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Old 11th December 2004, 07:51 PM   #1
wolviex
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Arrow Polska szabla husarska - special for Radu

Dear forum Members!

In the one of the previous threads, our Transylvanian friend – Radu, asked me about my avatar, which is a picture of Polish hussar sabre (polska szabla husarska - in Polish). I promised him to send some pictures of this beautiful weapon, but I decided to do that by the post for a few reasons:

1. I’m sure that some basic information about this excellent 17th century weapon might be interesting for other forum members;
2. There is completely lack of Polish weapons on this forum, and I decided to make a little break with this exception.
I would like to write a short history of sabre in Poland – very short indeed, because I would like to concentrate around this specific sabres. The only obstacle is my imperfect English, so please forgive me any misunderstandings and errors

Radu – you requested, you got it

Sabre in Poland appeared in early medieval period. It wasn’t very popular weapon, especially after Tatar’s invasion in 13th century, where sabre was in use, but in enemy’s hands. This event caused that sabre disappeared for some time, and it was used only by peasants in case. This situation began to change in 15th century, but for real, sabre was accepted in 16th century through strong Hungarian influences. To be exact armament in Poland was the mixture of many influences from west, east, south, but it just from Hungary, thanks to great king Stephanus Batori from Siedmogrod (Transylviania ) sabre became very popular in Poland. The sabre which was in use in those times, with crossed guard at the hilt, with widely ended blade (with so called mlotek) was the first really popular curved-blade weapon in Poland. It is called Hungarian- or Polish-Hungarian type sabre, and was in use for a long time, up to the end of 17th century. But of course at the end of this century it was decidedly less popular especially because sabres were still improving.

The sabre quickly became the most important weapon in Poland, esteemed even as a National weapon. The source of this thinking was not only this was great, effective weapon. The sabre became the indication of nobility, just like a sword of knighthood. It’s nothing uncommon, becouse it occured in many other countries, where some sort of weapons belongs only to concrete social group. Here in Poland, the sabre became also an object of some sort of religious, political and courage manifestation – because of inscriptions engraved, etched, gilded, etc, on the blade (for example sabre batorowka – with bust of king Batori, sabre zygmuntowka – with bust of king Sigismund III Wasa, take a look at inscription of this sabre from my avatar, etc etc). The importance of the sabre in Poland was also in naïve belief in origin of Polish noblemen in antique people of Sarmatians, from the east (and the sabre was an eastern weapon, so it was easy to connect this two things for our ancestors). The sabre was so strong associated with noblemen that even for children were made small, cute sabres. There are many evidences of union: nobleman-sabre. One of the most expressive is descripted by one of Polish memoirist, Kajetan Kozmian (half of the 18th century), when he as a young boy, took a trip to the market in the new, beautiful, fancy work kontusz (Polish national costume) with gilded buttons. Unfortunately he forgot sabre with him. He met a few drunken noblemen on his way, and they seeing young boy in such a costume without a sabre, stated he must be a peasant, who is illegaly wearing noble’s kontusz – so let get him, we will give him a lesson! They were so randy, they were chasing poor guy to his house and even to his attic where he decided to hide, and where his domestic service scarcely rescued him. So the nobleman without a sabre wasn’t a nobleman!

Imrovments made during 17th century where concentrated, among other things, around hilts which were gradualy modified. Before close-hilted sabre apeared, there were cross-hilted Polish-Hungarian sabres with chain running from the guard to pommel – it was minimal protection for fingers. Next one had a hilt with crossed-guard, which curved at an right angle (90 degrees, looked like a letter “L”). After this, close-hilted, the real so-called hussar sabre was created – when? it’s hard to say, probably at the beginning of the 4th quarter of the 17th century – but some researchers date this moment at a half of this century.

The “hussar sabre” is only a common name. It doesn’t mean it was regulation sabre of this heavy Polish cavalry (do not mix up this hussars with light hussars from the 18th century, apearing in almost every army of the world, known also from the “Vivat hussar” blades!). It was just a noblemen’s sabre. By the way, there were many others names for them. One of the most popular was “Husar pallash” – nowadays pallash is qualification only for the weapon with straight blade! It was also called “czarna szabla” – “black sabre” because of the black shagreen at the sheath and hilt.

The sabre from my avatar (which is property of National Museum in beautiful city of Krakow) is classical hussar sabre, from the best period. Even more. The sabre constructed like this one, is unanimously proclaimed by army lovers and experts, the best edged weapon in Europe of this time. And it’s for sure remarkable creation of Polish craftmanship ever.

The most important for edged weapons are of course blades – there were plenty species of them, in Poland too. But in sabres like this, it is a hilt, what determine and specify the way of fighting. There are two important improvements in hussar sabres hilts:

1. Thumbring (paluch), adopted through western influences, present earlier in some Polish-Hungarian type sabres
2. Knuckle-guard which is prolongation of the hilt, curved at an angle of 100-105 degrees.

Because of its features (especially thumbring!) specify cuts are possible with this sabre:
- depends on main rotation axis: cut from the shoulder, from the elbow, from the wrist
- depends on position:

1. swinging cut (blade is stopped during the hit)
2. circular cut (the blade is in its maximum speed during the hit)
3. direct or rebounding cut (short move and fast return after the hit to parry opponent’s move)



[Drawings from Andrzej Zablocki’s article Funkcjonalno-konstrukcyjna charakterystyka rekojesci dwoch typow polskich szabel bojowych z wieku XVII (Construction and function of two Polish war sabre hilts of the 17th century) [in] Studia do dziejow dawnego uzbrojenia i ubioru wojskowego, T. V, Krakow 1971]

The thumbring was most important piece for rebounding cuts, because during the cut, the pressure exerted by the thumb upon the thumbring enabled quick and efficacious direct cut, with fast return (just like in Japanese fencing, but with one hand).

Another innovation was the knuckle-guard not connected to the pommel! It was very important because it was not only protecting our hand, but enables elasticity of the handle during great pressure, when upper end loose acted like a spring when struck.

The construction of the blade, its weight, length and formation was important for purposes of attack. It was different with Polish-Hungarian type sabre with wide and heavy mlotek, different with lighter blade of hussar sabre. The first were designed mainly for crushing blows, further mainly for fast rebounding blows.

This specific sabre from avatar was made by Lviv’s Ormians, acting on the turn of the 17th and 18th century, gathered around so-called “Lviv Manufacture” (nowadays west Ukraine). As you probably noticed, the floral decoration is very similar to Persian articles of this time. It’s not accidental. Persian products were very popular and fashionable in Poland, but very expensive because of distance between two countries, and many other events like Polish war with Ottoman Empire, when Polish trade with Persians was limited. That’s why Ormian’s products were such popular – very similar to Persian work, with approximate quality, solved “stylish” problem of our noblemen.

The hilt of this sabre is made of gilded and engraved silver, with applications of silver plates decorated with niello, which is used as a background for floral design. To be honest, I would judge this niello work as “good” but definitely not excellent, because Ormians were making better works in niello, as you can see (for example) on buzdigan-mace from my museum (maybe someday I’ll post it). The hilt is of course cross-shaped, with flat end on one side (another typical element) and prolonged to the knuckle-guard on the other, plus crosswise element (I’m sorry, don’t know English term, Polish “wasy”) used to hold a sheath. The pommel is prolonged to so-called “warkocz”, which covers the back of the grip. The tang is made of wood, covered with black leather – shagreen, wrapped around with gilded chain (silver band also was in use).

Blade is with two broad fullers, and with double edged point. There is engraved inscription on the one side of the blade: “IEZVS MARIA IOZEF / DEVS SPES MEA” (Jesus Mary Joseph / God is my hope) and a signs made of V letters – with unknown purpose like many others made on sabres in 17th century (oOoOoO, IPZD etc.). Notice the fuller at the back of the blade.

Sheath is made of wood, covered with black shagreen, with beautiful gilded, engraved silver fittings with niello applications. Weight of the sabre is 0,948 kg, of the sheath 0,492 kg.

Measurements:





The life of hussar sabres was unfortunately short, in spite it was perfect weapon. They were modified in 18th century in many ways, through western influences. It was probably because the Polish armament at the end of the 17th century couldn’t inspire western world (just like at the beginning and at the middle of this century) during the local military system was in decay. Western influences increased after Augustus II, Elector of Saxony became a king of Poland in 1697.

The Polish army remind itself this weapon after the II World War. In 1976 a parade sabre was made, which refered to the hussar sabres in shape and proportions

Radu, I’m sorry you had to wait for the photos so long, but I made them in very bad light, and they needed a little betterment . Because of forum pixels limitation, you can find below links to hi-res pictures, which I hope will reward your expectation

Best wishes
Michal

links to hi-res pictures

overall view:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v.../001husaria.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v.../002husaria.jpg

hilt:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/003a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/007a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/004a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/008a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/009a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/010a.jpg

blade:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/011a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/011b.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/012b.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/013a.jpg

sheath
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/014a.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/015b.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v447/wolviex/016a.jpg
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Old 11th December 2004, 07:54 PM   #2
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Default pictures part 2

part 2
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Old 11th December 2004, 07:55 PM   #3
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Default pictures part 3

part3
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Old 11th December 2004, 11:00 PM   #4
Mare Rosu
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Thumbs up GREAT photographs and information!

wolviex
I must say you did an outstanding job on your pictures and information on the sword!
I almost thought it was Radu doing the posting as he also gives and gives and gives us a history lesson, I thank you!
.
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Old 12th December 2004, 12:50 AM   #5
cylord21
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Arrow

Beautiful sabre by all means and good information posted on it.
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Old 12th December 2004, 10:01 AM   #6
Radu Transylvanicus
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Talking Vivat Eastearn Europe !

Excelent...excelent ... excelent !!! Well, Santa Claus came in very early this year, I am completely moved and blown away by the results of your post. You made it impossible for me to redeem myself. There are so many things I want to say but instead I will resume to short point and shoot questions and opinions.
1. Your English is way above average, stop excusing yourself, you make it sound like youre the governor of my Californian state, Conan the Barbarian. Have no doubts, you use therms and sentences well past the average citizen, my friend, youre good to go
2. If theres one art of yours that is above the narattive and lingvistics is your skill in photography: excelent images, I am also an advanced photographer myself and I give your images outstanding qualifications in: composition, lightning, sharpness and crop.
3. For the one word you dont know: Pol.: ''wasy " [/I] translates Eng."quillions"
4. Yes, our dear Bathory was a pure born and raised Transylvanian but he wouldve not been much without Poland. P.S. What do you say about his coat of arms, the ,,wolf claws,, is that a ,,spooky Transylvanian,, or what ? He kept that forever I think, unchanged, even in Poland...
It is 3 am when I am reading and writting this so its very late undoubtly I will return tomorow morning to annoy you further, now that I know you have the answers to a few of my questions.
P.S. It sure feels great to see that we have the eastearn Europe pretty well represented here in the Forum: Poland by Wolviex, Romania/Hungary by Radu Transylvanicus, Bulgaria by TVV, Greece by Yannis, Ottoman Turkey by Eftihis & Erlikhan ... we need a Serb, a Czech and a Russian as passionate and we got a dream squad ...
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Old 12th December 2004, 10:48 AM   #7
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You're welcome Radu.
Thank you for cheering me up about my English, but since my average English caused misunderstanding with Frederico few months ago, when our Forum Mate get a little angry on me , I'm trying to secure myself (greetings for Frederico, by the way )

I like this photographs too, and to be honest and immodest, I'm proud of them - just becouse they were awful, and I spend many hours on photoshop to make them acceptable. Bad light is not visible when the horrible background was clean up and changed, plus gaussian blur made them pretty and a nice blurry - that's my selfish opinion

I didn't know you're using the same spelling on Batory's name as we in Poland (with letter "y" at the end), so I used, just in case, letter "i".
Our King was using his "spooky" coat of arms in Poland too, but unfortunately I didn't hear any stories about him drinking blood of Polish virgins - maybe he was just a shy guy

And yes - quillons , thank you
Best regards
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Old 12th December 2004, 11:31 AM   #8
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Arrow Hussar Sabre without thumbring

One more thing is troubling me. I wrote in private message to Radu few days ago "The thumb ring is not in every sabre, it wasn't exact rule", and it's not exact and might be mistakable after reading this post. Thumb ring should be in hussar sabre becouse it determined the way of fighting with this sabre. But there are sabres, which looked like hussar sabre and are named "hussar sabre" - and there is no thumbring. The one of them is a sabre from my Museum (see picture below), made also by Ormians around 1700 year. So it seems to me sometimes thumbring could be an improvement which was or wasn't fited up depends on individually order of the user.
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Old 12th December 2004, 08:17 PM   #9
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Thumbs up Brief history of the Hussar sabers ...

This is my take on the subject:
In the 9th century or even earliear, the Magyars (ancestors of today’s Hungarians) eventually inspired by the Alans (a nomadic nations of the Sarmatian group) develop a solid model of a back curved sword with a front curved pistol hilt and cross-guard quillions. This type, with few differences, mainly in decoration is present in Caucasus (Turkoman nations) and the eastern steppes of Ukraine (Mongol-Tartaric nations) known as ,,Tcherkesso-Tartar scimitar,, and it directly influenced the later “ormianka” and “karabella” sabers, cousins of the Ottoman “kilij”. In the 13th century the Mongols were constantly raiding via steppes of Ukraine all Poland, Hungary and neighboring countries carrying ,,Tartar scimitars,, .
In very late 14th early 15th century Poland allies with Lithuania and subdues the vast Ukraine, who was also home of the Crimean ,,Golden Horde,, of Tartars and tremendous interaction in weaponry started.
Hungary, has troubles with the increasingly powerful and almighty Ottoman Empire and after the failure of the lame crusade of Nicopolis (1396) is observant via Transylvanian king John Hunyadi (Janos Hunyadi in Hungarian, Ioan de Hunedoara in Romanian) that his armament and organizing is obsolete and improper with the times and after his death in 1456 in the defending Belgrade, his son Mathias Corvinus, at first inheriting just Transylvania, then elected king of all Hungary continues and develops his father’s ideas developing a military Renaissance. The only reason for mentioning them here is not the apotheosis of my heritage but the simple fact that they are the creators of the Hussars regiments. The reformed ,,militia portalis,, of John Hunyadi evolves in the famous ,,Black Army,, of Mathias Corvinus incorporating for the first time the ,,Hussars,, light cavalry regiments, at the beginning Serbo-Croatians , then from all parts of the kingdom. They quickly started become equipped with curved sabers with blades of Turko-Tartaric fashion but mounted differently and styled differently replacing completely the medieval straight swords in a complete different manner faster than western Europe who preferred going to the way of rapiers and ,,schiavonna,, (ironically another eastern European weapon) based broad swords.
In 1576, prince of Transylvania (again no apotheosis of this land intended but this fact is confirmed by Wolviex) Stephen Bathory is elected king of Poland, a fearless combatant, he brought the ,, epee a la hongroise ,, (transl. from French: Hungarian type saber) to the rank of a symbol and it was all what the Polish ,,szlachta,, (nobility) was carrying in terms of swords; he is also cited as being the initiator (correct me if I am wrong, Wolviex !) of the legendary ,,Winged Hussars,, of Poland. It was very common to fashion sabers after the one of the king apprehendedly named after him like: ,,batorowka,, after Stephen Bathory (having classic boot like hilt), ,,zygmuntowka,, after king Sigismund (Zygmunt in Polish) or ,,janowka,, after Jan Sobieski for example (on a less serious note, I called the main saber of this thread “wolviexowka”., hehehe). A notable innovation, like Wolviex was saying was the knuckle guard, likely inspired from the more decorative ,,chain knuckle guard,, in late 16th early 17th century Poland initiates the solid metal knuckle bow (kablak glowny) and the thumb-ring (paluch) who revolutionised the art of fencing and the edged weaponry forever ! That is the beginning of the ,,epee a la Hussarde,, or Hussar style saber who was adopted quickly by all most powerful armies of Europe from Prussian, French and British and glorified by the Napoleonian wars and in the mid 18th century it ceased to be ,, Hungaro-Polish,, hence its mainstream adoption. Its key elements remained little changed until late 19th century when firearms put an absolute end to the cavalry charges and real fighting sabers were bygone declining into only parade and ceremonial pieces.
For those interested I’ll bring more to the table from types and nomenclature (Wolviex I beg your help on this one) and images to go along ...
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Old 13th December 2004, 04:15 PM   #10
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Thank you Radu for supplement to short history of sabres, now we know in synopsis how sabre appeared in Europe and in Poland. You're generally right but I would like to add some notes to fill it up.

Batory wasn't initiator of hussars in Poland in literal sense, because this formation existed in Poland since 1501 year, and it looked very similiar to the formations of Mathias Corvinus, so to Serbian light horsmen (please correct me if I'm wrong). They were even called in Poland: Racowie (in Polish - this was Hungarian name for Serbians), which praise the way of fighting with lance and shield - also very characteristic for early 16th century and later formations of hussars. What was the Batory's merit, that's significance reorganization of Polish hussars, which began to transform into a heavy cavalry. Since then, officers (rotmistrz - captain of horse) should be wearing Hungarian costume, with armour (cuirass) on the top, lance, sword, carbine at a saddle and of course feathers for splendour and fear the enemy -all of this was only arrangment. Till then every horseman with lance and shield was serving as hussar, sometimes with ridiculous armament making a fight impossible . The feathers (later wings - which use is another long story full of legends) were in use all the time after the example of Turkish deli (correct me if I'm wrong again). But it was after death of king Batory, around 1600, when real, Polish style hussars appearing, with characteristic armament developed in Poland.

And to fill up the name of the sabres: beside batorowka, zygmuntowka, janowka and wolviexowka ( o boy! I like it!) there were also Augustowka sabres (August II the elector of Saxony).

Feel free to bring tables you mentioned, if any help needed, you don't need to beg, I'm ready!

Best regards
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