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The Roman Swiss Army Knife

Updated on January 05, 2011

Most people will be familiar with the Swiss Army Knife. This remarkable and extremely useful invention is the first choice of many hikers, campers and travelers. Others will have one ticked away in a kitchen drawer, hand bag or car glove box.

There are imitators of course in the form of multi-tools and there are literally dozens to choose from. It is all about personal choice and deciding on what it may be that you will most likely be needing. So there are the knives with components useful to travelers, cyclists, computer buffs, sailors, hunters and more. There are even special editions and exclusive models. There is even one to fit in your wallet. Another for your keychain.

Few people are aware however that the 'Swiss' army knife was invented by the Romans. This is a model based upon an 1800 year old knife which is presently held in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. The specimen in the museum is made of silver which suggests the owner was wealthy. Perhaps this was especially made for the owner. Possibly though it was one of the first 'toys for the boys' and had been ordered from and ad in the first ancient Rome edition of gadget weekly.

I was given my first Swiss Army Knife in Switzerland. I was there when it was purchased for me from a gift shop half way up the Matterhorn. I was ten years old. Somewhere along the way I lost it.

My next was purchased by my then wife for my 30th birthday. We were in the Lake District in the UK at the time. More than thirty years later I still have it. We have been through a lot together me and that knife and if I think back over those thirty years it has without a shadow of a doubt the most useful gift I have ever received.

Modern Swiss Army Knife

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The model above is the one I own. It has never let me down. Only on the odd occasion have I wanted a pair of pliers, which this lacks, but I have always managed to improvise.

A Floral Design

The models shown below are just a small part of a truly massive range.

An example of the huge range of models

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  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    They are certainly a great invention. It just shows that after all these years they are still great and mainly useful Thank you for your hub.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello Hello - too true, very useful. Although I don't carry mine all the time due to the political climate I never go on a journey without it.

  • jim10 profile image

    jim10 7 years ago from ma

    I have a small one on my keychain. It is great for opening packages and on the rare occasion one of the kids or I get a splinter. The kids like to use the tweezers themselves to get it out. Whenever I try to get it out they freak out thinking it will hurt.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    jim - The tweezers have been a life saver a time or two. Equally the toothpick. Thanks for commenting.

  • Russell-D profile image

    Russell-D 7 years ago from Southern Ca.

    Peter - never buy the Chinese imitation, so poor they can't even slice bread. David Russell

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Russell - I never bought a copy but I did find one once. I thought I would keep my original for 'best' and used the copy for a week. It was useless. Thanks for the comment.

  • Misha profile image

    Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

    Cool hub Peter, never knew this! :)

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks for visiting Misha.

  • D.A.L. profile image

    Dave 7 years ago from Lancashire north west England

    Hi. Peter, being an outdoor man the Swiss army knife is second only to binoculars when I am out and about in the countryside. Really enjoyed this hub thank you for sharing it with us.

  • tonymac04 profile image

    Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

    Peter - thanks for this great info! I love my Swiss Army Knife given to me some years ago. It has saved me a spot of bother many times!

    Love and peace


  • travel_man1971 profile image

    Ireno Alcala 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

    My set of Swiss Army Knife is a versatile tool to carry everywhere. Thanks for this hub, Sir Pete. I've learned anew about this thing.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks travel man - the problem is that you cannot carry it everywhere these days in case you are locked up for having an offensive weapon. It is a sad world we live in.

  • profile image

    Deborah Hart 6 years ago

    The Roman knife is extraordinary! And ya gotta love the modern Swiss Army version! Unfortunately there are many "knock-offs" flooding the market, and have been for quite awhile. You will know if you get ahold of one of these, I have several times. The tweezers don't spring back, and eventually fall out, the toothpick fall out and gets lost right away, and within a short time the whole bloody thing falls apart! Buyer beware!

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Too true Deborah Hart. I was once given a copy and thought I would use it and keep my 'real' one secure. The copy was useless.

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