The primitive Spanish-Moorish sword was an arm of moderate breadth used both for cutting and for thrusting. As time went on, this people gradually adopted swords of Spanish make or pattern, such as the ponderous brandimartes and montantes made for wielding with both hands. The Granadino writer Aben Said complains that the adoption of the arms, and even of the costume of the Spanish Christians, was prevalent at Granada in the thirteenth century. "Sultans and soldiers alike," he said, "dress in the manner of the Christians, even to their arms and armour, crimson cloaks, standards, and saddlery. They wield in battle a shield and a long lance,1 which serves them to attack with; nor do they seem to care for Arab bows or maces, but prefer to use the Frankish ones."
1 Historia General del Arte: Garcia Llanso; Armas; pp. 440, 441.
Nevertheless, the warriors of Granada carried several weapons which were not of Christian origin. The tribe of the Beni-Merines brought across from Africa a kind of sword called often in the Christian chronicles the espada gineta, used principally, as we gather from its name, by those addicted to the Moorish mode of horsemanship, or riding with short stirrups. The use of it extended later to the Christian Spaniards, and it is said to have contributed in later times to the victory of the Spanish army at Pavia. Other swords in use among the Granadinos were the alfange, the chifarra, the chifarote, and the nammexi. The last of these is described in an old dictionary of the Valencian and Castilian languages as a kind of scimitar, although Quatre-mere and Fleischer believe it to have been a dagger.
1 This weapon can have been no other than the typical Iberian lance.
Another author who describes the arms and armour of the Granadinos is Al-Jattib, who says in his Splendour of the New Moon; "There are in Granada two kinds of soldiery - those of Al-Andalus and those of Africa. Their leader is a prince of royal blood, or some exalted personage at court. Formerly they used the Christian arms; that is, ample coats of mail, heavy shields, thick iron helmets, lances with broad points, and insecure saddles.... Now they have discarded that equipment, and are beginning to use short cuirasses, light helmets, Arab saddles, leather shields, and thin lances." Of the African troops the same historian adds; "Their weapons for attacking are spears, either short or long, which they propel by pressing with the finger. These arms they call marasas; but for daily exercise they use the European bow."
Dagger Of Boabdil El Chico (Musecum of Artillery, Madrid)
Descriptions of the Spanish-Moorish swords inserted in the chronicles and poems of the Middle Ages, together with the few examples that have been preserved until our time, enable us to form an accurate idea of the shape and decoration of these weapons generally. Those of the sultans and the Muslim aristocracy were, as a rule, profusely ornamented, either with precious stones or with enamels, or else with delicate and lavish damascening, or with the characteristic Oriental ataujia-work of gold and silver inlay. Inscriptions, too, were freely used upon the hilt or scabbard. Thus we are told that the great Almanzor kept for daily use a sword which bore the legend; "Strive in warfare till ye win great victories. Battle with the infidels till ye win them over to Islam"; and similar inscriptions may be quoted in great number. But four or five of these magnificent arms have proved superior to the ravages of time, and naturally tell us more than any weapons whose renown survives in written records merely. Among such extant Spanish-Moorish swords are two attributed respectively to Aliatar and Abindarraez; two others which arc known to have belonged to the last ill-fated monarch of the Moors of Spain, Boabdil el Chico; and another, considered to have also been Boabdil's property, now in possession of the Marquises of Campotejar, owners of the Generalife and of the Casa de los Tiros at Granada.
The "sword of Aliatar," preserved in the Museum of Artillery at Madrid, is said to have been wrested from the clenched hand of that warrior, father-in-law of Boabdil and governor of Loja, as his corpse was swept away down stream after the rout of the Moorish expedition at Lucena. This arm is richly damascened as well as decorated with the characteristic aiaujia. The centre of the hilt is made of ivory, and the pommel and crossbars - which latter terminate in elephants' heads with slightly upturned trunks - of damascened and inlaid iron, ornamented here and there with ataujia. Part of the blade - probably about an eighth - is broken off. The sheath has disappeared.
An idle superstition has attributed the so-called "sword of Abindarraez" to the hero of the well-known sixteenth-century romance entitled The Abencerraje and the Beautiful Jarifa. This weapon, which for many years was in possession of the Narvaez family, belongs at present to the Marquis of La Vega de Armijo. The decoration is not particularly rich, and part of it is worn away; but the narrow blade is still engraved with figures or portraits from the story which has given the sword its name.
The sword (Pl. xliv.) belonging to the Marquises of Campotejar, and which is preserved in the Casa de los Tiros at Granada, bears some resemblance to the "sword of Aliatar," and has about the same dimensions. Although it is commonly believed that Boabdil was the original owner of this sword, Gomez Moreno considers that more probably it belonged to one of the Moorish princes of Almeria. The handle and crossbars, as well as the chape of the sheath, are silver-gilt, covered with minute arabesque ornamentation forming leaves and stems, and further decorated with enamel. The sheath is of Morocco leather worked with silver thread. The crossbars, curving abruptly down,1 terminate in elephants' trunks boldly upturned towards the pommel. The blade is stamped with a Toledo mark consisting of Castilian letters and a pomegranate.