Join Date: Apr 2005
A colleague at the EEWRS meeting kindly lent me the printed material which Mr. Tirri passed out in support of his proposed North African attribution to this type of sword shortly after it took place. It has been a while but as I recall, Tirri's arguments were based upon 2 points: a formal relationship between the Black Sea yatagan and the flyssa (he argued that one was derived from the other, I think it was that the yatagan came from the flyssa), failing to note that both are just provincial developments off the yataghan which likely occurred coevally, one in North Africa and the other in the Transcaucasus. Secondly, he compared the decorative characteristics which generally appear on flyssas with those on a particular Black Sea yatagan in his possession-- the only one I've ever seen with such designs-- it almost certainly was decorated in North Africa. This was a more defensible point that his first, however his conclusion was marred by the fact that he could produce but a single example in support of it. As Mark says however, the range of the Ottoman military was considerable; this type of sword could easily have found its way from Eastern Anatolia to the African Provinces. In any case, Tirri deserves credit for his research as well as for putting forth an original thesis.
Ariel, regarding your observations above:
"I handled quite a lot of them. The point is very, very thin, almost needle-like and I saw several with bent points.
The forked pommels break easily (see the original picture in this thread). Also, the horns protrude so much that wrist bending is almost impossible: worse than tulwars with oversized dish pommels. As a former fencer (foil and saber), I could not wield it with ease no matter what kind of grip I used. On the other hand, since these swords were primarily "pirate" type weapons (that's what Lazes did on top of smuggling) they were sure scary! As a psychological warfare these swords were great but technologically they were less than adequate."
In the simplest terms, you are comparing apples and oranges. If, as you say, your practical experience with edged weapons is limited to fencing-- a sport so highly conventionalized that any beginner knows it is remote even from the use of rapier and smallsword whence it derives, and one designed for use with very specific equipment NOT intended for cutting-- then any pronouncement you make on the use of weapons other than the foil or saber, i.e. the Black Sea yatagan, the tulwar, or for that matter anything designed for use with the drawcut is, regretably, invalid.
Relative rigidity in the wrist was key to the effective use of these weapons, which is why their pommels were prominent in one way or another. The stroke was accomplished primarily with the shoulder and elbow in a quick drawing motion across the body-- Stone mentions this under his entry on shamshirs, pg. 550. Having done much of his research in situ over a century ago, Stone was fortunate enough to witness many of these weapons in actual use-- and while those days have passed, we can benefit from his observations as well as those of others who were able to do so. I often wonder why students and collectors so rarely do.
As far as broken ears and bent tips, who can say whether these come from use or misuse over time? Concrete, little boys, adults after one too many beers, and power tools are the recognized nemeses of old swords, you know.
Rivkin-- Yes, I was referring to the burka, a singularly impermeable and exceptionally warm, if generally odiferous, garment.