to be held with the blade vertically, so that a failed thrust could be followed by a downward chop. It would also fit more easily between a formation's shields. I've never heard this horizontal bit before and suggest it be changed unless a cite is forthcoming. --Michael Z. Williamson

Note on origin[edit]

I thought that the Gladius was derived from improvements on the greek short leaf patter sword of whose name I am temporarily ignorant. The article suggests that the Gladius was derived from the CeltIberian long sword. I believe that this is factually incorrect because the CeltIberian long sword was the basis for the spatha not the gladius. The spatha being of course the longer, slashing weapon carried by the later legions of the empire on campaigns such as Emperor Valens and his tragedy at Adrianople in the early fifth century. I am simply wondering as to the historical accuracy of stating that the Gladius was derived from the CeltIberian long sword. -Gaius

The gladius, based on the consensus of most major researchers in this field, was most likely derived from the Iberian "gladius hispaniensis" in the 3rd to early 2nd centuries BCE, during the First or Second Punic War against Carthage. The Romans even retained the name "gladius hispaniensis" which is a clear indication of where they adopted it from. Initially it was fairly long, but as time progressed it became shorter as the legions developed into a professional body. However, by the 4th Century CE they had changed to the longer spatha. Perhaps you are thinking of even earlier swords which were shorter than the "gladius hispaniensis"?
As for that fantasy sword to the right of this page, you can discount it completely.
- Jim

Perphaps the gladius was derived from the short sword carried by the hoplites as a side arm. Unfourtunately the name currently escapes me but the general dimensions are very similar. Furthermore, as the greeks colonized both Iberia and Italy, I believe that it makes sense that the gladius was patterned of the early grecian sword pattern. I suggest the romans adopted the pattern from the Celtiberians, who had aquired the pattern from the greek colonies in cletic territory(Marsailles). The Celts were certainly among the best metalurgists of thier age, and it would by no means a stretch to accept that the Celts could have taken the Greek pattern and transmogrified it into the longsword like blade of the 3rd and 4th century BC. Jim mentioned that the pattern was of course associated with the punic wars. Naturally this makes sense because the Carthaginians were actively colonizing Celtiberia at the breaking out of hostilities. To support this I cite Robert B. Asprey's work War in the Shadows wherein he mentions that Hannibal Barca's father died in a guerilla (pardon the pun) raid on a carthaginian collum. This is all by way of supporting my theory that the gladius was patterned (indirectly) from the earlier (Pelopenisian War era) pattern. -Gaius

Hi. I want do a contribution with these two links, can you read spanish? (Sorry, my english is very poor)

Summary and conclusion: Many advances happen since 1980, now we have archeological pieces of "gladius hispaniense" in celtiberic context and GH in roman context; the origin of the gladius is not the Falcata and not the celtics sword. Weaponry of La Téne I has been discovered in Cataluña with dates of later half of the IV century BC; then, the same weapons appear in archeological places of the "Meseta". The inhabitants took that weapons and progressively transformed it following their own tradition. At the half of the III century BC we have the final model of Gladius Hispaniensis, exactly equals to the roman gladius of the early II century.

That is: the gladius hispaniensis is a sword developed by the celtiberians between IV-III centuries BC from a type of La Téne I's sword.


Indeed, the Carthaginians adopted the gladius hispaniensis after they settled there, using it against the Romans. When Scipio Africanus caught a number of Spanish swordsmiths he forced them to teach Roman swordsmiths how to make them. Unlike other swords up to that period the Spanish had unknowingly been somehow removing the useless lesser grade iron before forging the sword. One reference implies that they buried iron in the ground and left it. After some time (a couple of weeks maybe) they returned knowing that what was left was of high quality, one source stating it could be placed on top of the head and pulled down either side to touch the shoulders. When released it would spring back to shape, and do so after repeatedly testing in that way. Essentially, it seems to have broken new ground in sword technology, and they were much sought after by Roman soldiers.

I have no idea where the definitive statement in the article stating the gladius was hardened with charcoal comes from?! Sounds like a very suspicious factoid to me, and should be reworded drastically to make it clear that it is only a possibility. The spatha was also most certainly the descendant of the gladius, as the original gladius hispaniensis was almost twice as long as 2nd C Pompeii pattern examples, kept long for and adapted for cavalry use. Almost every expert will also tell you the Viking broadsword is a descendant of the spatha.

The article needs a serious rewrite, and also omits the later types all came from the original Hispaniensis.


I can pretty much guarantee the flex test described is mythical. Not only will a piece of steel that shape not bend readily in the hands, that kind of arc would almost certainly deform a gladius totally. They had nothing approaching spring steel.

Carburizing was done with charcoal, not coal, though the standard method was to pack the steel and charcoal dust into a ceramic pipe of clay and seal it before heating. Using the face of the anvil would just cause surface inclusions of slag without any real carbon migration. --Michael Z. Williamson

Note on lack of origin[edit]

Well folks I read through this part of the Wikipedian commentary and was totally struck by the lack of any specific source. I for one would like to see some here. We read a lot on the Internet about what Scipio did after the battle of Zama and it seems to be based on the conjectures of some 19th century writers but no one anywhere that I can find can cite an ancient author. Polybius says that they used the Spanish sword against the Carthaginians, but if they did that, how could they have adopted it after the 2nd Punic War, and if they won the war without it (neglecting Polybius) why on earth would they adopt it? And yet the sites all blithely describe how Scipio had these great swords made and distributed to the Roman army after the battle. Not in anything documentary I can find. Only in the words of enthusiasts. Anyone got anything? And, for the manufacture, I found a study refuting the notion that the swords were not steel or that the iron age knew no steel. But the method of carburization escapes me at the moment. "I think this" and "no, I think that" isn't going to do it here. What evidence is there of the method of carburization? Anyone got the source? Thanks.Dave 00:09, 17 December 2006 (UTC) The swords made of wooden and rocked —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:28, 10 May 2011 (UTC)


How much did gladii weigh? This should be added. --Simetrical 19:05, 9 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I haven't found any definite information. Since the handles were made of bone and wood, they have rotted off all the historical examples. The British Museum has one of the historical gladii (the Fulham gladius), which they could in principle weigh to get the blade weight.
Lots of people make replicas, which (of course) vary in quality and authenticity. Albion Swords, a top-end armory priding itself on historical accuracy, makes one of each kind; they all weigh about a kilogram. See their catalog page or a review of all three kinds; both include wieghts. I emailed the author of the review to see if he had any information on the historical weights, but he didn't know and doubted anyone knew.
I don't trust the weight of recreations too much because they're likely made of different metals, for different purposes, and possibly with different shapes. That said, I think the top armouries care about this sort of thing, but of course if you ask any armoury they're likely to reassure you about how accurate their weapons are - and there are som terrible replicas out there.
I've seen weights for replicas ranging from 1 lb to 3.5 lb.
If you do pursue this with a museum curator, it would be very valuable to post the information here. --Andrew 23:20, Jan 10, 2005 (UTC)

I dunno, weight is a difficult issue because they are unlikely to be standardized even in the days for the Empire--it had been theorized that the different styles of differing lenghts and weights might have been produced at the same time at different parts of the imperium.

Given any alloy of iron and the proper dimensions, the finished weight should be close, and that's about 2 pounds/1 kilo. The much longer Viking blades didn't usually top 3 pounds. It seems far too heavy for most gladii, though a thick section Mainz might come close. --Michael Z. Williamson

Yeah, based on techniques used, alloys used etc most ppl in the know, bladesmiths etc, seem to agree that most replicas are way too heavy. Compare to late bronze swords cast in bronze of the same blade design and length as a later gladius(i.e. 50cm blade or shorther!!!), see Look at his ewart park sword, the 68cm finished version sword. It weighs 700g, his castings has been deemed as very realistic. Bronze is heavier than iron or steel, but the sword lacks a hilt. At least that gives you an estimate of what is realistic. Albions roman swords are very realistic, all under 1 kg. In fact their mainz(heaviest late gladius) is only 760g with hilt and everything, see The fulham and pompeii are both under 700g. Replicas over 1 kg are not realistic imo. The first link mentions bronze sword over 1kg as bad casts or "lemons" :) Heavy swords replicas tend to be cheap...

The length and weights of the gladii are still wrong I'd say. Hispaniensis was a lot longer than mainz, fulham and pompeii. The long later pompeii was really a hybrid between a spatha, the cavalry sword, and the gladius. Here'sa link to a nice replica of an actual museuem gladius hispaniensis. - this one is slightly over 1kg, but it is a very long and broad hispaniensis(i.e. early gladius), this one looks on the virge of being a spatha lengthwise.

I also find it ironic that ppl seem to assume the greeks developed the leaf-shaped blade, seems to me that the greeks got it from the "celts".. Maybe the greeks got it during the "sea peoples"(yeah I know they get "blamed" for everything...) invasion of the area ca 1200BC, the urnfield culture before halstatt had already developed leaf-shaped blades when the mycenaeans, the pre-greeks, were using the thrusting sword. Then again maybe I shouldnt be calling them celts, seeing that that name is associated with la tene that came after halstatt. So the pre-pre celts seem to have developed the blade that the greeks called xiphos. Look at the urnfield sword Nigel has made and compare to a xiphos....or a mainz gladius... Urnfield culture lasted approx 1300BC - 800BC... Go see that sword in british museum. here's the replica again

Sorry about the ranting :)

Jesper D(jeppepeppepop) late at night 16 jan 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jeppepeppepop (talkcontribs) 03:01, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

New captions and infoboxes[edit]

I've added standard infoboxes and created captions for each of the gladius swordtypes. Please expand the with detailed text under each caption to get all info on the roman swords.

We also should consider having the spatha within the gladius sword series, as it is a development of those swords only longer and adapted for cavalry. Searching "spatha" must then enter "gladius".

This is an ambitious idea. However, I do not think it is really a workable one, as the available information is unfortunately not as precise as you appear to require, at least as far as I can see.--M.J.Stanham 14:23, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
I think that while the infoboxes are pretty, they are also unnecessary. They are also problematic in that the information currently present in them is apparently incorrect (a gladius can't really be classed as an arming sword, for example) and would also be redundant (the different types of gladii are still gladii, so a separate "type" section for each is not needed). Turning the first infobox into a generic "gladius" infobox could work though, but the rest should be removed.
-- Avjn 20:36, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

How did the chart come to list the gladius as an "Arming sword"? That's a medieval designation for certain single handed swords.~~Michael Z. Williamson

No idea. These charts seem to me more of a hinderance than a help at the moment.--M.J.Stanham 01:24, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for cleaning up the page, Dave. I think we are going to have to get rid of these info boxes. They are generally innaccurate and aren't doing anything for the layout of the page. I'm not sure how to do the citations. The information for the first two can be found on Legio XX page, which references Volume 8 of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies. The citation for the latter might best come from Dr Mike Bishop's translation available at his homepage. --M.J.Stanham 02:42, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Use of the Gladius[edit]

The gladius was not a slashing sword. That was not its major use. You could of course slash with it, as when some praetorian slashed off Cicero's head when he stuck it out. That is one of the reasons for the armor. The combatants were heavily armored. You could slash all you like and only end up with a broken sword. Does the article not say soft iron? No, you formed a shield wall and then you thrust the sword out into chinks in the other fellow's armor. The purpose of the pila was to disorder the enemy ranks so you could get an opening.

Livy is cited in the article. The Romans fought a leisurely battle, says Livy. They pushed in at their pace. It became a shoving match, with the points of the swords coming out from the shields. When faced with the Greek rows of spearpoints the Romans could not hack off the points so they did not fare well. The Greek spear was long, thick and heavy with big points for shoving. Now, that one place in Livy where the wounds are described does NOT state how they were acquired. The worst were the abdominal. They could not have got there by slashing. Then there were the dismembered heads. However they were certainly not dismembered in battle. You couldn't even get at the head and as soon as you raised an arm to slash, whoops, someone pushed a stupid spear into your stupid underarm right into your stupid lungs. I once knew someone personally who in fencing with the epee (I used to fence myself but it wasn't me) lifted his arm and had one of those practice points run into his lungs through a little tiny tear in the jacket. He was in the hospital for a while.

Now if you are on the deck of a ship or riding a charger into a disordered mob then you might cut people down with the sabre, or if you happen to have a Japanese sword of the finest steel then you might cut through the barrel of a machine gun with one blow, as we hear was done in the Russo-Japanese war. Other than that forget it. But, there is another issue here. We don't make up ancient history as we go along. Both primary and secondary sources state over and over that the Romans adopted the Spanish sword for its utility in stabbing. It is not up to you to decide, well, gee, it was just as good for slashing. In ranks you could not and did not slash for the reason I mentioned as well as the danger of taking off your buddy's head beside you. The shield was held up close and overlapped on the people next to you. There was no room at all to slash. So, I'm going to tone down or take out that slashing stuff. If you find a source of the slashing we can put a note or a sentence back in. Otherwise let us take the sources at their word.

The gladius was not a slashing sword. See under pugio for one of the strongest sources, Vegetius.Dave 05:23, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Dave, you left out Polybius who explicitly states that the Gladius was good for both types of blow. There is no overwhelming case that proves the Gladius was a Thrusting Weapon. There is great discussion on the subject, but the general consensus seems to be that whilst the Romans may have favoured the thrust over the cut or chop, the Gladius was perfectly capable of delivering any one of these blows. RomanArmyTalk is an interesting place to go to hear both sides of the argument.--M.J.Stanham 16:01, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, I wanted to cite that passage last night, but I couldn't remember which author it was who discussed it. But now that you have reminded me, allow me to add: it is also worth keeping in mind that Polybius lived during the rise of the replublic, and witnessed Roman military operations himself. Vegetius lived in the late empire, the fourth century, and was contrasting the early Roman army (which of course he had never seen himself) with that of his time. --Iustinus 17:40, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Glad to be of service. Yes, Vegetius is a terribly difficult source for the Roman Army. He not only apparently had no first hand experience of actual military operations, but likely did not even have the Gladius specifically in mind when he made his comments. The inference is that, in his opinion, the army of his time over relied on the cut / chop and neglected the thrust; notably his advice does not at all pertain to the length or shape of the blade in question. In fact, he may well have had the, more common in his times, 'Spatha' (though Gladius type blades were probably available and in use as well) in mind when he advised 'modern' troops to thrust rather than cut. It is also important to bear in mind that in contrasting the 'Romans' with the 'Barbarians' he is using a rhetorical device. 'Barbarians' would have likely been quite well acquainted with the efficiency of a thrust, given that the Spear saw extensive use on the battlefield.
The only caveat I would give with regard to Polybius is that the sword he is talking about may well have been quite different from what we regard as the 'Gladius'. The Gladius Hispanicus may in general have been notably longer than later blades.--M.J.Stanham 18:02, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
IOW neither author who discusses the issue is actually talking about what we call a "gladius." Great! ;) I have kind of wondered, though, if maybe Vegetius' semispathion was more or less our "gladius." As for stabing vs. slashing/cutting, I tend to assume that the Romans did favor the thrust, but that Vegetius overstates this a good deal—which is pretty much exactly what you said in your initial reply. --Iustinus 18:49, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Could be, or he could just mean a Pugio / Dagger. Vegetius uses the terms Spatha, Semi Spatha and Gladius, but specifically what he had in mind is unknown. It may be that he uses Gladius for Sword, Spatha for 'Long' Sword and Semi Spatha for 'Short' Sword / Dagger. Or, it might not. The waisted design of the many Gladii may be intended to make for a more effective chop, or it might not. That's the nature of Ancient and Medieval History, as I am sure you realise. What is generally contended, though, is that the Gladius types are each perfectly capable of performing an effective cut, chop or thrust and with relative ease.--M.J.Stanham 19:14, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

Gladius as a general term[edit]

Botteville has added the following to the opening paragraph: Gladius' was originally a short sword, ... The word soon became the general word for "sword" among the Romans, replacing ensis and various Greek names for swords. (Footnote: See Smith's article on gladius in Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, page 577, which is online at It even came to refer to the dagger, pugio. I don't believe Smith is actually saying what you claim. First of all, he lists ensis as a poetic term ("by the Latin poets called ensis"), not as the original generic term (and certainly, by the time of Quintilian they could be considered absolute synonyms--10.1.11).

Second of all, when he says "Gladius was sometimes used in a wide sense, so as to include Pugio (A. Gell. IX.13)" I believe what he is getting at is not the gladius (as used in English) vs. pugio (as used in English), but sword vs. dagger. I.e. he's not saying that gladius originally meant one type of sword, and came to be used for others, he's saying that gladius originally meant "a bladed weapon of a certain length" and ended up meaning "any bladed weapon." I'm not sure where he sees a pugio in that Aulus Gellius passage, but Gellius lived in the second century... not that late. If you want earlier examples, Curtius, who lived in the first century, said "Copidas vocabant gladios leviter curvatos, falcibus similes "They called their lightly curved, sickle-like swords (gladios) 'copides'" (surely this cannot mean gladii in the English sense of the term).

If we are going to accept that gladius was Latin for "the type of sword used by the Roman army" then what exactly do you think the generic word for sword was? Obviously there had to be one, and ensis cannot be it: that word is very rare in prose, and in Roman times swords were an everyday item. --Iustinus 06:13, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

My dear Justinus, how do you do? There are two categories of issue here, first the introduction the way you have it, which actually is not very accurate in English, and second is your comments on what I said previously. In the spirit of good fellowship I will address the first first. I am sure once you see what I mean you will agree and we will be of one mind about this. "Gladius is the name now given to a type of Roman sword." You can't say that. The implication is that the name was not then given to it, which is completey false. This type of sword always had that name as long as the Romans named it. We use the name now because the Romans used it then. Your statement implies we moderns assigned this name to a weapon the Romans did not call that. You can see that, I'm sure. So, I'm giving it a slight fix.

"In Latin gladius is a general term, and does not necessarily refer to this sword specifically." I'm sorry but this is totally wrong. Gladius primarily and originally meant this weapon, but you might lump other weapons into this type. Here again this is a matter of implication. You imply that gladius always or primarily had a general connotation and that is not true. Time is clearly important. As long as there were legionaries who used this weapon that is primarily what the term meant. So if you do not mind I will alter the wording to get that point across. Now for your other points.Dave 00:36, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm confused by this comment. The end seems to imply that you have more to say, but it looks like it's been about half an hour. Are you composing? Because I'd rather wait until you're done posting. --Iustinus 01:10, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
I think the point is that the Romans used Gladius to describe both what we now divide into 'Spatha' and 'Gladius'. There was no such original distinction. So, for instance in Latin Gladius was used generically to describe both Semi Spatha and Spatha.--M.J.Stanham 01:14, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
It was even broader than that. See my Quintus Curtius quote above. --Iustinus 01:15, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Quite true, of course. I meant to direct Dave to Vegetius in particular, with whom he seems familiar. Josephus uses the Greek word for sword to describe both short and long blades, as well. He presumably has Gladius in mind as the translation.--M.J.Stanham 01:18, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
It is true that Vegetius does specifically count spathae and semispathae in the category of gladius (2.15: "gladios maiores, quos spathas uocant, et alios minores, quos semispathia nominant,"), but I didn't include that quote in my initial comment because Botteville isn't claiming that gladius can't refer to other swords at all, just that this was a later development. --Iustinus 01:29, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

I see this is prime Wiki time and you are all at work so fast I cannot keep up with you. Here is more of what I was going to say. That is true, Smith tags the use of ensis as poetic, but you place too much credibility in that. He does not say there were not other uses or that it was made up by the poets. While you were answering my previous I was busy looking it up in Persus. Most of the references are in the poets: Ovid, Vergil, Lucan, Propertius, Horace, Lucretius. But there is a significant use in prose: Livy, Cato, Cicero, Pliny the Elder, the Vulgate and Bede. But now, when we try to find what the previous word for sword was we find a situation I was trying to point out before: ensis and the Latinized Greek words are about it. Here is a good ref: ref from the place where you wake up the echoes shouting her name. You can see we don't have much of a choice. Now, I suggest that Smith notwithstanding the word was not originally poetic but because of its archaic nature after the gladius came along became so. The use in prose supports that view. I don't see anyone else having much of a problem with ensis as sword. Ferrum is poetic too but it gets used by the military men. Maybe soldiers are poets. I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree. Perhaps indeed I was trying to strain more out of Smith than he had in him. But there ought to be a note about the words for sword and how gladius came to predominate. I think we got enough for that. More later if I can just keep up with you. PS Mr. Stanham, you could use a user page here. PPS Oh by the way xiphos and spatha are the two main Greek terms I was talking about. There's also a machaera and other Greek weapons. Didn't the Romans arm themselves without having to buy from the Greeks?Dave 01:53, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

What no conflicts? Installement 3. I suppose "early" and "late" are relative. 2nd century AD - OK, 5 centuries after 3rd BC. I think of gladius as a term coming from the growth of the republic but once it was grown, say the empire, then it acquired the general use you have supported with sources. Lat's see if we can't get all this together without implying the wrong meanings.Dave 02:06, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Revised Introduction[edit]

Okay, I have tried to take everything into account for a revised introduction. It's not particularly good, but I think it is clearer than what was there before. I would like to incorporate more of what you are saying, Dave. I think alternate Latin words for sword (borrowed or not), such as Ensis, Xiphos, Spatha and Ferrum, should perhaps be presented and referenced here or perhaps in an expanded Etymology section. Of course, I agree that consensus is preferable to a revision war, I am open to suggestions. Dave, I know I should probably have a User Page! I will have to get round to doing something about that.--M.J.Stanham 02:38, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Mr. Stanham, wow, when you do a thing you do it. I note this is the day after Pearl Harbor day. I note your changes. I put a bunch of citation neededs on it. Don't let it worry you. It's my way of saying, quit making ME do all the work! We need chapter and verse here. Wherever possible I put in the online link too, and from a footnote rather than in the text. I looked at your English. Well, the English is coherent and sound. But, you didnt study too hard when you had punctuation and capitalization. Now, German capitalizes all the nouns, but English does not. If you were thrown off by the initial caps of links I suggest you look at my fixes (if you didn't already know that). For the intro I don't mind it being done that way. A single author might well change his mind and start over. You tossed out my references to Smith and Seyffert. I don't like to throw stuff away. I'll find a way to get those articles back in.

We seem to just be getting started here on this article. Whew, tough going. Eventually it will end up being a decent sourced article. But, we aren't getting there too fast. I might duck out for a while. Oh by the way I had the same thoughts about the etymology section. As for your user page, unless you go off in a huff you appear to have Wikipeditis like the rest of us, so you might as well put one in. Join the hordes.Dave 03:20, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

"If you were thrown off by the initial caps of links I suggest you look at my fixes" --this reminds me, why are we doing all our links in the form [[Sword|sword]]? Isn't Wikipedia still case-insensitive for the first letter of article titles? --Iustinus 04:28, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Yep, I thought of that after I said it. Tsk tsk. After the article is more complete I can spend some time putting it in right.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not convinced by Dave's argument here, however I am pretty happy with how Mr. Stanham's revision came out. So let's lay aside our difference of opinion for now: I'd love to argue it some other time, as in fact this is a hobby horse of mine, but at the moment I could use the time it would take for more pressing matters ;) At any rate, I have added citations to the two ancient sorces (ha! I almost typed "sworces") that Stanham refered to. Hope you approve! The translations are my own, so if you disagree with them, or find them unsuitably awkward. --Iustinus 04:04, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Well I dare say that is more like it. A balanced article to me contains something for the unitiate or just initiated and also for the researcher looking for material. I would say this is just about right. If you don't want the detail you skip the note, and if you read the note and have some Greek you don't have to wait for the Perseus server or go running around looking for the Greek text you didn't happen to buy because it was 40 dollars or else you couldn't find it. I'm happy. And, I'm beginning to see the Romans didn't necessarily live in the categories we put them in. Prucrustean bed.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm glad that you both seem to approve of the revised introduction. Thanks to Dave for inserting the citation requests and uncapitalising my nouns (Internet habit for discussing arms and armour, I'm afraid.) and thanks to Iustinus for answering the requests. Dave, I think I moved your references to the etymology section, but I might be mistaken.

You're right. I was tired.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

With regard to the minor edits that include Pugio and Plumbata as definite arms carried by the Roman Soldier, I think we must be careful. The discussion is better left to the Roman Legionary article, but the up and down of it is that Pugio, and Plumbata particularly, may not have been carried by every soldier, even as part of his full panapoly. My suggestion, at this point, would be to say 'probably a Pugio' and 'perhaps a number of Plumbata'. This allows the question to remain open, whilst still implying an answer. I would like to see some more information in the Etymology section and some revisions made to the general, scabbard and typology discussion. I would also like to see the captions largely removed, as the information required is not best set out in this manner, in my opinion. I would like to hear opinions before altering anyting, however. It might be nice to have a picture for each type. I wonder if Legio XX would be aminiable to letting us use some of their pictures / drawings?

I was planning to do more on the etymology especially trying to fill in the details of the origin and precedent. This stuff is often painstaking as we all can see. For the captions, of course if the text cannot be supplied they need to come out. I was hoping whoever put them in there would turn out to be a savant in sword manufacture and would give us the detail but if not something needs to be done with it.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, some sources imply the soldier at very least had a pugio and Vegetius tells us the darts were carried in the shield. But in deference to your interest and ability if you want to put some qualifiers in I won't object, but it seems to me they were standard. How could you go into battle without a knife? Suppose you tried a "chop" and broke your gladius? What then? Well, without the dagger you can just bare your canines. As for darts, well they've been found lying around in great numbers at battle sites. Imagine the effect of a shower of darts on the enemy front rank just before closing.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes, indeed. My personal opinion is that it would be very unlikely that any Ancient or Medieval soldier would choose to go into combat without a dagger of some sort. Unfortunately, it is one thing to think that and quite another to prove it. Polybius makes no mention of a pugio when he descibes the Roman soldier of his time, though he goes into detail about their arms and armour; this could be an oversight on his part or it might reflect the reality of the times (as a sidenote he indicates that the Velites carry swords, but this comment precedes and is seperate from his comments on the spanish sword borne by the Hastati, Principes and Triarii. He may even mean dagger). Josephus says that the footmen wore short swords on their right and long swords on their left (an interesting reversal of the normal configuration; he may be observing Centurions or Auxilia or may mean those who wore short blades did so on the right and those who wore long blades did so on the left), but as to the horsemen only swords on their right. Trajan's Column depicts only short swords worn on the right for all Roman soldiers, both foot and horse, as do a number of other sculptures and reliefs; artistic license, perhaps, it is a noticable analogue that the Bayeux Tapestry also features no daggers. Grave reliefs, though, tend to show both pugio and gladius, though obviously a soldier wealthy enough to have such an image made might not be 'typical' or representative. Vegetius tells us that each soldier wore a shorter and longer blade. Over a period of six hundred years it is difficult, and perhaps dangerous, to generalise, but, in my opinion, the explanation that best fits the evidence is that daggers were probably worn by any who could afford them (which might be the majority). As for plumbata, I cannot think of any source off hand that talks of these except for Vegetius. However, I think there are occasional references and it seems like a reasonable sort of item for a soldier to carry who expects protracted ranged engagement. Hard to say for sure how widespread. There is less evidence for general issue than the pugio, so I usually err on the side of caution over it.--M.J.Stanham 15:12, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Spatha and Gladius[edit]

Perhaps after this we might address the spatha article? --M.J.Stanham 14:15, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

Sounds great now that there is a thing going here. This gladius article needs to be squared away though. I will put that next on my list even though I promised I would fix Vidrus. With spatha I suspect we are going to get deeper back into antiquity.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm indifferent to the infoboxes, but my impression is certainliy that more people consider them problematic than helpful. --Iustinus 15:44, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm a graphic person myself, which is why I put the pic up top after you took it down. They don't seem to say very much that is true. Is that a challenge or a nuisance? For the recreated sword, that was a nice point you made on the caption. Ideally we should find a pic or two of some ancient gladii, and the pic need not be quite so large.Dave 04:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, ineptitude on my part I am afraid. A good point as to whether it is a challenge or nuisance. I think too much of a challenge for a Wikipedia Article...--M.J.Stanham 15:12, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Tsk tsk. Think about it - more people are going to read this article here than any article in any professional journal. If we are going to do something here the public deserves our best effort. This is high quality time for them. If we define retrieval rate to be a certain number of facts divided by the time required to obtain them you will see that this is the highest retrieval rate, the densest return for the time, of any other method available to them. The audience is the biggest and most diverse. I can do more with Wikipedia and Google than I ever could running around to class and library. By the third class I was too tired to keep my eyes open. The Internet in general and this tool in specific are a quantum leap in civilization, specifically in mass communication and access to knowledge. There are about 1.5 mil articles here and most are of use to someone. So, Wikipedia deserves to be taken seriously. it is only limited by our limits. If you want to become an expert only study with experts in an environment fostering expertise will do. Hats off to you, my dear professors. But for mass education this tool has no peer. Picture the expert archaeologist, the prima donna, who bends his genius on solving the leading historical questions, and solves them, but never publishes because he has no time, and never divulges because he has no patience or will not give the knowledge to his rivals, whom he hates, and shares nothing with his students because he is afraid they will steal his ideas and outshine him. He dies. His wife burns his notes. What good is that? He destroyed the site others could have investigated. His talent was of no use and therefore was not talent. History rested in the hands of an idiot with a genius IQ and it all slipped away into the great silent murk.Dave 02:21, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Heh. Quite true, of course, but not quite my meaning. The kind of specific and definitive answers that the caption boxes appear to require seem to me an impossible challenge even for funded academic research. --M.J.Stanham 12:25, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

They ask a lot. I got rid the three boxes. Too many boxes. General answers are better I think. The boxes are for modern weapons. I suppose the sword researcher would want to have fun going around measuring swords and talking to experts for his new book. We can only go as far someone else has gone. I'm only responding, really, to the request for sources. There's a lot available and as you know it prevents wild conjecture and stereotypes; let us say, unbalanced views. Maybe someone will go on from this article to research Roman swords and publish a great new reference for the coffee table, hey? Ciao.Dave 01:39, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Here's hoping! Good work. I'm glad to be rid of those.--M.J.Stanham 16:10, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Celtic root[edit]

We currently have the Celtic root for sword listed as *kladyos, which agrees with the Online Etymological Dictionary citation we have listed. The online Pokorny citation gives *kladi¸os -- I don't know what the ¸ is meant to represent, perhaps I should check this in a print copy. The OED s.v. glaive lists the Celtic root as *cladivo-. Now, this last form make a lot more sense to me: the v presumably represents [w], which could easily be dropped in a borrowing, and yet still account plausibly for the [v] (or similar sound) seen in Welsh and Goidelic. Of course the article as written explains the [v] as a Brythionic innovation that was borrowed into Old Irish. I don't have anywhere near the knowledge of Celtic etymology to figure this out, but I thought I should mention it. --Iustinus 04:25, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

About "¸", The UTF-8 version of the page gives *kladi̯os with i-with-breve-below, which is pretty unambiguously identical to *kladyos (Pokorny writing in German and thus having reason not to use *y and *w like Americans do). —Muke Tever talk 07:14, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Oooooooh! I should have figured that out. Thanks as always, Muke. --Iustinus 07:42, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
Now that I reread that page in UTF-8, this issue becomes a lot clearer: "cymr. cleddyf `Schwert', bret. klézé `Schwert, Klinge' (cleddyf diss. aus *cleðyð, kelt. *kladi̯os), ir. claideb ist Lw. aus dem Cymr., lat. gladius aus dem Kelt.;" so he reconstructs Protoceltic *kladyos > Lat. gladius, Bret. klézé, and pre-Welsh *cleðyð > Welsh cleddyf > OIr claideb (which in turn gives the modern Irish/Scottish reflexes). But he doesn't explain the Pre-Welsh -yð. Anyone here understand where that comes from? --Iustinus 15:44, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm watching this side activity with interest. I tried to indicate in the note that the silence of American Heritage Dictionary, which happens to be Calvert Watkins, is a pretty good indicator that there are problems with the classic derivation. Watkins is very thorough. He likes to see reflexes that get to be so by following the rules characteristic of the language and I do believe he is a Celtic scholar. He does not always agree with Pokorny. But I would just bet the issues have come up and been discussed in the linguistics journals. Further search might turn something up. I would like to remind you that Wiki is not for original research but even if you did it I suspect you might be going over a trodden path again. Wiki gets you started. It seems to have have gotten you started. If you find an article, throw it in. Somebody will appreciate it.Dave 05:12, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

The gladius of the gladiator[edit]

"Contrary to common belief, the gladius was not used by gladiators, who used a version with a shorter blade (30 cm – 35 cm/12 in. – 14 in. long)."

This is given without a source. It's just too incredible so I'm removing it for the time. For one thing, if the gladius was not used by gladiators, why were they called gladiators? I think the key is the realization that we live in 4 dimensions not 3. Even if you found a reference it must apply to one small length of time in the total life line of gladiatorial displays. I don't think you have one, though. If you do a google search all you can get are swords of vengeance and gladiator swords for sale and all such hoak as that. If you want to buy a gladiator sword, go ahead, only 300 dollars. If you want I can sell you a bridge along with some genuine Indian artifacts that were under it. None of the reference works I have talk about any special gladiator sword. So I am putting in some more solid stuff from Michael Grant.Dave 15:35, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Hey Dave. You are really making some great improvements to this article. I wish I had more time to help you out. Have you considered asking some questions over on RomanArmyTalk? It is really a very good forum that gets a fair amount of academic traffic. I'm not sure where the Gladiator thing comes from, though I have a vague feeling it might be to do with artistic representations. Not the best evidence. Still, if I can find anything, I will let you know. [Edit] Looks like it's nonesense. Gladiators used a wide range of weaponry, apparently, including the Gladius. --M.J.Stanham 17:21, 17 December 2006 (UTC)


The term "Gladius" is a latin word and doesn't come from the Celtic term. The second is considered a distortion. Historically speaking the Latin word is mentioned and appears in ancient writings and before the Celtic term (eg. read Andronicus writings, III cent. BCE). Theories are different according to the different etymologists. Gladius has a latin prefix, "Cla", or "Kla", or "Cal", or "Kal" meaning to beat, to break, the same "klao" that you could find in Magna-Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily) which is connected to the word "Cla-va" (literally club) or even to "Cla-des", meaning slaughter. It was later adopted by the Slavs, becoming "Kla-ti", and by the Celts of Italy, becoming "Cla-ideb". Almost probably, the Italian Celts located in North-West were the first to distorce it, perhaps when they were assimilated into the Roman army. Dictionaries: Garzanti and Zanichelli; Testimonianza della cultura Latina, B.Riposati, Società alighieri, 1988; Classici Latini, AAVV, Le Monnier, 1983. Jack 23:30 11 February 2007 (UTC)

Can we add a list of Gladii?[edit]

I have one already, extensive but not complete. Problems: (1) the list itself does not meet wikipedia source standards (no regular publication, etc.) though the individual entries can (they cite their own sources). (2) as new entries are added, any citation of the list as a whole would fall apart. Jacob Haller 21:04, 24 March 2007 (UTC)

Symbolism section[edit]

Can we see a source for the claim that these coats of arms are depicting gladii? The Polish one in particular looks more like a pair of spatha or perhaps transitional period arming swords, and I question why coats of arms developed in Suisse, Belarus and Poland at a later period would depict ancient Roman swords when gladii were not widely used there. It's a bit of a stretch. 13:36, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

AD/BC vs. CE/BCE controversy[edit]

I have discovered large scale and improper changing of the AD/BC time references in articles. This article is a case in point: The original dating methodology used by various editors was the AD/BC format. Later editors came in and changed this format to the "politically correct" CE/BCE format. This change from AD/BC to CE/BCE is improper for a number of reasons: 1) Wiki policy expressly prohibits these types of changes without adequate jusitification; and, 2) The AD/BC format is more culturally appropriate since the article deals with Roman historical concepts and the AD/BC format is a latin derivative. Should this change back to AD/BC be controversial, I invite a conversation on the topic. Jpetersen46321 18:33, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

I prefer the CE/BCE dating system for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I believe it better adheres to WP:NPOV as it is religiously neutral. Second, the argument that the Gladius article should use the AD/BC format because of its latin origins is a poor one. The AD/BC system wasn't even invented until centuries after the Gladius ceased to be used and has its origins in the medieval Christian church rather than any Roman government. Showers (talk) 18:42, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

I prefer the CE/BCE system, too, on the same grounds: religious neutrality. Spartan198 (talk) 11:09, 24 May 2008 (UTC) Spartan198


This is not a joke. The article should mention that Gladius was Roman slang for schlong. Haha, that's funny. But seriously, yeah. (talk) 07:21, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

The person above me is more or less correct. The word vagina means sheath or scabbard. Gladius was not slang, but the proper word for penis. Its the sword that goes in the sheath. The gladius that goes into the vagina. IIRC it was at the beginning of the dark ages when gladius was changed to penis (little tail) to help repress sexuality. (talk) 23:41, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

Blade thickness and cross section[edit]

There is no mention of how thick the blade was.

Also, while the article mentions a rhomboidal (diamond shaped) or channeled cross section, there is no source for this claim and pics on the web show ancient gladii that might have been flat. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:37, 5 May 2011 (UTC)

Celtiberian origen[edit]

As I pointed years ago in this thread, recent archeological findings favour the Celtiberian origen of the sword. The findings of early 2th century BC Roman gladius clearly shows that they are copies of Celtiberian swords, instead of Gallic or other types. Celtiberians developed the weapon from La Téne I models, adaptating the sword to older Celtiberian techniques and types around the 4-3th centuries BC. Here is a proffesional account of the subject

--Bentaguayre (talk) 19:01, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

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