A sabre-hilted yataghan




Ottoman Empire (probably Balkans)


Late 18th century


Forging, casting, engraving, inlaying


Steel, brass, silver, gold, horn, wood, leather


Overall length (without scabbard) 750 mm; blade length 608 mm; scabbard length 640 mm

The slightly forward-curved, single-edged blade is made of pattern-welded steel with a T-section spine. Each side of the blade exhibits a characteristic band of twisted pattern, known as "Turkish Ribbon". In addition, each side is inlaid with the symbol of a crescent moon and star, the date AH 1200 (AD 1785-86), and the gold Arabic inscription. The grip is formed by horn scales attached to the tang by two brass rivets. The silver grip strap is engraved with a floral design. The pommel of typical shape features a wrist strap hole flanked by small silver plaques resembling a comma. The brass cruciform guard is engraved with stylized floral borders on both sides. The wooden scabbard is covered with black leather. The brass scabbard mounts are decorated en suite with the guard. The band is connected to the locket and is fitted with two suspension rings on opposite sides.

COMMENT. This example belongs to the group of so-called "hybrid" yataghan swords whose origin and specific purpose are still unclear. Most likely, attempts to connect a yataghan and a sabre have been made in different places and with different goals. Anyway, the use the sabre hilt was a simple but very successful constructive solution because it allowed eliminating such a serious drawback of the yataghan as the absence of a guard. Such "hybrid" weapons could be found both in Turkey and in the Balkans, that is, everywhere where the yataghan was popular. Many of the preserved examples are fitted with karabela style hilts, mainly with down-turned quillons, while the traditional Turkish hilts are less common. For the first time these unusual and rare weapons became an object of study thanks to Charles Buttin (1856-1931). He has published in the catalogue of his collection four yataghan swords with karabela style hilts, attributing them to the so-called Pandours recruited in 1741 by Baron Franz von der Trenck (1711-49) to help the Habsburgs in the War of the Austrian Succession 1740-48 (see Buttin, F. Catalogue de la Collection d’Armes Anciennes Européennes et Orientales de Charles Buttin. – Rumilly, 1933. – P. 73-74, nos. 217-220, pl. VIII). The Trenck's corps was largely staffed by Croatian and Serbian volunteers from the border mountain areas of the Habsburg Monarchy taken from the Ottoman Empire by the Treaty of Karlowitz 1699. In fact, the Pandours were irregular light infantry troops served mainly as the frontier guard. It is known that for the most part Trenck's Pandours were dressed in "Janissary" fashion and equipped with Turkish weapons (see Šmid, S. Franjo Barun Trenk i Njegovi Panduri. – Zagreb, 1900. – S. 16). Robert Elgood believes that many preserved “hybrid” yataghan swords, as well as weapons assembled from European and Turkish components, belong originally to the fighting by Turks and Pandours in the Austrian military border area during the late 17th and 18th centuries (see Elgood, R. The Arms of Greece and Her Balkan Neighbours in the Ottoman Period. – London, 2009. – P. 150). Robert Hales has a different view, believing that such weapons were commonly used on board ship where restrictive space called for the use of a sword with a short blade (see Hales, R. Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour: A Lifetime’s Passion. – London, 2013. – P. 228, no. 559). Indeed, at least two of the four "hybrid" yataghan swords published by Robert Elgood belonged to the Greek naval officers (see Elgood, R. Op. cit. – P. 149-151, nos. 175-178). Undoubtedly, these swords were ideally suited to the role of boarding weapons, but they were as effective in close combat on land as well.

LITERATURE: 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. 176-179, №51.