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14 Italian Sword Types Used Throughout History

Written By: David Mickov
Updated: October 17, 2023
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

Italian swords are edged weapons that were used throughout the borders of modern-day Italy. There are a ton of swords that originated in Italy, but thanks to their geographical location and importance throughout history, a lot of outside swords exerted their influence on ancient Italy too.

In this article, we will discuss all of the swords that were used and produced in Italy. We shall start off with the most popular ancient Gladius, go over the medieval Italian two-handed Spadone, the highly decorated renaissance Cinquedea, and even the hybrid Italian swords. Finally, we shall explain their uses and their interesting history.

1. Gladius

The Gladius that brought lots of victories to the Roman Republic and Empire – Credits: Warfare History Network

The gladius is a straight sword that was highly used by the ancient Romans. This weapon can trace its earliest origins to the Celtics or Iberians. It was mainly used throughout the Roman Empire, which had its capital in Rome, which remains the capital of modern-day Italy. It is the most popular weapon from the ancient Roman era and was strategically used by the Roman infantry in tactical attacks with a large shield and throwing spear/javelin. There are 4 versions of it that vary depending on their sizes.

  • Blade – straight, double-edged
  • Guard – round, very small
  • Handle – straight, finger openings, round pommel
  • Length – 27 inches (70 cm)
  • Weight – 1.5 lbs (700 grams)

2. Spatha

The larger Spatha used by the cavalry and heavy infantry of the Romans – Credits: Arms and Armor

The Spatha was a long sword that was used alongside the Gladius by the Roman cavalry and heavy infantry. With time this sword replaced the Gladius altogether and was used even in the medieval era. It is debated whether this came from the earlier Gladius or the longer Celtic swords, but whatever the case may be, it was a very strong slashing and thrusting weapon. It has a long enough handle to be used one or two-handed.

  • Blade – straight, double-edged
  • Guard – round, very small
  • Handle – straight, eagle-shaped pommels
  • Length – 33 inches (85 cm)
  • Weight – 2 lbs (900 grams)

3. Italian Arming Sword

Arming Sword LongSword
A late Italian Arming Sword – Credits: Chicago Swordplay Guild

The original Arming swords were heavily influenced by the ancient Viking sword. As the Arming sword grew in popularity throughout all of Europe, Italy had its own version. The Italian Arming sword was used throughout Italy mainly as a one-handed weapon combined with a shield or buckler by Italian swordsmen. It looked just like all of the typical Arming swords in use at the time with a crucifix guard, but later, the more intricate Italian-styled guards started appearing.

  • Blade – straight, double-edged
  • Guard – crucifix, late different shapes of guards
  • Handle – straight
  • Length – 35 inches (90 cm)
  • Weight – 2.2 lbs (1kg)

4. Italian Long Sword 

An Italian Longsword that belonged to an Italian noble – Credits: WikiMedia Commons

As in all of Europe, the trend and need for larger two-handed swords became highly popular in Italy. That is why many Italian longswords have been used throughout its history, mainly in the late medieval periods. The Italian longsword fits perfectly with the other medieval swords and isn’t necessarily different; it just emphasizes thrusting more, thanks to the Italian martial art fencing master called Fiore.

  • Blade – straight, double-edged, fuller, sometimes a ricasso
  • Guard – crucifix, C-shaped
  • Handle – straight, two-handed ridge
  • Length – 50 inches (127 cm)
  • Weight – 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg)

5. Spadone

The Italian two-handed greatsword called the Spadone – Credits: Met Museum

The Italian greatsword was called the Spadone. It is the true definition of a two-handed weapon and came into use at the end of the 15th century, mainly for breaking infantry formations on the battlefields. As described by Giacomo di Grassi, who was a 16th-century Italian sword fencer, the overall length of this very large weapon made it so that it could fend off multiple enemies at once. There is a version of this sword with just a plain blade and a feather version with a ricasso at the blade’s neck to make it easier to grab.

  • Blade – straight, double-edge, ricasso
  • Guard – large crucifix cross guard, second feather guard
  • Handle – straight, long
  • Length – 65 inches (165 cm)
  • Weight – 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg)

6. Stilleto

The ‘Mercy Kill’ Italian short sword named Stilleto – Credits: WikiMedia Commons

The Stiletto was an Italian shortsword or long dagger that was very popular in the Late Middle Ages when plated armor was highly used. This offensive weapon had a long blade length that was used to mercy kill already taken down and wounded knights. Its razor-sharp blade was made in such a manner that it could easily pierce through any kind of suit of armor at the time and get to the flesh of the knights easily.

  • Blade – straight, needle-like, double-edged sharpened tip
  • Guard – crucifix
  • Handle – straight, fairly long
  • Length – 15 inches (40 cm)
  • Weight – 0.7 lbs (350 grams)

17. Hanger & Hunting Sword

Hunting Sword
A highly decorated, gilded Italian Hunting sword with a Medici coat of arms – Credits: Knives and Swords

The Hanger and Hunting swords both started in Western Europe during the middle ages, and both were used in either warfare or hunting. With time, especially in Italy, these swords became purely decorative pieces and part of a gentleman’s outfit. Most of them were highly decorated and sometimes not even sharpened for use.

  • Blade – straight, curved, fuller, curved, double-edged, single-edged
  • Guard – crucifix, S-shaped, clam
  • Handle – straight, highly decorated, animal-shaped pommel
  • Length – 23 inches (60 cm)
  • Weight – 1.3 lbs (600 grams)

18. Cinquedea

Cinquedea Sword
The broad blade on the Cinquedea served as a canvas for Italian renaissance artists – Credits: Met Museum

The Cinquedea, often spelled Cinqueda, is a kind of short sword used by civilians and nobles alike. It was invented in northern Italy and experienced a period of success and renown that lasted for several decades during the 15th and 16th centuries at the peak of the Italian renaissance. It is a sword that was beloved by Italian artists and had many artistic elements to it.

  • Blade – straight; wide, triangular, double-edged, sharp tip, fullers
  • Guard – curved, C shape
  • Handle – straight, highly decorated
  • Length – 22 inches (55 cm)
  • Weight – 1.4 lbs (630 grams)

19. Schiavona

Schiavona Broadsword early 18th century
The basket-hilt Italian sword known as Schiavona – Credits: Cleveland Art Museum

The name “Schiavona”, which literally translates to “Slavonic,” is given to this nimble broadsword that is often associated with the Venetians. The phrase mostly applies to the Dalmatian forces who predominantly wielded this sword while serving the Venetian Republic. These warriors were in service to Venice, which was an Italian town republic. 

  • Blade – straight, double-edged, sharp tip
  • Guard – a basket hilt
  • Handle – straight, protected with basket hilt, cat-shaped pommel
  • Length – 35 inches (90 cm)
  • Weight – 2.4 lbs (1.1 kg)

10. Side Sword

Side Sword
The Side Sword that originated in Italy/Spain – Credits: WikiMedia Commons

The Italian Spada da Lato, often known as the side sword, was a popular sword in the latter half of the 16th century. It is an improved development from the arming sword used throughout the middle ages and the direct ancestor of the rapier that was used during the early modern era. This double-edged blade sword is most often linked with dueling and the Italian martial art school known as Dardi.

  • Blade – straight, double-edged, sharp pointy tip, ricasso
  • Guard – crucifix, ricasso lining
  • Handle – straight
  • Length – 35 inches (90 cm)
  • Weight – 2 lbs (900 grams)

11. Italian Sabre

Italian Sabre
The curved saber that was used throughout Italy – Credits: Ceska Zemna Sermirna

The Italian saber is better known as Sciabola. As saber culture started spreading from the east, mainly from Poland and Hungary, it too caught on in Italy, and the Italian Sabre came about. From the 17th century, the curved Italian cavalry sabers gradually took over the traditional long swords and broadswords that were in use at the time. Over time, it became the classic sidearm for both infantry and non-commissioned officers.

  • Blade – curved, single-edged, sharp pointy tip
  • Guard – D guard
  • Handle – straight, slightly curved
  • Length – 31 inches (80 cm)
  • Weight – 2 lbs (900 grams)

12. Dueling Italian Sabre

Dueling Sabre
An Italian Dueling saber that was used for fencing and duels – Credits: Martinez Destreza

Italy is well known for its many sword martial arts that culminated with fencing. Some might even say that the father of fencing is Guiseppe Radelli, who made his grand fencing tactics in Italy in the 19th century. This dueling saber featured a straight blade that wasn’t made with the intention of killing and was just for dueling.

  • Blade – straight, curved, bendy, pointy tip
  • Guard – close-up hilt
  • Handle – straight, closed off
  • Length – 35 inches (90 cm)
  • Weight – 1.1 lbs (500 grams)

13. Main-gauche

The highly technical left-handed dagger called Main-gauche – Credits: Cleveland Art Museum

The left-hand dagger went out of use during the 17th century, with the exception of Italy and Spain, where it evolved into the Main-gauche. The Main-gauche is a highly technical weapon equipped with a broad knuckle-shielded guard and quillons to repel cutting blows. This trend continued until the early 18th century when it was used for fencing and was called the left-handed dagger.

  • Blade – straight, needle-like pointy tip, ricasso, double-edged
  • Guard – closed basket guard, a large crucifix
  • Handle – closed off, straight, thin
  • Length – 21 inches (55 cm)
  • Weight – 1.1 lbs (500 grams)

14. Hybrid Swords

Hybrid Sword
Shield with sword blade, sword catchers, and a metal gauntlet with spikes – Credits: My Armory

Italy is known for trying to revive ancient freedoms of things, also in the world of swords and weapons, especially from the Renaissance. This has led to many creations of very weird-looking hybrid swords or even pistol swords. They can either be spikes on gauntlets, made together with a shield, or sometimes short swords with gun barrels attached to them. Most of these were made for the high nobility to show off and served no practical purpose.

  • Blade – straight, curved, dagger-like, rifle/gun barrel attached
  • Guard – shield, no guard, basket, round
  • Handle – gauntlet, shield, straight, curved, pistol grip
  • Length – 20 inches (50 cm)
  • Weight – 2.2 lbs (1 kg)

Uses of the Italian Swords

Sparring tactical session with medieval and renaissance-like attributes – Credits: Federico Malagutti

Most Italian swords are double-edged and can be used for either slashing or thrusting strikes while holding them with one or two hands. Italian martial arts emphasize defense as well as quick and well-timed strikes, something that Italian swords could provide.


The main use of the Italian swords was, of course, warfare, as was the main purpose of many other swords. In ancient times they were used as one-handed shortswords that the Romans used to conquer almost anyone that they came across. With time their size grew into the Arming sword, and then came the two-handed sword era with the much larger swords.

Symbol of Status & Ceremonial

Everywhere in Europe, swords were always used to represent the rich and the nobility, but in Italy, this was especially the case because they featured many types of decorations on them. Some noblemen’s swords weren’t even sharpened and battle-ready, especially in the renaissance period.

Wealthy nobles used golden swords for hunting, had renaissance artists use their swords as a canvas, made very interesting but ineffective hybrid swords, and so on. Many of them were highly ceremonial weapons that just hung off belts and were beautiful to look at.

Martial Arts & Modern

Modern Italian Sword Use
Modern HEMA training representation of Roman vs. Gaelic warriors – Credits: Chris Vernel

It can be said that Italian Swords were active in martial arts as early as the Roman Republic. This martial art was called Gladiatura, while another art that was popular among the Roman legionnaires who prioritized group combat, contrary to the individual-like combat of medieval knights.

There are also Sicilian sword martial arts that mostly use sticks as their starting weapon but emphasize the use of swords as well. Then comes the medieval longsword Italian fencing by the so-called “Master of the Sword” Fiore Dei Liberi. His work, called the Flower of Battle, is the oldest surviving fencing technique that is still practiced in modern HEMA today.

However, it was in the period after the renaissance that Italian sword martial arts really started taking place. This period is mostly known for its duel-like and fencing characteristics. In the 19th century, Guiseppe Radaelli made it his goal to unify different Italian martial arts, which strengthened Italian fencing.

Today there are many Italian sword schools that teach the art of swordplay and even the use of the Italian rapier, which is considered to be of Spanish origin. Everything starting as early as the Gladius and ending with the Italian dueling saber or rapier can be taught and learned.

History of the Italian Swords

Italian Sword History
The Roman Gladius behind the Scutum shield  – Credits: UNRV

Since Italy was in the center of the ancient world that made up Northern Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, it was highly susceptible to outside influence. Italian swords were heavily influenced, starting from nearby German and French lands to the north, Spain from the west, and on the south came Arabic and African influence, as well as the eastern influences from Turkey and other parts of Asia.

Italian swords fall inside the category of European swords, and most of them saw a lot of use and imparted influence on surrounding countries. They had many uses throughout the years and grew from the ancient short one-handed swords like the Gladius to the large two-handed Spadone.

That is why not only did the swordcraft from all around influence Italy, but Italy directly influenced all of the surrounding regions with their sword crafting skills.

Although there are swords that are found in South Italy that have even Arabic engravings on them, the European style of swordcraft mainly remained present in Italy, and curved swords didn’t appear earlier than in the rest of Western Europe.

Sources Cited

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