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Thread: Medieval Middle Eastern Swords!

  1. #1

    Medieval Middle Eastern Swords!

    I've recently taken quite a bit of interest in the straight bladed Arab swords, like what would have been used by the Abbasid Moorish and Fatimid Caliphates, and Seljuk (could someone please tell me how that is pronounced? Sel-yook?) Sultanates as well as what Saladin himself would have carried.

    It seems almost all of the attention with Middle Eastern weapons is centered on stuff from the 16th century on wards, however I can find very little pictures and even less to read on, about the stuff from the Crusades or the conquests of Muhammad of Ghur or Tamerlane.

    And further more, why are there almost no reproductions made? Theres tons of repros of medieval European swords, but when it comes to Islamic arms, it's mostly relegated to shamshir's (and even then only about 3-4 good shamshir repros) which as I understand it, the shamshir was not invented in time for the Crusades?



    Here we have some 14th century Mameluke's still carrying straight blades (I think curved "scimitars" were around by now?) but even more curiously the tip is flared or leaf-bladed. The artist is pretty well respected for historical accuracy, so any information?



    Here are some early straight blades, but the main thing of interest here are these Turkish sabers, really early late 12th century to mid 13th century. Notice the yelman's and curve? Quite a beautiful weapon, must have been an absolute demon on the battlefield, and I'd love to have one.



    Some Turkish blades from the Topkapi museum, what kind of sword is that big huge one in the back, and how early would that sword and those under it, be in use among the Seljuk's and Ottomans?





    A few more from the Topkapi, they look Arabic, how old are they, and why is one substantially wider then the other? I really like these wide blades, like some sort of great warrior would have carried it.



    More Topkapi treasures, the one at the bottom there looks absolutely amazing. What kind of sword is that?




    Sword of Mehmed the Conqueror.. I realise this would have been sword made for a Sultan, but just looking at the length and blade shape, what sword is this? Would other Turkish warriors have carried much less extravagant versions?



    Fatimid artwork from the 12th century, so very early appearance of Turkish warrior with "pistol gripped" saber, rather long and curved, interestingly enough, he's wearing his sword edge up, just like the samurai did. Interesting, maybe it was used in draw cuts, similar to the katana?

    Alright, enough pics for now. Basically I'm wondering if anyone can give me anymore info on the strength and cutting power of these EARLY Islamic swords .. and just some more pics, overall background history behind them. Far too little is said about these swords..

    Oh and.. why isn't anyone making any? These are some truly badass swords and in a sense we've all grown up with seeing the Saracen's sword as much as the knights.. Everyone associates the Medieval Middle East with that dashing, gracefully curved saber..

    If no one is making any, what custom smith would be best to commision early medieval Arab, and Turkish blades from? And is there any way to convince SOMEONE to start making these blades? They are so horribly underrated. And beautiful!

    I honestly think I'm beginning to prefer Middle Eastern swords to Japanese and Chinese.. And I'm a long time katana and jian/dao fan..

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Ca. View Post
    Oh and.. why isn't anyone making any?
    Two reasons: information about them is hard to find and nobody (aside from Vince Evans) has gotten around to do it. General rule with these things, if you want them to be made, either you have to do it, or find a custom smith who'd want to/can. At least that's what I do in such situations.

  3. #3
    First thing first; "Selçuk" is pronounced as "Salchuk"

    About your questions:

    Main problem with terms like "middle eastern" and/or islamic" is, they do generalize several cultures from around the world which are very different from each other. Especially during the middle age this differences between arab, persian and turkish civilizations were much more distinct. So when you say "middle eastern or islamic swords from middle age" you should know there were different kind of swords used by different people.

    Turks (who were from Central Asia) used curved sabers (which is sometimes called turco-mongol saber) since GökTürk Empire times. They brought this type with them to Western Asia when Selçuks invaded İran and Anatolia.
    Arabs, on the other hand, used straight bladed broadswords. Even after Turkish saber type dominated Western Asian culture, Arabs tended to make their saifs less curved. Northern African Tuaregs and Berberis still use double those edged straight bladed swords.
    So an arabic member of the Salahaddin-i Eyyubi's army would use a straight arabic saif while a Selçuk cavalry would use a "kılıç". Same goes for Memluks which have both arabs and turks in their army.

    So as you can see there is no homogenic "middle eastern and/or islamic sword" type. There was not one in middle ages and there is still not.

    Some early Turkic sabers:
    Attached Images Attached Images      
    "The relationship between West(Occident) and East(Orient) is indeed an example of a relationship of power and domination. Orientalism is thus a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient and the Occident. It is a Western style of dominating, restructuring and building hegemony over the Orient.İt is an accepted grid for filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness, into the general culture."
    From "Orientalism" by Edward Said

  4. #4

    Medievil Islamic Swords

    Medievil Islamic swords are extremely rare and early hilts are rarer still. A large portion of the swords at Topkapi have been rehilted centuries ago, but still in a different style than the blade would have originally had. There seem to be more publications in French reguarding the early swords, the book on the Islamic swords at St Irenes arsenal for one.

    We have a pretty good handle on Islamic swords from safavid period on and the period of 1400-1600 will probably be determined to where most are in agreement. One of the big puzzles is why are there so few?

    rand

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sancar Ozer View Post

    Some early Turkic sabers:
    Sancar,

    Since the first photo is taken from an exhibition I had a chance to visit in the Archaeology Museum in Varna, Bulgaria, I feel I can comment on the swords pictured.
    Starting from the left is a straight single edged sword found in the Rishki Pass, most likely early Bulgar, but could also be Slavic or Eastern Roman. It is followed by two more single edged swords with straight back, which are refferred to in Bulgarian literature as "palash". They are also most likely early Bulgar, although they could also be Avar or Eastern Roman. Based on the available evidence, I also believe that this is what the mysterious Eastern Roman "paramerion" is. Then there is a sabre, either Bulgar or Magyar in origin. The final sword is much later, most likely 13th-14th century and almost certainly connected to the Golden Horde.
    While I am not sure I will call this collection of swords Turkic, I agree that it is a good representation of weapons used by Steppe warriors from the 8th to the 14th century. Such weapons were used by the Khazars and later even adopted by the Eastern Roman Empire - both of which the Arab Caliphate had extensive contact with, and there is a good chance that even if not popular, they were known in the Middle East as early as the 9th century.
    Best regards,
    Teodor

  6. #6
    With all respect Bulgars, Avars, Hazars and Kıpçaks(who created Altın Ordu-Golden Horde), were Turkic tribes. Hazar and Kıpçak people are still present in modern day and identified as "Turkic" So I guess their sabers can be counted as "Turkic". Even if this is not the case, I think these examples are still good enough to represent a general discription for early central asian saber type which turkic saber is a part of. And I use "early" as earlier than Ottoman and 16.century in regards of the original post by Steven which he asked about "islamic" swords before 16th century.
    "The relationship between West(Occident) and East(Orient) is indeed an example of a relationship of power and domination. Orientalism is thus a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient and the Occident. It is a Western style of dominating, restructuring and building hegemony over the Orient.İt is an accepted grid for filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness, into the general culture."
    From "Orientalism" by Edward Said

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sancar Ozer View Post
    Even if this is not the case, I think these examples are still good enough to represent a general discription for early central asian saber type which turkic saber is a part of.
    I completely agree, as my previous post shows. The rest is offtopic, really, but calling early Eurasian sabres Turkic is just another generalization, similar to Islamic or Middle Eastern, and in the case of the Bulgars and Magyars, quite incorrect.

  8. #8
    Sancar, selam and thank you for the clarification on how thats pronounced!

    I suppose I wasn't clear enough on what I was talking about, but I'm full aware of how different the weapons were.. I was trying to show both Turkish and Arab swords in all the pictures I posted. Thanks for the help though..

    Question about these Turkish sabers..

    First off.. why so thin, and when did the slightly broaded bladed ones with yelman's come about? Before Mehmed II?

    How durable were they, and were any made with the famed Damascus steel?

    Any information on Mamluk sabers? More pictures perhaps?

    I have many more questions.. sorry, just trying to learn here.

    What is the signficance between thinner bladed Arab saifs (straight blades) and the thicker blades ones? Were the thinner ones for use on horseback , and were the broaded bladed ones perhaps more for a warrior on foot, like the Vikings and German knights? Those broad bladed saif's have really captured my imagination..

    Also.. the sword of Mehmed II..



    I'd really like to know about this style of Turkish sword..

    EDIT: One more thing, I keep looking at these Turkish saber's and they just seem so.. thin? It makes me wonder how effective they were, I thought saber wielding cavalry were supposed to be able to lop off limbs and even heads, were these swords thick enough to do that?

    The design intrigues me, for such a thin sword it must have lent amazing agility to the user?
    Last edited by Steven Ca.; 10-14-2008 at 05:45 PM.

  9. #9
    Aleyküm selam Steven and you are most welcome I am no expert but I will try to answer best I could.

    As far as I know about yelmans they go way back. Even a collector friend of mine once suggested that they are older than the ones with no yelman. I personally doubt that but I can say I saw two Selçuklu sabers with yelman at Konya Museum so I know that they are older than Ottoman era. I also remember seeing pictures of one or two "eurasian" sabers with yelman from earlier periods but I don't have them in my computer. And I must add Fatih Sultan Mehmed's famous sword is actually kind of a unique example;unlike most of Turkish "kılıç" before and after Longer, thicker, wider, less curved and has a special hilt type that I never saw before. Fatih is famous to be an inventor and a creative mind so maybe he had this special sword designed just for himself. It's just a speculation but who knows?

    According to thinness, they don't look thinner than 16th century "kılıç" or later european sabers. And historically it seems like they worked out just fine

    The question about steel is one I myself also wonder. I'm sure there are members much more knowledgable than myself who can answer that. And same goes for arabic blades
    "The relationship between West(Occident) and East(Orient) is indeed an example of a relationship of power and domination. Orientalism is thus a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between the Orient and the Occident. It is a Western style of dominating, restructuring and building hegemony over the Orient.İt is an accepted grid for filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness, into the general culture."
    From "Orientalism" by Edward Said

  10. #10
    Steven I agree with you whole heartedly.. There are not enough reproductions of these swords out there, currently everyone is either interested in Chinese, Japanese or European swords. This makes it hard for people like us who wish to get our hands on these types of swords..

    To get more information on these swords you really need a number of books, two important ones I own are:

    Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths by Unsal Yucel, Istanbul 2001
    The Arts of the Muslim Knight, Bashir Mohamed, Skira

    I have some information from the pictures in your first post above in 'resim0173wj.jpg' from the Topkapi Museum. These are in the Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths book..

    The wide sword at the back looks like plate 6 which is an early Arabian sword of the Khalifa Umar ibn Al-Khattab. Dimensions:
    Length of blade 90.1cm
    Width of Blade 6.2cm
    Balance 21cm from guard
    Weight 1.28kg

    The Thinner sword at the front looks like Plate 9, the Sword of Khalifah Uthman ibn Affan
    Length of blade 89.5cm
    Width of Blade 3.5cm near guard, 3.2cm mid-point, 2.8cm near tip
    Balance 28.5cm from guard
    Weight 0.62kg

    Both around 1400 years old, Uthman is widely known as a scholar and a very pious soft hearted man, so that he would use a lighter sword makes a lot of sense...

    Regarding the 12th Century Fatimid Artwork, it may be that swords were worn this way for horse riders, there being less chance of accidently harming the horse when drawing your sword!! this is pure speculation on my part...

    Vince Evans is considered the absolute king of these historical reproductions you can see his work at:
    http://www.arscives.com/vevans/perturk.htm
    What I wouldn't give to own one of his pieces

    I recently handled a Raven Armoury 15th Century Ottoman Sword, it felt amazing and well worth buying.. Simon also told that they are thinking of making a copy of a Mamluk sword for a client in the Middle East, if this is the case I can't wait to see it..
    The Raven Ottoman Sword is at:
    http://www.raven-armoury.co.uk/dist19.htm

    Zeki

  11. #11
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    I always love seeing the swords of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and the Blessed Companions.

    I have been to Topkapi and seen them up close. Truly amazing.

    I would also like to add that Ric Furrer is another smith who works middle eastern styles. A friend of mine commissioned a piece from him.
    "If metal can be polished to a mirror-like finish,
    What polishing might the Mirror of the Heart require"

    Rumi

  12. #12
    Hello Mumtaz, it's really good news to hear of other sword makers making these swords.. You couldn't post some pictures of his work could you? I visited his website http://www.doorcountyforgeworks.com/
    But he dosen't have any pictures of his stuff up right now.. What do you think of the quality and accuracy of his work??

    Zeki

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