Sub Gladium – Superior and Inferior, Above and Below, Over and Under

As I described in a previous post, there are 4 binds as outlined by MS. I.33: right and left, over and under. This is pretty clearly and explicitly described in I.33, and is the foundation for the entire system.

Lately there’s been some discussion on how to translate the verse “cade sub gladium quoque scutum”, with the main focus being on the word “cade”. Suggested translations have included, fall, abate, descend, dive, drop, plummet, subject, subside, submit, bow, kneel, prostrate, and probably more that I can’t remember. While discussion on the exact meaning of “cade” is important, and can certainly give some insight into what this verse means, I think it’s also important to examine the other important word in the verse: “sub”.

Personally, I have decided to just translate “cade” as “fall”, since the English word “fall” can have all those same possible alternate translations. It seems to be the most basic and literal translation, and it still fits with however you choose to interpret the technique. I don’t think any interpretation can rely solely on that single word itself, especially because we will probably never know 100% for sure what meaning the author meant when he wrote “cade”. Maybe he meant “prostrate”, maybe he meant “drop”, maybe he meant “submit”. But I believe we can use information from the rest of the manual to get a deeper answer.

In I.33, it describes 4 binds, right over, left over, right under, left under. The words used for right and left are relatively simple: “dextra” and “sinistra”. If you’re familiar with Fiore dei Liberi, this will sound very familiar.

The words used for over and under are: “superior”, and either “inferior” or “sub”. Again, “superior” is pretty simple, meaning “above, higher”. “Inferior” means “lower, below”. “sub” is a little more ambiguous, with meanings like “under, beneath, behind, at the feet of, within, during, etc”. It varies much more depending on the context

That being said, when talking about the 4 binds, I.33 clearly uses “sub” to be synonymous with “inferior”. Here are all the times I.33 uses the word “sub”, excluding the times it is describing 1st Ward “sub brachio”:

2r, 3r, 8v, 23v, 29r – “Dum ducitur halpschilt cade sub gladium quoque scutum”
The verse in question. Let’s continue:

MS I.33, Folio 7v: "First ward and common displacement as above, but the game varies at the end of the passage. Above Below. But the priest has bound, in spite of being below"

MS I.33, Folio 7v: “First ward and common displacement as above, but the game varies at the end of the passage.
Below. But the priest has bound, in spite of being below”

6v – “ligationes sub et supra vnde versus Dum ducitur langort statim liga sub quoque supra”
Here it is talking about the options that are possible against Langort. You can either bind (ligationes) above or below. A clear instance of using “sub” to refer to the underbind, paired with “supra” used for the overbind. Note that a couple of pages later, Folio 7v, it shows this second option of binding below. Here it uses the word “inferior”, a clear indication that “inferior” and “sub” are used synonymously.

16r – “Primo potest ligare in dextris super gladium Secundo potest ligare in sinistris sub gladio”
Again, same as the previous. Paired use of sub and supra in reference to the bind (ligare). This one is particularly interesting because it uses the phrase “sub gladio” and “super gladium”.

19r – “est vna ligatura de illis quatuor ligaturis videlicet subligacio in sinistra parte vt hic patet per ymagines”
Here it uses the word “subligacio”, which seems to be a technical term of I.33. It literally means “underbind”.

19v – “Postquam superius exemplo proximo subligatum est per sacerdotem scolaris vero recipit capud sacerdotis quia fuit superior gladius suus & nota quod quandocunque subligatur capud debet teneri in custodia ne percutiatur vt hic vnde versus Dum subligaueris caueas ne decipieris Dum subligatur capud ligantis recipiatur”
Again we see repeated use of “subligatum” to refer to the “underbind”.

23v – “Hic ponit se sacerdos sub gladium scolaris quod sepius prius tactum est”
One of the most important lines in the entire manual, in my opinion. We have a description of what the verse “cade sub gladium quoque scutum” means, and it tells us that it means we “place” or “put” (ponit) our sword under our opponent’s. Again it’s a usage of “sub gladium”. It gives us an indication that the action is not an attack or a strike, but rather it is an action of placing our sword into an underbind. If it was an attack, it would likely use the words that I.33 uses for strikes and attacks, like “plagam”.

29r – “sacerdos cadet sub gladio & scutum & tunc superueniunt ea que prius visa sunt in custodia prima”
Essentially repeating the verse “cade sub gladium quoque scutum”.

It is worth repeating that many times in I.33, it uses the word “inferior” to refer to the underbind, often paired with “superior”. It seems that it uses the two words synonymously (sub and inferior), and I have not encountered anything that would indicate a difference. It alternately uses both to describe being in a bind where your sword is underneath your opponent’s.

So, what does all this mean for the verse “cade sub gladium quoque scutum”? Well, to me it would indicate that the usage of the word “sub”, if it’s not referring to the 1st Ward “sub brach”, then it is a reference to the underbind, the “subligatum”. It means that if we use the entire manual, and take the phrase “cade sub gladium” in the context of how the phrase “sub gladium” is used throughout the text, it would seem like a reasonable conclusion to say that when it tells us to “cade sub gladium” it is referring to the underbind, and wants us to “fall under the sword”, to “fall into the underbind”.

Conclusion: Fall Under Sword and Shield is an action of placing your sword into a left underbind, a conclusion arrived at by interpreting the word “sub” in the context of the manual, where “sub”, and particularly “sub gladio”, is used to refer to the underbind.


About joeynitti

I study Historical European Martial Arts. I am a member of Ottawa Swordplay. I've been studying HEMA for around 5 years.
This entry was posted in I.33 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sub Gladium – Superior and Inferior, Above and Below, Over and Under

  1. Pingback: Common Fencing System | HEMA Study

  2. Here is a blog post I wrote today on my new blog after reading three of your posts here regarding “cade sub gladium quoque scutum” meaning an underbind, which I agree with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • joeynitti says:

      Interesting post. Interesting theory. I’m glad you thought my post was useful, and you make a good point that it’s possible they just directly translated the German words to Latin


  3. Pingback: Ms. I.33 – Langort vs Halpschilt? | HEMA Study

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