Body Armour by David Nicolle
An extract from The military technology of classical Islam by D Nicolle

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The Structure of Armour
       The exact meaning of terms relating to armour seems to have changed slightly during the period under study. Sometimes these changes followed minor developments within one type of armour. More often, however, there was an apparent tendency for a word that originally had one specific meaning to be used more loosely as the centuries passed. This might have led scholars to assume that these terms always described a wide range of armours, whereas in reality they probably had limited definitions before becoming generalized through widespread use in poetry and elaborate prose.1
       From the 7th to the 13th centuries, seven basic types of body-armour were, or came to be, in common use in many parts of the Muslim world. These were quilted armours, armours solely of leather or felt, scale armours on a similar or fabric base, linked-scale armours in which such a base was not structurally necessary, lamellar armours in which a flexible base was not used, simple mail armours and mail armours covered, padded or backed with cloth. With one possible, though far from certain, exception plate armour of metal or stiffened leather was apparently unknown. Such armours similarly disappeared from late-Roman and Dark Age Europe. As this process did not reflect any obvious technological2 decline, one may assume that it resulted from changing military needs.
1. Schwarzlose, op. cit., passim.
2. C. Blair, European Armour, (London 1958), p. 19.


       The only possible plate armour of early Islam was the tannūr which was apparently descended from the Sassanian heavy cavalry tanūrigh.3 By the late 10th century it was traditionally regarded as a more primitive form of defence than the dirʿ or scale hauberk.4 This tannūr seems only to have been used at the time of the Prophet and occasionally later, during the Umayyad era.5 Such an almost certainly inflexible armour for the chest and abdomen need not, of course, have been of plate. The tannūr could well have been of Roman-style linked scales.6 Here the scales, generally of bronzes were stapled directly to one another both horizontally and vertically. Although in many ways comparable to lamellar, such a system was far less flexible than true scale, lamellar or mail.
       The question of how many such armours might still have been manufactured from bronze during the early Islamic era is a highly contentious one. Suffice to say, at this point, that such bronze armours had predominated in Romano-Syrian Dura-Europos, that lamellar armour of mixed iron and bronze construction has been excavated in a 7th century south-western Iranian site (fig. 332), a possible bronze armour scale has been found in Oman (fig. 7) and armour production was recorded on a reasonably large scale
3. Lombard, Les Métaux dans l'Ancien Mande du Ve au XIe Siècle. pp, 33-34.
4. Al Thaʿālibī, Latā'if al Maʿārif, I. al Abyārī and H. K. al Sairafī edits., (Cairo 1960), p. 8.
5. Al Ṭabarī, op. cit., vol. I, p. 555, vol. II, p. 2014 and vol.III, p. 1777.
6. B. Thordemann, "The Asiatic Splint Armour in Europe," Acta Archaeologica (Copenhagen), IV (1933), p. 134.


in copper-rich but iron-poor 10th century Oman.7 I have tentatively argued this possibility elsewhere.8 The previously unrealized importance of copper production in Oman during ʿAbbasid and Būyid times has already been emphatically brought to light.9
       Flexible armours were clearly regarded as the best protection in the military circumstances of the Muslim world from the 7th to 13th centuries, just as they were in Europe and the Far East at this time. This does not, however, mean that such protection was necessarily light in weight.
       Of course, lighter, non-metallic armours were worn and the more limited protection that they gave was either accepted or improved by the wearing of additional defences. Quilted armour, for example, gave protection against the impact of a blow, but helped little against penetration by a sharp object (Figs. 44, 61B, 67, 72, 74, 75, 165, 187, 194, 207, 233, 249, 271, 292, 320, 320, 350, 392, 445, 447, 450, 453, 499, 517, 575, 580C-D, 587 and 596). Hence one tended to find quilted armours, such as the bughlutāq and khaftān being used in conjunction with scale, mail or lamellar in Islam, Byzantium and western Europe.10
7. Al Hamdānī edit. Al Karmalī al Baghdadī, Al Iklīl (part VIII), (Baghdad 1931), p. 257.
8. D. C. Nicolle, "Arms Manufacture and the Arms Trade in South-Eastern Arabia in the Early Muslim Period," in the Conference on Oman Studies, Heritage of Oman Festival, (Muscat Nov. 1980). The proceedings of this Conference will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Oman Studies.
9. D. S. Whitcomb, "The Archaeology of Oman: A Preliminary Discussion of the Islamic Periods," Journal of Oman Studies, I (1975), p. 126.
10. Haldon, "Some Aspacts of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries," pp. 19 and 36; al Aqsarā'ī op. cit., p. 322; Mubārakshāh, op. cit., p. 330; Firdawsī, op. cit., pp. 485, 694 and 948; Schwrarzloso, op. cit., pp. 328-329; A. M. Fahmy, Muslim Sea-Power in the Eastern Mediterranean, (Cairo 1966), pp. 149-150; Blair, op. cit., p. 33.


Quilted armours may, however, have been widely worn by poorer men,11 in Islam as in Christendom, and in regions either of extreme heat or primitive technology.12 They also seem to have persisted in Ifrīqiyah at least until the late 14th century.13
       Felt and certain leather armours, such as those of buff leather; may have had the same absorbent function as quilted armours, though they would also have provided some protection against cuts and thrusts.. There may be problems in interpreting certain documentary sources, however, as these do not always make it clear whether the leather armour in question is a coat cut from sheets of flexible leather, or consists of scales or lamallae made of hardened leather.
       Protective felt and leather garments were used in China, Iran and Byzantium in the immediate pre-Islamic era14 (Figs. 18, 43, 45, 46, 95, 102, 197 and 473). They continued to be worn in later centuries, particularly in Muslim Kurāsān15 and the rest of eastern Islam (Figs. 127, 198, 209, 341, 410, 609I, 625 and 642C). The well-documented popularity of felt and leather in the Muslim and Christian regions of the Iberian peninsula16
11. Al Mosʿūdi, op. cit., vol. VI, p. 462.
12. Ibn Ḥawqal, Kitāb Ṣūrat al 'Arḍ, p. 58; Robinson, Oriental Armour, pp. 86 and 89.
13. B. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror. The Calamitous 14th century, (London 1979), p. 473.
14. Laufur, op. cit., p. 292; Haldan, "Some Aspects of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries," pp. 19 and 22; Aussareases, op. cit., p. 57; Fahmy, op. cit., pp. 149-150.
15. Al Jāḥiẓ, Rasāil al Jāḥiẓ, pp. 20-21.
16. Lévi-Provençal, Histoire de l'Espagne Musulmane, vol. III, pp.90-112; Anon., The Song of Roland, verse 247; Gabrieli, "Gli Arabi in Spagna e in Italia," pp. 709-711.


is likely to reflect Muslim influence from the Middle East or even beyond (Figs. 495, 497, 506, 511, 517, 521, 529 and 591). Armours of leather or felt are also recorded among non-Spanish European warriors during the 11th and 12th centuries,17 These may, however, refer either to men of the Languedoc or those influenced by southern French military styles which were themselves closely related to those of Christian Spain (Fig. 575).
       Scale was a far more widespread protection and may well have been the most common form of armour in the Muslim world until the 11th or 12th centuries. This would certainly be the case if one accepts that the basic dirʿ was a hauberk of scales fastened to a coat of leather or other flexible material. There is, in fact, a great deal of evidence to suggest that the original dirʿ was of scale rather than mail. The term may, however, have come to embrace mail hauberks in some regions at a later date. To begin with, the metaphorical terminology used for those pieces that made up the dirʿ, such as calmā'u, manābadh, musrūdah and sard (see Terminology), and the similies by which these elements were described, such as ḥarshaf, "the hump-backed skins of broadbeans" - al jannā min ablam, or "shaped like the Arabic letter nūn"18 (see Terminology), strongly suggests scales rather than mail. Even ḥalqah might not originally have meant a "ring" of mail.
       The majority of such dirʿ armours also seem to have either had an obvious leather base19 or to have included such a large amount
17. Bahā al Dīn, op. cit., p. 251; Blair, op. cit., pp, 23-24.
18. El Gindi, op. cit., p. 173.
19. Lévi-Provençal, Histoire de l'Espagne Musulmane, vol. III, pp. 90-112; Gabrieli, "Gli Arabi in Spagna e in Italia," pp. 709-711.


of leather in their construction that a leather foundation is the most obvious interpretation.20 Elsewhere, such armours are stated to have been cleaned on the outside with dust and oil and on the inside with camel dung,21 for metal and leather respectively, while being preserved in a mixture of these three ingredients.22 It seems hardly surprising, therefore, that armours were often remarkably evil-smelling in the 12th century.23
       Other evidence indicates that scale hauberks were widely used in the so-called Dark Ages, both within the world of Islam (Figs. 115, 122, 123, 189, 210, 258, 292, 305, 340, 384, 385, 416, 498, 515, 545, 548, 576, 577, 580, 581, 597, 603, 604C, 606, 609 and 659) and beyond (Figs. 196, 213, 229, 239, 241, 413, 417, 418, 446, 557, 586, 587, 609B and 634). Such armours were clearly more plentiful than horses in the first Muslim armies in Arabia.24 They may even have predominated in Europe until the 8th century.25 Though later becoming rarer in the west, scale armour was known, particularly in southern Europe26 and in Spain,27 where it seems
20. Schwarzlose, op. cit., p. 325.
21. Ibid., p. 346.
22. El Gindi, op. cit., p. 171; Norriss, op. cit., p. 95
23. ʿImād al Dīn, op. cit.,. p. 376.
24. Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, p. 407.
25. Norman, op. cit., p. 35; Salin and France-Lanord, op. cit., pp. 95 and 127; Arwidsson, "Armour of the Vendel Period, " p. 31.
26. Clair, op. cit., pp. 23-24; Norman, op. cit., p. 216; M. Terenzi, "Armour on a Fresco-at Spoleto, " Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, VIII (1974), p. 96.
27. Gabrieli, "Gli Arabi in Spagna e in Italia," loc, cit.


to have been used largely in siege warfare.
       Probable scale armour, of pierced-iron maḥzūz was used for sieges in Ḥamdānid Syria28 where other comparable Byzantine military traditions were also known to have been strong. Certainly scale armours of various types were very popular in Byzantium from the 6th and 7th centuries onwards.29 Surprisingly, perhaps, scale was rare in early medieval Russia,30 but this area was probably under greater Central Asian than Byzantine influence in military matters. In yet another direction, scale armours are known to have been manufactured in large numbers in pre-Islamic Yemen31 and also in 10th to 12th century India.32
       How far the influence of scale armour, from whichever source, lay behind the development of the late 13th century European coat-of-plates is as yet far from clear (Figs. 213A, 271, 275 and 656). It is not even certain whether such coats-of-plates first appeared in northern or Mediterranean Europe,33 or whether they were related to various yet more mysterious and perhaps solid
28. Canard, "Quelques Observations aur l'introduction géographiques de la Bughyat at'T'alab," p. 46.
29. Haldon, "Some Aspects of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries," pp. 19-20, 26-27, 33-35 and 46.
30. Kirpitchnikoff, Medieval Russian Arms, vol. III, pp. 90-91; Thirdemann, "The Asiatic Splint Armour in Europe," pp. 131-133.
31. Von Kremer, op. cit., pp. 79-80.
32. Bosworth, The Ghaznavids, pp. 120-122.
33. Blairs op. cit., pp. 30-40 and 269; Haldon, "Some Aspects of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries," p. 29; Norman, op. cit., pp. 219-221; Thordemann, Armour from the Battle of Wisby, 1361, p. 288.


pieces of amour worn beneath other garments in 12th century Europe. 34
       The spread of lamellar armour from Central Asia across the Muslim world is altogether easier to chart. Its terminology is generally less contentious and the illustrated material is simpler to interpret. As discussed earlier, such a form of defence may have originated in the ancient Middle East but by the immediate pre-Islamic centuries lamellar armours of iron or a mixture of iron and bronze were far more characteristic of Central Asia and eastern Iran than the Fertile Crescent35 (Figs. 61, 67, 82, 428, 435, 437, 440, 443, 451, 453, 454, 455, 462, 463, 464, 471, 472, 474, 478, 480 and 481). There is, however, some evidence to suggest that they were known in 7th century Arabia, although they are likely to have been rare.36 Indeed, lamellar would seem to have been highly prized and expensive even in those Transoxanian regions where it was not common, and remained so well into the Muslim era.37
       The increased importance of lamellar in eastern Islam and in the partially subdued Christian regions of the Caucasus is clearly documented as is its spread westward into Muslim Anatolia towards the end of the period under review38 (Figs. 220B, 306, 309, 316
34. Oakeshott, op. cit., pp, 269-270.
35. Robinson, Oriental-Armour p. 130; Laufer, op. cit., pp. 208 and 214; W. Hauser, "The Persian Expedition, 1933-1934", Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art XXIX (1934), p. 8.
36. Schwarzlose op. cit., pp. 327 and 346.
37. Narshakhī, op. cit., p. 46; al Ṭabarī: op. cit., vol. II, pp. 256 and 1889.
38. Firdawsī, op. cit., pp. 270, 273, 427, 688 and 953; Anon., The Book of Dede Korkut, p. 166; Rust'haveli, op. cit., verse 220.


348, 410, 442, 444, 447, 638, 641 and 642C). References could be multiplied ten- or twenty-fold if one included all those concerning armours known to be of lamellar, such as the jawshan and kamarband, rather than simply those that described lamellar, its appearance, construction or fastenings.
       Lamellar armour may also have been used in Byzantium in the pre-Islamic era39 (Figs. 90, 91 and 556) but its more widespread adoption after the 7th century clearly reflected Muslim military pressure.40 (Figs. 212, 220A, 314, 630 and 637). A smaller but equally common kabadion lamellar cuirass was seen in Byzantium from the 10th century41 (Figs. 227, 242, 249, 314, 414 and 608). This could reflect the changing fashions of eastern Islam, where the lamellar kamaband may have been developed in the 10th century, or it could have been the Byzantine original that stimulated the adoption of this latter Iranian form of armour (Figs. 209, 241, 292, 294, 306, 347, 354, 376, 377, 385, 390, 392, 422, 446, 447 and 641).
       Although lamellar was clearly known in central and western Islam, it does not seem to have been widely adopted in these areas. Here European and Muslim warriors could easily be mistaken for one another, even in the 13th century.42 Nevertheless, the lamellar jawshan had been growing in popularity in Syria and Egypt for at
39. Haldon, "Some Aspects of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries," p. 20.
40. Ibid., pp. 25-26, 29 and 46.
41. Ibid., p 36.
42. J. Hewitt, Ancient Armour and Weapons in Europe, (London 1860), vol. I, p. 226.


least a century (see Terminology) and even reached al Andalus (Figs. 142, 145, 175, 177B-D, 178, 180, 267, 300, 548, 580C-D, 581 and 647).
       A certain amount of confusion could surround mail. Its rings were widely referred to in Arabic as zard, zared or zird, which is a term very close to the sard scales of the dirʿ. There does, however, seem to have been a clear distinction between the two terms from the 10th to 14th centuries (see Terminology). The situation in Persian-speaking areas was simpler, for here the term zirih quite clearly referred to mail.43 The pictorial evidence, some of it very stylized and having to be interpreted with caution, shows that mail hauberks of various shapes, long (Figs. 330, 333, 335, 447, 501, 520, 537, 543, 600, and 639) or short (Figs. 134, 196, 246, 267, 292, 294, 305, 392, 515, 522, 541, 598, and 599), with long (Figs.161, 174, 241, 250, 270, 298, 305, 345, 346, 347, 348, 350, 375, 428, 435, 438, 442, 494, 500, 519, 535, 538, 540, 543, 545A-F and H, and 551B) or short sleeves (Figs. 262, 286, 288, 292, 339, 444, 446, 499, 521, 546A, 551, 601, 606, and 661), some opening down the front (Figs. 324F and 641) and others put on over the head (Figs. 157, 316, 377, 422, 517, and 549
       Many or these illustrations also confirm the written evidence44 that mail was worn beneath other armours, a feature that was to remain rare in most of Europe until the 14th century. Such habits
43. Firdawsī, op. cit., pp. 368-369, 427 and 828.
44. Fries, op. cit., pp. 62-63; Anon., The Song of Roland, verse 79; Ibn Isḥag, op. cit., p. 107; Mutanabbi, in Wormhoudt, op. cit., p. 84; Norris, op. cit., pp. 95-96.


must have contributed not only to the weight of Muslim armour,45 which could apparently cause problems, but also to the all-enveloping character of many such protections. These frequently seem to have covered all the wearer's face except his eyes.46
45. ʿImād al Dīn, op. cit., pp. 319 and 381; Minhāj al Dīn, op. cit., pp. 176-177; Miskawaihī, op. cit., vol. II, p. 335; al Tanūkhī, op. cit., p. 187.
46. Ibn Isḥāq, op. cit., p. 147; Howard-Johnson, op. cit., p. 292; M. Brett, Fitnat al Qayrawan. A Study of Traditional Arabic Historiography, (Unpub. Ph. D. thesis London Univ. 1970), pp. 17-18; Armari, Biblioteca Arabo-Sicula, vol. II, p. 399 and Appendix, p. 25.

from page 176 to page 187


Specific Forms of Armour

The dirʿ
       As discussed above, the original 7th century dirʿ hauberk was probably an armour of metal, and perhaps also cuir-bouilli and horn, scales. In later centuries other features of this essentially Arab scale hauberk became clear. The dirʿ would normally have been put an over the head,133 just like a medieval European mail hauberk, and thus was habitually a wide garment.134 It was described as being shaped like that typically Arab, rather than Turkish, garment known as a durrāʿah.135
       The dirʿ could be worn beneath a belt136 and may have had other laces,137 perhaps to tighten its otherwise open neck.138
133. Al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., p. 320; Ibn Isḥāq, op. cit., p. 102.
134. El Gindi, op. cit., p. 149A.
135. Al Aqṣarāʾī op. cit., p. 320.
136. Ibid., pp. 319 and 332.
137. Ibid., p. 332; Firdawsī, op. cit., pp. 368-369.
138. Al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., p. 319.


Its scales tended to rattle139 and the dirʿ was altogether heavy and cumbersome.140 Nevertheless, it could be folded into a convenient bundle.141 Such flexibility must, however, have been as limited as that of all scale armours. Hence the dirʿ normally seems only to have had elbow-length sleeves.142 This form of armour also suffered from the inevitable drawback of lacking scales beneath the arm-pits. Here the dirʿ's leather base143 was apparently exposed and may well have left a vulnerable opening.144 Certainly if any scales were knocked off or damaged, such a leather or linen foundation of the dirʿcould be ripped by hand, thus leaving its wearer unprotected at that point.145
       All these limitations may account for the frequency with which the dirʿ is mentioned as being worn under or over one or more other amours, of quilted material, lamellar, mail, or again of scale.146
139. ʿImād al Dīn, op. cit., p. 355.
140. Al Hamdānī, Al Iklīl. pp. 255-257; al Balādhurī, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 392-393 and 426; Fries, op. cit., pp. 60-61; al Ṭabarī, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 1107 and 1428; at Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., pp. 317 and 332.
141. Miskawaihī, op. cit., vol II, pp. 152-153.
142. Al Ṭabarī, op. cit., vol. II, p. 1354.
143. Bosworth, "Armies of the Prophet," p. 202.
144. Fries, op. cit., pp. 60-61; al Ṭabarī, op. cit., vol. II, p. 1624; al Masʿūdī, op. cit., vol. II, pp, 345-349.
145. Al Masʿūdī, op. cit., vol. V, p. 50.
146. Schwarzlose, op. cit., p. 330; Fries, op. cit., p. 62; Firdausi, op. cit., p. 1177; al Masʿūdī, op. cit., vol. VI, p. 453; al Ṭabarī, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 1154,1443 and 2014.


The jubbah
       This form of armour is rarely mentioned in the early Muslim era, perhaps because It was probably a Turkish term from the original dshubbe.147 The Turks had, as yet, had little impact on the vocabulary of Islamic military technology. The jubbah perhaps consisted of fabric-covered mail148 and was clearly heavy.149 It may also have been synonymous with the 13th century kabūrah which itself could have bean one and the same as the Persian qabr.150

The kamarband
       In 10th century Khurāsān this term clearly referred to an important piece of armour protecting the abdomen, groin and chest.151 The kamarband is likely to have been of lamellar,152 and was worn over other armours.153 In fact, such limited pieces of armour, which might otherwise have formed the central part of a larger lamellar jawshan cuirass, may be the same as those defences seen in many illustrations from 12th century Persia and its neighbours (figs. 286, 376, 377, 421 and 422). This latter style was almost
147. W. W. Arendt, "Sirgaron-Kubetschi," Zeitschrift für Historische Waffen und Kostümkunde, n. s. IV (1932-1934 p. 188.
148. Ibid.; Miskawaihī, op. cit., vol. II. p. 164; Firdawsī, op. cit., p. 842.
149. Al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., p. 331.
150. Al Harawī, op. cit., pp. 205-266.
151. Firdawsī, op. cit., pp. 263, 270 and 1181.
152. Ibid., p. 430.
153. Ibid., pp. 368-369, 430 and 1177.


certainly introduced from the east by the Saljūqs:

The jawshan
       Lamellar armours, particularly the larger types, were normally referred to as jawshans. This was clearly a vary valuable piece of equipment in the first decades of Islam.154 Like the dirʿ, the jawshan could be very heavy155 though such references probably refer to large jawshans covering torso, thighs and arms. Most early mentions of the jawshan stem from the east of Islam, as do most mentions of jawshan makers.156 Even in the date 12th century this form of iron, horn or hardened leather lamellar armour, was still regarded as characteristically Persian.157
       The jawshan consisted of a separate sheet as laced lamellar for the body with other smaller sheets to protect the arms, hips or thighs.158 The torso-piece could be worn on its own159 when it may have corresponded to the 10th century kamarband. In fact, the term jawshan may well have originally meant a protection for the breast or trunk.160 In al Andalus the jawshan was probably rare, despite its clear representation on a 12th century stained
154. Al Ṭabarī, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 256 and 1889.
155. Firdawsī, op. cit., p. 289; Miskawaihī, op. cit., vol. II, p. 171.
156. Allan, op. cit., p. 68.
157. Al Tarṣūṣī, op. cit., p. 116.
158. Usāmah ibn Munqidh. op. cit., p. 52; al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., pp. 321-322.
159. Al Aqṣarāʾī op. cit., p: 322.
160. Bivar, "Cavalry Equipment and Tactics on the Euphrates Frontier," p. 275; Schwarzlose, op. cit., p. 338.


glass window at Chartres illustrating the Song of Roland (Fig. 581). It was, however, certainly known, as indicated by Ibn Hudhayl in the 14th century who described it as an armour with no backing, 161 indicating that it was clearly not of scales.
       Some jawshans would seem to have been fastened or tightened by hooks,162 while others also employed straps.163 These, or perhaps other styles, opened down the front164 and were said to be shaped like the qabāʾ,165 a tight-fitting and characteristic costume of Persia. The individual lamellae were most commonly of iron166 and were, at least in the early 14th century, laced together with silken threads.167 These made the jawshan vulnerable if it were turned inside out, as was sometimes done by Mamlūk archers to avoid snagging their bows.168 The straps that joined the arm-pieces and tassets to the torso-part may also have been those that could fasten a jawshan to a dirʿ worn beneath.169

The kazāghand
       The main feature of the kazāghand was its inconspicuous
161. Ibn Hudhayl, op. cit., pp. 264-268.
162. Usāmah ibn Munqidh, op. cit., p. 52.
163. Firdawsī, op. cit., p. 296.
164. Ibid., p. 504.
165. Al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., p. 321.
166. Firdawsī, op. cit., p. 23.
167. Al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., pp. 321-322.
168. Ibid., p. 322.
169. Ibid., pp. 318-319.


character and the ease with which it could be worn.170 It generally consisted of one or two mail hauberks or shorter haubergeons, covered in often richly decorated cloth.171 It could also be padded with felt, fur or other absorbent materials.172 Apparently regarded as "light equipment" when worn on its own,173 the kazāghand was often placed beneath other sorts of armour.174 Its shape and size could vary,175 although a relatively broad neck opening may have been normal,176 as in so many other respects this form of armour was made to look like civilian costume. Its origins are still unclear. Al Tarṣūṣī , in the late 12th century, considered it to have been made by "those who became Arabs,"177 that is the indigenous inhabitants of much of the present Arab world and perhaps even beyond.178

Lāmat al ḥarb
       Whether this term referred to a specific and separate type of armour is uncertain. It could have been a rigid or semi-rigid
170. Bahā al Dīn, op. cit., pp. 245 and 329.
171. Ibn al Qalānisī, op. cit., p. 10.
172. Blair, op. cit., p. 23; von Kremer, op. cit., p. 284; Mayer, Mamluk Costume, loc. cit.; al Tarṣūṣī, op. cit., p. 116; Cahen, "Un Traité d'Armurerie composé pour Saladin," p. 156; Usāmah Ibn Munqidh, op. cit., p. 188.
173. Usāmah Ibn Munqidh, op. cit., p. 66.
174. Norris, op. cit., p. 97.
175. Ibid., pp, 97-98.
176. Usāmah ibn Munqidh, op. cit., p. 46. 177. Al Tarṣūṣī, op. cit., p. 116. 178. Schwarzlose, op. cit., p. 334.


cuirass made from cuir-bouilli or, more probably, linked scales of a late-Roman type. Its construction was reputedly "perfected" by the Umayyads in the early 8th century.179 The lāmat al ḥarb was also heavy180 and was worn by certain Crusaders under their mail hauberks.181 This could suggest a similarity with the equally mysterious 12th century European cuirie, cuirace or quiret,182 or the similarly troublesome early 13th century panceriam183 and the 13th century Kievan Russian pantsir.184 Such an interpretation would certainly suit a later reference to the lāmat al ḥarb, in which it was described as consisting of two pieces of armour, presumably for belly and back.185

The sābiqhah
       How the scale-covered sabighah differed from the dirʿ is not entirely clear.186 Its name indicates its length. As it was on one occasion in the 7th century specifically described as covering the backs of the wearer's hands,187 the length in question
179. Al Masʿūdī, op. cit., vol. V, p. 466.
180. Bahā al Dīn, op. cit., p. 329.
181. ʿImād al Dīn, op. cit., p. 341; Usāmah ibn Munqidh, op. cit., pp. 24-25.
182. Oakeshott, op. cit., p. 270; Blair, op. cit., p. 38.
183. W. S. Morris, "A Crusader's Testament," Speculum, XXVII (1952), p. 197.
184. Gorelick, "Bronya Praotecheskaya," p. 64.
185. Al Aqṣarāʾī, op. cit., p. 83.
186. The Quran, sura 34, verse 11; al Ṭabarī, trans. Zotenberg, op. cit.,vol. I, p. 430.
187. Al Jerbūʿ, op. cit., p. 225.


might refer to long sleeves. As such the sābiqhah may have corresponded to the 6th to 9th century Byzantine zaba,188 a knee or ankle length coat, with or without hood or coif, that could be made of leather or cloth or be covered with scales of cuir-bouilli or horn. The sābiqhah was also worn by some Crusaders, particularly by infantry.189

The zardīyāh
       Zardīyāh appears to have been the normal term for a mail hauberk in the 12th century. It was clearly distinguished from the dirʿ.190 It did not entirely fall apart when burned,191 formed the interior defensive element of a kazāghand,192 could be worn in two layers,193 and was clearly the most common form of armour among European Crusaders.194

The zirih
       Most evidence points to the zirih being the Persian equivalent of the Arabic zardīyāh mail hauberk and that the chief centres of zirih manufacture lay in the north-east and east of Iran.195
188. Haldon, "Some Aspects of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries. " pp. 19-23 and 33.
189. Amari, Bibioteca Arabo-Sicula, Appendix p, 22; Bahā al Dīn, op. cit., p. 251; ʿImad al Dīn, op. cit., p. 202.
190. ʿImad al Dīn, op. cit., p. 130.
191. Ibid., p. 248.
192. Usāmah ibn Munqidh, op. cit., p. 100; Norris, op. cit., p. 97.
193. Usāmah ibn Munqidh, op. cit., pp. 41-42 and 74-75.
194. Ibid., pp. 41-42, 74-75, 144 and 149; Bahā al Dīn, op. cit., pp. 106, 251 and 278; Ibn al Qalānisī, op. cit., p. 342.
195. Allan, op. cit., p. 68.


It was of iron,196 was distinguished from the dirʿ197 and could be worn under or over other forms of armour.198 The only major difference that may have set zirihs apart from their Arab zardīyāh or European mail hauberk counterparts was that some clearly opened down the front, this opening being fastened by straps and knots.199
196. Firdawsī, op. cit., pp. 23 and 741.
197. Ibid., pp, 23 and 1177.
198. Ibid., pp. 485, 953 and 1177.
199. Ibid., pp. 368-369 and 828.

from page 195 to page 201

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