Roman Weapons

Topics: Roman Empire, 1st millennium, Roman army Pages: 9 (3021 words) Published: December 22, 2005
This paper has been designed to detail the different types of weapons used by the people of Ancient Rome. It includes observations on development of Roman weaponry as well as its great variety of structure and uses. This will include, in addition, the inherence of earlier civilizations of weaponry My paper will attempt to answer the following questions; What weapons did the Romans consider important? What material was used to forge these weapons? How are they classified? How important was their role in the Empires rise to power? What level of protection did these weapons present? Weapons were a key advancement in the conquering of lands done by Ancient Rome.

A short sword called The Gladius was the main weapon of the Roman Military. When people used the name: Gladius Hispaniensis or "Spanish Sword" it is thought that this weapon was based on swords Celtic warriors were using against the Romans in Spain.

The Pompeii sword was in good use by the first century AD and continued well into the second century. The weapon has straight parallel edges and a short stabbing point. Blade widths average between 1 to 2 inches with the length of the sword being 16 to 20 inches. The Pompeii sword is equally suited for stabbing at close range. (Butterfield 11)

Mainz swords have a blade width of 1 to 3 inches and a length of 15 to 21 inches. By the time of Augustus these swords were in widespread use. Possessing a long tapered point and slightly curved edges they were ideal for stabbing thrust.

The Spatha was the sword used by the cavalry. The blade was much longer than the gladius and was used for slashing. The large numbers of barbarians serving in the legions used the spatha in the late empire. It was ideal because the spatha did not require the same skill and training needed to properly wield a gladius.

About 100 CE an even shorter sword known as a Pugio was used. Pugio: The legionaries carried a dagger starting in the second or first centuries CE. During the rein of Augustus the gladius was carried on one belt and the pugio hung on another. By the second century CE daggers were no longer issued.(Butterfield 14-15)

A range of spear types seem to have been used, from light javelins for skirmishers, to thrusting spears for line infantry ,including some legionaries, right up to two-handed lances used by armored cavalry. Spears had a cone shaped metal shoe or butt which allowed them to be stuck into the ground without damage to the shaft, but it could also serve as a secondary weapon if the head ,which was usually of iron, should be broken.

Shafts were made from coppiced poles of woods like ash or hazel which possessed the right qualities of flexibility and strength. Javelins were occasionally used with a throwing strap to improve their range.

Pilum: The pila (plural form) were quite unique in design. These javelins were designed to warp after impact, so they would drag down an enemy's shield, sometimes pinning two of them together. It had a barbed iron shaft connected to the wooden pole in a weighted socket. A lead ball weight was added to further increase the throwing distance in the late half of the second century CE. Pila were used until the late empire.

The pilum was thrown just as the legionaries charged. The small bullet shaped metal point could penetrate shields and armor and cause serious injury to the enemy. In the event of it striking a shield but not causing injury, the shape of the tip made it very difficult to remove. The shield now became impossible to manoeuver, due to the weight of the wooden shaft, and would very likely be discarded - leaving its owner vulnerable at a critical moment.

Finally, because of the narrowness of the soft iron shank and the weight of the wooden shaft, the shank bent on impact. This meant that the enemy was not able to throw it back at its owner. However, after the battle, the Romans could collect the 'used' pila for their blacksmiths to straighten.

The pilum was a throwing...

Bibliography: 1. K. Christ. The Romans: An Introduction to Their History and Civilization. (1984)
2. M. Grant. The World of Rome. (1990)
3. M. Grant. Social History of Greece and Rome. (1992)
4. D. Campbell. Greek and Roman Artillery 399BC-AD363 ( Osprey Publishing 2003)
5. M. Butterfield. Going to War in Roman Times ( Franklin Watts 2001)
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