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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kilij (Kiliji) - Swords

Hmm... Robert Chandler used Kiliji (Kilij) sword in my novel FireHeart, so it's maybe proper to show the research results... - BJ Vadis
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The kilij (from Turkish kılıç, literally "a sword") is a sword used by the Ottoman Empire and Turks. These blades were a distinct variation on the Turko-Mongol sabers that had been used over all the lands touched by the empire of the Khans.

[edit] History
While Turks were known for their swords with curves, kilij is estimated to appear around the late 15th century. The oldest surviving examples sport a long blade with a gentle curve slightly more noticeable in the distal half. The width of the blade stays thin (with a slight taper) up until the last 30% of its length, at which point it flares deeper. This distinctive flaring tip is called a "yelman" which greatly adds to the cutting power of the sword. Swords of the next couple of centuries were mainly of the Persian shamshir variety; Persian blades (that did not have the yelman) were fitted with Ottoman hilts. These hilts normally had slightly larger upper guards, and sported a bobble of an end-grip compared to the parent shamshir. In the mid 18th century the kilij produced looked much more like the original design, though shorter, much more acutely curved, and sporting a deep blade with an even deeper yelman. In addition to the flared tip, these blades have a distinct "T-shaped" cross section to the back of the blade. This allows even greater strength and hence greater ability to cause grievous wounds when cleaving. The flared and 'cut away' profile of these thick blades gave it the archetypal 'Voyages of Sinbad' appearance. Some of these shorter Kilij are also referred to as pala but there does not seem to be a clear cut distinction in naming.

Kilij Length and width
Another interesting anecdote is that this sword forms the basis for the Mameluke Sword of the United States Marine Corps. As the Mamluks were originally of Turkish descent, the Egyptians bore Turkish sabers for hundreds of years. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French conquest of Egypt brought these beautiful and functional swords to the attention of the Europeans. In 1831 the "Mamaluke" as the sword was now called even became a regulation pattern for British officers. The American's victory over the renegade fortress in Tripoli in 1805 led to the presentation of one of these enjeweled swords to the lead Marine officer. This has since been a Marine Corps tradition.

[edit] Etymology
Kiliç actually means sword in Turkish. For what Europeans call "kilij", Turks call "pala".

[edit] See also
Dao (sword) (for pre-history)

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