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Thread: Hungarian sword types

  1. #1

    Hungarian sword types

    Hello Mark and all,

    Something to start out with. Does anyone know of sources that deal with sword types and examples from the Hungarian and Balkan regions. Medieval period mainly.


  2. Osprey's "Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe" by David Nicolle (Men-at-Arms #195) has simple drawings of about a dozen swords of various types.

  3. #3

    Thank you Björn

    Hello Björn

    Yes I have that. Also Nicolle's Medieval book with all the line drawings. I was hoping to find a larger resource of images and discussion of elements. But that could be said for almost any sword type.

    I am especially interested in the pommel type that is rectangular in profile but shaped much like the wheel pommels with a raised disc in the center. I can post a pic if you need.

    Last edited by Craig Johnson; 02-24-2002 at 09:10 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Craig, you might want to talk with Russ Mitchell, who is a member both at SFI and NetSword, but I don't think he's over here yet.

    He and his wife (who is an archaeologist and also posts on both sites) have a wealth of information, and contacts, in this area.
    Sikandur~~Aim Small, Miss Small

  5. #5

    Thanks Scott

    I should have thought of him right off.

    Thanks Craig

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    North East USA
    Blog Entries
    Hi Craig,

    Unfortunately, not much published material on this subject is available. You may want to try contacting the Hungarian National Museum. They have an excellent arms collection and may offer a booklet or two detailing pieces in their collection. The homepage is:

    Hungarian National Museum

    E-mail them at:

    e-mail link

    Let us know how you make out...


  7. #7

    Thanks Mark

    Thanks Mark

    I will keep you informed.


  8. #8

    Post Hungarian Pommel/Weapon typology 101


    Your email is bouncing , so let me respond here publicly in case anyone's interested. Unfortunately, I'm dependent on my next trip to Budapest to bring back the last of our scholarly material, and that won't be until June. Cross-continental moves sans scanner stink.

    Hungarian sword history from 13th-16th century, Reader's Digest Condensed Version:

    13th century: our knowledge of Hungarian weapons is colored by the fact that the Mongols came in and stole everything in 1241. Therefore a number of finds from further east in Golden Horde territory are Hungarian, and difficult sometimes to tell. But one sees sabres, swords, and Russian-historiography palashe (a.k.a. a sword with a curved hilt, either one-sided or two-sided. Will be found later in Hungarian history in slightly modified form called "pallos.")

    14th century: extremely few finds remain. Wheel pommels are, so far as we can tell from artwork and the few remains, essentially universal. Sabres are often hilted with quillons and wheel pommels, and would not be distinguishable from fragmentary frescoes if only the hilt survives. See the Hungarian Illuminated Chronical (Chronicon Pictum), which I believe can be found here and there on the web. The guys with the caftans are usually Cumans, and, counter-intuitively, although they fought in classic nomadic style, they often used longswords and "bastard sabres." The latter will remain in use throughout the 15th century in Hungary, and are true "bastards" insofar as they can easily be wielded in either one or both hands. Although the courtly circles were usually equipped in Western fashion, several donors are shown with sabres, which would indicate that there were no "caste" associations regarding who used what.

    15th century: The square or rectangular pommel shows up. Most sharply pointed longswords keep a wheel pommel. Longswords and greatswords more clearly designed for cutting show a rectangularization of the wheel pommel. They are neither truly squared, having cut-outs at the corners or rounded corners, and they are relatively thin, just as a wheel pommel must be in order to avoid cutting into the hand. I was going to dig up my museum records for pommel sizes, but what I have is sketchy, and any fool with an image of one of these swords and a mention of its length can easily suss them out mathematically. Thickness on the raised section -- hold on, grabbing a replica... no, that won't work for you, looking in my notes from Visegrad....thickness I have for these puppies runs from .9 - 1.4 cm, with the raised circular section on each side essentially being 3/4 as wide as the squared or rectangular section. In any event, they tend to be only very slightly thicker than the wood of the pommel, if the replicas I've seen hold. The squared and rectangular pommels also see wide, though not exactly universal, use on sabres of the period.

    One note on longswords: when handling surviving 15th century longswords in Hungary, I was struck by both their thinness and their rigidity. Octagonal sections were common, and no blade ever exceeded .45 centimeters in thickness at any part of the blade below the cross, though the tangs could be quite thick.

    16th century: This falls out of favor slowly in favor of pommels that nip around the underside of the heel of the pinky finger. Whereas in the 15th century western and eastern equipment is used essentially equally, in this period the sabre once again becomes the dominant sword-type sidearm, with heavier footmen tending to use either an alternate weapon or a langesmesser ("parasztkés" - "peasant knife"). If you look in Zablocki's text and look at Hungarian ("Wegierski") and Ottoman sabres, you see most of the future of Hungarian weaponry, until Hungary becomes so dominated by Austria that the weapons designers start producing blades 75% to Austrian fashion.*

    These pommels, in my opinion, are designed to provide extra leverage compared to wheel pommels. I say this because they do, to begin with, and because all of the other pommel forms that succeed it in the 16th century are also designed to provide the same support to the hand, or else are relatively pommel-less, but have a canted handle so that the effect is the same.

    My apologies that I cannot provide you with a set of images for these. When I go to Budapest in June I will try to bring back all my images (and hopefully get access to a couple of armouries to boot). By all means try to get in contact with the National Museum, but don't get your hopes up for a response. They are infamous for jealously guarding any and all information regarding their collections.

    *However, general note: unlike Austrian swords/sabres, Hungarian sabres *never* have brass quillons: if you see brass or gold, they're laid over steel. Several Austrians lost their lives in duels to Hungarians who cut through their quillons and their hands, General Damjanich having done it twice in the 1848 independence war.
    Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but excellence admires and respects genius.

  9. #9

    Russ great info thank you


    Thank you that is great info. Just what I was looking for. It is such a neglected area in the english language sources. I think the influence from this area of Europe and the cultures beyond has been largely overlooked by those scholars on the western fringe of Europe.

    Do you have any guess at the earliest datable example or representation in art of this type of pommel? I have been scouring the sources and the web but most of the Hungarian items I run into are from a later period than I am interested in.

    I have some excellent visual examples of these swords but little literature to back them up. I understand about the museum. It has been difficult dealing with such institutions without a complete alphabet behind ones name and letters of introduction from someone with power over promotions in the specific institution one is dealing with.

    Well let me digest your information and I am sure I will have other questions for you.

    my deepest thanks


    PS not sure why my email is bouncing I will check the server what address did you try?

  10. #10

    Museums, pommels, et al.

    If I had my sources with me, I could nail it down better in terms of pommel datings... but I suspect that they don't really become a thing until at least the 1420s, and not common until midway through the century. That's just a total swag out of the recesses of my cobwebbed memory, mind you...

    Your email was the address you used to write my yahoo account.

    And for museums, you are absolutely right. It must be someone with old-style power and connections, or else it's very unlikely to happen. I have a halfway back door connection who got in and saw a sabre with this type of pommel... I can try to find out the dating on it. Whether he's ever allowed back in again, otoh...
    Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but excellence admires and respects genius.

  11. #11

    Ok need help

    Well I finally contacted the source of the info I am working on and he sent me the forty page article they have published on the subject. Now I need a translator for Serbo-Croatian. Any one know someone who can do this?


  12. #12

    Actually, I do. Can you pay for the work?

    Although my own linguistic skills in the Slavic groups is survival only (please, thank you, where's the toilet, three beers...) I know several people who could translate said article for you...
    why don't we try the email route again, and I'll see who I can hook you up with?
    Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but excellence admires and respects genius.


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