Kilij

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Various kilij from the Hellenic War Museum (Athens, Greece) Ottoman kilij from the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 (8667698557).jpg
Various kilij from the Hellenic War Museum (Athens, Greece)
Ottoman kilij 19th century; this type with a short, broad blade is known as a "pala"; 27-inch blade, 33 inches total. Pala type of kilij.jpg
Ottoman kilij 19th century; this type with a short, broad blade is known as a "pala"; 27-inch blade, 33 inches total.

A kilij (from Turkish kılıç, literally "sword") [1] is a type of one-handed, single-edged and moderately curved scimitar used by the Timurid Empire, Mamluk Empire, Ottoman Empire, and the later Turkic Khanates of Central Asia and Eurasian steppes. These blades developed from earlier Turko-Mongol sabers that were in use in lands invaded or influenced by the Turkic peoples.

Contents

History

The upper sword appears to be an exaggerated parade piece or executioner's sword, the second down is typical of a later kilij, the third has the characteristics of an earlier kilij and the lowest one possibly has a later European-style blade. Imperial Armoury Topkapi Istanbul Imperial Armoury Topkapi Istanbul (7).JPG
The upper sword appears to be an exaggerated parade piece or executioner's sword, the second down is typical of a later kilij, the third has the characteristics of an earlier kilij and the lowest one possibly has a later European-style blade. Imperial Armoury Topkapi Istanbul

Etymology

The Turkish root verb "kır-" means "to kill" [2] with the suffix "-inç" makes "kır-ınç" (instrument for killing) becomes kılınç, then kılıç.

The kilij became the symbol of power and kingdom. For example, Seljuk rulers carried the name Kilij Arslan (kılıç-arslan) means "sword-lion".

Origins

The Central Asian Turks and their offshoots began using curved cavalry swords beginning from the late Xiongnu period. [3] The earliest examples of curved, single edged Turkish swords can be found associated with the late Xiongnu and Kök Turk empires. [4] These swords were made of pattern welded high carbon crucible steel, generally with long slightly curved blades with one sharp edge. A sharp back edge on the distal third of the blade known as yalman or yelman was introduced during this period.

Vienna, Treasury of the German Order. Ottoman sabres ( 17th century ) Wien Schatzkammer Deutscher Orden - Osmanische Sabel.jpg
Vienna, Treasury of the German Order. Ottoman sabres ( 17th century )
A British Hussar general with a scabbarded kilij of Turkish manufacture (1812). Thomas Lawrence, Charles William (Vane-)Stewart, Later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, 1812, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, London.jpg
A British Hussar general with a scabbarded kilij of Turkish manufacture (1812).

In the Early Middle Ages, the Turkic people of Central Asia came into contact with Middle Eastern civilizations through their shared Islamic faith. Turkic Ghilman slave-soldiers serving under the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates introduced "kilij" type sabers to all of the other Middle Eastern cultures. Previously, Arabs and Persians used straight-bladed swords such as the earlier types of the Arab saif, takoba and kaskara.

During Islamizaton of the Turks, the kilij became more and more popular in the İslamic armies. When the Seljuk Empire invaded Persia and became the first Turkic Muslim political power in Western Asia, kilij became the dominant sword form. The Iranian (Persian) shamshir was created during the Turkic Seljuk Empire period of Iran/Persia. [5]

After the invasion of Anatolia this sword type was carried by Turkomen tribes to the future seat of the Ottoman Empire. During the Crusades, Turks of Anatolia were the first target to be attacked by the European armies, and their curved swords were misperceived by Europeans as the imaginative "scimitar of the Saracens", the generic sword type for all "Orientals".

Evolution of Ottoman kilij

The Kilij, as a specific type of sabre associated with the Ottoman Turks start to appear historically from primarily the mid 15th century. One of the oldest known examples is attributed to Khan Muhammed Uzbek from the early 14th century, and is currently on display in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. [6] The oldest surviving examples sport a long blade curving slightly from the hilt and more strongly in the distal half. The width of the blade stays narrow (with a slight taper) up until the last 30% of its length, at which point it flares out and becomes wider. This distinctive flaring tip is called a yalman (false edge) and it greatly adds to the cutting power of the sword. Ottoman sabres of the next couple of centuries were often of the Selchuk variety, though the native kilij form was also found; Iranian blades (that did not have the yalman) were fitted with Ottoman hilts. These hilts normally had slightly longer quillons to the guard, which was usually of brass or silver, and sported a rounded termination to the grips, usually made of horn, unlike that seen on Iranian swords (Iranian swords usually had iron guards and the grip terminated in a hook-shape often with a metal pommel sheathing). The finest mechanical damascus and wootz steel were often used in making of these swords. In the classical period of the Ottoman Empire, Bursa, Damascus and the Derbent regions became the most famous swordsmithing centers of the empire. Turkish blades became a major export item to Europe and Asia.

In the late 18th century, though shamshirs continued to be used, the kilij underwent an evolution: the blade was shortened, became much more acutely curved, and was wider with an even deeper yalman. In addition to the flared tip, these blades have a distinct "T-shaped" cross section to the back of the blade. This allowed greater blade stiffness without an increase in weight. Because of the shape of the tip of the blade and the nature of its curvature the kilij could be used to perform the thrust, in this it had an advantage over the shamshir whose extreme curvature did not allow the thrust. [7] Some of these shorter kilij are also referred to as pala, but there does not seem to be a clear-cut distinction in nomenclature.

After the Auspicious Incident, the Turkish army was modernized in the European fashion and kilijs were abandoned for western-type cavalry sabers and smallswords. This change, and the introduction of industrialized European steels to Ottoman market, created a great decline in traditional swordsmithing. Civilians in the provinces and county militia (zeibeks in Western Anatolia, bashibozuks in Balkan provinces), continued to carry hand-made kilijs as a part of their traditional dress. İn the late 19th century, Sultan Abdulhamid II's palace guards, the Ertuğrul Brigade (which was composed of nomadic Turkomans of Anatolia), carried traditional kilijs as a romantic-nationalistic revival of the earlier Ottoman Turkoman cavalry raiders. This sentiment continued after dethronement of the sultan by the nationalist Young Turks. High-ranking officer dress saber of early 20th century was a modern composite of traditional kilij, "mameluke" and European cavalry saber.

Adoption by Western armed forces

Sabres were known and used in eastern, and to a lesser extent central Europe from the time of the Magyar invasions, beginning in the 9th century (see the so-called Sabre of Charlemagne). Following the Ottoman invasion of Balkans, however, European armies were introduced to the kilij itself. The kilij first became popular with the Balkan nations and the Hungarian hussar cavalry after 15th century. Around 1670, the karabela (from Turkish word karabela: black bane) was evolved, based on Janissary kilij sabres; it became the most popular sword-form in the Polish army. During 17th and 18th centuries, curved sabers that evolved from Turkish kilij, were widespread throughout Europe.

The Ottomans' historical dominance of the region ensured the use of the sword by other nations, notably the Mamluks in Egypt. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French conquest of Egypt brought these swords to the attention of the Europeans. This type of sabre became very popular for light cavalry officers, in both France and Britain, and became a fashionable sword for senior officers to wear. In 1831 the "Mamaluke", as the sword was now called, became a regulation pattern for British general officers (the 1831 Pattern, still in use today). The American victory over the rebellious forces in the citadel of Tripoli in 1805 during the First Barbary War, led to the presentation of bejewelled examples of these swords to the senior officers of the US Marines. Officers of the US Marine Corps still use a mameluke pattern dress sword. Although some genuine Turkish kilij sabres were used by Westerners, most "mameluke sabres" were manufactured in Europe; their hilts were very similar in form to the Ottoman prototype, however, their blades, even when an expanded yelman was incorporated, tended to be longer, narrower and less curved than those of the true kilij.

Terminology

Terminology and names of parts of a classical era Turkish kilij TURK KILICININ BOLUMLERI-PARTS OF TURKISH KILIJ.jpg
Terminology and names of parts of a classical era Turkish kilij

The Turkish language has numerous terminology describing swords, swordsmithing, parts and types of blades. Below is listed some of the terminology about names of the main parts of a kilij and scabbard in order of the term, literal translation of the Turkish word, and its equivalent in English terminology of swords.

TermLiteral translationEquivalent in English sword terminology – Meaning
TabanBaseOverall metal body of the sword that is composed of tang and blade
NamluBarrelBlade
KabzaHiltHilt
BalçakGuard
SiperlikCoverQuillion
Kabza AşırmasıKnuckle Bow
Kuyruk or TugruTailTang
BoyunNeck (of the handle)Grip
Kabza başıHead of the handlePommel
Kabza TepeliğiPommel cap
Perçin or ÇijRivetRivet
ZıhFrieze or borderThin metal border that covers intersections of handle and tang
Ağız or YalımMouthEdge
SırtBackBack
Yiv, Oluk or GölChamfer, groove or lakeFuller
SetBankRidge
YalmanDouble edged end section of the blade
MahmuzSpurMartle
Namlu yüzüFace of the bladeFlat of the blade
Süvre or UçPoint or tipPoint
KınScabbardScabbard
AğızlıkMouthpieceLocket
ÇamurlukBumperChape
Balçak oyuğuGuard cavitySection of the locket where handguard fits in
BilezikBangleRing mount
Taşıma halkasıCarrying ringSuspension ring
GövdeBodyMain part of the scabbard

See also

Notes

  1. Dictionary.com Unabridged - kilij entry
  2. http://www.tdk.gov.tr/index.php?option=com_bts&arama=kelime&guid=TDK.GTS.59760a515c1491.98927628
  3. Çoruhlu, Yaşar "Erken Devir Türk Sanatı" p.74-75
  4. Ögel, Bahaaddin, "Türk Kılıcının Menşei ve Tekamülü Hakkında"
  5. Khorasani, Manouchehr "Arms and Armour from Iran"
  6. "The Culture of the Golden Horde". The State Hermitage Museum. 2019.
  7. Stone and LaRocca, pp. 356-357.

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.

Falchion One-handed, single-edged sword

A falchion is a one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the modern machete. Falchions are found in different forms from around the 13th century up to and including the 16th century. In some versions the falchion looks rather like the seax and later the sabre, and in other versions the form is irregular or like a machete with a crossguard.

Sabre Type of sword used for combat on horseback

A sabre is a type of backsword with a curved blade associated with the light cavalry of the early modern and Napoleonic periods. Originally associated with Central European cavalry such as the hussars, the sabre became widespread in Western Europe in the Thirty Years' War. Lighter sabres also became popular with infantry of the late 17th century. In the 19th century, models with less curving blades became common and were also used by heavy cavalry.

This is a list of types of swords.

<i>Dao</i> (sword) Single-edged Chinese sword primarily used for slashing and chopping

Dao are single-edged Chinese swords, primarily used for slashing and chopping. The most common form is also known as the Chinese sabre, although those with wider blades are sometimes referred to as Chinese broadswords. In China, the dao is considered one of the four traditional weapons, along with the gun, qiang (spear), and the jian, called in this group “The General of Weapons".

The yatagan or yataghan is a type of Ottoman knife or short sabre used from the mid-16th to late 19th centuries. The yatagan was extensively used in Ottoman Turkey and in areas under immediate Ottoman influence, such as the Balkans and the Caucasus.

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 "lion's claw or lions tail" 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.

Classification of swords

The English language terminology used in the classification of swords is imprecise and has varied widely over time. There is no historical dictionary for the universal names, classification or terminology of swords; A sword was simply a double edged knife.

The talwar, also spelled talwaar and tulwar, is a type of curved sword or sabre from the Indian subcontinent.

Szabla

Szabla is the Polish word for sabre.

Pulwar

The pulwar or pulouar is a single-handed curved sword originating in Afghanistan.

Mameluke sword Type of Sword

A Mameluke sword is a cross-hilted, curved, scimitar-like sword historically derived from sabres used by Mamluk warriors of Mamluk Egypt after whom the sword is named. Egypt was, at least nominally, part of the Ottoman Empire and the sword most commonly used in Egypt was the same as used elsewhere in the empire, the kilij.

Pattern 1908 cavalry sword Type of

The 1908 Pattern Cavalry Trooper's Sword was the last service sword issued to the cavalry of the British Army. It has been called the most effective cavalry sword ever designed, although its introduction occurred as swords finally became obsolete as military weapons. In use, it, like other thrust-based cavalry swords, is best described as a one-handed lance, due to its complete lack of utility for anything but the charge. In fact, the closely related US Model 1913 Cavalry Saber was issued with only a saddle scabbard, as it was not considered to be of much use to a dismounted cavalryman. Colonial troops, who could expect to engage in melee combat with opposing cavalry frequently carried cut and thrust swords either instead of, or in addition to, the P1908/1912.

The Byzantine–Seljuk wars were a series of decisive battles that shifted the balance of power in Asia Minor and Syria from the Byzantine Empire to the Seljuks. Riding from the steppes of Central Asia, the Seljuks replicated tactics practiced by the Huns hundreds of years earlier against a similar Roman opponent but now combining it with new-found Islamic zeal; in many ways, the Seljuk resumed the conquests of the Muslims in the Byzantine–Arab Wars initiated by the Rashidun, Umayyad and Abassid Caliphate in the Levant, North Africa and Asia Minor.

The Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sabre is a sword that was used primarily by British light dragoons and hussars, and King's German Legion light cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted by the Prussians and used by Portuguese and Spanish cavalry.

Ottoman weapons

Military forces of the Ottoman Empire used a variety of weapons throughout the centuries. The armoury in Topkapı Palace has a large collection of which it shows select items.

Scimitar Type of 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."

Turko-Mongol sabers Type of Cavalry Sabre

These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 9th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context.

The Pattern 1831 sabre for General Officers is a British army pattern sword prescribed for the use of officers of the rank of major-general and above. It has been in continuous use from 1831 to the present. It is an example of a type of sword described as a mameluke sabre.

References