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#1 duaneshadow

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 07:59 PM

did the romans around and after the invasion of britain use steel weapons? Forgive my ignorance (my history degree was modern history, pooooooo).

I note that it's referred to in some Bran stories. Dunno if that's a bit of an historical boob by R.E.H. or not?
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#2 Crom

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:14 PM

did the romans around and after the invasion of britain use steel weapons? Forgive my ignorance (my history degree was modern history, pooooooo).

I note that it's referred to in some Bran stories. Dunno if that's a bit of an historical boob by R.E.H. or not?

You may find the following link helpful. Look under the 'Manufacture' heading: Roman Gladius

#3 PaulMc

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 08:37 PM


did the romans around and after the invasion of britain use steel weapons? Forgive my ignorance (my history degree was modern history, pooooooo).

I note that it's referred to in some Bran stories. Dunno if that's a bit of an historical boob by R.E.H. or not?

You may find the following link helpful. Look under the 'Manufacture' heading: Roman Gladius


I also found the Wikipedia pages on Iron Age, Bronze Age (assuming that was your confusion) and Roman Republic/Empire useful for a quick timeline. (just remember the B.C dates go 'backwards' ..)

Not a "historical boob", steel was part of the Roman arsenal that allowed them to conquer as they did.

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#4 duaneshadow

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 09:03 PM

good enough for me chaps. thanks.
'why does he have to be a misfit? Why can't he be handsome and kind?'

'You're still a dreamer girl'.

#5 Sharn

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 11:43 PM

Technically Roman weapons were iron. Most if not all spectrographic analysis of Roman era weapons(both roman, celt, germanic, etc.) reveal even those weapons with enough carbon content to become true steel weapons were not even hardened or tempered correctly or at all. There is a distinct difference in the edge retention and survivability between true steel weapons and iron weapons. Only in the later empire were weapons being made that began to show pattern welded blades that had attempts at a true heat-treat quench and tempering quench cycle, thus approaching true 'steel' weapons. All armor was either bronze(usually helmets) or iron.

Also, it wasn't the weapons of the Romans that allowed them to conquer...at least not alone. It was a well organized military, that was very well trained and versatile. The Roman cultural mindset and deep pockets also lent to very successful campaigning. Not to mention the cultures being conquered did not view war typically as a land grab (if so the Gallic Celts certainly had ample opportunity in the past to remove Rome as we know it from history). Nothing is never'good enough' without the details ;) .
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#6 Mark_Hall

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 02:35 PM

Well, the Romans knew how too make steel--but it is not clear how well they understood its
properties in terms of quenching, heat-treating and the like. Some have speculated it may
have been due to using slaves in the production of the weapons, etc.

Janet Lang over the past 20 years has published numerous studies in JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL
SCIENCE, JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL METALLURGY looking at Roman ironworking. Tylecote has
numerous studies too in those journals and in site reports on Romano-British sites.

For "Celtic" ironwork, the British Museum has a nice catalog (but runs about $170) on the
British Iron AGe swords in their collection. Has a chapter by Lang on the iron technology.

Best, MEH

#7 Sharn

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 08:13 PM

Well, like I said, going from ironwork to steel weaponry is still a long stretch. Those blades that have been recovered from the ravages of time show no real evidence of deliberate heat treat or tempering. Many show that they were evn air cooled. The crystal structure is primarly pearlite with hardly any martnesitic crystal structure at all. Meaning no heat treat. Meaning not very hard. Many exhibit piled construction coupled with work hardening. Yes, there may have been sword blades that didn't survive that had high quality blades that date from the Imperial Era, none have been found to my knowledge.

Roman understanding of steel...smelting at that time was a very simplistic process. No thought was given to the amount of carbon needed to be introduced, let alone manganese, or other trace alloys to smelt out true steel as we have today. Those smelters created varying levels of pure iron(hopefully) that through the forging process became carburised. Not really steel in the sense that we understand it today. There was no homogenised steel production in the 1st-3rd centuries AD that has ever been found.
- A long bow and a strong bow, and let the sky grow dark!
The cord to the nock, the shaft to the ear, and the king of
Koth for a mark -
- I remember, The dark woods, masking slopes of sombre
hills;
The grey clouds' leaden everlasting arch;
The dusky streams that flowed without a sound,
And the lone winds that whispered down the passes. -
(Cimmeria, REH)
- Every hour harms, it's the last one that kills -

#8 Mark_Hall

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 05:44 AM

Well, like I said, going from ironwork to steel weaponry is still a long stretch. Those blades that have been recovered from the ravages of time show no real evidence of deliberate heat treat or tempering. Many show that they were evn air cooled. The crystal structure is primarly pearlite with hardly any martnesitic crystal structure at all. Meaning no heat treat. Meaning not very hard. Many exhibit piled construction coupled with work hardening. Yes, there may have been sword blades that didn't survive that had high quality blades that date from the Imperial Era, none have been found to my knowledge.

Roman understanding of steel...smelting at that time was a very simplistic process. No thought was given to the amount of carbon needed to be introduced, let alone manganese, or other trace alloys to smelt out true steel as we have today. Those smelters created varying levels of pure iron(hopefully) that through the forging process became carburised. Not really steel in the sense that we understand it today. There was no homogenised steel production in the 1st-3rd centuries AD that has ever been found.


Well, in terms of manganese and some other elements, the furnace technology didn't exist to really add them. Though about 7 years ago,
thre was a debate in WORLD ARCHAEOLOGY on how some of the Archaic Greek steel had unusual high nickel contents and whether that was due to the
ore source or the use of meteoric iron. Oddly enough though, from the
slag and refuse heaps from Roman sites in Wales, it is clear they could easily produce cast iron, but had no idea what to do with it. the problem with the Romans is, particularly with the Army, is that you are dealing with industrial production (at least in terms of output). With large scale
production 9and slave labor) you get into quality issues. At least for what is in English, Roman swords haven't been a major focus of metallurgical study--mainly because most museums don't want scholars taking chunks out of them!

As to whether their furnaces could have created steel or if it had to be done by a carburizing process, that whole debate is still open.
Peter Crew and others have demonstrated that a bloomery furnace can produce medium carbon steels. The ethnographic evidence by Killick and others shows that the African smiths could produce medium to high carbon steel with the bloomery furnaces in sub-Saharan Africa.

Best, MEH

#9 Kortoso

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 06:04 PM

Correct me if I am wrong, but most forms of iron smelting produce various degrees of carbon-iron alloy, from mild steel to cast iron. If the smith is on the ball, he will either find the optimum section of steel from the resulting ingot, or mix the metal using some sort of folding technique to make the steel quality homogenous.

Somewhere I have seen a chart showing the varying quality in excavated European blades. If I find it today, I'll share it.

#10 Kortoso

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 06:36 PM

Aw, this is the article I was thinking about, but it doesn't go into Roman blades:
http://www.myarmoury...dehardness.html

#11 Zombiac

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 03:03 PM

So...
short version: Yes and no.
Right?
All fled--all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over, and the lamps expire.
Suicide note.
~~ Robert E. Howard, writer, d. June 11, 1936

#12 PaulMc

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 03:08 PM

So...
short version: Yes and no.
Right?

Well, I would say that for context of story, the technicalities can be put aside. Maybe it wasn't the best steel - or technically steel - but as far as the Romans and Picts were concerned, the swords were steel.

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#13 deuce

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 07:53 AM


So...
short version: Yes and no.
Right?

Well, I would say that for context of story, the technicalities can be put aside. Maybe it wasn't the best steel - or technically steel - but as far as the Romans and Picts were concerned, the swords were steel.


Nobody seems to discuss the fact that REH had his Cymry using bronze swords in "KotN". FAR more anachronistic than any "steel" or "stirrups" mentioned.


Shouldn't this thread be on the "REH" or "BMM" board? Posted Image

Edited by deuce, 18 August 2010 - 07:56 AM.

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#14 PaulMc

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 02:21 PM



So...
short version: Yes and no.
Right?

Well, I would say that for context of story, the technicalities can be put aside. Maybe it wasn't the best steel - or technically steel - but as far as the Romans and Picts were concerned, the swords were steel.


Nobody seems to discuss the fact that REH had his Cymry using bronze swords in "KotN". FAR more anachronistic than any "steel" or "stirrups" mentioned.


Shouldn't this thread be on the "REH" or "BMM" board? Posted Image


Thanks for keeping us honest, Deuce ;) Moved to BMM.

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#15 Teutates

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 01:41 AM

I've read MANY boks about steel, knives etc often incomplete, inaccurate and focused essentially on "how to" for modern would be swordsmiths.

My favorite book on the subject , which encompasses Noric steel (the steel imported by the Romans, made by celts around Austria ca 300BC ) , Celtic pattern-welding (as far as 600BC if not even earlier, impossible to bend in the manner some classical authors have suggested -an antique urban myth- ) , the technological advance celtic "barbarians" had compared to primitive Roman iron working , frankish and viking era sandwiched & patternwelded swords in the dark ages etc etc is:

"Iron and Steel in ancient times" by Vagn Buchwald, 2005.
There are some more complex books but they're rather fastidious to read and are more compendiums of tables and mircroscopic analysis of phases, crystal lattices etc,hardness tests, boring for the uninitiated with the emphasis much less on the historical aspect through the epochs and it's evolution (the subject is often a given period for the whole book).

Here's a quick search concerning this same title "Iron and Steel in ancient times", concerning the question asked in the beginning, so I entered: "hardness of Noric Steel"(this famous steel the romans were so fond of)
If you look throughout the excerpts, you'll be reading for a while, a large part of the book is online LEGALLY for those who don't have a copy ;)

PS: there's a very interesting chapter on meteoritic steel, for those who are interested.

#16 Kortoso

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 06:33 PM

The ancient Romans were not famous for their innovation. Most of their technology was borrowed or stolen, so I am not surprised that they relied on barbarian smiths.

What would REH have thought of this irony? :)