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Roman legionary spatha or spemi-spatha chape






Material  Copper Alloy (Bronze)
Dimensions 6.5 cm  Diameter

10.40 mm thick

Opening for scabbard: 34mm x 6mm

Inner Opening: 15.5mm diameter


Roman Empire  3rd to early 4th Century AD

Displayed is a rounded Sword Chape for the Longer Spatha or shorter semi-spatha short sword. Basically the end attachment clamping the wooden pieces of the scabbard together at the point of the scabbard as well as providing a popular style for the military sword of the time.

These chapes commonly were decorated with silver gold or possibly bronze inlay's and patterns.  This example is made of bronze and has been cast with a circular opening in the middle.  No other known examples of chapes with such an opening is known (except for a possible similar one made from organic material found in a Bog at illerup).

It is unclear if this large hole held some type of organic "rivet" such as ivory or bone that has now been lost, however this is the likely spot where it was fixed to the wooden scabbard pieces.

The difference in this chape compared to the earlier pointed variety are really a function of style than any technological development.  It is believed that as the Roman army changed and incorporated more cultures it also adapted different styles and types of weapons into its ranks. 

In the 3rd Century the Gladius was phased out and a long wider Spatha was introduced to to the Roman army. Along with this came a difference in how the sword was worn on the belt (now attached through a belt over the shoulder called a baldric). A variety of chapes were around during this period, the only consistent thread was that the pointed triangular type was no longer around. Some were rounder and larger than this example and others were rectangular. (1)(2)(3)


-painting by Angus McBride

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Top close up View



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(1) References to similar items: STEPHENSON, I.P; Roman Cavalry Equipment, page 81 2003.

(2) References to similar items: FEUGERE, Michel; Weapons of the Romans, page 118 & 122 2002.

(3) References to similar items: COWAN, Ross; Imperial Legionary AD 161-284, page 40 2003.

**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014