Ancient Roman cavalry swords unearthed in the UK

Two remarkably well-preserved Roman cavalry swords, accompanied by remnants of their wooden scabbards and fitments, were recently unearthed in the picturesque Cotswold District of the United Kingdom. This remarkable find, made during a metal detectorist rally in the north of the Cotswolds, shines a spotlight on the rich history of the region and offers a glimpse into the Roman past.

The swords, believed to date back nearly 2,000 years, were discovered by Glenn Manning, a dedicated metal detector enthusiast. Alongside the swords, a broken copper alloy bowl was also found, deepening the mystery surrounding their presence.

 “A remarkable archaeological find”

For those unfamiliar with the Cotswolds, it’s a region steeped in history, known for its charming villages, rolling hills, and, as it turns out, unexpected archaeological treasures. Councillor Paul Hodgkinson, elated by the discovery, commented, “This new find underscores the incredibly deep history that the Cotswolds holds. It answers the age-old question, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ with an emphatic display of weapons used in a time when Cirencester ranked as the second biggest town in Britain. This is unquestionably a remarkable archaeological find, and I can’t wait for visitors to witness these historical treasures on display in the years to come.”

The swords were meticulously appraised by Professor Simon James from Leicester University, who identified them as middle imperial Roman swords commonly referred to as a spatha. These weapons were in use within the Roman world, likely during the 160s, and remained in circulation throughout the later second century and well into the third century AD. Their considerable length strongly suggests they were intended for use by cavalry, especially on horseback.

It’s important to note that owning and carrying such weapons was not illegal for civilians during this period, primarily due to the persistent threat of banditry in Roman provinces. This context adds an intriguing layer to the discovery.

Professor James remarked, “In terms of parallels, I can’t think of similar finds in Roman Britain where more than one sword has been deposited in such a manner. The closest example that comes to mind is a pair of similar swords discovered in Canterbury, with their owners found buried face down in a pit within the city walls, indicative of a clandestine burial, and likely a double murder.”

The Corinium Museum, located at the heart of Cirencester, the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds,’ will be the future home of these extraordinary artifacts. The museum, renowned for its impressive collection of finds from the Roman town of Corinium, is set to welcome these Roman swords and the accompanying bowl as the latest additions to its captivating exhibits. The facility is managed by Freedom Leisure on behalf of Cotswold District Council.

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