ROMAN SHIELD FIGHTING. I described here how one of the basic maneuvers in medieval fighting, as described in Renaissance textbooks, was to knock your opponent off his feet so that he would be vulnerable to a sword thrust. I have been reading THE GHOSTS OF CANNAE by Robert F. O’Connell, a gift from Nick, which is a history of the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C. to 146 B.C. (Wikipedia article here). The tactics of a Roman soldier in a sword fight—or “shield fight”—were similar to those used some 1500 years later. The Roman sword (gladius) was short and most effective in giving puncture wounds. The Roman shield (scutum) was about four feet long and two feet wide. The hand grip was not vertical, which would be useful in defensive movements, but was horizontal. Says O’Connell: “…with an overhand grip this arrangement did enable the user to exert the full force of his shoulder to deliver what amounted to a scutum punch likely to unbalance or even fell an opponent, which might leave the opponent open to a fatal short sword follow-up.”

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