Late Gladius/ Spatha Chape

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Roman legionary spatha or spemi-spatha chape


Material  Iron
Dimensions  8.6cm  Diameter

Scabbard opening: 27mm x 9mm

Roman Empire  3rd to early 4th Century AD

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

These chapes commonly were decorated with silver inlay's and patterns.  This item is still covered with much dirt and will be professionally conserved.  There are indications that some design or silvering may then be revealed, as the reverse shows two small silver threads visible in the iron (see close up below).

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 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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Reverse View

Alternative Front View


Alternative Front 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 188 & 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