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Caleb Budd

Semi-Spatha information

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I was interested in doing a 3rd century roman sword. While researching I found out that there was a short sword still in use by then something called a semi-spatha. So far I've read that it was either a broken Spatha reforged or a gladius that's hanged around for longer. But other than that I haven't found any exact details or images on the sword. Thank you in advance for any information.

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Thank you Geoff! That's an awesome source. The sword though is smaller than I thought it'd be. It's on the shorter side of even gladii which I guess makes sense for a half-sword.

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So would this fall into the Dirk sized series of blades?  Longer than a work knife but not to short sword length. Like a back up for a primary weapon?

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I guess what I'm seeing is a cut down long blade, but with much the same geometry.  The Spatha is listed at up to a meter long, and the semi is about 60 cm, or about 2/3 of the longer weapon.  I see a dirk as a shorter blade in the 30-45 cm range.

The fact is that these swords were made in small shops, perhaps to a standard, but probably could be modified to suit.  If the Semi were actually made from a broken blade, they would be all sizes.  If they were an onsite mod of an existing pattern, then they would be sized to fit the user.  

If I had a pile of armory swords and users who wanted a specific kind of mod (shortening), I would knock the handle off (grind the peened end off and salvage the pieces) regrind the tang and remount existing pieces.  If they were broken blades, I'd regrind the point profile and then regrind the bevels while trying hard to not disturb the HT.

I think that at best the terminology is inexact.  It describes our limited sample, but may not refer to anything but our own need for a taxonomic structure.

Geoff

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I'd think we could still classify the semi as a sword because it is still bigger than the smallest gladii. But what I find really interesting that the Semi is actually almost exactly 1/2 the lengh of the Spatha the semi being 19.69" while the Spatha is about 39.37". Though that could mean nothing. Another point is that these semi Spatha are around the third/fourth century CE a time of great upheaval in the western and eastern Roman empires. I don't doubt that with short resources the smiths wouldn't want to waste anything and want to be as efficiently  possible so grinding might not be that implausible. Or it just might've been a local variant to a sidearm, the Roman historian Flavian Vegetius describes a 4th century army being outfitted with semi-spatha.

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