Fighting Techniques of Ancient Rome

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by Jonathan Randall, Jul 17, 2006.

  1. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Fighting Techniques of Ancient Rome? Now, obviously, we don't have the written manuals available to us that we have for Renaissance swordsmanship and H2H, However; what techniques do you think were most used by the individual Roman, soldier or not, in close quarter's battle? Do you think they had low-line kicks, more sophisticated strikes than the haymaker, and joint manipulations and disarms? I envision some order of MMA type fighting with take-downs from wrestling, boxing strikes and low kicks when the opportunity presented itself. Thoughts?
     
  2. crushing

    crushing Grandmaster

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    Very interesting questions. I found a couple links related to gladiators that I thought would be useful. I particularly like the second link of essays.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/gladiators_03.shtml

    http://www.ludus.org.uk/r/essays.html

    People with different fighting styles would be put up against each other to see which style would come out on top. Hmmm, sounds very familar.

    I was surprised to see in one essay that strikes to the head may have been illegal in gladiator 'games'.
     
  3. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons A Student of Martial Arts

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    I thought the traditional Roman soldier used a short broad sword. It was used for thrusting, and when combined with a good shield and phalanx tactics it did well for the time.
     
  4. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Hey, great links! Just goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I particularly like that they are based upon actual, verifiable research. Here's one page on their fighting stance from the second link you provided:

    STANCE
     
  5. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Yes, you'r right, but I was thinking more along the lines of personal combat (I should have specified better!) when either separated from their unit or trained civilians (generally former soldiers or gladiators) engaging in H2H - both armed and unarmed.
     
  6. bobbo

    bobbo White Belt

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    I used to have some archeology magazines that had articles on Roman fighting. There was a sport, and I don't remember what it was called, which they used a good deal for hand to hand combat training. This sport was very much like a blend between wrestling and the early form of boxing. Archeologists are certain that the Romans used a low front kick and their forearms to strike and block. Also, from artwork it seems that this sport used jointlocks, throws, hair grabbing, eye gouging, and twisting body parts. In this sport they used leather wrappings occationally laced with lead balls as hand protection. Apparantly they were wrapped very much like muay thai hand wrappings. Anyway, that's all I know about it.
     
  7. Hand Sword

    Hand Sword Grandmaster

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    Doesn't Chris Clugston teach that system?
     
  8. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    Uh, can of worms. LOL.

    He has a tape on "Comhrac Bas" purported to be ancient Gladiator fighting techniques. Most I've talked to, while recognizing some utility in his techniques displayed, are sceptical regarding his "ancient" claims.
     
  9. Hand Sword

    Hand Sword Grandmaster

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    Yeah, I thought so too, when he said "I have gone beyond Bruce Lee!" with a straight face--LOL!
     
  10. Darth F.Takeda

    Darth F.Takeda Blue Belt

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    From the reading I have done, it sems that there was a big differnce between how a Roman soldier fought and how a Gladiator fought.
    Gladiators were tuaght a style that was more open and entertaining and it's surprisseing to read how many Galdiator contest did not end in death.

    A Roman soldier was taught to kill quickly.

    Baseed on reading others, the show Rome gave about the best idea on how Roman soldiers fought in battle and in other enviroments.
     
  11. Steel Tiger

    Steel Tiger Senior Master

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    Its not really all that surprising that most gladiatorial combats did not result in death when you consider a few factors. These men were under some form of indentured service (contractural or enforced) and couldn't just leave if they wanted to. Add to this the fact that the lanistas (the guys who owned the gladiatorial schools) had to be compensated if a fighter was killed to cover the expense of training him. In fact, Augustus banned death matches because the costs of compensation were becoming too heavy.

    The training of gladiators was very interesting. It was very reminiscent of some of the martial arts schools that exist today. There were teachers, called "doctores", there were ranks, training devices (the "palus", a pole stuck in the ground about 2m tall, and dummy weapons), and training used a choreographed system of numbered movements.

    Gladiators don't seem to have been trained to fight unarmed. They were trained as weapon specialists and used a specific weapon and fighting style in the arena.

    Gladiators even did product endorsements. They were truly the professional sports celebrities of their day.


    An interesting little fact about the emperor Commodus (the one in the film Gladiator). He was particularly fond of gladiatorial combat and took to the arena himself. He was left-handed and fought with a gladius (there are reliefs of him in gladiator kit).

    There wer an estimated 100+ gladiatorial schools throughout the empire. There were four in Rome itself.
     
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  12. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Dwight McLemore is working on this material for a book he's writing.

    I got a preview of it last year. Well researched stuff.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  13. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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  14. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    We have one recorded drill that I know of (might have been Vegititus, I don't recall) for use of gladius from within the shield wall ranks.

    It went: Thrust, Thrust, Chop, Thrust, Step, Batter & Shove

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  15. Dwight McLemore

    Dwight McLemore Orange Belt

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    Kirk: It was Vegititus. He pretty much lays out how the Roman Army fought. Gladiators & Blood Sport? There are quite a few reenactment groups who, Believe-it-or-not, know their history. Just do a search on Gladiatorial Combat and you'll find several. There is one (can't remember or spell thier name) that has a chat line which ranges from '********' to really accurate information sources. Right now, for me the Gladiator book is on hold till we get this October video shoot on the tomahawk complete and the accompanying book. That said everything is boxed up in the office...but here are a few really good books to get one started.

    Kohne & Ewigleben's Gladiators & Caesars- Gives a good run-down on the type of gladiators, uniforms, and some fighting techniques. Pretty big 'coffee-table' size.

    Grant's Gladiators, does just about the same at the text above...but in a more generic fashion.

    Shadrake's The World of the Gladiator is one of the more current books and goes into some interesting discussion on the weapons specialization of the different types of weapons.

    The bibliography of each of these will give you more sources that are really detailed and rich with fighting information.

    If you can get a copy of the archelogial report on the excavation of the Gladiator Cementary at Effisus (mispelled) the discussion of death wounds is worth the effort.

    Before I went off on the tomahawk craziness, we did some training with the Mirmillo shield (scutum) .......
    make sure you got a mouth piece when you start working with it.

    I hope I've been of some help, least to get someone started if they are interested.

    All My Best
    Dwight
     
  16. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    I would say that thrust has alvays been and always will be a part of fighting; so, yes the haymaker wasn't the height of technology. Remember they had greek civilization and Egyption civilization to steal from.
    Sean123
     

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