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p975 Pugio

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p975 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

PU′GIO (μάχαιρα, dim. μαχαίρων; ἐγχειρίδιον, a dagger; a two-edged knife, commonly of bronze, with the handle in many cases variously ornamented or enriched, sometimes made of the hard black wood of the Syrian terebinth (Theophr. H.P. V.3 § 2). The accompanying woodcut shows three ancient daggers. The two upper figures are copied from Beger (Thes. Brand. vol. III pp398, 419): the third represents a dagger about a foot long, which was found in an Egyptian tomb, and is preserved in the Museum at London. The middle figure is entirely of metal. The handles of the two others were fitted to receive a plate of wood on each side. The lowermost has also two bosses of ivory or horn, and shows the remains of a thin plate of gilt metal, with which the wood was covered.

[image ALT: An engraving of three daggers.]

In the heroic ages the Greeks sometimes wore a dagger suspended by the sword on the left side of the body [Gladius], and used it on all occasions instead of a knife (Hom. Il. III.271; Athen. VI p232C). The custom is continued to the present day among the Arnauts, who are descended from the ancient Greeks (Dodwell, Tour, vol. I p133). The Romans (see woodcuts, pp2, 554), wore the dagger as the Persians did [Acinaces] on the right side, and consequently drew it with the thumb at the upper part of the hilt, the position most effective for stabbing. The terms pugio and ἐγχειρίδιον denote both its smallness and the manner of grasping it in the hand (πὺξ, pugnus). In the same way we must understand "the two swords" (duos gladios, Gell. IX.13) worn by the Gallic chieftain, slain by Manlius Torquatus; and the monuments of the middle ages prove that the custom long continued in our own and in adjoining countries (see Stothard, Mon. Effigies of Gt. Britain). Among some of the northern nations of Europe, a dirk was constantly worn on the side, and was in readiness to be drawn on every occasion (Ovid. Trist. V.8.19, 20). The Chalybes employed the same weapon, stabbing their enemies in the neck (Xen. Anab. IV.7 § 16). For the Greek horsemen the dagger was considered preferable to the long sword as a weapon of offence (Xen. de Re Equest. XII.11).


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