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Author Topic:   Nice Old Flyssa
LOUIEBLADES
Senior Member
posted 01-11-2004 18:49     Click Here to See the Profile for LOUIEBLADES   Click Here to Email LOUIEBLADES     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
HI GUYS

JUST ACQUIRED THIS NICE OLD FLYSSA THROUGH A TRADE. THE BLADE IS ABOUT 32" LONG AND THE SWORD CAME WITH A NICE WOODEN SCABBARD. I AM GUESSING THAT THE FLYSSA IS MID 1800s VINTAGE POSSIBLY EARLIER.


REGARDS

LEW

[This message has been edited by Lee Jones (edited 01-12-2004).]

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justin
Senior Member
posted 01-12-2004 11:49     Click Here to See the Profile for justin   Click Here to Email justin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I also aquired one of these not long ago,Ill see about getting pics up in the next few days.

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Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-13-2004 00:53     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lew,
Nice acquisition! The flyssa is another most puzzling ethnographic weapon which remains indiginous to the Berber Kabyles of Algeria.
The earliest origin of these distinct swords is most obscure, and most examples seem to date from about mid 19th c. They seem to have developed from the straighter versions of Ottoman yataghans,but there is little data available in English on the development of the flyssa. The term 'flyssa' is said to derive from the 'Iflisen' tribal subclan who are suggested to have been the primary group to have made these swords.

I have always been curious exactly how these were actually used. They are extremely heavy blades and seem terribly ill balanced. With the needle point and balance these would of course seem useless for any cut or slash, leaving obviously the thrust, but even that would seem difficult with the relatively small and unsupported grip. Does anyone have any information or ideas how these were used?

It is also interesting that while many, if not most weapons of North Africa were widely diffused via the vast trade caravan networks, these remained solely in the Algerian regions with the Kabyles.

Regarding symbolism on weapons, these are profoundly rich in that respect with the consistant geometric and characteristic motif and markings.

Best regards, Jim

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Andrew
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-14-2004 00:07     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrew   Click Here to Email Andrew     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jim McDougall:

I have always been curious exactly how these were actually used. They are extremely heavy blades and seem terribly ill balanced. With the needle point and balance these would of course seem useless for any cut or slash, leaving obviously the thrust, but even that would seem difficult with the relatively small and unsupported grip. Does anyone have any information or ideas how these were used?

What about this, guys? Jim has identified that which most fascinates me about these swords. They look so nasty!

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ruel
Senior Member
posted 01-14-2004 16:41     Click Here to See the Profile for ruel   Click Here to Email ruel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess is that they were used from horseback as short lances. There are weapons in Eastern Europe of similar design -- extra-long, heavy, narrow blade -- that served this purpose:

* Turkish mec
* Polish koncerz
* Hungarian hegestyor
* Russian konchar

We know the Kabyle were horsemen who fought primarily by quick light cavalry raids. That would make sense here:

1. Fire at enemy with muskets to disrupt formations.
2. Charge with lances to cover the distance between concealed positions and enemy.
3. Discard lances at close range and make secondary short charges with flyssa.

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Andrew
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-15-2004 12:51     Click Here to See the Profile for Andrew   Click Here to Email Andrew     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting thought, Ruel. I had not considered that previously.

Let me play devil's advocate here. If intended to be used as a lance (i.e. a primarily thrusting weapon), why the guardless handle?

If I'm going to be plunging a lance, or lance-like weapon, into a target from horseback (particularly at speed), I'd want something to protect my hand from slipping up onto the blade. A pata comes to mind, although recent discussions here have made me think otherwise about that weapon as well.

Also, what about the short flyssa(s?) we see?

I need to read up on the Kabyles, but going on the form of this weapon alone, I've got to respectfully disagree with both Ruel and Jim. I think that recurved edge and belly look great for slashing.

Andrew

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justin
Senior Member
posted 01-17-2004 12:51     Click Here to See the Profile for justin   Click Here to Email justin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I disagree that flyssas are ill balanced,with the way the tip was built on mine,it would be excellent for going straight through chainmail ,however I believe stone talks about the part of the blade that swells oput being the parts that is struck against the target,and mine has a notch out of the edge in that same location.

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Yannis
Senior Member
posted 01-17-2004 16:43     Click Here to See the Profile for Yannis   Click Here to Email Yannis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a nice old flyssa too. I was also wondering about the way they used it.

Afrer reading your opinions, I got it from its stand and tried to use it against a fantastic enemy. The child in me had a lot of fun!

I have never exersised sword play but I found it easier to chope than slash or thrust. I know that is easier for a newbie but the blade also is more wide close to tip.

The point of balance is close to the hilt, but I dont think flyssa is unbalanced.

If I have understand well what point of percussion (COP) is, then it is exactly on the wider part of the blade.

Most of all, my flyssa has a very strong back (8 to 5 mm,) half of its length and reinforced parts in the rest.

I also believe that a thrusting sword must have quillons, to protect hand from... accindents. Flyssa has not. Also its tip is not reinforced to meet a mail.

So I vote chopping as main use and anything else as second. Actually flyssa is a light sword, so I suppose that a veteran can do lot of tricks with it.

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ruel
Senior Member
posted 01-18-2004 19:29     Click Here to See the Profile for ruel   Click Here to Email ruel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We have to be clear about what length of flyssa we're discussing. Dagger and normal-sword lengths were certainly used as daggers and normal swords. But as for those extra-long ones like Lews, it's difficult to see them used any other way than on horseback, with a primary function for thrusting.

On foot, they're too long for effective one-handed cuts. On horseback they'd probably cut well enough, but the belly is too far down to maximize its cutting potential. The tip is obviously the most prominent feature, so the thrust must have been the flyssa's main function.

Aside from charging with them, the class of swords I hypothesized as including the extra-long flyssa were also used to spike and finish off injured footsoldiers lying on the battlefield, and the XL-flyssa would've been perfect for that. No need for a guard (as Yannis would have it), because you wouldn't engage an active enemy with it -- you simply poked some poor guy who'd already taken a felling wound, such as a gunshot, spearing, or saber-slashing.

And since most desert warriors would've been lightly clad in thin, loose garments, there would've been little need for a reinforced tip.

[This message has been edited by ruel (edited 01-18-2004).]

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Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-18-2004 19:33     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In reading some of these comments on the use of the flyssa, the most pertinant note seems to be the lack of handguard which as stated would seem of utmost importance in delivering a thrust with the force required.
The deep belly on these would of course suggest the intent for a chopping type cut, but the long needle point seems like it would interfere with movement of the blade in this type action.
It seems that Ottoman yataghans with a straight deep belly SE blade such as the example from period of Bayazid II (c.1510) may have been prototypes for the flyssa blade, but the needle point purpose remains mysterious. As I have mentioned before, I am not aware of flyssa examples prior to the 1840-50's, which would possibly give us some idea of development chronology.
Here we get into the familiar discussion of the 'Black Sea yataghans' which are included in the new book by Tony Tirri "Islamic Weapons: Maghreb to Moghul", and in this work described as Egyptian/Algerian and having developed from the khopsh. While the suggestion is compelling when viewing drawings of variations of these sickle type weapons in Burton (p.156) the similarity seems superficial with respect to the profile of the blade,and the cutting edge being on the inside rather than the convex as on the Black Sea examples.
Previous works have compared these strange recurved yataghans to the flyssa as they both have the deep belly and most noteable the needle point. The deeply recurved blade on the Black Sea examples would seem to defeat any armour piercing thrust potential, and has been noted, neither it or the flyssa seems particularly suited for such thrusting.

The fact remains that most of the known examples of the 'Black Sea yataghan' have been collected or discovered throughout Transcaucasian and Anatolian regions from c.1850-70's. These are documented in works on weaponry from these areas written in 1897 (Budapest), 1941 (Copenhagen) and 1962 (Hamburg) where they are termed Kurdish-Armenian yataghans, and in the Museum in Istanbul examples there are termed 'Black Sea knives' giving us the term that has given us the term often used in these discussions.
Since there was considerable traffic in trade and recruited forces in Ottoman service between the Caucusus and the Maghreb, it seems plausible that both these and the flyssa reflect a common influence that must have occurred in about the first quarter of the 19th c.
The puzzle is which sphere would have been the source of the needle point, and why would it have been employed if the weapons it was applied to could not support its use.
The mail piercing point was of course well known throughout Russian and Caucasian regions from c.15th c. as seen on Tatar sabres and Caucasian kindjhals. I am not able to think of any North African edged weapons that use the needlelike armor piercing point, except obviously the flyssa.
If the 'Black Sea yataghan' evolved in Egypt from the khopesh, why the unique point, and the very non sickle type blade....as for the flyssa which must be considered concurrent, why did it not diffuse to the Transcaucusus as these had to have done to account for the numbers of them found there?

Most definitely puzzling! More ideas?

Best regards, Jim

[This message has been edited by Jim McDougall (edited 01-18-2004).]

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ruel
Senior Member
posted 01-18-2004 19:40     Click Here to See the Profile for ruel   Click Here to Email ruel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To press the point [no pun intended] yet further, I would argue against the XL-flyssa's cutting design by comparison to Lee's "Mega-Talibon":

The talibon has a similar shape to the XL-flyssa, except for the crucial feature of being curved. The curve allows the belly to land at the point of contact at full extension of the swing, and the curve takes the rest of the edge all the way to the long drawn-out point.

The XL-flyssa, by contrast, is straight, and all that extra point length is wasted -- it actually interferes with the cut by moving the belly of the blade away from the point of contact at full extension.

Narrow, straight, extra-long blades are characteristic of thrusting swords throught history and across the world. This definitely places the weight of evidence well in support of the narrow, straight, XL-flyssa as a thruster.

[This message has been edited by ruel (edited 01-18-2004).]

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ruel
Senior Member
posted 01-18-2004 19:50     Click Here to See the Profile for ruel   Click Here to Email ruel     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
* Originally posted by Jim: "as for the flyssa which must be considered concurrent, why did it not diffuse to the Transcaucusus as these had to have done to account for the numbers of them found there?"

To me, this answer is simple and obvious -- the flyssa was a localized weapon of the Kabyle, who were not recruited into later imperial Ottoman service; therefore, their weapons did not diffuse with them. In fact, by the time of the early chronology Jim proposes (1840s), Kabylia's nominal overlord Algeria was already under French control (Algiers was taken in 1830).

[This message has been edited by ruel (edited 01-18-2004).]

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Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 01-19-2004 16:14     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ruel,
I'm glad you agree on my observation concerning the use of the flyssa as a cutting weapon in that the long point would interfere with follow through in such use, and that the sharp point would suggest the thrust. The talibon from the Philippines is also a good example comparitively, and seems to have been used primarily by tribes in Spanish colonial regions. It has always seemed that this may have had to do with piercing the chain mail worn by Moros, but those with expertise on Filipino weapons will say more on that.

While the note that it is clear that Algeria was under French suzerainty in the period discussed, and obviously the flyssa was a localized weapon, I was addressing the suggestion that the horned yataghans (Black Sea yataghans) were of Egyptian-Algerian origin. These seem to parallel the flyssa in period of use, so I was wondering if these are also from Algeria, how did they virtually disappear from there and appear in so many Anatolian and Transcaucasian regions, while the flyssa didn't.
I would very much like to know approximately when the flyssa as we know it with the needle point , was established in the Kabyle regions. We know it did disappear from use there sometime in around the turn of the century, possibly slightly later, in any case it is completely unknown there today.
Best regards,
Jim

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Yannis
Senior Member
posted 01-20-2004 01:26     Click Here to See the Profile for Yannis   Click Here to Email Yannis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just noticed that my flyssa is different of Luisblades one in form. Maybe this help the discussion.
As you see in the picture of Luisblade flyssa and the picture of talibon the center of belly is almost the center of the blade. A slashing hit is normal with them.
My flyssa has a 78cm blade. It is one of the longest I suppose. But the center of belly is just 27cm from the tip! So my flyssa is more choping than slashing by the form.
Ok I suppose that you can finish the misery of a wounded enemy (as Ruel mention), but you can do that with a rock too.
Even with this size, because it is light and sturdy and because it has this reinforced back, i think it can do a lot of damage, on horseback or on foot.

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