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Roman Soldier's Weapons

The Roman soldier had three main weapons: his sword, his pilum (javelin) and his shield.

The shield (scutum)

Roman scutumThe standard scutum most people associate with the Roman Legions of the 1st Century was semi-cylindrical in shape, large enough to reach from the shoulder to the knees and protected half of the body. It was light enough to be carried on a long march and in heavy battle. Imperial scuta (pl. of scutum) was made of layers of thing wood glued together (just like modern plywood). Each layer was glued at an angle to the previous one for strength. The edge was bound with light sheet bronze or leather and the umbo (central boss) was heavy bronxe or iron.

As no intact shields from this time period have been found thus so far, we can only assume that the shield a hand grip and an inner strap enabled the soldier to hold the shield close to his body and also leave his other arm free for other weapons. Most research seem to point to a horizontal grip, this being inferred by an intact scutum from Dura Europas, but it was 3rd Century.

Click HERE to visit our page on the scutum.

The sword (gladius)

This was 18 inches long, 2 inches wide and narrowed towards the centre. It had a bone handle shaped to the soldeir's hand and a large a alrge round ball at the end to help with the balance.. It was not designed for hacking, more for thrusting forward ito the enemy's body. It was very light and so meant that it could be uesed in a very fast manner when stabbing at opponenets.

Roman sword - Gladius

Click HERE to visit our page on the gladius.

The javelin (pilum)

The pilum was up to seven feet long with a a tip of hardend metal shapped like an elongated pyramid .The shank was made of softer metal fitted into a socket at the lower end.

No, contrary to TV documentary pompousity and reenactor myth, you cannot carry two pila into battle. YOU try carrying 2 pila whilst also holding scutum sometime — the handle of the Roman scutum is horizontal.. the only way would be to hold a second pilum with one's thumb — a painful and totally unwieldy method. Sometimes it helps to actually DO things, vs. just being an arm-chair historian.

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