The gladius was the weapon of choice for hand-to-hand combat and probably responsible for more fatalities than any other tool in the Roman legion’s arsenal. This short sword, known as gladius hispaniensis, was originally introduced to Rome by Spanish mercenaries.
By 200 BC, the gladius had become more or less a permanent fixture in the Roman legion. It possessed a 50 cm, two-edged blade with a sharp point and was a formidable weapon despite its small size. This quite wonderfully balanced blade, fashioned of Spanish iron, was also the perfect stabbing weapon!
But while the gladius was designed as a stabbing tool, it still had the capacity to dismember limbs and heads. Training, however, focused on the stabbing approach over the slashing style, as a stab could puncture armor and kill.
The gladius was also favored by the Romans as it was ideal for for organized combat. The Roman legionnaire came prepared to the warfront – heavy shield, spear, etc. The light gladius made carrying all these gear an easier affair. The Roman army used spears and darts to break down the enemy rearguard before charging at them with their gladius. Typically, the gladius was thrust between shields and targeted the torso of the enemy. The sword could be used for hacking of limbs and Roman soldiers were trained to target the enemy’s legs below the shield.
The gladius was in prominent use from the 4th century BC to 3rd century AD, before it met with competition from the longer spatha. Even then, this short sword continued to be used by the light infantry. It is undoubtedly one of history’s most famous sword styles.
For collectors and reenactors – Gladius.