Anonymous : "Gladiatoria", 1425-1475

Notes on the Gladiatoria fechtbuch

"Gladiatoria" is an obscure fechtbuch recently "uncovered" and resurrected by Grzegorz Zabinski (in association with the Brotherhood of the Eagle's Nest, Poland) from the archives of the Biblioteka Jagiellonski, Poland, originally part of the collection of "Die Preussische Koenigliche Staatsbibliothek" in Berlin, is thought to have been written sometime c1450. It is unfortunate that very little is known about this manuscript, including the name of the author. This German manuscript contains beautifully detailed illustrations of a pair of fighters, in full plate harness in the first 2/3's of the fechtbuch, depicting various types of engagements, including half-sword, dagger and spear. The last third of the fechtbuch focuses on unarmoured combat, depicting those unusual hewing shields, sword & buckler....

The fechtbuch is comprised of a total of 117 pages including front and back cover, with the following breakdown: 39 half-sword techniques, 28 dagger, 6-8 sword & grappling, 6-8 sword & spear and a plethora of others. The general breakdown of each discipline follows below for convenience of review of the manuscript.

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click to view images for section 1.0
 click to view the rock
1.0 Plates 4 - 15: Introduction Plates
There is no translated text available for this manuscript at this time. However, there is enough material in this fechtbuch that would make for a very interesting translation and study project. The first part of the fechtbuch contains a number of images that perhaps can be considered as representative of the contents. It includes illustrations that contain sword, sword & shield, sword & dagger, spear, spear and what appears to be a buckler. More illustrations in detail appear in each section below. One of the more interesting illustrations in this section of the fechtbuch is the spear and buckler, in which the figure on the left appears to have a stone in his right hand which was an initial interpretation of the illustration. However, a clarification provided by a collegue at arms , provides this fascinating interpretation.

The text says: " nym deinen spieß und swert zusammen und schraub ab den knopff von deine swert und würff.....und lauff nach dem wurff mit ym ein und nütz das swert oder den spieß welches dir eben sey..."

This translates to " take (grab) your spear and your sword together,unscrew the pommel and throw....and after the throw, rush in (close in) on him and use your sword or your spear, whatever you see fit.".

You will note that the threaded end of the tang the sword held by the left individual is clearly visible. Click on the image on the left to sequentially go through the images in this section, or click on the few plate numbers at the end of each section as alternative jump points into their respective section to review an enlargement.

click to view images for section 2.0 2.0 Plates 16 - 70: Half-sword
This section of the fechtbuch focuses on half-sword techniques. Many, if not most of the techniques are very similar to Talhoffer's treatises. Although the individuals are in full plate armour, it is readily observable that both individuals are not wearing gauntlets or any other specifc hand protection. Some notes on a few notable plates. Plate 18 illustrates the figure on the left having placed his sword under the right knee of his opponent, and lifting the blade with both hands is able to knock his opponent off balance. Similar to plate 18, plate 30 illustrates the figure on the left having placed his hand under the right knee of his opponent, and lifting the knee with the right hand (figure on the left) to also knock his opponent off balance. It's interesting to note the "head-lock" hold in plate 53, or the throw found in plate 62.
Here are some other jumping off points within section 2: plates 25, 35, 45, 55, 65.
click to view images for section 3.0 3.0 Plates 71 - 101: Dagger
Many of the techniques illustrated are classics from such masters as Talhoffer and Liberi. For example, plate 76 depicts the same attack and parry as does Talhoffer's tafel 171 from his "Fechtbuch aus dem Jahre 1467" which depicts the "Der obere Schild (Dekkung) gegen den Stich" or "upper shield guard against the stab" or similarily his "Alte Armatur und Ringkunst, 1459" fechtbuch with 64 verso depicting a similar guard. Interestingly, the block deployed by inter-crossing the wrists for dagger strikes does not appear in Talhoffer's 1459 nor his 1467 treatise, however, is depicted in Liberi's "Flos Duellatorum" and is a classic Liberi block.
Here are some other jumping off points within section 3: plates 75, 85, 95.
click to view images for section 4.0 4.0 Plates 102 - 111: Hewing Shields
One of the most unusual defensive and offensive weapons depicted in the historical treatises. The hewing shield is not found in Liberi's manuscripts, but certainly is illustrated in both Talhoffer's "Fechtbuch aus dem Jahre 1467" and "Alte Armatur und Ringkunst, 1459" fechtbuchs. This fechtbuch depicts both hewing shield & sword, and techniques with only the hewing shield. Talhoffer's manuscript includes hewing shield & club which is not included in this manuscript. Certain illustrations map almost one-for-one with Talhoffer's manuscript. Examples of this bizarre shield can be found in Talhoffer's 1459 treatise available online at hewing shields. The same online manuscript also provides illustrations for a variety of other hewing shields, spiked and not spiked at other shields.
Here is another jumping off point within section 4: plate 105.
click to view images for section 5.0 5.0 Plates 112: Sword & Buckler113: Sword & Arm Shield114: Staff
It is unclear if there is only a single plate for each of the sword & buckler, sword & arm shield and staff. It is interesting to note that on the garb of the individuals in the illustration, there appears to be leather thongs near the bottom of the gambeson? that might be arming points. For more illustrations of sword & buckler, check out "Alte Armatur und Ringkunst, 1459". The unusual arm shield and sword is unique to this manuscript, or at least as far as this writer knows. Staff techniques are also not part of the Talhoffer treatises nor in Liberi's work (there are some illustrations of spear work in Liberi's treatise).
click to view images for section 6.0 6.0 Plates 115 - 121: Dagger #2
More plates on armoured dagger techniques. Armoured dagger does not appear in either Talhoffer's 1467 and 1459 treatises nor Liberi's treatise. Unlike the first dagger section above, this section is more visceral, given that both individuals are on the ground, with one usually stabbing the victim in rather uncomfortable areas.

Copyright © 2000 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released: November 19, 2000 / Updated: November 23, 2008