Late Gladius/ Spatha Chape

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Roman gladius or spatha chape 3rd century





Location Discovered Bavaria, Germany
Material  Bronze/ Copper Alloy
Dimensions  5.9cm long x 7.6cm wide
Roman Empire  Early 3rd Century AD

Round 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 wedge 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  larger than this example (See Round Spatha Chape) and others were even rectangular. (1)(2)(3)

Spatha Chape examples from Strageath, Newstead and Hadrian's Wall.

-sketch by M. BISHOP (2)

-painting by M. Daniels

Click on Pictures for higher resolution

Side 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. A Fresco from the ancient Roman City of Pompeii. The interior walls of a wealthy Roman's Estate 79AD. Picture taken July 2005.