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Roman Soldier Weapons: the arms the built the greatest empire of all time

Updated on August 14, 2014

What weapons did the average Roman Soldier use?

The common Roman soldier weapons were an important part of building the world as we know it today. The common soldier of Rome, his skills, tactics, weapons and armor helped to build one of the biggest empires the world has ever known.

Rome was the gold standard of empires, that we go by today. As world-wide empires go, it was only dwarfed by the size of the conquests of Alexander the Great ...and Alexanders empire fell apart nearly as soon as he died, while the Romans empire was able to last for centuries.

But what were these mighty weapons and what made them special. And why were these military instruments so effective against their enemy's? What made these particular items so much more devastating than all those of the "barbarians" that surrounded Rome throughout it's long and storied history

I shall attempt to give you a brief overview of some of the key weapons that helped to secure Rome a place in our history, and had repercussions that even lead to how we live our lives today.

This lens is designed to give you an understanding of the very basic weapons and armor of the roman legionary. If you want to find out further information there is links at he bottom to some exceptional books you can read that will give you a deeper understanding of roman soldier weapons, armor and tactics. Enjoy!

Roman Armor | Scutum
Roman Armor | Scutum

The Shield is a fighting tool?

The story of the Scutum

What is a shield doing on a page about the weapons of Rome? I have an entire page dedicated to the armor of the Roman soldier after all, shouldn't the Scutum be there?

Well, it is there; but there is good reason for it to be here too.

The Scutum is a huge shield that was essential to the Roman tactics. When the legions advanced they did so as a solid wall, shield locked to shield, that few armies could break. They could even form a "turtle" and defend themselves from arrows from all angles, even above.

The Scutum was an unbelievable defensive item for the these ancient soldiers.

It was also used offensively, though. The strong boss in front and the lower and upper enemies would be used to hammer at their enemies, acting as a bludgeon and often more useful in the line of battle for attacking their enemies than the short stabbing Gladius.

Roman Soldier Weapon Pugio
Roman Soldier Weapon Pugio

Common Roman Weapons | Dagger

Pugio

When Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar this is likely the weapon he used. Almost all Romans carried a Pugio. It was a dagger with a thick leaf shaped blade.

A pugio was not only a soldiers weapon, but it was used for common tasks too, making it utilitarian as well as martial.

Over time, this blade of the Pugio would evolve. In later period, as the sword of Rome grew, so did the dagger. Later period Pugios are a little longer, thinner and have more narrow blades.

But original scrappy and tough weapon was made for the rough-and-tumble, close quarters fighting of all Roman legionaries.

Pugio even led to the term for a fighter... Pugilist.

Roman Soldier Sword | Gladius
Roman Soldier Sword | Gladius

Roman Soldier Weapons | Sword

Gladius

The Gladius was the primary Sword of the Roman for quite a few years. It was a short, Stabbing weapon that was perfectly designed to work with the large Scutum shield.

Rather than having a long and unwieldy sword to deal with, the Roman soldier could simply thrust with his small Gladius and hack and stab at his enemies.

Roman Soldier Spatha
Roman Soldier Spatha

Roman Weapons | Sword II

Spatha

The short Gladius is the most famous sword, but it was not the only one. By the end of the empire, the Gladius had been completely phases out and replaced by the Spatha.

The Spatha is a much longer sword. It is very similar to a typical one handed Viking Sword. At first this sword was only used by the Roman Calvary. At around the 3rd century AD, the average Roman soldier also began to use this longer, thin blade sword.

It took time, but eventually this become the signature sword of Rome.

Roman Weapons | Pilum
Roman Weapons | Pilum

Roman Weapons | Spear/Javelin

Pilum

Pictured is the head of a Pilum. This was a heavy Javelin head. It was attached to a long heavy wood shaft, which would usually be cast at the enemies. (During the earlier Roman times there were also special units that fought with a larger and heavier version called a Hasta)

The idea was that if the spear struck the enemies, it was good of course. But even with misses the large heavy javelins would strike through the shields of the enemy, making the shield useless and leaving the enemies open to the attacks of the advancing troops.

Roman Soldier Weapons - Plumbata
Roman Soldier Weapons - Plumbata

Roman Soldier Weapons | The Dart

Plumbata

One of the more interesting Roman items of war is the Plumbata. Think of this weapon as a large lawn dart.

They were fairly light and small and could be cast quite far, raining death down amongst enemies from afar.

A nice but deadly little weapon that wrecked a lot of carnage once it was invented in the later Roman empire.

Ancient and Roman history books

Are you still interested in the history of Rome? I have barely touched on the subject here. The history of Rome is a long one. From the roman republic to the rise to the roman empire to it's ultimate decline and fall.

It is the story of heroes and villains. It is a story of grandeur and decadence. It is the story of how a small tribe grew and expanded for hundreds of years until they controlled most of the world, eventually to collapse under the sheer weight of having a massive empire.

One of the most interesting times in history in my opinion. Out some of the Roman and classical period books below that may be of interest to anyone from the history scholar to someone who has no idea about the sweep of history.

Buy Roman Soldier Weapons - A collection of Roman Soldier Weapons you can get right now!

If you're looking to complete a Roman costume, either for Halloween, for a reenactment, or just for fun here are some Roman weapons that can help complete your costume. These deals on Amazon, so you know they are amongst the lowest prices you'll get for Roman soldier weapons

RedSkyTrader Mens Roman Javelin Pilum Spear One Size Fits Most Multicoloured
RedSkyTrader Mens Roman Javelin Pilum Spear One Size Fits Most Multicoloured

Get your own version of this weighty casting spear of ancient Rome

 

Top 5 Roman HISTORY Resources - This page on Roman weapons is only the beginning, find out more about the deep tradition and history of the Roman Empire

Let's face it, this page barely covered the basics of Roman and armor and weapons, and even less thorough covering of the long and rich history of Rome from the Republic days to the end of the Empire. That history covers volumes and volumes of books....

Many of the books above are great places to read if you have an interest in finding out more about the history. But there also a great many places online. These are the top 5 places online you can find out more information on the Roman empire for free.

  1. Roman Empire Wiki

    Wikipedia is not a scholarly lesson in Rome and history. But if you're looking for a few quick facts they give you a down and dirty idea of the broad outline basics of Roman history there is never a better place to find it in Wikipedia

  2. Primary History: Romans

    BBC Produces this excellent websites that details all the facts you need to want to know about Rome and history in a child education fashion. This is a great page for homeschooling children about Roman history

  3. Roman History. NET

    There may not be a more thorough collection of facts, pictures and guides to all parts of Roman history and culture than this huge website dedicated to nothing but Roman history, culture and traditions

  4. Forum Romanum

    This page is collected and maintained by a Roman history PhD. It has complete printings of some of the most popular scholarly works on the history of the Roman Empire.

  5. PBS: Rome

    The great educational page maintained by PBS television showcasing the long history of the Roman Empire

Roman Armor | Lorica Segmentata
Roman Armor | Lorica Segmentata

Roman Armor | Body Armor

The Lorica

Off to the right you see the basic (later) Roman empire body armor, the Lorica Segmentata. I am sure you have seen this armor before. It has been popularized as "the" default Roman soldier armor.

This lens deals with the weapons of Rome, not the armor. But if you want to find out more about the Lorica and other body armor or the Roman Legionary, please check out this lens on the Roman Soldier Armor

Roman Soldier Weapons
Roman Soldier Weapons

What is your Favorite Roman Weapon?

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Roman Legionaire Armor
Roman Legionaire Armor

Which of these Roman Armor defines Roman Armor in YOUR opinion

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Please leave a comment.

- Do you have a favorite Roman Weapon or Armor

- Did you like them?

- Did you hate them?

- Do you think a specific Weapon or Armor screams "Roman" more than any other?

- Do you have an interest in Roman history?

- Are you interested in finding out more about this exciting period of history?

Let me know your thoughts on Roman Armor and Weapons

Thanks and have a wonderful day!

What do you think of Roman Armor and Weapons?

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    • profile image

      armourman 2 years ago

      I have been following some blogs to get the real picture of Roman centurian armor helmets, A good replica is rare to find, I checked some at different sellers on ebay, etsy, darkknight armory www.darknightarmory.com , armor venue www.armorvenue.com, erakart (www.erakart.com) , can you guide which one would be the best, if anyone had purchased from any of theese sellers earlier??

    • profile image

      RomeFan 3 years ago

      I have seen much of these Roman armors and weapons on Historical movies like The Gladiator. Ancient armors and battle accessories were always really interesting. Thanks for this comprehensive lens. It's nicely presented.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      It's interesting how the ancient weapons were designed also for beauty.

    • profile image

      Thamisgith 4 years ago

      Great lens. I think it's the combination of equipment that works well together.

      However, I do tend to think of the scutum as the defining one - mainly because I have a visual image of massed ranks of legionaries behind a wall of shields.

    • InvestLetters profile image

      InvestLetters 4 years ago

      Excellent lens, I had NO IDEA all this cool stuff was available

    • The One Stop Shop profile image

      The One Stop Shop 4 years ago

      Great lens, thanks for sharing. A book you might be interested in is World History of Warfare by Christon I Archer, It shows the evolution of warfare from the very beginning and how the Roman Empire shaped warfare tactics of today.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I think the lens is not only awesome, but the information is fantastic. I really like this lens.

    • profile image

      GetAcneFree 4 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I'll have to show it to my husband who is very much into Roman history.

    • zentao profile image
      Author

      zentao 4 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: Thanks! Glad you liked it. I have always found the Roman (and o a lesser extent) the Greek Era's so very interesting.

    • zentao profile image
      Author

      zentao 4 years ago

      @vivandiereshop: Doing a Roman Re-enactment would be a lot of fun. NOthing in my locale area either.

    • vivandiereshop profile image

      vivandiereshop 4 years ago

      Great lens! Roman Empire Reenatment is one of the most beautiful and interesting as for me. It's pity that all events are so far from Ukraine!.

    • prikazen profile image

      prikazen 5 years ago

      Impressive info. Like it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I find the weapons and armors of the Roman Empire very impressive. Thanks for Sharing.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      This was extremely interesting. I've seen bits and pieces of Roman armour and weaponry in museums - some quite intricate designs on some of the helmets and daggers, very nice - but the plumbata is totally new to me. I like how you've described it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The body armor was always impressive. :)

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Many times I wish I had a lorica - mainly when I'm on a crowded train