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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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A Query for Classicists and Archaeologists
"Swords like those we sent you are useful," Aska said. "They are
made by the Romans, and are vastly better than any we have. With
one of those you might chop down as many saplings in a day as
would build a hut, and could destroy any wild beasts that may lurk
in your swamps. (G. A. Henty, Beric the Briton [1893])

The speaker is an Iceni chief bartering with some fen-dwellers in the wake of the defeat of AD 60/1. The swords were captured from the Romans earlier in the campaign, and are presumably standard-issue legionary weapons, which I think of as designed more for stabbing from between the serried shields of a Roman line than waving about or chopping down saplings, but which I'm willing to believe could have done any of these things (though for chopping I'd rather have a hatchet).

My question is this. Is it likely that a British chief of this era (putting all partisanship to one side, for Henty's officer class is nothing if not realist) would consider a standard legionary sword to be "vastly better" than anything Made in Britain? Was Roman sword-making technology noticeably superior to that of the British, speaking in terms of quality rather than their ability to churn the things out on a large scale?

Roman swords weren't anything special, in fact their sword design was generally copied from that of the Celts they conquered, esp. in northern Italy and Spain. They weren't really mass produced either; one should imagine a few blacksmiths attached to each legion.

I can't say much about British weaponry. It would be better known if Claudius' arch had survived, but probably archaeologists know abut that kind of thing from their digging around in the dirt. They can't have been especially effective, however, since they only managed to kill about 200 Romans.

they only managed to kill about 200 Romans.

That seems a very low figure. Do you mean in that particular campaign, or throughout the Roman occupation? And by "they" do you mean British swords, or Britons in general? Also, I assume you're talking here about pitched battle? A lot more than 200 Romans died in Boudicca's campaign, but mostly in urban fighting, as far as I can see.

I mean in the final battle that capped off Claudius' campaign.

Ok - that makes sense!