Turko-Mongol sabers

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Turko-Mongol Sabre
Turko Mongol Sabre Examples.png
TypeCavalry Sabre
Place of originEurasian Steppes
Service history
Used byMongol and Turkic Nomads
Production history
Designed8th - 14th Century
Length30" - 40" Blade

These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 8th and 14th centuries. [1] [2] [3] [4] One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. [5] 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.

These swords measured between 30 and 40 inches in blade length and bore a gentle curve, leading to a pointed tip useful for thrusting. They were designed for use on horseback and neighboring peoples frequently encountered these blades at the hands of Turkic raiders. [2]

A common feature of the hilts was a 'bend' just below the pommel. This is partly due to construction of the pommel and tang and partly a feature interned to aid a mounted warrior swing the weapon at an opponent. [6] The hilt bore short quillions that often swept slightly forward, but could also be straight. Just after this, the hand guard on the forte of the blade lay a feature typically of copper or iron called tunkou in China. [2] This was made as a sleeve of metal to wrap around the blade, designed to aid the sword sealing into the scabbard. Some early tunkou of high status swords were gilded and decorated with patterns. [3] Later swords that descended from these blades bore non functional tunkou that were ornamental and at times just etched onto the blades.

Influence on Later Swords

Chinese Swords: Prior to the 13th century Chinese swords were both single and double edged but were always straight. The Mongol invasion and subsequent Yuan dynasty brought with it the Turkic influenced curved sabres, which eventually lead to the development and adoption of curved types of Dao family of swords (initially called Peidao). [4] Traces of the Turko-Mongol heritage were notable in the Liuyedao, persisting into the Qing dynasty where it retained design elements such as blade shape and tunkou. [7]

Islamic Swords: Early Arab swords were all straight and mostly double edged (similar to European arming swords blades). Although Turko-Mongol sabers have been found among a Turkic slave of the Samanid Empire, straight swords continued to be more popular outside of certain groups (such as the Seljuks) as that was the traditional style of sword the Prophet Mohammad wore. [6] After the Mongol invasion, across the Muslim world, in the 13th century, the curved designs became more popular in particular with the Ottomans in Anatolia. [8] The Ottomans continued to use curved swords, developing them further until they distinguished a distinct heavy-bladed version which would become the Kilij in the first half of the 15th century. The Mongol style sabers continued to remain in use in Persia until the late 16th century, at which point they developed into the recognizable Shamshir. [9] The Mughal invasion of Afghanistan and India brought these sabres to the subcontinent which developed into the Pulwar and Talwar respectively in the 16th century. While these Islamic blades often retained tunkou showing their Turko-Mongol heritage, even by the 15th century the device had become a stylized decorative element. [10]

The Ottoman Yataghan, while not bearing a traditional curved sabre blade, did still bear the tunkou indicating their Turko-Mongol heritage. [11]

Saber from the nomadic burial of the South Russian steppes. 11-13th century. Sabre URos GIM.jpg
Saber from the nomadic burial of the South Russian steppes. 11-13th century.
Three 17th century swords with influence from the Turko-Mongol line: the North African Nimcha, the Indian Tulwar, and the Polish Szabla (Batorowka). Sabel, Polen ca 1600 - Livrustkammaren - 43129.tif
Three 17th century swords with influence from the Turko-Mongol line: the North African Nimcha, the Indian Tulwar, and the Polish Szabla (Batorówka).

European Swords: Eastern Europe had long had contact with nomadic steppe groups such as the Avars, Alans and Cumans. While Western Europe was still focused primarily on straight bladed longswords and arming swords during the medieval period to combat the heavy armor that was being used in European warfare, the arrival of Turkic warfare, first with the Mongols and secondly with the Ottomans, influenced warfare and armaments in Eastern Europe.

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 early 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 "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.

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.


A kilij 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.

Talwar Sword

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


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

Nimcha Type of sabre from North Africa

A Nimcha is a single-handed sword from north Africa, especially used in Morocco and Algeria, a type of scimitar or saif. Becoming popular in north Africa during the 16th century, surviving nimcha are usually from the late 18th century onward and are notable for often using older blades. Stylistically they often bore Arabian type handles with tugrah inscribed on the blade.

Mameluke sword 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.

The Yanmaodao is a type of dao used as a standard military weapon during the Ming Dynasty and middle Qing Dynasty (1368–1800). The blade is straight until the curve begins around the center of percussion along the last 1/4 or so of the blade approaching the tip. The center of percussion is the point on the blade with the least vibration on hard contact, the spot on the blade that transmits the most power to the target in a hard chop. This allows for thrusting attacks and overall handling similar to that of the jian, while still preserving much of the dao's strengths in cutting and slashing. This type of sword seems to have lost its popularity with military and martial arts practitioners alike by the end of the 18th century.


The liuyedao or willow-leaf saber is a type of dao that was commonly used as a military sidearm for both cavalry and infantry during the Ming and Qing dynasties. A descendant of the earlier Mongol saber the liuyedao remained the most popular type of single handed sabre during the Ming Dynasty, replacing the role of the military role of the Jian. Many schools of Chinese martial arts originally trained with this weapon.

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 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."

Paramerion Sword used in Byzantine Empire

The paramerion was a saber-like curved sword used by the Byzantine military. The one-edged cutting weapon was primarily used by Byzantine cavalry and took inspiration from similar swords of the Middle East. Other scholars consider that it was directly influenced by the sabres used by Turkic steppe peoples, such as the Pechenegs and Cumans, that the Byzantines employed as mercenaries or who served in the Byzantine army. The name paramerion means 'by the thigh', this may reflect that it was worn suspended by slings from a waist-belt, rather than the usual baldric employed by Byzantines for straight double-edged swords.

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.


  1. 1 2 Кирпичников, A.H. (1966). "Old Russian weapons. Vol. 1". Academy of Sciences of the USSR Institute of Archeology.
  2. 1 2 3 Tom, Philip M. W. (2001). "Some Notable Sabers of the Qing Dynasty at The Metropolitan Museum of Art". Metropolitan Museum Journal. 36.
  3. 1 2 Inkova, Mariela (2013). "A MEDIEVAL SABRE AND A KNIFE FROM THE EXHIBITION OF THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY IN SOFIA". Acta Militaria Mediaevalia. IX: 63–88.
  4. 1 2 "Military sabers of the Qing dynasty | Mandarin Mansion". www.mandarinmansion.com. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  5. Cosma, Călin (2018). "Seventh- Eighth-century Swords, Sabres,and Backswords discovered in Transylvania, Maramureș, and the Romanian Banat". Slovenská archeológia. LXVI–1: 27–48.
  6. 1 2 Alexander, David (2001). "SWORDS AND SABERS DURING THE EARLY ISLAMIC PERIOD". Gladius. XXI: 193–220. doi: 10.3989/gladius.2001.86 .
  7. "Of geese and willows | Mandarin Mansion". www.mandarinmansion.com. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  8. Zaky, A. Rahman (1961). "Introduction to the Study of Islamic Arms and Armour". Gladius. I: 17–29. doi: 10.3989/gladius.1961.211 .
  9. Khorasani, Manouchehr (2006). "An Introduction to the Persian Sword Shamshir". moshtaghkhorasani.com. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  10. Mohamed, Bashir (2008). The Arts of the Muslim Knight. p. 66. ISBN   978-8876248771.
  11. Samgin, Von Sergey (2016). "A New Hypothesis of the Genesis of the Ottoman Yataghan: the Crimean connection". Waffen-und Kostumkunde. 58: 49–60.
  12. Dawson, Timothy (2007) Byzantine Infantryman, Eastern Roman Empire c.900–1204, Osprey, Oxford , ISBN   978-1-84603-105-2, p. 25.