Islamic Swords


During the time of the Crusades, the Muslim forces used both straight edged and curved swords. The straight swords are tapering, "with very small guards and pommels. Straight swords of similar design, and probably of twelfth- or thirteenth-century date, are preserved in the arsenal of the Sultans in Istanbul" (North, 41).


Very few Islamic swords of the period have been found. Most of the swords that have been preserved were decorative, or ceremonial. Much can be learned, however, from manuscripts dating from the time. The curved single edged sword used by the Muslim forces during the crusades is discussed by the literature on the subject both as a sabre (Nicolle 329) and as a scimitar (Bradford 100). These two terms have slight differences in overtones. A sabre is a curved, single edged sword that has traditionally been used on horseback. The scimitar is a curved, single edged sword that has its origins in the Orient. No literature that I have yet found discusses the differences to my satisfaction. Perhaps either term can be used with equal authority.


Agreed upon is the actual description of the weapon and its use. The sabre (as I will now call it) is curved with a single edge. There is a slight thickening of the blade toward the tip, no pommel, and the hilt itself is curved along the same line as the blade (Nicolle 329). "The crescent-shaped Arabic and Asiatic scimitar was an excellent cutting weapon, particularly when used by a mounted warrior since it was lighter and enjoyed more flexibility in use than the Norman sword"(Bradford 100).