Last week, we touched upon the impressive yet mysterious status of the so-called Ulfberht swords. Wielded by the Vikings, these extremely rare swords comprised high-carbon content that could be compared to the ‘advanced’ crucible steel variety of the later 1800’s. Now historically, beyond the boundaries of Europe, there had been manufacturing processes that facilitated the production of high-quality steel for ‘elite’ blade weapons. One good example would obviously pertain to the famed Damascus Steel produced in the the Near East. This steel variety was characterized by its distinctive patterns of banding and mottling that sort of evoked the delicateness of flowing water, and was crafted from the wootz steel imported from Southern India. And now master bladesmith Tony Swatton had taken up the task of forging a Roman Gladius entirely with the ‘damascus’ technique. Cinematographer Phil Holland has brilliantly captured the painstaking procedure in 8K resolution, and compiled it into a short video with all the expressive sights-and-sounds.
The particular technique used by Swatton for the crafting of this sword entails the 93-layer damascus process. Now it should be noted that as opposed to a conventional Gladius there are some ‘fantastical’ elements taken in lieu of historical accuracy, like the series of holes along the blade’s center, and also the actual blade’s length. But nevertheless the precise nature of this procedure is awe-inspiring, thus aptly alluding to the sheer concentration and hard work that master blacksmiths had to put into their craft for many ages through mankind’s history.
And since we brought up the historicity of Gladius, for the Romans the very term ‘gladius’ literally meant a sword (or rather any kind of sword). In fact, for almost 200 years from the Second Punic War to 20 BC, the Romans actually employed a longer variant of Gladius, also known as gladius Hispaniensis, the renowned blade used by the contemporary Spaniards. By Augustus’ time, the sword design had morphed into a shorter and broader variant (from 64-69 cm to around 40-56 cm). And finally by the middle of 1st century AD, the Roman Empire sword evolved into the so-called Pompeii-style Gladius that showcased a parallel-edged blade and a conspicuous triangular short point. This design progression further mirrored the cut-and-thrust fighting techniques adopted by the Roman legionaries.
In any case, if you crave for more insights into this fascinating video-making process, do take a gander at Phil Holland’s website.