Spatha Scabbard Slide

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Roman gladius or spatha scabbard slide dolphin shape


Date Acquired  2006
Location Discovered Balkans
Material  Bronze/ Copper Alloy
Dimensions 8.7cm long x 2.2 cm wide
Roman Empire 3rd or 4th Century AD

Bronze dolphin shaped Spatha or shorter semi-spatha scabbard slide. This piece would have been attached to the scabbard or sheath of the 3rd or 4th Century Spatha or Semi-spatha. (see reference pictures below on how it was mounted) 

It would have provided the loop required to suspend the sword from the shoulder using the baldric suspension method. (2)

An identical example is listed here (3) discovered in South Shields, England where there was a long Roman occupation of the 3rd Century.

The design is in the shape of a dolphin with jagged fins along the top and both sides as well as the tail. "The dolphin is an ancient symbol in Greek and Roman art associated with Oceanus and his Roman counterpart Neptune. Dolphins can be seen on many artifacts from ceramic oil lamps through to mosaic floors as at Fishbourne." (1)

A stable patina covers the piece originally most likely some type of copper/bronze alloy.  A small section is missing from the "tail" and was clearly broken during ancient times. A unique and rare nearly complete example.    

-painting by Agnus McBRIDE


Click on Pictures for higher resolution


Reverse View



Picture of nearly identical example from "Jagsthausen" Germany.  (photo by R.K Dixon) (2)

Mounting  Example (photo by M. DANIELS) (2)

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(1) References to similar items: Stuart Laycock & Marshall 2005.

(2) Reference to similar items: STEPHENSON, I.P; Roman Infantry Equipment "The Later Empire", page 67 & 73 2001.

(3) Reference to similar items: BISHOP, M.C & COULSTON, J.C.N; Roman Military Equipment "From the Punic wars to the Fall of Rome", page 158 2006.

**Note on background. A Fresco from the ancient Roman City of Pompeii. The interior walls of a wealthy Roman's Estate 79AD. Picture taken July 2005.