Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Nothern Mexico
As Marc rightly pointed out before, the swords with down curved quillons have an old Islamic provenance, and I quote:
"The down-turned quillons found on some medieval weapons and in medieval pictorial sources are generally agreed to be of eastern origin or at least inspiration. The Islamic, Mediterranean and Iberian archaeological evidence ranges from quillons which are both substantial and down-turned, to those which are so truncated and rudimentary that they merely reflect this fashion (figures 28-30, 33, 35, 38-44 & 46-51) They are relatively rare in early medieval western Europe but do appear in Mozarab manuscript illustrations from the Iberian peninsula in the 10th and 11th centuries. As such they probably reflected Islamic Andalusian rather than Christian northern Spanish military styles, particularly as they are mostly on swords whose scabbards are carried on baldrics rather than sword-belts. In these manuscripts, however, the down-turned quillons are often associated with the clover-leaf or trilobate pommel rather than the spherical pommel of the Gibraltar swords 63 (figure 65). Early western Mediterranean examples of genuinely down-turned quillons include the probably western Islamic sword from the Agay shipwreck (figure 39), now considered to date from the 11th or 12th centuries 64, and a fragmentary sword from the region of Seville (figure 40)." David Nicolle, “Two Swords from the Foundation of Gibraltar”, Gladius, Vol. XXII, 2002, pp.178-180.
This is confirmed in the study by Rafael Carmona Ávila, “Un Arriaz Broncíneo Decorado, de Espada de Época Omeya Andalusí, Hallado en el Occidente del Alfoz de Madinat Qurtuba (Cordoba), Gladius, Vol. XXVII, 2007, p.99, who adds that only in the 13th Century this type of quillons are associated with Christian swords in the Iberic Peninsula, but with the variance of beign more long and narrow. He offers a long list of illustrations from this period as a proof.
Interestingly enough, the downcurved quillons had more than a fashion. It was a practical need, derived from an adapted style of fencing:
“It seems to have been from the Sassanian Persians that Muslim Arab swordsmen learned what later became known in Europe as the ‘Italian Grip,’ though this may actually have first been developed in early medieval India. It involved placing the index finger of the sword hand over the quillons, thus bringing the centre of gravity closer to the point of percussion….Light cavalry combat a la jinete was again associated with what western European came to know as the Italian Grip and, according to some scholars, with curved quillons 10 .” (the bold is mine) David Nicolle, Idem. p.158.
From this, we see two elements: the downcurved quillons are first systematically (but not exclusively) used in the Islamic context, and second, the Italian grip (which is not “Italian”) was first used in the same context. I will come to this point later. I don’t pretend that the downcurved quillons were “discovered” or “invented” in any place in particular, though all points to the east. What I expose is the systematic use of this type of quillons by certain cultures, based on practical needs, rather than fashion. About the Sassanian grip which, by the way, is associated with the development of the ricasso, please see Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer, “From Medieval Sword to Renaissance Rapier”, Gladius, Vol.II, 1963, pp-30, 31.