View Single Post
Old 27th March 2021, 09:23 PM   #7
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
Jim McDougall's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,631

This is a most interesting look into these daggers of Crete, and while I have never collected or for that matter studied them, I seized this opportunity to learn a little on them.
Always seeking references for my research library, about 20 years ago I saw the title "The Cretan Dagger" ("To Kphtko Maxaipi"), 1993 by Nick Vasilitos. For several years sought the book, but apparently out of print, had no luck until 2003. A friend in Athens located the author there, and there was an EU conference in Crete. The book originally published in Greek, was reprinted with an English booklet summarizing the text, the photos in the full text book had English sub captions. These slipcase encased companion books were intended for the foreign diplomats and dignitaries attending, and fortunately the author had several left and my friend and myself were able to get copies.

In reading through this, I found these daggers had a distinct and colorful history, and as with so many ethnographic edged weapons, were symbolic traditionally and key accoutrements in the arms of the valiant warriors who used them.

As noted previously, the silver scabbards ( =asimomahera) were deemed prestigious weapons worn by the 'kalosiri' (upper echelons), while others with hide covered wood scabbards (scabbard in general=foukaria) were more generally used.

The Cretan dagger seems to have evolved around end of 17th century and well developed with the more familiar V shaped horn grip around end of 18th. The influences of Venetian rule remained nominally while Turkish styling of course took over in the shops in Heraklia (the quarter termed Bitsaxidika) where dagger making prevailed into more recent times.

The decorated center strip (which can be tin, bronze or silver) is highly decorated in variation which includes simpler geometric designs as well. This hilt element separating and securing the grips is termed 'tseberliki'.

It seems the ivory or bone in white color was most broadly favored, while the black grips were more attuned to traditional purposes and often had talismanic and in degree somewhat metaphysical properties imbued.
Clearly I cannot properly address these matters, so I will not go further, but these beliefs and traditions are fascinating and colorful, as are these people themselves.

While the black grips seem to have been inclined to deeper properties inherently, there were other elements added to the 'foukaria' (scabbards) to augment talismanic properties(perhaps) to these daggers overall .
There were chains (usually three) attached which often carried coins(flourakia), red corals (xoblia) or other objects (kremastaria).

In the decoration in the silver scabbards and often tseberliki (hilt strip) there can be crosses (for Christians) or crescents (Muslims).

It would seem that as previously noted, the scabbard in silver was probably mismatched to the dagger later. I am sure that the propriety of having silver scabbards only to white colored hilts has more complexity in accord with these traditions.

I just wanted to add a synopsis of what I discovered in this reference, and welcome corrections to my interpretations of course. I hope this might add some perspective on these intriguing daggers.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote