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Howard Waddell
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 11:06 am    Post subject: Introducing... Albion's New Triumvirate of Roman Gladii         Reply with quote

We have completed prototypes of two other gladii to round out the new trio, along with the Augustus Mainz we announced ealier.



The Tiberius Fulham is at the top of the photo; the Trajan (Guttmann) Pompeii (center); and the Augustus Mainz (bottom).

All three are based on Peter's most recent research on Roman swords.

The Trajan (inspired by the "Guttmann" blade in the Royal Armouries) has a slightly waisted blade, a hollow-ground point and a reinforced tip.



(All three models are $100 off the regular price until March 15th as part of our Idus Martias Sale.)

More here:

http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...fulham.htm
http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...ompeii.htm
http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...inz-II.htm

Best,

Howy

Albion Swords Ltd
http://albion-swords.com
http://filmswords.com
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David Lohnes




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 11:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beyond consmetics, how significant are the differences between the old models and the new models, especially in terms of historicity, handling, and construction.

I ask because I'm unclear what motivated a redesign of the gladii before the entire 2nd gen line or the sparring line had been finished the first time through.

Thanks for Albion's great, great contributions!
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Peter Johnsson
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I shall try to add some info. The new Gladii are a direct result of my ongoing studies to lay the basis for the spathae. The lengthy development time for the spathae is in part a result of several retakes in blade and hilt design, as new information have been absorbed. I have made several research visits to museums specifically to study roman swords and each has brought new fact and ideas. Also the publications by Ilkjaer and Miks on roman spathae and swords of the imperial period has had an influence on the development of these new romans.
I took part in a conference on roman military archaeology with the intention to learn directly from the experts and get opportunity to discuss various ideas that are not covered in publications dealing with construction of hilts and other matters. This was really rewarding and I came home with my head spinning of new impressions and data.

It has been a winding road, but now there is enough new input to validate a new design of the gladii.
The blades of the Tiberius (Fulham) and the Augustus (Mainz classic type) are the same as before. The blade of the Pompeii sword is drastically different from the first offer. This new blade has a subtle waist from base to the widening just before the triangular point. Its thrusting point is actually both hollow ground reinforced, just like the best examples of the classic type. It offers much more in both handling, efficiency, authenticity and aesthetics.
The hilts on the first run of gladii were perhaps a bit of a nod to the established expectation of what a roman sword should look like: dark pommel and guard with a pale grip. The new hilts are not just an aesthetic upgrade but a step up in authenticity in how the materials are used: a single type of wood is used for the whole grip. This is what you could have expected roman cutlers to use: they did not strive for this color contrast that has become the modern norm, but used the best materials at hand. Bone grips were common, but in no way universal. All wood grips would also have been a common sight even if they are rare in surviving material today (the danish bog finds show us this, but there are very few gladii swords represented, almost all swords in these finds are from a later period when the spathae was the sword of the roman soldiers and germanic warriors alike).
The grip on the new roman swords (two of the spathae and the three gladii) is a octagonal design that is wider than it is thick. This is a shape that you can see in surviving specimen in bone, but it is equally functional and practical if made in wood. It tapers in all dimensions from the wide base at the guard towards the pommel. It may seem like a small and insignificant change from before, but the effect is pretty profound in both looks and function.
Personally I feel that these new gladii are several steps beyond the first models. I have also used this opportunity to adjust the shape of guards and pommels so that they are more authentic than before. An ambition with the new roman sword is to bring them away from being generic, to being representations of specific types and this relates to both hilts and blades. Quite some effort has been made to make the blade and the hilt forms fit in style, proportion and chronology according to surviving originals.

That you see new gladii being presented while there are still swords in other lines that are in various stages of progress is not a case of negligence. The development of new models and types is seldom a straight and even journey. There are many projects being worked on at the same time. This allows us to present new models when there is a retake or adjustment needed on other projects.

As work has proceeded with the spathae we have now an opportunity to present these Gladii almost as a bonus. The hilt design I developed for the spathae are in various degrees used for the gladii as well.
Then there is the case of having had access to the data on the glorious Guttmann Gladius and crying out to be used...:-)
This stunning original sword comes from the prestigious Guttmann collection. It can now be seen displayed at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The first time I saw that sword I was floored. It is really a great blade. At the roman military archaeology conference I met with people that knew the original well and I was kindly given access to good and detailed information on the original. This is used as the basis for the design of the Trajan blade. Not a museum line copy, but pretty darn close.
I am exited that we can now offer a very authentic Pompeii blade that incorporates elements you can see on the best and most well preserved originals, details that are very rare to see anywhere else in reconstructions. The hollow ground reinforced point makes this seemingly humble blade type into a completely different animal.
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David Lohnes




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2010 6:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the full reply, Peter.
I always enjoy reading your commentary on Albion products.

I've been under the impression that the Pompeii gladius represents a sort of utilitarian redesign of the sword designed to maximize production efficiency and minimize cost.

Take for example the following lines from the myArmoury.com feature on the gladius:

Quote:
This third type, known as the Pompeii, is a departure from the earlier graceful designs. Indeed, one can hardly call the Pompeii graceful: stark perhaps, definitely utilitarian, but never graceful. . . . It has been surmised that these changes were due to different body armor being used by Rome's opponents. This is a valid position considering that Rome did indeed change armor design in direct relation to new weapons that were encountered. In the case of the gladius I feel that this is untrue. In my opinion these changes in design were due primarily to economic factors. When comparing the various types of gladii it is obvious that the Pompeii is the one that is far easier to produce.


Based on your recent research, you seem to have a new opinion of the Pompeii type, a high opinion. What do you think? Is it a utilitarian redesign designed to minimize cost? Is it simpler to make than the Mainz? Are you in some sense suggesting we need to reevaluate some of our conclusions about the Pompeii gladius?

And on a related note, would you say that the Guttman example is representative of the type, or is it possible that it's simply an exceedingly fine example, and perhaps not characteristic of the type as a whole?
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 12:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks David,

I know that I have come to re evaluate the Pompeii type.
On my trips to various museums I have come across a few nice originals. The Guttmann gladius is a very fine one, but it is not alone. When I got hold of Christian Miks´ work on the roman sword in the imperial period, the impression was reinforced even further.
There are many surviving pompeii blades with reinforced and hollow ground point. The very subtle waisted outline is also a feature that many of these have in common. Miks makes a point of this in his classification of the type. The classic version of the Pompeii blade is typically waisted like this and has a reinforced point.
The fact that we tend to look down on this blade type as being crude and utilitarian may be an effect of how these swords are described in literature, even academic literature.

It is true that a Pompeii sword is not as imposing as a broad Mainz or Fulham. Compared to these it is easy to overlook the qualities of the smaller sword.
The curves are so subtle that they are easy to overlook, especially since books on the history of swords or roman weapons often publish very few images of the originals and tend to describe them in ways that stress the simplification in forma compared to earlier types.

I have come to respect this blade type. The design has reduced the forms to the bare essentials, but without taking away the subtle quality of a highly defined blade concept. The shaping of the point is absolutely more advanced than the previous types. It allows maximum of effect and economy in the se of materials. A point like this (with hollow ground section) will penetrate with ease and also survive abuse and hard impacts much better. The overall shape has been reduced to a very stark outline, but there is still a curvature going on that really makes for a tremendous difference in how you perceive these swords.
I know I have been guilt of making the design too simple as it is expressed in the first version, the Pedite. There are original blades that look like this, but this form is not representative of the quality or shape of the classic examples.
I think there is a concept today of what this type should be that is not in accordance with what the originals really were like. Just about any replica you see on the market, be it production or custom work makes the pomeii style too simple and crude.

It is the same as with the medieval falchion. We are so used to seeing it described as a heavy bladed chopper, that we expect them to be just that. Many reconstructions today suffer from this misconception. We make them nto what they never were just to meet a popular idea that is false. Many writers of historical texts keep repeating this "fact" without taking the trouble to verify and see if it is really true. In actuality, the medieval falchion is a beautifully balanced and agile weapon. It is not a crude chopper as we often would like to think it is, just because it looks brutal.

The Pompeii style may look utilitarian and uninspiring compared to its predecessors at a first quick glance. If we want to describe it is a way that makes sense of the development and history of the roman army, it may help to create a more accessible picture, if we stress the aspects that are basic and utilitarian.
I do not think that this really gives a true and fair image of what these swords really are.
I am not sure they are easier to make. I think perhaps they are, but I´d have to forge a few alongside the older types to make sure, but to really be able to say, you´d have to have a roman production setting with the same starting material and the same steps of manufacture. How it works out making one of each from modern standard steel will not say that much. So, really we will not be able to truly know if they were faster to make. It is a fair guess, but nothing more.

The reinforced point is more involved than the point type seen on the earlier swords. The grinding of the point section that often have defined bevels of the point almost makes me think of japanese blades and their clearly defined point section. It takes a clear head and steady hand to grind this. The body of the blade may be more straight forward. There may also be an economy in use of material, or time to be saved in how the blanks are preformed before final forging to shape. Possibly there is time saved in not drawing out the great width of the earlier types.
There can be many reasons why the Pompeii type replaced the broad Mainz type. Perhaps they were actually *more* efficient in use, allowing good enough or equally good cutting with superior thrusting and a more sturdy point?
Perhaps it is not a case of "good enough but butt ugly" but rather a careful reducing of elements into something that is superior in every aspect?
I think the shape is an almost fool proof design concept. You can put down the important aspects and set smiths to manufacture them, and expect a high level of success. Even those that does not come out as the best examples will be very functional swords.

Ok, this was some ramblings on the topic. Happy
I hope that the Trajan may inspire a new and fresh look on the Pompeii type. Perhaps it can help create a richer appreciation of what these swords really were?

David Lohnes wrote:
Thanks for the full reply, Peter.
I always enjoy reading your commentary on Albion products.

I've been under the impression that the Pompeii gladius represents a sort of utilitarian redesign of the sword designed to maximize production efficiency and minimize cost.

Take for example the following lines from the myArmoury.com feature on the gladius:

Quote:
This third type, known as the Pompeii, is a departure from the earlier graceful designs. Indeed, one can hardly call the Pompeii graceful: stark perhaps, definitely utilitarian, but never graceful. . . . It has been surmised that these changes were due to different body armor being used by Rome's opponents. This is a valid position considering that Rome did indeed change armor design in direct relation to new weapons that were encountered. In the case of the gladius I feel that this is untrue. In my opinion these changes in design were due primarily to economic factors. When comparing the various types of gladii it is obvious that the Pompeii is the one that is far easier to produce.


Based on your recent research, you seem to have a new opinion of the Pompeii type, a high opinion. What do you think? Is it a utilitarian redesign designed to minimize cost? Is it simpler to make than the Mainz? Are you in some sense suggesting we need to reevaluate some of our conclusions about the Pompeii gladius?

And on a related note, would you say that the Guttman example is representative of the type, or is it possible that it's simply an exceedingly fine example, and perhaps not characteristic of the type as a whole?
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Keith L. Rogers




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They look outstanding. If I follow, the Trajan is the Pompeii update and is now available for manufacture? I have a daughter reading classics in England and it would be a perfect graduation gift. After all, it was the gladius type in all the Asterix and Obelix books I read to her as a child. Big Grin

Edit: never mind - I just followed the links to Albion's web site and see they are available for order. Guess I'll be mailing Mike soon...
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 10:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter,

Beautiful weapns Happy

Slightly OT question, when precisely did the Spatha replace the Gadius for Roman Legionarries, and for cavalry, and for other troops Auxiliaries etc.

I've been trying to figure this out for a while but I get a lot of contradictory information.

J

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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2010 5:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Peter,

Beautiful weapns Happy

Slightly OT question, when precisely did the Spatha replace the Gadius for Roman Legionarries, and for cavalry, and for other troops Auxiliaries etc.

I've been trying to figure this out for a while but I get a lot of contradictory information.

J


Well, it's hard to get a "precise" date for the spatha, but for cavalry, it was very early on -- remember, the Romans did not have much cavalry of their own, and so recruited auxiliaries from Gauls and Germans, among others -- think late 1st century BC at the earliest. As for the rest of the army, certainly into the 3rd century, although the "turn over" was most likely started in the mid-to-late 2nd century. That's the answer in a nutshell; others may have more detailed responses.

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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2010 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Keith L. Rogers wrote:
They look outstanding. If I follow, the Trajan is the Pompeii update and is now available for manufacture? I have a daughter reading classics in England and it would be a perfect graduation gift. After all, it was the gladius type in all the Asterix and Obelix books I read to her as a child. Big Grin

Edit: never mind - I just followed the links to Albion's web site and see they are available for order. Guess I'll be mailing Mike soon...


Knowing that the Trajan will be presented to a young woman who has completed classics studies makes me very happy Happy
A perfect use for this sword!

Thanks for your kind words Keith.
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2010 1:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Peter,

Beautiful weapns Happy

Slightly OT question, when precisely did the Spatha replace the Gadius for Roman Legionarries, and for cavalry, and for other troops Auxiliaries etc.

I've been trying to figure this out for a while but I get a lot of contradictory information.

J


David gave a good answer to your question Jean. I´d just like to expand on it a bit.
Christian Miks has published a great work on the roman sword in the imperial period. It covers two late gladii Hispaniensis types, the shorter gladii and spathae up to the beginning of the migration period.

Swords that can be described as spathae, that is longer blades that can serve well from horse back, but also infantry use are in existence during all of this period.
The Mainz and Pompeii types were in use from around 50 BC into the early years of the third century AD. The classic Mainz type was abandoned around 50 AD, with the Fulham surviving another decade or so. Other sub types of the Mainz bridge the gap and exist alongside the classic Pompeii type that was used roughly 50 AD - 175 AD. Subtypes of the Pompeii type were used into the third C AD.

One of the blades that we today recognize as gladius hispaniensis, the fontillet type (a bit like a type XVIII blade actually) was kept in use during the first century AD. Otherwise it is often said that the longer gladius hispaniensis was abandoned by the time the Mainz type gladius was put in use. The Mainz type gladius has several sub types: the classic type that is popularly known as a Mainz, but also the Fulham type (a well known subtype!). Less well known sub types are the Haltern-Camuludunum type (that have an outline like a medieval type XIV blade, but no fuller), the Wederath type (that looks like a Pompeii on stereoids), the Sisak type that is slimmer than the classic type (it has a more pronounced waist and angular look), and finally the Mühlbach type that looks like a starving cousin of the Sisak type. In all the Mainz group is very varied. The Wederath and Haltern-Camuludnum were kept in use during the beginning of the period for the Pompeii type.

During the first and second century AD there is a type of spatha in use that we now call the Newstead subtype of the Straubing-Nydam spathae. This is the blade I reconstructed for Albion´s Auxilia spatha. This sword would probably have been used mostly by cavalry.
During the second half of the second century and the third century the spatha was taken into use also by infantry. There are many types and sub types of spathae blades. Interestingly, very very few look like the popular image we have today: a slim diamond sectioned blade with a triangular point. They are really exceptions!
Instead there are many versions of complex cross sections, octagonal, hexagonal, groves and fullers in pairs and quadruples. Some spathae are very broad and pretty short. Other blades look like 17th C swords, although sturdier and as a rule better made (some incredible patter welding is going on n this period: work of a quality that can rival just aout anything made before or after!)
It is interesting that there are early influences from long sword types from the east. The romans came in contact with peoples that used swords that were made with strong impact from chinese blade culture.
It is a very rich and interesting picture that is revealed, once the first stereotypes are pushed aside.


Last edited by Peter Johnsson on Thu 04 Mar, 2010 2:16 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2010 1:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps this can serve as an illustration why it takes time to develop these swords. I will not pretend to be an expert on the history and development of the roman sword. I have done hands on research of original roman blades and read current academic literature on the subject (most often in german! I cannot read really read german...*sigh*), but there is a lot of ground to cover! Over these last four or five years the roman sword has been an important focus in my ongoing studies of bladed weapons. The result is that I now dream of making and finding roman swords. What takes time in designing swords is not the work in the smithy or at the drawing table: it is the background work that keep you occupied for years.

All this to be able to make weapons that relates to something that has existed in a context.
It is great fun, very interesting, but also quite time consuming. I know that just about every detail and aspect of these swords will be subject to questions and evaluation: this is the natural basis for decision for any customer. I want the these weapons to be able to answer to a close scrutiny and provide the owner with this special feeling of something revealed and confirmed.

I hope that these new roman swords will reach enthusiasts of classic history as well as military historians and sword aficionados. The roman sword is an incredibly rich topic. There is much to find and appreciate. Perhaps the new swords now offered by Albion can help inspire a curiosity and appreciation of these at first glance humble looking blades.


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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2010 6:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Could you please show an example of Sisak blade type? If it is Sisak in Croatia I'm very interested in it as it is in my country. Also, do you maybe know if some of them are kept in Croatians museum? I would probably visit these museums if they are. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2010 7:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here you go Luka:

The sword is a river find from river Kupa. It is kept at the Archaeological museum in Zagreb: inventory number 2805.
Total length is 64 cm, blade is 53 cm long and originally about 5 cm wide, tang is preserved to a length of 11 cm long. This very short tang seems to me must have been a bit longer originally.
The blade has a narrow grove down the center. It is broken in two and the base of the blade below the tang is much rusted.

Miks tells us that the type can have blades between 52 cm to almost 59 cm. They are sometimes classified as semispathae. Width varies between 4 to 5.6 cm, most are over 4.5 cm. Tang length varies between 13 and 16 cm. This tells us the guard and pommel were of low to moderate height. Perhaps a flattened doorknob shaped pommel as can be seen on some classic Mainz swords?

They have diamond cross section or sometimes lenticular.

It is a very beautiful shape on these swords. If there is interest in these roman swords from Albion, it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of the more unusual gladii sub types and spathae.



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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2010 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank for sharing all the info on roman swords Peter, and must say that I really like the Augustus, I think that it is definate improvement over the previous Mainz model, whose name escapes me at the moment. It took me a bit of time to get used to the design of the Trajan but now I really like it, even though the Pedite is still what I think of when I think of the "classic" roman sword, but as you've shown in your above post there was far more variation to these designs that we commonly see in the modern market. As for the Tiberius I'm still not sure if I like it or not but may be it will grow on me the same as the Trajan did. Anyway keep up the good work and I'm really looking forward to seeing more spatha released especially the Ducerio.
Éirinn go Brách
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2010 3:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
Here you go Luka:

The sword is a river find from river Kupa. It is kept at the Archaeological museum in Zagreb: inventory number 2805.
Total length is 64 cm, blade is 53 cm long and originally about 5 cm wide, tang is preserved to a length of 11 cm long. This very short tang seems to me must have been a bit longer originally.
The blade has a narrow grove down the center. It is broken in two and the base of the blade below the tang is much rusted.

Miks tells us that the type can have blades between 52 cm to almost 59 cm. They are sometimes classified as semispathae. Width varies between 4 to 5.6 cm, most are over 4.5 cm. Tang length varies between 13 and 16 cm. This tells us the guard and pommel were of low to moderate height. Perhaps a flattened doorknob shaped pommel as can be seen on some classic Mainz swords?

They have diamond cross section or sometimes lenticular.

It is a very beautiful shape on these swords. If there is interest in these roman swords from Albion, it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of the more unusual gladii sub types and spathae.


Thank you very much, I'll go next week to see if it's still on display. it's really nice blade shape. Is there anything special with blade construction? Is it piled steel or something else?
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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2010 4:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:


Thank you very much, I'll go next week to see if it's still on display. it's really nice blade shape. Is there anything special with blade construction? Is it piled steel or something else?


I do not know any details about construction of this specific blade.
Some research has been done on roman blades showing various techniques being used. I have myself seen polished original roman blades (broken) that show a nice structure (piled) like japanese steel and also a "hamon" along the edge. This is a natural result of using bloomery steel with low hardenability.

Sandwich constructions, welded on edges, even carburization was used by the blade smiths of roman times.

Perhaps you can see enough to make a guess when you see the original. Sometimes the rust reveals the inner structure.

Please let us know your impressions when you have seen it!

Below photo of a spatha blade showing structure of steel and a zone of hardened steel showing like a frosty band along the edge.



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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2010 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Johnsson wrote:
The romans came in contact with peoples that used swords that were made with strong impact from chinese blade culture.
It is a very rich and interesting picture that is revealed, once the first stereotypes are pushed aside.


Peter Johnsson wrote:

Below photo of a spatha blade showing structure of steel and a zone of hardened steel showing like a frosty band along the edge.



Peter,

First, I love the new versions of the Gladius and I would definately put forth a vote for an Albion version of the Sisak Gladius. That is a fine looking blade!

Second, I thought I would post this photo as an illustration for your comment about the influence of Chinese sword making on the Romans. The top blade is the spatha which you posted and the bottom blade is a late 1800's to early 1900's Chinese jian blade. If the jian had a little higher level of polish, they would appear to be almost identical. If one looks closely, a few of the fine striations resulting from the multiple layers of steel are faintly visible on the jian and the whitish, hardened edges are obvious in both.

I will note that the scales are probably out of proportion with the spatha blade being wider than the jian's 1.25" width.

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