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Old 20th October 2006, 09:05 PM   #61
ariel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
I have to agree with Lee. Burton had his pet "Johnny foreigners" but unlike him an Englishman only next to god, they were never as good. His comments on Africans that latter were to charge machine guns with spears. Are as if they were a miserable sniveling shower of cowards. I suspect Burton suffered from hairy hands. It made you go blind in the 19th century. oops


Sir Richard was an extraordinary man, and few people ever experienced his range of adventures, interests, daring exploits and ... controversies.
Yes, he was almost a caricature of a Victorian Englishman, and his accounts of the "natives" were often unfair, subjective, biased and prejudicial. On the other hand, being a famous fencer, he was well qualified to express his opinion on swordwielding techniques of Africans and Arabian Beduins. I would not be surprised if he engaged in mock fencing bouts with them to test his theories of comparative value of European vs. "Oriental" fencing. After all, there were few of his pet theories he did not put to practical test.
Just name me another man who had traveled to so many forbidden places, translated so many forbidden books and had so many passionate adherents and enemies!
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Old 21st October 2006, 05:56 AM   #62
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Hi Ariel,

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Chris,
I have a question: even at the height of wootz reputation European blades were very popular in India, Arabia, Caucasus etc. Marks of Styrian or British manufacturers were highly sought. Things went so far that the local swordsmiths started to counterfeight European markings far more often than Assadullah's, even though they could do either.
What does it tell us about the perceived value of the European blades in the "Eastern" societies? Does it mean that in the eyes of the native populations a sword marked Fringia or Genoa was more desirable and, by definition, better than Assadollah's?
One could say that making a wootz sword was much more time consuming and, thus, counterfeighting European blades made better economic sense. However, we see many rather low-to-mediocre quality non-wootz swords bearing (fake) signatures of Assadullah or Kalbeali. Superhigh quality was never on the mind of a faker.
Did the native warriors know something about the battle value of Persian/Indian blades vs. European ones that we do not?


You pose a very good question and one which I cannot answer, save for making an educated guess.

With Japanese blades we do know that the best were superb, but those produced in quantity for their feudal armies were nowhere as good . This in all probability explains why some swords acquired a legendary reputation. I imagine that perhaps the same applied to wootz swords; Those that were well made were unquestionably of excellent quality, but probably the run of the mill not anywhere as good - This because even if the raw steel used was top class, it could stilll be easily ruined by bad forging.

My intuition tells me that Euro military swords of the period were probably of a higher average quality. My guess is that once Euro sword blades were manufactured in factories, as opposed to village smithies, and in conformity with tried and tested procedures, the quality became much higher and more consistent.

However this may be, steel quality is one factor and sword shape and dimensions another. If a soldier thinks that the swords of his enemies are of a superior design, then he will covet them, even if the steel that they are made from is not all that outstanding. Wellington, Murat, San Martin and a quite a number of other famous cavalry generals preferred Eastern swords during the Napoleonic era, simply because they perceived that their hilts and curved blades were better suited for that kind of combat.

In this regard, it is worth remembering that on all accounts the Japanese sword made for a very poor mounted weapon (they never understood cavalry). Similarly, despite the above mentioned infatuation that the Europeans had for Far Eastern sabres in the early 1800s, by the middle of the 19th century they were completely superseded by better performing patterns. So maybe, at some point in time Easterners as well figured that Euro swords were of a better design.

Cheers
Chris
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Old 21st October 2006, 06:23 AM   #63
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First of all I completely agree with Dr. Lee is his assesment of Victorian researchers. My opinion is however that since then we gone completely downhill. Victorians at least where honest and not afraid to call things as they see them, and this was typically done after being deeply involved with the subject. I would say what I think about modern experts (Rice, Said and wikipedia) but then you would have to ban me .

Concerning any comparisons - how and what are we going to compare ? A 1000 frenchman would always defeat 1500 mamluks, but 1 mamluk would always defeat 1 frenchman, as the great Emperor once said. Do we compare western armies to japanese or a single european lowly private to a samurai ? Or a european expert in epee fencing to a samurai ? Do we compare swords as part of the military doctrine or as a one-on-one weapon ?

As was noted by David Ayalon, the real victory westerners achieved first and primaraly at sea - even with a short lived Ottoman attempt to revive their sea power, East could never outsail the West. So the most important weapon of the West was actually a ship. The combat between western and eastern cavalries was exceedingly rare and therefore sword and sword fight was largely a fantasy and "what if" scenario. Western swords were nevertheless deeply renowned for their quality since the time of gurda.
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Old 21st October 2006, 08:02 AM   #64
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Hi Rivkin,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rivkin
First of all I completely agree with Dr. Lee is his assesment of Victorian researchers. My opinion is however that since then we gone completely downhill. Victorians at least where honest and not afraid to call things as they see them, and this was typically done after being deeply involved with the subject. I would say what I think about modern experts (Rice, Said and wikipedia) but then you would have to ban me ..


I am not quite sure as to what you are getting at, but if what you mean is that the current crop of "experts" (on matters of swords, swordsmanship and olden weaponry) leave a lot to be desired, then I am totally with you.

Quote:
Concerning any comparisons - how and what are we going to compare ? A 1000 frenchman would always defeat 1500 mamluks, but 1 mamluk would always defeat 1 frenchman, as the great Emperor once said. Do we compare western armies to japanese or a single european lowly private to a samurai ? Or a european expert in epee fencing to a samurai ? Do we compare swords as part of the military doctrine or as a one-on-one weapon ?.


Of course - A duelist, no matter how good, a soldier does not make. Such comparisons are futile exercises, but may I say fun? And possibly educational along the way as well, because it compels one to think about many other matters.

Quote:
As was noted by David Ayalon, the real victory westerners achieved first and primaraly at sea - even with a short lived Ottoman attempt to revive their sea power, East could never outsail the West. So the most important weapon of the West was actually a ship. .


The ability to wage war successfully is reflection of the soundness of the whole of society. Its economy, laws social organization, wealth, culture, science, etc. Modern wars are not won or lost by the actions of skilled heroes armed with superb weapons, rather by team work using easily manufactured and replaceable, though serviceable weapons. To focus excessively on the weapons themselves is counterproductive. One sees the tress well, but fails to understand their role in the forest as a whole.This something that we, as collectors, are all too often guilty of.


Quote:
The combat between western and eastern cavalries was exceedingly rare and therefore sword and sword fight was largely a fantasy and "what if" scenario.


Well, perhaps not as frequent as commonly imagined, but neither was it rare. Throughout the Victorian colonial wars, the Brits clashed a number of times with Easterners. The tragic Captain Nolan, associated with the charge of the Light Brigade, formulated his opinions re cavalry in India....


Quote:
Western swords were nevertheless deeply renowned for their quality since the time of gurda.


I think that before the industrial revolution, their quality must have varied greatly. After that, they became much more uniform and on average better, though not exceptional. The military sabres that I still have in my collection, from the middle of the 19th century, are basic and unsophisticated but perfectly serviceably weapons. Ideal to equip an army with.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 21st October 2006 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 21st October 2006, 09:54 AM   #65
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Hi Ann,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann Feuerbach
PS Ariel: 2 cups of coffee that melts the spoon, with lots of milk in it, first thing in the morning. Apparently coffee protects the liver, and I am all for protecting my liver


Where did you get the Wood's metal?


Cheers
Chris
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Old 21st October 2006, 11:17 AM   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
With Japanese blades we do know that the best were superb, but those produced in quantity for their feudal armies were nowhere as good . ...OMISSIS...However this may be, steel quality is one factor and sword shape and dimensions another. ...OMISSIS...In this regard, it is worth remembering that on all accounts the Japanese sword made for a very poor mounted weapon (they never understood cavalry).


Hi Chris. You're right about mass-produced swords (Kazuuchimono) made in certain periods of japanese history, and I agree about the many different
variables that are into the equation to make a good sword, being the swordsmith, material, shape and dimensions the most known.

But what is really far by reality and by serious studies is the statement that japanese blades were poor mounted weapon. The reason of the curvature of NihonTo is exactly the use from horseback. Japanese switched from straight blades (Chokuto shape inherited from China) to curved swords during the fightning against Emishi in the very early of unifing the nation. These populations of central Japan (Kanto plains) weren't influenced by chinese culture and had developed an horseback fighting style with bow and curved
swords. Tactics and weapons proved to be so good that the chinese style of fighting in footsoldiers formation was replaced by the Emeshi's one following the military principle of counter-response and symmetry in order to achieve victory against these populations. Warabite-To (ancestral Tachi) and bow (that later begun the Yumi, disaxed japanese bow) were the heritage such populations left to early Samurai. see "Heavenly warriors - the evolution of japan's military a.D. 500-1300" by William Wayne Farris, Harvard Univeristy Press, ISBN 0 674 38704 X.
A compromise to maintain some stabbing function in a curved cavalry sword was made for centuries putting the curvature in the very first part of the blade, leaving the upper part almost straight.
Japanese way to use cavalry was different from aḷmost any other outside Japan but sthis doesn't mean they never understood cavalry. This is a simplicistic statement that forget historical and geographical conditions in which japanese horsefighting evolved. Japanese understood cavalry according to their needs, that's a lot different then stating they didn't understed it at all.
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Old 21st October 2006, 11:29 AM   #67
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I have a question: even at the height of wootz reputation European blades were very popular in India, Arabia, Caucasus etc. Marks of Styrian or British manufacturers were highly sought. Things went so far that the local swordsmiths started to counterfeight European markings far more often than Assadullah's, even though they could do either.
What does it tell us about the perceived value of the European blades in the "Eastern" societies? Does it mean that in the eyes of the native populations a sword marked Fringia or Genoa was more desirable and, by definition, better than Assadollah's?
One could say that making a wootz sword was much more time consuming and, thus, counterfeighting European blades made better economic sense. However, we see many rather low-to-mediocre quality non-wootz swords bearing (fake) signatures of Assadullah or Kalbeali. Superhigh quality was never on the mind of a faker.
Did the native warriors know something about the battle value of Persian/Indian blades vs. European ones that we do not?


In order to sustain Andrew's suggestion about "exotic fashination" I would reverse Ariel's thinking way. Europeans liked very much wootz blades, but didn't replicate them: The reverse for european blades was made in middle east.
Never thought that the solution might be : europeans weren't able to make wootz, middle eastern smiths were able to make european-like steel ?
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Old 21st October 2006, 11:44 AM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rivkin
... since the time of gurda.


Rivkin, may I ask, whats a gurda? Ive been hearing it from the mouths of too many saudis.
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Old 21st October 2006, 01:29 PM   #69
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Hi tsubame1,

The merits or otherwise of the Japanese sword, when used from horseback, is a digression from this thread, which is about the combat value of wootz. So perhaps we ought to pursue this by PM or start another thread.

1. With the above said, I would like to make the following observations:

a) A two handed sword is ill suited for mounted combat because it is preferable to leave one hand free to hold the reins with which to control the horse - Also the long handle gets in the way and its general shape is ill suited to the retention of the sword - It is significant that in the rest of Asia, the Middle East and Europe the single hand sword prevailed for mounted warfare;

b) Europeans were quick to adopt the curved sabre of the Middle East for light cavalry work, towards the end of the 18th century. By that time they were well acquainted with the Japanese sword, yet ignored it for military usage. Had it been a good weapon for mounted combat, am sure that it would not have been so overlooked - And by that time nobody understood cavalry, both heavy and light, better than the Europeans; And

c) when Japan modernized during the Meiji restoration European sabres and cavalry methods were adopted. Indeed, all Asian nations that modernized took similar steps. This was due to very compelling reasons.

2. Re understanding cavalry: I am sure that within the limited context of their own insular and feudal style of waging war, up to the Tokugawas, the Japanese understood the usefulness of cavalry to a degree- However, in a wider context, they lagged far behind other nations - There is far more to cavalry than being able to ride; For one, it has been observed that they lacked a true war horse and the terrain of Japan did not encourage mounted warfare, as say the vast expanses of Central Asia.

After the Tokugawas Japan ceased to be a nation of warriors and became a police state. Whilst the rest of the world was developing militarily, the Shogunate was terrified of any bellicose capability by the clans, lest the civil wars erupt again; The samurai were reduced to the role of policemen, never having to do anything more serious than put down the odd peasant uprising and control the plebes. Such a state of affairs was not conducive to the development of armaments and tactics, be it afoot, horseback or at sea.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 21st October 2006 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 21st October 2006, 03:25 PM   #70
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1. Modern vs. ancient history.
I like ancient chronicles. Take for example Safavid ones - we came, slaughtered all unbelievers, took their women, and btw their women are way more beautiful than local girls (actually stronger words are used in the original). Simple, honest, straightforward.
Today we have what Burton warned about - everyone's history starts with 100 pages of "do you that it was our people who really invented ..." and ends with 100 pages of "we are the biggest victims in the world". No, african-american Garret Morgan did not invent a gas mask, russian peasant Mihailo Lomonosov did not discovery special relativity, automobil is not an islamic invention of XIIIth century and the number pi is not coded in talmud (they simply used 3).

2. Russian cavalry test involved two tests - one was cutting (could not find any description of what was cut) another one was bending to the limit of elastic deformation (i.e. the sword does not return to the original shape).

Gurda - it is a mark in the form of two jaws. The origin most likely is Venitian swords, later jaws acquire meaning "eisenhower" - chews iron. In caucasus gurda is also associated with chechen "gorda" - sort of battle cry, translates as "see !".

3. Dr. Feuerbach - any islamic country subscribing to the pact of Umar or its variations must ban non-muslims from pocessions of any weapons. It is a rather important part of fikh and dhimmi/muslim relationship.
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Old 21st October 2006, 03:38 PM   #71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
a) A two handed sword is ill suited for mounted combat because it is preferable to leave one hand free to hold the reins with which to control the horse - Also the long handle gets in the way and its general shape is ill suited to the retention of the sword - It is significant that in the rest of Asia, the Middle East and Europe the single hand sword prevailed for mounted warfare;


Tachi isn't a two-handed sword, Katana is. Find out the difference and you'll realize where you're wrong here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
b) Europeans were quick to adopt the curved sabre of the Middle East for light cavalry work, towards the end of the 18th century. By that time they were well acquainted with the Japanese sword, yet ignored it for military usage. Had it been a good weapon for mounted combat, am sure that it would not have been so overlooked - And by that time nobody understood cavalry, both heavy and light, better than the Europeans;


Because at that time the Katana had begun a dueling sword. Here we're in Edo time, no more wars to fight, rather duels. Hence the scarce fitting of the Katana to actual western needs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
c) when Japan modernized during the Meiji restoration European sabres and cavalry methods were adopted. Indeed, all Asian nations that modernized took similar steps. This was due to very compelling reasons.


The very compelling reasons were that a dueling Katana that reigned
for the 250 years of the Edojidai wasn't suited for modern battlefield cavalry
tactis. You're comparing a sword "freezed" for centuries to a modern army.
In this way is obvious that even armor and helmets were no more useful even if they were carried till a few decades before.
BTW you lack to quote that many swords in the so-called "Kyugunto" mounting (the western-style you refer to) had ancestral blade inside.
Is more a matter of mounting rather then blade shape.
It's easy to find asking any average collector out there or taking a look at
Fuller and Gregory's "Military swords of Japan 1868-1945" ISBN 0 85368 796 X

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
. Re understanding cavalry: I am sure that within the limited context of their own insular and feudal style of waging war, up to the Tokugawas, the Japanese understood the usefulness of cavalry to a degree- However, in a wider context, they lagged far behind other nations - There is far more to cavalry than being able to ride; For one, it has been observed that they lacked a true war horse and the terrain of Japan did not encourage mounted warfare, as say the vast expanses of Central Asia.


Rough terrain and lack of space for horsebreeding.
These are the reasons they didn't apply vast cavalry charges as we're used to think about. This is not lack of understanding, this is lack of needs.

I agree we're out of topic and warmly suggest you to open another thread on
the matter if you want to discuss further this very interesting matter.

Last edited by tsubame1 : 21st October 2006 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 21st October 2006, 08:42 PM   #72
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If I understand correctly, we can summarize that:
1. Wootz is esthetically more attractive than the mass-produces European steel blades.
2. Only small proportion of "Eastern" blades were of exceedingly high quality and many, manufactured not by reknown masters, were of dubious quality.
3.European technology allowed mass production of high-quality steel. The overall performance characteristics of European blades were either close enough or similar to the best wootz blades. Advantages of wootz in some areas were compensated by the advantages of European steel in other areas. Overall, European technology allowed arming large groups of soldiers with reliable equipment of uniformly-proven quality, a task that was unattainable in less techological societies.
4. Local preferences, prestige issues, personal "quirks" etc were important in dictating the choice in some cases, and this occured both among the "Natives" as well as among the " Europeans".
Is it fair?
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Old 21st October 2006, 09:13 PM   #73
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Not a bad conclusion Ariel, but we should consider timeframe.
Noone here has fixed a timeframe of reference.
IMHO some of your conclusions can be considered quiet fair talking about later times, say XVIII c. >, not as an overall rule.
Around the XVI/XVII c. Milan had a very good production of blades, many
being later labeled as "Toledo" ones, but I can't talk for the major cities of the middle east and India. If the mogul were able to equipe an entire army with guns in which the barrel was made of wootz, I assume that a sort of industrial capability was there too. We're thinking with present-day standards
in which materials are cheap and skilled labour expensive, whether in the centuries I quoted, and more in the timeframe before, it was the reverse.
I think that skilled labour for steelmaking wasn't an issue to the Mogul or the persians. As the real difference in the quality of a sword is the maker and not the steel, I'm not so sure that an industrial mass-production is really a point to fix superiority of western steel over wootz.
To be thruly honest, I don't think that there are steels superior to others.
Only smiths. Well, within certain limits fixed by common sense of course.
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Old 21st October 2006, 09:26 PM   #74
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Well you cannot make a silk purse out of a pigs ear
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Old 22nd October 2006, 06:02 AM   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsubame1
Tachi isn't a two-handed sword, Katana is. Find out the difference and you'll realize where you're wrong here..


In all the serious literature that I have seen, the distinction between the Tachi and the katana is about how they were worn/slung and not about hilt length. Tachi edge down, katana edge up. And I have never seen a tachi or katana with a one hand hilt nor any suggestion to this effect.

From Wikipedia:

The tachi (??) is a Japanese sword, often said to be more curved and slightly longer than the katana. However Gilbertson, Oscar Ratti, and Adele Westbrook state that a sword is called a tachi when hung from the obi with the edge down, and the same sword becomes a katana when hung edge up thrust through the girdle. The Tachi style was eventually discarded in favor of the Katana. The daito (long swords) that pre-date the katana average about 78cm in blade length, next to the katana average of around 70cm. As opposed to the traditional manner of wearing the katana, the tachi was worn hung from the belt with the cutting-edge down, and usually used by cavalry. Deviations from the average length of tachi have the prefixes ko- for "short" and o- for "great" attached. For instance, tachi that were shoto and closer in size to a wakizashi were called "kodachi". The longest tachi (considered a 15th century odachi) in existence is more than 3.7 meters in total length (2.2m blade) but believed to be ceremonial. During the year 1600, many old tachi were cut down into Katana. The majority of surviving tachi blades now are o-suriage, so it is rare to see an original signed ubu tachi.

Form The Connoisseurs Book Of Japanese Swords by Kokan Nagayama:

Tachi: This is a curved sword with a blade longer than 60cm. It was worn suspended from the belt with the blade edge facing the ground. Later some blades originally produced as tachi were converted into katana by shortening the tang (or the portion of the blade that extends below the hamachi) This process inevitably caused any signature to be lost. Blades longer than 90cm are known as o-dachi (long tachi) while those 60cm or shorter are known as ko-dachi (short tachi)......Katana: Have blades longer than 60cm and are worn through the belt with the cutting edge facing upwards

I could give a number of other citations from respected authorities, but for lack of space will refrain from doing so. However, I'll add that the only Japanese native long-sword that I am aware of that was used with one hand (according to some sources) was the uchigatana, which appeared late in the Muromachi period. It complemented the Tachi when fighting afoot and is considered the precursor of the katana, as was worn edge up.

That the double handed grip was a handicap was recognized by the legendary Musashi in 1645 when he wrote"...It is encumbering to hold a sword with both hands when you are on horseback..."(Book of Five Rings). Note that Musashi was trying to correct the then prevailing practices, perhaps being influenced by Europeans

.
Quote:
"Kyugunto" mounting (the western-style you refer to) had ancestral blade inside. Is more a matter of mounting rather then blade shape.
It's easy to find asking any average collector out there or taking a look at
Fuller and Gregory's "Military swords of Japan 1868-1945" ISBN 0 85368 796 X ..


It will do us well to remember that the Tokugawas curtailed the maximum length of blades so as to prevent warfare and most long tachis were cut down to fit in with the peace time requirements. By the Meiji restoration most katanas were of the order of 70cm, considered to be the standard length. So if we examine the bulk of those strange swords, with a knuckle-bow attached to their longish hilts, we will find a rather short blade - Totally unsuited for mounted use.

Additionally, the tang of the Japanese blade follows the curvature of the blade and makes it impossible to fit a downward drooping hilt, as was generally considered desirable in a cavalry weapon by that era. The downward drooping hilt is essential when using the point as when the arm is extended the curved blade's point is aligned with the axis of the arm.

..
Quote:
Rough terrain and lack of space for horsebreeding.
These are the reasons they didn't apply vast cavalry charges as we're used to think about. This is not lack of understanding, this is lack of needs...


To my mind lack of needs equates with lack of application, which equates with lack of experience and thus of understanding.

Quote:
agree we're out of topic and warmly suggest you to open another thread onthe matter if you want to discuss further this very interesting matter.


Happy to oblige by PM, unless other forumites want to join in, in which case we will open a fresh thread.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 22nd October 2006 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 22nd October 2006, 11:44 AM   #76
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Guys, please open up another thread for a japanese showdown, not here
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Old 22nd October 2006, 12:34 PM   #77
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You're right Carter. Sorry for inconveniences caused.

Deleted to open another thread :

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...35127#post35127

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Old 22nd October 2006, 03:33 PM   #78
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From S. AL-Anizi: Not necessarily Ann, in pre-islamic arabian poetry, swords and their 'firind' are always being described and emphasized upon. Wootz is a very older thing than many people think it is. The more I read, the more it seems that wootz blades were quite common since pre-islam in the near east. Either being imported from india, or even locally produced in Yemen or even Damascus, although its very hard to prove that.

You are quite right. The earliest known crucible steel blade is from the 1st century AD (Taxila) and the 2nd and 3rd known earliest blades are from the Russian Caucausus, indicating that they were well in use before the coming of Islam. In my discussion, I was referring to the influx of swords during the 16th-17th centuries.


From Rivkin: any islamic country subscribing to the pact of Umar or its variations must ban non-muslims from pocessions of any weapons. It is a rather important part of fikh and dhimmi/muslim relationship.

Thank you I did not know what the correct term was. Yes, I am well aware of the ban of non-muslims having weapons during some periods of time (and place). However, sometimes (depending on the time and place) non-muslims were in the military (as mercinarys, slaves etc). I have forgotten the reference.

On another related note, apparently some blades were not used for battle so its performance was not a factor...such as one of the Prophets blades al-Qadib. It was made for companionship and defense only, but not for battle.
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Old 22nd October 2006, 04:24 PM   #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsubame1
You're right Carter. Sorry for inconveniences caused.

Deleted to open another thread :

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...35127#post35127


No no not at all Carlos, I was getting quite interested in your conversation, you and Chris, ive always found Japanese swords quite controversial I just felt that deserved a sole thread for it, and I would gladly contribute to that thread if something pops up
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Old 22nd October 2006, 04:32 PM   #80
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Quote:
Thank you I did not know what the correct term was. Yes, I am well aware of the ban of non-muslims having weapons during some periods of time (and place). However, sometimes (depending on the time and place) non-muslims were in the military (as mercinarys, slaves etc). I have forgotten the reference
.

As in the Ummayad emirate of al-andalus, the palace guard, the 'saqaliba' (slavs), were christians in the service of the emir, and *I think* were allowed to carry weapons.
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Old 23rd October 2006, 01:59 AM   #81
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S.Al-Anizi,

I was muzing over your original question and in particular the replies given by Jeff Pringle and Gt Obach.

Of course one of the problems is that we we do not know, or at least we haven't defined, the lower limit of acceptable mechanical properties for a war sword. Nor have we established what significant advantages and in what context can be obtained by exceeding this lower limit. I suspect, that for a cavalry sword made from conventional martensitic steel, that is not likely to encounter heavy armour, a hardness of 45Rc is adequate, as long as it is not brittle.

Be that as it may, it will do us well to remember that pearlitic steels can be work hardened to a surprising degree, as exemplified by piano wire, which is usually made from hard drawn pearlitic 0.8% carbon steel. It is both very tough and hard. Now, going back to that paper by prof.Verhoeven's, A.H.Pendray's, and W.E.Dauksch's, I suspect that had they Brinell tested the blades they would have obtained a higher hardness reading, perhaps in the low to mid 40s and as well, I don't think that they tested top class swords. Additionally, the part of a sword where hardness counts the most is at the edge and that part cannot be tested by either the Rockwell or Brinell, but only by Vickers, which makes such a small indentation that with wootz it could be misleading,

I think that it would be a fair bet that the very best of the of the woots swords had much harder work hardened blades.

Just some thoughts
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 23rd October 2006 at 02:40 AM.
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Old 23rd October 2006, 06:21 AM   #82
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Wootz and practicality: it is interesting that Mubarak-Shah in "Kitab adab al-harb va'shudzhaat" right after saying that indian wootz swords are the best, speaks about "abnach" - indian sword made from copper and silver and according to Mubarak being one of the prized indian swords and very beautiful.
So the beauty was important.
2. Non-mulsims in muslim armies - by memory there is a lot in hadith about Mohammed using jews in his raids until certain point (I remember how they come to him and ask whether his attack plan is from Allah or of his invention and if it the latter they don't care about the spoils they wan't go). Concerning ummoyads - they did not really apply the law, they even had statues. Indeed the presence of semi-muslim ex-christians in muslim armies was overwhelming (mamluks, yanissarians, ghulam etc.), but at the same time the presence of openly christians was limited to episodes like early Osman army (lots of armenians and some western knights) and later - military advisors (usually in "modernizing" islamic armies).
3. Fencing with shamshirs - actually they did so, despite the lack of protection for the hand. Napoleon selected mamluks for his guard based on how horrible they hands looked, so I assume experienced fencers had many,many scars.
4. Concerning western vs. eastern swords - after looking through the literature I think everyone had his own preferances. Hudud al'alem for example liked european swords - he says that they bend much better than local. Mubarak-Shah liked indian swords like nothing else, yet I have read in one of the mamluk manuals (sorry, had it on my hard drive somewhere) that such swords should be hanged around women who can't give birth to boys, while the best swords are made in yemen and have golden dots.
For example Kolchin in his work "Black Mettalurgy and ironwork in ancient Russia" believes based on Ibn-Hordadbech, al-Mukaddasi and Abu Hamid that early "oriental" swords were brittle and too hard tempered had no buyers in Europe but where sold only to savages in the north who liked pretty and hard tempered metal (??) (whih is sort of suggested by abu-Hamid), while western swords were well prized in the East.

And you to try to figure out in this mess who is right and who is wrong, and what exactly do they mean.

5. I am sorry for repeating myself, but after reading all these literature I think that everyone has his own biases; victorians had their own, but everyone else seem to be also guilty as well, some are more and some are less.
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Old 23rd October 2006, 07:30 AM   #83
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Rivkin,

You are a marvelous source of information. Thanks for this interesting contribution.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rivkin
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Wootz and practicality: it is interesting that Mubarak-Shah in "Kitab adab al-harb va'shudzhaat" right after saying that indian wootz swords are the best, speaks about "abnach" - indian sword made from copper and silver and according to Mubarak being one of the prized indian swords and very beautiful.
So the beauty was important..


I think that we should remember that until the appearance of national armies, late in the renaissance, only the nobility could afford expensive and comprehensive arms and armour - And for them beauty=status. The peasant foot soldiers were often armed with nothing else than slings and sticks (siege of Belgrade) . I imagine that for some of the orientals, this state of affairs lasted longer.

In fact, it has been observed that the remarkable success of the Turks and Mongols in Eastern Europe was in no small amount due to the inability of feudal societies to field large and consistently well equiped armies.

Do you know if and when and the Ottoman Turks introduced regulation pattern weapons?

Quote:
3. Fencing with shamshirs - actually they did so, despite the lack of protection for the hand. Napoleon selected mamluks for his guard based on how horrible they hands looked, so I assume experienced fencers had many,many scars...


Well, their wounds couldn't have been too serious as in those days they couldn't repair severed tendons and wire together broken hand bones. Incidentally, I once saw a Middle Eastern mail gauntlet that weighed, at my estimation, around 1.75Kgm, so they must have understood the need for better hand protection.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans : 23rd October 2006 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 23rd October 2006, 01:00 PM   #84
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This thread really grows, more and more interesting.
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Old 23rd October 2006, 09:23 PM   #85
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Chis:

Thank you for your praise.

Concerning "oriental" armies there are two opinions that one can find in most of contemporary literature:
In the "orientalist" period easterners where often seen as people whose purpose was to prolong the 7th century lifestyle as much as possible. They would spend their life walking around, beating themselves with chains, screaming "la allahu ilh Allah". Their weapons were inept, their tactics was savage. Typically this is attributed to the racism of victorian englishman, but one can sometimes find much harsher words in the works of ataturkists.
Then in 80's everything was reverted - christian were now seen as dirty people who burned the jews and lived in huts, while muslims became great philosophers who fought for poetry, tolerance and preservation of classical studies. Each and every invention of the western world was seen as stealing of something eastern - american constitution was seen as an inept copy of Cyrus' cylinder, universities a flawed imitation of great medreses and so on.

I think that one should read as less as possible recent literature and direct his/her attention to the original sources. You will find that "orientals" and "westerners" actually respected each other and were quite able to find numerous flaws (perceived or real) both in their own society/military and that of their opponents.
Here is my personal opinion:
There were numerous differencies between east and west - east had a poweful export of spices, opium, sugar, silk, precious stones and so on, while west was in general more poor. In the east the money spending and power was more concentrated in the hands of the military elite (as Macciavelli points out among turks one just has to be liked by the military). As a result eastern military was much more expensive than their western counterparts. Mail, decorated with gold, beautiful swords, numerous horses was a typical pocession of a warrior in the east, but far more scarce in the west. Easterners praised bow and horse above all and had little infantry, while it was the opposite in the west. Even in XIXth century a frenchman who would kill a mamluk typically would gather 2000-10000 franks worth of gold and weapons from the body, an outstanding sum. Easterners also had far better intelligence - they were used to Steppe warfare where cities would move overnight and the victory was achieved by knowing where your enemy is, while in the west everyone knew where is the castle and where is the bridge.
However while in the west the military balanced between local militia, professional nobleman and foregin mercenaries (Macciavelli "History of Florence" tries to illustrate the whole fragility of such balance), eventually resulting in a formation of an army which to some extent incorporated all these elements, imbued with not nessesary the best, but common training and tactics, in the east the situation was radically different. The history of the east is that of power of usually nomadic "savages" over settled communities. Iranic hordes destroyed Assyria, arab nomads devastated now "culturized" Iran, Turks replaced "culturized", but per Ibn-Khaldan now "lazy and decadent" arabs and caucasian "savage" tribes de facto replacing or at least partially substituting turks.
As a result islamic army consisting mostly of two parts - kochari, tribal nomads who were paid per operation and given the spoils and mamluks/ghulams/yanissarians who were taken mostly as slaves from "martial nations", i.e. turks, caucasians, later - balkans, given more or less standard training and formed their own, usually somewhat elite units. There was time during early mamluk reign or among mongols where islamic armies would be highly disciplined, but this typically did not last for too long being replaced by "tribalism", for example among mercenary units of different origin or commander.

There is a very good book by Ibrahim Muteferrik, "Usul al-fikam fi nizam al-umam", loosely translated as "the basics of nations", which tells about the inability of Ottoman army to reform - it is a long book so I will not quote but it tells that in old time arabs, turks, franks (i.e. westerners), hindus all would just bring the whole bunch of people who essentially never trained with each other before (since being taken from different lords or, in the east, tribes) split them roughly in three, put some officers over them and march onto each other. Now westerners have an army, i.e. units which train together with the same tactics, with well defined "line" and so on, but in the east besides yanicheri (ochagi) units the rest of the army is still tribal, with no perception of cohesiveness. He says that firearms are not as important as that these tribals are unreliable and see their tribal interests above all, live by plundering the settled people (btw a lot of areas in the middle east became nearly completely unpopulated by the end of XVIIIth century since the "tribals" lived by spoils, i.e. would kill all the cattle, burn cities and sell locals into slavery). The "tribals" are brave and vicious, they despise danger and therefore always charge the enemy, even if it is a stupid thing to do. They can not coordinate their forces and have no idea during the battle what other units are doing (interestingly the ancient persian army seems to suffer from the same flaw - some of their units could break Alexander's line but spent their time plundering his camp, while the rest would be slaughtered on the battlefield). He also says that in the army one should not rely on quality of armour or weapons, since the most needed things are discipline and organization.The book is filled with curses towards christians, but yet praises them for their thought and knowledge. It ends up with a typical late ottoman phrase that Osman family instead of studying sceinces spends time fueling ignorance and religious fanaticism.

Concerning "pattern" swords - one can find some uniformity in the weapons of eastern armies since very old time, however patterns per se is a "modernization" phenomena and mostly occur as a blind imitation of western weapons (i.e. XIXth century).

All related here is my personal opinion.
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Old 24th October 2006, 12:07 AM   #86
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Originally Posted by Ann Feuerbach
From S. AL-Anizi: Not necessarily Ann, in pre-islamic arabian poetry, swords and their 'firind' are always being described and emphasized upon. Wootz is a very older thing than many people think it is. The more I read, the more it seems that wootz blades were quite common since pre-islam in the near east. Either being imported from india, or even locally produced in Yemen or even Damascus, although its very hard to prove that.

You are quite right. The earliest known crucible steel blade is from the 1st century AD (Taxila) and the 2nd and 3rd known earliest blades are from the Russian Caucausus, indicating that they were well in use before the coming of Islam. In my discussion, I was referring to the influx of swords during the 16th-17th centuries.


From Rivkin: any islamic country subscribing to the pact of Umar or its variations must ban non-muslims from pocessions of any weapons. It is a rather important part of fikh and dhimmi/muslim relationship.

Thank you I did not know what the correct term was. Yes, I am well aware of the ban of non-muslims having weapons during some periods of time (and place). However, sometimes (depending on the time and place) non-muslims were in the military (as mercinarys, slaves etc). I have forgotten the reference.

On another related note, apparently some blades were not used for battle so its performance was not a factor...such as one of the Prophets blades al-Qadib. It was made for companionship and defense only, but not for battle.

Ann,
I am intrigued:
In the recent book by Mr. Khorasani "Arms and Armor from Iran", you are cited on pp. 103-104 (your Ph.D. dissertation) as stating that the earliest crucible steel blade possibly comes from Luristan (Western Iran) and the next published object is a Sassanian sword of the 6-7th century.
Now, you are saying that the earliest came from Taxila ( Western India) and later ones from the Russian Caucasus ( what exact area?).
Am I missing something?
Have you changed your opinion based on recent info?
Were you misquoted in the book?
And, just for your info, here is the reference to the Pact of Umar that was mentioned by Rivkin:
http://www.domini.org/openbook/umar.htm
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Old 24th October 2006, 02:30 PM   #87
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Well spotted. It is all correct, but needs clarification. The blade from Luristan has spheroidal cementite suggesting it is crucible steel, but the date is uncertain as they were looted and therefore lost all context and dating. The earliest excavated and well dated blade is from Taxila (1st century AD). The second and third earliest excavated are from the Russian Caucasus (3rd-4th century AD), the fourth earliest blade is from Sasanian period. The blades from Luristan and Sasanian Perisa are the two earliest known from IRAN, not the earliest in the world.
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Old 24th October 2006, 02:41 PM   #88
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Oh, that you as well for the link to Umar. It is now properly placed in my database. Russian Caucausus...near Kislovodsk, I analyzed 35 blades, 4 were crucible steel, those two early ones are associated with the Alani culture, a 7th century one was found in association with a horse burial, and an 11th century one associated witht the Saultovo Mauaskaya culture (related to the Khazar Turks before the invasion of the Tatar-Mongols. There has also been crucible steel objects found in Kazakstan.
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Old 24th October 2006, 04:17 PM   #89
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Interesting !
I thought Taxila findings are from a collection of burial places of some central asian tribes related to alans - is there a possible connection between them ?
If you are interested in Umar's pact, as far as I remember (and I hope there are people here who actually know fiqh, not pretend they do, like me), it is supposed to stem from a message of Mohammed to non-muslims of Yemen, non-muslims were not supposed to be left in Arabia, so it was the first place where the coexistance started. Understanding of Pact of Umar changed to some extent over time, especially nn the boundaries of umma, places like India or Spain (where Moghuls held rather unusual views and Spain is the place where Umayads and Almohads had diametrically opposite view on the issue). Shias have traditionally somewhat different view on the Pact since they are very careful concerning "impurity" laws.
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Old 25th October 2006, 02:14 AM   #90
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann Feuerbach
Well spotted. It is all correct, but needs clarification. The blade from Luristan has spheroidal cementite suggesting it is crucible steel, but the date is uncertain as they were looted and therefore lost all context and dating. The earliest excavated and well dated blade is from Taxila (1st century AD). The second and third earliest excavated are from the Russian Caucasus (3rd-4th century AD), the fourth earliest blade is from Sasanian period. The blades from Luristan and Sasanian Perisa are the two earliest known from IRAN, not the earliest in the world.

That is not how it was reported in the book. I have an uneasy feeling about the misrepresentation of facts and mis-quoting of your data in the book: it was made to sound as if Iran was the cradle of crucible steel technology. Whoever has this book, please read the section I referred to and compare it to Ann's post here: am I the only one viewing it to be an intentional misquoting?
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