Military History Journal article on Mongolian Armies

The British Military History Monthly Journal of July 2017 features an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the armies of the Mongols:

Farrokh, K. (2017). The armies of the Mongols. Military History Monthly, July Issue 82, pp.36-41.

[Right] Cover of the July edition of the British Military History Monthly journal [left] Sample page of the article on Mongolian armies in the British Military History Monthly article. 

As noted in the article: “From the highest khans to the lowliest tribesmen, Mongol warriors would be capable of the most elaborate and coordinated combined-arms operations on the battlefield – partly due to relentless peacetime training, partly to the practice of the hunt, a regular form of military or ‘live fire’ exercise, with bows and other weapons as well as equestrian skills in use against dangerous prey”.


A contemporary image of a Mongol or Turkic archer with a recurved composite bow; long-range skirmishing and archery were fundamental to the steppelands way of war (Source: Military History Monthly, July 2017).

The article also provides an overview of the tactics, armaments and key characteristics of the armies of the Mongols. It is further averred in the article that: “…scholars attribute Mongol successes to a combination of exemplary tactics, tight discipline, and exceptional command and control“.

A contemporary image of a Persian horse archer; the warfare of Mongols, Turks and Persians alike was based on horsemanship and archery (Source: Military History Monthly, July 2017).

The Mongol armies of Genghis Khan perfected the stratagem “march divided, attack united”.

Uniform and helmet of a Mongol-Yuan warrior during the failed Mongolian invasion of Japan (Source: Public Domain).

A Stroll Through Isfahan’s Armenian Julfa Quarter

The report “A Stroll Through the Isfahan’s Armenian Julfa Quarter” and the accompanying photos below were originally published in the Real Iran outlet on March 7, 2016.



New Julfa (literally Jolfa quarter of Isfahan) is the Armenian quarter of Isfahan, Iran, located along the south bank of the river Zayandeh River.


Established by Armenians from Julfa, Nakhichevan in the early 17th century, it is still one of the oldest and largest Armenian quarters in the world.


New Julfa was established in 1606 as an Armenian quarter by edict of Shah Abbas I, the influential shah from the Safavid dynasty. Over 150,000 Armenians were moved there from Julfa in Nakhichevan.


All history accounts agree that, as the residents of Julfa were famous for their silk trade, Shah Abbas treated the population well and hoped that their resettlement in Isfahan would be beneficial to Persia.


New Julfa is still an Armenian-populated area with an Armenian school and sixteen churches, including Surp Amenaprgitch Vank, which is a Unesco World Heritage site, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.


Armenians in New Julfa observe Iranian law with regard to clothing, but otherwise retain a distinct Armenian language, identity cuisine, and culture.


The policy of the Safavids was very tolerant towards the Armenians as compared to other minorities, such as the Iranian Georgians and Circassians.


According a reference by David Petrosyan of the Institute for Central Asian and Caucasian studies, New Julfa had between 10,000-12,000 Armenian inhabitants in 1998. As of today it is still one of the largest ethnic Armenian quarters in the world.


Popular with young people in Isfahan, it is experiencing considerable growth compared to other districts.


The article below entitled “Caravansaray” by Moḥammad-Yūsuf Kīānī and Wolfram Kleiss originally appeared on the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1990 and is available in print (Vol. IV, Fasc. 7, pp. 798-802).

Kindly note that excepting three figures and captions from the original Encyclopedia article, all other images and captions did not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica posting.


Caravansaray (also Caravansarai, Caravansaray, Pers. kārvān-sarā/-sarāy “lodging for caravans,” from kār(a)vān “caravan” and sarāy “house”; sometimes called ḵān), a building that served as the inn of the Orient, providing accommodation for commercial, pilgrim, postal, and especially official travelers. The term kārvān-sarā was commonly used in Iran and is preserved in several place names.

In Persian the Arabic term rebāṭ, meaning a fortified rest house on a land route, was common, as was the popular designation kārvān-sarāy-e šāh-ʿabbāsī (built by Shah ʿAbbās) after Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629); the latter term, however, was applied indiscriminately to all caravansaries built between the late 10th/16th and 13th/19th centuries.


Jean Chardin’s illustration from his book “Voyages de Mr. Le Chevalier Chardin en Perse et autres lieux de l’Orient 1723” of a caravansary in Kashan during the late Safavid era i(Source: Public Domain from Gallica website).

Caravansaries could be established by religious foundations on pilgrim routes or by merchants’ guilds, as well as by rulers and notables on normal commercial routes, which were often identical with the pilgrim routes (in only rare instances are original building inscriptions preserved in situ). In addition, especially in the reign of Shah ʿAbbās, when the road system was systematically extended throughout Iran, the court at Isfahan seems to have built many caravansaries along the new roads: those linking Isfahan to Faraḥābād on the Caspian Sea (Kleiss, 1980); those leading from Bandar-e ʿAbbās(ī) on the Persian Gulf coast to Lār (either directly or through Bandar-e Lenga) and Shiraz, to Sīrjān and Yazd, and to Bāft and Kermān; and those from Isfahan to Hamadān, from Isfahan to Mašhad via Yazd and Ṭabas, from Isfahan to Kermān via Yazd, from Kermān to Mašhad, from Qazvīn to Shiraz via Sāva and Isfahan, from Qazvīn to Jolfā via Tabrīz, and from Tehran to Mašhad (Kleiss, 1987; 1981, pp. 203ff.).

From the number of surviving caravansaries (by 1366 Š./1987 some 465 buildings had been systematically measured) and from their sizes it is clear that in Safavid and Qajar times there was a state architectural department that was specifically concerned with the construction of caravansaries and stations on the overland routes. Furthermore, in the cities a number of caravansaries were erected as lodging houses, depots, and commercial offices in the vicinity of the bāzārs. They resembled the road caravansaries in form, except that most had two stories, whereas the latter had only one.


The Izadkhast carvansaray dated to the Samanid era (c. 819-999) (Source: Public Domain by Mbenoist).

A social consciousness fostered by the laws and beliefs of Islam and embodied in the institution of the waqf (pious endowment) certainly played a role in the construction of caravansaries, but the desire for prestige was also recognizable in all periods and especially under the Safavids and the Qajars, when rulers and merchants sponsored many such structures along the caravan routes near Isfahan and Tehran.

The normal caravansary consisted of a square or rectangular plan centered around a courtyard with only one entrance and arrangements for defense if necessary. Whether fortified or not, it at least provided security against beasts of prey and attacks by brigands. This architectural type developed in the 1st millennium b.c. in Urartian and Mesopotamian architecture (Kleiss, 1979; Frankfort, pp. 73ff.) and was further evolved in the ancient world, in the palace architecture of the ancient Greeks, for example, the palace of Demetrias called the Anaktoron, with rooms opening from a large colonnaded courtyard (Marzolff; pp. 42ff.); Greek and Roman peristyle houses; and a.d. 3rd- and 4th-century Roman castles like Burgsalach (Ulbert and Fischer, p. 87, fig. 67) and the Palast-Burg in Pfalzel, near Trier (Cüppers, pp. 163ff.). The same building type persisted in the Near East in structures like the church-house from Dura Europos (a.d. 3rd century; Klengel, p. 162). It achieved its fullest expression, however, in the work of Muslim architects: in the desert palaces of the Omayyads, hypostyle (or “Arab”) mosques, Koran schools (madrasas), and above all rebāṭs and caravansaries. It thus played an integral part in the architectural history of the Islamic lands. The Crusaders brought it to Europe, where it was combined with the cruciform aisles of Christian architecture and adopted for the castles of the Teutonic Knights (Holst), as well as for Renaissance (e.g., the castle of Aschaffenburg; Wasmuths Lexikon, p. 191) and Baroque palaces (Wasmuths Lexikon, pp. 321ff.); it survived in modern architecture in buildings for special purposes, like 19th-century museums (e.g., the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin).

In the Persian setting this courtyard plan, the one most commonly adopted for caravansaries, was probably borrowed from the rebāṭ. In the 2nd-6th/8th-12th centuries the Persian rebāṭ was typically almost square, with a single entrance, frequently emphasized by a projecting block. Towers at the corners and at intervals along the curtain walls conveyed a powerful and forbidding impression. Inside the walls the courtyard was surrounded by arcaded porticos and four halls (ayvāns) open toward the courtyard as at Qaḷʿa-ye Sangī near Kāj on the road north of Qom (Figure 61 A). Arrayed against the outer walls were vaulted rooms, opening from the arcades. In the four corners of the structure there were large domed rooms or more complex spaces consisting of cruciform corridors, each with four corner rooms. Only such rebāṭs, which had been designed mainly as military guardposts to ensure safety on the roads but which naturally also served to shelter travelers, could be considered suitable for reception of large camel caravans.

The Mongol invasion brought a visible change in building forms and functions. In the post-Mongol period, for example, it is clear from the plans themselves that the main function of caravansaries, such as that at Bīsotūn, was as inns, especially in the Safavid constructions of the 11th/17th century (see Figure 61 B).


Figure 61. Plans of large courtyard caravansaries. A. Qaḷʿa-ye Sangī near Kāj, with porticos (after Kleiss). B. Bīsotūn, with diagonal walls in the corners and anterooms opening directly from the courtyard (after Kleiss; Encyclopedia Iranica).

Typically there were arched niches on both sides of the portal, which served as cupboards and fireplaces for those staying overnight outside the caravansary. The portal was placed more architectonically, on the central axis of the facade, and emphasized by a projecting two-storied entrance block; in the upper story there were residential quarters for more affluent travelers. There were no porticos around the courtyard; instead there was a series of anterooms with arched entrances, through which travelers passed to reach the guest rooms. The anterooms were raised 60-100 cm above the level of the courtyard so that the caravan animals could not stray into them. Both anterooms and guest rooms were provided with niches and fireplaces, the latter vented through chimneys. The ayvāns, also slightly raised above the level of the courtyard, served to articulate the inner facades and, with the exception of the entrance ayvān, provided additional accommodations for more important travelers. On both sides of the entrance behind the portal there were usually at least two rooms, intended for a guard and for the manager of the caravansary, who no doubt also offered provisions for sale. Larger caravansaries had storerooms, latrines, baths, and places for prayer; in particular there might be a prayer niche in one of the ayvāns, depending on whether or not one of the building axes was oriented to the qebla (the direction of Mecca). In the four corners of the courtyard there were often diagonal walls with entrances to the stables (though arrangements for access to the stables varied considerably). The stalls, with raised sleeping platforms for caravan drivers, were found between the outer walls and the guest rooms (Figure 61 B) and were frequently divided into four sections, in order to increase the capacity for accommodations. The sleeping platforms in the stables were also provided with niches and fireplaces. In a few caravansaries, instead of stable entrances in the four corners of the courtyard, elaborate suites of guest rooms opened directly from the courtyard. These suites could also be entered from the stables through domed rooms. The range of architectural variation in Iranian caravansaries was considerable and was further developed in each subsequent period. Until the construction of caravansaries came to an end at the beginning of the 14th/20th century, they represented an unbroken tradition of considerable achievement within Iranian architecture.

Aside from courtyard caravansaries of this type, among which there were a few examples with two entrances on opposite sides, as well as one with entrances both in front and in one side wall (e.g., Ḵātūnābād near Tehran, see Figure 62 A), there were also round caravansaries with twelve-sided courtyards and octagonal caravansaries (see Figure 63 B-C further below). The number of ayvāns could vary between two and four.


Figure 62. A. Plans and sections of mountain caravansaries at Ḵātūnābād (left; after Kleiss) and Gambūj east of Tehran on the road to Āmol (right; after Siroux, 1949). B. Plan of the mountain caravansary at Gadūk near Fīrūzkūh (after Kleiss; Encyclopedia Iranica).

Furthermore, in certain regions of Iran, there were caravansaries without interior courtyards: completely roofed mountain caravansaries and a pavilion type in the coastal areas on the Persian Gulf. Mountain caravansaries were built in or close to passes and were partially dug out of the cliffs so that their backs and parts of their side walls were sheltered under the overhanging mountains. They provided travelers with shelter from snow storms and avalanches in the autumn and spring (Figure 62 A); in winter the roads through the passes are almost entirely blocked. In lower mountain regions completely vaulted caravansaries also occurred but as a rule only as later additions or as entrance structures associated with courtyard caravansaries. This combination of enclosed and open-court caravansaries occurred much more frequently in the Saljuq ḵāns of central Anatolia and in the Transcaucasian steppes than in Iran. The completely roofed type of mountain caravansary encompassed a broad range, from small road stations to royal structures of the period of Shah ʿAbbās (Figure 62 B). In the smaller examples there is typically a central domed room with surrounding stable corridors or a series of tunnel-vaulted or domed chambers.

In the hot, humid coastal areas along the Persian Gulf, the climatic pattern is entirely different from those in the central Iranian desert basins or the uplands. The caravan routes and buildings on the coastal lowlands along the Persian Gulf can best be studied on the stretches of road built by the Safavids from Bandar-e ʿAbbās to the west, northwest, and north, especially the stretch between Bandar-e ʿAbbās and Lār (Gaube, 1979, pp. 33ff.). The majority of caravansaries on these roads were built in pavilion style (see Figure 63 A), with many variations in plan and construction. The basic type was a square building with a cruciform central space and corner rooms.


Figure 63. A. Plans and sections of three pavilion caravansaries (top; after Kleiss). B. Plans of centralized caravans: Rebāṭ-e Zayn-al-Dīn (middle; after Kīānī) and the Zīza caravansary (bottom; after Siroux, 1971). C. Plans of octagonal caravansaries at (1) Dehbīd, (2) Amīnābād and Ḵān-e Ḵorra, and (3) Čahārābād (all in Fārs)

A stone platform encircled the building. The rooms could all be entered from the outside, as these caravansaries were not intended to provide protection; apparently such measures were unnecessary when the type was introduced by Shah ʿAbbās I, who provided for general security on the caravan routes. The pavilion caravansary could thus be open on all sides in order to permit the cooling winds to blow through the buildings. The cisterns that stood next to such pavilion caravansaries were usually larger than the accommodations themselves.

The size of the caravansaries, especially those built in courtyard form, depended upon the frequency of traffic on the different roads. The prime considerations in construction were function and the need for space, not ostentation. By the size of the buildings the relative significance of the roads can thus be measured.

The spacing of way stations on level terrain was 30-40 km (average 35 km), which represented a day’s caravan journey. In mountainous regions, where the distance between two caravansaries was determined by the steepness of the road, the interval could be as small as 10-20 km. The pavilion caravansaries in the lowlands along the Persian Gulf were only about 5 km apart, often even closer together. The same is true of the small courtyard caravansaries on the road from Bandar-e Lenga to Ḵonj via Lār. These buildings consisted of long, narrow stables, which were grouped around mainly square courts, with small rooms for travelers flanking the entrances.


Interior passageway of the Orbelian (previously Selim) carvansaray in Armenia (Source: Wowarmenia).

Čāpār-ḵānas (postal stations; cf. čāpār) were frequently built next to large caravansaries, mainly in the Qajar period. They also had courtyard plans, but because of their size and construction technique they were not suitable for caravans.

Large Iranian courtyard caravansaries were built mainly of baked brick. The rebāṭs, the mountain caravansaries, and the pavilion types of the Persian Gulf were more frequently built of rubble and faced with stucco. Rubble was also used for many Qajar courtyard caravansaries. In the Saljuq period dressed stone was used in such buildings only in Khorasan, but it was typical for caravansaries in Armenian settlement areas of Azerbaijan in the 12th/18th and 13th/19th centuries.


H. Cüppers, Trier. Kaiserresidenz und Bischofssitz, Mainz, 1984.

H. Frankfort, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient, Harmondsworth, 1956, 4th ed., Harmondsworth and Baltimore, 1969.

H. Gaube, “Ein Abschnitt der ṣafavidischen Bandar-e ʿAbbās-Šīrāz-Strasse. Die Strecke von Seyyed Ğemāl ad-Dīn nach Lār,” Iran 17, 1979, pp. 33-47.

N. v. Holst, Der deutsche Ritterorden und seine Bauten, von Jerusalem bis Sevilla, von Thorn bis Narwa, Berlin, 1981.

M.-Y. Kīānī, “Nosḵaye aṣlī-e ketāb-ḵāna-ye Mūza-ye Brītānīā dar bāra-ye kārvānsarāhā-ye ʿahd-e Ṣafawīya dar Eṣfahān,” Bāstān-šenāsī o honar-e Īrān 5, 1349 Š./1970, pp. 44-49.

Idem, Iranian Caravansarais with Particular Reference to the Safavid Period, Tokyo, 1978.

W. Kleiss, “Die safavidischen Schlösser in der Wüste östlich des grossen Salzsees (ʿAbbasabad/Siah Kuh und Sefid Ab),” AMI 13, 1980, pp. 179-89.

Idem, “Karavanenwege in Iran (Stand 1986),” AMI 20, 1987 (forthcoming). Idem, “Zum Stand der Karavanserail-Forschung in Iran 1979,” AMI 14, 1981, pp. 203-05.

Idem and M. Y. Kīānī, Fehrest-e kārvānsarāhā-ye Īrān I, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.

Idem and S. Kroll, “Vermessene urartäische Plätze in Iran (West-Azerbaidjan) und Neufund (Stand der Forschung 1978),” AMI 12, 1979, pp. 183-243.

H. Klengel, Syrien zwischen Alexander und Mohammed. Denkmäler aus Antike und frühem Christentum, Leipzig, 1986.

P. Marzolff, “Demetrias 1979,” in Bericht über die 31. Tagung für Ausgrabungswissenschaft und Bauforschung 1980, Osnabrück, 1982, pp. 42ff.

K. Pīrnīā and K. Afsar, Rāh o rebāṭ, Tehran, 1359 Š./1970-71.

M. Siroux, Caravansérails d’Iran et petites constructions routières, Cairo, 1949.

Idem, Anciennes voies et monuments routiers de la région d’Isfahan, Cairo, 1971.

Idem, “Les caravansérais routiers safavides,” Iranian Studies 7/3-4, 1974, pp. 348-79.

G. Ulbert and T. Fischer, Der Limes in Bayern. Von Dinkelsbühl bis Eining, Stuttgart, 1983. Wasmuths Lexikon der Baukunst I, Berlin, 1929.

Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani: Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran

Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani has published a book in 2013 entitled:

Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran


  • Title: Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran
  • Author: Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani
  • Publisher: Niloufar Books, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • Number of pages: 392
  • Date of Publication: 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-3-00-039054-8

The book Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran is  a reference manual on the historical Iranian martial arts in application. The martial arts have influenced all aspects of the ten thousand year history, language and culture of the Iranian people, and remain to this day integral to the Iranian national identity as clearly demonstrated in the Persian epic the Book of Kings.

A unique martial culture has permeated all of the most important artifacts of ancient (bronze- and iron age Luristan and Marlik sites), classical (Achemenid, Parthian and Sassanids), medieval (Samanids) and early modern and modern Iran (Safavid, Afsharid, Zand and Qajar periods), in its art and archaeology, literature, physical culture and national outlook.


Helmets and shields (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

It is, without doubt, a martial tradition whose lineage extends back in time to the ancient period, as evidenced by production of large numbers of copper, bronze and iron swords and other weapons made of same materials, and which subsisted in Iran through the classical period (iron and steel weapons), and culminated in the production of the magnificent crucible steel during medieval and modern periods despite all of the historical changes that Iran underwent at a political level. Accordingly, research into the martial arts of Iran has, until now, demanded an intimate familiarity with a vast range of diverse materials that deal with the subject either directly or indirectly, including direct access to rare manuscripts, manuals, arms and armor that can only be found in Iranian museums itself. With this book, that situation has now changed. The present book deals with the revival of Persian swordsmanship and the traditional martial arts of Iran. Within these pages there are no unprovenanced claims to knowledge. Everything is meticulously referenced.


Close-quarter blade combat techniques (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

The Iranian martial arts do not depend solely on an “oral tradition” for their lineage as well as their transmission from teacher to student, although the actual instruction is imparted from teacher to student. Rather, with regard to the lineage, every technique, every tactical advice and every method of training and application presented herein is properly provenanced with reference to at least one historical documentary source. Documentary evidence of specific techniques and training methods, taken from primary sources, fully supports every photographic and textual presentation of such techniques and methods shown in a vast number of miniatures and paintings and presented in this book. Didactic literary descriptions of martial arts, which might be likened to combat manuals, have a long history in Iran, and this book continues that tradition and showcases a number of complete and annotated manuascripts on archery, spear and lance fighting, war wrestling, etc. The Iranian martial arts presented in this book therefore hold up to a standard of academic scrutiny that will serve as a basis both for their introduction to the enthusiast or novice as well as a highly credible reference source to researchers.


Miniature Persian arts and poetry depicting close-quarter cavalry combat (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

The book Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran presents in clearly tabulated descriptions, accompanied by photographic depictions as well as depictions in antique miniature illustrations, combat techniques both on horseback and on foot, and both armed with traditional Iranian weapons and unarmed. The first chapter of this book, “code of chivalry and warrior codex” deals with the warrior codex and the principles of Persian chivalry. This chapter also analyzes the training methods of the varzeš-e pahlavāni (champion sport). This traditional martial art still harbors many legacies from the training of ancient Iranian champions by, for example, using many tools that resemble historical battlefield weapons. The function of these weapons was certainly to train and prepare warriors for the upcoming battles.


Close-quarter blade combat techniques (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

The next chapter deals with the history, principles and techniques of archery in Iran based on different Persian manuscripts. The next part of the chapter deals with principles of archery as described in different Persian manuscripts such as the archery part in the book Nŏruznāme [The Book of Nŏruz] attributed to Omar ben Ebrāhim Xayyām-e Neyšāburi, a complete, translated and annotated translation of a Safavid period manuscript written by Šarif Mohammad the son of Ahmad Mehdi Hosseyni on archery, lance fighting, wrestling, spear fighting and sword sharpening and etching. The next archery manual presented in this book is Jāme al-Hadāyat fi Elm al-Romāyat [Complete Guide about the Science of Archery] by Nezāmeldin Ahmad ben Mohammad ben Ahmad Šojāeldin Dorudbāši Beyhaqi from the Safavid period. Another archery manuscript offered in the book is titled Resāle-ye Kamāndāri [Archery Manuscript]. The third chapter of the book discusses “mounted combat and horse classification in Persian manuscripts”.The chapter deals with the these topics presenting a number of Persian manuscripts in this respect. The next chapter deals with combat with spears and lances in Iranian history. The chapter describes spears and lances and their typologies and then expands on different attack techniques with a lance/spear such as attacking different parts of the body with a spear/lance such as the eye, the neck, the throat, the mouth, the face, the arm/forearm, the chest, the abdomen, the navel, the shoulder, the side of the body, the back, the groin, the legs, the lower part of the spear/lance and cutting the armor straps of the opponent and many other techniques.


Axe-heads for close-quarter combat (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

The next chapter discusses the techniques of swordsmanship based on a number of Persian manuscripts. Analyzing different Persian manuscripts such as epic tales and battle accounts, one notes a certain consistency in the recurrent allusion to certain techniques through the centuries. The next chapter analyzes the history of maces and axes in Iranian martial tradition.Similar to swords, the techniques of using axes and maces from various sources are analyzed and presented starting from epics from the tenth century C.E. up until relevant sources dating back to the end of the Qājār period. Another chapter provides information on combat with short edged weapons in Iran such as kārd (knife), xanjar (dagger) and pišqabz (S-shaped dagger).


Close-quarter combat blades (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

The following chapter informs about combat with Persian short swords named qame and qaddāre in Iranian history. Those who are interested in wrestling will find this book indispensable as a reference source, as wrestling, of various types, has an extremely long history in Iran and is perhaps the most important foundation in the training of the Persian warrior archetype. Wrestling is highly systematized and there are prescribed criteria for graduation through various ranks of a wrestling school as well as detailed descriptions of wrestling techniques and sets of counters to every wrestling technique. Wrestling itself is also the basis of many techniques that are to be executed when armed with traditional weapons both long and short, as one of the most important objectives in Iranian martial arts is to take the opponent to the ground to finish him off (often with a dagger), and another is to use wrestling techniques in conjunction with a sword, or with a sword and shield in preparation to administer a finishing stroke.


Swords and blades of the straight type (Courtesy of M. Khorasani Consulting).

The wrestling chapter deals with wrestling which was an integral part of combat in Iran and includes the following sections: wrestling in Iranian history, techniques of wrestling on the battlefield (dealing with grabbing the sword hand or weapon hand of the opponent and throwing the opponent and using wrestling techniques on the battlefield).The chapter also offers the complete translated and annotated wrestling manuscripts. One of them is a wrestling manuscript written by Šarif Mohammad the son of Ahmad Mehdi Hosseyni from the period of Šāh Esmā’il Safavid. The chapter also offers a complete translated and annotated manuscript of the Tumār-e Puryā-ye Vali (Scroll of Puryā-ye Vali). The Safavid-period manuscript offers the names of many wrestling techniques. The chapter also presents a complete translated and annotated version of the Qājār-period poem Masnavi-ye Golkošti-ye Mirnejāt that deals with the topic of wrestling. The poem mentions a wide array of wrestling techniques.

The book Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran also offers a fully colored catalog of a number of historical Persian arms and armor at the end of the book with detailed descriptions and measurements.  Additionally the book has many miniatures depicting different war scenes from a number of Persian manuscripts.



            1.1 Warrior behavior, ceremony and respect

            1.2 The principles of javānmardi and ayyārān

            1.3 Preparation and training of warriors

            1.4 Physical exercises and training tools in the zurxāne                       

            1.5 Conclusion


            2.1 Archery in Iranian history

            2.2 Composite bow

            2.3 Bow and its typologies

            2.4 Arrow

            2.5 Thumb protector

            2.6 Bowstring

            2.7 The quiver and the bow case

            2.8 Arrow guide

            2.9 Principles of archery

            2.10 Target areas for archery                     

            2.11 Persian manuscripts on archery                       

            2.12 Conclusion


            3.1 Fighting with the lance on horseback

            3.2 Fighting with the mace and axe on horseback

            3.3 Sword drawing and swordfighting on horseback

            3.4 Grabbing, grappling and wrestling techniques on horseback

            3.5 Techniques and weapons for attacking a horse or an elephant

            3.6 A manuscript on lance combat by Šarif Mohammad the son of Ahmad

            Mehdi Hosseyni from the period of Šāh Esmā’il Safavid.

            3.7 Using lasso on horseback

            3.8 Horse classification in Persian manuscripts


            4.1 Spears and lances in Iranian history

            4.2 Spear/lance and its typologies

            4.3 Attack techniques with a lance/spear                       

            4.4 Feinting techniques with a lance/spear                     

            4.5 Defense techniques with a spear/lance                  

            4.6 Combinations of lance/spear techniques

4.7 A manuscript on spear combat by Šarif Mohammad the son of Ahmad

            Mehdi Hosseyni from the period of Šāh Esmā’il Safavid                       

            4.8 Spear in combination with the shield

            4.9 Conclusion


            5.1 Carrying, sheathing, and unsheathing the sword

            5.2 Carrying the shield

            5.3  Attacking techniques

            5.4 Feinting Techniques

            5.5  Combinations

            5.6 Defensive techniques

            5.7 Possible combinations of the attack and defense techniques with a šamšir

(sword) and a separ (shield) in Persian swordsmanship                       

            5.8 A manuscript on swords by Šarif Mohammad the son of Ahmad Mehdi

            Hosseyni from the period of Šāh Esmā’il Safavid (1502-1524 C.E.)

            5.9  Conclusion


            6.1 Maces in Iranian history

            6.2  Mace and its typologies

            6.3 Weight and impact  force of the mace

            6.4 Carrying the mace

            6.5 Techniques of mace attacks           

            6.6 Defensive techniques with a mace

            6.7 Combinations of fighting techniques with the mace

6.8 General aspects about the axe

6.9 Techniques of attack with an axe

6.10 Combinations with an axe

6.11 Conclusion


            7.1 Definition of kārd (knife)

            7.2 Kārd in  Persian manuscripts

            7.3 Carrying and unsheathing a knife

            7.4 Techniques of attack using a knife

            7.5 Combination of techniques in fighting with a knife

            7.6 Definition of xanjar

            7.7 Xanjar in Persian manuscripts

            7.8 Carrying and unsheathing the dagger

            7.9 Techniques of attack with a dagger

            7.10 Combinations of fighting techniques with the dagger

            7.11 Definition of pišqabz

            7.12 Conclusion


            8.1 Attack techniques with a qaddāre

            8.2 Possible combinations with a qaddāre

            8.3 Attack techniques with a qame


            9.1 Wrestling in Iranian history

            9.2 Techniques of wrestling on the battlefield

             9.3 Wrestling manuscript by Šarif Mohammad the son of Ahmad Mehdi Hosseyni from the period of Šāh Esmā’il Safavid

             9.4 A comparative analysis of the techniques mentioned in the Safavid period wrestling manuscript

             9.5 The manuscript of the Tumār-e Puryā-ye Vali (Scroll of Puryā-ye Vali)

             9.6 A comparative analysis of the techniques mentioned in the manuscript Tumār-e Puryā-ye Vali

            9.7 The manuscript Masnavi-ye Golkošti-ye Mirnejāt

            9.8 A comparative analysis of the techniques mentioned in the Mirnejāt manuscript

            9.9 Conclusion

10. References

12. Catalog

Some facts and statistics on the book Persian Archery and Swordsmanship: Historical Martial Arts of Iran

Number of pages: 392 pages

Endnotes: 2189

Weight of the book: 2400 grams

Size: 30,5 cm x 22,5 cm

Total number of pictures: 2095

1) Pictures of techniques: 1564 total

64 pictures of dagger techniques

64 pictures of knife techniques

145 pictures of qame and qaddare techniques

232 pictures of spear techniques

322 pictures of sword and shield, two swords, two handed sword techniques

149 pctures mace and axe techniques

460 pictures of wrestling techniques

128 pictures of varzesh- pahlavani techniques

2) Miniatures: 313 total

303 miniatures within the text

Full-page colored miniatures in th catalog: 10

3) Artifacts 218 total

Number of artifacts in the catalog: 40

Full-colored pictures of artifacts in the catalog: 178

Persian Shamshirs in the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg in 2014 by Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani

Next to Iranian museums the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg has one of the most beautiful collections of Persian shamshirs in their collection. The following article below by Dr. Manouchehr M. Khorasani (see also his article on the subject in shows some of these magnificent pieces:


A 19th century ritual sword (šamšir-e mostāqim: straight sword)  from Iran (Source: M. Khorasani Consulting). It was acquired in 1931 and was formerly held in the collection of Count Sergey Sheremekev’s collection.

A magnificent Persian shamshir with a Safavid period blade and Qajar-period fittings. the State Hermitage Museum provides the following description:

Steel, gold, leather, precios stones, enamel, forging, casting, chasing, carving. Iran, First half of the 19th century. Acquired in 1885-1886 from the Armoury of Tsarskoye Selo“.


The bolčāq ﺒﻠﭽﺎﻖ (crossguard) of the shamsir is made of gold and inserted with diamonds and precious stones as well as the kolāhak (pommel cap).  The handle slabs are made of ivory. The book Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran: A Study of Symbols and Terminology, Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani (2010) provides the following information on the term bolčāq ﺒﻠﭽﺎﻖ:

bolčāq ﺒﻠﭽﺎﻖ: (Haft Darviš) (n) handguard, crossguard of a sword; the term bolčāq is also used in the manuscript on futuvvat called “Haft Darviš” (seven dervish) which was probably written in naskh and is undated (Afshari & Madayeni, 1381:123).  Afshari and Madayeni (1381:123-4) attribute this book to the 11th or 12th century (17 or 18 A.D.) as it belonged to the library of Etezadol Saltane (the minister of science and mines) in 1296 hegira (1876 A.D.).  Afshari and Madayeni (1381:184) quote from this manuscript which says that one day a butcher who was a jawanmard went to Ali, kissed his hand and asked for help saying that his kārd became blunt very quickly.  Ali touched the bolčāq of his Zulfagar (the famous legendary sword attributed to Ali), rubbing it so long that a kardmal (a knife sharpener) was created.  Afshari and Madayeni (1381:184) further explain that bolčāq is originally a Turkic term describing the handguard which separates the qabze (handle) from the sword’s blade, tiqe-ye šamšir.


The magnificent Persian crucible Damascus steel blade as the pattern of Kirk nardeban (forty steps/rungs) in the western literature.  Persian manuscripts call this patttern pulād-e jŏhardār-e qerq nardebān : (New Persian) (n + adj + adj + n) watered steel with ladder pattern; a type of crucible steel with ladder pattern; known as forty ladder rungs (Romanowsky,1967b/1346:78).  Note that pulād ﭘﻮﻻﺩ (n) means “steel,” jŏharﺟﻭﻫﺮ(n) means “watered steel,” dār ﺪﺍﺭ derives from the verb dāštan ﺩﺍﺷﺘﻦ (to have), qerqﻗﺮﻖ (adj) means “fourty,” and nardebān ﻧﺮﺩﺑﺎﻥ (n) means “ladder”  This pattern is also known as čehlband  ﭼﻬﻞﺑﻨﺪ (forty straps) (see Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag.  For a detailed discussion of this pattern see Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period (2006) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübungen: Legat Verlag.


The blade has a beautiful gold-inlaid maker’s mark which reads “amal-e Assadollāh Esfahāni (Isfahāni)” : (the work of Assadollāh Esfahāni).

This maker’s mark appears on a number of high quality Persian swords.  Other variants of this signature also exist as amal-e Assadollāh  (the work of Assadollāh), Amal-e Assad Esfahāni (the work of Assad Esfahāni), and Assadollāh Esfahāni (Assadollāh Esfahāni) – for more information see Moshtagh Khorasani (2006:156-163).  Dated swords with this maker’s mark complicate the issue even more.  There are seven dated examples that, rather than solving the mystery behind the smith Assadollāh’s life, only complicate the matter as the time span over which these swords are purported to have been constructed is too long for a normal human life, let alone the active life of a smith.  Among the swords discussed in the book Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period, the earliest date is 992 Hegira (1583 C.E.), and the latest is 1135 Hegira (1722 C.E.), a time span of 139 years (Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006:156-163).  Even the positioning of the individual words in this phrase varies from sword to sword.  Taking all these factors into consideration, it seems unlikely or even fundamentally implausible that a single smith named Assadollāh produced all these blades.  It seems feasible and probable that “Assadollāh” ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲwas a title of honor signifying the highest level of mastery in swordmaking.  The theory that some of these inscriptions were counterfeited to add to the value of a sword may be true of later swords bearing cartouches where one finds poorly executed inlayings or even overlayings, but all examples presented in the book mentioned above have inscriptions with finely executed calligraphy and workmanship and exhibit outstanding inlaying techniques.  If one assumes that the name “Assadollāh” ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲwas the highest title given to an Iranian smith who had attained a very high level of mastery in making swords, the mystery of the existence of a variety of handwriting and calligraphy styles over a long period of time appears to be solved.  As mentioned by Mayer (1957-9:1), a person counterfeiting a fraudulent cartouche would most likely imitate the original as precisely as possible in order to deceive buyers since he attempted to sell his swords under a fake name.  Additionally, a counterfeiter would surely have ensured that the date on forged cartouches exactly matched the era of Šāh Abbās Safavid if there were only one famous smith named Assadollāh during the relevant period.  Another fact reinforcing the hypothesis that “Assadollāh” ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲwas presumably an honorary title bestowed during the Safavid period is that there are three dated swords bearing the phrase of Amal-e Assdollah Esfahāni from the same time period, namely Amal-e Assadollāh Esfahāni 116, Amal-e Assadollāh Esfahāni 117  , and Amal-e Assadollāh Esfahāni and Bande-ye Šah-e velāyat Abbās saneye 135 (see Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006:156-163), all originating during the period of Šāh Sultan Hossein Safavid, who ruled from 1105-1135 Hegira (1694-1722 A.D.).  However, all three swords look different in many respects, especially regarding the handwriting style.  This is further evidence that, at least during the period of Šāh Soltān Hussein Safavid’s reign, various smiths signed blades using the signature Amal-e Assadollāh Esfahāni and further corroborates the theory that Assadollāh  ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲwas, indeed, an honorary title.  . . . . . . .

For more information on this topic read the entry amal-e Assadollāh Esfahāni in the Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag. For more information see:

Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr (2010). Persian Swordmakers (Armeiros Persas). In: Rites of Power: Oriental Arms(Rituais de Poder: Armas Orientais), Casal de Cambra: Caleidoscópio, pp. 41-55.


Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr (2013). Les Légendaires Forgerons Iraniens Assadollȃh et Kalbeali. La Revue de Téhéran Mensuel Culturel Iranien en Langue Française. No. 90, 8e Annee, Mai 2013, pp. 20-40.

The next gold-inlaid cartouch is the symbol of bodduh in numbers;

bodduhﺒﺩﻭﺡ : (Dehkhoda) (n) the name of a genie or an angel who can do miraculous things, whose name is written by letters or numbers in occult sciences.  Certain characteristics are attributed to this angel. For example, if one writes its name on an envelope, the letter will certainly arrive.  Therefore, it serves as the angel for protecting the letters.  It is a secret telesm ﻂﻠﺴﻢ(talisman).  The are certain beliefs regarding this sign.  For example, when a traveller has this sign, he would be able to travel day and night without getting tired, or a pregnant woman would be able to give birth without fearing a miscarriage.  The term bodduh ﺒﺩﻭﺡ is also used to conjure feelings of love.  It consists of the even numbers 2, 4, 6, 8 or 8, 6, 4, 2.  The numbers are equivalent to the lettersﺐ, ﺩ, ﻭ, and ﺡ of huruf-e jomal ﺠﻤﻝ ﺣﺮﻭﻑ.  Anandeaj reports that bodduh is the name of an angel who died and left this world and whose name is gold-inlaid on swords and daggers and is used for protection. (Digital Lexicon of Dehkhoda).  For more information on this topic read the entry bodduhﺒﺩﻭﺡ in the Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag.


For another classification of Persian crucible steel see:

Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr (2011). Tabaqebandi-ye Fulād-de Johardār bar Asās-e Nosxehā-ye Xatti (Classification of Persian Watered Steel on the Basis of Old Manuscripts). Journal of the Iranian Studies. Faculty of Literature and Humanities. Šahid Bāhonar University of Kermān. Volume 9, Number 18, Autumn 2010, pp. 243-281.


Varband (scabbard fittings) are also made of called and inserted with diamonds.


The wooden scabbard consists of two parts glued to each other and covered with the precious  sāqari ﺳﺎﻏﺭﻯ or kimoxt ﻜﻴﻤﺧﺖ (shagreen leather), which is the skin of the back of the horse and donkey that is used as a special leather.  The book  Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) (Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag) provides the following entry on this type of leather:

sāqari ﺳﺎﻏﺭﻯ: (Rostam al Tavārix) (n) shagreen leather (Āsef, 2003/1382:90). Shagreen leather was often made from the skin of jackass (donkey) hindquarters.  According to Dehkhoda, saqari ﺳﺎﻏﺭﻯ is a type of leather made of the hide of jackass hindquarters.  Its surface is rough.  Saqari ﺳﺎﻏﺭﻯ can be obtained from the hindquarters of a horse as well as zebra hide.  With regard to the processing and tanning of shagreen leather, Chardin (268) states that significant amounts of this leather was made in Iran and exported to the Indies (India), Turkey, and neighboring kingdoms.  He states that shagreen was made from jackass (donkey) hindquarters, and a seed called toxm casbini, (seed of casbin that is said to be black, hard, and larger than the mustard seed).  Toxm ﺗﺨﻡ stands for both “egg” and “seed” in Farsi as Chardin rightly says.  He further states that the name shagreen comes from the Persian word saqari, meaning “hindquarters.”  According to Chardin, this was the name of any animal they rode on, similar to the English word “steed,” and this name was given to this sort of hide because it was made of an jackass’s hindquarters.  The coarse hides were dressed by tanners with lime.  They used salt and galls in the tanning process instead of bark, which, according to Chardin, was sufficient due to the hot Iranian climate.  Floor (2003:383) quotes Olmer, who stated that sagari was primarily prepared in Yazd and describes it as a type of tanned leather made of the skins of a horse or donkey and, sometimes, even that of a cow.  The cleaning of the skin was performed using almost the same method as that used for sheepskin.  Olmer explained that before applying the barley treatment to the skin, the tanners covered them with small, dried grains and let them dry.  The grains worked their way into the skin, resulting in unevenness of the surface and a grained appearance.  After the skins dried, they were soaked in water with fermenting barley, causing them to swell.  The workers, then, used somāq ﺴﻤﺎﻖ leaves (rhum coriaria) for the tanning process.  Olmer reports that these leaves contained much tannin.  Floor (2003:383) also quotes Consul Abbot, who provides more information on the making of shagreen leather in Esfahān.  He said that this leather was made from the raw hides of horses.  They spread the wet skin on a level surface, threw small, round seeds over it, and trod upon it.  After the skin partially dried, they shook off the seeds, shaving the surface of the hide to remove all but the indented parts that gradually rose again to their former level, producing the bumps on the shagreen.  Then, they applied a preparation of copper and sal ammoniac to the reverse side, which penetrated to the front, coloring it green.



The scabbard chape tah-e qalāf is also made of gold.


This Persian shamshir has engraved and gold-inlaid spatulated quillons.  The pommel cap is also gold-inlaid.  The handle slabs are made of walrus ivory.  The blade is made of Persian crucible damascus steel. The blade has three cartouches.  The upper and middle cartouches are the original ones from the Safavid period to the blade and are gold inlaid.  The lower cartouche is gold-overlaid and added to the blade during the early Qajar period.

The upper cartouche reads bande-ye šāh-e velāyat Safi . The book “Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran: A Study of Symbols and Terminology” provides the following entry for this phrase:

bande-ye šāh-e velāyat Safi : (New Persian)(n + n + n + n) literally means, “The subject/ slave of the kingdom/ dominion/trusteeship of Ali, Safi.”  This translates into the following:  “Safi is the representative of Ali’s rule and acts on his behalf.”  Note that bande ﺑﻨﺪﻩ (n) means “slave/subject,” šāh ﺷﺎﻩ (n) means “king,” and velāyat ﻮﻻﻴﺕ (n) means “country, trusteeship,” and Safi ﺼﻔﻰ (n) is a king’s name.  ……

For the same cartouche on royal pieces of Iranian Military Museums see “Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period” (Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006444, cat.80; 446, cat.81; 448, cat.82).


The gold-inlaid cartouche in the middle reads Yekšanbe Helāl Šahr Kār Mehr Ali which means “Sunday the first day of the month the work of Mehr Ali.”

Note that a smith named Mehr Ali made a dated pišqabz in 1109 hijra, dedicated to Mohammad Mehdi Khan Zand.  For more information and to see the dagger consult the book “Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period”, Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006, which explains:

The date, 1190 hegira, is 1776 A.D.[1]  Additionally, the name of the owner is engraved on the back of the blade close to the handle: Sahebe Mohammad Mehdi Khan Zand (The owner Mohammad Mehdi Khan Zand).  The name of the smith is gold inlaid on the blade and reads, “Mehr Ali.”  There is a spade-shaped eyelet at the base of the handle with engraved inscriptions on one side, Howal Kafi (one of the names of God, meaning that God is independent and without needs), and on the other side, Howal Bagi (another attribute of God, meaning that he is eternal).

[1]  This is within the reign of Karim Khan Zand, who ruled from 1163–1193 A.D. (1750–1779 A.D.) (see Safaraz & Avarzamani, 2004/1383:275).


The lowest cartouche is the royal seal of Fath Ali Shah Qajar which reads “Abu al Seif al Soltān Fath Ali Šāh Qājār” (The father of the sword Fath Ali Shah Qajar).  A number of royal shamshirs attributed to Fath Ali Shah Qajar which are kept in the Military Museum of Tehran have the same cartouche which is the royal seal of Fath Ali Shah Qajat.  To see these examples see “Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period”, Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006, Tübingen: Legat Verlag.


A Persian shamshir with a typical wedge-shaped blade with a high curve. The handle slabs are made of ivory.


The blade has a beautiful crucible damascus blade with the pattern pulād-e jŏhardār-e mošabak, watered steel with net pattern; a type of crucible steel with woodgrain pattern (Romanowsky, 1967b/1346:78).  For more information on this pattern see  Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag.

For another classification of Persian crucible steel see:

Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr(2007). The Magnificent Beauty of Edged Weapons Made with Persian Watered Steel.Journal of Asian Martial Arts, 9 Volume 16, number 3, pp. 8–21.


The Persian blade has three catouches: The upper cartouche is a bodduh sin in numbers. The lower is a maker’s mark amal-e Assadollāh (Work of Assadollah), The carouche in themiddle reads: bande-ye šāh-e velāyat Abbās.

For the meaning of this pharse see the entry bande-ye šāh-e velāyat Abbās from the book Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag:

bande-ye šāh-e velāyat Abbās: (New Persian) (n + n + n + n) literally means, “The subject/ slave of the kingdom/ dominion/trusteeship of Ali, Abbās.”  This translates into the following:  “Abbās is the representative of Ali’s rule and acts on his behalf.”  Note that bande ﺑﻨﺪﻩ (n) means “slave/subject,” šāh ﺷﺎﻩ (n) means “king,” and velāyat ﻮﻻﻴﺕ (n) means “country, trusteeship,” and Abbās ﻋﺒﺎﺱ (n) is a king’s name.  For this inscription see Moshtagh Khorasani (2006b:430, cat.70; 432, cat. 73, 434, cat. 74; 435, cat. 75; 436, cat. 76; 438, cat. 78; 441, cat. 79; 451, cat.85; 453, cat.86; 454, cat.87; 456, cat.89; 475, cat.107; 481, cat.112; 526, cat.151; 541, cat.162).

Also part of the next entry from the same book:

bande-ye šāh-e velāyat : (New Persian) (n + n + n) the slave/subject of the king of that country/trusteeship.  Note that bande ﺑﻨﺪﻩ(n) means “slave/subject,” šāh ﺷﺎﻩ(n) means “king,” and velāyat ﻮﻻﻴﺕ(n) means “country, trusteeship.”  This is a phrase that frequently appears on Safavid blades is bande-ye šāh-e velāyat… in combination with the name of the Safavid king who ruled at that time.  The phrase amal-e Assadollāh appears often with the phrase bande-ye šāh-e velāyat Abbās .  According to Digital Lexicon of Dehkhoda, bande ﺑﻨﺪﻩ means “subject” or “slave.”  Obviously, people who serve or inhabit the realm ruled by a king are his subjects.  velāyat ﻮﻻﻴﺕmeans “kingdom” or “ruled land”; therefore, a king has a velāyat  ﻮﻻﻴﺕ  to rule.  Dehkhoda further states that the person to whom velāyat-e Ali relates considers himself the representative of Imām Ali and, consequently, rules and governs on his behalf.



A Persian shamshir with a steel handle and a highly curved blade. The State Hermitage Museum states that this shamshir was acquired in 1885-1886.  It was formerly held in the Armoury of Tsarskoye Selo.


The gold-inlaid maker’s mark reads “amale-e Kalbeali Esfahāni 1019” (The work of Kalbeaöo Isfahani 1019).   1019 stands for the Gregorian year 1610-1611- For more information see part of the entry amal-e Kalbeali from the book Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag:

amal-e Kalbeali: (New Persian) (n + n) the work of Kalbeali (dog of Ali).  Note that amal ﻋﻤﻞ (n) means “work,” kalbﻜﻟﺐ (n) means “dog,” and Ali ﻋﻟﻰ (n) is the name of Hazrat-e Ali.  The expression “The dog of Ali” is used to show the devotion of the maker to Hazrat Ali , the first Imam of the Shiites.  This maker’s mark is also a mystery as different swords with different handwriting and calligraphy with this maker’s mark exist.  The existence of different phrases of the signature of “Kalbeali” indicates that there were, indeed, different smiths who signed their swords with this title.  There are three different types: a) amal-e Kalbali , b) amale-e Kalbeali Esfahāni, and c) amal-e Kalb-e Ali ibn Assad-e Esfahāni.  The name “Kalbeali” is sometimes written as one word asﻜﻠﺒﻌﻠﻰ, and it is written in two words on other cartouches as well as ﻋﻠﻰﻜﻠﺐ.   Even the reference to the father, Assadollāh, is different.  One cartouche bears the expression, Ibn Assad Esfahāni  , whereas another cartouche reads, Ibn Assad Zahābdār .  The inscription, Valad-e Kalbeali ibn Assad Zahābdār, reveals that the smith wanted to stress that his grandfather had the title “Assadollāh” ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲ, the highest level, or wanted to stress that he was a seyyed (descendant of the Prophet Mohammad’s family), for a detailed discussion of the maker’s mark of Kalbeali ﻜﻠﺒﻌﻠﻰ, see Moshtagh Khorasani (2006:163-167).  Assuming that Assadollāh ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲ was an honorary title, one is faced with the problem of interpreting the phrase Amal-e Kalbeali ebn Assad  (“the work of Kalbeali the son of Assad”).  In this regard, Mayer (1957-9:2) states that there were two sons of Assadollāh ﺍﺴﺪﺍﷲ, Kalbeali ﻛﻠﺒﻌﻠﻰ and Esmāil ﺍﺴﻣﺎﻋﻳﻞ.  He asserts that only one blade is signed “The work of Esmāil son of Assadollāh. ………………………”

The blade has also a gold-inlaid bodduh sign in numbers.



A Persian shamshir with a curved blade and a raised backedge (yalman). The handle is the shape of karabela hilt. The downward quillons end up in dragon heads. The State Hermitage Museum attributes this shamshir to the late 17 century (or early 18th century) and adds that it was acquired in 1885-1886. It was formerly held in the Armoury of Tsarskoye Selo.


The handle slabs are made of ivory with  the steel crossguard decorated with gold-overlaid floral design.


The blade has an engraved and gold-inlaid maker’s mark amal-e Mesri Mo’alam.  For this maker’s mark see the book Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran; A Study of Symbols and Terminology (2010) by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Tübingen: Legat Verlag which provides the following entry:

amal-e Mesri Mo’alam or amal-e Mo’alam Mesri : (New Persian) (n + n + n) the work of Mesri Mo’alam or the work of Mo’lam Mesri.  Note that amal (n) means “work” and Mesri Mo’alam (n) is a name.  A sword signed by amal-e Mesri and attributed to Sāh Safi is kept in the Military Museum of Tehran.  For more information see Moshtagh Khorasani (2006:444, cat. 80; 538, cat.159).

The forte of the blade is also gold-overlaid in floral design and also the inscription in Persian reads:

Ze huše Falātun domaš tiztar [upper part]

Ze abruye deldār xunriz tar [lower part]

Its edge [literally, tail] is sharper than the intelligence of Plato!  It sheds more blood than the eyebrows[1] of the beloved.
[1] Persian literature always refers to eyebrows as one of the physical beauties of women (author’s observation).  For the same inscription on Persian qaddāres see Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006, Tübingen: Legat Verlag.


A highly curved Persian shamshir with a handle with walrus ivory slabs. It has a wooden scabbard covered with shagreen leather. The State Hermitage Museum attributes this shamshir to the first half of the 18 century and adds that it from the Winter Palace. The crossguard (bolčāq) has an engraved inscription Bismellah al Rahman al Rahim (In the name of God, most benevolent, ever-merciful) in the gilded background.


A highly curved Persian shamshir with a handle with walrus ivory slabs. The State Hermitage Museum attributes this shamshir to the 17- 18 century and adds that it from the Winter Palace. The crossguard (bolčāq) is beautifully gold-overlaid with the inscription Bismellah al Rahman al Rahim (In the name of God, most benevolent, ever-merciful).


A Persian shamshir made of crucible steel with a raised backedge (yalman).  The handle slabs are made of walrus ivory.  The steel crossguard is decorated with gilded image of a lion hunting a deer (for a detailed explanation of this symbol see “Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period” by Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani (2006).


The upper gold-overlaid cartouche reads Bismellah al Rahman al Rahim( In the name of God, most benevolent, ever-merciful). The length of the blade is gold-overlaid with a Persian poem.


For a technical analysis of Persian crucible steel see:

Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr and Zahra Karamad (2008). The Microstructure and Elements of Persian Crucible Steel, Pāyām-e Bāstānšenās (Journal of the Archaeology of the Islamic Azad University of Abhar), Volume 5, No. 9. Spring and Summer 2008, pp. 6–26.


A highly-curved Persian shamshir with a typical wedge-shaped blade. The wooden scabbard is covered with shagreen leather.


The handle slabs are made of walrus ivory and the steel crossguard and pommel cap are engraved. The State Hermitage Museum attributes this shamshir to the 18 century and adds that it was acquired in 1885-1886.  It was formerly held in the Armoury of Tsarskoye Selo.


A highly-curved Persian shamshir with downward quillions and a karabella hilt. The crossguard is made of steel and decorated with gilded floral design.  The handle slabs are made of stag horn.

The blade is made of Persian crucible damascus steel and has a central fuller. The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg attributes this shamshir to the 19 century and states that it is from the Winter Palace.


A straight sword šamšir-e mostāqim from the second half of the 19th century. It was acquired in 1926 from the Marble Palace. The handle is made of steel with downward quillons.  For a detailed analysis of this types of swords see “Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the End of the Qajar Period” (Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006, Tübingen: Legat Verlag):

“Lebedynsky (1992:56) provides a brief analysis on Qajar straight swords.  He states that the later straight swords (such as Qajar straight swords) share the same features as their medieval ancestors.  These Iranian swords of the 17th and 18th century have blades with a rounded tip, downward quillions, and a three-lobe pommel and, thus, share the same feature of the grip as on some older swords”.

For more information on Iranian straight swords also see:


A 19 century ritual sword (šamšir-e mostāqim: straight sword) from Iran. It is from the Winter Palace.

For another article on Iranian straight swords see:

Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr(2008). Dragons Teeth: The Straight Swords of Persia. Classic Arms and Militaria, Volume XV Issue 1, pp. 21–25.

Moshtagh Khorasani, Manouchehr and Iván Szántó (2012). Straight Swords in Iran: A Continuing Tradition (A perzs pallos: egy töretln hagyomány). In: Persian Treasures – Hungarian Collections (Perzsa Kincsk – Magyar Gyüjtemények), pp. 39-51.


A 19 century ritual sword (šamšir-e mostāqim: straight sword)  from Iran. It was acquired in 1931 and was formerly held in the collection of Count Sergey Sheremekev’s collection.