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Old 29th July 2009, 10:35 PM   #1
pallas
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Default origins of the assegai?

i know this was the main weapon of the almogavars (who seem to have enjoyed a more dubious reputation for ruthlessness than the other crusading and knightly orders that were their contemporaries) but the name "assegai" seems to be applied to long lances/spears throughout the iberian peninsula and north and east africa. i know assegai is a portugese term, but i somehow doubt that these weapons originated in portugal.
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Old 30th July 2009, 12:36 AM   #2
Emanuel
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Hello Pallas,

Wikipaedia has a good entry on the term: "An assegai or assagai (originally Berber zaġāya "spear", from Old French azagaie Old Spanish azagaya < Arabic az-zaġāyah) is a pole weapon used for throwing or hurling, usually a light spear or javelin made of wood and pointed with iron." Definition derived from Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th edition.

Can Arabic speakers corroborate the term "az-zaġāyah"?

Cheers,
Emanuel
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Old 30th July 2009, 04:48 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
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The term assegai is of course mostly associated with the short stabbing spears introduced and used by the forces of Shaka Zulu (1878-1828) and actually termed iklwa. The assegai term is also designated to the South African tree Curtisa Dentata whose wood is used for spear and lance shafts.

Actually the assegai is the long throwing spear which remained in use in attack, and the iklwa, stabbing spear, was used in close quarters melee, as dictated by Shaka. The use of the term seems confusing due to the Iberian term, and seems possibly to derive from Portuguese contact, and perhaps use of the wood for these spears or lances.

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Jim
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Old 30th July 2009, 02:59 PM   #4
fernando
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In portuguese zagaia or azagaia, a short throwing spear, indeed from the berbere az-zagáyâ; most certainly brought to Southern Africa (and not only) by the Portuguese.
A term used by Luis de Camões in his mid XVI century epic Os Lusíadas (canto I strophe 86), narrating the adventures of Vasco da Gama against the Moors:

" Mas os Mouros que andavam pela praia,
Por lhe defender a água desejada,
Um de escudo embraçado e de azagaia,
Outro de arco encurvado e seta ervada,
Esperam que a guerreira gente saia,
Outros muitos já postos em cilada.
E, porque o caso leve se lhe faça,
Põem uns poucos diante por negaça,"

Fernando
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Old 31st July 2009, 07:02 PM   #5
Jim McDougall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
In portuguese zagaia or azagaia, a short throwing spear, indeed from the berbere az-zagáyâ; most certainly brought to Southern Africa (and not only) by the Portuguese.
A term used by Luis de Camões in his mid XVI century epic Os Lusíadas (canto I strophe 86), narrating the adventures of Vasco da Gama against the Moors:

" Mas os Mouros que andavam pela praia,
Por lhe defender a água desejada,
Um de escudo embraçado e de azagaia,
Outro de arco encurvado e seta ervada,
Esperam que a guerreira gente saia,
Outros muitos já postos em cilada.
E, porque o caso leve se lhe faça,
Põem uns poucos diante por negaça,"

Fernando



Beautifully placed quote Fernando, and once again well illustrating the profound influence of Portugal in the age of exploration, reflected subtly in so many cultures in many ways.

It has been an interesting aspect of arms study to realize how terms describing botanical components of weapons, in this case the shafts, often lead to the term a weapon becomes known by.

Another case in point regarding this is the 'dudgeon' dagger of Elizebethan times, referring to the boxwood used for the hilts.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 31st July 2009, 07:48 PM   #6
fernando
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Hi Jim, my friend .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... It has been an interesting aspect of arms study to realize how terms describing botanical components of weapons, in this case the shafts, often lead to the term a weapon becomes known by...


Digging deep into the (portuguese) dictionaries we can find the botanic term Zaga, of obscure origin, which is a sort of palm tree, from which azagaias (assegais) are made.
I would never dream such term exists .
Fernando
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