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Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 08:44 AM

Article: Notes on development of modern sabers - Role of Eastern Europe & the Hussars
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Dedicated to my Forum pal, Wolviex ...


What I am trying to pursue the reader here is to observe the evolutionary development of the ancient scimitars and how it changed in the modern curved saber, who has seen the light much trough the skilled hands of the eastern Europeans, in a long lasting process from late Medieval Age all the way to the Napoleonian wars; this short article emphasizing on the missing link in the evolution of the curved swords from the phase of ancient Oriental scimitars to the modern sabers, meaning, emerging, clearly transformed by the Eastern European mélange not only but mainly by the Hungarian/Transylvanian and Polish/Ukrainian armories during the late medieval 15th century up, with a quick follow up all the way to 18th century Baroque age and beginning of Napoleonian times.
Some preliminary notes are to be made however: from all types of sabers described here, in central and eastern Europe, no style has seen a complete elimination until mid 19th century so it is worth observing that from whatever reason, from traditional nostalgia to fencing preference, every type of sword that once seen birth, it maintained an uninterrupted life until the complete elimination of battle swords contemporary to last horse mounted cavalry charges in the 19th century.
In direct tie to the development of the modern curved saber, the Hussar regiments are the quintessential and most famous bearers of the hereby weapon; they are the horse mounted cavalry troops preserving the spiritual values inspired by the medieval knights while their fashion was much different, a motley attire inspired by that of the Oriental potentates including the weaponry, hence its curved saber, complete fashion with most expensive predator furs (lion, leopard, bear, tiger, wolf) and most exotic and expensive feathers (stork, eagle or heron) readily available (photo A & B).
Their existence began as a product of the Hungarian-Transylvanian kingdom in the15th century but the history of the saber goes further in the mists of history.

Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 08:57 AM

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Curved swords have existed in the Old World previously to the migratory invasions like the Greek kopis, Thracian machaira or Dacian sica and others but most of them curved outward and none of them part of scimitar family until the Ottomans and Indo-Persians.
The curved saber indubitably has reached Europe from the Asian steppes and the Caucasian plateau somewhere around 9th century via migratory nations likely the Magyars, perhaps under Alanic influences (photo 1). This type, with few differences, mainly in decoration is present in Caucasus (Turkoman nations) and the eastern steppes of Ukraine (Mongol-Tartaric nations) known as “Tcherkesso-Tartar scimitar” (photo 2) and it directly influenced the later “ormianka” (photo 3) and “karabella” (photo 4) sabers, cousins of the Ottoman “kilij”. The blade design interfered with previous European medieval straight sword (photo 5) which inspired longer quillions and larger blades.
Starting 13thcentury the Turko-Mongols were constantly raiding via the steppes of Ukraine in all Poland, Hungary and neighboring countries carrying their “Tartar scimitars”.
In the following century, it was the Ottoman Empire that started their quest for expansion in Europe and after the failure of the lame crusades, like Nicopolis (1396), the observant Transylvanian ruler John Hunyadi (Janos Hunyadi/Hungarian, Ioan de Hunedoara/Romanian) realizes how unfit and inept the heavy full clad armor cavalry charges is and starts enlists groups of lightly armored troops styled and equipped much after his enemies as many eastern Europeans were in the service of the Ottoman Empire or in direct contact with the Tartars and already adopted their equipment being inspired by the Ottomans like Turkish sipahi or deli troops and so, the reformed “militia portalis” of John Hunyadi evolves in the famous "Black Army" (Hung. - fekete sereg) of his son, king Mathias Corvinus, incorporating for the first time the "Hussars" and ethnic wise, the first ones seem to be the Serbo-Croatians, apprehendedly named racowie (transl. n. :Serbs from the Ras province) (photo 6a & 6b ) and they served in both kingdoms of Hungary and Poland ; perhaps even the very word "hussar" in origins, disputably, comes from the Serbian word "gusar" meaning n. "brigand, rogue" .

Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 09:04 AM

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The Hussar regiments are the quintessential and most famous bearer of the European curved sword, they are the horse mounted cavalry troops preserving the spiritual values inspired by the medieval knights while his fashion was much different, a motley attire inspired by that of the Oriental potentates including the weaponry, hence its curved saber complete with most expensive large feathers (stork, eagle or heron) predator furs (lion, leopard, bear, tiger, wolf) and most exotic and expensive feathers (stork, eagle or heron) they can obtain (photo 7). They existed in other Eastern European countries under different names like calarasi (raiders) in Walachia (photo 8- not available now) or Greek-Albanian stradioti (photo 9).
On the other hand, Poland, in very late 14th, early 15th century, allies with Lithuania and subdues the vast Ukraine, who was also home of the Cossacks and the “Golden Horde” of Crimean Tartars and tremendous interaction in weaponry started and we can observe in the Polish Commonwealth a fantastic variety array of saber montures and blade types inspired by neighboring nations as far as Persia but those are only influences and Hungary & Poland emerged and should be granted as being the main stable ground for the innovations and the emergence of the modern European fencing and saber.
All these changes at the time when the rest of mainstream Europe was still using medieval straight swords, or other types like “schiavonna” (ironically another eastern European weapon) based broad swords for battle.
A solid link in the consolidation of the Hungarian/Polish armamentarium happened when Transylvanian ruler Stephen Báthory (1533-1586) became king of Poland and reformed the Polish cavalry, mainly the famous “winged hussars” (photo 10) and the boot hilt (photo 11) became standard and started being known as the “Hungarian-Polish style” saber.

Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 09:05 AM

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It was customary in Poland that the nobility (szlachta) would produce and carry sword inspired by the one their kings carried and named the style after him the main types being: (photo 12) "batorowka" after Stephen Báthory (having classic boot like hilt), "zygmuntowka" (photo 13) after king Sigismund (Zygmunt in Polish), "janowka" (photo 14) after Jan Sobieski or "augustowka" after August II, elector of Saxony for example.
And so in the very early 16th century the Eastern European with the core in the armorial centers of Hungary and Poland that new curved cavalry saber dissociates herself entirely from the Oriental scimitars by not only proportions and decorations but by adding completely new elements like reinforcing butt plates (in Pol. n. kapturek) in the 15th century, thumb rings ( in Pol. n. paluch)(photo 15) and in the late 16th century partially (photo 16) or completely (photo 17) closed knuckle guards (in Pol. n. kablak glowny) in the same late 16th century. The knuckle guard is likely an element inspired from the decorative chain-link finger guard (photo 18a & 18b) adopted by Eastern Europeans from Turko-Persian sources.
The paluch (thumb-rings) seemed to have lost its popularity after the 17th century but the rest of the elements remained and have been completely incorporated in a new weapon, the European curved saber, completely distinct and different from its Oriental counterpart and its successful deeds quickly had her adopted by most of Western Europe, America and rest of the world as standard for their battle swords with few exceptions.

Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 09:06 AM

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In the mid 17th century the butt-plate started extending all the way to the quillions (photo 17) making the metallic assembly of the hilt look like a one piece solid completely enclosed protection , a style so different from the incipient scimitar montures.
Worth mentioning is that up to 17th century (some parts even later) many cavalry trooper carried a secondary weapon, an oversized straight long sword named kontchar (a term that not 100% safe to use but scholars tend to nowadays) used to pierce chainmail and breech trough enemy lines, which proved less convenient than the classic lance; the lance was a weapon almost forgotten by the cavalry of western Europe in the 17th and 18th century until the amazing grace and force of Polish uhlans (lancers) amazed Napoleon and immediately reintroduced them lasting one more good one hundred years.
Another improvement of the hilt is the use of ray, shark (photo 20) or other similar skins that provide superior grip in battle or the use of wire wrap over leather providing similar qualities, the last being encountered before in Europe and therefore not completely new.
That is the beginning of the ,,epee a la Hussarde,, or Hussar style saber (photo 19) who was adopted quickly by all most powerful armies of Europe from Hungarian by Austrians then Prussian, French and British and ended up glorified by the Napoleonian Era wars (photo 20) and in the 18th century it ceased to be ,, Hungaro-Polish,, and it became the European curved saber hence its mainstream adoption as it started expanding west via the armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its conflicts in the 17th century and culminating with the ever popular sabers of ,,Blucher,, type (see photo 21) which are nothing but ,,epee a la Hussarde,, , a Hussar saber.

Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 09:09 AM

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In the end, not only have the mighty super powers of the Napoleonian Wars adopted the Polish-Hungarian Hussar sabers but they copied even their flamboyant attire, military organization, fencing (photo 22) , style of riding along with their bold ways of life, from the Great Britain to France (photo 23) and Russia modeled their armies accordingly. These late key design elements incorporated in the stirup hilt and cleaving blades remained little changed until late 19th century when firearms put an absolute end to the cavalry charges and real battle sabers became bygone, declining into them strictly parade and ceremonious pieces we know today.
That being said, the cigar is finished and my Hennessy snifter is empty, hopping that I sparked some interest in you.

Mare Rosu 27th December 2004 11:10 AM

Most Magnificent!!
RADU, :) :cool:
Let me be the first of many to thank you for this history lesson!
Where in the world do you get this information? The time and energy to just post this information is mind boggling.
Regardless, it is to me a great lesson in history, my learning curve is moving up, thanks to you sir.

Wolviex With a friend like Radu you cannot go wrong. Even as a curator in a great museum you just got a lesson in history on the curve sword. :)

Rivkin 27th December 2004 02:36 PM

Thanx a lot ! Very informative and like teenage girls are saying - "it's like totally cool" !

1. Circassian-Tataric scimitar - wow, it's really an interesting connection. The thing I don't understand however is that the peak of Circassian nomady belongs afaik to the peak of Khazarian and may be early Kipchaq domination, and certainly predates the formation of Tatarian conglomerate - do you know why this particular term is being used ?

2. I thought that most of the hussar swords where adopted as such by Britain and Prussia well before the napoleonic wars ? Cocnerning making them fashionable, I think mameluk swords/mameluk guards where just as inspirational (for example the Marine sword).

Again, Thank you !

TVV 27th December 2004 04:48 PM

Great job Radu, just one minor note: I believe the curved sabre first reached Europe in the 7th or perhaps even the 6th century carried by the turkic tribes, migrating to Europe: Avars first, and then the Protobulgarians, as there are specimens dating to that time excavated in nowadays Bulgaria and Hungary, and I would assume in Romania too. Nevertheless, you are absolutely right that it is turkic in origin.

wolviex 27th December 2004 06:55 PM

Thank you !!!
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You ! :D

Your reply on my thread about hussar sabre is ASTONISHING! You were worried you cannot repay me for that thread, but this is PRICELESS.

Being in shock I'll keep silence for a while, during I'll try to prepare more sensible reply.

P.S. Radu! Did you get my message "Great expactations..." about hussar sabre, I still see it as unconfirmed.

Radu Transylvanicus 27th December 2004 08:06 PM

Thank you all for such kind words and quick replies, I will try my best to send a note to all concerns or questions emerging :

Mare Rosu: Thank you for the praise and as far as Wolviex, he was rather help and inspiration :) ! Just like you with the sword of Stephen the Great, my brother !

TVV : Cheers for the nice feedback, remember this is pretty much just a study made by me now back to your reply I know that Magyars for example came as early as 5th century but the earliest scimitaric sabers I know belong to 9th century; makes perfect sense what you say that should be some earliear one but thats how far I got so far and looked mainly to teritorry of Ukraine, Ruthenia or Moldavia to find the earliest examples considering going on presumption that like migration they came north of the shores of Black Sea. Please bring photos, literature, source or theory if you know of something earliear

Wolviex : My dear friend, dont be too good to me, see if any faults and lets see where can we go with these ideas...
As far the szably copy after speaking with you I agreed and did not wanna bleed financialy for such stuff.
Do you have any pics of augustostowka , that my friend, I could not find any on any book in my library, even for the notion itself I hold you personally responsible for putting it in my head :D
P.S. I hope wolviexowka is fine and you had a good Christmas ...

Rivkin : The European scholars (mainly French and Russian) reffer to it as the “Tcherkesso-Tartar scimitar” with slight more geographic vs. ethnological emphasis, my friend .
Inspirational is great as long as its not pretty much copycat ( Modern curved cavalry sabre story vs. the USMC mamluke sword or The 1831 Pattern British General Officers Ivory Hilted Scimitar (fancy name isnt it, :D you thought ,,Polish-Hungarian sword,, was a long name) hereby mentioned : and lets not forget they werent much meant for battle but rather parade while the ones in the article dodged anything from the Ottomans trying to conquer Vienna or helped Napoleon conquered Europe.
Yes, the Hussar sword were prior to Napoleon but like I mentioned in here ( quote ) : That is the beginning of the ,,epee a la Hussarde,, or Hussar style saber (photo 19) who was adopted quickly by all most powerful armies of Europe from Hungarian by Austrians then Prussian, French and British and ended up glorified by the Napoleonian Era wars (photo 20) and in the 18th century it ceased to be ,, Hungaro-Polish,, and it became the European curved saber hence its mainstream adoption as it started expanding west via the armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its conflicts in the 17th century ...

wolviex 27th December 2004 10:34 PM

Only few notes - for now
It's midnight in Poland, so please let me give you only few minor notes to your article. Tomorrow, with a good luck and a little more time (I'm during flat repir and removal) I'll bring photo of Augustowka sabre and a few notes about "winged" hussars.

Originally Posted by Radu Transylvanicus
Starting 13th century the Turko-Mongols were constantly raiding via the steppes of Ukraine in all Poland... [/I]

... and exactly not all but only south of Poland (mainly provinces of Little Poland and Silesia). The Monghols army (called in Poland Tartars) gained Krakow, but could't succesfully siege Krakow's church of St. Adalbert. Then they moved west to the Silesia, where were stopped by army of prince Henryk the Pious (1241 year). Polish prince was killed on battlefield but reduced Mongols army retreated from Poland.

Originally Posted by Radu Transylvanicus
sword inspired by the one their kings carried and named the style after him the main types being: (photo 12) "batorowka" after Stephen Báthory (having classic boot like hilt) [/I]

Of course during and after reign of king Batory, "classic" sabres were most popular, so it's not extraordinary that this were the sabres which mostly bearing Batory's name or bust on the blade. To be exact the sabres were very often rehilted, even in my museum should be a sabre with classic hussar closed hilt with Batorowka blade, and it's still Batorowka. So it is a blade with specific inscription what made a sabre Zygmuntowka, Batorowka etc, not a hilt.

Originally Posted by Radu Transylvanicus
Worth mentioning is that up to 17th century (some parts even later) many cavalry trooper carried a secondary weapon, an oversized straight long sword named kontchar (a term that not 100% safe to use but scholars tend to nowadays) used to pierce chainmail and breech trough enemy lines [/I]

It's KONCERZ in Polish , estoc in English, I think (anyway this is the word used in Poland to described in English this sword). It was very long, up to 150 cm, carried under the left leg, attached under the saddle. Becouse it was very long, it wasn't possible to draw it up with one move, it was necessary to make two moves, catching the blade with the second one (o boy! I hope it's comprehensible with my English :o )

Anyway, You did great job here, and I'll become jealous about frequency. Now, when I'm writing this, you've crossed a barrier of 100 viewers, in one day :D . I tell you, I'll be jealous ;)

Best regards

Jim McDougall 28th December 2004 01:01 AM

history of the sabre
Extremely colorful montage!!! and colorfully written text as well!
Seeing these wonderful photos brings back happy memories of reading in all of these books about the fantastic tales of dashing horsemen of Eastern Europe (your library seems most impressive!).You seem rightfully proud of your heritage and you have done a great job of presenting all this material.
I agree with the note that it is amazing that you can put together so much information and especially illustrations! I recognize so many of the illustrations but get frustrated when I can't find the source...a couple I did locate for future reference for the readers and I think it is important to note or caption these illustrations:
Photo B: is an officer of Bans Cavalry Regiment under Col.Nikolai Lodron, 1697
This appears in "Croatians in the Thirty Years War 1618-1648" by V.Vuksic & D.Fischer (Military Illustrated #63,Aug.1993). Obviously this antedates the period of the article but apparantly the illustration refers to a later event while costume remains standard.

* It is important to note that the Croatians and Hungarians often served together as mercenaries, especially in the 18th century for Austria and in the famed Pandour regiments.

Photo 23: A painting titled "Officer of the Imperial Guard Charging ,1812" by Theodore Gericault (1791-1824). Obviously a Napoleonic French officer and the original hangs in the Louvre. It is one of my favorite paintings, and a copy hangs in my den directly in front of me. It is to me one of the most exciting and quintessant cavalry paintings.

I know it would take a lot of room to add these notes to the illustrations but it would be very helpful and informative to what you have already completed.

***Thank you for noting my article on the Marine Corps mameluke sabres!!!

There has been considerable debate on the overall history of the development of the sabre and much of what exists remains speculative.However the period you focus on with the proficiency of Eastern European cavalry and thier direct influence on British and German cavalry at the end of the 18th century is extremely exciting and colorful, as you have well described. Rivkin's note that this influence did certainly predate the Napoleonic period is correct, with various sabres in use by some German states and the British M1788 sabres which precluded the M1796 sabres (considered the first regulation pattern).

* The schiavona actually more Balkan than specifically Eastern European, and evolved as a heavy straight sword with fully developed basket hilt used by Dalmatian mercenaries in the service of the Doge of Venice (the term loosely means Slavonic in that dialect).

* 'scimitar' is an early term for curved sabre that evolved from transliteration and does not actually refer to a distinct sword form, although it often appears in literature as a descriptive term (see Burton, "Book of the Sword" 1884, p.126. Burton allows use of the word, but in the Victorian period its use by writers was commonplace.

TVV's note on early arrival of curved sabres in Europe is also well placed ;with nomadic tribes especially Avars by 7th c. and these were known to the Franks as well with the curved sabre of Charlemagne. The more complete dynamics of the actual evolution of the curved blade is less clear, with Turkestan considered a likely region which may hold early evolution of these.

Another interesting resource for this topic is:
"Polish Sabres: Thier Origins and Evolution" by Jan Ostrowski
In "Art, Arms and Armour" Vol.I 1979-80, Ed. Robert Held, pp.221-237

Best regards,

Radu Transylvanicus 28th December 2004 07:48 PM

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Wolviex: If you look on photo B, the Hussar is wearing a koncerz (as far as the denomination, the lingvistics are up to the sources: Polish koncerz, Hungarian hegyestor Ukrainian/Russian kontchar French estoc de hussard. They measure between 4ft to 5 1/2 ft a fearsome piercing weapon, forget about fencing with it and therefore more of a lance than a sword, the way I see it, definatelly a distinct weapon; it was used in western Europe until mid 17th century while in Eastearn Europe (from Austria to Russia) while we fought a different enemy cavalry, the Turk, they lasted one more century past western Europe (has nothing to do with ,,slow armorial evolution,, like it made me laugh when I heard some saying) ...
As far as Polish royal personalised swords (batorowka, janowka, augustowka, wolvixowka :rolleyes: ) , cheers for the info, see thats where I need your help the most, visual and info wise, until I talked to you and researched after knew nothing about it, so I summon you to blow the dust on those old Krakowian manuscripts you seat on and let the knowledge see the light !
Thank you again for being such a trooper (n. - friend) !
P.S. Your English is fine, you make more sense than most of my coleagues at work, if you excuse yourself one more time, i`m gonna slap you ! :cool: :eek:

Jim : thank you for the kind words and youre welcome abot the linking the ,,Mameluke swords,, article. To be honest I had no ideea it was yours, which only makes it even cooler now looking back. It is rock solid, creme de la creme in the matter, I donnot know of any better on script or on-line, too bad for me, I wouldve been the next one after you to do it ! (by the way, were you a Marine ?).
As far as the schiavonna, innitially yes but let me tell its use was more extensive than you (and I once...) thought. Anyway, just like ,,The South,, is part of US , the Balkans are part of Eastearn Europe ( also by saying by not saying the Balkans when you reffer to schiavonna you avoid giving the impression that the Turks are ,,in,, this one too ...

As far as Scimitar description I think I got closer than anyone (my apologies for this vulgar display of lack of modesty... :D ) when I personally said :
Scimitars ,,a la carte,, are the large, one handed, Oriental, convexly curved and pointed sabers with a front facing pommel on a pistol hilt and four star shaped guard with quillions, fencing wise meant for cutting and slashing but also capable of thrusting to a limited extent. They were the most popular type of saber ever created spaning overfive centuries of life and encompassing half the world where they can be observed, mostly but not only in Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, eastern Europe and northern Africa. Most known types are : kilij, pala, talwar, karabella, saif and shamshirs but many others do exist.

As far as origins in Europe, the times I agree with but to my knowledge the Avaric nations had straight, while it was the Alanic tribes that had curved swords ... wont bet my life on it, though, I am more of Medieval and up type of guy ...

wolviex 28th December 2004 08:25 PM

I need a little more time to gather some informations about "dedicated" sabres, so please be patiente. I wonder - do you want me to continue this thread or Batorowkas, Janowkas ... are worth of starting new thread - what is your feeling about it?

Radu Transylvanicus 28th December 2004 08:25 PM

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Wolviex, why dont we (you mainly... :rolleyes: ) start a new one , its related but another subject !
For those who would like to see it, here is one more hussar Koncerz (estoc) image, look for the long sword tucked into the saddle
The romantic painting depicts a Polish Winged Hussar and was executed by Alexander Orlowsky.

Jens Nordlunde 28th December 2004 08:46 PM

Funny enough, I have meet an Estherhase, at that time living in Denmark, now, I think he is living somewhere else. Some years ago (about thirty) I even saw their castle in Austria. Very interesting thread. They were at the time a very powerfull family.


wolviex 28th December 2004 09:05 PM

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Let me bring a photo of koncerz/estoc too :)

But it isn't thread on development of estocs - is it? :D

PS. I will start a new thread if I'll be able to gather interesting informations. I was even thinking weeks ago, about starting a series of articles about weapons in Poland. But being busy, I realize also, that repeating bookish informations for people who are meanly intersted in Polish weapons is simply art for art's sake (it is becouse this forum gather people who are mainly collectors - and collecting Polish armament today is almost impossible :( ), so I think I'll leave the idea on better times.

Jim McDougall 29th December 2004 03:47 AM


Thank you very much for your kind words on my article on the mameluke sabres. Although I was not a marine, I have good friends who were, one who was a wing commander in a Marine fighter squadron. In a discussion where he was proudly showing the sabre he was given, he asked to know more about the history. I put together some research which evolved into an article, which I was very proud of when it was accepted by "The Marine Corps Gazette" for publication. While they used my text unedited, they used their own photos, and I would have liked to add illustrations of the swords discussed. I am extremely proud of our Marines and all of our armed forces. My son and son in law both serve in the Army presently and I am naturally most proud of them.

On the Schiavona: I dug further into files and find that you are most correct in the Eastern European attribution for these distinctive swords. I found this;
"...if, as seems probable, swords of this type were intoduced into Italy from Hungary, perhaps through Dalmatia, they are clearly very likely to have been called 'Slavonic swords'. We may be reasonably certain therefore of the original meaning of the term 'spada schiavona'".
"A Schiavona Rapier"
Claude Blair
Journal of the Arms & Armour
Society London
Vol.V, #12, Dec. 1967
More interesting is discussion by David Nicolle (Military Illustrated #134, July,1999, p.36, "Last Roman Elite") where he notes this particular term was first seen used in a Dalmatian will of 1391, and it described blades of light slashing form exported to Balkans and hilted locally. The more developed hilt forms most associated with schiavona evolved latter 15th c.

It seems quite a few of the illustrations you are using come from Iaroslav Lebedynsky's "Les Armes Traditionelles de l'Europe Centrale" (Paris, 1996).
It is interesting to note that in this book, Lebedynsky illustrates a schiavona along with a discussion of sabres (p.25).
Your photo #17 appears in this book on p.55.

Re: the note on curved sabres of Alans, Avars, the line drawings you show as photo #1 appears in Lebedynsky p.18, and is captioned from top to bottom;
1.) Alan 2.) Alan , N. Caucusus 3.) Hungarian 4.) Alan-Magyar, Charlemagne's sword received by him as gift.
These would seem to support your theory on Alan swords being curved,
however there is some evidence to curved sabres for Avars as well.

A warrior from Pannonian Croatia, 9th c. is discussed in "Croatia in the Medieval Period, 9th-14th Centuries" by V.Vuksic & D. Fischer, Military Illustrated #61, June 1993, p.14:
"...a large number of the type carried by these warriors have been discovered in the Danube basin. They are about 85 cm long with a wooden handle wrapped in leather. Such a sabre, with its curved blade, was introduced into Europe by the second wave of Avar immigrants settling in the Avar-Slav state at the end of the 7th century".

On the estoc: a very good illustration of the estoc (termed 'tuck' colloquially by Western European armies) appears being carried under the right leg under the saddle in "The Polish Rider" , Rembrandts fantastic painting of 1655. It has been later discovered by Professor Zygulski that the subject of the painting was actually a Lithuanian noble (see "Polish Armies:1569-1696" , Osprey, 1987, p.5). Zygulski is also a foremost authority on the fantastic Winged Hussars of Poland who appear in numerous illustrations in this thread. I have always considered the history of these magnificent cavalrymen one of the most interesting in the study of cavalry.

The mention of Eszterhazy's hussar regiment is also fascinating and brings forward the exciting 'panache' so admired by Western European armies.
In Wagner's "Cut & Thrust Weapons" on. p.406, there is a beautiful illustration of an officers sabre of Prince Paul Eszterhazy's hussar regiment of c.1741-1775. I once had an opportunity to acquire an identical example, and still regret not getting it!!! Interesting on these is the string of pearls motif along the back of the knuckleguard.
Jens, were there any swords displayed there in the castle? I would love to see and handle one of these outstanding sabres again!!

Best regards,

Rivkin 29th December 2004 04:32 AM

The thing I wondered about is how much in adoption of Hussar sabre was a polish influence, and how much was a turkish/middle eastern influence. One can made a good case that turks used to constantly face european armies, and it would be as natural for the latter ones to adopt turkish/mameluk weaponry, as to adapt a polish version of originally turkish weaponry.

USMC Mameluk sword is probably not a typical case, but that's the one for which the mameluk roots are unambigious.

P.S. It would be almost certain that russian and caucasian swords would for example be influenced by both western and eastern versions - for each shashka with a gurda or "owka" blade one can find an iranian shamshir.

Radu Transylvanicus 29th December 2004 08:06 AM

Wolviex: My dearest friend, your thoughts dont sound like a plan... I think you should do it and we all should contribute ... I am just so excited to rejoice forces with ones that have similar heritage and interests and I much feel like after that long, darn years of Iron Curtain clichee crap, I want to open the eyes of the rest of the world (and to or own people too) to look no further for the glory and beauty then in own garden; I truely believe anyway that in the next years one amazing eastern Europe will be part of new Renaissance Era and will be a one verry merry EU ... avant-garde just watch !
I think there should be a larger, more aware pan-Eastearn European conscience to better serve our interests and manage our potential ... how about a future new encyclopedic book on the weaponry and the military costume of our part of the world, since its so rich in heritage ...
Well, maybe its time I should wake up now :o
On a side note, I think the world, art, history in general makes a bit too much of the ,,West,, as being the Old continent leaving the rest in shade ...
What can I say : while in the left hand, Mother Europa carried its defensive shield , in the right arm she had plenty of room for an oportunistic glorious sword, right ? ...
Just like Americans say : remember Alamo ! ... we should shout : remember Vienna !!! `cause today, otherwise, Bin Laden might`ve been just as well Belgian and be not so famous :D ...
And let me say : those koncerz you posted are really sweet , the exact ,,a-la-carte,, classical in every detail, perfectly preserved, just like they wouldve dismounted off the classical paintings !

Rivkin: I am not sugesting the Eastern Europe as the ,,ground of transition,, for the modern saber , they are :cool: the makers of the modern saber ! Western Europe was nothing but the ones that adopted a superb, finished and succesfull product ... The proto-type of the modern saber and the inspiration was undoubtely like I mentioned the Turkic scimitars introduced in Europe via invasions.
Myself, I can think of the Turkoman nations as the great-grandfather of it but definatelly they cannot claim the parenthood of modern curved saber ...
If we would write a brief history about the making of this weapon, one could dispense of the Asian prototype theories but cannot avoid in anyway the Hungaro-Polish testimony ...
A somehow off-line paralel can be made with Japanese swords : the proto-types undoubtely were Koreean & Chinese straight swords evolving into what became the katana (nin-to if you preffer...) , should one really wonder how Chinese a Katana or a Wakizashi is ... Can China really claim the nin-to, even though she was the craddle ?[/FONT]

Jim M. : I admire your persuasive nature and help with offering the sources of the ilustrations I used, perfectly right on the very detail, just like you were next to me when I scanned them ! I must`ve had you nervously pulling a few books around and refresh your French until you nailed it, did I :D ?
P.S. Thank you for researching and confirming my notes, I feel more confident now that I have you on my side ( if there is another side anyway ...). As far as the Alanic-Avaric variation, I wouldnt sweat it so much, sometimes things are just way too bloody ancient and arguments are too damn vague... I dont feel like digging here, I`ll rather try to track the exact times when other countries started adopting the modern saber when exactly it crossed borders in Austria (very soon in this one case, anyway) and when in Germany, France, Britain, Scandinavia, Russia, USA and so on ...
Oh, and I want to see that Rembrandt painting otherwise i`ll get no sleep and you are personally responsible !!! And I mean it ! ;)

Radu Transylvanicus 29th December 2004 10:06 AM

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Hey, I found it , I found it !!! REMBRANDT - The Polish Rider ... how splendid ... thank you Jim McDougall ! Here is a close up of the soldier itself with his weapons showing very good : we see the Oriental recurved bow (luk) and arrows (strzala) with sajdak quiver of undeniable Turko-Tartaric origins (I hope Rivkin reads this...) , the Hungaro-Polish szablye on left hip , in his right hand the war-hammer known as nadzaik and tucked in the saddle is the koncerz. He wears a zupan (long inner coat) and a kolpak fur hat...
We can`t blame the man (n. - Rembrandt) for trying, however, a few abnormalities exude, mainly and most important the koncerz (I know he meant to put a darn koncerz not a saber there !) is curved and ha an uncharacteristic monture (I think I am too picky after all)...
Wolviex, how did I do with the Polish names and what do you think about this painting ? I say very nice but not perfect ... szlachty without a mustache, I dont think so :rolleyes: !

wolviex 29th December 2004 01:12 PM

Prof. Zdzislaw Zygulski wrote a lot about it (there was hard discussion between him and western experts which disagreed with him saying it's not Polish rider, but he proved it) so I can search notes about it, to not repeating that what was said before. I read about it long time ago, and I just don't remember, but isn't it rider called Lisowczyk ?. This was light cavalry under the command of colonel Lisowski, which during Polish-Russian war occupied Moscow with Polish army in 1610? - I'll check it.

It's a sabre not koncerz under the leg. I'm, not sure for now if Rembrandt wanted to put it there. Koncerz, as I wrote it earlier, was under left leg.

Radu, your Polish is sehr gut :D. The only problem is the lack of Polish letters. Arrows you can write strzaly because strzala is singular. The saber is szabla not szablye and this war-hammer is nadziak. And I wouldn't be so convinced about mustache - it's a young boy anyway, and I didn't hear about sticked hairs in 17th c. Poland :D

Rivkin 29th December 2004 02:04 PM

hm. Again, I'm not exactly convinced. If it was so much an eastern european weapon, why only very few of them where in fact produced there ? At least the ones I've seen are mostly solingen. Am I wrong on this ?

Concerning chinese/japanese - japanese old straight swords are little bit more different from tachi (katana is a relatively new weapon) than kiliji from a hussar's sabre. In fact there is such thing as late chinese swords, imitating japanese technologies, and yes in this case I'll say without any doubdts that their origin is in Japan.

Radu Transylvanicus 29th December 2004 05:24 PM

Wolviex: A bit of a Tartaric fashioned Pole but definatelly one, as far as mustaches i`ve seen no old illustrations with Polack dudes without one (so is Hungary with the exception of King Matthias Corvinus and the Catholical clerics) regardless it was pandur, pancerny, huszaria, szlachta, hajdouks and so on ... what about Pan Wolodjowsky, shaking his right and left all the time... ? :D

Rivkin: its OK to stake out personal skepticism but how about most logical thing where were the first modern curved sabers (with classical elements) manufactured ? The first Hussars saber produced in the West like anyone would rationally expect was in Austria (probably Styria) after late 16th century, why because Eastearn European hussard brough it up there; probably Wolviex (he works for the National History Museum in Krakow, Poland as assistant-curator ) could tell you likely how made in Solingen the Hungarian-Polish hussar swords were... :) sorry, not the case until much later...
As far as the other geographical extreme, look at the photos 15, 16, 17, where in middle East have you seen before montures like that ? :rolleyes: Are those Ottoman or any Middle Eastearn sabers :D ? I really dont think I need to bring more proof in support ... Curved sabers (scimitar family) where brought five hundred years before Ottoman incursions and the scimitar itself is not an Ottoman invented produvt but the Pala and perhaps the Kilij too were ! Sabers like the Ottoman scimitars were produced in oriental-(ised) Europe massively, specially in the conquered teritories, including Hungary after the lost battle of Mohacs when much ground was under Ottoman rule and thats one related thing but different. They had a great impact and were exactly appreciated by many until late in history and between Berlin and Istanbul sometimes its harder to tell where it begun and where it ended than in case of Japan of course (a one minded, self sufficient, closed to foreigners, separated island would have its track better printed, no doubt)...
Its really not a shallow theory but a fact ... and there werent only a few but tons of them produced, mass production enough to equip armies, just probably you havent got chance to see them, I did ...

Rivkin 30th December 2004 01:19 AM

I'm not trying to prove that eastern european or polish sabre was not a precursor to a modern sabre, but I believe it's much more complicated than this - solingen and passau weapon production technologies, spanish moore influence, turks, mongols and etc. are all involved in this story.

Concerning guards - picture B shows typical muslim guard. Picture 16 - is it a mix of nimcha and karabela :) ? Picture 18 - seen many times on shamshirs.
Picture 17 is unique, but unfortunately this type of guard did not survive (I think ?) in post-Blucher times, and does not appear on all regulation patterns before it. Is it the only thing they did - they invented new guards for old swords ?

Again I would really see something of a common turkish (like in seljuk-mongol-ottoman) origin, and try to understand what are the changes in _blades_ that been made.

P.P.S. I constantly have arguments with caucasians who come with great classification of "foreign" iranian shamshir vs. "authentic" caucasian shashkas with the same idea that it's so hard to say definitely "here is something that have never seen before" - shashka is nothing more than a guard's type...

Jim McDougall 30th December 2004 03:26 AM

As you note, Professor Zygulski wrote, "Rembrandts 'Lisowczyk: A Study of Costume and Weapons" which appeared in the "Bulletin du Musee National de Varsovie", VI, 1965, #2,3, p.43-67, as is footnoted in the outstanding article he wrote ; "The Winged Hussars of Poland" (Arms and Armor Annual, ed. Robert Held, 1973, pp.90-103).

In "Polish Armies:1569-1696" (1) by Richard Brzezinski, Osprey, 1987, it is noted on p.5 that Rembrandts famed "Polish Rider" has often been 'mislabeled' as an officer of 'Lisowski cossacks', noting that Chroscicki (Ars Auro Prior, Warsaw, 1981) has finally identified it as a portrait of a Lithuanian nobleman, Martin Alexander Oginski. He had the portrait painted in 1655 while studying in the Netherlands.

While this sounds like the final word on the actual identity of the subject, there is still the usual debate and speculation, but the painting is most definitely Rembrandts work.
In "Rembrandts Eyes" (Simon Schama, N.Y. 1999) notes on p.599;
"...only a gentleman of the horse would have known how to sit on the mount, Polish style, not erect but leaning forward, the right hand curled backward to grasp the head of the 'buzdygan', the battle mace, left hand on the reins".

In looking again at the painting I see that the larger sword under the riders right leg is not an estoc but a large sabre (pallasche?),and the hilt of the light sabre is visible worn on his left side. In some illustrations of hussars they are seen with the estoc under the left leg.The Islamic forces had a form of estoc or straight rapier termed 'mec', but I am not clear on if they were saddle mounted like the Eastern European estocs or carried differently. In the Sudan, in an illustration which I will have to relocate, a rider on horseback is seen wearing an Ottoman hilt sabre, and under his left leg is mounted a kaskara in the same manner as the estocs of Eastern Europe.

Actually I recognized Lebedynsky's work immediately and simply went to the volume I had seen them in. This was one of the reasons I mentioned properly crediting the illustrations. In a discussion with him a number of years ago I asked about using one of his illustrations. He indicated he had no problem with using his illustration (referring of course to in an article) as long as it was properly credited. While this is an informal discussion forum, it is still subject to copyright legality and more than anything a matter of courtesy to credit published material. As I noted also, it is helpful to readers to have references for furthering thier own research, which is why I usually provide them with comments or notes.
You've done excellent work in this presentation! and I think brought forth an outstanding topic which has important influence on the study of the development of many ethnographic swords, not just regimental military forms.
Please keep up the good work!!!!

All best regards,

wolviex 31st December 2004 09:12 AM

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Dear Friends!
My Internet is crashed, I'm completly out of free time, so (Radu!) please forgive me my absence. In short I'll try to give you all some answers.

Jim: thank you for your help about Rembrand's Polish rider. With my bookshelf packed because of removal, and because of Christmas time in Poland, it's hard to get for me any book. This isn't Lisowczyk, that's for sure, cause when this painting was made (1655 y.) this formation was disbanded from 20 years. But Lisowczyk riders looks very similiar, because it's light cavalryman anyway. The first western articles about this painting claimed that it isn't Polish rider but Christian knight and glorifications of knighthood. You're right, and prof. Zygulski proved it, this man is sitting on horse in Polish mannere, so there is no doubt (except for armament and other things) this is Polish rider. There is no doubt this was painted on real, living model of Polish nobleman. There is no sign of so many Polish armament amongst other sumptous accesorries in Rembrand's property-room, so probably this man carried it with himself. It's Oginski's portrait? - very interesting, I'll check it, because it's not the first try of identify this man. He was Rembrand's son, then someone different, now it's Oginski - we'll see :)

Radu: mustaches where important but not always, and I would call it stereotype! Fashion in Poland was changing rapidly. The Polish nobleman (szlachcic) without mustaches is shaven on western fashion. It was common that noblemen returning from west, east or where ever, were bringing new fashion styles with them - AND SOMETIMES THEY WERE RETURNING WITHOUT MUSTACHES, SHOCKING EVERY RESPECTABLE NOBLEMAN :D

Rivkin: uhh ohh, you're hardly to convince. I'll make desperate attempt to convince you.
You're absolutly right about similarity of Polish sabres from 16th century to eastern ones. You're also right it's not so easy to say "because this was that and that" and the modern sabre is pure Polish influence. But...

1. Everything lays in details. Poland in 16 and 17th century was a country of many crossing influences. Polish sabre is nothing more but product resultant of western and eastern edged weapons. So the Hungarian-Polish sabres are similiar to persian sword, thumbring were much earlier made with valonese swords, knuckleguard isn't Polish invention too, it was known many, many years earlier. But all of this crossed in Poland, and here was improved. The handle was inclined, on eastern and western weapons it was straight. The blade was curved delicate not strong like in Turkish sabres, the knuckleguard was curved on specific angle. This all was Polish improvement. The changes in shapes, styles - notice how many new styles of sabres were introduced in Poland only during 17th century! In eastern world from centuries we have got the same forms, the same shapes. Shamshir looked in 16th century similiar to that from 18th century in general. How something so permament could rapidly at the end of 17th century inspire whole Europe, then World?

2. Poland in 17th century was one of the most important countries, not only in eastern-european politics, it's obvious, just look at historical map, and realize how huge this country was in 16 and 17th cent.! Importance of Poland depended also in trade. Not only. Take a look at Polish fashion influences, Swedish noblemen were wearing on Polish mannere! Russians were speaking in Polish in high societies, etc. And the Fashion is not only clothes but in those times weaponry too!

3. "Modern sabre" was introduced to Europe at the end of 17th and beginning of 18th century. It becames rapidly popular weapon, which push out rapiers, swords to the background. Why then? Wasn't it the same time, where perfect weapon - Polish Hussar sabre was introduced (here is more about this weapon ) and when great Polish victory at Vienna occured? It's obvious that winner's weapon is much more desired!

It not exclude influence of east, but generally indicated great role of eastern Europe on rapidly development of "modern" sabres in Europe!
4. Blades for Polish sabres were made not only in Solingen but also in Passau, Genoa, they were imported from Persia etc., but in Poland they're produced too. But all of them were made on special orders, that's why blades from genoa visible on Hungurian-Polish sabres appears only on Polish armament in 16/17th century, not in whole Europe. Anyway for me it's natural, if someone produce great stuff I'll buy it, no matter it's Polish, German or Persian.

5. If you're still not convinced I have last argument which is not substantial argument. Influence of Polish sabre on develompent of European sabre is so called historical true. It was affirmed many years ago, before the war. There is even an interesting diagram of development and mutually influences of Western, Eastern and Polish sabres, made by our expert Stanislaw Meyer (available below!) where you can clearly see how it happened. Even if you find some errors (i.e. in dating) I think generally it's ok. Anyway it's quoting even today by authorities, and no one has negate this, so it's so called historical true.
If you're still not convinced because you've different theory of development of modern sabres, share it with us. It's your turn to, maybe, change the history! :)

Best regards and HAPPY NEW YEAR

Bigger diagram is here

Rivkin 31st December 2004 02:22 PM


Thank you very much ! I should probably clarify myself - I've always been convinced that the modern sabre is a polish influence :). Reading my previous posts, may be I was too agressive towards Radu's justification of this idea, but I'm not against the idea as it is.

What I don't agree with is that european curved swords is a product of _only_ polish/eastern european influence, and the direct eastern influence had no place in it. If I'm wrong, than I'm sorry.

Radu Transylvanicus 31st December 2004 06:32 PM

Rivkin, And maybe I shouldve brought in the theory more about the ,,deli and sipahi,, influence and about ,,kurda,, or hungarian saber made under Ottoman rule, very much like the Arabian saif and so on, it wasnt in the times of migratory invasions when Orient influenced Europe in swords ...

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