Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Nothern Mexico
My hypotheses: the original Zenete-Jineta was not the type of dressing sword used by the Nasrid nobility. This last had a blade more in accord with the traditional muslim broadsword, except for the hilt, which was influenced by the Zenete but highly ornamented, and not capable to support the “Italian grip”, since the altered form of the quillons did not allow it: they were literally closing over the blade. It is a common feature of the ceremonial swords to imitate old forms and use extreme ornamentation, since they gave to their owners the prestige of tradition and power. Fighting swords were another matter.
The Christians were influenced by this last type of sword, but with modified quillons and an incipient development of the ring guards, probably a development from the grip and quillons of the fighting jineta swords. It is not casual that the first ring guards, which evolved to the “crab claw”, appeared for the first time in the Iberic Peninsula, on the Christian Spanish and Portuguese swords (please see the Black Swords or “Colhona” used by the Portuguese). It must remembered that also Portugal was part of the Muslim domain and that to the 15th Century, even already independent, was influenced by the military traditions from the rest of the Peninsula.
The rapier evolved, at least in part, from this original fighting jineta sword. The cited study from Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer points in this direction.
The nimcha sword type of quillons does not necessarily owe to any European tradition. The cultural elements behind them were already in North Africa long time ago. In the Catálogo de la Real Amería de Madrid (the catalog of the royal armory of Madrid), we find a suggestive description of four sabres taken from the Spanish Expedition to Oran in 1732 (free translation): “Four Moorish sabers owned by the Bey of Oran. The first one with wood hilt and a cap of engraved silver; guard, quillon and guard rings ended in pythons, all this decorated. The second one has a hilt of horn with plaques of chiseled silver, guard with a quillon and ring guards made of steel. The other two have their hilts covered with shell, nacre and plaques of chiseled silver, guard, quillon and guard ring made of engraved metal. ” Catálogo de la Real Armería, edited by Aguado, Madrid, 1854. p.61. It must be noted thay they are sabres, had a guard (probably a knuckleguard) and only one quillon, since the word “gavilán” in spanish denotes a single quillon. Does this rings something? Maybe a nimcha?.
On the other side, just saying that the jineta or the nimcha are “likely” or “suggestedly” a product of influences from Italy or France, is patently a subjective judgment, as the words imply. And sometimes we found a wide abuse of this words, if not supported by clear facts. The first fact we have to take in consideration is that there are no European hilts in the 13th Century resembling those of the jineta sword. The second fact is that the crab-claw type of guards appear until 15th Century in the Iberic Peninsula (see Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer), and their only visible antecedent is the fighting jineta sword. Again, see the Castilian and Portuguese swords from this period.
And speaking of the possible diffusion into Europe, especially Italy, from this type of hilts, the berbers did have contact with Europe, contrary to what has been said. Europe did not came to North Africa, but the berbers went to Europe in this period. Just to mention some facts: Aghlabid Berbers conquered Sicily, North African Muslims colonized Bari, Taranto and Apulia in the 9th Century and in the 10th Century they fought in Southern France as allies in local Christian quarrels. Bishop Athanasius recruited Islamic troops and Muslims settled in the province of Lucania. David Nicolle & Angus McBride, The Moors. The Islamic West 7th-15th Centuries AD, Osprey Military, Col. Men-at-Arms, No.348. 2001, UK, p.16. And the Zenetes were a military contingent in all this armies. Just search in the history of the Berber emirates and dynasties and you will find.