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  Interesting flyssa variant

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Author Topic:   Interesting flyssa variant
Senior Member
posted 03-26-2001 13:59     Click Here to See the Profile for Therion   Click Here to Email Therion     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've always thought flyssa (both the weapon and the word) were pretty nifty, so I've made it a point to track them down and include them in my collection when I can. Never had the $$$ to score one of the big sword-sized ones yet, but I have seen/handled/owned about half a dozen flyssa knives and short swords. All of them have looked just like flyssa were supposed to, but this one ... is ... different.

This is the only flyssa I've seen with a wooden rather than brass handle. The really cool part is the blade, bolster, and tang junction area - check out the huge spine (7/8" thick), and the way the bolster and tang merge into an almost clothespin shaped wooden handle, which is one solid piece. The blade and handle are held together with two long rivets. The wooden handle on this flyssa is of typical bird's-beak form, but the beak itself broke off and is now rudimentary (no mouth or nostrils left). There's not as much brass inlay on this flyssa as is common, but check out that funky peace sign. Note also the "gimping" done halfway down the back edge of the blade, and the uncommon false edge.

This is blatantly a flyssa, but not so blatantly Moroccan. Have you ever encountered one like this?

I didn't want to hog the Forum server, more detailed pictures are available at my web page under "Identify" or here's a direct link.

regards, Hal

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Jim McDougall
posted 03-26-2001 15:16     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Hal,
Velly interesting flyssa!!! Actually the flyssa, althrough from the Maghreb, belonged to the Kabyles, which were Berber tribes in Algeria. The form itself seems to have evolved from earlier Mediterranean weapons, most likely the Greek kopis. The kopis is of course the granddaddy of a number of recurved blade edged weapons, most prominent being the Turkish and Balkan yataghan.
What is apparant in your blade is the yataghan like recurve.
The geometric motif at the forte is typical on most flyssa's and represents a combination of talismanic symbols having to do with the 'evil eye' as well as possibly some tribal markings.
The history of the flyssa in unclear, but most agree its incarnation in present form must date from the early 19th century. The term is derived from the tribe initially associated with these, the Iflisen, who reside primarily in the Kabylie mountain regions of Algeria.
These swords saw constant use in the tribal insurrections against the French throughout the 19th c.
Interesting to see an example with this type blade rather than the straight back and deep belly.Strong suggestion of Ottoman influence and very unusual variant.

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Senior Member
posted 03-26-2001 15:50     Click Here to See the Profile for Oriental-Arms   Click Here to Email Oriental-Arms     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Quite interesting. Although Flyssa with wood grips are not so common, I have run across several. One is shown below:

(My apologies for the quality of the photos. This piece is not with me since long time and I had to reproduce the photos from old prints).

This one was 17 inches long, with one piece wood grip carved from Mahogany like very hard wood, with steel bolsters quite similar to the one you show but not so massive. The blade is inlaid with brass pieces like in a common Flyssa. I have had another one, longer, about 27 inches, also with one-piece similar wood grip.

I wish to suggest the possibility that a wood grip was a replacement to broken or damaged original hilts. After all, these swords have been in use during several generations and have seen activity in quite harsh conditions. It is common in the oriental cultures to repair broken weapons with readily available materials and this type of hardwood was just there ( I have also seen Moroccan Jambiya’s grips cut from similar wood).

With regard to the origin, these swords have been in use in both Morocco and Algiers, and probably in a wider area. The only way to gather the origin may come from the style of carving on the wood scabbard. Could you post a close up?

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Senior Member
posted 03-26-2001 16:35     Click Here to See the Profile for Battara   Click Here to Email Battara     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You have a nice example of a flyssa. I believe that the reason for your hilt being made of wood in this case is that it was originally wrapped in brass sheet that had chased designs. The pommel portion is in the classic shape of an animal head common to many flyssas. Through use it is not uncommon that the wrap would peel off eventually.

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Senior Member
posted 03-28-2001 22:09     Click Here to See the Profile for Therion   Click Here to Email Therion     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Howdy, folks. Thanks much for the comments, hints and tips towards identifying this unusual piece. I've redone all of the photographs with a better camera and better lighting, and taken closeups of the scabbard. Here's three shots of the scabbard, and two comparison pictures between this flyssa and a "standard" version. More detailed pictures are on my web page as linked above.

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