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Old 29th July 2008, 11:21 AM   #10
Marc's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Madrid / Barcelona
Posts: 258

Just to add some thoughts to the discussion…

If by “the war sword of Ferdinand the Catholic” David Nicolle means either the so-called (sometimes) “Ferdinand’s sword” in the Real Armería:

or the sword from his tomb that stays now in Granada:

then, beyond some decorative aspects, I don’t really see any relationship with the so-called sword of Boabdil in Madrid’s Army museum:

which is a “typical” exemplar of the courtly/luxury Hispano-Moresque sword of Nasrid style from the 14th-15th c, of which some exemplars (less than a dozen, I think) are still extant. I seems quite clear that from this date afterwards this was the style associated with what a “jineta” sword was, specially in the Christian ambit, but it is not so clear that this was the kind of sword that the Zenetes brought with them. We know the Zenetes, in their 13th c. invasions of the Iberian Peninsula, bring with them the light cavalry tactics that will heavily influence the Christian Spanish way of fighting on horseback, including many changes of equipment. But the period descriptions of their swords are not clear enough to make us able to recognize a Zenete/Jineta sword by itself, specially regarding their morphological features, as many of the accounts are not only vague but also centred in the description of how rich and decorated some of them were, obviating the characteristics of those swords that were not destined to the rich and powerful.

On the other hand, in the 13th c. the Zenetes had already been Islamized for a long time, as they had contacts with the first Umayyad invading waves that in the 7th century swept North Africa from East to West, and in fact they helped them to first conquer Iberia as shock troops, at that time. Well, to make a long story short, what I try to point out is that the elite ruling classes in Muslim Spain, those who brought the strongest “foreign” influences in art, religion, society, law, technology, etc. were Umayyad Arabs. And the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arab swords had straight, double-edged blades, with short, curved quillions (even “D” shaped guards, where the blade emerges from the straight side and the grip from the curved one) of Persian/Sassanid influence (see, for example, HOYLAND, R. G. and GILMOUR, B. “Medieval Islamic Swords and Swordmaking. Kindi’s treatise ‘On Swords and their Kinds’ ”, Ed. By E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2006; ALEXANDER, “Swords and sabers during the Early Islamic Period”, Gladius XXI, 2001, pp. 193-220 or ZAKY “Introduction to the study of Islamic Arms and Armour”, Gladius I, 1961, pp. 17-30). And in Al-Andalus there was no take-over by the Central Asian Turcoman tribes with their curved swords (among other things), but instead there was a certain fondness by the old Arab traditions. And on top of that, and most importantly, there are examples of straight double edged swords with short and/or curved quillions from the 9th (CANTÓ GARCÍA, “Una espada de época Omeya del siglo IX D.C”, Gladius XXI, 2001, pp. 183-192) and 12th (NICOLLE, “Two swords from the foundation of Gibraltar”, Gladius XXII, 2002, pp. 147-200) centuries in the territories of Muslim Spain. The picture that seems to emerge to all this, is that the late Nasrid swords are a development of these earlier double-edged swords which in turn are the inheritors of the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arab swords, and that their dropping quillions seem to owe more to the Persian/Sassanid typologies than to any European influence. As an additional twist to the question, those early Arab swords are, after all, what the Qajar “revival” swords tried to imitate, if I’m not mistaken, with a tendency to also feature the kind of dropping quillions that we also find in Qattaras from Oman and Yemen.

In short, that although the mutual influences between Hispanic Muslims and Christians is an absolutely undeniable reality for as long as they shared the territory, I don’t think that the dropping quillions of the late Nasrid luxury swords are a consequence of it, but a development of the old pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabic sword typologies.
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