The spatha was a sword used by the Roman military, particularly its cavalry. Generally made of iron, a spatha's blade was roughly one meter in length. The makeup of the spatha's hilt is unknown, as only a few blades have survived from Imperial times. Reenactors and modern smiths give replicas of this sword a hilt like that of the gladius, with a spherical pommel and no cross-guard. The design of the spatha, much like the gladius, was probably inspired by the Celtic peoples of Gaul and Spain.

The spatha entered use with the Roman cavalry largely due to the ineffectiveness of the much shorter gladius when used from horseback. Due to the gladius' length, horsemen would have to lean out of the saddle to swing their weapon, placing themselves off balance. The spatha was far easier to use from horseback, and in time found its way into use by the infantry (particularly among barbarian soldiers in the late Empire) as a longer, slashing weapon. Its appeal was heightened by the fact that it required much less training than the gladius did before troops could use it effectively.

Spa"tha (?), n,; pl. Spathae (#). [L.] Bot.

A spathe.

 

© Webster 1913.

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