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Thread: Historical Scimitar?

  1. #1
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    Historical Scimitar?

    Hi all,

    How historically accurate are the scimitars used by Sinbad in the various TV shows about that fictitious character?

    Here's a pic of the type I'm talking about. I've seen some with an even wider blade close to the tip.

    http://www.knifecenter.com/knifecent...ges/038-PP.jpg

    Thanks!

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    From what I've read (and I don't claim to be an expert on this) the story of Sinbad takes place in the 8th century CE. That weapon looks to be based on the pala, an 18th-century Turkish sabre.

    I suppose what happened was, because the pala was used in some of Europe's most recent wars with the Ottoman Empire, when Europeans saw it, they imagined it in the hands of much older heroes from other "Oriental" countries. Much like movies where Renaissance swordfighters using their rapiers as if they were as light as smallswords, because smallswords were a more recent development.
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  3. #3
    that weapon is purely fictional and there is no historical example of it in any time of Turkish swordmaking history;on the contrary that pattern is muh more similar to chinese dao and various types of european backswords. Turkish kılıc is basically a shamshir with false back edge called yelman. pala, which is very,very very rare, is slightly shorter and wider version of kılıç. my guess about that fantastic pattern is, it is created by Hollywood, just like ninja-to.
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    I'm not an expert on this subject either but I'll echo Sancar... I've never seen any blades historically that look like the Hollywood 'scimitars'. I have seen some blades in illustrations and museum pics that have the typical fantasy scimitar shape you usually see in movies like Sinbad. Some were European falchions and some were Chinese saber forms. Ofcourse, just because I haven't seen any doesn't mean they don't exist, but it might suggest they were maybe rare if they did exist.

    A friend and I have discussed this once or twice and wondered if this isn't something that was spawned by Victorian art or writing, but it is just a thought....

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    I don't think it's an accurate replica of a pala by any means -- far too curved, the yelman is concave and more tapered than it should be, and the hilt details are wrong. But in profile, it's broadly similar.

    The important thing is that even an accurate pala would be inaccurate for the time and place in which the Sinbad stories are set.
    They groan'd, they stirr'd, they all uprose,
    Ne spake, ne mov'd their eyes:
    It had been strange, even in a dream
    To have seen those dead men rise.

    -- Coleridge

    Please, all you need for zombies is like 300ft of piano wire and a bus.
    -- Dana Price

    Join the Horde! - http://xerxesmillion.blogspot.com/

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    As has already been said, many of the stories from 'thousand and one nights' were set in the 8th century AD (The 8th century Abbassid Khalifa Haroon Ar-Rashid frequently pops up as a character). 8th century Arab and Persian swords were almost always straight double-edged swords, something like this, click on the thumbnail please:




    On the other hand I also vaguely remember reading somewhere (I don't have any references handy I'm afraid) That the stories were collected and compiled in Cairo in the 14th century. The most type common type of sword used by the mamluks in 14th century Egypt was a curved sabre with a yelman:


  7. #7
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    Italian "scimitar"

    Hello,
    Here is a 15th century example of what Europeans may have understood to be a scimitar: "A rare example of a storta, Italian (Venice), c. 1490...The antecedents of the storta can be found in the medieval falchion and the single-edged sabres carried...by nomadic warriors from the Eastern steppes." (p.48 Swords and Hilt Weapons, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London 1989)
    The stories of Simbad, among others, could very well have been illustrated in Venice with such blades as the storta, eventually becoming the popular image of the oriental scimitar. I also suspect that a lot of this image is 18th-19th century illustration based on Chinese examples.

    Best regards,
    Emanuel
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    Thanks to everyone for their input! I had a feeling the sinbad sword was not historically accurate - But this fictitious sword certainly looks like a dangerous weapon!

    Mr Gaballa, thank you for the pics; I've been looking for an illustration or photograph of a pre-scimitar style straight edged mid eastern sword. Would it be safe to assume a similar design was used against the crusaders?

    The 2nd pic you've attached shows a curved sword with a date of 1297-99, but I thought the scimitar design was first used in the 16th century, can someone please comment on that?

    Thanks!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Man View Post
    Thanks to everyone for their input! I had a feeling the sinbad sword was not historically accurate - But this fictitious sword certainly looks like a dangerous weapon!

    Mr Gaballa, thank you for the pics; I've been looking for an illustration or photograph of a pre-scimitar style straight edged mid eastern sword. Would it be safe to assume a similar design was used against the crusaders?

    The 2nd pic you've attached shows a curved sword with a date of 1297-99, but I thought the scimitar design was first used in the 16th century, can someone please comment on that?

    Thanks!
    I'm pretty sure that there are some Central Asian sabres around that date to the 10th century AD or even earlier. The sabre was probably introduced to the Middle-East by the Seljuq Turks in the 11th century. Mamluk brasswork from the late 13th century certainly show sabres. They are also depicted on 14th century Mamluk furuseya paintings.

    However I am also pretty sure that straight double edged swords remained pretty common up until the mid 14th century. Straight swords continued to be used in the Middle East until the early 16th century.

    BTW those 2 pages above are from Unsal Yucel's "Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths".

    This is a late 13th century Mamluk brass basin (click on the thumbnail):



    This is a late 14th century Mamluk furuseya painting:



    And some more pages from Yucel:

  10. #10
    actually Central Asian curved sabres are much older than 10th century. There are examples of this type of blade as early as First Kok Turk Empire era in 6th century. someof them even got yelman.
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    Quote Originally Posted by H. Gaballa View Post
    ... BTW those 2 pages above are from Unsal Yucel's "Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths".
    ...
    And some more pages from Yucel:
    ...
    Thanks for the information!

    Do you know who produces replicas of these kinds of swords?

  12. #12
    http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=3955

    A thread on Vikingsword I participated in. You guys may be interested.
    Click on my website to see my gallery of blades that have a recurve. I've also got a gallery of historical Gunblades in there too.
    http://photobucket.com/albums/v405/NinjaNerd321/Gunblades/
    ^_^

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    I don't know that the falchion theory explains why this blade shape is used as the very epitome of the exotic. See for example, the symbol for the Shriners:


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by H. Gaballa View Post
    They are also depicted on 14th century Mamluk furuseya paintings.

    . . .

    This is a late 14th century Mamluk furuseya painting:
    The furusiyya 'painting' you refer to is actually an illumination from the Nihayat al-Su'l wa al-Umniyya manuscript. I have seen no actual paintings of furusiyya while researching the topic for my thesis.

    On a side note: H. Gaballa, could you please send me the source in which you found the spelling 'furuseya'? I'd like to know for my own research interests.

    Quote Originally Posted by H. Gaballa View Post
    This is a late 13th century Mamluk brass basin (click on the thumbnail):
    The basin in question is accurately known as the 'Baptistere de St. Louis', from Syria c.1300. The 'baptistere' is further adorned with numerous etchings of combat, hunting scenes, arms and armour. As such, it is a rich source for research into these fields.

    Cheers--

    Chris
    Symbol-Thingy,
    The Scholar Formerly Known as Chris Harvey, CSG

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    Quote Originally Posted by CHarvey View Post
    The furusiyya 'painting' you refer to is actually an illumination from the Nihayat al-Su'l wa al-Umniyya manuscript. I have seen no actual paintings of furusiyya while researching the topic for my thesis.

    On a side note: H. Gaballa, could you please send me the source in which you found the spelling 'furuseya'? I'd like to know for my own research interests.



    The basin in question is accurately known as the 'Baptistere de St. Louis', from Syria c.1300. The 'baptistere' is further adorned with numerous etchings of combat, hunting scenes, arms and armour. As such, it is a rich source for research into these fields.

    Cheers--

    Chris
    The picture is indeed from "Nehayat as-su'al wa'l Omneya fi 'elm al-furuseya". Or if you prefer it in English "An end to questions on the science of horsemanship".

    The word 'furuseya' in Arabic literally means 'horsemanship'. I'm afraid the spelling is purely my own. I am a native Arabic speaker, and this particular spelling is fairly close to the Arabic pronounciation. 'Furusiyya' is also good, although non-Arabic speakers may be tempted to pronounce it Fu-ru-see-yah, which would be incorrect, hence my avoidance of that particular spelling.

    The picture is scanned from a booklet by G. Rex Smith entitled "Medieval Muslim Horsemanship", published in 1979 by the British Library Board.

    You are quite right about the "baptistiere" it is an absolutely fascinating item with a wealth of information on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by H. Gaballa View Post
    The picture is indeed from "Nehayat as-su'al wa'l Omneya fi 'elm al-furuseya". Or if you prefer it in English "An end to questions on the science of horsemanship".

    The word 'furuseya' in Arabic literally means 'horsemanship'. I'm afraid the spelling is purely my own. I am a native Arabic speaker, and this particular spelling is fairly close to the Arabic pronounciation. 'Furusiyya' is also good, although non-Arabic speakers may be tempted to pronounce it Fu-ru-see-yah, which would be incorrect, hence my avoidance of that particular spelling.

    The picture is scanned from a booklet by G. Rex Smith entitled "Medieval Muslim Horsemanship", published in 1979 by the British Library Board.
    Nihayat is a manuscript I am very familiar with. I think the Arabic title alone is descripitive enough, though there still seems to be countless new and old English translations with some being more speculative than others I'm afraid. Still, good to see you know of it.

    I have found that many who know of furusiyya misread what it means and am grateful that you are 'in the know' as to its literal meaning. Definitely makes discussing things easier! Thanks for pointing out that you were using your own spelling for the word/title, something qualified by your ability to speak the language it was originally written in. I may be able to use that point in my thesis (as a example of the varied spellings of furusiyya and the circumstances of their existance, if you were curious).

    I am familiar with Smith's book, though I have to honestly say I was disappointed with it as a citable source. Aside from the captions accompanying the images, most of his information can be found in works by David Ayalon. Still, it is useful I feel.

    Thanks for the post H.

    Cheers--

    Chris
    Symbol-Thingy,
    The Scholar Formerly Known as Chris Harvey, CSG

  17. #17
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    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by CHarvey View Post
    Nihayat is a manuscript I am very familiar with. I think the Arabic title alone is descripitive enough, though there still seems to be countless new and old English translations with some being more speculative than others I'm afraid. Still, good to see you know of it.

    I have found that many who know of furusiyya misread what it means and am grateful that you are 'in the know' as to its literal meaning. Definitely makes discussing things easier! Thanks for pointing out that you were using your own spelling for the word/title, something qualified by your ability to speak the language it was originally written in. I may be able to use that point in my thesis (as a example of the varied spellings of furusiyya and the circumstances of their existance, if you were curious).

    I am familiar with Smith's book, though I have to honestly say I was disappointed with it as a citable source. Aside from the captions accompanying the images, most of his information can be found in works by David Ayalon. Still, it is useful I feel.

    Thanks for the post H.

    Cheers--

    Chris
    Your thesis sounds absolutely fascinating. Best of luck with it. Do you have any plans to publish it once it's finished?

    I have to confess I have also used other spellings in the past (such as furuseyyah), the main reason why I now use the one above is brevity.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by H. Gaballa View Post
    Your thesis sounds absolutely fascinating. Best of luck with it. Do you have any plans to publish it once it's finished?

    I have to confess I have also used other spellings in the past (such as furuseyyah), the main reason why I now use the one above is brevity.
    My thesis actually deals with pedagogical issues in furusiyya manuscripts from a standpoint of military capability and effeciency. The idea of multiple spellings will simply help to define what furusiyya is/was understood to be linguistically and how it is represented in modern lexicons. I'll be finished writing it quite soon, then after a period of editing, I should have it complete. Whether or not I'll publish is another issue entirely. Perhaps down the road as part of a published dissertation...but we'll see.

    Regarding the many spellings of furusiyya, the one I employ is more or less the standard variation used by a majority of Mamluk scholars/historians (Ayalon, Pipes, Amitai-Preiss, to name a few). For me, I have grown to use it due to my research, but am open to most of the other spellings (especially when they are based on the spellings of native speakers). I guess it all comes down to brevity for me as well!

    Cheers--

    Chris
    Last edited by CHarvey; 03-16-2007 at 02:51 AM.
    Symbol-Thingy,
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