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Roman fencing

The appearance of the Roman warriors, their weapons and armor can be reconstructed according to archaeological sources. But, not content with the static picture obtained, historians seek to find out exactly how this military equipment was used. Information from historical sources and experiments with modern replicas of ancient equipment made it possible to present the Roman battle technique with a high degree of probability. What was she like?

Combat equipment and military training
The Roman legionnaire of the era of the classical and late Republic in battle was armed with a sword, shield and two darts. When approaching the enemy, the legionnaires first threw darts at him, and then attacked with a sword in their hands. The Roman sword (gladius hispaniensis) was long, from 68 to 76 cm, and narrow (4 cm wide), slightly tapering in the middle of the blade with an elongated thin tip, equally well suited for both pricking and cutting. This form of the blade became widespread after the Second Punic War.

In hand-to-hand combat, which usually ended in battle, swords were a terrible weapon in the hands of Roman legionnaires. The psychological effect that this weapon produced and the wounds inflicted by it was colorfully described by Livy in one of the episodes dedicated to the beginning of the Second Macedonian War:

“… bodies mutilated by Spanish swords, hands cut off with one blow along with a shoulder, severed heads, tumbled out guts and much more, equally terrible and disgusting, the Macedonians were horrified by what people and against what weapons they would have to deal with.”

Swordsmanship training was part of the training of Roman legionnaires. About how it was conducted, it is known from the words of the late antique author Vegezi Renata:

“The ancients conducted exercises with recruits as follows. They woven from rods, like wattle, rounded shields, so that this “wattle” would weigh twice as much as an ordinary, state-installed shield. Likewise, instead of swords, the recruits were also given double-weight wooden clubs. And so in this way, not only in the morning, but also in the afternoon, they practiced on scarecrows … Each individual recruit had to drive such a separate scarecrow into the ground for himself so that it did not swing and was 6 feet high. Against this stuffed animal, as if against his real enemy, the rookie is practicing with his “wattle” and with a club, as if with a sword and shield; he tries to hit him in the head and face, then threatens his sides, then, attacking his lower legs, tries to cut his knees, retreats, bounces, rushes at him, like a real enemy; so he does all kinds of attacks on this scarecrow, all the art of military operations. ”

Vegetius specifically stipulates that during the exercises special attention was paid to ensuring that the fighter, striking, did not take his hand with the shield to the side and thereby did not open himself to strike the enemy. To this end, he said, the Romans sought to teach new recruits to chop, not chop:

“A chopping blow, no matter how hard it falls, is not often fatal, because the vital parts of the body are protected by both arms and bones; on the contrary, with a stabbing stroke, it is enough to pierce the sword two inches so that the wound is fatal, but it is necessary that what they pierce enter into vital organs. Then, when a chopping strike is made, the right hand and right side are exposed; A piercing blow is delivered with a covered body and injures an enemy earlier than he has time to notice. That is why the Romans used this method mainly in battles. ”

Drawing by Peter Connolly with a reconstruction of the process of training Roman soldiers in fencing – Roman fencing | Warspot.ru
Drawing by Peter Connolly with a reconstruction of the process of training Roman soldiers in fencing

The same technique, according to Vegetius, was used in training fighters in gladiator schools. The fighter, trained there, knew how to fight with the same dexterity with both his left and right hands and possessed the most sophisticated fencing techniques. Quintilian, a Roman speaker, compared the replicas exchanged between attorneys in court with a gladiatorial match:

“… their second position becomes third if the first was executed in order to provoke the enemy to strike, and fourth if the trick is double, so you need to parry twice and strike twice.”

The training of ordinary soldiers was not so sophisticated. However, in 105 BC. e. Consul Publius Rutilius, setting off for the war against the Cimbrians, instructed fencing teachers from the gladiatorial school of Aurelius Skavr to teach the legionnaires more sophisticated methods of delivering and repelling blows.

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