Sep 16, 2014

Weapons & Warriors: The Scissor of the Romans

Art by TL Jeffcoat

There is much confusion about this mysterious weapon. It’s only known to have been used regularly by gladiators and history is unclear whether the word Scissor refers to the weapon or the style of gladiator. Some historians believe that it is the name of both; some deny the name to either.

The Scissor was a simple weapon in design, with an iron tube and a handle inside topped with a crescent shaped blade. The handle allowed the Gladiator better control of the blade that faced away from the tube and was mounted by a metal shaft. The shaft was most likely attached to the handle, through the top of the tube, to enhance its durability and control. There is some speculation to this, but most weapon specializing historians would agree that the blade would need to be attached to the handle and not just attached to the tube itself or the blade would be impossible to manage when it’s struck by another weapon.

The tube protected the forearm and the hooked corners of the blade were capable of cutting nets that might trap the gladiator. They also made fatal counterstrikes for back hand swings that followed a block. The blade was sharp all along the outer loop and the points so that it could be used to swipe or stab at an opponent.

The weapon acted as an extension of the arm so it would not have required too much training to master it. This is a very important note for Gladiators, who often did not live long enough to master the more complex weapons.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.


  1. First to say first! Also, how was it used?

  2. By that I mean, could it be used against a shielded opponent? Maybe against a khopesh?

  3. Depending on the size of the shield, it might not be as effective against a shielded opponent unless the gladiator could get close enough to reach around it, but that would put himself in danger as well I would think.

    Against a Khopesh? It might work better. The Scissor might be able to hook at the curves in the blade and protect the gladiator from attacks using the tube as a shield.

    Gladiators didn't usually wear much armor, and often used spears or short straight bladed swords, which gave the Scissor better chances for a fighter that was more accustomed to a street fight than a battlefield to survive a bit longer.