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Roman short sword Killed more humans in history than any other weapon?

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  • Roman short sword Killed more humans in history than any other weapon?

    Back on Monday when I was in US History class my professor was just going over World War 1. She made a comment that went like this:

    "The Roman short sword killed more people in history than any other weapon.However that took centuries. In World War 1 the weapons introduced killed millions in just 4 years".

    What do you think of this claim?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Pisces Adonis View Post
    Back on Monday when I was in US History class my professor was just going over World War 1. She made a comment that went like this:

    "The Roman short sword killed more people in history than any other weapon.However that took centuries. In World War 1 the weapons introduced killed millions in just 4 years".

    What do you think of this claim?
    That there is no way to support it one way or the other, and a history professor should probably not be making it.

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    • #3
      The Mongol Conquests killed an estimated 30 to 60 million people in a couple of centuries. I'm sure the bow and arrow and the lance accounted for some of it, but disease, fire, live burial, drowning, and heights probably were used to exterminate people. How about the wars of the Ming and Qing dynasties? I'm sure the bow, spear, and Chinese sword killed tens of millions too.

      But you have to understand that the taking and destruction of land with the food it had, is probably the worst weapon. Famines and disease that follows after the conquest of land was usually worse than any human made weapon, but definitely a direct consequence of an armed force.

      The New World colonization, displacement, conquest, and the spread of disease was probably the deadliest "weapon" in history. A whole continent of people all of a sudden struck by diseases unknown to them ever before. If disease hadn't affected them and the New World people played the diplomacy game and gained the technology and knowledge to fight the colonists back, we'd have a very different North and South America today.
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      • #4
        I agree with Lance. That's an unsupported claim at best, dishonest at worst. The Gladius is a very particular kind of sword, and was only used by legionary infantry of a certain era. The Legions used longer swords both earlier and later in their existence, and the spatha was also the primary sword of the cavalry.

        Suffice it to say that the gladius would account for a majority, but no where near all, of deaths by roman hand weapons.

        If I had to make an unsupported assumption, I'd say the bow and arrow or spear. The Bow and arrow were universal in use, and were used over a wider variety of eras from ancient on up to the start of the industrial age. The spear, in its various forms from Javelin to lance to Pike was also universal in use from ancient times all the way up till the bayonet supplanted it. And the Bayonet could be considered a form of spear meaning that the spear is the truly universal weapon.

        Your history teacher needs to pull out some indisputable facts before making such spurious claims.
        Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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        • #5
          I've heard this claim too. The problem is, what do we quantify as a weapon?

          For example, disease has killed far more people as a weapon than the gladius, but are we allowed to count 'disease' as a weapon or must be more specific, like smallpox?

          Do we keep track of the scores for machine guns or maxims? Rifles or Garands?

          Pointed sticks versus pointed sticks made of fine mahoghany?
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          • #6
            perhaps a more accurate claim is the Roman Army killed more then any other army, but even that can be hotly disputed
            Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true - Gaius Julius Caesar

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            • #7
              I read that it was the AK-47 that killed more humans in the history of the world.

              Even were we to confine our definitions to Ancient, I would place the Persian spear higher than the Gladius.
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              • #8
                I've seen that claim for the gladius before.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Salinator View Post
                  I've seen that claim for the gladius before.

                  From Sumer to Rome:The Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies - Richard A. Gabriel Ph.D and Karen S. Metz.
                  It seems a bit of thread necromancy has taken place over in the 'Modern Wars and Warfare' forum... a most similar looking thread has appeared there!

                  http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...ad.php?t=46461
                  Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
                  And sorry I could not travel both
                  And be one traveler, long I stood
                  ...
                  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
                  I took the one less traveled by,
                  And that has made all the difference.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pisces Adonis View Post
                    Back on Monday when I was in US History class my professor was just going over World War 1. She made a comment that went like this:

                    "The Roman short sword killed more people in history than any other weapon.However that took centuries. In World War 1 the weapons introduced killed millions in just 4 years".

                    What do you think of this claim?
                    I think drugs have killed more people then the Roman short sword. If your professor doesn't show up one day you'll know it to be true.
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                    • #11
                      I would suggest that the gladius probably killed more Romans than any other weapon.

                      But the idea that the gladius killed more people than any other weapon doesn't make sense. The humble rock has probably done more damage than the gladius.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by The Strategist View Post
                        perhaps a more accurate claim is the Roman Army killed more then any other army, but even that can be hotly disputed
                        It can, but it's much closer, if'n you consider from the earliest parts of Roman history as a city-state, then a republic, then an empire, and all the way to the fall of the Byzantines. That's pushing 2 thousand years there, and the Romans were widely known for being brutally efficient in the fine art of killing people.
                        Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                          It can, but it's much closer, if'n you consider from the earliest parts of Roman history as a city-state, then a republic, then an empire, and all the way to the fall of the Byzantines. That's pushing 2 thousand years there, and the Romans were widely known for being brutally efficient in the fine art of killing people.
                          true very true especially if you consider all of the Major wars they where in Gallic Wars Punic Wars, all the Civil wars they were in death toll must be millions Gallic wars= 1 million dead Punic wars= does anybody know? Civil war's at least 100,000 total deaths must be higher then any type of gun.
                          Last edited by Salinator; 28 Sep 12, 16:13. Reason: Fixed quote
                          Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true - Gaius Julius Caesar

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                          • #14
                            Romans didn't use only one type of sword during their history, the name gladius was used for at least three major types of swords. Simular counting make no sense a part gives adv to some scholars who need it.
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                            • #15
                              Well no puny sword has got nothing on malaria or the common cold. Let alone spider bites.
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