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ξίφος; poet. ἄορ, φάσγανον). A sword, by the Latin poets called ensis. The ancient sword had generally a straight, two-edged blade (ἄμφηκες), rather broad, and of nearly equal width from hilt to point. Gladiators, however, used a sword which was curved like a scimitar. In times of the remotest antiquity swords were made of bronze, but afterwards of iron. The Greeks and Romans wore them on the left side, so as to draw them out of the sheath (κόλεος, vagina) by passing the right hand in front of the body to take hold of the hilt with the thumb next to the blade. Hence Aeschylus

Greek Swords and Scabbards. (Guhl and Koner.)

distinguishes the army of Xerxes by the denomination of μαχαιροφόρον ἔθνος, alluding to the obvious difference in their appearance in consequence of the use of the acinaces instead of the sword. See Acinaces.

The early Greeks used a very short sword. Iphicrates, who made various improvements in armour about B.C. 400, doubled its length, so that an iron sword found in a tomb at Athens, and represented by Dodwell, was two feet five inches long, including the handle, which was also of iron. The Roman sword, as was the case also with their other offensive weapons, was larger, heavier, and more formidable than the Greek. Its length gave occasion to the joke of Lentulus upon his son-in-law, who was of very low stature, “Who tied my sonin-law to his sword?” To this Roman sword the Greeks applied the term σπάθη, which was the name of a piece of wood of the same form used in weaving. (See Tela.) The ancient British sword was still larger than the Roman. The principal ornamentation of the sword was bestowed upon the hilt. See Capulus.

1. Monument of an Illyrian Soldier, found at Bingen. 2. Scabbard. (Mayence, Germany.)

Gladius is sometimes used in a wide sense, so as to include pugio (q. v.). In the republican period of Rome, the gladius was worn by magistrates only when exercising military command. Under the Empire it was one of the insignia of the emperor and of those nominated by him. The ius gladii is the right of criminal jurisdiction conferred by the emperor on provincial governors. See Arma; Machaera; Mucro.

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