Half a sword hilt guard was recovered from rampart material from the Roman legionary fortress defenses at Gloucester Greyfriars.
The hilt guard is broken across the width but is in good condition with a polished surface. It is of uncommon form featuring incised and ridged V-shaped decoration.
Similar finds with this style of decoration are uncommon in Britain and on the continent. It can be seen on cavalry swords depicted on Trajan’s column and has never been found in association with any surviving gladii (short infantry sword).
This style of decorated handguard is therefore thought to have only been used on spathae (long sword) which, during the 1st century, was used almost exclusively by the auxiliary cavalry.
It is most likely that this hilt guard came from a spatha and is the most westerly example of a form found mostly in the north-western provinces which may date from Augustan through to the 2nd century. The legionary fortress at Glevum (Gloucester) was occupied in the c. 60s to 80s AD, providing strategic protection for the River Severn crossing. This hilt guard implies the presence of cavalry who could have been stationed within the fortress.