[Reblogged-Republication  from  another  site]

Out on an ancient greek: Byzantium in the fourth century AD, was founded Constantinople, New Rome, which is elevated to the imperial capital by Constantine I, the Empire of “Byzantine.”   In 1204 the Crusaders, occupy and plunder the city holding it until 1261, year in which the “Byzantine”, expelled the Crusaders regained the reconstituted and the Empire. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. The empire “Byzantine” ceases to exist.     The role of ‘ Eastern Roman Empire , in European history is not sufficiently inclusive and is often treated superficially and summary.     Constantinople, from its foundation until the time of his brutal sacking the Crusaders, has allowed the economic, political and cultural center of Europe. The New Rome, resisting the onslaught of many people who pressed on their borders, impegnandone armies, protected, unintentionally, throughout the West from further invasions that you would go to add to all those who already faced and which undoubtedly would have changed , over the centuries, the current political scenario, economic as well as customs and practices. The Byzantine Empire flourished during the same period as Western Europe was tried by the narrowness and violence. The Eastern Roman Empire was for many years the best army, the best tactics, the best generals.     However, contrary to its culture and its influence, the fruits of civilization “Byzantine” are described briefly, and often denigrated.     Apparently we dwell only on what is wrong and corrupt, the empire was at some time in its history. The same epithet “Byzantine” is in fact an insult.     names with which they are defined things are important to not distort our interpretation of reality.     Persons Empire “Byzantine” had no idea of being “Byzantine “. They felt themselves as the successors of the authentic Roman world: the Romans living in Romania (not to be confused with the current Romania). In the inner regions of Constantinople, where Greek was the language to predominate on the Latin of ancient Rome, the idea of citizenship and identity Roman had involved a large part of the population. The citizens of the Greek language were proud of being Romans: Romans were called in Latin, in greek Romaioi. It is thought that an ambassador be called Byzantine greek, roman instead, it meant being elegantly insulted.        Romaioi The word called, in the end, the population of the Greek-speaking Roman Empire.     This, for us, is a very important point to understand the Byzantine culture, including weapons.     Always keep in mind that they, even with many changes, they felt the successors of the ancient Romans. They were the hinge between the West and the East, their weapons have been influenced by both civilizations were not immune from the influences of the lands that have dominated, blending everything together and creating a footprint that we can typically define “Byzantine.”     We do not, in our museums, Byzantine swords, at least not intended as typically Byzantine.     Ares Academy has decided to replicate a “spathion” making use of the only sources available that could enable replication, and in the case the specific iconography. Building a sword from a iconography is definitely a business, arduous and fraught with pitfalls.     will document below, why our choices, first of all the iconography of reference.     A comparison, it was noticed that the iconography which is located in the Monastery of Hosios Loukas in Greece, namely that taken into consideration, it is devoid of artistic license but made ​​with great detail in depicting-tion of the subject and armaments.


It is in fact a Byzantine fresco of the twelfth century, where it is shown, Joshua, the warrior of faith, with a straight sword.
carefully The fresco depicts the typical arms of a Byzantine warrior heavily armed of the X-XII centuries. Wearing a “klivanion” laminated with protection for the arms and around the waist the “pteruges” and is armed with a spear “kontarion” and a “spathion” . One thing we noticed, unusual for a biblical figure and religious, is the use of cover garments.
‘s helmet is tied to his neck, with what appears to be cloth.

Joshua, wearing a ‘helmet, corroborating if ever there were needed, the completeness of armor, drifts away from religious, often not as reliable.
We also noticed with how much wealth and sense of proportion have been painted holes for hanging the slats that make up the armor, the band officer with the typical node (the red was a symbol of power), the boundary to “shoulder” used to bring the scabbard, floral designs or with animals (so dear to the Byzantines) on the scabbard. (See the scabbard of Essen, built in Constantinople.)
The only discrepancy that we found, is in the length of the fingers of the hand raised, is longer than that of the left hand, the thumb is drawn out of proportion. Of course, we say this, because we have taken the trouble to measure them with a graphics program .    To validate the choice of iconography, we also serve a lot of the designs of the most famous manuscript, the Historion Synopsis: It was written in the eleventh century by John Skylitzes, and is now at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, so it is known as the Skylitzes Madrid. It is equipped with 574 miniatures in color, (a part is lost) and is the only survivor of Byzantine chronicle in greek, thus providing a valuable primary source for the simultaneous display of Byzantium.

Below primary sources that are served by comparison :

david and goliath

Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana – Venice
scene from Menologium of Basil II – 1017 is a good example of a heavily armed foot soldier of the 11th century. Wear the armor laminated with fringes and “pteruges” more from the band officer.

San Giorgio

     San Giorgio XI century. – Monastery of Vatopedy – Greece.
Notice the hilt of spathion and armor.

Kourtagan – beheading of Christians
Codex Graecus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes –  Madrid
Note the helmet worn by the warrior at the center equal to that of
our iconography

Demetrius of Thessalonica. – 11-14th Century. Kremlin Armoury – Moscow
Brought to you by Byzantium by Dimitri of Russia after the Kulikov battle (?)
Traits typically Byzantines, you can see the walls to “bag” used to
bring the scabbard, perhaps even the shield, a hilt quite
short, and also if it is secondary, the trappings of the horse and the tail tied
the manner of the horsemen of the steppes [1], to show how the
influences of other people have marked the Byzantine weapons.

design from the manuscripts of SCYLITZES. On the two sheaths in the center and
on the sleeve at the top right you can see those flowers which we find
also on the sleeve of our “Joshua”

We could go on, but we believe that the sources taken into account are sufficient to demonstrate the reliability of the iconography choice.

It seems necessary to clarify that “spathion” Byzantine, are not referable to a specific archetype, just for the continuing influence of the peoples with whom they shared their fate. Our interpretation therefore does not presume to be “the Byzantine sword”, but wants to be a typical Byzantine sword that along with other types could be in use in the era treated.
At that time, in the streets of Constantinople, a sword , very similar to ours, was surely a fine show if, in the sheath of some Byzantine noble knight.
Constantinople, was an important meeting place for different types of swords, they came from the regions of the Caucasus, Armenia, from the steppes Mongol, Persia and the Arabian deserts. The Arabs possessed the centers for weapons in Khorassan, in Yemen and in several other places, to a large extent adopted from Persia shapes and forms from the steppes, transforming them and making them suitable for their use. Through them, have spread in all regions conquered by the Muslims. In particular, the type inherited from the Sarmatians, the Parthians and Sassanids or carried by the warriors of Turkestan, lies in the hands of the warriors of the manuscript, by John Skylitzes. [2]

caucasian sword

swords found in some ancient cemeteries Caucasians. [3]

In Europe, some types of swords came from the east by Spain and Italy by the merchants of Venice and Genoa.
Hoffmeier tells us that we can not go from the blade because apart from the lack of findings unequivocally referable to the Byzantines, they were in good substance similar in design to those in the West, we speak to the point, straight double-edged blades.
Yet we know that they had a range of length, hilt included, which ranged between 936 mm and 1100 mm [4]. Our replica is 975 mm.
know also, as reported by Leo the Deacon, greek historian of the tenth century, that the “spathion” was the sword carried by the “Athanatoi” the tagma of the Immortals. [5] They had a sword worn over the shoulder, according to the ancient Roman customs, and even a sword carried on your belt, the “paramenion.” The latter although almost always represented as a sword to a single cut and bend, in reality only means sword carried to the belt, and not necessarily with the characteristics depicted.
Regarding the hilt, we know that many, were the types referable directly to the Byzantines of the 25 types shown in Skylitzes Madrid [6], below, we publish some of the drawings and extracts taken from Ms. Hoffmeier, in particular, are described in detail 7 types of mounts.

Byzantine swords

[7] Some types you hilt Skylitzes depicted in Madrid

We want to draw the reader’s attention on the string of the hilt
No. 2. We have reason to believe that would serve to hold the sword during the fight. A well-aimed blow could cause loss of grip by its handle, and this is even more true in the case where the battle took place on horseback. [8] Note the extreme similarity with that of our iconography.
In the English text, the lanyard knotted at one end, is identified with the term “tassel”, this term is commonly translated in English with tassel, both as an ornament for curtains or clothes both as an ornament for the hilt of a sword. From the most careful research, we find that this term has various meanings, including “tie closure”, deriving from Vulgar Latin “tassellus”, so much so that one of its synonyms is sword knot [9]
Speaking of apples in a spheroidal shape , we know that even if known in the West, had clear origins Middle East. Many artistic sources support this idea.
A special case of Scandinavia which had amazing business relations with Constantinople and in Islam.
We must also say that the few cases in the West of apples spheroidal accounts for almost all the Mediterranean area with particular regard the Iberian Peninsula. David Nicolle says, too, that the swords found with these apples had the hilt short and wide. [10]

101) ‘St. George ‘on a silver icon by Sujana, Georgian eleventh century AD (National Museum, Tbilisi).
107) illustration sword in ‘The Emperor’s guard (Protospathius)’
on a decorated manuscript, Southern Italy twelfth century AD (Casanatense Library, Ms. 724.B1.13, pic.17, Rome).
108) Probable illustration of Goliath’s sword in the hands of David
in the Bible Segunde de Leon, Spanish 1162 AD (Cathedral Library, Ms. VI, Leon).

The knobs as indicated by Etwart Oakeshott type R are spherical [10], the apples of which we speak, however, were slightly flattened, completely unknown in the West. If we remember the apples Romans, they were almost spherical and led to the end of a sort of pomellino. And ‘reasonable to believe that the apple of our iconography has clear Eastern origin, that pomellino, not unknown even in Islam, must have memories of its precursor, the one mounted on the spathe Roman and earlier on gladii. [12]
Our apple has some decorative floral motifs that reflect those dear to the Byzantines and we have already amply documented. In fact, these patterns are deduced from the iconography is not, but we believe they are plausible.
know that the handles, could be of horn, bone or wood. [13]
We have chosen, in our replication, using a handle made ​​from a natural horn, this choice is motivated by the light color and greater elasticity than bone. Recall that the animals with horns fight us. The twisted wires of brass, are used to give the bond, greater strength, a sword that can potentially fight, may be for vibration, stress really great.

ares academy-horn  ares
It is not possible to determine whether those traits iconography parallel and cross you see on the handle, are ropes, stranded or etched channels. Our choice at this point is dictated solely by the plausibility of their existence, we know that the ancient Romans , they used bronze wires twisted, or even no plot.

Evidence about their use, they are definitely in jewelry and in the military, with a “small strip” of bronze were tied their lamellar armor and handles some of their “sphate” with a plot too complicated, it is assumed a household wire, oil lamps when they were suspended, nothing we can not know …

lamellar spatha

lamellar armor [14] handle of a “spatha” – Thorsbjerg,
braided strips of bronze – II-III AD


Roman bronze wires twisted and dating back to the IV century BC-Thanks to: http://www.roman-artifacts.com for related photos.

The bronze soon becomes dark green in contact with the sweat of his hand. In fact the handles, at least those made with natural materials, there are rarely reached, even in the West, because they are perishable.

There is a handle like the one pictured in iconography for a comparison, but if everything in that iconography is, we have sufficient reason to think that the handle is really existed.

Maurizio D’Angelo


[1] Porphyra – Year IV, IX, p. 74
Raffaele D’Amato


[5] LEO DEACON. VI, 11, p. 107.

Sebastian Cirac Estopanan
[7]  MILITARY EQUIPMENT IN THE MANUSCRIPT OF BYZANTINE SCYLITZES – fig. 16      Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer [8]  Observation of the author . [9]  Dictionary Encyclopedia, Dictionary by Farlex [10] TWO SWORDS FROM THE FOUNDATION OF GIBRALTAR page. 174 David Nicolle [11] RECORDS OF THE MEDIEVAL SWORD page. 10   Etwart Oakeshott [12] Observation of the author. [13] Reconstructing THE REALITY OF IMAGES: BYZANTINE MATERIAL CULTURE AND …      Maria G. Parani [14] DENMARK IN THE EARLY IRON AGE. pag. 111 Conrad Engelhardt

Bibliography :

Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Gladius, V – 1966
Biblioteca Nacional IN MADRID
Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer

Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Gladius, The – 1961
Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer


Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Gladius, volume especial – 1988
Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer

Oxford Journal of Archaeology 15 (1) 1996
VN Kaminski

Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – Gladius, XXII – 2002
David Nicolle

Sebastian Cirac Estopanan

Maria G. Parani


Porphyra – Year IV , number IX, p. 74 Raffaele D’Amato



Source  Ακαδημία Ιστορικών Ευρωπαϊκών Πολεμικών Τεχνών

Primary source:  Ares Academy