Acinaces

Last updated
Acinaces, National Museum of Iran National Meusem Darafsh 6 (48).JPG
Acinaces, National Museum of Iran
Persepolis-Darafsh 1 (107).JPG
Acinacifer.jpg
Akinakes in relief of a Median guard, Persepolis
Darius I of Persia holding an acinaces in his lap Darius-Vase.jpg
Darius I of Persia holding an acinaces in his lap

The acinaces, also spelled akinakes (Greek ἀκῑνάκης) or akinaka (unattested Old Persian *akīnakah, Sogdian kynʼk) is a type of dagger or short sword used mainly in the first millennium BC in the eastern Mediterranean region, especially by the Medes, [1] Scythians, Persians and Caspii, [2] then by the Greeks. [3]

Contents

The acinaces is of Scythian origin, but was made famous by the Persians, and rapidly spread throughout the ancient world. The Romans believed this weapon originated with the Medes. [3]

The acinaces is typically 40–60 cm. (14-18 in.) in length and double-edged, [3] and although there is no universal design, the guard may be lobed [4] with the hilt resembling that of a bollock dagger, or the pommel may be split [5] or of the "antenna" type. [6] The scabbard as much as anything else defines the acinaces and usually has a large decorative mount near the opening allowing it to be suspended from a belt on the wearer's right side. [7] [3]

Identification

Ancient texts say very little about the acinaces, other than that it was a type of "Persian sword." Because of this, authors writing in Latin throughout history tended to equate the word with whatever type of weapon the contemporary Persians were using. Thus, it is frequently used in medieval Latin texts to mean scimitar or the like, a meaning it still retains in scientific Latin. Paulus Hector Mair even goes so far as to translate dussack as acinaces, because it is curved like a scimitar, and likewise in the works of Jesuit authors describing Japan, acinaces is used for katana.

However, the Persian shamshir is a relatively recent weapon, and did not exist in antiquity. The Achaemenid-era Persians made use of more than one kind of sword. Ancient Persian art typically shows the king's bodyguards and important nobles wearing ornate diagonal daggers. Greek art, on the other hand, frequently shows Persian soldiers using the kopis. One must therefore do some detective work to figure out which type is the acinaces.

One useful bit of evidence is that Greek and Roman texts sometimes mention the acinaces being given out by the king as a sign of favor. This would tend to point to the dagger.

A ritual use of acinaces, offered as a gift to the sea by the Persian king Xerxes, is also mentioned by Herodotus (History, VII, 54), in the ritual contrition scene following the episode known as Flagellation of Hellespont .

A very revealing passage is found in Josephus' Jewish Antiquities 20.186, where the weapons used by the sicarii are described:

And the so-called sicarii, which were a type of bandit, were at that time reaching their greatest number, making use of small swords, which were like the Persian acinaces in respect to their size, but curved like the Roman sica, which is where these bandits got their name.

This also seems to indicate that it is the dagger which is properly called the acinaces though there are those who deny this, translating the above passage as "concave like the Roman sica".

See also

Related Research Articles

A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.

The Sicarii were a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots who, in the decades preceding Jerusalem's destruction in 70 CE, strongly opposed the Roman occupation of Judea and attempted to expel them and their sympathizers from the area. The Sicarii carried sicae, or small daggers, concealed in their cloaks. At public gatherings, they pulled out these daggers to attack Romans and Roman sympathizers alike, blending into the crowd after the deed to escape detection.

This is a list of types of swords.

Cataphract Type of heavy cavalry in Eurasia and Northern Africa

A cataphract was a form of armored heavy cavalryman fielded in ancient warfare throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa.

The Five Ks Five Articles of Faith that Khalsa Sikhs wear at all times

In Sikhism, the Five Ks are five items that Guru Gobind Singh commanded Khalsa Sikhs to wear at all times in 1699. They are: Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kachera, and Kirpan.

Shamshir Type of Persian/Iranian curved sword

A shamshir is a type of Persian/Iranian sword with a radical curve. The name is derived from the shamshīr, which means "sword" in the Persian language. The curved "scimitar" sword family includes the shamshir, kilij, talwar, pulwar and nimcha.

Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, which is a type of sword.

<i>Peltast</i>

A peltast was a type of light infantryman, originating in Thrace and Paeonia, and named after the kind of shield he carried. The peltast often served as a skirmisher in Hellenic and Hellenistic armies. In the Medieval period, the same term was used for a type of Byzantine infantryman.

Kopis

The term kopis in Ancient Greece could describe a heavy knife with a forward-curving blade, primarily used as a tool for cutting meat, for ritual slaughter and animal sacrifice, or refer to a single edged cutting or "cut and thrust" sword with a similarly shaped blade.

Makhaira Ancient Greek bladed weapon

The makhaira is a type of Ancient Greek bladed weapon, generally a large knife or sword with a single cutting edge.

Ancient warfare is war that was conducted from the beginning of recorded history to the end of the ancient period. In Europe and the Near East, the end of antiquity is often equated with the Fall of Rome in 476 AD, the wars of the Eastern Roman Empire on its Southwestern Asian and North African borders, and the beginnings of the Muslim conquests in the 7th century. In China, it can also be seen as ending of the growing role of mounted warriors needed to counter the ever-growing threat from the north in the 5th century and the beginning of the Tang dynasty in 618 AD. In India, the ancient period ends with the decline of the Gupta Empire and the beginning of the Muslim conquests there from the 8th century. In Japan, the ancient period is considered to end with the rise of feudalism in the Kamakura period in the 12–13th century.

<i>Pugio</i>

The pugio was a dagger used by Roman soldiers as a sidearm. It seems likely that the pugio was intended as an auxiliary weapon, but its exact purpose to the soldier remains unknown. Officials of the empire took to wearing ornate daggers in the performance of their offices, and some would wear concealed daggers as a defense against contingencies. The dagger was a common weapon of assassination and suicide; for example, the conspirators who stabbed Julius Caesar used pugiones. The pugio was descended from the daggers used by the Cantabarians.

Swords made of iron appear from the Early Iron Age, but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC.

Sica Short sword or large dagger

The sica was a short sword or large dagger of ancient Thracians, Dacians and Illyrians, used in Ancient Rome too, originating in the Halstatt culture. It was originally depicted as a curved sword and many examples have been found in what are today Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. It is also depicted on Trajan's Column; notably the Dacian king Decebalus is depicted committing suicide with one.

Scimitar Sword

In English the word scimitar refers to a backsword or sabre with a curved blade. Adapted from the Italian word scimitarra in the mid 16th century from an unknown source, the word became used for all 'Oriental' blades which were curved, compared to the more commonly straight and double edged European swords of the time. This is apparent in Thomas Page's The Use of the Broad Sword. Published: 1746:

"The Sword was of enormous length and breadth, heavy and unweildy, design'd only for right down chopping by the Force of a strong Arm; till Time and Experience discovering the Disadvantages, by Degrees contracted its Length and lighten'd its Weight in to the more handy Form of the Scymitar; which was first invented by the Eastern Nations, and has continued to be their principal Weapon to this Day:....""The Saracens, Turks and Persians, made use of but three different Throws with the Scymitar, and one of those, only on Horseback; the other two on Foot."

History of weapons Aspect of history

People have used weapons in warfare, hunting, self-defense, law enforcement, and criminal activity. Weapons also serve many other purposes in society including use in sports, collections for display, and historical displays and demonstrations. As technology has developed throughout history, weapons have changed with it.

Thracian warfare

The history of Thracian warfare spans from the 10th century BC up to the 1st century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Thrace. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Thracian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Thracians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Thracian tribes.

Dacian warfare

The history of Dacian warfare spans from c. 10th century BC up to the 2nd century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Dacia, populated by a collection of Thracian, Ionian, and Dorian tribes. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Dacian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Dacians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Dacians too.

References

  1. "Medes and Persian swords". Members.ozemail.com.au. Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  2. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin, Ed.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Blair, Claude and Tarassuk, Leonid, eds. (1982). The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. p.17. Simon & Schuster. ISBN   0-671-42257-X.
  4. "Sorry! The item you were looking for has been removed or sold". Hixenbaugh.net. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  5. Archived April 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2008-08-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. https://www.livius.org/a/1/iran/sword.jpg