Roman/Celtic Iron Short Sword and Scabbard

Roman/Celtic Iron Short Sword and Scabbard
ca. 4th - 3rd Century BC - Spain

a fine example of a type VI, Arcobriga Antenna sword, the acutely pointed, double-edged leaf blade with twin fullers running parallel to the cutting edges and merging to a point, the heavy iron handle with a pommel featuring twin projecting boss "antenna" terminals. With accompanying scabbard, originally constructed of wood supported by a rigid iron frame and embossed plates, three rotating rings used to attach the weapon to a baldric.

Background: It is widely held the prototype for the Roman gladius hispaniensis was a variation of an Iberian Sword. The Souda, a Byzantine lexicon compiled at the end of the 10th century, mentions the adoption of an Iberian sword by the Republican Romans from the Second Punic War onwards. It states the main characteristic of this sword was the pattern-welding of the blade (lamna) which was forged in several hard layers of steel and was used for both edgewise cutting and thrusting in dense fighting formations.

Scholars have proposed numerous alternatives for such a prototype, the most widely held opinion being a variation of the Hispanic antennae sword, namely the type VI, Arcobriga (Quesada, 1997), used in the Meseta during the 3rd-2nd centuries BC, because the short size was suitable for close-order fighting and the wasted blade was capable of a slashing action. However, Sanz argues the Roman Republican swords recently discovered in Delos, France and the Iberian Peninsula are virtually identical to the early La Tene I swords imported from Europe throughout the 3rd century BC (Sanz, JRMES, 8, 1997, pp.268) and therefore provide a more relevant parallel.

On the other hand, the Iberian metal frame scabbard (with wooden or leather core) as seen here, suspended by rotating rings from a baldric placed across the chest, is, without doubt, precisely the model of scabbard adopted by the Roman Army.

Reference: B. Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts, London, 1999, p. 140, fig. 109 for the type.

F. Quesada Sanz, "Gladius hispaniensis: an archaeological view from Iberia", Journal of Roman Military Equipment, 8, 1997, 251-70.

M. C.Bishop and J. C. N. Coulston, "Roman Military Equipment from the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome, 2nd Ed" (London, 2006) pp. 54-56.

Raffaele D'Amato, Graham Sumner, "Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier: From Marius to Commodus, 112 BC-AD 192. " (London: Frontline, 2009).

Dimensions: Length: (Sword) 16 inches (40.64 cm). Length: (Scabbard) 13.5 inches (34.29 cm)

Condition: Given iron, the sword is in excellent condition overall with only minor loss to the blade edge, the sword point and the guard terminals. The sword is also slightly bent which is not obvious from the photos, but does not detract. As can also be seen from the photos, the scabbard lacks the lower section of the outer frame, otherwise it is intact and in very good condition overall, traces of the original wood core can be found on the inside of the frame. Both the sword and the scabbard have been professionally treated and conserved and mounted professionally to museum standards to ensure no further loss or damage. The full conservation report will be included.

Provenance: Private NYC collection, acquired from the Alex G. Malloy, 1980-82.

Material: Iron
No export licenses required however this piece may be subject to import tax/duties.
Shipping method: USPS (including insurance).
The seller hereby guarantees the lot to be authentic, acquired by legal means and due diligence conducted to ensure stated provenance.
Reference: RB1404

Based in historic Georgetown, Washington DC, Sands of Time Ancient Art gallery offer a wide range of exceptional antiquities, carefully selected for their historical importance, intrinsic beauty and artistic value. All objects sold by Sands of Time are guaranteed for authenticity and provenance, and are accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and related documentation. Our extensive collection includes museum-quality art in stone, bronze, pottery, glass and gold from ancient civilizations ranging from the ancient Near East and Egypt to the Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Byzantine, PreColumbian and Gandharan worlds.

Lot details
Short Sword and Scabbard
Century/ Timeframe
ca. 4th - 3rd Century BC
Damage, See Photo
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