Gladius with a pugio styled hilt?
This has been in my mind lately and I am looking into having a custom shop build one because it seems like a logical progression in my humble opinion that if romans were required to purchase their own gear, that a soldier with means might prefer a more flashy styled pugio hilt on his gladius instead of the standard wood one.
Hmm, sorry, never heard of anything like that. When you get a look at a wide range of examples of the things the soldiers supposedly supplied themselves, it's clear that they were very much slaves to fashion. Sure, each item is hand-made and unique in some way, but most likely it falls neatly into a known typology. In this particular case, the pugio and gladius followed their own construction and decoration methods and motifs, with *almost* no overlap.

There is one pugio blade from Britain, I think, with a gladius grip and what looks like the brass guard plate from a gladius stuck on its tang. No idea if this was original equipment (doesn't really look like it) or a Roman replacement hilt, or if the pieces were stuck together in modern times. The other piece that comes to mind is a weapon which I believe was found with the Herculaneum soldier, which appeared to be a large pugio blade with a gladius hilt. Unprecedented and very baffling! Of course, this is one of the very few finds from Italy, most other Roman gear coming from the provinces, so perhaps it's a regional variation of some sort.

The only other thing I can think of is that if you go back 4 or 5 centuries, the Italian version of the Greek hoplite sword seems to have the hilt constructed similarly to the later pugio: flat tang that follows the outline of the hilt, sandwiched by wood or bone plates, with thin metal plates over that. I seriously do NOT want to imply that the pugio hilt is a direct descendant of the earlier sword hilt, since things get very foggy in the 4th to 2nd centuries BC and it's quite possible the one disappeared long before the other showed up. Even less would I suggest that such an archaism hung on into the early Empire! There simply is nothing to suggest such a thing.

From another angle, while I can see the assumption that the pugio was fancier than the gladius, this is really more due to the frequently inlaid scabbard. Many pugio hilts had plain iron plates, while some gladius hilts were carved ivory. So the difference in bling factor may not have been that great. Even if it were, that's just how the fashion of the day was, and the soldiers wouldn't have seen anything odd about it. Adding silver and bling to the belt and scabbards was perfectly common and accepted, but completely changing the sword hilt to something which was never meant for that purpose would have drawn quite a bit of negative peer-pressure, as well as being less suitable for its task.

Sorry about that! I been looking at this stuff way too long...

I guess I could see your logic. Damn I just think it would look really good, but I can't seem to get any custom smiths out there who will answer my email inquiries.

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