Curator Analysis: The Roman Army

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Curator Analysis - The Roman Gladius

The superior weaponry possessed by the Roman army undoubtedly proved a contributor to their military overwhelming success. When used in conjunction with the Roman scutum (shield), the gladius was a highly efficient weapon in dispatching the enemies of Rome and breaking through enemy defences. Because of the highly drilled nature of the Roman army, specific strategies were developed for the gladius’ use and implemented with ruthless efficiency. The Roman soldiers were able to defend from attacks in ironclad formations, including the “wedge” and “tortoise”, then striking with quick motions as their opposition tired. The nature of Roman society and in particular the army was highly evident in the choice of the gladius as the primary fighting weapon. Without every soldier performing their role effectively, ensuring no weak space in
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Forged from iron, each gladius was durable and capable of deflecting a blow whilst also being hard enough to maintain a sharp cutting edge and point. The iron ore used in the manufacturing process was placed in a bloomery furnace to remove impurities and the smelted products were called blooms. Each bloom was repeatedly tempered to remove slag and other carbon based impurities until ultimately the iron was less than 0.25% carbon. To give the gladius durability as well as tempered hardness, five layers of iron were used in the production of the sword. The central layer of the sword contained the most carbon and the purity of the iron increased in each outward layer. As a result, outer layers were highly brittle but able to maintain a tremendously sharpened edge. The inner layers of iron, whilst not able to taper to an edge in the same way as the inner layers, were far less brittle, giving the sword both longevity and
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