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Alex Sisto





Joined: 06 Jun 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 12:45 pm    Post subject: How to use a Gladius??         Reply with quote

Hey everyone, i'm a new member!


I went to italy two weeks ago, and while i was in Capri, i bought a really nice replica Pompeii Gladius.

I take Shaolin Kung Fu, and in the class they teach you how to use a Chinese Dao Sword (and also possibly the Jian, but i havent seen anyone use it yet) and i wanted to know how the Roman Gladius was traditionally used, so i could test it out vs. the chinese swords.

I know how it was used as far as thrusting, but i have no idea how it was used asfar as parrying or cutting, and i was hoping that someone here could help me.

I plan on using it with a buckler, as it would seem to me that the Roman Scutum would be a tad bit unfair because i could pretty much block anything with it, and it covers pretty much your entire body, making it way too easy for me to win.

Thanx in advance.
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Alex Sisto





Joined: 06 Jun 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, now that i looked at the pictures of the three types of Gladii on this site, it looks to be more of a Mainz or a Fulham gladius, but i cant really see the difference well enough to pick out which one it is.
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Mike Arledge




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

See, that is the problem. It really was made for use with a scutum sized target/shield

While we don't have any "fight books" on its use, the basics are this.

Cover yourself from the savage barbarian's giant slashing sword swing with your scutum. Parry, stab gladius into his belly.
Repeat Happy

I don't think there is much out there officially about gladius use, nothing like Fiore or the Medieval treatises.

Mike J Arledge

The Dude Abides
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Lee Reeves
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 2:35 pm    Post subject: HBO's Rome         Reply with quote

there was a great scene where one of the main characters was showing the young Octavius how to use a gladius. It seemed very user friendly. I don't know which episode the scene was in but it would be a good excuse to watch the show.

Lee

Not everything has to be decided at the point of a sword, but somethings can only be decided at the point of a sword.
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 2:40 pm    Post subject: Re: How to use a Gladius??         Reply with quote

Alex Sisto wrote:
...I plan on using it with a buckler, as it would seem to me that the Roman Scutum would be a tad bit unfair because i could pretty much block anything with it, and it covers pretty much your entire body, making it way too easy for me to win.

.


Easy victory is what war is all about. Fairness has very little relevance. Mike is correct - a large shield makes it safe and relatively easy to get close to the enemy and kill him with a short sword.
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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 2:57 pm    Post subject: Re: HBO's Rome         Reply with quote

Lee Reeves wrote:
there was a great scene where one of the main characters was showing the young Octavius how to use a gladius. It seemed very user friendly. I don't know which episode the scene was in but it would be a good excuse to watch the show.

Lee


It was in the HPO series "Rome".

Rent or buy the series and watch the first battle scene in the first episode. That scene shows pretty well how a legion fights off barbarians using scutum shields and gladius swords and the tactics they employed IMO.
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Al Muckart




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 3:15 pm    Post subject: Re: HBO's Rome         Reply with quote

Bryce Felperin wrote:

It was in the HPO series "Rome".

Rent or buy the series and watch the first battle scene in the first episode. That scene shows pretty well how a legion fights off barbarians using scutum shields and gladius swords and the tactics they employed IMO.


This raises another good point about the use of the gladius, as far as I'm aware in my limited knowlege of Roman gear and tactics it was a weapon optimised for use in unit combat, with guys either side of you covering you with their big scutum (scutae, scuta?) rather than in single combat.

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B. Fulton





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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Having fought with simulated versions of same (tower shield/short sword) during boffer/LARP type combat, granted, not being "the same" but giving some clue..... in one on one, the tower shield/scutum is not swung around yourself like some other lighter shields. I used mine like an anchor and maneuvered myself, primarily, around it.

Those facing "the wall" hated it because it precluded most leg attacks, and i knew just how much deflection was needed to bounce of wrap shots. Team tactics was what tended to wipe me out, a well coordinated pair could take me down.

Haven't fought full-power full speed with rattan (SCA) using the same, but it has given me some minor insights.

As others have said, nothing about a fight is supposed to be "fair" and the Romans were even more "unfair" than most. If they had machine guns back then they'd have mowed down barbarians without a problem. While the gladius/scutum pair isn't my first pick for a one on one fight, an armored man with them who knows what he's about can definitely do well.
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Alex Sisto





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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 4:13 pm    Post subject: Re: How to use a Gladius??         Reply with quote

Felix Wang wrote:
Alex Sisto wrote:
...I plan on using it with a buckler, as it would seem to me that the Roman Scutum would be a tad bit unfair because i could pretty much block anything with it, and it covers pretty much your entire body, making it way too easy for me to win.

.


Easy victory is what war is all about. Fairness has very little relevance. Mike is correct - a large shield makes it safe and relatively easy to get close to the enemy and kill him with a short sword.


Granted, in battle , f*** being fair. I meant in sparring. It just wouldnt be fun if i kept winning. Could i maybe use a Caetra? its what the Iberians used with the gladius.
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Xavier B




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Jun, 2008 2:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

First, I apologize for my bad english. Please make me know when you don't understand me Happy .


So, I'm working with a small professional team on the Roman way of fighting during the first century before Christ. Our work is based on iconographies and ancient tales but also and especially on fighting experimentation.

At first, the main weapon of the roman legionary is...his scutum. This one is made on specific dimensions (110cm/70cm at the first BC) for specific fighting. The scutum is not a simple "protective wall" but a very effective weapon made for the percussions. The roman soldier used his scutum to hit his opponent with the "orle" (the edge?) at the head or at the knees if no shield or to block him on his shield. From this position the legionary could pass under his scutum to sever the leg of the opponent or thrust in the tibia or make the umbo hit the face of the opponent followed by a thrust in the carotyde or a cut.

We can see well this way of fighting on the Arc of Orange, showing roman legionaries beating their opponents with the edge of their scutum in "percutite". You can easily understand that a hit made with a scutum on the face don't need a gladius Happy . There is an other clue of this way of fighting in the ludi gladiatori with a gladiator named "Provocator". This gladiator is nothing else than the equivalent of the roman legionary. He use roman scutum, a left ocrea, a pugio, a manica and a roman legionary helmet with a protective face to prevent the hit of scutum his the face. This gladiator fight in the same way than the roman legionary. It was the equivalent, and Marius' reform implicate a provocator training to all the roman legionaries by the lanista (gladiator coach) .

All his fighting is made of "percutite" finished by a stab with the pugio (also know as sica, a shorter blade than the gladius). This is an excellent experimentation of fighting for a better understood of war fighting. We can also understand why the scutum is concave. Its concavity make stand back the centre of gravity of the shield allowing the scutum to come to rest along the arm when tighten it. In this way, it's easier to hit his opponent with the edge.

Now we have to speak of the gladius. Of course, it's a weapon (massive compared to celtic sword) made for thrusting. About cutting, the roman way of fighting exclude the great cutting strike of medieval or celtic sword. Futhermore, the roman gionaries fight in close formation, that is an other point that exclude great cutting strike. In fact, if you want to cut, the only way is to use your gladius is like if you use a knive for cutting a piece of steak.

The roman scutum is the main weapon of the legionary and the gladius the weapon for finishing the work. It's not a chivalric or celtic or bushi weapon but a tool made for a very specific fighting.

http://www.acta-archeo.com/html/
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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Sat 07 Jun, 2008 4:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Xavier B wrote:
Hello,

First, I apologize for my bad english. Please make me know when you don't understand me Happy .


All his fighting is made of "percutite" finished by a stab with the pugio (also know as sica, a shorter blade than the gladius). This is an excellent experimentation of fighting for a better understood of war fighting. We can also understand why the scutum is concave. Its concavity make stand back the centre of gravity of the shield allowing the scutum to come to rest along the arm when tighten it. In this way, it's easier to hit his opponent with the edge.

Now we have to speak of the gladius. Of course, it's a weapon (massive compared to celtic sword) made for thrusting. About cutting, the roman way of fighting exclude the great cutting strike of medieval or celtic sword. Futhermore, the roman gionaries fight in close formation, that is an other point that exclude great cutting strike. In fact, if you want to cut, the only way is to use your gladius is like if you use a knive for cutting a piece of steak.

The roman scutum is the main weapon of the legionary and the gladius the weapon for finishing the work. It's not a chivalric or celtic or bushi weapon but a tool made for a very specific fighting.

http://www.acta-archeo.com/html/


Hi Xavier
Your english is very good.
Your point about the curvature of the scutum bringing the centre of gravity back is well made. Pardon my ignorance, but is the scutum in the period you are talking of the one with the curved top and bottom edges, or is it the more rectangular version? Do you think the different styles would be used in different ways, or are they just stylistic variations that would be used similarly?
As for the gladius, I agree that it excels for close up stabbing, and one reads accounts of it being used that way. However, I'm not sure (possibly I'm misunderstanding you) that it can only cut like a knife with a steak. With the organic (and thus, lightweight) hilt and broad blade, it has considerable blade presence, even though it is short, and could, I think, relatively easily deliver strong choppinjg cuts. Also, I think I recall reading accounts of battle (I'm sorry, poor scholarship, but I can't recall the references) where there are descriptions of chopped off limbs heads etc. , of victims of the gladius.
Regards
Geoff
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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jun, 2008 5:56 am    Post subject: Re: HBO's Rome         Reply with quote

Al Muckart wrote:


This raises another good point about the use of the gladius, as far as I'm aware in my limited knowlege of Roman gear and tactics it was a weapon optimised for use in unit combat, with guys either side of you covering you with their big scutum (scutae, scuta?) rather than in single combat.




The issue you mention above is not nearly so simple or cut-and-dried, as many would like to believe. For one thing, several of the major gladiator types (eg., myrmillo, secutor, & provocator) used the gladius for single combat. For another, Roman legionaries--like virtually all other soldiers--didn't just fight in the field in formation; they also fought in other capacities, where individual skill was arguably more important, such as at sieges, at sea, and so forth.


Nor did the gladius invariably require the use of a large shield (scutum)--the Ancient Iberians who used the original gladius often made use of a small buckler, called the caetra, and Roman legionaries sometimes fought without body armor (expediti), and made use of a flat round or oval shield (parma) that was smaller (3 ft in diameter) and lighter than the scutum.

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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David Black Mastro




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jun, 2008 6:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Geoff Wood wrote:
Xavier B wrote:
Hello,

First, I apologize for my bad english. Please make me know when you don't understand me Happy .


All his fighting is made of "percutite" finished by a stab with the pugio (also know as sica, a shorter blade than the gladius). This is an excellent experimentation of fighting for a better understood of war fighting. We can also understand why the scutum is concave. Its concavity make stand back the centre of gravity of the shield allowing the scutum to come to rest along the arm when tighten it. In this way, it's easier to hit his opponent with the edge.

Now we have to speak of the gladius. Of course, it's a weapon (massive compared to celtic sword) made for thrusting. About cutting, the roman way of fighting exclude the great cutting strike of medieval or celtic sword. Futhermore, the roman gionaries fight in close formation, that is an other point that exclude great cutting strike. In fact, if you want to cut, the only way is to use your gladius is like if you use a knive for cutting a piece of steak.

The roman scutum is the main weapon of the legionary and the gladius the weapon for finishing the work. It's not a chivalric or celtic or bushi weapon but a tool made for a very specific fighting.

http://www.acta-archeo.com/html/


Hi Xavier
Your english is very good.
Your point about the curvature of the scutum bringing the centre of gravity back is well made. Pardon my ignorance, but is the scutum in the period you are talking of the one with the curved top and bottom edges, or is it the more rectangular version? Do you think the different styles would be used in different ways, or are they just stylistic variations that would be used similarly?
As for the gladius, I agree that it excels for close up stabbing, and one reads accounts of it being used that way. However, I'm not sure (possibly I'm misunderstanding you) that it can only cut like a knife with a steak. With the organic (and thus, lightweight) hilt and broad blade, it has considerable blade presence, even though it is short, and could, I think, relatively easily deliver strong choppinjg cuts. Also, I think I recall reading accounts of battle (I'm sorry, poor scholarship, but I can't recall the references) where there are descriptions of chopped off limbs heads etc. , of victims of the gladius.
Regards
Geoff



The very design of the gladius indicates that it is a dual-purpose (cut-and-thrust) weapon.

The original wasp-waisted gladius Hispaniensis, while featuring a particularly acute point, also swelled slightly at the COP (center of percussion), showing that it was optimized for cutting strokes as well. Polybius wrote of the gladius Hispaniensis's utility for both actions. And Livy noted how the Macedonians were unnerved by the sheer cutting power of the gladius, as it was seen used to sever limbs and remove heads. We should not be surprised at all by this. There are plenty of other broad-bladed short swords capable of inflicting such damage with their edges--just look at the various jungle knives (bolos) used in the Philippines, for example.

"Why meddle with us--you are not strong enough to break us--you know that you have won the battle and slaughtered our army--be content with your honor, and leave us alone, for by God's good will only have we escaped from this business" --unknown Spanish captain to the Chevalier Bayard, at the Battle of Ravenna, 1512
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B. Fulton





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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jun, 2008 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The shield bash (percutite, if my translation is correct in understanding) is certainly an effective attack. Having done some training in riot tactics (which, with a riot-length baton, is very much in the Roman style), slamming your shield into someone can knock them clean off their feet, and a follow up to the body is easily done, assuming the formation did not just trample him to death. In my boffer/LARP experimentation shield bashing was not "legal" so I didn't include it, but I certainly know it works!
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Alex Oster




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jun, 2008 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

B. Fulton wrote:
shield bashing was not "legal" so I didn't include it, but I certainly know it works!

I think this is a core point to trying to reinterpret fighting armed and armored. When faced with a body sized shield, we found the most effective tactic was to simply kick in and walk up it. A sort of reverse shield bash if you will... It's not fair, legal, or always nice, but i found great success when you view the enemies defense as a liability rather than a benefit to his person. It's similar to fighting a spear; you get psyched out by it's length, reach, and speed. However, once you just charge in and deflect the first few attempts to keep you back, its not so bad. Though this is far from the scope of gladius use, it's fun stuff. Like the ripping off of the men in Kendo during pre-war bouts. If you can get him down and tear it off; you win. Not exactly skillful, but it shows how we have taken little steps away from the true art of killing in many of our modern versions of martial arts. The fact that, if you can tear his helm off, you could get in close and slit his throat shows a realism that has been removed in favor of a sporty experience. Another reason to avoid SCA combat IMHO. It just depends on what you are looking to get out of it I guess.

The pen is mightier than the sword, especially since it can get past security and be stabbed it into a jugular.
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B. Fulton





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PostPosted: Sun 08 Jun, 2008 6:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wasn't in the SCA at the time......there are downsides to SCA combat, I know (as do others) but being able to fight full power in armor without pulling blows is still a hell of a lot of fun. It's not perfect and for safety reasons there are things we can't do, but i'm willing to work within those limits. I don't plan on fighting someone with live steel in armor, ever. I have guns for that, and I train real-world every day for it on the job.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Jun, 2008 12:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally, I think both Xavier and David are right. The size and shape of the scutum makes cutting blows relatively awkward, not to mention that the gladius itself is short and hence won't develop as much cutting power as a longer-bladed sword along the limited cutting arcs available to a scutum-carrying legionary. But it's definitely true that the legionaries often found themselves in the situation where they had to use their swords without having recourse to the scutum as well. It would also be good to remember that the velites were an integral part of the legions at least up until the end of the 3rd century B.C., and these skirmishers frequently engaged in aggressive hand-to-hand combat with the gladii they carried in addition to their javelins and small shields. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the account in Livy about the Macedonians being unnerved by the cutting wounds inflicted by the Roman swords was actually describing the aftermath of a brief skirmish between the opposing sides' cavalry and/or skirmishers.
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Thomas Watt




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Jun, 2008 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

B. Fulton wrote:
The shield bash (percutite, if my translation is correct in understanding) is certainly an effective attack. Having done some training in riot tactics (which, with a riot-length baton, is very much in the Roman style), slamming your shield into someone can knock them clean off their feet, and a follow up to the body is easily done, assuming the formation did not just trample him to death. In my boffer/LARP experimentation shield bashing was not "legal" so I didn't include it, but I certainly know it works!

I have done similar riot duty on The Presidio (I guess that dates me a bit since it's been closed for more than 2 decades)...
not only was a shield bash not allowed, the riot baton was not allowed to be used in all sorts of ways that, had I a gladius, would have been instantly lethal. We were encouraged to rap knuckles and other body parts that tried to get around the shields though. But then, several rows behind us stood a row of guys with tear gas, and behind them a row of guys with rifles with fixed bayonets. Even large mobs don't stand up well against all that.
And anyone foolish enough to stand out from the crowd and kick my shield would have found themselves hauled down, pulled through the shield line in the prone position and handcuffed face down in the mud. There's a reason police and military use a Roman-style shield wall, which is because it's probably the most effective of its kind historically (at least based on what we know about it). It's a highly functional unit tactic - anyone breaks through gets dealt with by the interior lines - any attempt to isolate a single trooper or pull them out of line causes a surge forward to hold onto the guy while he divests himself of shielf and baton and pull him free. But of course, nowadays we only use a few hundred to a thousand troops this way... it must have been very impressive with thousands of veteran soldiers in this formation. Maybe even very daunting.

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Kelly Powell




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PostPosted: Mon 16 Jun, 2008 12:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex: Sorry sca doesnt do it for ya man Big Grin ...I dig it for the simple reason that it is a big game.....I whack buddies with sticks and get drunk with them later that night......I will say though that it has drastically improved my reflexes and speed...I guess all those hours in armor and gauntlets has done some good. A couple of weeks ago I had to help a bartender and a doorman roust out a bunch of frat boys from my favorite watering hole.....I'm 39 and was just as drunk as these 20 somethings and They moved like their asses were set in stone, they telegraphed everything and had no concept of range....Didn't have to even really strike any of them, just kept bouncing them off each other and kind of swept them out the door. Personally, I reccomend sca just for theopportunity to move at full speed while weighted down with armor(ok, I don;t wear but around 30-40 pnds)....anyways, back to the topic.
Unless they were tortoised up, a roman soldier still had plenty of room for a quik chop to the wrist or elbow of his opponent along with a hocking stroke to the knee along with the hamstring cut......The thrust was dominant for many reasons though....It doesnt expend alot of energy, so they wouldnt wear out as quick....It only takes a few inches of thrust to mortally wound someone...In the scrum it is a lot harder to see a thrust coming at you vs a big looping cut my brave yet foolhardy ancestors favored.....
As for using a buckler with a gladius...why not? Like some one mentioned earlier, gladiators used them.....instead of a later period buckler, how about the shields the thraex figher used? I cannot remember it's name but it was a small curved rectangular shield.....that should protect you shield arm a little better and still have some offensive capability with the shield itself....I'm just concerned that a buckler without a longer blade to complment it is going to make you have to rush into range.....the thraex shield is just a little bigger (I'm guessing 16-18x20-22", with the curve in it it will still be a fairly small shield) and will protect your torso a bit better as you get in range.
Tell us how your sparring match works out...Good luck!
Thomas Watt: I've allways wondered about something concerning riot squads.....Has anybody ever considered a poll arm type device for supporting the shield guys? I was thinking along the lines of a light pole with 18-20" of flexible rubber at the end....just enough to REALLY sting...this would take some of the fire out of their bellies before they hit the shield wall.....maybe a nice safe blunt hook(like a shepards crutch)to help redirect their mass along with fouling up limbs?
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Carl Goff




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PostPosted: Tue 08 Jul, 2008 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's worth noting that use of the pilum is tied closely to use of the gladius. A barbarian who's had to abandon his shield because a heavy, iron-headed pilum is stuck in it (making it impossible to move the shield quickly in combat) is a lot more vulnerable to a gladius thrust.
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