In looking at the Oath of Horatii image

enter image description here

I can see three swords in the hand of the father, I see what looks to be a gladius in the center, but the two swords on either side of it do not look to be Roman swords. They resemble scimitars or some such similar sword, not what I would consider Roman. My impression of Roman swords tends to be the gladius and if they used other types I am not aware of them, so are the other two swords Roman?

I realize this painting is Neoclassical, although with many of the details look to be very accurate the swords stick out to me as being a sort of artistic license here; but I would like to confirm with anyone who has more knowledge of Roman swords.

  • I wouldn't actually call it "artistic license", it's more of a message, that a lot of people interpret differently. A common view for example is that only one sword is displayed straight, because only one of the brothers would survive the fight against the Curiatii.
    – GNi33
    Jan 26, 2012 at 23:24
  • Oh, a very good point and one that did not come up in discussions on the painting in my art history class. Still, would the other swords still be Roman at all?
    – MichaelF
    Jan 27, 2012 at 12:46
  • 1
    I can't really be sure about it, but I doubt it, since the fight against Alba Longa took place around the 7th century BC, where Rome was still a relatively small nation. Actually, not even the middle one looks like a roman weapon to me, since the gladius as the main sword-type was a short-sword about 30 inches of length. But I am not an expert on this topic. edit I just noticed, that about that time, the gladius wasn't even "in service". The Romans started to use it in the 4th century BC
    – GNi33
    Jan 27, 2012 at 13:10
  • So the answer in this case may be a No, and none of the swords are Roman. Although the fight with Alba Longa to the side, if the weapons are Roman representations that would be interesting to know.
    – MichaelF
    Jan 27, 2012 at 18:37
  • I think the author probably depicted swords from the 16th-17th centuries. For example, the one to the left resembles an early swiss saber and the one to the right resembles a falchion.
    – Firebug
    Dec 29, 2014 at 15:44

1 Answer 1


As for the Roman Military they used a gladius you suggested as their main fighting tool. To back up my answer this site has pictures and summaries of roman weapons etc (None of which seem to resemble a scimitar).

There are two types of these:

The first being the original shorter Gladius Hispaniensis. The second being the more pointier Gladius Pompeianus

The Roman Military was also outfitted with a Spatha which was a much longer sword.

With neither of the swords in the picture resembling a gladius in my opinion the only option could be a spatha. A quote from the above linked site.

The Roman cavalry used a much longer sword, the so called spatha. Towards end of the second century that spatha gradually replaced the short sword also for the infantry. Lengths 75 cms and longer. The shape of the blade is not easy to distinguish from the Germanic swords of the period. With two exceptions: The first century spatha looking like a longer galdius Pompeianus and the later thrid century spatha type Lauriacum-Hromowka:

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