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The Gladius

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I'm new to this forum, so forgive me for replying to such an old topic, but I have an interest and appreciation of the Gladius.


I saw a very well preserved gladius blade in Sweden several years ago. It was in the store room of the Historical Museum. I'd say it was a pompeii style blade. Of course, it did have some rust on the surface, but the blade was completely intact and there was even a noticable edge. The tang was another interesting part of this find. It was not peened (as far as I could tell) so I'd say it could have been a blade that had not been assembled into a sword. So, there are some rather good examples still in existence but for some reason museums seem reluctant to publish them or display them. Strange.


Regarding the quality of steel used in a gladius, a swordmaker friend of mine documented fragments of gladii that had been polished using Japanese polishing stones. The person who polished these, purchased the fragments at an auction for just this purpose. They were trying to reveal any presence of a hamon (temper line) which would give a clue about the carbon content of the steel used. These fragments were from the 1 or 2 century CE so obviously it only provides some glimpse into the swords of that period, BUT it was very interesting to note that on all of these fragments there were obvious hamons! One could conclude that at least in the 1/2 century CE the Romans obtained a hardened edge on their swords through a heat treating process. This would further indicate that low/medium (at a min) carbon steel was used to make these swords. Again, this does not say anything about the Republic era swords, but it does give an indication of the possibilities.

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  • Map of the Roman Empire