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r2k-in-the-vortex t1_j1cn0sl wrote

The reason the swords were rather short was because the steel was rather shit. To make longer swords you need more sophisticated methods which they didn't have, or you need to put in a lot more elbow grease to work impurities out of the steel making the sword much more expensive. Over centuries the sword making economy shifted to longer and more expensive blades


WeHaveSixFeet t1_j1d6jwu wrote

I thought the reason the gladius was short was that it allowed the legionaries to get up close and personal with the enemy. The Gauls used longswords. That gets you a couple of good pokes at the Roman's shield before the Roman is in your face. You don't have room to use your longsword, while he's getting stabby. Same goes for spears: very effective until the enemy is up close, then useless.


wegqg t1_j1d8bpx wrote

This ^ celtic longswords were used as slashing weapons and became a hindrance in the press - gladii were able to thrust out between the shield wall and were used, sensibly, as thrusting weapons.


r2k-in-the-vortex t1_j1dk7ni wrote

All else being equal, more reach means more likely to come out the winner, you only need one poke. But all is not equal, longer blade is also heavier and harder to maneuver where it needs to go. That's why length of blade depends on quality of steel, with better quality you can make it longer without compromising weight and strength too much. But if you don't have the quality you end up with a slow club that just isn't that good to use. Romans couldn't have made something like a rapier if they wanted to, their metallurgy wasn't up to snuff.


Thraling t1_j1j7doq wrote

Besides what has already being said (the Celtic sword was used for slashing, not poking), they were typically in bronze, not iron


AnaphoricReference t1_j1pkmwb wrote

Yes. They had no almost no control over how hard the iron would turn out. The real cost would be in fuel and skilled labour. If the weapon turned out too brittle or soft for its purpose, you had to start all over again.

If you compare the standard types of side arms armies used in those days:

- The small hand axe (Franciska, Tomahawk) needs one hard edge, but is otherwise not prone to bending or breaking.

- The long knife (Seax) needs one hard edge and a stiff back.

- The short short (Gladius) needs two hard edges and a stiff centerline. This is an order of magnitude more difficult to achieve. Needs to be stiff enough not to bend or break when stabbing a shield or armour.

- The long sword (Spatha) needs two hard edges and a long stiff centerline, that is stiff enough not to break or bend when blocked halfway with another weapon. Again an order of magnitude more difficult than a short sword.

The small axe was a weaponized common tool that was within reach of any household. Owning a seax was fairly common as well, but would have been more expensive. A functioning long sword was really something else. Not because of the amount of material, but the amount of trying (and fuel) that went into it.

The main advantage the Romans had, was centralization and industrialization of weapon making. More fuel and labour dedicated to it.

Edit: To gain some insight into how involved weaponsmithing would be in those times: Try to build a fire of 1500 degrees celsius using just wood. It is impossible.