The Roman Legions were renowned for their brutal, efficient use of the short sword and over the centuries the style of short sword changed as tactics changed or were refined. Beginning with the "gladius Hispaniensis" (based on a Celt-Iberian leaf-bladed short sword), over time the sword became shorter and broader (the Mainz and Fulham patterns) and culminated in the "Pompeii" style stabbing sword.
The Pompeii pattern was the first major change in the Roman short sword, showing that battle tactics had firmly changed to emphasize the thrust rather than the cut in combat. This type of sword is found on Trajan’s Column -- a marble sculptural monument built during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98 - 117 CE) -- almost all of the swords depicted on the column are the Pompeii style.
Four swords of this design were found at the excavations at Pompeii. As these four swords must have been made before AD 79, when Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash, they have been tentatively dated to around 64 AD.
Though the Pompeii is a smaller cousin of its predecessors, it is still an surprisingly efficient cutting sword, despite its seemingly plain blade. Although the Romans are known to have favored the point in close quarter fighting, they never abstained from the efficient use of cuts when the opportunity arose. With the Pompeii type, the point has evolved into a shorter and sturdier profile. Some surviving examples of the Pompeii style sword have reinforced points with raised ridges, possibly designed to punch through leather and thin metal armour.
They were likewise taught not to cut but to thrust with their swords. For the Romans not only made a jest of those who fought with the edge of that weapon, but always found them an easy conquest. A stroke with the edges, though made with ever so much force, seldom kills, as the vital parts of the body are defended both by the bones and armor. On the contrary, a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal. Besides in the attitude of striking, it is impossible to avoid exposing the right arm and side; but on the other hand, the body is covered while a thrust is given, and the adversary receives the point before he sees the sword. This was the method of fighting principally used by the Romans, and their reason for exercising recruits with arms of such a weight at first was, that when they came to carry the common ones so much lighter, the greater difference might enable them to act with greater security and alacrity in time of action.
-- Flavius Vegetius Renatus. De Re Militari Book I: The Selection and Training of New Levies, 390 A.D
The Greek historian Dionysus of Halicarnassus (contemporary to Emperor Augustus 63 BC-14 AD) describes Roman tactics with swords against the Gauls in the 4th C BC. Dionysus describes events that is some 300 years earlier than his own times, but we might perhaps presume that the fighting techniques he describes were not anachronistic to his own period. It is during the late 1st C BC that the Mainz type Gladius developed from the longer Gladius Hispaniensis that the Romans adopted during the Punic wars. Both the longer Gladius Hispanienis and the Mainz type gladius were effective cutting swords, even if thrusting was a favoured tactic in close formations.
...Holding their sword straight out, they would strike their opponents in the groin, pierce their sides, and drive their blows through their breasts into their vitals. And if they saw any of them keeping these parts of the body protected, they would cut the tendons of their knees or ankles and topple them to the ground roaring and biting their shields and uttering cries resembling the howling of wild beasts...
We can see how the cut was accepted as a perfectly viable method to dispatch an opponent, if the thrust did not prove effective. Vegetius describes how recruits are trained using wooden swords against stout posts, as though attacking different parts of the opponents body. A crippling cut against the backside of the leg was included in these techniques.
We are informed by the writings of the ancients that, among their other exercises, they had that of the post. They gave their recruits round bucklers woven with willows, twice as heavy as those used on real service, and wooden swords double the weight of the common ones. They exercised them with these at the post both morning and afternoon.
This is an invention of the greatest use, not only to soldiers, but also to gladiators. No man of either profession ever distinguished himself in the circus or field of battle, who was not perfect in this kind of exercise. Every soldier, therefore, fixed a post firmly in the ground, about the height of six feet. Against this, as against a real enemy, the recruit was exercised with the above mentioned arms, as it were with the common shield and sword, sometimes aiming At the head or face, sometimes at the sides, at others endeavoring to strike at the thighs or legs. He was instructed in what manner to advance and retire, and in short how to take every advantage of his adversary; but was thus above all particularly cautioned not to lay himself open to his antagonist while aiming his stroke at him.
-- Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De Re Militari Book I: The Selection and Training of New Levies, 390 A.D
The Pedite guard and pommel are hand-crafted of walnut, the grip turned from holly, and the inset guard plate and pommel nut are of bronze.