Late Gladius/ Spatha Chape

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Roman gladius or spatha chape 3rd century





Material  Bronze/ Copper Alloy
Dimensions  5.6cm long x 4.0cm wide
Roman Empire  Early 3rd Century AD

Crescent shaped Sword Chape for the Longer Spatha or shorter semi-spatha short sword. The end attachment clamping the wooden pieces of the scabbard together at the end point of the scabbard.  Two crescent shaped openings exist near the top, with a raised central peak.  A line/ridge runs down the center. Completely intact piece with the original wet environment green patina.  The chape widens at the top, much like an axe head does when viewed from the side (see the side view photo). (2)

In the 3rd Century the Gladius was phased out and a long wider Spatha was introduced to to the Roman army. Along with this came a difference in how the sword was worn on the belt (now attached through a belt over the shoulder called a baldric). A variety of chapes were around during this period, the only consistent thread was that the pointed earlier type was phased out.  The sheaths no long had large elaborate decorations on them as earlier ones had.  Some of the chapes were rounder and larger than this example (See Round Spatha Chape) and others were even rectangular. (1)(2)(3)

This item was found in the same location as the following other pieces.

Dragon head Ring Buckle

Spatha Scabbard slide

Perhaps they belonged to the same sword and belt pieces.  All are from the early 3rd Century and match the period.

Similar Example from source (2) from 197 AD, Lyon complete with the belt and scabbard slide. 


-painting by M. Daniels


Click on Pictures for higher resolution

Side View

Top View


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(1) References to similar items: CONNOLLY, Peter; Greece and Rome at War, page 261 1998.

(2) Reference to similar items: BISHOP, M.C & COULSTON, J.C.N; Roman Military Equipment "From the Punic wars to the Fall of Rome", page 158-160 2006.

(3) References to similar items: FEUGERE, Michel; Weapons of the Romans, page 116 2002.

**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014