Subject: stradiotos mercenary light cavalry
Setting: Venetian empire 16-17thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Nicolle ill. Rothero 1989 p16-17
"As the Ottomans advanced across Greece in the 14th century these [Venetian] outposts became filled with refugees. Many came from the old military elite and took service with Venice as stradioti light cavalry. [...] ... [S]tradioti ... not only fought the Ottomans on their own terms, but were much cheaper to maintain than Western-style men-at-arms. Wielding short lances or javelins, bows and light swords, and being relatively lightly armoured, such stradioti were recruited in Greece, Albania and Dalmatia. Their loyalty was rarely in doubt, their ferocity proverbial, and their habit of collecting the heads of slain foes never seriously discouraged."
* Vuksic & Grbasic 1993 p108
"As the Ottomans drove further west, Venice was faced with raids by Akinci, Deli, and Tartar light horsemen which it could not successfully combat. In 1470, the services of Greek and Albanian stradiotti or estradiotti light horsemen (stradiotos -- Greek for soldier) were engaged. These men knew the tactics of the Turkish riders, because they fought the same way themselves. "They were organized into units of between 100 and 300 men, and detailed to garrison towns which lay on possible routes of Turkish incursions. The stradiotti were mobile and fast and acted suddenly and decisively, so they carried out reconnaissance as well as border protection. "Later on, under the name stradiots, Venice and other Italian states (Milan, Siena, Pisa, Genoa) took into service Croats and Hungarians. Hunyadi Janos and Miklos Zriny and their troops were mercenaries in wars on Italian soil."
* Arnold 2001 p97
"By the beginning of the sixteenth century there were several different types of light horse, many of them originating in the frontier regions of Europe. ... Venice extensively recruited light cavalry from her Balkan possessions in Greece and Albania. These were the infamous stradiots, armed with light lances and sabres, who excelled at the complementary techniques of raiding and looting. Their ethnic and religious origins were suspect, and some were undoubtedly born Muslims -- the troop of Turkish light horse that defected during the Otranto campaign of 1481 were probably classed as stradiots. Croats, Pandours and Hungarian hussars were similar types of Eastern light cavalry. Venice was often their first Western employer, but troops soon passed into the service of other states."
* Elgood 2009 p27
"By the end of the 16th century, stradioto companies had served all the major Italian states, France, the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire. Eventually they were replaced as the nations of Europe formed their own light cavalry units such as Hussars. Stradioti continued to serve in the Levant and took part in the Turco-Venetian wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, though akinci practially ceased to be a component of Ottoman armies by the early 17th century."
* Zbirka oružja i vojne opreme u Muzeju seljačkih buna 2006 p6
"Vojnu snagu Hrvatske XVI. st. sačinjavale su čete najamnika koji se dijele na pješake (haramije) i laku konjicu (husare). Oprema i naoružanje lakog konjanika sastojalo se od pancira, kacige, štita, koplja i sablje. U drugoj polovini stoljeća laki konjanik -- husar opremljen je oklopom ili pancirom, šišakom (kacigom) štitom, kopljem, sabljom, bodežom, batom (buzdovanom) ili sjekiricom. Zavisno od materijalnih mogućnosti, laki konjanik se mogao naoružati i puškom."
* Imperial Austria 1992 p46
"In the eastern regions, light cavalry or Stradiots were still influenced by their Turkish equivalents, lightly protected by shield, hat or light helmet, saber, lance, and thrusting sword."
* Vuksic & Grbasic 1993 p108
"Their equipment and armament was a mixture of eastern and western. Only the Croats wore a local type of broadsword called the sc[h]iavona. Full armament consisted of a long lance, eastern composite bow and sabre or sword. Use of a shield and other protective gear was optional and helmets, mail coif and some parts of body-armour were not unknown."
* Pappas online
"There are some discrepancies in both primary and secondary sources as to how the stradioti were armed. The majority of sources indicate that they were armed with sabres, or one-edged swords, maces and a short lance with iron points on each end known as an arzagaye or assagaye. Other sources indicate that they may have been armed with bows as well. They also seemed to have carried a type of eared dagger, which saw wide use in Italy. The stradioti are reputed to have introduced this dagger into western Europe, which came to be known generally as an estradiot.
"According to most sources the stradioti wore little or no armor. If they did, it was usually padded linen tunics or shirts of chain mail. Contemporary authors indicate that they were attired and armored like the Turks except that they wore no turban. Since there was much intermingling of military styles, tactics, garb, and weaponry in the Balkans in the 14th and 15th centuries, it is difficult to say what aspects of weaponry, armor and attire were adopted from or lent to the Ottoman Turks. This writer believes it is safe to say that the stradioti were armed and attired in a mixture of Balkan and Turkish styles. There is no doubt that they later adopted some western arms and garb the longer they remained in service in Western Europe and in the Venetian-held areas of the Balkans and the Levant."
* Rosenthal & Jones 2008 p396 (Cesare Vecellio, writing in 1590)
"THE CLOTHING OF CROATIAN MEN The clothing shown here is worn not only by the Croatians but also by the Hungarians and by most of the Poles. The Croatians are Christian but subject to the Turks. Because of the cold, they dress in garments lined with fox, wolf, and other elegant animals such as martens and others of similar breed. They have a noble ruler, who not long ago in Venice was very well treated by the Croatians here. He wore garments of fine wool in scarlet and other colors, and also of satin, damasco, velvet, and other fabrics. He wore a hat or cap of velvet, with fur, to ward off the cold. The back part of the Croatians' overgown is longer by a palm and a half than the front. It is open up to the knee and through the opening can be seen hanging a sword, three fingers in width but not very long. These Croatians shave their heads, leaving only a lock of hair on top in the middle; they fasten their over garments down the middle of their chests with many buttons of gold or other metal. Their undergown is usually as long as the front of their overgown. This undergown they cinch only with a sword belt. They are handsome men, bearing arms and very skillful on horseback. They very often wear boots and other heavily made footwear."
* Rosenthal & Jones 2008 p394-395 (Cesare Vecellio, writing in 1590)
"The main style of dress of the noblemen of Croatia, and this might also be said of the Poles and the Hungarians, is that they wear a small hat of fine wool, but thick like felt, colored or black, with a feather about their forehead and a turned-up brim slashed at each side. They wear long overgowns with long sleeves, with large, square baveri that cover their shoulders almost completely and are lined with fur. They usually wear very beautiful buttons of silk braid. Their overgarments are floor-length, as are their sleeves. They wear a scimitar on a silver or iron chain. The colors of their gowns are porpora and every other beautiful color. They wear full-length, wide woolen stockings that have an opening in the back and can be fastened with copper, brass or silver eyes or loops, which allow the leg to be tightly covered from the knee down."
Rosenthal & Jones 2008 p398 (Cesare Vecellio, writing in 1590)
"SLAV or Dalmatian Man This country produces men and women who are tall, robust, and healthy, but their behavior and speech are usually coarse. They dress in colors and rarely wear black, except when they mourn their dead. On their heads they wear a cap, red or some other color, usually of felt, with an upturned brim. The nobles and high-ranking men among them wear velvet, damasco, scarlatto, and other fine wools of different colors. They wear a short casacca and under it another similar one, and green or red stockings, full-length but tied under the knee. They belt on a scimitar in Turkish fashion and many of them carry an iron-covered mace. They wear rather high felt shoes with a covering of leather, which they lace up their leg above the foot. They are Catholic and pious, arms-bearing and hardworking."
* Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, Larocca, Richardson, North, Spring, & Wilkinson 1993 p72 (Anthony North, "Seventeenth-century Europe" p72-83)
"Dalmatian troops in the service of Venice ... carried a form of basket hilt. Known as a schiavona, this had a cage-like basket of narrow bars and seems to have been introduced in the second half of the sixteenth century. It continued in use until the end of the eighteenth. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century versions have simpler hilts than their later counterparts, with three curved guards on one side of the hilt and a shield-shaped pommel made of cast brass. ... A very large number of schiavonas, often bearing arsenal marks stamped on the pommels, are preserved in the Armoury of the Council of Ten in the Doges' Palace in Venice."
* Venner 1986 p84
"C'est à Venise que l'on cree a la fin du XVIe une autre forme de protection de poignee avec la schiavone. Cette épée doit sont nom à l'infanterie mercenaire de la Serenissime, qui etait recrutee chez les paysans slaves de Dalmatie. La monture est formée d'un treillage serre de bandes obliques plates, allant du pommeau jusq'au-dessous des quillons, et enveloppant completement le talon de la lame. Le pas d'ane, qui subsiste initialement, disparaitra par la suite. Les quillons, d'abord visibles, raccourciront jusqu'a ne plus depasser le berceau. La lame plate à deux tranchants peut comporter des gouttieres. Sa longueur ne depasse pas un metre.
"A partire de 1580, les schiavones seront fabriquees en grand quantite à Brescia et deviendront populaires cez les militaires de nombreux pays d'Europe."
* Encyclopedia of European historical weapons 1993 p35
"The complex basket hilt reached its fully developed stage on the so-called schiavona swords, weapons originally typical of Venetian mercenary cavalry, largely consisting of Dalmatians, i.e. people of Slavonic origin (Schiavoni -- from where the name of the weapon probably originated). The hilt basket is constructed using wider or narrower bands or bars in a characteristic arrangement and covers the entire hand."
* Ubojite Oštrice 2003 p33
"Izloženih dilema, na sreću, nema kad su u pitanju schiavone; to su mačevi venecijanskih najamničkih i dobrovoljačkih trupa regrutiranih uglavnom baš od Dalmatinaca i morlačkog stanovništva iz područja prema turskoj granici te dijelom tamo i stacioniranih. Schiavone nisu izrađivane u Dalmaciji, možda su tek ponegdije montirane iz oštrica i dijelova uvezneh iz brescianskih i bellunskih radionica, dakle schiavone su i po porijeklu i po dizajnu talijansko sružje, ali one čine dio hrvatske ratničke prošlosti ne samo imenom i činjenicom da su njima bili naoružani uglavnom naši ljudi, već i time što su postale dio našeg folklora. Naši autohtoni ratnički plesovi poput moreške ili 'plesa od boja' ratničkih družina ('kumpanija') iz Blata i Pupnata, izvode sa schiavonama, a one su i osnovno hladno oružje cernida tj. lokalnih milicija, čija uloga nije adekvatno vrednovana u za Dalmaciju važnom historijatu morejskih ratova s Turskom. Schiavone su prevenstveno pješačko oružje s kojim su osim pješadijskih regimenti bile naoružane posade gradova odnosno gradskih utvrda. U talijanskoj literaturi neki autori tvrde suprotno da su to konjanička oružja ('spade da cavallo') jer su uglavnom 'mezza-spade' tj. imaju jednoipolsjekle oštrice." [references omitted]
* Stone 1934 p544
"SCHIAVONA. The Venetian broadsword of the 16th century. It has a broad, straight blade with a very heavy and elaborate basket hilt that covers the entire hand. The name is derived from schiavoni -- hired soldiers. The Scotch broadsword of the 17th century and later is copied from it."
* Evangelista 1995 p529
"SCHIAVONA. A Venetian broadsword of the sixteenth century.
"The schiavona had a broad, straight blade set onto a heavy, elaborate basket hilt. The overall length of the sword was as much as forty-one inches. Blade lengths varied between thirty-five and thirty-eight inches. "The name schiavona was derived from the Italian word schiavoni, which means 'hired soldiers'; that is, the weapon's name was derived from the men who used it.
* Calizzano 1989 p62-64
"La Slavonne est un type d'épée dont le nom derive des mercenaires levantins, les Slavons precisement, qui combattirent a la solde de la Serenissime Republique de 1400 a la chute, provoquée par Napoleon, de la Republique de Venise. Il s'agit d'une épée initialement destinée a la cavaliere, mais qui equipa par la suite les troupes de pietons et, dans ses dernieres années, les gardes du corps du Doge.
"[...] Cette arme se characterise par sa garde de fer en cage d'ou sort un court quillon de parade, et par son pommeau terminal en forme de <<tête de chat.>>"
* Tarassuk & Blair 1979 p416
"In its earliest form the schiavona had a pommel blade almost invariably of bronze or brass, in the shape of a cat's head with a central boss on each side. The grip was usually made of wood, wound around with cord or twine in broad loops and usually covered with leather, often gilded. In some cases the loops were of wire and overlaid the leather binding. The guard, arms of the hilt, and straight rear quillon all extended from the quillon block. A series of side bars, going from the knuckle guard to the rear quillon, and the arms of the hilt on both sides of the hilt offered good protection to the hand. As time passed, the bars of the guard increased in number until they formed a 'basket.'
"Schiavona blades had various places of origin: Italy, Germany, Spain. The blade was usually double-edged and pointed, often with one or more fullers."
* Withers 2010 p48 = Withers & Capwell 2010 p296
"Slavonic mercenaries from eastern Europe, particularly the Balkan or Dalmatian region, carried distinctive broadswords and are thought to be the originators of the schiavona sword. These mercenaries were vicariously employed by both Spain and the Republic of Venice during the 16th and 17th centuries, but the schiavona is probably best known for its Venetian association. The Council of Ten, or Consiglio dei Dieci, under which the Doge (head of state) administered the Venetian state during the 1600s, hired many of these Dalmatian mercenaries to protect and promote Venetian interests. A large store of schiavona swords is still present in the Armoury of the Doge's Palace, in Venice. ...
"The schiavona sword has a most distinctive hilt design. Hilt styles differ but they all exhibit the common feature of having a multi-leaf-shaped guard and 'cat's-head', or kazenkopfknauf [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION: Would these Dalmatians or Venetians have used a German-language term?], pommel in either brass, bronze or iron. Early examples are simpler in form with less complex basket hilts ...."
* Kertzman ed. 1999 p56 (Karel Sutt, "In search of the schiavona" p52-56)
* Wilkinson-Latham 1973 p8
"Another form of basket hilted sword, mainly used in Italy where it was first designed was the schiavona. These swords had an elaborate hilt composed of interlaced bars with a distinctive pommel which more often than not was in brass. The blades of these swords were heavy and of the cut and thrust variety."
* Rosenthal & Jones 2008 p395 (Cesare Vecellio, writing in 1590)
"In their hands they carry an iron-covered mace in the shape of a pike, trimmed with silver."
* Zbirka oružja i vojne opreme u Muzeju seljačkih buna 2006 p10
"Nadžak su upotrebljavali pješaci, a od XVI. stoljeća i konjanici. Vješao se na sedlo ili se zaticao o pojas. Kasnije se počeo upotrebljavati, kao i buzdovan, za oznaku časti i vojničkog položaja."
* Stone 1934 p223
"ESTRADIOT, STRADIOT. Originally Levantine soldiers in the Venetian service, later it meant light cavalry.
"The eared dagger was sometimes called a stradiot because it was introduced in Western Europe by these troops."
* Calizzano 1989 p100-102
"La <<dague à oreilles>> ou <<à l'estradiot>> remporta un plus vif succès dans le sud de l'Europe. Cette arme généralement dépourvue de garde se caractérise par une poignée très particulière et élégante: en l'observant avec le plat de la lame dirigé vers soi, on distingue un manche polygonal marqué, au centre, par un renflement qui le transforme en deux troncs de pyramide réunis à la base. Au niveau du pommeau, le manche s'élargit brusquement, constituant un élément arrondi et un ombon excentrique. En la regardant du côté du tranchant, elle se présente sous la forme de deux plaquettes divergentes partant d'une viole et décrivant au sommet une crête centrale, avant de suivre une ligne parallèle, de s'incurver élégamment vers l'extérieur et de former l'ombon. Ces deux fausses plaquettes encadrent la partie médiane du manche qui, toutefois, n'atteint pas l'extrémité supérieure des parties latérales, mais s'arrondit à la moitié environ de l'<<oreille>> constituée par la partie extérieure. Si lon décide de porter un coup de haut en bas, le pouce peut alors prendre appui confortablement das l'espace ainsi abtenu. Notons que la présence de l'ombon n'était par constante."
* Stone 1934 p214
"EARED DAGGER, ESTRADIOT. A dagger derived from Oriental models and first used by the Venetian Estradiots, for which reason they are often called 'stradiots' or 'estradiots.' The usual name is derived from the disks they fastened to the pommel that stand up like ears. They were very popular, especially in Italy, in the first half of the 15th [SIC?] century." [reference omitted]