The central-southwest region of England is known for its rural landscape and quaint towns, but what many might not be aware of is that it was once home to individuals who were alive during the reign of the Roman Empire. Those in need of proof need look no further than the recent discovery of two ancient Roman swords, which were discovered by a metal detectorist during a rally north of the Cotswolds in March 2023.
Glenn Manning, the metal detectorist who located the ancient Roman artifacts, not only found the two cavalry swords, but the remnants of their wooden scabbards and a broken copper alloy bowl. They were sent to Professor Simon James with Leicester University for appraisal, who confirmed they’re spathas – long swords that were typically equipped by soldiers in the Roman Army between the 1st and 6th centuries AD.
That being said, it wasn’t illegal for civilians to own such weapons, given the bandits that ran rampant across the empire.
“The new discovery shows what an incredibly deep history the Cotswolds has,” Councilor Paul Hodgkinson said in a press release from the Cotswolds District Council. “People famously asked, ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’. Well, they have just given us some amazing examples of weapons used almost 2000 years ago when Cirencester was the second biggest town in Britain. This is truly a remarkable archaelogical find and I can’t wait for visitors to see them on display in the years to come.”
James explained the significance of the discovery, saying, “In terms of parallels, I can’t think of finds of more than one sword being deposited in any similar circumstance from Roman Britain. The closest that springs to mind was a pair of similar swords found in Canterbury – with their owners, face down in a pit within the city walls, clearly a clandestine burial, almost certainly a double murder.”
Speaking in a YouTube video about the discovery, Emma Stuart, director of the Corinium Museum in Cirenester, England, said, “It’s an incredibly important find and one that should excite everybody. These two swords are testimony to presence of Roman military in the north of the Cotswold District.”
The ancient Roman swords have since been sent to the museum, where, with the asistance of Historic England, they’ll undergo further X-ray anaylsis. The site north of the Cotswolds will also be archaeologically appraised, to help gather information as to how the weaponry ended up buried in the region.
“The question is, and the mystery is, why were those swords buried in the north of the Cotswolds? What were they doing there?,” Stuart asked in the video, echoing the questions archaeologists hope to one day be able to answer.