Monday, 8 April 2013


G is for GLADIUS 

All my posts for this A-Z Challenge Blog Hop are themed around Celtic/ Roman Britain AD71-84.

I’m currently writing a sequel to my Celtic/Roman Britain historical novel, The Beltane Choice, so it’s inevitable that the word GLADIUS will turn up somewhere.

Was it the Roman gladius that made the Roman Army almost seem invincible as they swiped a swathe through Europe and conquered many Celtic tribes along the way? 

From my researches I’ve found that the Roman use of the gladius was significant, and when added to the whole armour and defensive package it defeated a Celt or two during the battles fought in Britannia.

The Roman gladius was very different from the Celtic broadsword. 

image use from - Pompeii style gladius
The gladius with its searingly sharp double edge and formidable v-shaped tip was not originally a Roman weapon. The type of blade originated in ‘Hispania’, now named Spain, but was used so effectively against Roman troops during the early Roman conquest of the area (during the Repulbic) that the Romans adopted the form and made their own versions. 

By the time my Celtic characters are confronting Roman troops I would be expecting them to be using the Gladius Pompeii style, slightly shorter than the Gladius Hispaniensis and with the original curvature flattened out.    

The Roman soldier generally led with his shield and made stabbing motions with the  gladius, all infantry using the blade from the same right hand side to avoid harming his ‘Roman neighbour’ in battle. The searingly sharp tip stabbing in between ribs was particularly effective, especially if the chest of the Celtic adversary was bare apart from some wode decoration!   

Match this fearsome short sword with the rest of the armour of the legionary or auxiliary and the result was almost impregnable.

What was the Celt wielding?
image use for

The Celtic long sword was used for cutting movements but was ineffective for stabbing motions since the tip was not so sharply pointed. The Celtic warrior needed more space in battle to swing his sword to make his slicing motions. The arms, areas below breast armour including the legs, and the neck of the Roman soldier were the most vulnerable and were where the greatest success could be made by the Celtic warrior. 

More to come on armour another day - during the Blog Hop! 


To give a bit more colour -
Here's another lovely image I've acquired the use of from of the gladius -though the helmet style and chest plate would not likely have been seen in Britannia- at least I don't think so....Much more 'Hollywood-ish"!


  1. The Celts had one-up on them with their swords - a longer reach, which way the gladius was replaced with the Spatha - an exchange in military technology. The Celts had superior knowledge when it came to metal melding technology -and those legends about swords like Excaliber were not pure fabrication. It is believed today that when a meteor crashed into an area near Austria, the Celts living there - a clan the Romans called the Norii, used bits of this meteor ore to harden their steel, making the hardest swords in the world. Since then scientists have found bits of their meteor, and smelted them with steel, making a metal that has harder qualities than any other modern metal we know. Yeah, Celts - the smarter barbarians.

    1. Hi Coral. I'll check that page out, and thanks for adding your info. As someone who calls themselves a 'Scottish Celt' I love you adding the information. It may interest you to know that my published historical novel - The Beltane Choice - is written from the Celtic perspective! (I wanted to include more Roman aspects in its sequel) Although a romance I've included as many 'facts' on the Celts of Britannia where I could in that first novel.

  2. Nancy,

    Interesting post as usual. I've been watching Spartacus: War of the Damned. Any sword fight looks brutal to me. Long or short sword, shield or not--- It's one bloody event!!

  3. Very interesting and educational post! I had no idea! Thank you,

    1. Hi Sandy. Glad to have you pop in and enjoy! Pretty brutal stuff, and I only gave the briefest details.

  4. I love your theme. I studied Gladius when I studied abroad. Great post!

    Happy A through Z blogging!

    1. Thank you S.L. Good to know you're enjoying it!

  5. wow. that looks like a pretty serious sword.


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