A Metal Detectorist in the U.K. Has Discovered Two Ancient Roman Cavalry Swords Once Used for Fighting on Horseback

The swords indicate the presence of the Roman military in Cotswolds, England.

Roman Cavalry swords with fitments. Photo courtesy of Cotswold District Council.

Two Roman cavalry swords have been discovered by passionate local metal detectorist Glenn Manning in the Cotswolds, England. They are almost 2,000 years old and were found alongside the remnants of their wooden scabbards, or handles.

“I can’t think of finds of more than one sword being deposited in any similar circumstance from Roman Britain,” said professor Simon James from Leicester University. He dated the pair to the late 2nd century, when the nearby market town of Cirencester was the thriving hub Corinium, Britain’s second biggest ancient Roman metropolis.

The swords have been identified as a Roman weapon then known as a spatha, and their considerable length suggests that they were made to be used on horseback. Though armor like this was most often intended for wars and gladiatorial fights, civilians were also allowed to carry them because traveling through Roman provinces would make them vulnerable to bandits.

The swords are destined to end up in the nearby Corinium Museum, dedicated to Romano-British antiquities discovered in the area. “These two swords are testimony to the presence of Roman military in the north of the Cotswolds,” said the museum’s director Emma Stuart. “It’s an incredibly important find and one that should excite everybody across Britain.”

The swords are due to undergo scientific analysis and a further archaeological dig planned for the same site where they were recovered may yet surface more historical context.

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