'The Roman Colosseum'

Definition of the Gladius
Definition: Gladius is a Latin word for sword. This sword was originally known as the Gladius Hispaniensis, or "Hispanic Sword". The Romans took the best ideas and different types of weapons from the nations that they conquered, making improvements and adjustments as required. Thus the Hispanic Sword (Gladius Hispanus) became the famous Roman sword adopted after the second Punic War (c200 BC).

The origins of the design of the gladius were Celtic. The word gladius acquired a general meaning as any type of sword. Towards the end of the second century A.D. the spatha took the place of the famous sword in the Roman legions.

Design & Description
Definition: The original sword, taken from the Hispanic design, was the 27 inch short straight sword, which broadened towards the handle giving it a slight "wasp-waist" or "leaf-blade" curvature. This type of sword had a two-edged blade and a tapered point. The Gladius was the weapon after which the gladiator (swordsman) was named.

Gladius Hilt
The Roman sword had a solid, comfortable hilt (capulus) sometimes designed with ridges for the fingers. The sword hilts of infantry officers were occasionally ornately decorated.

Gladius Decorations
The blade of the gladius used by the Roman infantry was occasionally decorated with a crest. The owner's name, especially if they were high ranking soldiers, was often engraved or punched on the blade.

Who used the Gladius?
This was a type of sword used by the Roman army and by some gladiators in the Roman arenas including the Colosseum. The gladiators who used the sword were those who were armed with body-shields such as the secutor, myrmillo, hoplomachus and the dimacheris.

Purpose of the Gladius
The short design of the sword was particularly effective for thrusting and stabbing movements and could penetrate the armor of opponents via its tapered point. Its two-edged blade was designed for cutting and slashing. The purpose of the Roman Gladius was therefore multi-functional.

Gladius Scabbards
The sword was sheathed in a scabbard. The scabbard, which held the blade of the sword, was either mounted on a belt or on a shoulder strap. Roman scabbards were made of wood which were covered with leather and decorated with a frame made of either brass or of iron.

Different types of the Gladius
The design of the gladius was changed and improved over the years as the Roman came into contact with different enemies and weapons. The blade The gladius is referred to by the following names the Gladius Hispaniensis, Mainz, Fulham, Pompeii and Gladius Graecus:

  • The Gladius Graecus was a leaf-shaped short sword originally used by the Greek hoplites. Hoplites were the citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek City-states which included Sparta. The Gladius Graecus was used by the Busturius and Hoplomachus gladiators.

  • The Gladius Hispaniensis or the Hispanic sword is described above

  • The Mainz was characterized by a slight waist running the length of the blade and a long point

  • The Pompeii was characterized by parallel cutting edges and a triangular tip

Roman Colosseum
Roman Weapons

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