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Home > Auctions > 25th February 2020 > Roman Hromowka Variant Spatha Sword

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LOT 0450

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£2,700 (EUR 3,169; USD 3,523) (+bp*)

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Roman Hromowka Variant Spatha Sword

Early 3rd century AD

A double-edged longsword (spatha) of Lauriacum Hromówka typology; well preserved blade, with four blood channels running three quarters of its length, wider and parallel cutting edges tapering towards the triangular point; inlaid decoration at the height of the sword’s shoulders, showing on one side the figure of Mars Ultor, standing in armour (statos), shield (aspis) and plumed helmet (galea), holding a spear with the left arm, on the other side the aquila of the Legion flanked by two military standards (signa), fitted with four phalerae and with at the top a wide hasta pura. 832 grams, 74cm, 6cm wide (29"). Fine condition. Scarce.

From a Cambridgeshire private collection since 2008; formerly in a Nottinghamshire collection since the 1980s, accompanied by an expertise from the military specialist Dr. Raffaele D’Amato.

See Biborski, M.,‘Miecze z okresu wpływów rzymskich na obszarze kultury przeworskiej’, in Materiały Archeologiczne XVIII, 1978, pp.53-165; Robinson, H.R., What the soldiers wore on Hadrian’s Wall New Castle on Tyne, 1976-1979; Czarnecka, K.,‘Two newly-found Roman swords from the Przeworsk culture cemetery in Oblin, Siedlce District, Poland’ in JRMES 3,1992, pp.41-56; Bishop, M. C. – Coulston, J.C.N., Roman military equipment, from the Punic wars to the fall of Rome, London, 1993; Biborski, M. ‘Römische Schwerter im Gebiet des europäischen Barbaricum’, in JRMES 5, 1994, pp.169-198; Southern, P., Dixon, K.R., The Late Roman Army, London, 1996; Dautova Ruševljan V., Vujović, M.,Roman Army in Srem, Novi Sad, 2006; Biborki, M./Ilkjar J., Illerup Ådal 12. Die Schwerter. 1. Textband. 2. Tafeln und Fundlisten, Moesgard, 2006; Miks, C., Studien zur Romischen Schwertbewaffnung in der Kaiserzeit, I-II Banden, Rahden, 2007; Cascarino, G.,Sansilvestri, C.,L’esercito romano, armamento ed organizzazione, vol.III, dal III secolo alla fine dell’Impero d’Occidente, Rimini, 2009; Radjush, O.,‘New armament finds of the Scythian wars' epoch in the northern Black Sea region’ in Busch, A. W. and Schalles, H.-J. (eds.), Waffen in Aktion. Akten des 16. Internationalen Roman Military Equipment Conference (ROMEC), Xanten, 13.-16. Juni 2007, Xantener Berichte 16, Darmstad, 2009, pp.183-8; Guillaud I., Militaria à Lugdunum: étude de l’armement et de l’équipement militaire d’époque romaine à Lyon (1er s. av.-IVe s. apr. J.-C.), Archéologie et Préhistoire, Lyon, 2017; D’Amato, R., Roman army Units in the Western Provinces, Oxford, 2019; for very similar specimens see Miks, 2007, n.A146,3; A146,10 (Ejsbol); A384 (Krasnik-Piasti); A595 (Pontoux); A830 (Sisak); A620 (Rezeczyca Dluga); A586 (Pododlow); A676 (Sobotka); A211 (Kielce).

Although in Latin literature the late Roman sword was often still conventionally called gladius (Ammianus Marcellinus, Historiae, XIX, 6; Passio SS. Rogatiani et Donatiani,1859, p.323), the main kind of blade of the Roman third and fourth century soldier belongs to the so-called spatha type (Scriptores Historia Augusta, Divus Claudius, XXV, 7, 5; 8, 5) which derived directly from the long cutting Celtic sword of the La Tène III period, already used by the cavalrymen and Auxilia of the previous Ages. The great spatha (spathì) of the Roman heavy infantryman was considered by Julius Africanus (Fragm., I, 1, 53) as the main weapon of the armoured legionary of Alexander Severus. The frequent clashes with Germanic warriors armed with long swords and the increased recruitment by the Roman army lead to the growth of spatha use by the milites legionarii (DautovaRuševljan-Vujović, 2006, p.50). These longer swords slowly replaced the shorter gladius, the double-edged sword of the imperial infantry, for all troops. Vegetius (Epitome de re military, II,15) calls the spatha a gladius maior, i.e. a great sword, sometimes a metre long. A wide range of spathae have been found dating from the late second to the late fourth century AD (D’Amato, 2019, p.14). There are today several hundred attested Roman longswords scattered throughout Europe. Specimens of Roman spathae of the second and third centuries have been found in large numbers in the Danish bogs (Nydam, Straubing, Thorsberg, Illerup). These swords show a great deal of variability, in terms of shape and dimensions; today a typological framework is well-established, thanks to the work of academics including Ulbert, Biborski and Miks. This particular type is the Lauriacum-Hromówka of which more than 30 specimens have been found in Poland.