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Old 29th July 2019, 12:18 PM   #1
Kubur
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Default Definition of a Greek yataghan?

Dear All,

I wasn't sure to open this thread and then today I decided that it might be useful for collectors.

According to what I read previously on this forum a Greek yataghan is a silver dressed yataghan with niello work... This statment is mainly a copy and paste of assumptions from dealers and it is not supported by litterature. This idea behind is mainly supported by the fact that niello work should be connected to Orthodox Christians (from Greece to Russia). Of course this idea is a nonsense, first because Muslims, Christians and non-Muslim were doing niello work such as the Jews in Morocco or Yemen. Second because this niello art work found his origins in the Byzantine empire and of course the Ottoman (Turkish) unherited of this technique and the skilled craftmen in the empire.

1/ As I explained previously using Elgood.
There is no Greek yataghan as such.
In his chapter on yataghans - and in fact in his whole book - Elgood shows very clearly that Greek arms and armour were Ottoman arms made in the Balkans, mainly Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia... plus of course Turkey.
Greeks used Ottoman weapons. It's the reason why in his chapter on Greek yataghan Elgood shows many kind of yataghans from the classic walrus ivory ones to the silver dressed. Choosing only one silver dressed yataghan pictured by Elgood is not accurate to demonstrate something. The forum members can have a look at this chapter to see the variety of yataghans depicted.

2/ Nevertheless sometimes you can find some proper Greek yataghans as the ones pictured in this thread.
For me a Greek yataghan is a yataghan produced for a Greek customer (sometimes done by Greek craftmen but not always).
You can see here that the niello work is different from the Turkish niello work as such as the iconography: with characters, churches...


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Old 29th July 2019, 12:22 PM   #2
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Of course some yataghans are directly connected to Greek styles and regional traditions such as Epirus and Crete. And these yataghans are clearly Greeks.
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Old 29th July 2019, 01:32 PM   #3
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The first yatagan has an inscription in the Slavic language - Serbian or Bulgarian Approximately "this knife worked hard".

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Old 29th July 2019, 01:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren
The first yatagan has an inscription in the Slavic language - Serbian or Bulgarian Approximately "this knife worked hard".


Corrected thank you!
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Old 29th July 2019, 04:39 PM   #5
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Kubur,
Nobody in his right mind would deny that yataghan is an inherently Ottoman weapon. You are creating a straw man and continue to beat it mercilessly.

However, the Empire was vast and included many ethnic and tribal groups that utilized their own ideas of construction and/or decoration ( see Zeibek yataghans with T-like pommel and integral bolster, North African ones with karabela-like handle, smooth round corals from Foca or Bulgarian Karakulaks). Hope you might agree with that.

Furthermore, nobody is insisting on purely Christian use of niello. The only point I have introduced here is the statement of Asia Eutykh ( a Circassian master) that this technique was introduced to the Caucasus by Greek masters. That is entirely possible, because Circassia was a semi-vassal of the Crimean Khanate with its major Greek colonies and armourers that supplied Circassia with weapons and with the abundance of Greek colonies all over the North-Eastern shore of Black Sea.

You yourself show " Greek yataghan". I would cautiously suggest that where is one, there must have been more:-)

With all due respect, few people would disagree that yataghans with slender blades, silver handle with small ears , deeply crenellated silver plates at ricasso and profuse niello decorations likely belong to Crete. Similarly, there is a strong suspicion that yataghans with thin and rounded ears were actually made ( you can call it decorated) in Greece. After all, if Greeks could develop their own style of sabers from Epirus, they must have had people proficient in (at least) making handles for their bladed weapons.

While there is no information on blade manufacture in Greece proper, the decorative workshops and individual masters were still present there. But insisting on the primacy of the blade as a defining factor would make all yataghans with Balkan-made blades (traded all over the Empire including Anatolia), Balkan, but not Turkish, weapons. And that would be just silly.

Ms. Gozde Yasar in her book about yataghans defined each and every example as " Ottoman", without any attempt to pinpoint the exact origin of each. Whereas she is correct from the geopolitical point of view, this approach negates the multiethnicity of their origins.

And, as a final point: where is the evidence that yataghan was truly invented by the Ottoman Anatolian Turks? Just do not bring Yataghan Baba as a proof, please. There are no existing examples before those of Bayazet or Suleiman,
but soon thereafter there was a sudden profusion of yataghans all over. Don't you think that this strongly suggest adoption of yataghans from somewhere else? Are yataghans truly Turkish?
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Old 29th July 2019, 04:54 PM   #6
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My view on defining the origin of weapons from the Balkans prior to the the formation of nation states in the 19th century is a little different - I base it on geographical areas. We have very little information on who the maker and the owner was. We have actual information on the full name and the place where those people lived in probably 0.1% of the time. The other 99.9% we either have no info or just a first name, such as Hassan, Ahmed, Ibrahim, etc.

What we do have is differences in the style of the hilt, the bolster, the scabbard and sometimes even the blade, based on regional preferences, evidenced in general form, as well as in decoration motives and technique used. We can use these decoration motives to determine the origin of pretty much any ethnographic items, from carpets to yataghans. This is augmented by period images, ideally photographs and the appearance of items in a specific geographic context: for example concentration of similar items in museum collections - what one would find in Zagreb is different from what one would find in Athens.

Since we are not dealing with regulation patterns, the lines would not be 100% clear, but we can still look at a yataghan and based on its features place it within a Geographic region as the place where it was made. So to me, a Greek yataghan is one made in what historically has been referred to Greece, and the ethnic origin of the smith, the hilt maker or the wearer does not change that.
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Old 29th July 2019, 05:24 PM   #7
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Couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Mr. Sergey Samgin from Russia and myself were schmoozing over the Internet about the origins of Yataghan. As a result of it, we published a paper in the " Waffen-und Kostumkunde:#1, 2016.
Here is the PDF.

This is just a hypothesis, but at least it seems to agree with actual objects and timing.

Perhaps, it can add some fuel to the flame of our collective discussions about the subject. Sorry for the quality of illustrations but that's the scanner I have access to :-(((((
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File Type: pdf Genegis of yataghan.pdf (2.15 MB, 76 views)
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Old 29th July 2019, 06:32 PM   #8
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Ariel, thanks for adding a copy of your finely researched article to the archives of the Forum. Nice work in developing an hypothesis for others to test, and the evidence you cite seems strongly suggestive of a Crimean origin for the yataghan and the geopolitical forces promoting its diffusion into the Ottoman Empire.
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Old 29th July 2019, 09:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
And, as a final point: where is the evidence that yataghan was truly invented by the Ottoman Anatolian Turks? Are yataghans truly Turkish?


I totally agree with your last point. Who said that yataghans were invented by Turks? In fact I was discussing the attribution to Greeks of some yataghans that might have been Turkish in fact.

To me yataghans were originally from the Balkans, despite - as Marius wrote - that we don't have any evidence of continuity since the Bronze Age. But we don't have either the evidence of the opposite. The absence of clues is not an evidence....

Cherry on top your article is very convincing or at least disturbing... But we all know that a lot of things came from the East... so why not...

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Old 30th July 2019, 05:59 AM   #10
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The only problem with the “Balkan” theory is the complete absence of Yataghans or their depictions prior to the Ottoman invasion of that area.
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Old 30th July 2019, 06:43 AM   #11
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In your first posting you make an excellent point Kubur. Couldn't agree more.

Yes, yatagans with their recurved blades are strikingly similar to the ancirnt Greek kopis or to the Iberian falcata. So one might assume they are derived or somehow evolved from them. However, between the emergence and use of Kopis and the emergence and use of yatagans more than 1000 (one thousand - more exactly about 1400) years have passed without any, historical evidence that the recurved blades were used (not even in Greece).

Then, after about 1400 of complete absence, the recurved blades emerged again with the Ottomans.

So it appears more likely that the Ottomans simply reinvented the recurved blade, rather than that they adapted or even were inspired by some long forgoten Greek weapon.

On the other hand, it is not completely unfathomable the following scenario:

Turkish swordsmith Yatagan Baba is working by his forge on a new shamshir blade when a new customer comes with an old corroded blade he dug out in his garden. He presents the blade to the swordsmith and asks him if he can do one like this for him. Yatagan Baba takes the old blade and observes it with curiosity. It is nothing like he has seen before. A strange shape with an even stranger curvature and the edge on the wrong side. Unknowing to him, he was holding an ancient Greek kopis (as the whole Mediteranean coast of Turkey was formerly a Greek colony). Immediately he agrees to make a similar blade curious himself as how does it handle. When ready, the new blade proves to be a remarkable weapon. More easy to handle than any shamshir and much more versatile, capable of delivering both hacking and stabbing blows. So no wonder the new shaped blade of Yatagan Baba becomes quickly very popular and so the yatagan was born.

The truth we will most likely never know, but we can only speculate and even argue about it...

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Old 30th July 2019, 12:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel

Ms. Gozde Yasar in her book about yataghans defined each and every example as " Ottoman", without any attempt to pinpoint the exact origin of each. Whereas she is correct from the geopolitical point of view, this approach negates the multiethnicity of their origins.

And, as a final point: where is the evidence that yataghan was truly invented by the Ottoman Anatolian Turks?


1. On contrary. The fact that Ms.Gozde Yasar defines every example as "Ottoman" does not negate the multiethnicity of their origin but asserts it. Moreover, it clearly hints to the futility of trying to precisely geographically locate a particular blade since both skills and styles knew no borders within the empire. Last but not least, let us not forget that until 1922 the whole Southern Turkey was inhabited by a numerous Greek minority so it wouldn't be surprising if some Turkish swordsmiths would have produced "Greek" style yatagans for their Greek customers.

2. Is there any single piece of evidence that the yatagan, or a yatagan type of sword was used anywhere else before it appeared with the Ottomans?
If not, then I take the fact that the oldest historical examples of yatagans are Ottoman Turkish, as good enough evinence that the Ottoman Turks invented the yatagan (whether or not inspired by the ancient Greek kopis).

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Old 30th July 2019, 06:53 PM   #13
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Ariel,

Where do you think the recurved blades of some Nair swords (what Rawson called the "S. Indian flamboyant swords") fit into the overall picture of yataghan, and also the Indian sossun pata which is quite like a yataghan. Some of the Nair examples would seem to predate your time frame for the development of the yataghan in the Crimea area. I'm not sure when the sossun pata appeared, but it was probably during the Moghul period. Are we looking at a common source or parallel development for these swords?

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Old 31st July 2019, 09:04 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Couple of years ago, a friend of mine, Mr. Sergey Samgin from Russia and myself were schmoozing over the Internet about the origins of Yataghan. As a result of it, we published a paper in the " Waffen-und Kostumkunde:#1, 2016.
Here is the PDF.

This is just a hypothesis, but at least it seems to agree with actual objects and timing.

Perhaps, it can add some fuel to the flame of our collective discussions about the subject. Sorry for the quality of illustrations but that's the scanner I have access to :-(((((


Very well written article and a very interesting hypothesis! Thank you for the article!

It answers brilliantly to my second question from my previous comment.
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Old 31st July 2019, 11:56 PM   #15
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It is an interesting and complicated question. My guess it is not either/or but a combination of both .

Simplifying things a bit, one can say that all sword blades can be put into four different boxes: straight, curved, recurved and wavy. Thus, it would probably be inevitable that totally separate societies might produce identical forms without any actual knowledge of the each other’s existence: purely parallel development.
My guess is that the Ancient Greek kopis and Indian Nair swords fall into this category. Another similar but later example would be Central European Bauernwehr ( Kord) and Afghani Khyber knife.

However, Indo-Muslim Sossun Pata may indeed stem from the Ottoman yataghan. I have already shown here an almost certainly original “ marriage” of a Tulwar handle and a genuine Ottoman yataghan blade. Turkish janissaries served as mercenaries in Indian armies. Deccan sailaba is another example: Some Deccan sultanate were established and led by the emigrating Turks.

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Old 10th August 2019, 04:18 AM   #16
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Kubur,
Here a yataghan ( bichaq) produced for a Greek customer in Anatolia ( Pergamos).
Taken from e-bay, auction ended.
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Old 10th August 2019, 07:21 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Kubur,
Here a yataghan ( bichaq) produced for a Greek customer in Anatolia ( Pergamos).
Taken from e-bay, auction ended.

Ariel, I don’t understand why you of all people who is a quasi-expert in these matters would call this knife a “yatagan”. I know people use the name because of the handle resemblance and to get more hits on eBay but you and people here should not call this “knife”(bichaq) a yatagan. It has nothing to do with it. Yes it’s Greek but not a Yatagan.
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Old 10th August 2019, 08:31 AM   #18
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What in particular makes you certain that this dagger has nothing to do with a family of Yataghans?
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Old 10th August 2019, 09:35 AM   #19
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The Balkan machaira/Greek kopis was carried (and presumably some were lost in battle) by Alexander thru Anatolia, Persia, Afghanistan, the 'Hindu kush', thru the Himalayas and through India, and back though the northern gulf coast, and after his death into Egypt and beyond. Considering the active well used trading routes of the time, the design as well as the weapons themselves could easily travel to north africa and thru India to SE asia. 'Parallel evolution' can easily be cultural appropriation. Hey, this vase is cool, can you make me a big knife like that greek fellow on my wine jug? We tend to forget even the Romans, as well as the greeks traded with India and beyond, for silks and spices, and it was a two way system connecting from the bronze age up till the modern age, without gaps.
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Old 10th August 2019, 09:43 AM   #20
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p.s.- my Balkan/Romanian 'greek' shepherds knife or karakulak yat, 24 in. blade, small ears, integral bolster.
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Old 10th August 2019, 10:27 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sfenoid13
Ariel, I don’t understand why you of all people who is a quasi-expert in these matters would call this knife a “yatagan”. I know people use the name because of the handle resemblance and to get more hits on eBay but you and people here should not call this “knife”(bichaq) a yatagan. It has nothing to do with it. Yes it’s Greek but not a Yatagan.


I think Arial wrote bichaq.

Ariel you got my idea, even if you probably don't share it.

This is a good example of Greek weapon, a good Christian orthodox dagger with typical niello and engravings i don't even speak of the date nor the inscription on the blade...

I think this dagger has a nice yataghan handle

I saw some daggers with yataganish blades

so my questions are
what is the minimum and maximum size for a yataghan?
a yataghan is it the blade or the handle?
i saw many yataghans with straight blades
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Old 10th August 2019, 02:32 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
p.s.- my Balkan/Romanian 'greek' shepherds knife or karakulak yat, 24 in. blade, small ears, integral bolster.


I am curious about the Romanian attribution - can you explain?

Thank you,
Teodor
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Old 10th August 2019, 05:42 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I am curious about the Romanian attribution - can you explain?

Thank you,
Teodor


I bought it from a Romanian dealer in Bucharest who got it from 'somewhere in the mountains'.
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Old 10th August 2019, 10:29 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
I bought it from a Romanian dealer in Bucharest who got it from 'somewhere in the mountains'.


I would not trust the dealer, unless the mountains were to the south and he had to cross the Danube Bridge to get there.
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Old 11th August 2019, 12:10 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I would not trust the dealer, unless the mountains were to the south and he had to cross the Danube Bridge to get there.


I agree: dealer descriptions are notoriously unreliable and often frankly misleading.

Golden rule: Buy the object, not the story:-)

Could some Romanian shepherd get a Bulgarian karakulak or some Romanian village bladesmith make a “novelty” example? Possible. After all, there was and still is a common border between Romania and Bulgaria, although their status within the sphere of Ottoman influence differed.
But as a rule, different ethnicities and/or tribes tended to create weapons according to their deeply ingrained national/local traditions.

For me, the most stark example of it is the difference between kindjals from Meghrelia ( Samegrelo) and Guria. Both are tiny Western Georgian principalities next to each other. But the Meghrelians wore small to medium length narrow kindjals with sharp points, suitable for stabbing, whereas Gurians had gigantic wide ones with somewhat rounded points,- almost short swords, good for slashing. And I do not even start enumerating differences in decorative arrangements!
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Old 11th August 2019, 12:35 PM   #26
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Kubur,
You are correct: there are Yataghans with blades of different length and configurations( curved, straight, recurved) and different handles. There was also a term yataghan bichaq, a short bladed, usually eared one.

The Ottomans were never as pedantic as the Japanese, with their “ katana- wakizashi-tanto” that differed only according to the length of the blade. And, to be even more anal-retentive, they had ko-wakizashi and o-wakizashi for the in-between cases.

The variability of Yataghans was bewildering, and because of that ( pure IMHO) we define a yataghan as such strictly on the basis of general gestalt: at least one of the parts is a typical one. Highly subjective, but dictated by the reality.

There are some sources that claim definition of Yataghans that served as swords ( kilij) to have their blade lengths only around and above 70 cm. The rest were allegedly yataghan bichaqs.

How about ko-yataghan kilij and o- yataghan bichaq. :-)
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Old 11th August 2019, 03:16 PM   #27
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The Katana boys get worked up about the slightest detail of construction,steel types, layering, patternings heat treatment boundary forms, and have a billion terms for them, before they even get to the mounts and grips. Bit like the Keris people here

Is a european yataghan bayonet a yataghan? or not, just because it was capable of being mounted on a rifle tends to put purist's knickers in a twist. How about a Yat bayonet turned back into a sword? (I bought a really cheap 1866 french yat bayonet, the Horn handled hunting sword yat fits it's scabbard perfectly. I now have a yat bayonet spare...scabbards are harder to find than the bayonets...
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Old 11th August 2019, 03:19 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I would not trust the dealer, unless the mountains were to the south and he had to cross the Danube Bridge to get there.


He did mention Bulgaria if I recall. My car is named after the original name for the area. (Dacia) Bulgaria/Romania, all relatively modern names for the area which has been fought over and name-changed for millennia.
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Old 11th August 2019, 04:40 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
I bought it from a Romanian dealer in Bucharest who got it from 'somewhere in the mountains'.


Mmmm it's what i say if someone ask me where i found my mushrooms...
It's synonym of "mind your own business"
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Old 11th August 2019, 04:45 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
Is a european yataghan bayonet a yataghan?


Well the bayonet chassepot is described as yataghan.
Look I have a yataghan with a chassepot blade.
The circle is completed...
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