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Caleb Cox




Location: California
Joined: 14 Oct 2017

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 10:48 am    Post subject: Antique Roman Gladius         Reply with quote

Hi everyone. Iíd love your input on this piece.
I was in conversations with an antique dealer and came across this piece.
I purchased it and they didnít know whether it was authentic or not. I didnít pay a terribly expensive price for it, so Iím ok if itís reproduction.
I know thereís some expert eyes on this forum, so Iíd appreciate any insight you can give.
The guard and pommel are ivory. The handle is bone. The fittings are snug. It measures 24Ē overall and the handle is 3.2Ē. Thanks



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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,380

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm afraid it's not an antique, at least it doesn't date to *ancient* times. It simply isn't in the right condition. The hilt would be shrunken and cracked and discolored--there *are* some artifacts which are amazingly preserved, but even they don't look like this. And this blade shows both bare metal and active rust, which isn't right, either. Other details nag at me, but are not as definitive.

Sorry about that!

Matthew
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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 371

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Caleb,

I strongly doubt that this is authentic.

In your photos, the peen looks absolutely fresh. It also doesn't seem to have been made over any sort of washer or nut, which makes this at least unusual.

The finish on the hilt is too smooth. The exposed grain of very old ivory opens slightly, like wood's grain; bone does the same. See the ivory Roman hilt in the British Museum for an example. Also, while ivory will yellow over time if it's exposed to sunlight (it stays white when protected from light), the brown color here seems too dark. This looks more like mineralized mammoth ivory, or modern ivory with a stain applied, than ancient elephant ivory. Finally, it's not clear why the guard and pommel would be ivory but the grip would be bone.

The blade has a flat triangular area where it joins the hilt, where the central ridge widens toward the blade's shoulders. No surviving Roman blade is known to have a similar feature.

The blade's profile isn't right. It looks as though the maker wanted to give it a waisted shape, but put the waist too close to the hilt. To be fair, this could be an illusion produced by loss of the edges to corrosion, with the blade intended to have straight edges.

Finally, it seems very unlikely that were it authentic you could have gotten it for a price that wouldn't make you cry (OK, it would make me cry; you may well be more stoic about such things) if it's not. I have difficulty imagining that an original gladius in this condition wouldn't be a famous piece, the highlight of a major museum's collection or of one of the great private collections (such as Axel Guttmann's). In either case it would have a strong provenance and a correspondingly high price.

I can't say this is actually a forgery. It's perfectly possible that this was never meant to be be anything other than a reproduction, even in its aged state; but that its history was at some point lost, leading to confusion.

I'm sorry for the unfavorable opinion, but I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman
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Caleb Cox




Location: California
Joined: 14 Oct 2017

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Caleb,

I strongly doubt that this is authentic.

In your photos, the peen looks absolutely fresh. It also doesn't seem to have been made over any sort of washer or nut, which makes this at least unusual.

The finish on the hilt is too smooth. The exposed grain of very old ivory opens slightly, like wood's grain; bone does the same. See the ivory Roman hilt in the British Museum for an example. Also, while ivory will yellow over time if it's exposed to sunlight (it stays white when protected from light), the brown color here seems too dark. This looks more like mineralized mammoth ivory, or modern ivory with a stain applied, than ancient elephant ivory. Finally, it's not clear why the guard and pommel would be ivory but the grip would be bone.

The blade has a flat triangular area where it joins the hilt, where the central ridge widens toward the blade's shoulders. No surviving Roman blade is known to have a similar feature.

The blade's profile isn't right. It looks as though the maker wanted to give it a waisted shape, but put the waist too close to the hilt. To be fair, this could be an illusion produced by loss of the edges to corrosion, with the blade intended to have straight edges.

Finally, it seems very unlikely that were it authentic you could have gotten it for a price that wouldn't make you cry (OK, it would make me cry; you may well be more stoic about such things) if it's not. I have difficulty imagining that an original gladius in this condition wouldn't be a famous piece, the highlight of a major museum's collection or of one of the great private collections (such as Axel Guttmann's). In either case it would have a strong provenance and a correspondingly high price.

I can't say this is actually a forgery. It's perfectly possible that this was never meant to be be anything other than a reproduction, even in its aged state; but that its history was at some point lost, leading to confusion.

I'm sorry for the unfavorable opinion, but I hope this proves helpful.

Best,

Mark Millman


I do appreciate and value this insight! I assumed it was ďtoo good to be true.Ē
It very well could be mammoth ivory, as it is definitely some kind of ivory. It reminded me of the pommel on the far right of this gladius in the Nijmegen Museum. The handle could be ivory as well.
The seller did have it appraised by the Artemis Gallery and by a Dr Bron Lipkin from Collector Antiquities.



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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 12:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I recognize that blade shape. It looks very close to a french pattern 1831 artillery sword. They have slightly varying degrees of waist on the blade, but the shape is very very close to what you have. You could likely take some measurements to confirm.

Picture from: http://www.ambroseantiques.com/swords/1832.htm



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Caleb Cox




Location: California
Joined: 14 Oct 2017

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 12:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
I recognize that blade shape. It looks very close to a french pattern 1831 artillery sword. They have slightly varying degrees of waist on the blade, but the shape is very very close to what you have. You could likely take some measurements to confirm.

Picture from: http://www.ambroseantiques.com/swords/1832.htm

You are absolutely right! That looks spot on.
Hereís another view of the checking in the ivory.



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Tyler C.




Location: Canada
Joined: 20 Aug 2019
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Caleb Cox wrote:
Tyler C. wrote:
I recognize that blade shape. It looks very close to a french pattern 1831 artillery sword. They have slightly varying degrees of waist on the blade, but the shape is very very close to what you have. You could likely take some measurements to confirm.

Picture from: http://www.ambroseantiques.com/swords/1832.htm

You are absolutely right! That looks spot on.
Hereís another view of the checking in the ivory.


You may also be able to look on the flat adjacent to the hilt to see if you can detect the remains of a stamp. I am not an expert on these blades, nor is it my area of interest, but I have seen a few in passing, and some of them have had custom hilts. I could be wrong, but I believe the blade shape was a nod to the Roman gladius because of the popularity of Rome in France during that period. I suppose it's possible that someone wanted an authentic style hilt on their artillery blade. Perhaps the blade is not a fake, but an antique from mid 19th century France owed by a historical sword nut like many of us. I know I would have wanted to put a gladius hilt on my 1831 sword if I were around then.
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Caleb Cox




Location: California
Joined: 14 Oct 2017

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tyler C. wrote:
Caleb Cox wrote:
Tyler C. wrote:
I recognize that blade shape. It looks very close to a french pattern 1831 artillery sword. They have slightly varying degrees of waist on the blade, but the shape is very very close to what you have. You could likely take some measurements to confirm.

Picture from: http://www.ambroseantiques.com/swords/1832.htm

You are absolutely right! That looks spot on.
Hereís another view of the checking in the ivory.


You may also be able to look on the flat adjacent to the hilt to see if you can detect the remains of a stamp. I am not an expert on these blades, nor is it my area of interest, but I have seen a few in passing, and some of them have had custom hilts. I could be wrong, but I believe the blade shape was a nod to the Roman gladius because of the popularity of Rome in France during that period. I suppose it's possible that someone wanted an authentic style hilt on their artillery blade. Perhaps the blade is not a fake, but an antique from mid 19th century France owed by a historical sword nut like many of us. I know I would have wanted to put a gladius hilt on my 1831 sword if I were around then.


Thanks for that input! Thatís a very novel idea. And I feel it bears some consideration. The timeline at least seems right.
If there was a makers stamp, it would be right here:



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Joe A




Location: Philadelphia, USA
Joined: 17 Oct 2013

Posts: 75

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
I'm afraid it's not an antique, at least it doesn't date to *ancient* times.

Sorry about that!

Matthew


As Matt says it's probably not an "Antiquity" but it may still have some real value as an "Antique." Many reproduction "Roman" swords were made in the 19th century for a variety of reasons and this one may have well started out as an "artillery sword" from the era. Now what really has some value, if value is what you are curious about...is knowing if this was a "forgery" made to fool mostly newly rich Americans in the 19th century doing the Grand Tour in Europe. Many of them had way too much money and not a lot of knowledge so they bought many very cleverly produced forgeries that looked quite accurate to the untrained eye. Some of these ended in major museums as donations at some point and some are still on display. Not to be confused with "reproductions" sold as reproductions such those made by the Italian bronze foundry CHIURAZZI. Most museum will not venture a guess, but an insurance company might take a very close look at it as they are in the business of knowing what they are insuring.
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Joe A




Location: Philadelphia, USA
Joined: 17 Oct 2013

Posts: 75

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looking at your picture of where the blade enters the guard. I note there is no bronze or brass plate present - just wood. That's actually pretty authentic even though most modern "Roman" reproduction swords have those plates.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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Posts: 3,453

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When I purchase these kinds of items, I ask myself what would it cost to buy a similar reproduction on today's market. If the price is less then I buy it. That way, it doesn't matter whether it is authentic or not, it is still a good deal.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Caleb Cox




Location: California
Joined: 14 Oct 2017

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
When I purchase these kinds of items, I ask myself what would it cost to buy a similar reproduction on today's market. If the price is less then I buy it. That way, it doesn't matter whether it is authentic or not, it is still a good deal.

Dan, Thatís a great perspective and a helpful way to think. Iíve really value everyoneís wisdom on this.
What originally sold me was the ivory handle. I thought that was rare on any sword and I appreciated the organic simplicity of it. Thanks
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Caleb Cox




Location: California
Joined: 14 Oct 2017

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon 04 May, 2020 8:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only thing I will add is this:
There are examples of Ivory from this period that are dark and comparable to my specimen.
And there are blade types that are similar. Here are examples:



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Mark Millman





Joined: 10 Feb 2005

Posts: 371

PostPosted: Tue 05 May, 2020 1:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Caleb,

Indeed there are relatively dark surviving ivories, but their color tends to be uniform, unlike that on your pommel but like the guard of the Nijmegen gladius. Also, I think your pommel and guard are darker than any other ivories I can recall, but it's hard to tell when relying on electronic reproduction of photographs--there are just too many chances for the images not to be calibrated to the same standards, not to mention poor color reproduction by the computer.

I do always forget that the guard and grip (no doubt you know that the pommel is a reconstruction) of that Nijmegen gladius are in such good condition. I imagine the fact that it's a river-find helps explain the preservation of their surfaces.

Reverting to an earlier topic: To me, the grip of your sword looks like bone rather than ivory. The grain is looser and it seems to have pores that I don't expect to see in ivory. But I could well be wrong, especially on the basis of only a couple of photos.

I think that the blade types in that illustration from Bishop and Coulston's Roman Military Equipment are only superficially similar to your sword's blade. For example, the way your edges taper to the point is much more curved than in any of the drawing's examples.

But hey--none of this should interfere with your pleasure in the sword. As you point out, it wasn't terribly expensive, you knew that its being an ancient gladius was too good to be true, and it was the form and composition of the ivory hilt that persuaded you to buy it--which now you have. I'd call that a win.

Best,

Mark
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