Gladius Hispaniensis

Definition

by Grant
published on 28 April 2011
The Gladius Hispaniensis, or Spanish sword, was a shortsword developed on the Iberian peninsula. It's superior strength and deadly effectiveness was noted by ancient contemporaries, and by 200 BC it was fast becoming the standard sword in Rome's legions. It was straight bladed, double-edged and tapered to an abrupt point. Despite being short, it was longer than most contemporary Greek swords. Although used primarily for stabbing, it was superbly balanced and, in skilled hands, could lop off limbs and heads. It was forged from pure Spanish iron, and smiths reputedly tested a blades flexibility by resting the flat against the top of their heads and pulling down with both hands at the hilt and tip, until the two ends touched their shoulders. Abruptly released, the blade sprang back into it's original straight form. In the hands of Rome's legionaries, the gladius was probably responsible for more deaths than any other sword in the Ancient world, and it's basic design remained unchanged for centuries.

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Timeline

  • c. 250 BCE - c. 200 CE
    Originally a Celtiberian weapon, the Gladius Hispaniensis was commonly used by Roman soldiers for more than four centuries.
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