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What was the Gladius designed to do?

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Until we get to Sassanid Persia, how many of the Rome's opponents used heavy armor?

 

Well I guess this asks was the gladius designed or capable of puncturing/penetrating armour used by Romes enemies?

 

Or was it used in mind to target unprotected parts of the body?

 

Roman soldiers were trained to attack unprotected areas - the face, torso, thighs. Limbs as such weren't the target although I guess their enemies suffered wounds there. No, the gladius wasn't intended to penetrate armour. However, a solid thrust could easily go through chainmail. Thrust, twist, withdraw. The reason that troops were trained not to stab the upper chest if they could help it was because of the risk of the gladius sticking between the ribs and not coming out again. Thats not a fault of the gladius, all wide-bladed swords can do that.

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Roman soldiers were trained to attack unprotected areas - the face, torso, thighs. Limbs as such weren't the target although I guess their enemies suffered wounds there. No, the gladius wasn't intended to penetrate armour. However, a solid thrust could easily go through chainmail. Thrust, twist, withdraw. The reason that troops were trained not to stab the upper chest if they could help it was because of the risk of the gladius sticking between the ribs and not coming out again. Thats not a fault of the gladius, all wide-bladed swords can do that.

 

Which ancient Roman refers to the thrust & twist technique? I would have thought it would be very difficult to open up a sword wound by twisting the lodged gladius, especially if your hands are nice and bloody. You wouldn't be able to get a proper grip; you'd have to have some kind of lever and proper traction to rotate the weapon.

 

When stabbing the chest, they had to make sure the blade entered horizontally to fit through the ribs.

Edited by Hadrian Caesar

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Roman soldiers were trained to attack unprotected areas - the face, torso, thighs. Limbs as such weren't the target although I guess their enemies suffered wounds there. No, the gladius wasn't intended to penetrate armour. However, a solid thrust could easily go through chainmail. Thrust, twist, withdraw. The reason that troops were trained not to stab the upper chest if they could help it was because of the risk of the gladius sticking between the ribs and not coming out again. Thats not a fault of the gladius, all wide-bladed swords can do that.

 

Which ancient Roman refers to the thrust & twist technique? I would have thought it would be very difficult to open up a sword wound by twisting the lodged gladius, especially if your hands are nice and bloody. You wouldn't be able to get a proper grip; you'd have to have some kind of lever and proper traction to rotate the weapon.

 

When stabbing the chest, they had to make sure the blade entered horizontally to fit through the ribs.

The suggested penetration depth is no more than 3 inches, hence a twisting movement would be not unreasonable.

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Perhaps, but not quite reasonable, either. That would mean twisting a blade that's an inch wide at the most around in a cut of the same width. Yes, it can be done, but considering the cut's size, the additional dammage caused by a rotation at that depth would be too insignificant to be put into practice.

The result would be a cone-shaped gash (circular at the surface), the base having a diameter of no more than 1 inch. Widening the wound with a twist would only be effective if the blade was, say, 2 inches wide closer to the point, so as to dammage the enemy's vital organs. To achieve that, however, the point would have to be much less tapered - not wicked enough for a great thrust.ich

Does anyone know if Primary Sources describing this action exist ?

Edited by Hadrian Caesar

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Perhaps, but not quite reasonable, either. That would mean twisting a blade that's an inch wide at the most around in a cut of the same width. Yes, it can be done, but considering the cut's size, the additional dammage caused by a rotation at that depth would be too insignificant to be put into practice.

The result would be a cone-shaped gash (circular at the surface), the base having a diameter of no more than 1 inch. Widening the wound with a twist would only be effective if the blade was, say, 2 inches wide closer to the point, so as to dammage the enemy's vital organs. To achieve that, however, the point would have to be much less tapered - not wicked enough for a great thrust.ich

Does anyone know if Primary Sources describing this action exist ?

 

No, you're wrong. Flesh does give way during this action. The wound isn't cone-shaped, its more or less the same shape as the intial penetration apart from stretch damage. What the twist movement will do, similar to modern bayonets, is to open the wound. It hurts, and is intended to put the target out of action even if he tolerates the intial penetration.

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No, you're wrong. Flesh does give way during this action. The wound isn't cone-shaped, its more or less the same shape as the intial penetration apart from stretch damage. What the twist movement will do, similar to modern bayonets, is to open the wound. It hurts, and is intended to put the target out of action even if he tolerates the intial penetration.

I apologize, you're absolutely right about the wound. Yet I still don't see the point of this twisting motion. Yes, it would cause additional dammage by streching and opening up the wound a wee bit more, but if you already have a blade in you, I can't see it making much of a difference whether it's twisted or not. In both cases the dammage and pain are mainly caused by the depth of the wound (hopefully in a vital organ). Neither the gladius nor bayonets were designed with wide blades to make a wider cut. Why bother with the turn if the poor guy's innerds are already bleeding?

I have to admit that my logic might be wrong. If that's the case, then please correct me with the use of some ancient reference to this practice, or at least prove to me that more recent infantrymen applied it to their bayonet drill. Even better, let's ask a Private in the infantry. After all, there's no point in arguing if the answer's within arm's reach.

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However, a solid thrust could easily go through chainmail.
By caldrail.

 

Is there any sources/references that back this up?

 

I just find it hard to picture a sword with such a wide blade being able to penetrate mail.

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However, a solid thrust could easily go through chainmail.
By caldrail.

 

Is there any sources/references that back this up?

 

I just find it hard to picture a sword with such a wide blade being able to penetrate mail.

 

There has been a lot of debate over this. There are a lot of factors involved: diameter of the rings, strength of the iron, point of impact, joules of force, number of thrusts, technique, riveted vs. butted mail, etc.

 

I don't have the sources in front of me right now, but I've have seen discussions that suggest a single one-handed thrust of a gladius would NOT penetrate roman-era mail. Multiple, rapid strikes might or if the butted connection or rivet of one of the rings was damaged it might. Let me dig a little and see if I can find the sources.

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION VIA EDIT

 

Ok, I have put this together from sources I've seen discusses elsewhere. The first is from an expert in the UK on stabbing, body armor, etc. According to An assessment of human performance in stabbing by Dr. I Horsfall et al.tThe maximum energy obtained in underarm stabbing actions was 64 J whilst overarm stabbing actions could produce 115 J.

 

You then combine that with research done by Alan Williams in his book The Knight and the Blast Furnace where he tested mail comparable to that used in the roman-era and it took a minimum of 140 J to penetrate on a single thrust.

Edited by Publius Nonius Severus

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I apologize, you're absolutely right about the wound. Yet I still don't see the point of this twisting motion. Yes, it would cause additional dammage by streching and opening up the wound a wee bit more, but if you already have a blade in you, I can't see it making much of a difference whether it's twisted or not. In both cases the dammage and pain are mainly caused by the depth of the wound (hopefully in a vital organ). Neither the gladius nor bayonets were designed with wide blades to make a wider cut. Why bother with the turn if the poor guy's innerds are already bleeding?

Soldiers are very practical people. Why give your enemy a chance of surviving? A wounded man is dangerous. He might just be able to strike once more when you least expect it. So, take him out of action right there and then. Stab him, inflict the intial wound, then open it. The blood will flow more copiously, the wound will actually become more ragged and less able to heal, and the intense pain will drop him even if he wasn't killed. He might even die of shock before he loses much blood. So the point is really to make the stab count. It doesn't matter whether the man dies or not, just that he's rendered incapable. Notice that modern bayonets are aimed at the soft lower torso by training. The resulting wound isn't likely to kill you there and then, but oh boy will you suffer before you expire of blood loss and peritonitis.

 

Regarding chainmail, its well known that it resists slashing blows very well because the blade simply slides across the links. On the hand, the thin metal links are not particularly strong and the long sharp point of a well thrusted gladius concentrates all its energy on a link or two - and it gives way. There might be some resistance as the penetration power is soacked up by the surrounding links, but also remember that chainmail is flexible and will therefore follw the point into the soft innards under pressure. So not all the gladius end goes in, but it will push inward.

Edited by caldrail

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Soldiers are very practical people. Why give your enemy a chance of surviving? A wounded man is dangerous. He might just be able to strike once more when you least expect it. So, take him out of action right there and then. Stab him, inflict the intial wound, then open it. The blood will flow more copiously, the wound will actually become more ragged and less able to heal, and the intense pain will drop him even if he wasn't killed. He might even die of shock before he loses much blood. So the point is really to make the stab count. It doesn't matter whether the man dies or not, just that he's rendered incapable. Notice that modern bayonets are aimed at the soft lower torso by training. The resulting wound isn't likely to kill you there and then, but oh boy will you suffer before you expire of blood loss and peritonitis.

 

How probable is it that any man with a deep gash in his belly keeps on fighting? Ask any surgeon, and he'll tell you that gutwounds (touching some of the vital organs) are most painful (as you said). From that little bit of info, it's easy to say that a sword thrust taken to the belly was probably one of the most agonizing - not to mention disabling - things that could happen in battle.

 

All I'm saying here is 1)There's no point in this twist - not that it isn't supposed to be painful - just that there's no point in taking an extra second to turn the sword about, especially if there's a good chance your slippery, bloody hand will slip freely around the wooden grip. The Gaul's already about to collapse in pain, whether he suffered the ''twist'' or not.

2) I really don't see the point in discussing this if we can't prove they actually performed this action in the heat of battle. Has any infantry even practiced this with a bayonet?

 

So look, just tell me, caldrail, can you prove that anyone has ever been drilled in twisting the bayonet, spear, sword, etc. inside the wound? If yes, then I'm wrong again. If not, then this debate will remain unresolved unless someone else gets involved.

 

What are the others' opinions?

Edited by Hadrian Caesar

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Standard bayonet training includes twisting the blade before withdrawal. This not only worsens the injury, but might actually free the blade and allow it to be removed easily. Yes, it has been done on the battlefield since the invention of the bayonet. I do accept that the heat of battle is something different from training, and despite the practice back at barracks, when faced with an enemy trying to kill you some technique tends to fall by the wayside. Naturally a wound is going to hurt, but there are plenty of cases where a stab does not prevent your opponent from fighting on. A flesh wound is different from a thrust into an internal organ or artery.

 

Remember the assassination of Julius Caesar? He was stabbed 23 times, yet fought like a 'wild man' during the killing including grabbing his assailants blade with his bare hands.

Edited by caldrail

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How do we know the legionary was trained to twist his gladius?

 

I'm sorry, but I've never come across the twist method in bayonet drill, nor any references to it. Again, please prove what you're saying with obvious logic or, more preferably, with a valid source of information regarding the subject. If you don't, then this debate'll never end.

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I always thought the Gladius was used for slashing?

 

You're basically right, but we can't say just that. Because of its versatile design and title of sword, it must have been used for both actions. Likewise, the legionary carrying it must have be drilled in both the thrust and the cut.

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I always thought the Gladius was used for slashing?

 

No, though it can be used as such. Polybius describes the republican army as being very strict on thrusting attacks, and this was the time when the gladius had a longer, more vicious point than later periods. Livy on the other hand describes the gladius as being used equally for thrust and slash, which ties in with changes in the swords shape. The point had been reduced in length and the blade straighter. It suggests a slackening in training, the influence of gladiatorial doctores who occaisionally were employed to teach swordplay to legionaries. Noticeably, the gladius gets shorter over the imperial period until the 3rd century when the inexperienced replacement armies no longer had the skill pool to train people effectively in the use of the gladius. At this point, the longer cavalry spatha looks a better bet to most legionaries and it gets adopted in large numbers.

 

The thrusting mode of the gladius is its primary attack. A barabarian rushes in screaming his nuts off and swinging a sword wildly above his head. Its designed to frighten the enemy, because a hesitant warrior is easier to defeat. The romans of course learned not to be put off by that, and stab when the warrior pulls his sword back for another swing. The warrior probably has no shield nor can he parry the thrust at close range with his sword pulled back, and he suffers a wound. Chances are he'll go down, unless the wound is superficial.

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