Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 61

Thread: spatha or gladius?

  1. #1

    Default spatha or gladius?

    I wonder often about the fact that until the legions of Rome used the gladius were more efficient than those of the third-quarter century AD who used the Spath(for massive presence of barbarians).

    It is clear that the fighting close with the gladius is better because Spatha is less manageable, it can't be used effectively in dense formations.
    Conversely Spatha is a heavier weapon, and therefore more powerful, but indicated more for lone warriors, not an army that fights with order and discipline.
    Spatha also acted to further cut instead of sank, forcing the shield to be smaller and thus less protection from arrows (this would explain the massive use of armor during the Middle Ages).

    is the best spatha or gladius?

    Spatha was then the true architect of the fall of the Roman Empire?
    Proud Roman General




  2. #2
    Legatvs Member SwissBarbar's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Helvetia
    Posts
    1,905

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    The Spatha still is one of the most successful weapons in history. Especially in later periods (middle ages..), when even Germans armoured themselves, the Spatha was known to be able cutting trough armour. It's in the 12th century, when armour grew even thicker to protect from missiles from crossbows etc., when the Spatha got useless because it was finally unable to cut through this immense heavy armour of these knights.

    The Gladius was great for close combat, but traditional field battles got rarer in later times.
    Last edited by SwissBarbar; 03-30-2009 at 12:32.
    Balloon-Count: x 15


    Many thanks to Hooahguy for this great sig.

  3. #3
    Member Member AngryAngelDD's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Dresden, Saxony, Germany
    Posts
    95

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    wow...difficult question
    the answer is certainly not one, you would like.

    the legions of the late empire had a different modus of operation than their earlier predecessors.
    the strategic concept differed, the battlefield tactics differed and therefore their equipment differed.

    first, the man who carries the sword made the difference. a well trained soldier might be as deadly with a gladius as with a spatha.
    if that man fights in ranks with his comrades other factors count in.
    the round/oval shield of the late legionaries needs other fighting style than the rectangular one of the earlier legions.

    and then the late legions had a different formation on the battlefield, as well as they had to face other enemies. in general cavalry was more often seen as opponent, as in earlier times. therefore weapons must reflect this.

    not to forget the different possibilities of training for a late legion. perhaps the soldiers they acquired for the legion might have been used to another style of fighting and discipline.
    the most part the soldiers of the legions were certainly no longer of pure roman origin. most would have been germans or other people. (or eastern people for eastern empire)

    also, connected with training time etc., the roman army faced many opponents on many theaters at the same time
    they often had no possibility to retrain and reequip their new soldiers to the extend they had in earlier times.

    last, the economic possibilities of the late empire were by far not so good as in earlier times, so quality of soldiers and equipment was sometimes not of highest importance.

    so the spatha was the weapon of choice in the late 3rd, the 4th and 5th centuries. (and later for the germans). it was not worse or better than the gladius. in a military sense i would say it was suited to its task.
    Last edited by AngryAngelDD; 03-30-2009 at 12:36.

  4. #4
    iudex thervingiorum Member athanaric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Lusitania
    Posts
    1,114

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by AngryAngelDD View Post
    it was not worse or better than the gladius. in a military sense i would say it was suited to its task.
    Exactly. Every weapon or tool has its place and purpose. Some become outdated over time but are usually replaced with related designs.




    Swęboz guide for EB 1.2
    Tips and Tricks for New Players
    from Hannibal Khan the Great, Brennus, Tellos Athenaios, and Winsington III.

  5. #5

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    then it is unrealistic to EB to see the troops with long sword (like solduros, calawre, also all axes or falx units) fighting in a dense formation.
    they should fight with a few meters away so as not to injure each other.

    I read somewhere that the legions of the first quarter century BC fought in open formations to ensure that soldiers are injured among them. But with major discipline and training, after 3 centuries, have been carried out the first dense formations that were truly unassailable (even the cavalry, which at that time was weak).

    Also oval shields (suitable for the long sword) reported legions back 500 years.
    Which ridiculous shields wall you want to do with oval shields?
    Oval shield (adopted ater Costantino's reform) has a value only in 1 vs 1 combat.

    In the fourth century a legion was not more powerful than a barbarian's horde because all fought in the same way.

    then i ask again: can the long sword has changed the fate of the empire?
    Proud Roman General




  6. #6

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aulus Caecina Severus View Post
    .

    In the fourth century a legion was not more powerful than a barbarian's horde because all fought in the same way.
    The legion was a superior fighting force even in the fourth century, at least according to Adrian G. Having said that, i´m pretty sure that the "fall" (which is a rather inacurate term) was not because of the spatha.

    Thx

  7. #7
    Arrogant Ashigaru Moderator Ludens's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Posts
    9,006
    Blog Entries
    1

    Lightbulb Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aulus Caecina Severus View Post
    then i ask again: can the long sword has changed the fate of the empire?
    The fall of the empire was due to a number of factors, many of them not military. Goldsworthy argues that Roman legions of the fourth century AD still got the better of their opponents most of the time. The problem was not the effectiveness of the legions, but the fact that there were less and less of them, and they were depleted by endless civil wars.

    Methinks you are idealizing the Gladius Hispaniata too much. It was a good weapon, but hardly the only or even major factor in Rome's rise. Unless you prove otherwise, you cannot blame Rome's fall on its replacement.
    Looking for a good read? Visit the Library!

  8. #8

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    as for the weight of the gladius vs the spatha...its only about 1 lb heavier (~2 lbs gladius, ~3 lbs spatha)
    Those who would give up essential liberties for a perceived sense of security deserve neither liberty nor security--Benjamin Franklin

  9. #9

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    The Romans all suddenly became dumber and started to adopt new ineffective weapons in place of their old and trusted ones. Oh really, they did.

  10. #10
    Member Member Bucefalo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Spain
    Posts
    170

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Actually i think you are underestimating the gladius hispaniensis as a weapon, let me tell you more about it.

    During their Iberian campaign, the Roman’s experienced firsthand the effectiveness of the sword that came to be known as the gladius hispaniensis. Shorter than the standard hoplite, the gladius hispaniensis was ideal for encounters with foes with longer weapons.

    Using a buckler or small shield to block, the wielders of the gladius would step inside the swing of the longer sword and use their short sword to slash and pierce their opponent with staggeringly brutal efficiency.

    So impressed were the Romans that, upon their quelling of the Iberian Peninsula, the legions quickly adopted the gladius hispaniensis. Because of the sword’s effective use by the Roman legions, it has been suggested by some historians that no other weapon in history has killed more men than the Spanish sword prior to the advent of the firearm
    Last edited by Bucefalo; 03-30-2009 at 21:01.

  11. #11

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    This means nothing. Every major and lasting military reform is driven by necessity, and not merely vanity. Vanity were the documented attempts of all too obsessed Emperors with bringing the Sarissa back. Self-evident was the move towards a different style that emphasized mobility, hit-and-run, skirmishing and irregular fighting by smaller combat units, for as has been stated here and elsewhere countless times the solid block fighting for major pitched battles was less suited to defend the borders against quick barbarian raiding parties which most often fought in quick skirmishes and irregular, guerrila-like attrition for about 98% of the time.

    Rather than relying on fixed defenses and major legionary armies stationed on the border, it was all to well to adopt a flexible defense-in-depth coupled with tactics that were better suited for countering barbarian raids. The spatha, which was originally a cavalry sword, and the parma shield, which was also a cavalry shield, were probably found better suited for that kind of engagement. Javelins became lighter and the late Roman soldier was not only as familiar to melee as his predecessor but also a skilled skirmisher, as attested by the drive towards lighter and more powerful plumbatae and other such solutions in place of the old, cumbersome and often ineffective pilum, which was too heavy and too few in ratio per soldier for a light skirmisher, better used against a solid and slow shielded square and not to be thrown at fast moving unarmored enemies.

  12. #12
    amrtaka Member machinor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Austria 'n Italy
    Posts
    464

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    That actually brings me to something I always wanted to know: what kind of sword did the Romans use before they got involved in Iberia and adopted the gladius hispaniensis?
    Quote Originally Posted by NickTheGreek View Post
    "Dahae always ride single file to hid their numbers, these tracks are side by side. And these arrow wounds, too accurate for Dahae, only Pahlavi Zradha Shivatir are so precise..."
    <-- My "From Basileion to Arche - A Makedonian AAR" Memorial Balloon.

  13. #13
    Member Member Bucefalo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Spain
    Posts
    170

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    They were using the greek hoplite sword, i think it is called the xiphos

  14. #14
    amrtaka Member machinor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Austria 'n Italy
    Posts
    464

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Thx.
    Quote Originally Posted by NickTheGreek View Post
    "Dahae always ride single file to hid their numbers, these tracks are side by side. And these arrow wounds, too accurate for Dahae, only Pahlavi Zradha Shivatir are so precise..."
    <-- My "From Basileion to Arche - A Makedonian AAR" Memorial Balloon.

  15. #15
    Voluntary Suspension Voluntary Suspension Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Isca
    Posts
    13,477

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    The Gladius is a, frankly, brutal weapon, but it requires a legionary to be well trained and facing an oponent who doesn't understand how the weapon is used. In close quarters, such as a shieldwall, it is an excellant weapon, but then so is the Seax, and the Seax is lighter. If your enemy understands your tactics, and engages you more cautiously, their longer swords will give them a reach advantage.

    Further, one thing often skipped over is that as their ability to produce higher quality iron/steel increased the Romans tended towards longer, more tapered weapons. The "Pompei" pattern Gladius has the marks of a weapon design to be easy to manufacture even with relatively low skills and poor materials.
    "If it wears trousers generally I don't pay attention."

    [IMG]https://img197.imageshack.us/img197/4917/logoromans23pd.jpg[/IMG]

  16. #16

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    An interesting debate would be if there was a fall or not?

    Nowadays more and more historians are arguing about this term "fall", which i believe is rather innacurate.

  17. #17
    Villiage Idiot Member antisocialmunky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    ゞ( ゚Д゚)ゞ
    Posts
    5,974

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ludens View Post
    The fall of the empire was due to a number of factors, many of them not military. Goldsworthy argues that Roman legions of the fourth century AD still got the better of their opponents most of the time. The problem was not the effectiveness of the legions, but the fact that there were less and less of them, and they were depleted by endless civil wars.

    Methinks you are idealizing the Gladius Hispaniata too much. It was a good weapon, but hardly the only or even major factor in Rome's rise. Unless you prove otherwise, you cannot blame Rome's fall on its replacement.
    Don't forget the Crisis of the Third Century when it pretty much went to hell. A lot of the damage that was done was economic Rome never really recovered from that period despite the legions managing to hold their own and eventually putting out all those fires everywhere. A good deal of the later Emperors basically did damage control to try and hold the empire together. But by the last days of the Western Empire, even if the Romans were better trained(Vegetius has a lot of say on this topic), there just weren't enough willing men left.

    Despite what Vegetius spouts about 'Germanization,' the reequipping of the legions and new tactics were probably not the primary reasons for the total disintegration of the Empire. Heck, the East used similar tactics but managed to stay together wand wage continuous war against the Parthians for several centuries more.

    @Christopher Burgoyne

    I've never really liked the Roman strategy of defense in depth. Western Europe wasn't all that big and most of it was worth something. Combined with the fact that the 'barbarians' were fairly self-contained and had fewer logistical restraints, the strategy seems to be ill suited for the situation at hand. I'm sure there was reason to change from the tactics of the Early Imperial Period, but I never really saw it as a good idea...
    Fighting isn't about winning, it's about depriving your enemy of all options except to lose.



    "Hi, Billy Mays Here!" 1958-2009

  18. #18
    AtB n00b Member chairman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    With my head in the clouds and my feet on the ground
    Posts
    205

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    That is an excellent point, PVC. I remember a thread about whether a Roman legionary or Medieval knight would win in a combat situation, and what most people ignored, was that, it didn't matter who was more "disciplined" or "trained" or whatever, the armor and weapons that the knight would be using were composed of far superior metal to that of the legionary. So the same way that the bronze using Egyptians struggled against their iron age opponents, Republican and Principate legionaries would find their metallurgy to be inferior (if only slightly) to that of armies of Constantine's day or later. That is even having taken into account the masterful iron-working skills of the Iberian and Celtic smiths. As I have already mentioned, a similar evolution/revolution occured with the bronze-to-iron age change, with swords becoming longer as the metallurgy improved. So, while you can make all the arguments about spathas emerging due to the need for more mobile warfare or declining military quality or quantity (and some of these might be true), the fact that better iron working skills allowed longer blades still remains.

    Chairman
    My balloons -

  19. #19
    master of the wierd people Member Ibrahim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Who cares
    Posts
    6,073

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by antisocialmunky View Post
    I've never really liked the Roman strategy of defense in depth. Western Europe wasn't all that big and most of it was worth something. Combined with the fact that the 'barbarians' were fairly self-contained and had fewer logistical restraints, the strategy seems to be ill suited for the situation at hand. I'm sure there was reason to change from the tactics of the Early Imperial Period, but I never really saw it as a good idea...
    well, the ireason it was adopted was not because of the Area being too large (any army can do that with the proper organizing), but because of the length of the frontier enclosing the area. the old system dictated that troops be stationed through out the border, to protect all miles of the border. the 3rd century proved the infeaseability of it in a continuous attack, so the government basically said "f*** it, we can't do this, so we will switch to defending area, not frontier.". it also shortened the supply chain, since the local populace supports the garrison (grain and other supplies still came from elewhere, that said). that said, the limitanei did remain on the frontier, to delay the enemy attack in question.

    mind you, improvements to this led to the thematic system in Byzantium, and it worked very well actually.

    so why fail? one word: manpower. If what the notitia implies is true, then there was a massive shortage of men willing to join the army. by 450, the Romans under Aetius didn't even have nough men to confront Attila, which was part of the reason why he had to rally several peoples to his side (esp. the Visi). this was further exasperated by the loss of Africa to the vadals in the 420's and 30's. granted the Vandals continued to ship grain to the western army, but not in the near amounts of pre vandal Africa.

    Addendum: in the old system: remember, the overwhelming majority of Combat troops were on the border. the intent in this case was political: keep the Army away from the seat of power (Roma), and to hence empowering Augustus and his successors.
    Last edited by Ibrahim; 03-31-2009 at 05:18.
    I was once alive, but then a girl came and took out my ticker.

    my 4 year old modding project--nearing completion: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=219506 (if you wanna help, join me).

    tired of ridiculous trouble with walking animations? then you need my brand newmotion capture for the common man!

    "We have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if we put the belonging to, in the I don't know what, all gas lines will explode " -alBernameg

  20. #20
    Near East TW Mod Leader Member Cute Wolf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    In ancient Middle East, driving Assyrian war machines...
    Posts
    3,991
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    If you got much training in longswords, you'll just as comfortably use the shortswords, but it will require a bit more training to keep the feel of weapon's reach.

    But if you highly trained with shortswords, you'll need more time to keep on controlling the longswords, otherwise, you will expose too many unprotected spot for your enemies.

    Source: Wushu sword training....
    I know that the very same does happned to the Romans....

    My Projects : * Near East Total War * Nusantara Total War * Assyria Total War *
    * Watch the mind-blowing game : My Little Ponies : The Mafia Game!!! *

    Also known as SPIKE in TWC

  21. #21
    Member Member Labrat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Freed from the cage
    Posts
    87

    Lightbulb Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by machinor View Post
    That actually brings me to something I always wanted to know: what kind of sword did the Romans use before they got involved in Iberia and adopted the gladius hispaniensis?
    Quote Originally Posted by Bucefalo View Post
    They were using the greek hoplite sword, i think it is called the xiphos
    IIRC the predecessor to the Galdius Hispaniensis was another short-sword called Gladius-Italicus or something. I am not sure what its relation (if any) to the xiphos is, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was a Greek design.

  22. #22

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    What's the difference between spatha and gladius anyway? They look pretty similar to me? Is spatha just longer?

  23. #23
    amrtaka Member machinor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Austria 'n Italy
    Posts
    464

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    The Spatha is bascially a cavalry weapon which means that it is designed primarily for slashing and cutting rather than stabbing.
    Quote Originally Posted by NickTheGreek View Post
    "Dahae always ride single file to hid their numbers, these tracks are side by side. And these arrow wounds, too accurate for Dahae, only Pahlavi Zradha Shivatir are so precise..."
    <-- My "From Basileion to Arche - A Makedonian AAR" Memorial Balloon.

  24. #24

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tretii View Post
    What's the difference between spatha and gladius anyway? They look pretty similar to me? Is spatha just longer?
    gladius:




    spatha:

    Those who would give up essential liberties for a perceived sense of security deserve neither liberty nor security--Benjamin Franklin

  25. #25
    Member Member geala's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Hannover, Germany
    Posts
    465

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    The change of weapons never caused the fall of an empire, at least when they were so similar like gladius and spatha. The introduction of assault rifles might have changed something, but...
    BTW I still think you can talk about the "fall" of the (western) Roman empire. In theory the state prolonged but it was so different that I would emphasize the differences and not what remains. The fall took place slowly. The critical moment was very early imho, when the Romans turned to a professional army, but it came into effect only at a very late time.

    What I cannot really comprehend is the argument about weapon quality. In the post above mine is f.e. shown a gladius of the Mainz pattern. These weapons, from the 1st c. AD, were usually of a very good steel quality, often far better than later Roman gladii and spathae. The most important factor of the Spanish sword was also not the form (please explain me the fundamental difference between xiphos and Spanish straight sword - I don't see one) but the exceptional steel quality. To make good steel weapons was possible also in the centuries BC. So I don't think that the early Romans suffered from bad weapons material quality and later changed to spathae because better steel was available. They changed because of strategical and tactical changes and perhaps also a growing foreign element in the units.

    Of course it was not easy to maintain a continuous quality of the weapons. The process of smithing was not fully understood but that changed not so much until the modern times. Crap was produced and also very good quality. The wealth of the state or the person decided wether the crap could be thrown away or wether it had to be used too.
    Last edited by geala; 04-02-2009 at 09:29.
    The queen commands and we'll obey
    Over the Hills and far away.
    (perhaps from an English Traditional, about 1700 AD)

    Drum, Kinder, seid lustig und allesamt bereit:
    Auf, Ansbach-Dragoner! Auf, Ansbach-Bayreuth!
    (later chorus -containing a wrong regimental name for the Bayreuth-Dragoner (DR Nr. 5) - of the "Hohenfriedberger Marsch", reminiscense of a battle in 1745 AD, to the music perhaps of an earlier cuirassier march)

  26. #26

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Machinor, Mcantu - thanks for explanation.

  27. #27
    Member Member Bucefalo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Spain
    Posts
    170

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    This is a bit offtopic, but well still is related someway...
    For those who are interested, there is a game called "Mount&Blade", that is a medieval RPG based on a fantasy world (there are mods for more historicity thought) and you usually fight from horseback, and on foot too. It is in second person view i think, or third...well you can actually change them as you like, even first person.

    The thing is that the game has some little tricks concerning weapons who are very interesting to learn how some weapons worked, a few examples:

    -There is a big difference between carrying a short and a long sword on horseback (refering to gladius and spatha), it is really difficult to hit anyone with a short range weapon.

    -While on horseback, you can not shoot a bow to your right, only to the left, front and back. Physically it is impossible to hold the bow and aim to shoot at the right. After you realice this you will start to think that all the horsearchers of total war games are cheating you :P

    -The kite shield is much more effective than the round shield when protecting agaisnt arrows. When you are fighting agaisnt some soldier with round shields, you can always shoot at their legs. The kite shield cover the entire body and it is much more difficult to hit.

    Excuse me for the offtopic, just thought it would be interesting. It is a interesting game and it can teach you a few things
    Last edited by Bucefalo; 04-03-2009 at 18:49. Reason: forgot to mention the horsearchers

  28. #28

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    In my mind you are not offtopic Bucefalo because the thing you ve say it's very true (also if it's a game).
    With spatha you can't bring a rectangular shield, you can only bring a oval shield and this second give you less protection to arrow or low attak.
    I think the massive use of armour in Middle Ages was naturally conseguence of use of oval shields, then the long sword.
    This shows that the majority of medieval troops had little discipline and little value.
    For bring rectangular shield and gladius effectively must be well trained and know how to act in harmony with the companion you are next.
    This is according to me the secret of strength of ancient legions than the post Constantine legions.
    Proud Roman General




  29. #29
    amrtaka Member machinor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Austria 'n Italy
    Posts
    464

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    I think that the assumption, that medieval troops had little discipline and value on the battlefield is quite a wild generalization. First of all, the Middle Ages are quite a long time period in which there were quite some changes of equipment. Secondly feudal knights or men-at-arms were professional fighters much like ancient professional armies if not even more professional since they were trained from childhood on. Sure, they had a different battle doctrine than the rectangular-shield-Romans, but that does not mean that they are less capable. You're comparing two different kind of battlefield tactics that are more than 1000 years apart. It's not like people didn't invent new weapons and equipment in that time. Apart from that, there still existed shieldwall-formations in Medieval times.
    Furthermore I think the contrary concept is accurate. The more and more heavy Medieval armour was not a consequence of the use of oval or non-rectangular shield-forms but the other way around: ancient soldiers tended to have large shields because they were not able to produce such high quality armour like in the Middle ages. As soon as almost full body plate armour was available the shield became obsolete and vanished more or less. After all it is quite handy in melee combat if you can afford to use both hands for fighting instead of only one.
    Last edited by machinor; 04-03-2009 at 19:41.
    Quote Originally Posted by NickTheGreek View Post
    "Dahae always ride single file to hid their numbers, these tracks are side by side. And these arrow wounds, too accurate for Dahae, only Pahlavi Zradha Shivatir are so precise..."
    <-- My "From Basileion to Arche - A Makedonian AAR" Memorial Balloon.

  30. #30
    Villiage Idiot Member antisocialmunky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    ゞ( ゚Д゚)ゞ
    Posts
    5,974

    Default Re: spatha or gladius?

    Well, it depends on the period. The shield dropped out of favor when you had the proliferation of large plate and large pole weapons to defeat plate. After firearms appeared though, shields saw a small revival in sword and buckler men.

    Stationary large pavise-style shields were used throughout the period.
    Fighting isn't about winning, it's about depriving your enemy of all options except to lose.



    "Hi, Billy Mays Here!" 1958-2009

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO