One of our international loans for the section of Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition at Arbeia Roman Fort is a complete sword blade with inlaid decoration. This was chosen to be a companion piece to our own (incomplete) blade, which is also decorated.
The sword on loan from Carnuntum, Austria, has a wreath (symbol of victory) on one side and a palm leaf (symbol of peace) on the other. Ours has an eagle (symbol of the power of Rome) holding a palm leaf in its beak, standing between two standards (symbols of the army).
The figures were cut from a sheet of copper alloy and inlaid in the iron blade, with details picked out with lines and dots; you can see where leaves making up the wreath have fallen out of the recesses in the iron, and the use of two different coloured metals.
The decoration on this type of sword is always right up near to the hilt, and is positioned to be the right way up when the sword is held with the point up. The decoration is, however, quite restrained: the eagle is only 26mm high and Mars only 45mm.