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Old 19th December 2006, 03:21 AM   #1
Emanuel
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Exclamation Curved Flyssa in St-Petersburg museum...Ariel, Jim, Ham...somebody please explain!!!

I just stumbled over this discussion on SFI: Lots of pictures... a link to a website with pictures from said museum...it shows a most surprising thing. A curved flyssa (isn't it?) among various weaponry. The pommel is sort of a mix/transition between the kabyle camel and the caucasus lobe. The captions are in Russian, so perhaps some of the members knowledgeable in this language can translate...
Dear Lord, it's like an ordynka...what is this, the missing link??


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Old 19th December 2006, 04:06 AM   #2
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Damn! I'll be dreaming about this thing tonight.
Some of my rants:
- It's got the zoomorphic pommel but it's different from the camel/dog/eagle-style usually seen. It looks more like a lobed pommel as on shashka. It isn't as "cubic" as usual flyssa pommels. Then again, what is "usual" ? I have seen relatively few examples and never in hand...
- It's got what looks to be an octogonal handle...but could be hexagonal
- the haxa/octogonal drum between the handle and the blade is a bit weird, but looks all right
- It's got inlaid decoration, it looks like classical designs, as seen on the pic from Oriental Arms
- It's got the indentation into the spine of the blade, that are seen on flyssa

So to me that is a flyssa made by kabyles or according to kabyle designs, but...it's very very curved, and it doesn't have a deep belly...it's like a shamshir. The smaller knife-sized flyssa are sometimes curved, but not at this scale and not to this degree. Has anyone seen this before?
Other thoughts?
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Old 19th December 2006, 04:23 AM   #3
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Could it have simply been modified? A regular long flyssa bent in a curve to the whim of a new owner? Would such deformation affect the integrity of the blade and its decorations?
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Old 19th December 2006, 09:39 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manolo
Damn! I'll be dreaming about this thing tonight.


DOCTOR....quick....this man needs your help....
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Old 19th December 2006, 09:47 AM   #5
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Hi Emanuel,
the Flyssa is slightly unusual...IMHO....it fits the overall description of one. Nice sword either way. As to the curve being formed from an originally straight blade......as the sword is forged, the curve would have been formed early in the making of the sword. To form the curve on an already forged straight blade would be more trouble than its worth...I believe it would be easier to forge a new blade.

The one that caught my eye is the wavy edged Shamshir....I am wondering whether its wavy edge enhances its 'cutting abillity' when used with a 'slash' type blow.
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Old 19th December 2006, 12:45 PM   #6
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The exhibition describes it as an "Uzbeki Shashka". Very strange. I am quite uncertain about the validity of IDs: there is a typical Qajar Revival sword with a very usual point, described as Zulfiqar
However, the ax is an Uzbeki Ay-Balta, the shamshir has a collar of turquoise on the throat of the scabbard ( you even can see a part of it in the picture showing the hilt of the "'shashka") and provenanced as the gift of the Emir of Bukhara to the Tsar, and the karud also has the same collar on the bolster.

Assuming the Uzbeki attribution is correct, we can go on a very, very long limb: is it possible that the blade is the ancestor of both Laz Bicagi (Black Sea Yataghan) and Flyssa?
I can see the proverbial fan turning my way..... Duck...
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Old 19th December 2006, 02:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Assuming the Uzbeki attribution is correct, we can go on a very, very long limb: is it possible that the blade is the ancestor of both Laz Bicagi (Black Sea Yataghan) and Flyssa?
I can see the proverbial fan turning my way..... Duck...


Phew, good thing you said it Ariel. That's the little demon that got in my head when I saw this. The decorations are stylistically kabyle though, so at some point this sword was in Algeria (compare the second and last pics). That such decorations endured from uzbeks to be used by kabyles is a long limb indeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
DOCTOR....quick....this man needs your help....

Heh, get me a couple of these beauties and I'll be instantly cured

Thanks for the comments,
Emanuel
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Old 19th December 2006, 03:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manolo
Phew, good thing you said it Ariel. That's the little demon that got in my head when I saw this. The decorations are stylistically kabyle though, so at some point this sword was in Algeria (compare the second and last pics). That such decorations endured from uzbeks to be used by kabyles is a long limb indeed.


Heh, get me a couple of these beauties and I'll be instantly cured

Thanks for the comments,
Emanuel

Manolo, take a deep breath and do not get excited!
The damn BSY/Flyssa story is so incredibly complex and confusing that my trip along a very, very long limb is likely to end in a fall. Straight into something very unpleasant.
Wait until Jim reads these rantings!
He will take us to task, no doubt...
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Old 19th December 2006, 03:06 PM   #9
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It's bloody obsessive isn't it?
I'm certainly calmer now that I've seen the type of inlay on it. I'm thinking it's just another variant of flyssa produced in Algeria to different specs. I just haven't seen a curved example so far, this may be the first. It makes it quite beautiful, even more graceful than the "usual" kind.
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Old 20th December 2006, 05:00 AM   #10
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Ariel, back up cautiously, mind your way-- that limb had already snapped with a mighty crunch under the weight of the St. Pete curators' description before you got (far) out on it.
Slight curvature in normally straight blades, or the reverse, need not alarm the good souls of the forum... these are simple variants which indicate the preference of the owner-- perhaps he preferred the drawcut. This particular weapon is unquestionably and entirely attributable (and as a flyssa, naught else) despite its seeming scoliosis-- no doubt imparted by the fall. Perhaps the curator landed on't.

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Old 20th December 2006, 12:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ham
Ariel, back up cautiously, mind your way-- that limb had already snapped with a mighty crunch under the weight of the St. Pete curators' description before you got (far) out on it.
Slight curvature in normally straight blades, or the reverse, need not alarm the good souls of the forum... these are simple variants which indicate the preference of the owner-- perhaps he preferred the drawcut. This particular weapon is unquestionably and entirely attributable (and as a flyssa, naught else) despite its seeming scoliosis-- no doubt imparted by the fall. Perhaps the curator landed on't.

Ham

Thanks for gentle warning.
My first, second and nth thought about this St. Pete's sword is that the curators goofed in attributing it to C. Asia. The curvature doesn't deter me from attributing it first and foremost to N. Africa. Up to here it is simple.
My ( imaginary) trip along the limb was, in a way, a question: does anybody know of any C. Asian sword similar to this one?
Should we ask Borat?
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Old 20th December 2006, 12:51 PM   #12
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I totally agree with Ham.....I...personally... would prefer to have a curved blade if I had to use a Flyssa in battle.....it gives a different dimension to its functionality. In fact, I am surprise that there are not alot more with this form of blade.....if nothing else... it gives the Flyssa a more 'graceful' look.
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Old 20th December 2006, 02:48 PM   #13
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Thanks for the confirmation Ham. It's good to know that these variants existed. It challenges the idea of the flyssa as an estoc weapon though, it may heat up discussions again about how it was used....maybe in favour of a cavalry weapon?
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Old 20th December 2006, 11:45 PM   #14
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The full-length flyssa is a cavalry weapon, whether straight or curved.
I suspect this one was made for someone who preferred the sabre form, probably trained outside the region... and while a myriad possibilities explaining the owner's reasons for this particular preference exist, it remains that the weapon itself must have been an effective one in his hands.

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Old 21st December 2006, 02:31 AM   #15
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It does indeed look quite deadly/effective. Ham, may I assume you've encountered these variants before? If so, how frequently would you guess they occur amongst the long variety?
A "Report from Tlemcen" would definitely be called for at some point.

Emanuel

Last edited by Manolo : 21st December 2006 at 02:51 AM. Reason: ...more likely Annaba than Tlemcen...
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Old 21st December 2006, 02:35 AM   #16
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These are some good rants you guys!!! And an extremely interesting flyssa variant Emanuel! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that gets sleepless over these anomolies.
Ariel, I'd never take you to to task especially not on the neverending BSY/flyssa saga...after all it was you that found the definitive proof of the
transcaucasian/Turkish origins of these unusual swords.

We know that there have been considerable variations seen in swords that have appeared in the North African sphere, with most of the flyssa instances being with the range in size. It does not seem unlikely that a variant with curved shamshir type blade would be out of place, though extremely unusual. As has been noted, the flyssa was a cavalry weapon, though the dynamics of its use in combat have not, as far as I know, ever been described. It would be interesting to know if anyone has ever translated narratives or documention from French forces who fought in Saharan regions and encountered warriors with these swords. As noted, although the estoc type thrust must have been the primary technique, but quite possibly this example suggests a sabre preference for the drawcut, yet maintaining the traditional flyssa decorative style.

The influences of weapons from the Caucusus and Central Asia are actually well established in North Africa, especially via the Ottomans and thier mercenary forces. I have often considered the possible influence of mail piercing blades of Tatar sabres and Caucasian kindjhals on the needle point that became key to the flyssa, and of course the BSY .

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 21st December 2006, 08:51 PM   #17
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Hi Jim,

I'd certainly love to get a final, documented answer on these swords. I wonder whether Ottoman records or paintings/graphic records could shed some light on the wear of flyssa during their rule. As I understand it though, they sort of kept away from the the "Kabylie" region in north-eastern Algeria...I could be wrong, I'll check up on history.

I've been trying to find someone with access to Foreign Legion archives. I found out that the public may indeed gain access to them, but one needs to be on-site to use them...little I can do from Toronto I'm afraid. Will keep trying nonetheless.

David, I think the wavy shamshir blade would act pretty much like a saw blade, so it may impede a swift draw-cut. Look at Valjhun's avatar, he's got a similar tulawar...there was a discussion on it some time ago.

Regards,
Emanuel
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Old 21st December 2006, 11:22 PM   #18
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Yup, read some more about Algerian, and particularly Kabyle history...it seems that "Grande Kabylie" where such tribes as the Ifflyssen were settled was ruled by the berber Belkadi dinasty until the mid-18th century, and fiercely protected from Ottoman pachas, aghas and later deys governing the rest of the country from Algiers. The source for this little bit of history comes from http://www.chez.com/maghreb2000/
but I will try to confirm this from a good academic source.

If Ottomans had little control and influence in Kabyle territory, how would the ottoman yataghan have left such a mark on kabyles? Could trade alone account for this?
I wonder what other weapons kabyles used when facing yeniceri troups.

Hmm...hope I don't stirr too great of a hornet's nest...or too little

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Old 23rd December 2006, 01:45 AM   #19
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One of the defining features of both Flyssa and BSY is theeir "bayoneted" point, ie very narrow and needle-like tip obviously designed for thrusting.
The same feature can be seen in Central Asia ( see my earlier post
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=2695 as well as on the Polish Tatar sabers of 14-16th century called Ordynka ( "orda"= "horde") or Czeczuga ( pronounced Chechuga). Traditionally, this name was attributed to a particular kind of fish (sturgeon?) that this saber allegedly reminds.
Thanks to Rivkin, I got a copy of the PhD dissertation by Nakov " Circassian ( Adyghe) bladed weapons", Nalchik, 2004.
Nakov cites a book by G. K. Panchenko " History of the fighting Arts", Moscow, 1997, Vol. 3, p. 305 that states that the name Czeczuga stems from the "...Tatarian people Chechan that lived in the Caucasus'.
Nakov further clarifies that this is the name of one of the subgroups of the Adyghe Bzhedukh tribe, Charcheney.
This brings us to the Circassia:
Here are picks of the 3 classical Circassian swords ( NOT SHASHKA! This is different!) 14-17th century ( From Astvatsaturyan's book "Weapons of the Caucasian Nations") and a picture of Polish-Tatar saber of ~ 1600 from J. Gutowski " Bron i uzbrojenie tatarow" ( Arms and Armor of the Tatars).
There is an obvious similarity in the pattern; does it suggest relatedness ( I do not dare imply a commonality )
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Old 23rd December 2006, 02:40 AM   #20
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Ariel, the Tartar weapon certainly resembles the second Circassion sabre...almost identical.
The weird thing is that extremely thin point...it's almost recurving, it's like a thin tail or barb (the fish connotation is apt in this case). The flyssa is similar, but none of the straight examples I'm looking at (the inexaustible Oriental Arms archive ) have this feature, and neither does the curved one that started this thread. I can't deny the strong similarity though

The scenario at this point would be that a considerable contingent of Circassians? would have been dispatched to Algeria. The only info I've found so far is that 2000 yeniceri were originally sent to Algiers, their number eventually swelling to 18000 by the French conquest in 1830. Apparently they were garrisoned in Algiers itself, venturing out to put down rebellions and fight border wars/battles with Morroco and Tunisia.
Since Kabylia was generally closed off to Ottoman incursions, how would these Circassian swords have reached such prevalence in Kabylia? If the swords were seen as an exotic commodity to be adopted, how come it wasn't restrained to the elite?

I like these questions a lot! Ottomans kept lots of records...somewhere there must be some registers about the constitution of the troups sent to Algeria. I'll keep looking

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Old 23rd December 2006, 03:26 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
One of the defining features of both Flyssa and BSY is theeir "bayoneted" point, ie very narrow and needle-like tip obviously designed for thrusting.



Hi Ariel,

Personally, I think it is this point that actually excludes these from being a thrusting weapon. The point is just too fine. Any thing less than a perfectly executed thrust on a lightly armoured target would simply bend the point harmlessly. On the other hand much has been said about how awkward these weapons are, I actually think they are perfectly suited for the slash and handle similar to most sabers.

My 2 cents.
Jeff
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Old 23rd December 2006, 03:48 AM   #22
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There were plenty of opportunities for the Circassians to move around and , thus, share their weapon culture with other nations. First, they were mercenary warriors with the Ottomans and Iranians: in fact, they, together with other Caucasians, constituted the backbone of Persian military. Persians were artisans and bureaucrats; the fighters in their armies were almost all foreighners: Caucasians, Afghanis, Turks etc. As a matter of fact, the very name for the Persian kindjal, Kama (or Qame) is a Circassian one, K'ameh (as per Nakov's PhD dissertation).
Egyptian mamelukes were significantly Caucasians, central Asians (Kazakhs) and Albanians.
Until 1739 Kabarda was a vassal of the Crimean Khanate that was in turn a de facto vassal of the Ottoman Empire. Following the russian-turkish war of 1829-1829, Russia became a de jure ( it was already de facto) owner of the North-Eastern Black Sea lands. Circassians rebelled and fought the Russians until at least the time of Crimean war
In 1858-1859 about 500,000 Circassians moved ( exiled, in fact) to Turkey and there were re-settled in the Balkans, North Africa, Syria/ Jordan (not yet in existence) and Arabia proper.
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Old 23rd December 2006, 04:06 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff D
Hi Ariel,

Personally, I think it is this point that actually excludes these from being a thrusting weapon. The point is just too fine. Any thing less than a perfectly executed thrust on a lightly armoured target would simply bend the point harmlessly. On the other hand much has been said about how awkward these weapons are, I actually think they are perfectly suited for the slash and handle similar to most sabers.

My 2 cents.
Jeff

Back to Nakov:
Circassians used their bayoneted sabers as spears at the beginning of the fight. There are many native stories and songs as well as accounts of the visitors describing the " thrusting" attack. That is beyond any doubt.
But you are right: Circassian sabers had thickened, ribbed bayoneted points and the handle was bent a little toward the edge. These two features made them efficient "thrusters". The Flyssa, indeed, has neither of those features and can be used only for slashing. On the other hand, many external features of the reinterpreted things (not only weapons) are "lost in translation". The appearance may be retained somewhat but the meaning is forgotten....
Trying to construct a convincing story of the unified origin of various swords is like working on the "unified theory" in physics: fascinating, exciting, but largely... doomed to fail
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Old 25th December 2006, 04:50 PM   #24
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The quest for the origins of the flyssa as well as the 'Black Sea' yataghan and the possible associations between them has gone on for well beyond the ten plus years that I have been puzzling over them. The similarities were drawn of course as early as 1941 (Jacobsen) and later Seifert (1962).

The curious point on these weapons being so much like those on the Tatar sabres (ordynka) is much too compelling to resist associating them with these sharply pointed swords. The influences of these Tatar weapons were of course no doubt carried with the extensive presence of Circassians in the forces of numerous powers and in many geographic regions.

Concerning the term for these sabres (czeczuga), I am trying to recall the article on Polish sabres by Ostrowski (away from books at the moment). It seems the term may have been with reference to the fishskin grips of these weapons rather than the shape of the blade ? A number of these sabres are with the same hilts but heavier blades without the needle point. Perhaps this might account for the use of term orynka vs. czeczuga?

Returning to the flyssa, it has long been suggested that the 16th century form of yataghan as seen in Suleyman I with widened straight blade had been possible forerunner, and this via Ottomans. While it is true that the Ottomans did not subdue the Kabyles, and controlled primarily the littoral along the Maghreb, there were constant incursions into these regions. The Kabyles seem to have been situated in more mountainous regions, so I am wondering how much cavalry use would have applied to the flyssa.

As far as military sources such as the Foreign Legion, in research some years ago I was hoping to discover early examples of flyssa, and did contact the Foreign Legion museum in France. They hold a provenaced example of flyssa (exactly as form/decoration typically seen) which was captured in a battle with Kabyles in 1857. The only earlier reference to these was I believe 1827 when one was presented diplomatically to an envoy from Spain (though unfortunately denoted by term, no illustration). It seems clear that these, as the BSY, were a very late developing weapon, and there seem to be no prototypical examples to suggest development, which suggests possible atavistic appearance, from earlier weapons.

Earlier references (Jacobsen, Seifert op.cit.) suggest that the 'sapara' may have influenced the recurved blade on the BSY, while there have been many suggestions that Meditteranean weapons such as the ancient machaira may have been the source for the flyssa. In either case, the employment of the needle point seems to apply more to the Circassian/Tatar influence.

What is most unclear about these weapons is thier use. With the BSY, a needle point for thrusting seems absurd with such a recurved blade, and with the flyssa, a thrust with a weapon with small grip and no supporting guard seems equally absurd. It would seem the emphasis would be on slashing cuts, which would be of course ridiculous against mail armor. The use of these weapons remains a complete conundrum.

I am really glad that these discussions came up, and think that excellent observations are being shared on these mysterious weapons!!!

I have always hoped that anyone out there with access to French narratives or Ottoman resources might be able to discover any reference to the Kabyles and the flyssa's use.

All best regards,
Jim
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