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An Important Iberian Antenna Hilt Short Sword and Scabbard, ca. 4th - 3rd century BC

RB1404

a fine example of type VI, Arcobriga Antenna sword, the acutely pointed, double-edged leaf blade with twin fullers running parallel to the cutting edges and merging to a point, the heavy iron handle with a pommel featuring twin projecting boss "antenna" terminals.  With accompanying scabbard, originally constructed of wood supported by a rigid iron frame and embossed plates, three rotating rings used to attach the weapon to a baldric.

Background:  It is widely held the prototype for the Roman gladius hispaniensis was a variation of an Iberian Sword.  The Souda, a Byzantine lexicon compiled at the end of the 10th century, mentions the adoption of an Iberian sword by the Republican Romans from the Second Punic War onwards.  It states the main characteristic of this sword was the pattern-welding of the blade (lamna) which was forged in several hard layers of steel and was used for both edgewise cutting and thrusting in dense fighting formations.

Scholars have proposed numerous alternatives for such a prototype, the most widely held opinion being a variation of the Hispanic antennae sword, namely the type VI, Arcobriga (Quesada, 1997), used in the Meseta during the 3rd-2nd centuries BC, because the short size was suitable for close-order fighting and the wasted blade was capable of a slashing action.   However, Sanz argues the Roman Republican swords recently discovered in Delos, France, and the Iberian Peninsula are virtually identical to the early La Tene I swords imported from Europe throughout the 3rd century BC  (Sanz, JRMES, 8, 1997, pp.268) and therefore provide a more relevant parallel.

On the other hand, the Iberian metal frame scabbard (with wooden or leather core) as seen here, suspended by rotating rings from a baldric placed across the chest, is, without doubt, precisely the model of scabbard adopted by the Roman Army. 

Reference: B. Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts, London, 1999, p. 140, fig. 109 for the type.

F. Quesada Sanz, "Gladius hispaniensis: an archaeological view from Iberia", Journal of Roman Military Equipment, 8, 1997, 251-70.

M. C.Bishop and J. C. N. Coulston, "Roman Military Equipment from the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome, 2nd Ed" (London,  2006) pp. 54-56.  

Raffaele D'Amato, Graham Sumner, "Arms and Armour of the Imperial Roman Soldier: From Marius to Commodus, 112 BC-AD 192. "  (London:  Frontline, 2009).

Condition:  Both sword and the scabbard have been professionally conserved and mounted to museum standards to ensure no further loss or damage.  Overall the sword is intact and in excellent condition, it has some expected minor loss to the blade edge, sword point, and guard terminals, minor bowing to the blade.   The scabbard lacks the lower section of the outer frame, with traces of the original wood core still found inside the frame.  The full conservation report will be included with this sale.

Dimensions:  Length: (Sword) 40.64 cm (16 inches) Length: (Scabbard) 34.29 cm (13.5 inches) 

Provenance:   Private NYC collection, acquired from the Alex G. Malloy collection, 1980-82.


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