The scimitar is a sable
or a sword of oriental origin, very light, with a single,
curved edge; as one author has described more graphically as a "sword in the
form of a sickle" (hand-held curved blade used for harvesting grain crops or
long grass). Its length can vary from 55 ?
100 centimetres, topped off at the opposite end to the blade with a pommel
and hand guard.
It is said that the
scimitar sword was exceptionally strong and hard, and very resistant to
shocks, which it absorbed with ease. This is owed in part to the use of a
metal with special characteristics called "Damascus steel". This steel had a
high content of carbon, between 1.5 and 2% to be specific, which gave it its
grand strength and a unique
beauty with wavy markings on the edge. The properties of the Damascus steel
were greatly admired throughout the Occident and attempts were made to
imitate them, although with little success. In the Iberian Peninsula they
did manage to develop
a metal with characteristics rather
similar to the Damsacus, which was
named "Toledo steel".
The scimitar sword had a
perfect design for attacking on horseback as after using it to stab, the
blade did not stay embedded in the opponent which allowed the warrior to
continue advancing through the battlefield. It is said that the blade
of a scimitar would cut the body of an adversary from the shoulder to the
waist, with the same ease you find in cutting a silk cloth down the middle.
Scimitar sword with a curved edge.
The term dedicated to
this sword "scimitar" comes from the Persian word "shamsir" that in turn was
derived from the Italian word "cimitarra". The
geographical and chronological
origins of the scimitar sword pose a difficult debate that is still open
today. With regards to the place of origin, there are some who place it in
ancient Persia, although its use spread throughout the Middle East from
India through to the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean sea.
respect to the appearance date of this sword, in spite of the fact that
there are theories that place its origin in ancient times (there are
authors who go back even to Ancient Egypt) and others that claim the
scimitar sword did not appear until after the twelfth century, what we
cannot deny is that the peak of dissemination of this sword was during
the Middle Ages. In fact, it is the most characteristic Medieval Arabic
weapon in the world, often used in the Crusades between the Christians
and the Muslims. It was at this point that pictoral representations with
the scimitar swords started to appear, such as in the image below.
This sword was not
merely a weapon to be used in battle, but it was also
by symbolism, important in Christian as much as in Muslim traditions. For
the Kings and Christian Noblemen that fought against the Muslims, the sword
cross (the cross of the hand guard with the
shaft). Whilst for the Muslims it is said that the semi-circular shape of
the swords represented the crescent moon, and therefore their own swords symbolised the
sacred weapon of Islam: Allah's weapon.
Medieval representation of
the conflict between Christians and Muslims. On the right Muslims bearing
The most prominent
historical figure with whom the scimitar sword is associated was called
Salaheddîn Eyûbîen, although he was better known in the Western World as Saladin.
He was born in what is now Iraq and he was the most important Muslim
general in the Middle East in the
second half of the twelfth century. He starred in the religious wars between
Christians and Muslims for domination in the Holy Land, emphasizing their
victory over the Christians at the battle of Hattin, a victory which opened
the door for the conquest of Jerusalem. After the victory was known of by the
Christians, the head of the church at the time, Pope Urbano III summoned all
of the Christian Kings in a new campaign against the Muslims, the Third
Crusade. It was at this time that Richard the King of England gained
prominence, who later became known as Richard the "Lionheart".
The scimitar is a
legendary sword that in addition to Saladin, has been associated with other
characters, as created by Emilio Salgari and nicknamed the "Tiger of
Malaysia" or Sandokan. This character was a pirate from Southeast Asia and
was the protagonist in numerous adventures in his vengeful endeavor against
the British. Simbad the Sailor was also a character that always appeared
with the assistance of his trusty scimitar sword and is one of the heroes
from the Arabic tale "A Thousand and One Nights". It is also a sword that
has inspired multiple video-game cartoon artists.
Ilustration of the adventures of Sandokan shown weilding a
The 'scimitar' is the
generic name that is used to describe Arabic swords with a curved blade,
nevertheless, this category
encompasses many individual swords
that were adapted from the original model
with specific names given to them according to their regions of origin.
One of them is the sword
with a Turkish origin called kiliç. Its origin is related to the
movements of the Medieval
Mongols, although other theories
suggest that it originated in the fifteenth century. It is a curved
singled-edged sword that tapers towards the last third of the blade where
the curvature of the cutting edge starts, that widens and shows a sharpened
Arabic Kiliç curved sword with Turkish origins.
sword was developed in Persia, the word from which 'scimitar' is said to
have derived. The Shamsir sword follows the same type of single-edged curved
sword, and also it characteristically begins its curvature in the last third
of the blade. Sometimes the pointed end could be double-edged in order to
facilitate the puncture of the enemy.
we find the tulwar which is very similar to the Persian shamsir.
In Morocco, the characteristic curved sword is called the nimcha.
Lastly, the saif is the term by which the curved sword from the
Saudi area is known. The saif saber is a short double-edged sword
with a curved tip.
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