Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1786 Qajar cavalry 
Subject: irregular armored cavalryman
Culture: Turco-Iranian
Setting: civil war, Zand-Qajar Persia mid-late 18thc
Evolution1467 Ak Koyunlu cavalry > 1587 Safavid gholam > 1786 Qajar cavalry

Context (Event Photoss, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Masselos ed. 2010 p165 (Sussan Babaie, "Persia: The Safavids 1501-1722" p136-165)
"The 18th century witnessed a revival of tribalism, internecine feuds and the fragmentation of Persia.  The establishment of the Qajar dynasty (1779-1924) by Agha Muhammad Khan, the leader of one of the Qizilbash Turkmen tribes who had originally helped the Safavids to power, reconstituted a centralized monarchy, consolidated most of the territorial gains of the Safavids, and marshalled Iran's strategically important position in the modern era."

* Diba ed. 1998 p16 (Abbas Amanat, "Qajar Iran: A historical overview" p14-29)
"The death of Karim Khan [in 1779] soon plunged Iran into another interval of political unrest.  For nearly two decades, tribes roaming the countryside frequently threatened cities, entered into momentary alliances with rivals, and fell prey to more powerful warlords.  From these tribal chiefs emerged Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar (r.1785-97), the founder of the Qajar dynasty, whose quest for power began almost immediately after Karim Khan's death.  [...]
​    "By the early 1780s Aqa Muhammad Khan was master of the northern provinces.  Overcoming rifts among the Qajar clans and among his many brothers, he successfully mobilized the frontier Turkomans and other affiliated tribes of the north into an effective army.  In 1786 he made the strategic town of Tehran his capital, before pushing south to capture Isfahan and Shiraz in a series of campaigns against the Zands.  Prevailing over most of his rivals (with the exception of the remainder of the Afsharids in Khurasan), he brought to a halt the long and destructive civil war, put an end to the quarreling Zands, and unified Iran under a stable rule by the mid-1790s."

* Lapidus 1988 p571-572
"The Qajars came to power after a period of anarchy and tribal (uymaq) struggles to control the Iranian state.  Their regime was never consolidated.  Their armies were composed of a small Turkoman bodyguard and Georgian slaves; the central administration was a court government too little developed to effectively tax the country.  The provinces they ruled were fragmented into innumerable tribal, ethnic, and local factions headed by their own chieftains.  Khans and Ilkhans governed their own tribes.  A combination of formal governmental appointments, control of land, rights to collect taxes, and the power to administer justice and mediate disputes made tribal chiefs virtually independent of the state.  The authority of Khans was by no means absolute since it also depended upon the ability to rally support from lesser chiefs who had to be coerced, cajoled, bought off, or otherwise made allies of the paramount Khans, but it was often sufficient to assure their autonomy. ... The new regime, moreover, never captured the aura of legitimacy which had inspired Safavid rule and never managed to fully establish its control.  Effective local power remained in the hands of tribal chiefs, officials, and landowners, while the Qajars maintained their suzerainty by exploiting the rivalries of lesser chiefs."

* Holt/Lambton/Lewis eds. 1970 v1A p435-436 (Ann KS Lambton, "Persia: The breakdown of society," p430-367)
"The nature of the military forces of the Qājārs did not contribute to stability.  As in earlier times, the army was largely formed by provincial contingents and irregular cavalry and infantry, with a small body of regular troops.  There was no clear dividing line between the provincial governor, the tribal leader, the landowner, and the military commander.  This facilitated rebellion and made the control of the shah always precarious.  Āqā Muhammad Khān's total forces probably did not exceed 70-80,000 men and his revenues were so small that he could not maintain them for more than six or seven months of the year.  Their principal arms were bows and arrows, clubs, lances, swords and daggers.  The cavalry wore coats of mail and some used small shields.  Fire-arms consisted of long muskets, mostly matchlocks."

* Farrokh 2011 p180
"The cavalry of Iran was described in 1805 by Napoleon's emissary to Persia, Colonel Alexandre Romieu as 'the best in the entire Orient.'  The irregular cavalry hailed from western (i.e. Lurs, Bakhtiaris, etc) and eastern Iran (i.e. contingents from Khorasan, Turkmen, Baluch, etc).  The total number of cavalry was estimated as ranging between 140,000 and 150,000 with the tribal element of the cavalry numbering 80,000.  Their weapons are generally described as being very long guns, lances and shields.  Colombari notes that by the time of Mohammad Shah, the army was able to raise 190,000 tribal cavalry.  Each tribe was expected to provide a cavalry contingent at times of war with cavalrymen being expected to provide their own mounts, however salaries were provided to these when engaged in government service.  In peacetime, cavalry units would be generally available for full-time service for around two months of the year before retiring to their homes in winter."


* Black 1999 p28
"[F]ar from cavalry proving anachronistic, it was to be armies relying on the combination of horse and gun that conquered Persia in 1721-2, and successfully invaded northern India in 1738-9 and 1752-61." [CONTRA Vuksic & Grbasic 1993 p148]

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p70-71
"Pistols were not very popular in Iran ..., and their production was sporadic.  Very often, the pistols that were used were imported.  Thus there are only a few remaining specimens in eastsern weapons collections and they are a real rarity.  There are two main types of pistol: one has a butt similar to the butt of a Persian shot-gun, only smaller ...; the other type has a butt similar to the butts of eastern European flint pistols. ...
​    "Caucasus pistols were also used in north-east Iran, which lies near the Caucasus mountains. [SIC] These pistols were made mainly in Dagestan, which was famous for its products.  Many pistols had European locks."

Armor (Helmet, Plates, Coat)

* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p148 (describing Nadir Shah's lancers in the mid-1700s, slightly preceding the Qajars)
"From the end of the seventeenth century, Persian infantry and artillery units had firearms and had been trained by European instructors.  The tactics and equipment of the cavalry, however, had remained decidedly obsolescent, with only the quality and beauty of the armour, mail and sabres reaching their pinnacle in the eighteenth century.  [CONTRA Black 1999 p28]  The basic weapons of upper-class Persians were the lance, composite bow and sabre.  [...]  The chair aina (four mirrors) armour was so named because it consisted of four plates: breastplate, backplate, and one under each arm, and it was worn over a fine mail shirt.  Also part of the protective equipment was a helmet (sisak), traditionally ornamented with bird feathers, a round shield with four bosses, and a right-hand guard (majsur)."

* Richardson 2015 p80
"Most of the surviving armour of later Iran was made in the Zand and Qajar periods (1750-1924).  However, a small amount of Safavid material survives.  In the late 17th century, mail and plate body armour was replaced by a form of plate armour called chahar a'ineh, 'four mirrors', comprising four rectangular plates joined by straps worn on the chest over a mail shirt.  These were usually decorated with gold over lay [SIC], usually with calligraphic passages from the Qur'an, and particularly during the Qajar period, with hunting scenes.  They were made en suite with a pair of arm defences (bazuband), a helmet with a mail aventail and nasal defence (kolah khod) and steel shield (separ)."

Spears (Javelin, Lance)

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p66
"Spears, lances, combat forks, javelins  Pole arms were an important element of the armament of the Persian and Mogholian army.  Many miniatures from these countries show battle scenes in which warriors use long lances.  Specimens that have survived up to this day (rarely with the shaft) are from the 17th century and later.  A number of lances with heads of various shapes are in the exhibition in Bern.  Most of them have authentic shafts made from hardwood or bamboo.  The tassels are horse-hair, silk or cotton.  The tassels at the head mounts were for decoration and were also helpful when extracting the weapon from the enemy's body."

Impact Weapons (Axe, Mace)

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p65
"These types of weapons were often used in Iran and Moghul India.  The specific types of each group of weapon were identical, or were similarly named in both countries.  Only in the case of decorated specimens, is it possible to distinguish whether it is of Indian or Persian origin by examining the types and techniques of the decorations."

* Macaraeg 2011 p35
"Between them, they [Qajar arms and armor including axes and maces] freely mix Avestan and Zoroastrian demons, sacred bulls, and dragons with Quranic verses and Shi'a symbols.  An attentive observer might liken this mix to pre-Christian Greco-Roman iconography appearing on 'Christian' European weaponry of the Renaissance and later ...." 


* Müller/Kölling 1984 p75
"Persische Säbel -- Shamshir (Löwenschweif) und Scimitar gennant -- haben eine besonders stark gebogene, schlanke, sich sehr verjüngende Klinge ohne Hohlschliffe.  Die Pfeilhöhe ist also besonders groß.  Das obere Griffende knickt stark nach der Schneidenseite hin ab und ist oft mit einer Griffkappe versehen.  Die geraden Parierstandigen erweitern sich zu einem breiten Mittelschild."

* Seitz 1981 p348
"Shamshir und scimitar sind verschiedene Namen für den persischen Säbel mit stark gebogener Klinge, der ziemlich schlank ist und zur Spitze hin noch schlanker wird. Die Proportionen der Klinge erkennt man daraus, daß die Länge in diesem Fall 77 cm beträgt und die Pfeilhöhe 9,5 cm."

* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Shamshir (1902.87.10)
"Known to Europeans as the scimitar, the shamshir is the quintessential long-sword of the horsemen of Persia (Iran), Moghul India and Arabia. This particular example belongs to a style of the period 1650-1750.
    "The name means 'tiger's claw' [SIC CONTRA Müller/Kölling 1984 p75], and alludes to its distinctive curve. This curve is a direct functional development, intended to widen the blade's cutting portion and permit deeper wounds when used in a downwards 'drawing' cut. Shamshirs are highly adapted to the horse-mounted form of hand-to-hand combat practised in western and southern Asia between the 16th and 18th centuries, whereby attacks could be made either in passing or by slashing down on infantry from above."

* Fryer 1969 p88
Shamshir  A Persian sabre with curved blade of even width.  The hilt generally ahs a straight crosspiece of steel or silver-gilt, and ivory grips with right-angled pommel."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p (Anthony North, "Swords of Islam" p136-147)

* North 1985 p


* Stone 1934 p565
"SIPAR.  Persian, a shield.  It is the same as the Indian Dhal.  Occasionally the Persian shields have three handles so that they can either be held in the hand or carried on the arm."

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p70
"Separ, dhal, darque[:] These names refer to all types of Persian and Moghul shields from the 17th-19th centuries.  The shields were 35-60 cm in diameter and were often crafted from bulat, thick leather or papier mache (these were painted and decorated with a gold ornament).  Separs had four decorative buttons that ended the rods going through the shield.  The inner surface was padded; there was a small rectangular pillow protecting the arm.  Metal shields were decorated either with a floral ornament or with damascening or engraving."

* Cтaриннoe oружие 1993 p117
"Hecмoтpя нa пapaднoe oфopмлeниe, пoдoбныe щиты coxpaняли бoeвoe знaчeниe в иpaнcкoй кoнницe вплoть дo нaчaлa XIX в."


* Egerton 1968 p142
"Besides the ordinary curved 'Shamsher,' the Persians use a straight sword with the quillons downwards."

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p65
"Apart from scimitars, double-edged swords called quaddare were also used in Persia.  ... [One type] had a flat blade, was often decorated with an acid etched letter ornament and had a symmetrical, metal hilt with a small pommel.  The quillon ends were curved in the blade's direction."

* Khorasani 2006 p200, 206
"There is a widespread belief among collectors in Europe and North America that these swords were made in order to revive a tradition that reached back to the early Islamic era when Qajar smiths were imitating early Arab swords.  Hence, these swords are known as 'revival swords' in these circles.  The rationale behind using this term is that thse swords are an imitation of the early Arab swords, the revival of older traditions of the early Islamic caliphates.  ...  However, there are some arguments against this concept. 
​    "[...]  [T]he curved shamshir replaced the straight swords over the course of time, but this does not mean that the production of straight-bladed swords ceased altogether and suddenly resumed during the Qajar period.  ...  It is not surprising to see that Qajar kings, who considered themselves true heirs to the Safavid Dynasty, made straight, double-edged swords as well.  This was likely a continuation of an old tradition of making doubled-edged swords in Iran and not a revival of early Islamic/Arab blades used by the early Muslim forces."  [CONTRA Macaraeg 2011 p36-37]

* Macaraeg 2011 p36-37
"[W]hile indisputably a uniquely Qajar Persian phenomenon, the sword is structurally inconsistent with earlier Persian straight swords, despite Khorasani's insistence on that lineage.  Since Timurid times Persian sword blades were hilted by fitting a quillon block at the shoulders, riveting slab grips to the tang, and adding a separate pommel.  Again, this construction is consistent with other swords and sabers in the Turco-Mongol military tradition.
​    "The [Persian revival sword] does none of this.  Its blade is attached to a hollow metal hilt filled with adhesive, with no riveting.  The hilt is integral rather than formed of components -- the pommel, grip, and guard are continuous.  Khorasani mentions obliquely that this was the contemporary (and distinctly) Indian method for sword hilting, but seems to avoid the obvious conclusion that the 'Persian' revival sword is Indian by derivation.  Further structural details suggest an Indian source.  The hollow metal hilt, like the Indo-Afghan pulowar and various Indian swords, has a swelling of the central grip and integral langets to secure a scabbard. The dragon heads that terminate most [Persian revival swords'] quillons find near exact equivalents on some South Indian hilts.  Intensive material contact between Safavid Persia and the Deccan Sultanates of southern/central India makes mere coincidental resemblance unlikely.  Thus, while the [Persian revival sword] is Persian decoratively and Turco-Mongol functionally, it is Indian structurally." [references omitted]

* Khorasani 2006 p201 (citing Weist 1979 p73)
"Judging by the weight, COP (center of percussion), and POB (point of balance) of late Iranian straight swords, they were obviously meant for chopping rather than draw cutting.  Additionally, the rounded blade tip on many examples evidences the fact that these swords were clearly not intended for thrusting."


* Richardson 2015 p88
"The usual form of dagger used in Iran and Iraq was the khanjar, with a curved, double-edged blade.  The hilts were usually waisted, often of steel or of walrus ivory, sometimes of jade and set with semi-precious stones.  Lapis lazuli and turquoise were popular in the north and east of Iran."

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p64, 65
"Daggers with a curved blade, called the khanjar appeared in the 18th century. [...]
    "The khanjar's characteristic features are the curved blade, sometimes in the shape of the letter ,s'.  The blade, which is approximately 20-30 cm long, gradually narrows and forms a sharp tip.  The blade has a symmetrical rib and the superior specimens are manufactured from bulat.  The hilt of Persian khanjars may be made of walrus tusk or steel (it is rarely made of horn). ...
    "Some hilts of Persian khanjars are made of walrus tusks and have figural scenes sculpted on them, others are made of steel decorated by damascening."

​* Khorasani 2006 p220
"The khanjar, with its graceful curve, is one of the most beautiful weapons among Iranian arms.  Most Qajar examples have an I-shaped handle and an aesthetically curved blade, and the majority of the blades exhibit a central midrib.  Yet examples with fullered blades also exist.  The strong blade is normally made of crucible steel and has a midrib; sometimes, the edge of the area close to the forte is strengthened and left unsharpened, creating a double-fullered visual effect. Although the majority of khanjars have watered steel blades, there are also examples of plain steel (high carbon) blades.  Customarily, the tip thickens, and the midrib goes directly into the tip of the blade, ending there. ...  The blade is straight for the first half, whereupon it curves strongly.  In general, the grip is made of one solid piece of walrus ivory.  There are examples with all-metal handles as well."

* Khorasani 2006 p221-222
"There is normally no loop for hanging the khanjar since it is tucked in the belt, sash, or girdle so that only the grip is visible.  According to Zeller and Rohrer, the khanjar is carried either on the right or left side but never in the middle; however, they add that the majority of the figures with khanjars carry this dagger on the right side.  A 19th century Qajar period painting of Mohammad Hassan Khan shows him wearing his khanjar tucked under his belt on the right side.  There is a Qajar painting from the 19th century, entitled A Prince and a Servant.  The prince in this painting is shown with a khanjar tucked under his belt on the left side.  Since he is resting his left hand behind the grip, it seems reasonable to assume that he is left-handed, hence the positioning of the khanjar on the left side.  Allan and Gilmour quote Binning, who traveled to Isfahan in the middle of the 19th century and reported that two different types of daggers were worn: a curved, double-edged dirk (clearly referring to a khanjar) stuck in the girdle on the right side and the kard, a straight, single-edged, pointed knife carried on the left side.  Jacob states that Iranian warriors carried both knives or kards and daggers or khanjars, the latter being more famous.  He further states that it is unlear whether this curved-bladed Iranian dagger influenced the Arab dagger or vice versa.
    "A 19th century Qajar period painting of Fath Ali Shah portrays some of his courtiers carrying khanjars on the right side and kards almost in the middle or left with the handles lying diagonally toward the right.  Hanging a khanjar on the right side allows for a quick draw in a reverse grip.  Positioning the kard in the middle with its handle lying diagonally towards the right allows a quick draw in a frontal grip."  [references omitted]


* Calizzano 1989 p23-25
"Le Kard persan, couteau ou coutelas à lame droite, tranchant unique, de longueur variable (entre 15 et 45 cm), à poignée en os ou en ivoire parallèle au dos et déviée vers celui-ci par rapport à l'axe central de la lame.  L'acier de cette dernière, généralement damasquinée, est de très bonne qualité.  La pointe de ce couteau est souvent renforcée de façon à ce qu'il puisse transpercer une cotte de mailles.  [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS: Is piercing mail with a knife even possible?  If so, why is there no evidence of it?]  L'une des particulairités de ce couteau est que le fourreau, en cuir ou en velours avec garnitures métalliques, atteint et dépasse la moitié de la virole terminant le manche vers la lame, si bien que lorsque le couteau est engainé, on ne distingue pratiquement que le manche."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/LaRocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p146 (Anthony North, "Swords of Islam" p136-147)
"A very elegant single-edged knife used extensively in Persia was the kard.   This has a blade of watered steel, often chiselled with palmette scroll reliefs near the hilt.  The grip consisted of bone or ivory plaques but had no guard, simply slotting into the top of the scabbard.  It is not known when the kard was first introduced in Persia but there are examples bearing dates in the early years of the seventeenth century.  However it seem [SIC] to have been especially fashionable in the second half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."

* Persian arms and armour 2000 p64
"The kard has the shape of a large knife and comes in different sizes, with a single-edged straight blade with a cylindrical hilt.  They had many uses; for everyday life, for combat and as a decorative item.  The combat kards were longer -- the length of the blade would be about 30cm.  The point was thickened; this was surely to allow easier piercing of chain mail or thick garments." [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS: Is piercing mail with a knife even possible?  If so, why is there no evidence of it?]

* Stone 1934 p336
"KARD.  A straight-bladed Persian knife with a straight hilt and no guard.  The point is often thickened to permit it being forced through mail.  [CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS: Is piercing mail with a knife even possible?  If so, why is there no evidence of it?]  They vary much in size and shape and are often of fine workmanship."

* Fryer 1969 p86
"Kard  A Persian knife with straight single-edged blade, usually of fine Damascus steel.  The guardless hilt was frequently of plain ivory."

* North 1985 p37
"Most collections of Eastern weapons include examples of the Persian short dagger known as a 'Kard'.  The blades are usually of watered steel, the grip being formed of two plaques of bone or morse ivory held by rivets.  The more elaborate of these daggers have finely chiselled scrolls and arabesques on the blade near the grip, the blade being straight and single edged with a flat back.  A number are inscribed with the makers' names and dates.  The majority of the dated examples were made around 1800."