Romans in Britain site main banner

Romans in Britain military menu header

button for Romans in Britain home page
button for Romans in Britain Site map page
button for Romans in Britain Roman Military area
button for Romans in Britain; The Structure of a Legion Page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Soldier page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman helmet page
button for Romans in Britain: The Roman armor page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Shield page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Soldier's Belt page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Soldier's Footwear page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Sword page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Dagger page
button for Romans in Britain; The Thrown Weapons page
button for Romans in Britain; The New Soldier Arrives page
button for Romans in Britain; The Soldier's Life page
button for Romans in Britain; Roman Battle Tactics page
button for Romans in Britain; Roman Artillery page
button for Romans in Britain; The Roman Signalling Systems page
Glossary of
Military terms
A B C D E F
G H I J K L
M N O P Q R
S T U V W X
Y Z

button for Romans in Britain Bookstore
button for Romans in Britain Links page
Add YOUR link button on Romans in Britain website
About Site button on Romans in Britain website
15 most-viewed pages button on Romans in Britain website

Add our Button link:


KultOfAthena.com


Visit Soul of the Warrior!

The Roman Soldier's Sword - Gladius

The gladius

Roman soldier's sword` (Gladius)On the right side of the soldier's body was a short and relatively lightweight instrument that was his main fighting weapon. The sword gladius

When first examining the gladius, it is difficult to see how such a small weapon, just 18 inches long, was capable of being so effective. But as we shall see the gladius was ingenious in design and implementation.

The soldier wore his gladius on the right side of his body regardless of whether he was left or right handed. As soldiers fought battles not individually, but as a single unit, standing shoulder to shoulder. There would be up to 500 men in a line all touching the one either side, so making it impossible for the enemy top get through the ranks.

GladiusIt was imperative that they all used the same hand for fighting with the gladius. So in training, any left handed soldiers would have their left arm strapped to their body and made to practice using his sword with his right hand until it was second nature.

When using the gladius, the legionaries did not hack at the opponent as this would have made the soldier vulnerable to attack on the exposed parts of his body. Instead he was trained to stab at the enemy in a very fast back and forth motion. This was most effective as it meant a much faster rate of attack, probably as much as four stabs per second, as opposed to the one slice every two seconds if the gladius was used in a swinging motion.

Wearing it on the right side meant the legionaries could draw his gladius in a very compact manner without interfering with the soldiers on either side of him. Considering the close formation of the Roman battle unit this was a distinct advantage. Having the gladius on the right side meant that it could be drawn without the risk it could be caught up in his shield (Scutum).

Drawing the gladius
Roman soldier drawing sword Roman soldier drawing sword Roman soldier drawing sword Roman soldier drawing sword

Using the gladius in battle
Roman soldier in battle stance Roman soldier ithrusting shield Roman soldier ithrusting sword
Up to 500 soldiers would be deployed in a line, shoulder to shoulder facing the enemy. The shield (scutum) is held slightly away from the body so the soldier can move it up and down to block incoming missiles They would wait for the enemy to come close, then as one they would take a step forward and thrust their scuta into the bodies and faces of the enemy, causing them to lose balance and so render them vulnerable. The scutum is then withdrawn and the sword (gladius) is thrust into the body of the opponent. Note the way in which the gladius is deployed horizontally to pass between the enemy's ribs into his vital organs.

The legionaries would advance in a line towards the enemy thrusting scutum, then gladius. It was this action, scutum, gladius, scutum, gladius that would disorientate the enemy and take their front warriors out of the battle.

Roman soldier and his equipment Roman Military Sandal (Caligae)The helmet (Galea)The sword (Gladius)The daggerThe shield (Scutum)Roman Military Sandal (Caligae)The Curiass (Lorica Segmentata)The belt (Cinglium)Select an area on the photo to see a description of that item

All photographs were taken by the author, Victius Maximus
My thanks to Optio Gaius Allius of Legion XIV and Verulamium Museum for their assistance


Check out some great books and help the site! I have chosen these books as among the best to illustrate this subject.
Visit our friends at:
KultOfAthena.com



 
 
For more information
and material on the Romans try
Amazon.com. We are an Associate and get
a small percentage from each order through us.
Amazon.com

Custom Search
Do you want to know when
this site is updated
Comments, Questions,
Feedback
Want to quote this site?
Just ask my permision

Romans in Britain
www.romanobritain.org

©MMDCCLXIV a.u.c. (©2011-2012)
Please just ASK before
using anything on this
site -- like we'd say "no"...

Romans in Britainfooter art

This page last updated:

Layout and Design: