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David Wilson




Location: In a van down by the river
Joined: 23 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Thu 28 May, 2009 1:16 pm    Post subject: Armamentaria's Hod Hill Spatha         Reply with quote

Most of us know the history -- in the mid-1st century CE, Roman Legions, under orders from the emporer Claudius, invaded the island of Britannia on a mission of conquest. In this, Claudius succeeded where none other than Julius Caesar, whose own abortive attempt to take Britain took place not quite a hundred years earlier, had not. This invasion left an impact on Britain which lasts even to this day. This impact includes physical remains. Roman roads and the ruins of Roman structures, including Hadrian's wall, dot the British landscape from Dover to the Solway Firth.
Time being what it is, not all the physical remains are above ground, which is where the archeologist comes in. Hod Hill in Dorset is one such find place; It has produced many artifacts which indicate a Roman Military presence there in the 1st century. Of course, swords have been found there, the most famous of which is referred to simply as the "Hod Hill Sword". This sword features a rather elaborately-constructed hilt, with silvered-bronze parts sandwiched in between organic parts (which have decayed with time and are now non-existant). This sword displays features consistent with British/Celtic swords of a later La Tene variety, but was discovered in a find consistent with Roman military arms. Researchers consider this sword to be Roman, but of local manufacture, quite possibly a sword for locally-raised auxiliaries. Although the blade is only partial, it's dimensions (and it's resemblance to Celtic swords) lead researchers to label it a Spatha, or Roman long sword, for cavalry use.

Anyway, much has been written on this sword before, and I can't add anything new or very interesting. Then again, this post is not about the original Hod Hill sword, but about a new and unique production reproduction of this sword....

Armamentaria is a UK-based web merchant geared toward the Roman army reenactor, historian, or enthusiast. They offer items from various makers. Many items are from Deepeeka, a well-known manufacturer in the reenactment community. But Deepeeka does have it's drawbacks, and so not all their items come from that maker. Many are made by British craftsmen. And then a few are made by an Indian maker with I have no familiarity with (Let's face it, when "Made in India" comes up, sword collectors say either "Windlass" or "Deepeeka" and shudder to think of any lesser makers): Al Hamdd Trading Post. Al Hamdd makes a reproduction of the Hod Hill Spatha for Armamentaria, and it seems to be an exclusive item, sold only through Armamentaria. It's my conclusion that Al Hamdd is one of the higher-quality Indian manufacturers.

Stats:
Overall length: 34.5 inch
Blade length: 28.25 inch
Hilt length: 6.25 inch
Grip length: 3.5 inch
Blade width: 1.75 inch
CoG/PoB: 9.5 inch
CoP: 25 inch (approx)
Weight: 2 lbs, 5 oz.

The Hilt:
Let me first say that this is an absolutely beautiful sword. The pictures on the website do not do it justice, nor is any picture that I could take (forgive my shoddy photo work). The hilt may seem a bit small, and it is, but this is fully consistent with actual Roman era hilts (and I believe that this is an exacting replica of the original Hod Hill sword, and so it's dimensions mirror that). The hilt is peened.

The Blade:
I am not sure what steel the blade is made of; EN45 is the UK reenactment standard so I'll guess that (it's a good working steel, I forget what the nearest US designation is). The blade is very stiff and I could not flex it, so I can't comment on the temper. It is, being a reenactment sword, unedged. Although I suppose if you can edge a Windlass sword, you can edge this one (there is no provision for sharpening from the distributor, as far as I know).

Handing Characteristics:
Well, with a PoB of 9.5 inches and no distal taper, I'm not about to say that this is the liveliest sword I've ever met. No indeed, it is entirely blade-forward in balance and lacks the dynamic feel present in swords of similar weight with closer centers of gravity. I would not recommend this sword to someone looking for a fast-handling, dynamic, lively sword.
Now does this mean that this sword is sub-par? Not necessarily. The majority of reproduction spathae I have experience with have a strong blade-forward bias. I currently own four other reproduction spathae. Three of those (an older CASI, a current Del Tin, and a custom-level later spatha from Iron Age Armory) all have CoG's in the 8 inch range (the sole exception, an Albion 1st generation spatha with an Angus Trim blade, balances at 5.5 inches. It also has a lot of distal taper). Given the largely organic nature of spatha hilts, a certain amount of blade bias is to be expected. It's also important to remember the purpose behind a spatha -- it's a Cavalry sword, meant for hacking and slashing from horseback. I feel that the blade-forward bias encourages one to strike closer to the CoP with these swords, but maybe that's just me. In any event, with experience and practice, this sword can be mastered. And besides, I haven't handled too many actual Roman-era blades, but my research has indicated that they varied widely in overall quality as well as handling characteristics. So, make of that what you will.

Scabbard Serendipity:
The scabbard included is definitely Roman in style, with a bit of British/Celtic flavor at the mouth (there were plans to produce an optional all-metal Celtic-style scabbard, but I don't know anything else about that). It is a beautiful scabbard, well-made, with great stitching in back and a perfect fit for the sword. I'd say this is one of the best scabbards I've ever seen on an India-made sword (Deepeeka's Roman scabbards included). And, you know what, I've always had such great luck with Deepeeka's scabbards -- they always seem to fit other swords in my collection. So a couple of my older Albions and my Erik Stevenson gladius hispaniensis are sitting in Deepeeka scabbards now. So moved, I tried this scabbard with my Albion early spatha -- and it fits pretty darn well. Just a bit loose, but otherwise fine. Serendipity? Maybe!

Conclusion:
For the money (it works out to about $260 US, all told), this is a great deal. And Armamentaria is a great dealer to work with -- even though they're in the UK, they shipped faster than most places here in the USA!
But it's not for everyone (few swords are). It does lack in the handling department, and I don't think I'd recommend it to someone looking for a sword for cutting or stage combat. But to a reenactor, or collector of historical arms, or a historian, I'd highly recommend it.

Armamentaria: http://www.armamentaria.com/store/

Biblio:
1. Bishop, M.C. and Coulston, J.C.N. Roman Military Equipment from the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome. Second Edition. Oxbow Books, 2006.
2. Connolly, Peter. Greece and Rome at War. Revised Edition. Greenhill Books, 1998.



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David K. Wilson, Jr.
Laird of Glencoe

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Robert Muse




Location: Washington
Joined: 28 Sep 2009
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Posts: 481

PostPosted: Fri 28 Jan, 2011 8:08 pm    Post subject: Hod Hill Sword         Reply with quote

Hello David,

Well I have long wanted a copy of this sword, however I had a much worse experience than you did.

Just my opinion, but be very wary of this sword. Mine came in from the UK yesterday. The pommel is crooked, the blade is canted to one side and sits noticeably closer to one end of the guard than the other. I'll try to post some photos, but a personal email with bring photos if I have trouble posting. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much and knew it would be very blade heavy, but was hoping for at least a good display piece.

Since it too poor to display, I will try to improve the finish on the blade, then maybe grind the peened end off and see what happens.

Please don’t invest your money in this item.
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Robert Muse




Location: Washington
Joined: 28 Sep 2009
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Posts: 481

PostPosted: Sat 19 Feb, 2011 2:37 pm    Post subject: Hod Hill Sword         Reply with quote

Good Afternoon.
Well since I listed the problems I had with the sword, it is only fair to update the situation. It turns out that I was sent a rather crude prototype in error. After some exchange of photos they agreed to take it back, (They are in the UK) even though I had started repairs. They sent me a replacement which is much nicer, and have even offered to repay me the shipping charges.

All through this they have been first class in their attempts to solve this problem and seem very nice people to deal with. They are a small company and as such are able to give personal attention. I would not have any problem in ordering anything from them.
Warm Regards,
Robert
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
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Posts: 1,265

PostPosted: Tue 22 Feb, 2011 8:34 am    Post subject: Armamentaria's Hod Hill Spatha         Reply with quote

The Hod Hill sword's blade looks so impressive. But there was a prototype of this sword once sold at Armamentaria (below)

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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