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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Development of the Spatha Reply to topic
 
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Sat 24 Sep, 2005 11:17 pm    Post subject: Development of the Spatha         Reply with quote

I've been trying to locate some information on the development of the Spatha, and I'm having considerable difficulty in finding much of any use. Is there an accepted progression of forms, or are certain forms thought to originate from different regions? I've noticed that Albion's Next Gen Spatha offerings are labelled "Spatha I," "Spatha II" and "Spatha III," this, combined with the text stating "In our spatha offerings, we are attempting to persent several different blade and hilt styles that will span the time from the earliest spathae into the early Migration era." would seem to imply that these blades do infact represent a progression of forms. I was surprised by this, because I had assumed that the Decurio and Alaris represented later forms than that of the Auxilia. Am I mistaken?
Both the Decurio and the Alaris would seem to take their inspiration from the Vimose finds as pictured below... if I'm not mistaken (and I may well be) these particular blades are thought date from the third or fourth century.



If anyone has any insight to share, or suggestions for some reading I should pursue, I'd be very grateful.
Thanks!

-C.L.Miller
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a very interesting question C.L.

I don't think I'd take the information on any makers website as definitive historical information, even though Albion seems to put the Next Generation Line in some kind of timeline. Hopefully one of our members who is more knowledgeable in Roman arms will chime in. I'd like to hear more about this as well.

"I'd rather go upriver with 7 studs, than a 100 sh!theads." - COL Charlie Beckwith, founder SFODD
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was always under the impression that the spatha...the horseman's sword....was a direct offshoot of the gladius, with certain pointers taken from the Celtic long sword. I've heard it both ways...the Romans copied the Celts swords and the Celts copied the Romans. Either way, the spatha is an extended version of the gladius, meant to be swung from horseback or chariot. I have just completed a spatha in the 'dark ages' timeframe and would love to share a photo or two. Be patient with me on that, though. mcm.
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Hisham Gaballa




PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you tried doing a search on this forum?
http://www.romanarmy.nl/rat/viewforum.php?f=1...d300802d2e
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Peter Johnsson




PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The first three spathas are not intended to show a progession in development from I-III.
They are just three different types. If any of them is earlier it is the Auxilia as it has a blade that is among the first types of the spathae shapes.

Looking through both published material and what I have been able to see for myself in museums, shapes and types seem to be pretty varied and dating is not always very clear (at least not to me).
For these first three spathae in the NG line I have singled out three basic blade types I am myself fascinated with. Two of the types I have seen in the Danish bog material (Nydam, Illerup ådal, Kragehul & Vimose) . These are the basis for the "Alaris" and the "Decurio" models.

The Narrow and pointed blade is prominent in the bog finds. Oakeshott mentions these in his texts and points out how very much they ahve in common with 15thC swords and even some 17thC cut&thurst blades. They are not perhaps what you automatically identify as a roman sword. The cross section is octagonal. The blade is thick and very stiff with a pronounced distal taper that still leaves the point very sturdy. It is somewhat akin to a type XVII blade in character, only sized down for single hand use. This makes it´s thrusting orientaion clear, but as is the case with type XVII swords, they might actually have a surprising cutting capacity as well.
The hilts for these blades seems mostly to have followed the old style with a bulbous, spherical pommel, narrow shortish grip and a half sphere or domed guard.
As far as I have understood these swords belong to the later part of the 2nd C and 3rd C AD.

The narrow Nydam type coexist with the type that is typicaly recognized as the roman spatha: paralell edges and spade shaped point.

My impression is that other complex blade shapes apart from the narrow octagonal blades existed as well during the 3rd C and perhaps a bit earlier. There are examples of fairly slim and elegant blades that has a double hollowground section with marked edge bevels. This is a grind that we otherwise find on late 15th C and early 16th C swords of high quality.
Such a blade is the basis for the "Decurio" sword.

The Auxilia blade is based on spathae found in many parts of Europe. A well know example is the Cologne spatha.
These can have lenticular or diamon shaped section. Some examples are dated to the 1st C AD.

My impression is that hilts with spherical pommels continue in use even during the 3rd C AD. There were many variations even during this period as to shape, material, embellishments and construction, but a norm seems to have been a rather large spherical pommel and a half sphere or half egg shaped guard. Both guard and pommel could also be flat.
Some examples were covered with leather and decorated with largedecorative silver rivets. (some of these are depicted in the drawing at the top of the thread.)

During the 4th C AD the hourglass shaped hilt enters the arena. Many of hese are found in the Danish bog material. I am not sure how Germanic these sword are. It might be an example of imported blades mounted in local styled hilts? (I need to study this more) The type belongs to the end of the roman period.
These hilts were hollow and cast in several peices. We will introduce such a sword later on as part of the NG line.
The blade of these weapons were flat, slim, rather long and had one or several fullers running to a spade shaped point.

During the 5th C AD the H-shaped hilt is developed. This can be constructed entirely of wood or horn, but can also be reinforced by iron, bronze or silver in varous constructions.
This hilt type is the origin of the hilts we recognize as Viking style, but they are separated by a few centuries yet. During the 6th &7th C develops the migration er a hilts with varying degrees of sumptious decorations. We know about the swords found in Sutton Hoo and the Vendel and Valsgärde finds as prominent examples.

EDIT:
I forgot the ring pommel sword, a possible Sarmatian weapon that belongs to the late 2nd C or 3rd C AD.
There are quite a few of these in the Danish finds.


Hope this helps somewhat.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is difficult to even arrive at an acceptable definition of a "spatha". Basically any sword used by the Romans that was longer than a gladius was classed as a spatha. I don't think it is possible to determine a linear progression of these blades since there is very little the Romans used later that wasn't first developed by the La Tene Celts centuries earlier.
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Nathan Bell




PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Part of the reason there is so much similarity between Roman cavalry "spatha" and the longer Celtic and Germanic blades is that they are celtic and germanic blades.

Roughly generalizing, the Roman army tended to recruit the Celtic/Germanic nobles to use as cavalry troops from the Punic wars onward....a good bit of the equestrian tack remained unchanged from the barbarian equipment....swords may well have changed only in the hilt (with the sphere and half-sphere pommel being easier to mass produce).

Swords from the end of the middle La Tene to the late La Tene, it's not uncommon to have muli-fulled blades alongside the lentoid/diamond ones. Also, you can have either virually no point at all, or a quite acute sharp point. All of these examples of type were found side by side at the Port find. A number of the Port swords had very long blades as well---easily up to 35" or more in some examples. The Port find is thought to be late 2nd--1st century BC, some examples maybe into the 1st century AD.
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 5:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just wanted to thank everyone for writing - some very interesting stuff! The spatha never seems to have gotten the attention given the the gladius, and that seems an awful shame to me. Most of the information I've been able to find deals principally with the spatha as the ancestor of later sword types, rather than as an object of interest in itself. I find that the "Alaris" type blades in particular, with their unsual (for a calvary weapon) emphasis on a thrusting design, seem to cry out for further inquiry... is anyone aware of an antecedent for this type? I've been very intrigued since reading Oakeshott's comments in The Archaeology of Weapons.
While I don't know that a direct connection between the two can be established, these narrow tapering blades have often reminding me of this sword, apparently from 9th century Switzerland.



Further, though limited, info can be found here.
Thanks again everyone!

-C.L.Miller
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Peter Johnsson




PostPosted: Thu 29 Sep, 2005 12:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

C.L. Miller wrote:
Just wanted to thank everyone for writing - some very interesting stuff! The spatha never seems to have gotten the attention given the the gladius, and that seems an awful shame to me. Most of the information I've been able to find deals principally with the spatha as the ancestor of later sword types, rather than as an object of interest in itself. I find that the "Alaris" type blades in particular, with their unsual (for a calvary weapon) emphasis on a thrusting design, seem to cry out for further inquiry... is anyone aware of an antecedent for this type? I've been very intrigued since reading Oakeshott's comments in The Archaeology of Weapons.
While I don't know that a direct connection between the two can be established, these narrow tapering blades have often reminding me of this sword, apparently from 9th century Switzerland.



Further, though limited, info can be found here.
Thanks again everyone!

-C.L.Miller


Never seen anything like it!
My first thought is that this is a much older sword.
The blade and the guard are not just similar, but identical to the ring pommel spathas of the 3rd C. Never seen such a pommel though.
Either it is a unique ring pommel sword with a very unusual pommel or, pehaps more probable, the blade and guard of a ring pommel sword mounted with a new pommel and grip.
The ring pommel swords had a two part tang. The tang was riveted together by one or several rivets down the middle.
It is not unusual to find either loose pommels with its part of the tang intact, or the blade and guard with its part of the tang.
As there are holes in the tang on these because of the construction it could invite a modern creative mind in mounting slab side grips and a new pommel on a partly well preserved original.
Just thinking aloud.
Very interesting sword.
Beautiful blade and guard.
Very unusual pommel and grip.

Thanks for showing.
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Nathan Bell




PostPosted: Tue 04 Oct, 2005 6:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

pre-spatha blades:

Celtic longswords from the Port find and vicinity. Most likely date is 1st century BC, but could be a bit earlier or later. Certainly not later than 1st century AD.

All blade lengths are 30.5" or more



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