EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
More on the 'karabela':
From: "Polish Sabres:Their Origins and Evolution", Jan Ostroski, in
"Art , Arms & Armour" ed. Robert Held, 1979, pp.220-237.
The hilt form known as karabela, was also widely known as 'the Polish Sabre'.
"...the oldest available karabelas now in Poland are known to have been captured at Vienna in 1683, and hence originated in Turkey, probably under Persian influence, at the beginning of the 17th century. Within a short time it became more popular in Poland than it had ever been in Turkey or Hungary."
In "The Arms and Armour of Arabia", Robert Elgood, 1994, p.15, a sword found in the suqs of Riyadh described as follows, "...the hilt is like the karabella in form with silver sheet or other netal partly covering the grip made of wood or horn. The Arab traders say these are acquired in the Yemen. **
** as noted
The so called karabela hilt became popular in Persia in the early 17th century and Shah Abbas I can be seen wearing a sword with this hilt in miniature paintings. Because of the close trade and political links between Persia and Poland, which were in alliance against the Ottomans, and the adaption of Persian culture at court, the sword became extremely popular in Poland".
Elgood further notes that in 1623 Shah Abbas had occupied Baghdad and in taking control of areas including the city of Karbala, suggesting that the name for the sword hilt was in memory of that campaign.He also cites Nadolski ('Polish Side Arms') who states that there was considerable export of these type swords in later 17th early 18th c. entering the Persian Gulf trade, with many of course arriving in Arabia.
Also discussed are these shorter combat swords 'nim sha' which indeed were ideal for maritime use and well known in the Arab trade world. I know that many of these have the 'karabela' type hilt form and are wire wrapped at the neck of the hilt as are Persian shamshirs. In Arabia, Persian swords and blades are held in the highest esteem.
While these references illustrate the probable sources of the karabela style hilts in Arabia, there is still the question of the cylindrical or guardless Omani long kattara and its origins. The examples of leather covered guardless swords posted do seem to reflect in degree a certain recognition of the Caucasian shashka, but really it seems again, a tenous connection and likely a simple hilt solution to the use of the sabre blades which came not only from the Caucusus but other European sources as well. These kinds of swords with sabre blades are well known with Bedouin tribesmen even into the Sinai.
The simple open hilt Omani 'long kattara' seems likely also a product of simplistic hilting of these longer trade blades to be used as described with the buckler. The more decorative and silver mounted versions were likely of course for prominant and status conscious Omani merchants and officials.
All the best,