Byzantine (or Sasanian) sword of length 1.8 meters of the 6th or 7th century


By George E. Georgas

I thank Mr. Dimitrio Skourteli, hagiographer and historical researcher, member of the Academy of Historical European Martial Arts, for the information and the material who gave me.

Who said that only the west European fighters had two-handed swords which were known to be in use from the 14th century? The eastern empires were in use of them from the 6th century after the born of Christ.

According with an archeological find (and maybe the only one that unfortunately it is in a very bad condition) that discovered in excavations in the wider area of Afrodisiada, (Afrodisiada which took its name from the temple to Venus was a small town in Karia of Asia Minor. The city was built in the area Afrodisiou coast and it was governed from Kindos. It was known for the marbles and the great school of sculpture. The town is located near the modern village of Geyre in modern Turkey on the southwest coast of Asia Minor, 230 km southeast of Izmir and is 10 km from the coast) all are undermined as regards the origin of the two handed swords.

In photo: The second in line from above is the swords that take place in museum of Afrodisiada in Turkey. The photo is from the book Romano-Byzantine Armies 4th- 9th centuries Osprey extraditions from the series Men at Arms.

The exhibit is located at the museum of Afrodisiada and it is a two edged two handed straight sword with length of 1.8 meters, as it was and the German Zweihänder of 1500 A.D!

The exhibit (which as I mentioned is in poor condition) is of the 6th or 7th century after the born of Christ, at the time that the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire fought the Sasanian Empire to recapture the Jerusalem and the return of the Holy Cross (The Sasanians were capture the Holy city and they stole the Holy Cross).

Essentially organized the real and perhaps unique crusade, if we accept that the crusades of Franks were made with a view to the recapture of Jerusalem (although the Christians lived in harmony with the Muslims except for some periods of time in the restricted) but their real aims were the acquisition of new territories.

Zweihaender im historischen Museum Basel.JPG

In photo: German swords Zweihänder


Let us get back to the archaeological find. Either the sword was Persian origin either Roman, appreciate the researchers and archaeologists that use and by the two armies.

As we know, the Eastern Roman empire (the Byzantium) was adopted a large equipment from his enemies of even whole battalions (as the cataphracts that while initially were Persian in origin, the cataphracts or klibanarii became the spearhead of the war machine of the Romans of the East).

In addition to the archaeological find which proves the use such weapons in the Byzantine Empire and of the Sasanian Empire, we found it also in a literature of byzantine books with the name, rompaia. Obviously the use of it would be like the ancient Thracians rompaia. The rompaia was used against the enemy riders, against the enemies shield wall and for the destruction of the longs pears and lances of rival army. The other point of view of the archaeologists and historical researchers is that it was used for ceremonial purposes such as parades or contingents.

In photo:Cataphractor Klivanarios of theEastern Roman Empire

However because there are not many archaeological findings or detailed descriptions in the imperial combat manuals, not the mention or refer to them, in contrast with other weapons (such as spathion, paramoirion etc), indicates that for some reason was abandoned their use.

This type of weapon appeared again at the crusaders with the term again of rompaia, as mention Michael Pselos and Anna Komnini, they disappeared again, and finally they returned at the dawn of Easter Roman Empire at the 15th century. There are too many frescos and icons of military saints as evidence that the Eastern Roman Empire soldiers used these types of weapons, but this time were like the typical European long swords. Their length was degreased from1.8 metersto1.2 meters.

In photo: Emperor Heraclius

In conclusion we assume that this weapon was used only for the needs of each chronical era and after that have been alienated from such training.

From the other hand the use of the shield (large-type shield σκούτον, or the small round shield) with the smaller sword (type spathion or paramirion) had a lasting and continuous evolving route from the beginning of the empire (when the legions have in use the gladious), later with the advent of Avars introduced the curved type of sword known as saber and adopted by the Empire with the name of paramirion, until the end of the empire from the Ottomans.


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