A silver-mounted karabela sabre




Ottoman Empire (hilt and scabbard); Europe (blade); Ukraine (inscription on the blade)


17th century (blade); late 17th century (hilt and scabbard); late 17th or early 18th century (inscription on the blade)


Forging, repoussé, embossing, damascening


Steel, silver, gold, wood, leather


Overall length (without scabbard) 880 mm; blade length 750 mm; scabbard length 762 mm

The curved, single-edged blade is made of plain steel with a false edge and a wide but shallow fuller on each side. The spine of the blade is damascened in gold with the Cyrillic inscription reading "O God, have mercy and save us". The hilt consists of a cross-guard and a widening straight grip integrated with the pommel of characteristic form. The down-turned quillons terminate in small multi-petaled rosettes. Each parts of the hilt is repoussed with a symmetrical floral design comprising tulips, sunflowers and foliage. The wooden scabbard is covered with black leather. The silver scabbard mounts are decorated en suite with the hilt on the obverse side, but they are all smooth on the reverse side. Each of the two scabbard bands is fitted with a motionless small ring. 

COMMENT. Karabela is the common term for Asian and European sabres with a distinctive pommel resembling a highly stylized head of a predatory bird with a prominent beak. The forms of the blades varied greatly, and the quillons could be both straight and curved towards the blade. At present, there are many opinions on the origin and meaning of both the term "karabela" and the specific shape of the pommel. Since the 16th century, the karabela style sabres were common both in Iran and in the Ottoman Empire from where they got into Europe. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the karabela was particularly popular in Eastern Europe where it was used not only as a combat weapon but also as a status symbol. In Poland, the karabela was considered to be a national sabre, and its popularity here was obviously greater than in other in other countries. According to the version of Denis Toichkin, this sabre could have been mounted by Armenian or Balkan craftsmen on the territory of the Ottoman Empire in the late 17th or early 18th centuries. Around the same time, the sabre got to the territory of present-day Ukraine where a local craftsman made a Cyrillic inscription on its blade (Тоїчкін Д. Клинкова зброя козацької старшини XVI – першої половини ХІХ ст.: проблеми атрибуції та класифікації. – Київ, 2013. – С. 275-280).

LITERATURE: 1) Кулаков О., Сарычев М., Воронцов М., Гвоздевич А. Холодное оружие Донских казаков: Иллюстрированный альбом. – Воронеж, 2013. – С. 43; 2) Тоїчкін Д. Клинкова зброя козацької старшини XVI – першої половини ХІХ ст.: проблеми атрибуції та класифікації. – Київ, 2013. – С. 275-280; 3) Сиваченко Е. Сталь и Золото: Восточное оружие из собрания Feldman Family Museum = Steel and Gold: Eastern Weapons from the Feldman Family Museum Collection. – Киев, 2019. – С. 126-129, №34.