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Lucas S

Location: poland
Joined: 25 Dec 2007

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sun 01 Aug, 2010 5:58 am    Post subject: roman sword construction needed         Reply with quote

can somebody tell me something about roman sword blade? i'm looking information about dimensions taken from excavated swords. especially THICKNESS is NEEDED. i can't find it. there are lot of pictures in the internet but nobody can tell me how thick is the blade. is the blade tapering to the point, or is in the same thickness throughout? is this 5 or 6 or 7mm at the hilt?

i'm preparing to make the roman sword and i need as much informations as possible.

-the kind of wood they use to make hilt,
-the carbon content in the steel for blade,
-are this bronze washers between the hilt and the blade in all swords, or there are sword without it?
-dimensions(lenght, width, thickenss)

the best would be informations like on the picture i atteched;)

thanks for all informations.

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Luke Zechman

Location: Lock Haven Pennsylvania
Joined: 18 Jan 2009

Posts: 278

PostPosted: Sun 01 Aug, 2010 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think this can be a tricky thing, because the Roman absorbed so many cultures into their empire, that there was probably a lot of variation. I would narrow down your area of interest to a specific time, and area of the Roman Empire first.
As far as distal taper goes... I am under the impression that there is not a whole lot of distal taper on most historic examples. These swords where used in tight formation, and the thrust was more important. It would make sense for the blade to be fairly stiff. Some of the blades had a hollow ground point area that would reinforce the point and make it beefier.
Albion has a full line up of Roman swords, and they are pretty accurate to blade geometry.
The washer that sits between the blade and the cross guard was either butted right up against, recessed into, or absent all together. The wood is a tricky are. I think the Romans preferred lighter colored hardwoods. The use of darker woods for the cross and pommel, is a modern design element. Maple would be a good choice. I have made mine out of black walnut, and cherry.
The grip can be made from a bone found in the leg of a cow. The hollow place through the middle can accept the tang. The cross section of the grips can be circular, oval, hexagonal, or octagonal.
I would take a look at the thread "Pompei Gladius Modifications" on this forum. I was asking the same questions about a year ago, and a lot of them where similar to yours, and addressed in that thread. Legio XX is a good place for information.

Good Luck and post us a picture when you complete the sword
Laughing Out Loud

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Matthew Amt

Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,456

PostPosted: Sun 01 Aug, 2010 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Pretty much what Luke says--he was asking many of these questions a few months ago! For a long time there was very little in the way of published information regarding some of those details, but now there is a book by Christian Miks, "Studien zur Romischen Schwertbewaffnung in der Kaiserzeit", 2007, ISBN 978-3-84646-136-0. Apparently it contains most of what is known about Imperial Roman swords. Apart from that, you're stuck with digging through a few dozen other works, looking for the one piece of data each might have, and wondering if the tiny line drawings and few cross-sections are to scale! I suspect that a lot of surviving swords have not even been carefully measured or even weighed.

In short, from what I know, everything varied. Some blades were finely crafted with excellent steel edges and good distal taper. Others were basically asymmetrical mild steel sharpened crowbars. Volume 8 of Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies shows a number of late Republican blades (gladius hispaniensis) with thicknesses ranging up to 11 mm, and they didn't look very tapered! You can get a few basics on my Legio XX Gladius page,

Another good place to look for information is the Roman Army Talk board,

As Luke said, Miks reinforces a growing belief that paler woods like birch and maple were typical for pommels and guards, though bone and ivory were also used. An inset guard plate of brass (not actually bronze) was common, but not universal.

I hope that gets you started! Vale,

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Lucas S

Location: poland
Joined: 25 Dec 2007

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Sun 01 Aug, 2010 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thanks for informations! it helps me a lot. when i was asking about roman sword i was thinking about sword like the sword on the right side on this picture:
straight blade with the central ridge(or not) and with the triangle reinforced tip. pompei gladius?

can i use wood or metal for a gladius grip? i found some pictures of hilts with the metal or wood grip but i'm not sure are these handles from the gladius or from the spatha sword. looks similar.

i'm asking because i'm looking for a simply informations. i have not to much time to read a stock of books about roman era:( especially in english - it take me lot of time to translate the book. i'm usually making xvii centry stuff(hungarian-polish sabres etc.) but i always wanted to have a roman sword in my collection:) when i was in UK i bought a "weapons of the romans" book but i can't find good informations in this book.

i don't like to start my work without good informations about item. if it's possible, would be nice to have dimensions from the particular excavated sword(or just a blade). i don't want to make the replica based on the replica, but if i will not find what i'm looking for i will start my work with this what i will have.
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