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LOT 0450

GBP (£) 8,000 - 10,000
EUR (€) 8,830 - 11,040
USD ($) 9,770 - 12,210

Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £7,200
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Roman Legionary Pugio Dagger with Scabbard

Mid 3rd century AD

A good condition iron short dagger or pugio of the 'Kunzing Type' according to the classification of Bishop & Coulston, 2006, p. 164, with double-edged blade complete with scabbard in iron sheath, the blade characteristically leaf-shaped with pronounced waist and a double longitudinal channel defining a rib, which is typical of this category; the sides are parallel, the iron grip originally would have been covered with bone or ivory, having inverted T-shaped grip plates with crescentic pommel; the iron sheath with punched decoration presents a mouth, medial plate and chape to the outer face; in this specimen the suspension rings used to wear the scabbard by attachment to the waist belt or to the baldric (cingulum and balteus) are exceptionally well preserved, and they are fastened by rivets to the mouth and medial plates. 480 grams total, dagger: 34.5cm, scabbard: 25.5cm (13 5/8, 10"). Very fine condition. Very rare with scabbard intact.

Property of a Suffolk collector since the 1990s; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

See Bishop, M. C. – Coulston, J.C.N., Roman military equipment, from the Punic wars to the fall of Rome, London,1993; Kennedy, D., The twin towns of Zeugma on the Euphrates, Portsmouth, 1998; Başgelen N.-Ergeç R., Belkis/Zeugma, Halfeti, Rumkale, a last look at history, Istanbul, 2000; Bishop M. C. & Coulston J.C.N., Roman military equipment from the Punic Wars to the fall of Rome, London, 2006; Feugère, M., ‘Roman militaria from Zeugma’, in Ergeç, R. (Editor), International Symposium on Zeugma: from Past to Future, Gaziantep: 2006, 91-96; Ibañez, F.C. ‘Post Vestigium Exercitus. Militaria romana en la región septentrional de la Península Ibérica durante la época Altoimperial’, in Morillo A. (ed.), Actas del II Congreso de Arqueología Miltar Romana en Hispania. Universidad de León-Ayuntamiento de León: León 2006, 257-308; Casprini F., Saliola M., Pugio gladius brevis est, storia e tecnologia del pugnale da guerra romano, Roma, 2012.

This dagger finds a good parallel with a similar item found in London (Bishop & Coulston, 2006, p.165, fig.104,1), found in Copthall Court, which has 8cm wide and 30cm long blade. The Pugio appears as side weapon of the Roman legionary already during the 2nd century BC, probably adopted from the Iberians. However its full diffusion inside the Roman Army begins with Caesar but especially with Augustus, where it appears as the reserve weapon of the heavy infantryman. Usually worn on the left side of the body by the Milites Legionarii and on the right side from not commissioned officers and Centurions, was used as a lethal weapon in the body to body combat, being considered as a short sword (pugio gladius brevis est). Its continued employment during the 3rd century is demonstrated by the many finds of similar type in Britannia (England), Syria, Germania (Germany), Pannonia (Hungary, part of modern Austria and Croatia) and in the most imperial provinces. In Kunzing not less than 51 blades and 29 sheaths of such weapons were found. Double-edged daggers of old pugio fashion are in particular archaeologically attested for the 3rd century AD, from Zeugma (Başgelen-Ergeç, 2000, p.22; Feugère, 2006, p.92; these iron specimens belonged to the soldiers of the IIII Legio Scytica here stationed; they were found in the 1992 excavation of the Dyonisos and Ariadne houses in chantier 12; s. Feugère, 2006, p. 92 and Kennedy, 1998, p.135, fig.5.9 p.89;) Dura (Bishop-Coulston, 2006, p.164;), Sotopalacios and Iuliobriga (Ibáňez, 2006, pp.294 ff), London and other localities of Rhine and Germany (Kunzing, Eining, Speyer, s. Bishop-Coulston, 1993, fig.95.1 - London- ; Coulston-Bishop, 2006, fig.104, 4-5: Eining, 6: Speyer, Balkans and Danubian Limes.

Our specimen is coming from a military outpost, probably from Britannia. The piece is in very good state of preservation, complete with scabbard. These daggers had usually a length of 28 cm, reaching a maximum size (scabbard included) of 40 cm. Some blades can be pattern-welded, whilst others had full organic grip assemblage. The presence of attachment rings on the scabbard was, according to Bishop & Coulston, a conservative feature, retained for the daggers long after that the ring suspension has been dismissed for the most of the sword's scabbards. 3rd century AD blades are usually longer and proportionally wider in comparison with the blades of the 1st - 2nd century. Casprini and Saliola (2012, pp.22-23) have evidenced the main differences between these pugiones and the earlier ones: with bigger dimension of the blade, expansion of the leaf-shaped shape, stronger central rib (when present), straight shoulder, flat tang, bigger guard of C typology, and bilobate pommel. The scabbards of these daggers were often only decorated with a simple punched decoration provided in front of the sheath, while the main body was fitted with wood slats covered by leather, but elaborated decorated scabbards also existed. Dagger scabbard plates in copper alloy from Dura, were identified by M. Bishop, finding a parallel with scabbard plates elements of daggers from Kastell Kapersburg, Zugamantel, Kastell Feldberg and Thamusida in Mauretania. These daggers were used both from Legionaries and Praetorians, these latter being usually more decorated. According to Herodian, when Septimius Severus gathered the Praetorians, he deprived them of the decorated daggers in addition to their belts.

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Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £7,200

Lot No. 0450

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