Pugio, a Roman dagger replica made of wood
Even the best Roman soldier could not make a stand without his equipment! Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, once a rebel leader himself, wrote in his ‘Judean War’, book III 7, 24: “The bravest of all men were covered by their armour from head to toe…” (published 75 A.D.) A ‚pugio‘ or Roman legionnaire’s knife or dagger, was considered as an essential part of this equipment.
- overall length: 34 centimeters
- material: real beech wood
- country of origin: Germany
Origins and functions of the Pugio
‘Pugio’ means in latin simply ‘dagger’ or ‘war knife’ and figured as one of the most popular assault weapons of a foot soldier in antique Rome at the time of events described in Flavius’ report, in first century A.D. It is estimated that this weapon found its climax as standard feature of the equipment used by Roman military from end of 2nd century to early 3rd century A.D. Regulations required it was worn on the left side of the belt (named ‘cingulum’) and used secondarily to the famous short sword ‘gladius’, usually after waves of javelins (‘pilae’) were tossed at the enemy formation.
Both sword ‘gladius’ and dagger ‘pugio’ were adopted by the Romans from Iberian origins, thus the original design appeared in the part of the old world which today is Spain. Because of its heavy character experts today are assuming the Roman pugio was not only meant to be used as finishing off the opponent by stabbing him but also for delivering blows in hand-to-hand melee combat, just like with a ‘spatha’ or ‘gladius’.
Description of the Pugio
The Roman Pugio featured a broad, double-edged blade tapering from grip to tip. For ensuring its principal functions, as mentioned also for blows in melee comat, it was necessary to add a reenforcement to the material lengthwise. The tip of the dagger was edged sharp. The handle was made of wood, bone or metal, as there are different versions of the Roman Pugio. The blade had an overall length from 17 to 25 and a width of 3 to 5 centimeters. Differences did not stop there but also appeared in variations of ornaments.
Often we find the Roman Pugio mistaken as a ‘Parazonium’. Similarities to other sorts of daggers or war knifes mentioned by authors in Antiquity (we are referring here to ‘Clunaculum’ and ‘Lingula’) lead to some confusion and should make us cautious when speaking about something that still needs clarification, while the information sources are somewhat foggy. Our collector item has the character of a handcrafted replica of an original Roman archeological find. The piece was crafted from genuine beech, has a turned handle and all wooden parts have been thoroughly glued.
The Roman Pugio usually was sheathed by a metal cover worked over a wooden core. The sheath could be very decorated or plated with silver, as to underline the status of its bearer.
Forum Traiani ®