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10 - The Swords of the Italic Kings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 June 2021

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Summary

THIS PAPER DISCUSSES A group of long, double-edged iron swords, with a cross hilt and two iron plates to strengthen the handle, and a wooden scabbard. They are known as Capestrano swords, named after the sword depicted on the eponymous statue The Warrior from Capestrano.

We find this type of sword, used preferably for slashing, from the end of the seventh to the first half of the fifth century B.C., in the central area of Italy (in the lands of the Umbri, Piceni, Vestini, Pretuzi, Equi and Marsi). Among all the known types of Capestrano swords, some are decorated with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic decorations on the hilt and on the mouth and tip of the scabbard.

The decorations are often representations of horses galloping or horsemen riding a skittish horse (Alfedena grave 179), although the animals on the scabbard of the Campovalano sword (grave 69) appear to be two winged griffins holding a human torso in their jaws. On the handle of the Nevio Pompuledio's (The Warrior from Capestrano) sword we can see two standing warriors, and on the tip of the scabbard are depicted mythological figures.

The swords decorated with mythological scenes were probably owned by high-ranking individuals.

In the central Adriatic area of Italy, by the end of the seventh century B.C., we can find long, double-edged iron swords with a cross hilt and two iron plates to strengthen the handle, and a wooden scabbard (fig. 1). They are known as Capestrano swords, named after the sword depicted on the eponymous statue (The Warrior from Capestrano). This type of sword has been already studied by two German scholars: Peter Stary, at the end of the 1970s, and more recently by Joachim Weidig in his work on the Archaic area of the Bazzano (L’Aquila) necropolis. We know of at least three hundred swords of this type; their number, however, will surely increase following the publication of items kept in storage by local museums, and the possible resumption of excavations. About half of the known Capestrano swords were found in northern Abruzzo (in the lands of Vestini Transmontani, Vestini Cismontani and Pretuzi), although a significant number come from Sabina, southern Picenum and Umbria. Just a few were found in southern Abruzzo (in the lands of the Equi, Marsi, Peligni, Marrucini, Pentri and Frentani); in Lucania, Puglia and southern Campania (fig. 2).

Type
Chapter
Information
The Sword
Form and Thought
, pp. 143 - 154
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2019

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