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Domitianus3

The Gladius

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Hey guys and gals, I was recently reading about the well preserved swords found at the tomb of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, specifically the ones found with his terracotta army. Supposedly, these swords were plated in chromium, although I find the claim a bit dubious. Anyways, the swords are undeniably well preserved. It got me tihinking that I had never actually seen a well preserved Roman Gladius. Sure Ive seen some examples of a gladius(not in person unfortunately) but all of them were extremely rusted and alsmost to the point of being unrecognizable as a sword. I was just curious if there are any Gladii out there in a museum somewhere that are just as well preserved as these ancient Chinese swords. I find it hard to believe there isn't one out there somewhere, especially because so many were produced. If not, why not? Is it due to superior Chinese metallurgy (cringe) or some other reason? Anyways, any info would be great. Even if there isn't an example, please feel free to go into discussions about ancient metallurgy, I am also interested in learning about that. From all accounts that I have read, the general consensus seems to be that ancient Eastern metallurgy, was superior in almost every way to Western metallurgy. Do you think this is true? Thanks.

Edited by Domitianus3

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As far as I'm aware, the surviving gladii are not in particularly good condition. Whether eastern metallurgy is better during that period I can't say, although I suspect thats likely the case. However, you should remember that where these weapons are found has a large part to play in their condition. Were these chinese swords found in a location that would naturally tend to prolong their survival? Roman swords are usually grave goods or discarded weapons, and thus suffer the usual penalties. Also, it depends on the quality of the blade in question. Was it a mass produced sword for the grunts, or a lovingly crafted superior example for an important person?

Edited by caldrail

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The Terracotta Army has bronze weapons that don't rust like the roman iron weapons. The fact that the Chinese used bronze weapons for so long it's evidence that they did not master well iron metallurgy. Despite some claims it seems that China imported iron objects from other areas.

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As has already been pointed out the surviving Roman period swords being mainly made of iron rather than the Chinese bronze variety have all to some extent or otherwise suffered the ravages of time. From a quick search of the net for images I came across some which appear to have been found in arid climates so suffered less degredation than than those recovered from the more water, and therefore rust, prone northern climes.

 

The 'Sword of Tiberius' at the British Museum, which was found at Mainz, possibly is a good illustration of the level of preservation which could be expected of iron swords in northern climes as opposed to the associated fittings which will have been made out of a variety of different material.

 

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highl...f_tiberius.aspx

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The Terracotta Army has bronze weapons that don't rust like the roman iron weapons. The fact that the Chinese used bronze weapons for so long it's evidence that they did not master well iron metallurgy. Despite some claims it seems that China imported iron objects from other areas.

Salve,K.

Some claims are based on quite hard evidence and are widely regarded as reliable. In fact, some scholars (ie, Needham) considered that ancient China was the first civilization that produced cast iron.

 

More than 10,000 bronze weapons that have been discovered among the 7,000 soldiers or so are exquisite replicas. The perishable materials have long vanished. The metal proportion of this bronze (cooper, tin, nickel, magnesium, cobalt, chrome, and so on) suggests it was specifically designed to maximize its resistance.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Thanks everyone, and especially to Malvadius. The Sword of Tiberius is probably the best preserved gladius that I have seen. I suppose I should have avoided making a comparison of Roman iron swords as to Chinese bronze swords.

 

I was aware that the Qin swords were bronze, but I guess I was just impressed that the Chinese metallurgists meticulously crafted these swords for the purpose of long term preservation. Now I realize that the average Chinese and Roman sword for that matter probably wasn't manufactured with such attention to detail, but it just seemed to me that there should be at least 1 gladius out there, even if it was an anomaly, that was so well preserved as the Qin swords, perhaps in the drier climates of the Roman Empire.

 

Now the Qin swords were located in the Xi'an province where the summers/winters were dry. I don't know how much a dry climate would have made a difference in preserving bronze swords seeing as they don't rust becuase of the absence of ferrous metals, but I do know that a dry climate would have made a considerable difference in the preservation of iron swords. Have there not been gladii found in the dry climates of Northern Africa or eastern part of the Roman Empire?

 

As for metallurgy technology, it seems the Chinese were well ahead of their time in the crafting of different alloys and in the developing of blast furnaces as early as the 500's BC. As far as I know the Chinese like the Europeans used bloomeries to produce iron in the early part of the 1st milennium BC. In fact I have read that the use of bloomeries may have actually spread from West to East. But what was it about the Chinese that ultimately gave them an edge at least in technology such as the development of the blast furnace? Why didn't the Romans experiment more which should have lead to similar developments? Was the cast iron produced in blast furnaces inferior to the wrought iron produced in bloomeries in the terms of its effectiveness as a weapon material? If so, it seems the Romans would of had to purposefully limit the carbon content in their iron to produce the preferred wrought iron for weapon making.

 

Anyways, I guess I should stop there.

Edited by Domitianus3

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Salve A

I drew some conclusions from the link you provided us with.

Iron use in China occurred later then in the West.

These early Chinese iron products were of lesser quality but cheaper then bronze products so the use on bronze continued longer then in the West.

There is no statement that Chinese iron products were superior to their western contemporaries while the bronze products are regarded as of higher quality.

Cast iron, especially the white variety, has fewer uses to the wrought iron produced in bloomery because it's brittle.

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Salve A

I drew some conclusions from the link you provided us with.

Salve, K.

NOTE: The admins of UNRV have previously made emphatic statements against the posting of jingoistic comparisons, specifically including those between "East" and "West (the kind of "which one is better?").

I here emphatically declare that this is NOT my intention now or ever.

 

Regarding EXCLUSIVELY my provided video, both of us may very well have been reading different documents.

For example:

 

Iron use in China occurred later then in the West.

(sic) "What is available at the moment indicates that smelted iron definitely was in use in northwest China long before it was used in the south".

 

These early Chinese iron products were of lesser quality but cheaper then bronze products so the use on bronze continued longer then in the West.

(sic): "In particular they discovered various ways of making steel by adding carbon into the iron. Once these discoveries had been made, developed, and widely diffused, iron became the material of choice for most weapons and implements".

 

There is no statement that Chinese iron products were superior to their western contemporaries while the bronze products are regarded as of higher quality.

Fortunately (at least for me), this article basically avoids jingoism.

(sic): "This is one of the short-swords from Baoji. The blade is of pure iron, with zero carbon, rather than steel, and this was not a better metal for the purpose than bronze. In Roman Europe, Gallic swords were often of pure iron, and were so soft that they bent in use, so that warriors had to fall back from battle and straighten them. The Gauls used soft iron because it was available, not because it was better than bronze..."

 

Cast iron, especially the white variety, has fewer uses to the wrought iron produced in bloomery because it's brittle.

(sic): "Experience with the new material, cast iron, led to great improvements in its mechanical properties. In particular the development of what we now call malleable cast iron made cast iron a better material than bronze and at least competitive with wrought iron or steel".

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Salve A.

You said:

"Regarding EXCLUSIVELY my provided video (link), both of us may very well have been reading different documents." Indeed.

 

1.Iron use in China occurred later then in the West.

 

"The evidence presented thus far suggests that iron-smelting techniques developed in the West had by the eighth century BC been brought by nomadic peoples of Central Asia all the way to the Pacific coast, and that these techniques diffused to the smiths of the Chinese states by way of various non-Chinese peoples of the northwest, in what is now Xinjiang."

"But while the use of wrought iron and the bloomery started in the northwest, and was a borrowed Western technique..."

 

2. These early Chinese iron products were of lesser quality but cheaper then bronze products so the use on bronze continued longer then in the West.

 

"In whatever way cast iron was discovered, for most purposes it would not have been a good material. It would have been very low in silicon, and therefore be what is called white cast iron, which is difficult to cast and also very hard and brittle. The only advantage would have been that it was cheaper than bronze. In the north the primary applications for bronze were weapons and symbolic objects of various kinds. Substitution of white cast iron for bronze in weaponry would have had disastrous effects, and casting difficulties would have made its use unlikely in fine ritual vessels."

 

The last part of the above statement was my conclusion.

 

3.There is no statement that Chinese iron products were superior to their western contemporaries while the bronze products are regarded as of higher quality.

 

no quote needed

 

4. Cast iron, especially the white variety, has fewer uses to the wrought iron produced in bloomery because it's brittle.

 

"In the early West, until the advent of the iron cannon in Medieval times, no economically important use was known for cast iron..."

"How the cast-iron implements compared with bronze ones in practical use is difficult to know. The extreme hardness of white cast iron would have made it extremely wear-resistant, but also liable to break."

 

Let's see if we can work out an agreement on our interpretations of this article. I'll make again some statements and you will say if you agree or not with each of them and add your own if you want.

 

1. The technology of iron-smelting in bloomery was developed in the West and imported in China.

2. The technology to produce cast iron was developed in VI C BC in South China.

3. Cast iron can be produced by accident in a bloomery.

4. The early cast iron that the Chinese produced was white cast iron.

5. White cast iron it's hard to use especially in weapons.

6. A better variety, the malleable cast iron, was developed at an unspecified date.

7. Malleable cast iron it's competitive with wrought iron and steel.

8. The development of high bloomery, blast furnace and finery improved the technology further at unknown dates.

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Casting Farm Implements, Comparable Tools and Hardware in Ancient China, by W. Rostoker, B. Bronson, J. Dvorak and G. Shen published in World Archaeology

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1. The technology of iron-smelting in bloomery was developed in the West and imported in China.

2. The technology to produce cast iron was developed in VI C BC in South China.

3. Cast iron can be produced by accident in a bloomery.

4. The early cast iron that the Chinese produced was white cast iron.

5. White cast iron it's hard to use especially in weapons.

6. A better variety, the malleable cast iron, was developed at an unspecified date.

7. Malleable cast iron it's competitive with wrought iron and steel.

8. The development of high bloomery, blast furnace and finery improved the technology further at unknown dates.

 

Salve, K. Gratiam habeo for that reference.

 

Regarding my previouly provided link, we agree.

 

BTW, Japan aside, everywhere in the Old world is "west" to China.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Thank you A for sharing this exceptional article.

 

I love it when a historian does not only present the "finds" but also puts them under scrutiny. It was a detailed article that tried to explain iron working technology, how archeology looks for ancient iron working and the problems it might get in.

 

This quote it's precious: "Two samples from the site yielded radiocarbon dates of 2640

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Thank you A for sharing this exceptional article.

 

I love it when a historian does not only present the "finds" but also puts them under scrutiny. It was a detailed article that tried to explain iron working technology, how archeology looks for ancient iron working and the problems it might get in.

 

This quote it's precious: "Two samples from the site yielded radiocarbon dates of 2640

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Because of the material and the fact that the Roman sword was just a tool to be used, and didn't have any heroic significance, there aren

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