A Roman parazonium is a long triangular dagger, 15 to 19 inches long, wide at the hilt end and coming to a point. In Roman art, it is frequently carried by Virtus, and is also sometimes carried by Mars, or Roma, or the Emperor, giving them the aura of courage. The parazonium was a symbol of rank and was used to rally the troops. An officer would exchange his parazonium for a gladius or a spatha if he was directly threatened during a battle.
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Parazonium - A weapon similar to a dagger but longer (about 35 to 50 cm in length), and semi-triangular in shape; always carried in a sheath which is usually attached mid-body.
Parazonium - Numismatic antiquaries are not agreed as to the proper signification of the word, when applied to an object seen on several Roman coins of the Imperial series. Patin, also referring to its Greek etymology, says the parazonium was a weapon so called because it was worn suspended by a belt or chain from the zona, or girdle; but that it had no point, because a general ought not to be cruel towards his own people. Spanheim speaks of parazonia as swords attached to the thigh, or hanging from a girdle. "But," says Jobert, "Its very form, and the manner in which it is held, is opposed to this opinion." And then he alludes to the medal of Honos et Virtus, struck under Galba, in which Virtus holds what is called the parazonium upright, one end resting on his knee. He also adduces instances, on coins of Titus and Domitian, in both which it rests on the side, not attached to the girdle. And he quotes a reverse of Antoninus Pius, in which this parazonium, which Patin calls scipio, is across both shoulders in the form of a quiver. These exceptional cases of the manner in which it appears upon coins to have been carried, do not, however, interfere with the more usual acceptation of the word as signifying a short sheathed sword, worn at the girdle. The circular termination does not shew that the sword had no point, for it is merely the metallic end of the sheath.
The Parazonium, as a symbol of virtue, or rather of valor (Virtus), appears in the right hand of that Roman deification, on coins of the Licinia family, in Morell's Num. Consular; and Vaillant shows it on coins of the Volteia family. It appears in the left hand of the Emperor on Trajan's well-known large brass, ARMENIA REDACTA; also on coins of Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Marcus Aurelius, L. Verus, Commodus, Caracalla, Alexander Severus, and other Augusti.
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