Saturday, 24 December 2016

Turkish Sabre: Kilic

I want to share the most recent addition to my collection, a 16th cc Turkish kilic based on a kilic in the military museum Istanbul. The swordsmith of this excellent piece of art is Kayahan Horoz (

I am researching the equipment of a16th century Turkish/Ottoman Knight (Sipahi), and no knight would be complete without a sword. The Turks had sabres, called kilic (kılıç). Together with the bow and arrows, the kilic was the primary weapon of the Sipahi.

A lot is being said about the famous Japanese Katana, yet I believe some other swords in the world are not less useful or beautiful. The kilic has been developed in the steppes of Central Asia over many centuries and had much opportunity to be fine-tuned and perfected in design due to constant use in battle.
Kilic and sheat (kilic and kin)
How it feels in the hand: compared to European swords of the time it is much lighter and the weight is more at the tip. It is very much suited to circling moves. Once it is moving it is very easy to go on and a lot of force can be created. Imagine you hold a 90cm rope with a stone attached to the end. Through quick circling moves, you can create a lot of energy. Same principle with the kilic, immense cutting power is unleashed with circling moves. Yet thrusts are also possible with a kilic, contrary to popular belief. Also, in the 16th cc the kilics are not as curved as the kilics from later centuries.
Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient's kilic (16th cc) Military Museum Istanbul in Harbiye
The swordsmith Kayahan Horoz had access to this kilic and could measure it in detail. The hilt is a later addition, probably 19th cc. 

This blade is a precise replica of Suleyman the Magnificient's kilic at the Military Museum in Istanbul. Overall this kilic is 94 centimeters and 723 grams. The blade is forged from 5160 steel and differentially heat treated to give 60 HRc on the edge with a soft spine. The handle and the scabbard are made of wood, covered with goat leather. The crossguard, pommel cap, and all the metal parts on the 325-gram scabbard are made of German silver, decorated with repoussé. What's so special about this blade is that if you look carefully you can even see a hamon.

Balcak(cross guard) and hilt (kabza)
 The hilt is based on a 16th cc kilic in the Royal Armouries Leeds.

Yalman (part with double edge). You see the fuller (groove) nicely here.
The kilic has more cutting area but is yet lighter due to its genius construction of the fuller (oluk). It has a 'mahmuz', a hammer-like weight at the start of the yalman, which makes this sabre a much better cutter. Imagine you cut cheese with a knife and help it by pushing the tip of the knife with your thumb - same principle. The best point on the blade to cut an object is therefore the area under the 'mahmuz'. The weight of the mahmuz and the curvature of the yalman enforce the cutting. In this way you can see in historic miniatures how someone can cut somebody vertically from the head right to the belly including a steel helmet. Note the sipahi at the bottom of the picture cutting through the armoured knight:
Battle of Mohács 1526, Ottoman miniature

Here are the names of the different parts of the Turkish Kilic: