Classical Numismatics Discussion Board
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
October 22, 2014, 07:40:24 pm
Search Calendar Login Register  

Recent Additions to Forum's Shop


FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: What happened to all the gladii? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
Pages: [1] 2  All Go Down Print
Author Topic: What happened to all the gladii?  (Read 4821 times)
basemetal
Guest
« on: January 29, 2008, 08:40:04 pm »

I was looking at the volume of roman coins produced during the arbitrary period of 700 years.
It occurred to me to ask, what happened to all the gladii and similar swords produced during that
same period? Now before the cries of: "Basemetal, you dolt, they were rusted away, used for plowshares, melted down", and so on. Maybe so.
They aren't here, so where are they?  How many "roman swords" are still extant?  Less than a thousand, I'd say.  Some are undiscovered of course.
Rusted away, melted down(again), converted into other swords(which begs the question).
There had to have been millions of swords forged during the same period of the coinage we study.
It may be that given the "they aren't here so..."  converted to something eles answer is the right one.
But like coins, swords were special. Heirlooms. Weapons. "Melting down into useful items" must have indicated a paradigm shift in thinking. 
Not just during the roman empire, but up until the present day.
Let us say up until the takeover of firearms.
Did all of those swords just go the ways mentioned above? 
I guess what I'm asking is a "Life of a roman sword" scenario.  It started out as a forged gladius.  From there what were the stages that makes it a valuable rarity today?
Thanks for any ridicule or discussion.
Bruce
Basmetal
Logged
Bill S
Praetorian
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 87



« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2008, 08:54:11 pm »

A few thoughts come to mind.  First, the vast majority of swords were not heirlooms.  They were tools/weapons, and were treated as such.  Used and abused and discarded when they were no longer useful.  I've never heard of famous schools of swordmaking in Rome, nor famous swordmakers who signed their work in the style of Japanese swordmakers. 

Swords were made of materials that do rust, unlike most coins.  A discarded or abandoned sword wouldn't take long to "return to the earth".

And as you suggest, many swords were probably recycled into other objects.  Once a blade broke or became worn/damaged enough to no longer be an effective weapon, the iron would have held more value than the damaged sword did. 

Coins survived partly because they were made of metals that last, and partly because they were treasured for what they were.  Because they were treasured, they were stored and handled more gently, and hidden away in large and small hoards.  This would contrast greatly with swords.
Logged
Robert_Brenchley
Comitia Curiata X
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7551

Honi soit qui mal y pense.


WWW
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2008, 01:42:20 am »

Iron was expensive and vital, so most of them were probably reworked into something else. It's a lot harder to lose a sword than a coin, after all.
Logged

Robert Brenchley

My gallery: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10405
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
gallienus1
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 885

Hope for the best but prepare for the worst


« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2008, 02:22:33 am »

I think both Bill S and Robert are right. But I also think there is what I call the "Passenger Pigeon Syndrome" at work here. There are some things that are so common a part of our everyday lives that we don't think to preserve them. There are many examples. Everyone thinks sports cars a special, so they are far more likely to survive beyond their era than a commerical vehicle. there are lots of 1930's sports cars around in the hands of collectors. How many light trucks from that period have you seen? In art, consider "modern" high brow painting from the first half of the last century compaired to the vivid "commercial" art found on the covers of countless pulp magazines from the same era. Almost none of the commercial art survives in the original, yet even the art gallery in any small city has more "modern" art than it could ever show at one time.
And consider the poor passenger pigeon. At the start of the 19th century there were about 5 billion of them in the United States. A flock of millions would take days to pass.
And now there are none.

Regards,
Steve
Logged
slokind
Tribuna Plebis Perpetua
Procurator Monetae
Caesar
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7061


Art is an experimental science


WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2008, 06:26:24 pm »

Well, if a lot of gladii had survived, they'd all show up on the Antiques Roadshow.  Heaven forfend.  Pat L.
Logged
basemetal
Guest
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2008, 09:38:52 pm »

LOL Pat!
"Yes, what you have here is an ancient sword, apparently authentic of the time of the Roman Empire.
This one I see, is of what is called  a Pompeiian example, similar to the ones found  in the ruins of Pompeii destroyed in 79 A.D.  What is interesting about this example is that it is in pristine condition, with no apparant corrosion and the hilt and pommel are completely intact.  Where did you say you got it?"
"Well, it's just been in our family for a lot of years.  My grandma was from Naples, and she got it from her Grandma.  I guess it just went back from there."
"Well a fine specimen of the type it surely is.  I'd say from examining it that it really has no price other that whatever you would want for it.   A figure in the millions  is not unreasonable and you may want to contact a reputable auction house and a lawyer"
"Well, thanks,  but we just had a grand daughter graduate from high school, and we may offer it up on Ebay. You can get top dollar for antiques there, I've heard.
She'll be needing a new car you know." 
Bruce
Basemetal                                                   
Logged
basemetal
Guest
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2008, 10:32:16 pm »

Several extremely insightful posters gave me pause to think in that wonderful way as to accept new ideas, which most folks, including me have trouble doing.  Roman swords were indeed not given the pedigree that say, Japanese swords were.   They may have been seen more as tools, like a knife or
spearpoint.
Let us say that a legionarre was retired with 25 years of service and allowed to keep his sword and whtever else military gear.   
Metal was useful and valuable.  Any soldiers gear was a small or large fortune in actual metal. 
Said soldier is retired to, ahh...you name the province, with some land and his severance pay if he actually got it.  There is no evidence that roman soldiers got their gear when they were discharged, but it seems resasonable, at least in a  lot of cases.
What to do with that helmet, that spear(probably didn't get to keep the spear-too basic), but that sword?
Expenses rise to exceed income at a certain point.  That sword represents a small fortune, or at least a nice little profit. You do not find it useful, especially if no barbarian hordes to slaughter with it.  What to do?   Well at some point, sell it. And that's just what happened, I'm betting. 
A local merchant bought it, and had it melted down.  The enemy, if there was one, had swords in abundance, more than the one or twelve you had.  And again, there was no special "talismatic" spirit to a gladius.  Just a tool.
Bruce
Logged
LordBest
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2112



« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2008, 01:58:07 am »

A sword is a sword, in most cases they would be used until they break, and continually re-hilted, conceivably for centuries. There are swords (and even other weapons) in the Topkapi museum in Istanbul which are of early Islamic origin, around the seventh century, which have hilts dating to quite recent times. They were often ceremonial (one is labelled the Sword of Muhammad for instance) but they were still worn and would have suffered some wear and tear. It is highly likely that Roman swords suffered a similar fate, continual use until broken and recycled, or lost. It is also possible that there are gladii sitting in museums misidentified, as most museum academics are woefully ignorant when it comes to identifying weapons correctly.
I know of only one extant gladius in any kind of condition, labelled the sword of Tiberius (picture attached). There are also references to "Mainz", "Fulham" and "Pompeii" gladii but I cannot find much information about them.  There are others that have been found in archaeological digs and whatnot but as far as I know there is no comprehensive work on them in English. There may well be far more scholarship regarding Roman swords in French, German and Italian.
                                                                       LordBest. Cool
Logged

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10003

Young Fogey.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Inter arma enim silent leges
- Cicero
Federico M
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 403



« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2008, 12:33:29 pm »

Swords were made of materials that do rust, unlike most coins.  A discarded or abandoned sword wouldn't take long to "return to the earth".

I think this is a dramatically relevant point: I'm not an expert at all, but a friend working as archaeologist complained more than once about the fact that medieval iron weapons or tools they find are so rusted that they tend to fall apart, while silver and bronze frequently look as new after simple soaking in distilled water and gentle brushing...

Fortunately, coins were not made or iron! Grin

Federico
Logged
PeterD
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1323


omnium curiositatum explorator


WWW
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2008, 12:48:35 pm »


Fortunately, coins were not made or iron! Grin

Federico

This one was!

One Cash coin of Western Hsia (1038-1227 AD)
Logged

Peter, London

Historia: A collection of coins with their historical context http://www.forumancientcoins.com/historia
Federico M
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 403



« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2008, 04:13:42 pm »

Fortunately, coins were not made or iron! Grin
This one was!

Yes, you're absolutely right, but am I correct in thinking that this is the only example? Probably not, but I'm not aware of others: does someone know about non-Chinese iron ancient coins? [By the way, this remind me of steel coins in the Fantasy literature - e.g. the DragonLance saga - and in some Dungeons&Dragons settings.]

Regards,
Federico
Logged
basemetal
Guest
« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2008, 10:49:29 pm »

Since gold and silver existed, and were much rarer, iron coins would have been the exception.
Much better to make swords, plows and spears with them. After all, a siver or gold sword, aside from fantasy, was a lousy weapon.  The ancients were superstitious, but not dumb. Make an iron sword, to protect that gold/silver.
Also, iron was a "made" item.
Gold and silver occurred naturally. Put there by the "gods".
Bruce
Basemetal
Logged
Robert_Brenchley
Comitia Curiata X
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7551

Honi soit qui mal y pense.


WWW
« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2008, 03:47:18 pm »

Am I right in thinking the Spartans made iron proto-money, or am I dreaming?
Logged

Robert Brenchley

My gallery: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10405
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
wandigeaux (1940 - 2010)
Deceased Member
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 946



« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2008, 06:06:26 pm »

It is rumored that the Spartans used iron objects as money; as far as I know, none have been found or identified.  Cheers, George Spradling
Logged

Hwaet!
"The pump don't work 'cuz the Vandals took the handle" - St. Augustine
GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN!!
(1940 - 2010)
Wolfpack
Praetorian
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 69


« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2008, 11:16:41 am »



... [By the way, this remind me of steel coins in the Fantasy literature - e.g. the DragonLance saga - and in some Dungeons&Dragons settings.]

Regards,
Federico

I'm afraid Gary Gygax failed his saving throw versus death.
RIP

http://crave.cnet.com/8301-1_105-9885383-1.html?tag=blog.1

For some reason I thought lepton/mites or other low end coinage was made out of iron.  In a quick search I see them described as bronze or copper.. no mention of iron.  Then again, if there were iron coins of 2000 years ago they may not have survived to this age.

Logged
Jdparks
Legionary
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 11


« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2008, 09:06:37 pm »

I'm afraid Gary Gygax failed his saving throw versus death.
RIP
Quote

If that's your line, it's a good one.  If you borrowed it, it's still good.
Logged
basemetal
Guest
« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2008, 07:11:54 pm »

 Iron/steel.  I think every metal finds it's "own level".
Ancient people were as smart as we.
Yes, once iron was rare.  But it was just too useful to relegate to the precious metals larder.
Ever notice that gold, and silver were while to die for(sorry channeling a Valley Girl for a second there) were always an adornment or embellishment? A cup is a cup. It holds liquids, a gold cup signifies wealth, though a lead or wood cup works as well.
Coins in a way though a strong part of commerce, were, in a way that way also.  Would as much iron/steel as used in coinage have been used for the same?  Gold/silver in a way, "just laid there'.
"I shall use henceforth only gold swords" said the unrecorded ancient chieftan, shortly before he was conquered by iron sword  bearing savages.
Once "invented" iron and steel were just far to valuable as a tool to just be used as a medium of commerce and war; i.e.  as opposed to representing wealth as opposed to a real tool that could gain one gold and silver.
Not to denigrate gold/silver.  I once read that a young mideval knight, newly minted, so to speak, had to in many cases spend the amount in gold and silver that an F-16 would go for today, in terms of arming and horsing himself.  Yes, a good sword was valuable in terms of gold and silver, but gold/silver would never suffice for the cold iron/steel he had to have to win more of the same.

Ever stop to think why gold and silver were used as symbols? They were rare and hard to get.  A chunk of gold this big is worth this much, real property?  Be it beautiful slave girls, a nice villa, and fresh imported fruit? Gold and silver are mere cold, rare metals. What they symbolized were what counted.
"That ruler has gold, silver, slave girls, a villa, horses, slaves, and all the good things in life. I have some gold (a cold hard metal). I can buy the iron with which to get all those things".
Bruce
Basemetal



   
Logged
E Pinniger
Consul
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 198


WWW
« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2008, 12:42:22 pm »

Yes, you're absolutely right, but am I correct in thinking that this is the only example? Probably not, but I'm not aware of others: does someone know about non-Chinese iron ancient coins?

Not sure about official coins (I'm sure I remember reading about iron ancient or mediaeval coins somewhere a while ago, but can't remember where) but iron, probably cast, was at least occasionally used as a core for "fouree" forgeries of bronze coins. There was a thread on this forum with one of these a while ago - here's the link.

Iron/steel has been used for a number of low-value coins in the 20th century, particularly during WW1 and WW2 when copper was required for the war effort (shell cases etc.) - in fact the US cent was struck in zinc-plated steel for a few years in the 1940s. Many "copper" small-change coins nowadays, including the Euro 1-5 cents and British 1 and 2 pence, are struck in copper-plated steel.
Logged

IhsantheCursed
Guest
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2008, 06:16:23 am »

I just think alot of ritch people just hoard every old Roman Gladius they find...to NON Numistmatists, Swords would have a bigger "wow!" factor in general. People are always impressed by large instruments of war.

Of course, as one fella pointed out already, The Romans were not known as swordsmen/smiths like the Orientals. Their blades were designed for one purpose: To bash/slash/crush the enemy. After all many times even a slave in the colluseum would brandish a Gladius.

In comparison Oriental Swords were usually made to cause a single, fatal swipe, and accordingly their blades were thin and swift. Old English swords the EXACT opposite. Bludeoning and peirceing was more their style, and their swords reflected this.

I would think the Romans were somewhere in between...

Logged
Robert_Brenchley
Comitia Curiata X
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 7551

Honi soit qui mal y pense.


WWW
« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2008, 06:51:37 am »

Roman swords were designed to be used in the crush when two close-order formations came together, hence the shortness. Many English swords were designed to be used by horsemen, or in individual duels, where length became more important.
Logged

Robert Brenchley

My gallery: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10405
Fiat justitia ruat caelum
IhsantheCursed
Guest
« Reply #20 on: April 02, 2008, 07:03:07 am »

Roman swords were designed to be used in the crush when two close-order formations came together, hence the shortness. Many English swords were designed to be used by horsemen, or in individual duels, where length became more important.

I agree, but that really doesnt go against my claims.  Those English swords were also made of very high quality thick steel, and are generally known as being the strongest swords in history. Any other sword wouldnt stand a chance against an Old English one.
Logged
LordBest
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2112



« Reply #21 on: April 02, 2008, 07:18:05 am »

Quote
Of course, as one fella pointed out already, The Romans were not known as swordsmen/smiths like the Orientals. Their blades were designed for one purpose: To bash/slash/crush the enemy. After all many times even a slave in the colluseum would brandish a Gladius
In comparison Oriental Swords were usually made to cause a single, fatal swipe, and accordingly their blades were thin and swift. Old English swords the EXACT opposite. Bludeoning and peirceing was more their style, and their swords reflected this.
Not quite accurate. While the oriental (specifically Japanese) technique of folding the metal resulted in a much harder cutting edge, it also created a much more brittle sword, they break very easily. Oriental swords are designed predominately for draw cuts, where you draw the blade accross the person, rather like sawing meat. They evolved for this purpose and became very efficient at it, but in anything other than a draw cut they are next to useless as any twist or impact along the flat of the blade will literally shatter them. Draw cuts are not a particularly efficient means of killing in combat. The swiftness thing of oriental blades is a bit of a myth too, speed with swords is predominately a question of the strength of the wielder, not design.
Western swords are admittedly designed with chopping or thrusting in mind, but this was not because of a lack of finesse or technological inferiority, it was because it was a more efficient means of killing, more suited to the style of warfare in Europe than the ritualised combat of Samurai. A Western European sword would not bludgeon, it would take your limb or head clean off, or pierce a neat hole right through you. I'm not trying to get into a "Western swords were better than Eastern swords" debate, for what they were intended Oriental swords were superb, but it is a mistake to think that Western swords are at all inferior or clumsy.
Roman gladii were intended for both chopping and probably thrusting at close quarters, in formation, as Robert has said. You will often read that the gladius was intended purely for thrusting, this is at odds with nearly eveery depiction of Roman gladii being uses, where they are mostly shown to be chopping.
Hermann Historica recently sold a late Roman-early migration transitional sword (half way between a gladius and a longsword) for 6000EU, which is not a bad price for an antique sword. Of course, technically it is not a gladius.
                                                                     LordBest. Cool
Logged

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10003

Young Fogey.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Inter arma enim silent leges
- Cicero
IhsantheCursed
Guest
« Reply #22 on: April 02, 2008, 07:27:10 am »

Thats EXACTLY what I implied in my last post. What are you talking about? lol.

But...the "swiftness" of a sword has more to do with the weight and aerodynamics of the blade, not the strength of the weilder.


Logged
LordBest
Procurator Caesaris
Caesar
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2112



« Reply #23 on: April 02, 2008, 07:32:33 am »

I'm sorry if i misinterpreted your post, I thought your choice of language implied a lack of finesse and inferiority in Western swords. I'm used to dealing with people who seem hellbent of convincing the world that Western swords were terrible, and the whole "Landsknecht vs Samurai" debate.
Weight does play a part, but your average one handed sword weighs under one kilogram, give or take a couple of hundred grams depending on the type. It does not take that much effort to propel a flat piece of metal with a sharpened edge through the air at that weight.
                                                                 LordBest. Cool
Logged

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10003

Young Fogey.

What Would Machiavelli Do?

Inter arma enim silent leges
- Cicero
IhsantheCursed
Guest
« Reply #24 on: April 02, 2008, 07:37:30 am »

I agree with your perceptions and descriptions for the most part Lord. I wasnt saying at all that certain swords were inferior in anyway. Obviously at certain tasks each sword has its own advantages and disadvantages in given situations.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2  All Go Up Print 
FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: What happened to all the gladii? « previous next »
Jump to:  

Recent Price Reductions in Forum's Shop


Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.20 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 3.406 seconds with 74 queries.