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Old 18th May 2005, 09:46 AM   #1
Flavio
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Post A Kabyle Flissa of Algeria

Here for your comments a short Kabyle flissa Length 39.5cm maximum width 2.8cm. Scabbard: Length 31.4cm width 3.3cm
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Old 18th May 2005, 02:51 PM   #2
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Very nice...these are from Morocco, rather than Algeria and yours is of roughly the same size as my first one.
As a dagger, I was impressed with the intricate work and lightness of the long, slim blade, wrongly assuming that a sword would be similar and thus more decorative than functional.
Once I held a larger one, my entire assesment immediately changed and made me look at them in an entirely new light, one of the most awesome swords of the region in my humble opinion, and an artistic masterpiece by any standard.
Mike
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Old 18th May 2005, 09:05 PM   #3
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The full-size ones are usually quite long, about 40-42" total. I handled some and felt that the balance was very poor as a result. I remember reading somewhere that the ideal lenght of the cavalry sword should cover the body of the man holding it just abobe his head (pointing down, of course) and to reach the ground (to get to the fallen foe) when the swordsman was halfway leaning from the saddle. Anything longer was deemed to be too heavy and unwielding. I guess, Flyssa is an example. Also, their very thin tip made it easily bendable (as opposed to Pesh Kabz whose tip was reinforced)
But they are pretty and strikingly exotic, no doubt.
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Old 19th May 2005, 04:10 PM   #4
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Hi Flavio

Here is a link to an old post concerning Flyssas.

http://www.vikingsword.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/001953.html


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Old 19th May 2005, 10:25 PM   #5
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Hello Mike. Why do you say that these are from Marocco? Spring attributes to the Kabyle of Algeria. Have you some other sources? Ariel I don't know wich was the real use of Flissa, but again on Spring's book there is the picture below. Thank you Lew for the link
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Old 21st May 2005, 02:47 AM   #6
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I suppose the next logical step is to find out where the "Kabyles" really originate, as Stone identifies them as Moroccan on pg 235-236, while I freely admit to having no actual knowledge of the exact geography involved.
I would imagine the confusion is multiplied by both areas being trade centers with similar or the same pieces appearing in both locations.
Mike
ps...whew!
I stand corrected as to the location of the Kabyles as being in Algeria, with much apparent confusion pertaining to the Berbers in general, who occupy a much greater range.
For now, it would appear that Mr. Stone was at least as bad at geography as myself.

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Old 22nd May 2005, 06:29 AM   #7
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I recall the discussion on the flyssa, and we got going pretty good discussing the very elusive history and variations of these interesting edged weapons, which range in size from shorter dagger size to very long swords.
Mike,
I think the problem Stone had stating these were Moroccan derives more from the equally elusive geography of North Africa when discussing Berbers, who exceed any such boundaries. The Kabyles are of course of the Berber confederation of tribes (Ar. gabail= 'the tribes' describing Berbers generally by Arabs), but here we are referring actually to the Iflisen which is either a tribe or village or both in the rugged Djurdjura range of Little Atlas Mountains in Algeria.
It seems from references in Brittanica that these tribes are nominally Sunni Muslims of Malakite rite whose center is actually in Morocco. Possibly this, or the wider description of the Maghreb (which includes Morocco and Algeria) or even the dispersement of the Kabyles Berbers into Moroccan regions may account for that designation by Stone.

As can be seen by the earlier thread linked here, much on the flyssa remains unresolved. It would be interesting to hear if anyone out there has come up with any new ideas or observations on them.

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 24th May 2005, 05:05 AM   #8
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Thanks of chiming in and filling in the gaps, Jim.....as you can tell, this one caught me entirely off guard.
The only thing I can add is to the comment about the people being nominally Sunni Muslims,(which is where the Moroccan attribution likely came into the picture) while I repeatedly kept coming across references to many Berber sects that have stubbornly held on to their pre-Islamic languages and customs.
I couldn't find anything specific on this, but I've repeatedly seen references to crosses in Berber and Taureg art and weaponry going back to pre-Islamic conversion as well, along with many anecdotes and comments that would seem to indicate that there may be a remnent of animism in the extremely diverse culture as well.
This appears to be another area where change, conversion and modernization have all had major and sometimes immediate impact with tremendous amounts of history and fact likely lost forever.
As to the Flyssa swords, somehow these don't "feel" like your average horseman's sword of the sabre/scimitar style, even those with straight blades, leading me to suspect that this weapon has or had its own unique style of use that's probably another of those matters now lost to the past.
The small grip/hilt would seem to make it very hard to hold onto when combined with the speed and force commonly associated with mounted combat, while the peculiar blade shape would also seem to make it very susceptible to breaking in the middle under those same conditions, while it's obviously a thruster that would be hard to stop.
This area is far outside of any expertiese on my part, but any thoughts would be appreciated as I find it hard to believe that these weren't made to be used more than as status symbols, as is common with so many other types.
Mike

Last edited by Mark Bowditch : 24th May 2005 at 04:50 PM. Reason: Correcting Mike's appalling typing ;)
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Old 27th May 2005, 02:31 AM   #9
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Hi Mike,
It seems there have been quite a few inconclusive discussions on the flyssa around here over the years. I think your observations are all very well placed especially the concerns about exactly how these usually terribly balanced straight sabres might have been used. It does seem to suggest that they may have been intended for ceremonial wear, however I did find an example which was captured in battle by the French Foreign Legion in 1857. Perhaps some obscure narrative or record kept by French forces might have some clue as to how these might have been used in combat.

You are quite right about the Berbers as well as Tuaregs maintaining many elements of early animist traditions and superstitions that well preceded the advent of Islam. The folk religion that exists concurrently with often nominal observance of the Muslim Faith is reflected in the symbolism found in much of the material culture and weapons of the many tribes of the Berbers and Tuaregs, varying widely of course in regional application.

Probably the most distinct examples of such symbolism are the symbols and geometric motif found on the flyssa. Most of this symbolism seems focused toward one of the key elements of such folk religion, that of the dread of the evil eye. The triangular motif along the back of the blade corresponds to the 'fibula' figure signifying the expanded hand held up against the evil eye.
The other symbols and motif, including the stylized zoomorphic figure of the pommel are still very much speculated on.

Also much speculated, is the origin and history of the flyssa, which generally range in size from dagger size to the huge bladed swords. It does seem certain that these are a fairly recently developed weapon as the earliest known examples in the familiar form seem to be from c.1820's. The 1857 example I cited is identical in form to most of those we see in collections so the form had become established by then, and the 1820's example is only referenced without illustration (Tarussuk & Blair, "Encyclopedia of Weapons").

All the best,
Jim
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