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Harry J. Fletcher




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Aug, 2010 1:55 pm    Post subject: The Scimitar         Reply with quote

After posting a picture of my display of a Shamshir and Reeve I received a reply that the Shamshir was a little too late for use during the crusades. From what I can unravel the scimitar was term used to encompass the Abrab Saif, the Turkish Kalij, and the Shamshir. The Seljuk Turks brought a curved sword from central asia which was the Kalij which mirrored the Shamshir of Persia except that the Kalij blade was not quite as deeply curved and had a wider blade for the final 1/3 of the blade with a false edge called a selman that aided in cutting.

We know from accounts that the armies that confronted the crusaders were mainly lightly armoured and armed which gave moslem army excellent mobility. They preferred to harrass the crusaders with missiles or rather arrows from their mounted archers and entice them into a trap. Mobile cavalry of this type from the east tended to favor a curved sword for slashing which was suited to their style of warfare.

Before the Turkish migration to the region the arabs and indigenous population used a sword called a Kandar or a straight bladed single edged sword. the Persian word for sword is Shamshir, a single edged sword either straight or curved. I believe that there is little difference between a Shamshir which may likely have been in use during the crusading period along with the Kalij and also the Arabic Saif which is basically a Shamshir with a shallow curved blade. The Egyptians adopted the Saif and used it for centuries and it was used across North Africa. During the American seige of Tripoli and the aftermath Marine Officers were awarded the Mameluke sword which is really the Saif. English General Officers have traditionally called a version of the Saif since 1805.

the first picture is a drawing of a a classic Bayezid Turkish Kalij. and thesecond picture is of an Arab Saif while the third pic is of a Shamshir. The fifth picture is of swords in the Istanbul museum mose of which are Kalij but the far one resembles a very heavy cutting sword like a Christian Falchion. The final picture is of the Mameluke sword.

I welcome any comments, additions, discussion since this is a most fascinating subject.

Regards,

Harry



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Tibor Szebenyi




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PostPosted: Wed 04 Aug, 2010 11:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I know the Persian "shamshir", the Arab "saif" and the Turkish "kilij" (or kilic) means simply saber, nothing more. Today a lot of people say that the Ottoman saber from the 18th cent., with strongly curved blade, T-cross section, and significant yelman is THE kilij. And an elegant saber from Persia is THE shamshir. It would be better to call all of theese scimitars or sabers in English and not to distinguish them according to names which mean the same weapon. If You visit a Turkish museum like this: http://museum.velizariy.kiev.ua/turkey/istambul_ma2/index.html You can see, that every sword is kilic there. Even the straight European ones.

So instead of the names You should look for the evolution of theese weapons. Just read the labels under the sabers on that link! During the first(second, third) crusade the "saracens" used straight swords, then, as You wrote sabers appeared with the Turks and trade also went on. The hilt which You can see on that Marine Officer saber is called mamluk-hilt, but a lot of Persian, Ottoman and even Hungarian saber have this kind of hilt. The T-cross section, strong yelman (or selman, or elman) and very curved blade appeared later, when the Ottoman Empire was at its peak, covering a large area, so the sabers from there were kilic.

Today the terms shamshir, saif, kilic mean definite types, but as far as I see, theese are later versions, from the 18-19th cent. (or even used today in some countries) so if You go back to the time of the first crusade (by the way which Crusade do You think of? It does matter. Wink ) don't stick to thoose stereotypes!
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Aug, 2010 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

one good point to take away is that the sabers were not widely in use until the 15th or 16th Century, well after the Crusades.

The only saber in use as far as i know around the 11th -13th Century were Chinese Dao and variants thereof from Central and Eastern Asia.

J

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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 05 Aug, 2010 1:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, arab straight swords were usually double edged, not single edged.
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Naully Nicolas




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PostPosted: Fri 06 Aug, 2010 12:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

good posting.

But I was wondering if we were able to see one-and-half scimitar or straight swords at that time ?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Aug, 2010 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, curved swords were fairly widely used in the Middle East at the time of the Crusades--just not by the people we usually associate with the name "Saracens" (Arabs, Kurds, Egyptians, Syrians, and the like). The Turks, on the other hand, had been using curved swords for quite some time before the Crusades, and remember that they held a substantial chunk of the northeastern corner of the Crusading theatre. What we need to emphasize here is that the Islamic polities and cultures opposing the Crusaders were not a single, monolithic group, but rather a number of distinct cultural and political groups that fought among themselves as much as they fought the Crusaders. Even their battlefield tactics differed. The classic image of the Muslim horse archer is that of a Turk, whose army consisted largely of such light horse archers with a tougher core of armored heavy horse archers relying on the lance and bow. Kurds and Arabs relied on the lance and sword instead, though they tended to be a bit lighter than the "Franks" in terms of equipment. However, the Ayyubid polity that became the later Crusaders' principal foes--and their Mamluk successors--combined the fighting styles of the various ethnicities they gathered under their empire, and the mainstay of their army was a version of the Turkic heavy horse archer, armed with lance and bow, with substantial quantities of armor upon the man and often some form of armor for the horse as well (usually a quilted barding); it'd be safe to say that these horsemen copied the heaviest end of the Turkic heavy horse spectrum and substituted local straight-bladed swords for the Turkic scimitar.

So there. The Arabs didn't make much use of the saber until the Ottoman Turks conquered the area and set the military fashion for the whole place starting in the 15th and 16th centuries. But the Turks themselves had been using curved swords all along. It's just that before they became the arbiters of fashion, the people who were in the Middle East before them (most notably Arabs and Kurds) didn't want to adopt their fashions too much for fears of being seen as "barbarianizing" themselves, including in terms of the curved sword. The Turkic heavy horse panoply, on the other hand, could become popular because the "civilized" Muslims at that time had another precedent for it in the form of the Persian asavaran / asawira heavy cavalry that they admired so much (and whose system they probably combined with the Turks' to create the Mamluk hybrid).
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Samuel Bena




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Aug, 2010 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice post Lafayette! , very educational as usual Happy

Would you also happen to know, if the Arab and Kurdish warriors rode with shorter stirrups (central Asian style) or if they instead "rode long" like period European men-at-arms? It seems to me that this distinction is also important... if not more than the superficial "weight" of a rider ( iirc some of the period central Asian scale/lamellar harness seems more complete , and thus more "heavy" than the European coat-of-mail).


Apologies for diverting the topic a bit ,

Cheers,
Samuel
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Erdeniz S





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PostPosted: Tue 10 Aug, 2010 1:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First off, hi everyone as this is my first post here. Been a lurker for some years but this is my first contribution.

Being a Turk myself, I want to give a few firsthand insight.

Now, I've never heard any mention of "Kalij" anywhere, it is known as "Kilij" in West. Turkish word is "Kılıç" and it, as Tibor mentioned, basically means "Sword". But, Kilij, Saif, Shamshir, all basically meaning sword in their respective languages, really came to respond to specific types of swords (well more like sabers) in time, just like "Katana" (which too, basically means sword in Japanese).

Even though Ottoman Kilij, with it's distinctive yelman, is known more with late samples from 17th, 18th or even later centuries, types that were less radically curved yet still including yelman were around much earlier, as it was mentioned here on this forum. Turkish military tradition, as mentioned here in earlier posts, was always mainly consisted of light / medium cavalry, for which curved chopping swords were more useful. And last two pictures showing U.S. Military "Mameluke" sword, while indeed been inspired from Ottoman swords, and there was similar authentic Ottoman swords, is not what is called a "Kilij" today, they are very late military swords, and they had a way less curve then traditional Kilij. Also, they lacked a yelman.

So... I'd say that type "Kilij" as it is known today, do not only respond to late types, and even exclude some late Ottoman swords.

Also, Tibor provided a link of photos from "Harbiye Military Museum", stating that all swords there are labeled "Kilij" even European ones. It is a magnificent museum, I was there two months ago and they really have a very nice collection, also my homecity İstanbul (even though i am not living there for last 14 years) is very beautifu, and I would recommend this museum and İstanbul city to anyone who's looking for a holiday. But... as embarassing as it is to say for me, labels of items there were simply bad. There were many items mislabeled (such as an Italian Schiavona labeled as a "German Sword" or rapiers labeled as "Swords" etc). I have seen such mistakes even in modern pieces as, a heavy .30 caliber Browning M1919 from WW2 was labeled as "Sub Machine Gun", and a Bergmann MP-18 was labeled as a Sten.

I'd say, during most of Crusades, greater majority of Muslim armies used straight double edged swords. As far as I know, Persians had curved and slender Shamshir before Arab people. But Turkish people used curved swords much earlier.

Also, some Turcoman warriors, who were still pagans, fought alongside crusaders against Arab and Persian peoples, as far as I know. So we might say, sometimes in Crusades, Eastern side used mostly straight swords, and Western side and their allies used straight swords + falchions + perhaps early kilijs Happy

I think in time, late curved Shamshir came to symbolize Islamic Crescent, and straight European sword with quillons came to symbolize Christian Cross. And that's the reason they're pictured this way in late artwork.

As a last note, I do not want to sound like a subjective patriot minded person who thinks their cultures [put item here] are superiour to anything else Happy. I think there is no such thing as "best sword type", and personally I would take European Longsword or Sidesword over anything, anyday Happy

Just wanted to add my two cents, cheers.
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Harry J. Fletcher




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Aug, 2010 8:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mr. Erdeniz S. you are quite it is Kilij and not Kalij as I misspelled it. Thank you for pointing this out. Since you are close to the Topaki Museum in Istanbul, could you find some swords ( if they aren't mislabeled) that were used by the Turks against the 1st and 2nd Crusaders and post pictures of them? From my understanding, the curved sword was more advantageous to a horseman than a straight sword blade. And I agree with you that not all Saracen members of the various Turkish armies that faced the crusaders used curved swords. Since the turks migrated from the cacausas and curved swords were in use there one could say that they brought the curved sword with them. Saladin was a Visier in Egypt to Nur Ad Din's father and succeeded Nur ad Din as the ruler after he married his widow. As Egypt had been conquered by the Nur ad Din's father and Saladin's father was a Vizier to him until he died. Saladin became the Vizier in Egypt and to Nur Ad Din. The point I am making is that Turkish arms must have been brought into Egypt with the forces of the various Turkish armies and thus the Kilij was used and evolved into the Mameluke sword over time. Gradual changes are hard to pinpoint as to exactly when they started to occur so this led to confusion about the types of swords used in the Latin Crusading period.

Big Grin Big Grin

regards,
Harry

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Aug, 2010 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel Bena wrote:
Would you also happen to know, if the Arab and Kurdish warriors rode with shorter stirrups (central Asian style) or if they instead "rode long" like period European men-at-arms? It seems to me that this distinction is also important... if not more than the superficial "weight" of a rider ( iirc some of the period central Asian scale/lamellar harness seems more complete , and thus more "heavy" than the European coat-of-mail).


I don't think we have clear-cut evidence for medieval Arabs, but a study of 19th- and 20th-century Bedouins tends to show a stirrup length somewhere between the European "a la brida" style and the shorter Steppes variants--neither 'long" nor "short."



Erdeniz S wrote:
Also, some Turcoman warriors, who were still pagans, fought alongside crusaders against Arab and Persian peoples, as far as I know. So we might say, sometimes in Crusades, Eastern side used mostly straight swords, and Western side and their allies used straight swords + falchions + perhaps early kilijs Happy


Not really. If you put it that way, then both sides used both curved and straight swords, since many Turks had converted to Islam by the time of the Crusades (or at the very least their rules paid lip-service to Islam). The army that inflicted such heavy casualties upon the Crusader baggage train at Dorylaion/Dorylaeum was Turkish and probably had curved swords, unlike the straight swords of the Saracens to the south.


Harry J. Fletcher wrote:
From my understanding, the curved sword was more advantageous to a horseman than a straight sword blade.


Only if your fighting style focuses on slicing attacks against unarmoured or at best lightly-armoured opponents. Virtually any type of one-handed sword could become deadly on horseback if combined with the appropriate fighting style. Remember that the cut vs. thrust debate on 19th-century cavalry swords ended on an inconclusive note.


Quote:
And I agree with you that not all Saracen members of the various Turkish armies that faced the crusaders used curved swords.


You got this upside-down. "Saracen" is usually taken to refer to Arabs, Syrians, Egyptians, and Kurds, who for the most part stuck to straight swords. "Turk" was an appellation distinct from all these and referred to the wild (to contemporary eyes) people who burst out of Central Asia and came to control Anatolia (modern Turkey). There were Turkic mercenaries in later Abbasid armies and these mercenaries could have had curved swords, but they were eventually replaced by ghilman and Mamluk horsemen who combined Turkic, Arabic, and Persian elements and appeared to have mostly had straight swords like their Kurdish, Syrian, and Egyptian masters.


Quote:
Since the turks migrated from the cacausas and curved swords were in use there one could say that they brought the curved sword with them.


Not far, though. As I've mentioned before, the Turkic fashion in swords (i.e. curved) didn't seem to have caught on beyond the parts of Anatolia that were actually ruled by Turkic principalities. It wasn't until the Ottomans conquered the whole Middle East in the 15th and 16th centuries that non-Turkic peoples began to see the curved sword as fashionable.


Quote:
Saladin was a Visier in Egypt to Nur Ad Din's father and succeeded Nur ad Din as the ruler after he married his widow. As Egypt had been conquered by the Nur ad Din's father and Saladin's father was a Vizier to him until he died. Saladin became the Vizier in Egypt and to Nur Ad Din.


Nur ad-Din and his predecessors in the Zengid dynasty were technically Turks, but they seem to have pretty much "gone native"--while Saladin and his Ayyubid dynasty were Kurds, so most definitely not Turks. Whatever Turkic influence they had brought along in the military sphere seemed to have been limited to Turkic mercenaries and ghazi bands, and the Ayyubids seemed to have been quite happy to keep these separate from the more local elements of their army, including the Mamluks. So the presence of Turks in the Syrian and Egyptian armies at this time didn't yet mean that the non-Turkic elements were eager to adopt their fashions in tactics and equipment beyond the elements they had already borrowed into the Mamluk synthesis, and the evidence we have tends to show that the non-Turks (including the Mamluks) kept their straight swords for the time being. They had different bows and bowcases, too, which were surprisingly easy to distinguish in contemporary illustrations if you know how to look.

(The difference in bows survived until long after the Ottoman conquest. Some bowyers' shops in Istanbul made significant numbers of bows for export, and curiously they didn't make all the bows after the Ottoman fashion; the ones they exported to Syria were made in the Syrian style, the ones sent to Crimea were made after the Crimean Tatar fashion, and so on.)

(EDIT: I forgot to mention that, while Shirkuh and his nephew Saladin officially took over Egypt on Nur ad-Din's behalf, Nur ad-Din himself never seemed to have actually ruled Egypt through them. Once the Ayyubids got to Egypt they became pretty much independent and wanted to keep Nur Ad-Din's influence out, at least until Nur ad-Din died and Saladin got the chance to conquer Syria and Mesopotamia instead.)


Quote:
The point I am making is that Turkish arms must have been brought into Egypt with the forces of the various Turkish armies and thus the Kilij was used and evolved into the Mameluke sword over time. Gradual changes are hard to pinpoint as to exactly when they started to occur so this led to confusion about the types of swords used in the Latin Crusading period.


You seem to have been misled by the "Mameluke sword" appellation attached to the curved forms in Britain and the USA. By the time the British and Americans came into extensive contact with these blade forms and adopted the fashion in the early 19th century, the Mamluks were a broken force that had little in common with the proud warriors who faced the Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries. Obviously, this was also long after military fashions in Egypt had changed to follow the Ottoman model, which was a consequence of the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in the 16th century (by which time the Mamluks were already just a shadow of their former glory). So you can't use the British-American Orientalist appellation of "Mameluke" as an evidence that the curved "Mameluke" swords were actually used by Mamluks at the time of the Crusades. The best evidence we have shows that the Mamluks of the Crusades still used the straight swords popular among their Kurdish/Syrian/Egyptian employers.
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Shahril Dzulkifli




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Aug, 2010 6:25 pm    Post subject: The Scimitar         Reply with quote

What do I have here is a Turkish sword from the Ottoman period and I am not sure whether it's a Shamshir or Kiliç if you look at its blade. Can somebody tell me what type of sword is this? I just want to know. Wink

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Tibor Szebenyi




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2010 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is a kilij AND it is a shamshir. And it is a szablya. And a sabla. And a sabre. Wink
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Samuel Bena




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PostPosted: Sat 11 Sep, 2010 11:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

I don't think we have clear-cut evidence for medieval Arabs, but a study of 19th- and 20th-century Bedouins tends to show a stirrup length somewhere between the European "a la brida" style and the shorter Steppes variants--neither 'long" nor "short."
]


Most interesting! Though it's a pity that there's so little on the subject...

Regards,
Samuel
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Tibor Szebenyi




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Sep, 2010 11:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Though it's a pity that there's so little on the subject...


In Munyatu'l-Ghuzat, a mamluk military manual, the master advices the following: take your feet out of the stirrups, just let them hang down and then the bottom of the stirrup should be on the same level with your ankle bone. This means quite a long stirrup.
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Samuel Bena




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Sep, 2010 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tibor Szebenyi wrote:
Quote:
Though it's a pity that there's so little on the subject...


In Munyatu'l-Ghuzat, a mamluk military manual, the master advices the following: take your feet out of the stirrups, just let them hang down and then the bottom of the stirrup should be on the same level with your ankle bone. This means quite a long stirrup.


Intriguing observation Tibor !
though the Munyatu'l-Ghuzat manual is a bit later (14th century) and for a different audience (kipchak-mamlukes) than I had originally in mind. Still I'm surprised that the predominantly Turkish mamelukes would ride with long stirrups... (though IIRC some Furusiyya literature also describes how to handle a crossbow whilst mounted, which seems imo like quite a "westernish" trait.... must have been quite a mix back there..)
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Sep, 2010 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tibor, it looks like the armour in second row far left is not riveted, is that true?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Sep, 2010 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel Bena wrote:
Tibor Szebenyi wrote:
Quote:
Though it's a pity that there's so little on the subject...


In Munyatu'l-Ghuzat, a mamluk military manual, the master advices the following: take your feet out of the stirrups, just let them hang down and then the bottom of the stirrup should be on the same level with your ankle bone. This means quite a long stirrup.


Intriguing observation Tibor !
though the Munyatu'l-Ghuzat manual is a bit later (14th century) and for a different audience (kipchak-mamlukes) than I had originally in mind. Still I'm surprised that the predominantly Turkish mamelukes would ride with long stirrups... (though IIRC some Furusiyya literature also describes how to handle a crossbow whilst mounted, which seems imo like quite a "westernish" trait.... must have been quite a mix back there..)


Actually, the Mamluks were not "Turkish." While most of them were born in the Caucasus or Central Asia, the training and equipment they received at this time had a distinctly "southern" Syrian/Egyptian style, therefore "Saracen" rather than "Turk." Taybugha (an obviously Mamluk-associated writer, possibly a Mamluk warrior or instructor himself ) made it clear that there were some notable differences in both bow design and archery style between the Turks and the "Syrians" (particularly Mamluks) he mostly wrote for. So it's by no means surprising that the Mamluks didn't just copy Turkish heavy horse-archer equipment wholesale. They received significant non-Turkic influences from Greek and Persian traditions too after all.

As for the mounted use of the crossbow, I think you're referring to the chapter in Taybugha's archery manual, and in this case Latham and Paterson commented (in their 1970 translation) that the chapter seemed a bit out of place in terms of style and content relative to the rest of the work, so they suspected that it was an afterthought, a later addition, or a piece from an entirely unrelated text inserted later by a copyist. In any case, an interesting point about the chapter is that the techniques described within are very similar to what little we know about how European crossbowmen operated during the same timeline, so it might ironically be more relevant to Christian Europe and the Crusader states than to the "Saracen" states and their fighting methods.

Last but not least, worrying about stirrup length is probably a bit useless, since there was considerable variation in lengths even within the same culture. For example, Turkic heavy horse-archers are sometimes said to have used somewhat longer stirrups than their lighter companions. And of course let's not forget that the Arab lancers, Byzantine cavalrymen, and Persian archer-cataphracts who contested the scene during the original Arab Conquests (some five to six centuries earlier) all fought without stirrups!
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Shahril Dzulkifli




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Sep, 2010 10:29 am    Post subject: The Scimitar         Reply with quote

Tibor, I think that sword photo don't look like a Kiliç if you look at its blade. To me I'll call it a scimitar because not all these swords have slender blades. Some scimitars also have thick, curved blades if I am correct. Wink
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Samuel Bena




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PostPosted: Fri 24 Sep, 2010 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Actually, the Mamluks were not "Turkish." While most of them were born in the Caucasus or Central Asia, the training and equipment they received at this time had a distinctly "southern" Syrian/Egyptian style, therefore "Saracen" rather than "Turk." Taybugha (an obviously Mamluk-associated writer, possibly a Mamluk warrior or instructor himself ) made it clear that there were some notable differences in both bow design and archery style between the Turks and the "Syrians" (particularly Mamluks) he mostly wrote for. So it's by no means surprising that the Mamluks didn't just copy Turkish heavy horse-archer equipment wholesale. They received significant non-Turkic influences from Greek and Persian traditions too after all.

As for the mounted use of the crossbow, I think you're referring to the chapter in Taybugha's archery manual, and in this case Latham and Paterson commented (in their 1970 translation) that the chapter seemed a bit out of place in terms of style and content relative to the rest of the work, so they suspected that it was an afterthought, a later addition, or a piece from an entirely unrelated text inserted later by a copyist. In any case, an interesting point about the chapter is that the techniques described within are very similar to what little we know about how European crossbowmen operated during the same timeline, so it might ironically be more relevant to Christian Europe and the Crusader states than to the "Saracen" states and their fighting methods.


Interesting! Thanks Lafayette that makes it much more clear ...

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Last but not least, worrying about stirrup length is probably a bit useless, since there was considerable variation in lengths even within the same culture. For example, Turkic heavy horse-archers are sometimes said to have used somewhat longer stirrups than their lighter companions.


Sure, but does somewhat longer stirrups equal to riding in a position with straight legs as in period europe?


Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
And of course let's not forget that the Arab lancers, Byzantine cavalrymen, and Persian archer-cataphracts who contested the scene during the original Arab Conquests (some five to six centuries earlier) all fought without stirrups!


Im not arguing with that , however imho the lenght of stirrup is another piece of the puzzle (so to speak) together with the type of saddle, breed of horse/horse tack , the type of lance +the style of use etc.. All these little elements make a bigger picture which in the end paints a different kind of cavalryman.
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