In ancient Indo-European traditions the figure of the blacksmith was always extremely important. For proof of this, over and beyond references in myths and legends, one need only visit any archaeological museum containing findings from the ancient world to discover a range of objects produced by highly skilled craftsmen, able to combine the greatest possible practicality of each artefact with aesthetic appeal, expressed in the refinement of the form and the decorations.
On this occasion we will concentrate on metal-working and on the work of one of our craftsmen, who is also a master of arms: Vincenzo (known to many as Hephestus), from whom we will seek to understand the secrets behind his work – which can be seen at our portal – and the reasons which led him to follow the so-called “Iron Route”.
Vincenzo recounts his first experience as a child, at the age of around seven, in the blacksmith’s workshop in his home town and subsequently, the first experience gained during a course on wrought iron working for novices, begun as part of a group and terminated alone, as the only enthusiast. His love for the art convinced the master craftsman holding the course to accept him at his own workshop as an apprentice and errand boy. From here Vincenzo began the his working activities, turning his passion into a trade and livelihood.
Thus the life of Hephestus has been touched by a passion for the metal sacred to Mars. During his career he has succeeded in combining his skill as a smith in the stricter sense with archaeological research aimed at experimenting with ancient techniques and hence the reproduction of both weapons and working methods, something which he also initiated thanks to the encouragement of his wife, a restorer, who has accompanied him in this process. Hephestus describes the inner spell he falls under when he is working metal: a state of concentration that takes him outside of time and space, in which the colour and odour of the metal during forging are the guides which allow him to evaluate the state of the work …..a transformation of the material which is almost alchemical.
An important moment along the path taken by Hephestus was his joining of the Istituto Ars Dimicandi and the development of his interest in gladiator combat: the objective of the group is not just to reproduce the arms of the gladiators – realised using the methods of experimental archaeology – but also and above all to reproduce the “athletic feats” of combat: the members of the group are athletes, who try to follow in the steps of their ancient predecessors.
The gladiators were an elite cast of warriors – specialists in combat – with a powerful bond of brotherhood and a strong sense of honour.
The objective of the warrior is to mould himself until he reaches the final form, in a process in which collaboration with companions who embrace the same choices is fundamental. Thus the training of the warrior can be compared to the forging of the metal, in which the force of the hammering and the different temperatures take the raw metal full of impurities to the final form, transforming it into a weapon. This is what Hephestus explains to us…
Vincenzo’s work has often been distinguished by collaboration with different kinds of historic groups, allowing him to approach differing areas of research: from the Roman culture to Celtic forging techniques and Bronze Age technology for fusion.
We take this opportunity to highlight one of the ambitions of Hephestus, to go beyond and to keep the torch alight, a little like handing over one’s being and works to the judgement of history. In our opinion this objective has already been reached.