Three types of gladii are approved for milites of Legio XI: The Mainz, Fulham, and Pompeii patterns.
While all three of the above types were used in the 1st Century AD, each was slightly different in construction and more common at different times.
The earlier “Mainz” pattern (this designation due to numerous finds in the Rhine River near Mainz, Germany) has commonly documented finds throughout the first half of the century, and remained in use at least through Legio XI’s service in Illyria, ca. 70 A.D. Common blade lengths range from approximately 20” – 22”, featuring a slightly “waisted” blade that varied from 2-1/2” – 3” in width.
The so-called “Fulham” type gladius (named after an example excavated at Fulham, UK) is probably a variation of the Mainz pattern and was in common use at the same time. Like the Mainz, it has a very long point but lacked the “waist” of the latter, featuring a straight, slightly narrower (2”) edge that flared slightly as it approached the hilt.
About mid-1st Century, the “Mainz/Fulham” types began to be phased out by a straight-edged blade with a short point, commonly referred to as the “Pompeii” pattern, named after four examples found in the excavations of the Vesuvian eruption at Pompeii. These weapons have blade lengths that generally run from 17” – 20” with widths from about 1-3/4” to 2”. This gladius type would be more common for Legio XI during its tenure at Vindonissa in Upper Germany, ca. 70 – 100 A.D.
All of these blades (Mainz, Fulham, and Pompeii) were double-edged with a flat diamond or lens cross-section, without grooves or fullers. Some had low-carbon steel cores with high-carbon edges, some had high-carbon exteriors with lower carbon interiors, and some were low-carbon throughout.
The gladius hilt was made of wood, bone, or ivory, and a thin brass plate was usually set into the bottom of the guard (though it could simply be set flat against the guard, or be lacking altogether). Pommels were generally spherical, a flattened “spheroid” shape, or even egg-shaped, though some were flat discs (standing on edge). The guards were similarly round or oval in plan (seen from the bottom). The pommel and guard on some Pompeii style swords were very small. Maple was definitely used for a couple of hilt parts (Bishop and Coulston), but otherwise the types of wood used are not mentioned. Walnut is popular for its attractive contrast with a bone or lighter-wood grip, and is certainly permitted, but lighter woods should NOT be stained a darker color. The wood parts should be oiled with boiled linseed oil (can be mixed 50/50 with turpentine). The grooved bone grip can be round, hexagonal or octagonal in section.
Scabbards were made of wood covered with thin leather. Those for Mainz and Fulham pattern blades were either enclosed in a frame of brass or iron “gutters”, with decorated plates on the front, or were completely sheathed in metal. Pompeii type scabbards had chapes and throats of similar construction, but the edge gutters generally did not extend top to bottom. The decoration could be embossed, stamped, punched, or pierced, and frequently the brass parts were tinned or silvered. You can make or buy a scabbard for your gladius, although all of the “off-the-shelf” (with the exception of those sold by Albion) include them.
If you are interested in making a scabbard on your own, this is an excellent tutorial from Christian Fletcher:
Matthew Amt of Legio XX also offers some great scabbard making hints here.
The sword hangs high on the right side on a leather baldric 1/2″ to 1″ wide. The scabbard has 4 suspension rings: at the back the baldric forks and is stitched to both rings, but at the front only the top ring is used, the baldric being either sewn to it or fixed with a small buckle. The baldric may be dyed. An older method of wearing the sword, perhaps more common with Mainz/Fulham types, is to hang it from the belt, though exactly how this was done is not certain. It must have involved short leather straps or thongs attached to the rings, perhaps simply forming “belt loops” or an X pattern. If two belts are worn, one is always for the sword and the other for the dagger–the baldric is only seen with a single belt. However, a single belt may hold both dagger and sword with no baldric.
Examples of Gladii and Scabbards
Mark Morrow does the best hand-forged blades we’ve seen, and may be able to do hilts as well. His prices and delivery times are also quite reasonable.
Matt Lukes in Canada [panzerknacker(at)shaw(dot)ca] does incredible custom work including sword hilts and scabbards. If you order a custom blade, Matt is your best option for a hilt and scabbard, although he gets a LOT of work and your order may take awhile to complete. Matt also offers great customer service and is very flexible in terms of individual design.
Albion Swords is now producing their “Next Generation” swords, which are excellent though relatively expensive. Customer service from Mike Sigman is outstanding.
Christian Fletcher does excellent scabbards for Albion’s gladii, and he also sells the swords. He may do scabbards for swords by other manufacturers as well. Expensive, but great work and reasonable shipment times. Super customer service.
Soul of the Warrior is an excellent source for an “off-the-shelf” Pompeii gladius. The SOTW 0040 gladius is a good, inexpensive option at $95. Rusty Myers is a real friend of Legio XI so contact the centurio before you place an order. Also sells Deepeeka gladii.