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"Oriental Armour of the Near and Middle East from the Eighth to the Fifteenth Centuries as Shown in Works of Art", by Michael Gorelik,
in: Islamic Arms and Armour, ed. Robert Elgood, London 1979

[with links to the iconography referenced.]

Michael Gorelik was born in 1946. He studied at Moscow Lomonosov State University and in 1973 wrote a thesis on ‘Mesopotamian Schools of Miniature Painting twelfth—thirteenth Centuries‘. He is at present a scientific worker in the institute of Eastern Studies — USSR State Academy. (Department of Ancient Oriental Studies.) Dr Gorelik has written more than twenty works on oriental art and is an authority on the related fields of Early Islamic miniatures, costume, and ancient weaponry. For many years he has regularly taken part in archaeological expeditions to the Ukraine, Central Asia and Southern Siberia.
    His line drawings are to be found at the end of this article.


Surviving examples of Near and Middle Eastern armour and shields from the Islamic period are rarely attributable to a date prior to the fifteenth century and are unknown before the thirteenth century. Consequently our knowledge of early defensive arms from this area is largely derived from written1 and figurative2 sources, principally the former. figurative art, from the Near and Middle East, because of its stylization and symbolic content, has frequently been mistrusted. If, however, we penetrate the formulae of artistic expression it is almost always possible to determine what material object is concealed within, and a wealth of precise information emerges. Unfortunately our information on the evolution of figurative art in the Muslim lands is incomplete. Subject to this limitation, this article proposes to examine the development of the Muslim warrior’s armour as far as the representative sources at hand allow (horse armour being a separate and intricate subject).
    The Muslim Near and Middle East comprised many regions, each having a distinctive tradition of armour design. Initially Syria, together with the Northern areas of Arabia, adopted the ideas of the late Hellenic and Roman periods, eventually assuming, as did Egypt, the Byzantine style of short lamellar and scale armour coats, mail shirts and round shields. The one-piece cuirass and the Roman lorica segmentata were never adopted in the Muslim East but the Hellenic mail shirt (as written evidence supports) was widely adopted in Arabia. Though literary and graphic evidence referring to the Sasanian armour of Iran is incomplete, it does confirm that prior to the Arab Conquest, Iranian soldiers were protected by complete body armour: helmets joined to aventails of mail, leather or cloth that covered the neck and face: mail shirts and quilted cotton with, possibly, iron plated coats. This equipment was supplemented with a medium-sized metal, leather or wooden shield. The arrival at the frontiers of Islam of successive waves of nomadic tribes from Central Asia led to the introduction of steppe arms whose design had been influenced by warfare with the technologically advanced peoples of the Far East. Lamellar cuirasses buttoned to shoulder guards and tassets. and long lamellar coats and helmets of many narrow segments attached to a frame all belong to this tradition. The impetus for the development of the most varied types of Muslim armour came from Middle Asia. Displayed on a silver gilt plate made in Soghd probably about the ninth century3 (35) are lamellar armour and small plates on fabric as well as mail, brigandine, quilted and laminated armour and coats of mail. This profusion of styles greatly influenced the western regions of the Muslim world.

35 Soghdian silver plate from the eighth to ninth centuries. (State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad)


A synopsis of armour development from the eighth to mid-thirteenth centuries
Armour of this period continued to develop the designs taken from Sasanian Iran and the Byzantine Empire. The body was protected by mail, lamellar or, less frequently, scale armour or plates sewn on fabric. The prevailing style was a short one: the mail shirt was frequently worn under the jawshan (poncho-shaped with two side slits). Cotton padded garments. sometimes reinforced with mail or layered metal plates (the qazakānd in Persian) was worn either under metal armour or by itself. It was either poncho- or coat-shaped. The helmets were rounded and conical having forged metal neck guards or mail, leather or fabric aventails. Gorgets were also worn: folding greaves were rare. Although Byzantine type ‘kite’ shields were used, the round shield had greater popularity.

Armour in Syria and Iraq from the eighth to thirteenth centuries
Muslim iconographical sources of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries show various types of armour. These are essentially lamellar armour coats fastened with clasps on the sides, possibly with short shoulder guards and knee-length tassets (fig. 2). A coat and stockings of mail are portrayed on an al-Mīnāʿ cup (fig. 6) and a brigandine (a qazakānd type armour) with identifiable iron rivet heads can be distinguished on a Raqqa statuette (fig. 4). Sleeveless armour made of round metal plates sewn on to a soft undergarment is engraved on a coin minted by the Artuqids of Āmid (fig. 10). Much information on armament is contained in Christian miniatures of the early thirteenth century from monasteries in the Mosul region. Although these were created on the basis of Byzantine icons, they possess many of the stylistic features of Muslim miniatures. That the domestic objects portrayed coincide may be taken as evidence of their accuracy in reflecting the existing culture of the region. These miniatures show mail shirts: short, waist-length (fig. 16) and thigh-length, each with sleeves of mid-arm length (fig. 17). They also frequently depict lamellar jawshan armour. (The Persian term shows that the Arabs borrowed this type of armour not so much from Byzantium where it was known from time immemorial but from the Persians, otherwise a Greek and not a Persian word would have been adopted in the Arab language.)
    Similar in structure to the armour displayed on a Syrian bowl (fig. 2) the jawshan armour portrayed by the miniatures may be divided into two groups: the sleeveless poncho-shaped type which are waist-length (fig. 12; 37); (this is probably the armour that was described in such detail by the twelfth-century Syrian writer and knight Usāma ibn Munqidh):4 and the Central Asiatic type — the cuirass of waist-length (figs. 18-20) armour without shoulder guards, clasped on either one or both sides, and held together on the body by straps (not generally depicted). A similar sleeveless poncho-shaped style was adopted for scale and plated armour sewn on a soft lining (36). The jawshan armour plates, often bronze or gilded, were frequently arranged in contrasting shapes and colours. The soft qazakānd armour had an iron layer as we know from texts, but is not represented in the miniatures as it was worn under the plated armour. Usāma ibn Munqidh described it as a long shirt, with a double mail layer5 beneath the waist, which probably supplemented the waist-length jawshan armour. The neck and upper surfaces of the chest and shoulders of northern Iraqi soldiers were frequently protected by wide gorgets of mail (figs. 11, 13), scale (figs. 14, 15), or smooth leather (fig. 18). The gorgets, reaching Mesopotamia between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries, were of Iranian rather than Byzantine or Armenian derivation, as were the twelfth-century soft, thick sāq al-mūza leggings, plate lined and with iron discs to protect the knees (fig. 8). They are pictured on a Baghdad miniature of 1224 AD. European knights became acquainted with this armour through the Syrians and from the mid-eighth century it appears in Western Europe.6
    Illustrations of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Syrian and Iraqi shields generally show them to be small, round and made of leather reinforced with conical metal bosses (fig. 4). Large kite shields (fig. 5) showing Crusader influence are rarely shown.
    The earliest image of a Muslim Arab helmet is that of a sculptured warrior in the late Umayyad palace of Khirbat al-Mafjar in West Syria (fig. 1). Such helmets were probably forged of iron, although they may also have been made of quilted cotton. The helmets shown in Syrian and Iraqi twelfth- and thirteenth-century art are of a varied, but essentially conical, type. Some helmets appear to be forged from one piece (fig. 17; 37), or consist of four segments on a framework (fig. 3). Others with a round dome had a hemispherical top which could be forged in one piece or comprised four segments on a framework upon which the top was pinned (figs. 7, 9). A common helmet was one with an indented dome shape (figs. 2, 14-16; 36). These helmets were made of two parts, with the lower edge band and dome forged together (36), although they were also made of

36 Gospel miniature from Mosul, Iraq, c. 1220. (British Museum Add. 7170, fol. 143v)


three segments - a broad band, a rounded dome and a conical top. finally, two more helmets of a rarer form may be considered: the conical type, with the dome forged of four vertical parts, each consisting of two parts and having a broad band (fig. 13), (this shape was possibly borrowed from the Crusaders); and the hemispherical example where the dome consisted of two parts joined together with iron strips along the axis and around the edge (fig. 2). Sometimes the helmet tops were inclined forward, copying the European and Byzantine fashion (figs 12-14). Twelfth- and thirteenth-century Syrian and Iraqi helmets frequently had neck guards. These often included protection for the ears; with round lower angles (figs. 12-14; 37) or with rectangular (figs. 2, 17) or ‘fancy’ cut lower angles (fig. 18). They were forged from one piece with a band (figs. 14, 16) or pinned together separately (figs. 12, 13, 17, 18; 36, 37) and have long, soft mighfar neck guards of mail (fig. 11) leather, cloth or felt (figs. 2, 3; 36). There are, however, examples of helmets without neck guards (figs. 7, 9). A felt hat (fig. 11) was sometimes worn over the helmet to prevent the metal from becoming uncomfortably hot. Helmets were decorated with designs (figs. 7, 12; 37), or protruding iron nail heads (fig. 7), plumes (fig. 9) and triangular strengthening plates above the forehead (fig. 18; 36, 37).

Armour in Egypt and Sicily from the tenth to twelfth centuries
Egyptian drawings of warriors of the Fāṭimid era (tenth to twelfth centuries) in armour are rare, though existing examples are adequately detailed. Several types of armour may be identified on this basis: mail (dirʿ or zardiyya) (fig. 23; 186 below), lamellar jawshan, a type similar to scale with a rounded scale edge directed upwards beyond the mail (fig. 24) and finally the scale (quilted or lined) qazakānd. Like the contemporary short Syrian mail coat (fig. 6) the long mail shirt had full-length sleeves and often served as an undershirt (fig. 23). Lamellar armour, being knee-length, probably had a hemmed slit in the front. Armour similar to scale (fig. 24) was waist-long and poncho-shaped, frequently sleeveless though Arab representations of twelfth-century soldiers in Sicily depict mail coats with elbow-length sleeves (figs. 27, 28). Twelfth-century Egyptian helmets had a spherical bayḍa form (fig. 24; 186 below), and were probably fashioned from two pieces of iron bound by an iron band along the axis, with round or diamond-shaped plates on the sides of the band and with a felt covering providing protection against the sun. The helmets of the twelfth-century Sicilian Arabs imitated Western European patterns, and belonged to the ‘Norman’ type, having a conical dome with a large triangular nasal (fig. 26) or without a nasal and having a slightly inclined top (fig. 25). The helmets are frequently portrayed without neck guards.
    Round and kite shields were used in Egypt and Sicily. The round ones varied in size. (Compare figs. 21, 28, 30 with figs. 22, 27.) Shields of both types were made of wood, leather or metal (figs. 21, 27) or consisted of metal segments held in position by a central boss with a circumscribing band (figs. 22, 28, 30). Round shields in Sicily often had a decorated edge, and a multi-layer lining (fig. 27). During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, kite and round (small daraqa and great turs) shields, with slightly curving surfaces (identical with those of the early medieval period both in Byzantine and West Europe), were common in both Sicily and Egypt, both areas being former Byzantine possessions, and both having at this time close contact with West European warriors. Egyptian shields from this period vary greatly (figs. 24, 29). Sicilian shields (figs. 25, 26) are invariably shown with rosette shaped umbos and slanting striped designs, or with decorated metal in the lower section. The kite shields were constructed of leather-covered wood, the smaller ones often metal plated. A straight vertical handle (fig. 29) was the normal feature of all Egyptian and Sicilian shields.

Armour in Iran from the eighth to thirteenth centuries
Artistic expression in Iran prior to the thirteenth century may be divided into two main periods, pre-Saljuq (eighth to eleventh centuries) and Saljuq (eleventh to thirteenth centuries). Few images of warriors from the pre-Saljuq period exist: extant examples are important for the original styles which they show.
    A Jūzjān coin of the Umayyad period (fig. 31) provides the earliest representation of Iranian armour. This armour is lamellar jawshan (knee-length and sleeveless, frequently poncho-styled with slits and clasps on the sides or on one of the shoulders), an inheritance from the Sasanian period. The Nīshāpūr ceramics (figs. 33-35) portray examples of East Iranian armour of the tenth century. The body and sleeves are of two distinct patterns - a Central Asian characteristic visible on the Soghdian silver plate already mentioned (35). The body defence is close fitting with slits at the sides, worn either with additional knee and thigh protection (fig. 37) and sometimes also a rectangular piece in the back (fig. 33), as was typical for Soghdian armour of the seventh to eighth centuries in Pandjikent paintings, or with a continuation of the upper garment to mid-thigh length (fig. 35). The body defence itself was sometimes a zereh, knee-length, sleeveless mail shirt. This was slit from the knee to the waist, before and behind, enabling the warrior to sit a horse (fig. 34). Occasionally round plates were added, or cotton padded armour, for extra protection. An alternative to the zereh

37 Gospel miniature from Mosul, Iraq, c. 1220. (British Museum Add. 7170, fol. 145r)


was lamellar jawshan armour (fig. 35). Armoured sleeves, occasionally worn singly (figs 33, 37), joined the body armour at the neck and were of scale or round plates mounted on fabric or mail. The cotton padded armour could be worn alone or beneath a more rigid armour.
    Iranian warriors of the tenth century wore either scale (fig. 36) or rigid greaves of decorated metal or leather (fig. 34). In Northern Iran broad gorgets covering the shoulders and upper chest were worn, as were gauntlets (fig. 32).
    Art sources suggest that during the eighth and ninth centuries Iranian helmets changed from a high, egg-shaped dome (fig. 31) typical of the Sasanian epoch, to a flatter form with an abrupt apex (figs. 33, 34). Tenth-century Persian texts refer to the helmet as khūd but it is difficult to say what type of helmet is meant. The shields (separ) portrayed in Iranian art between the eighth and the tenth centuries were small and round (fig. 32). They were leather, wooden or metal, having umbos in the centre and an iron bound edge. Illustrations suggest decorative metal plates on the shield face (fig. 32).
    The greatest number of representative works of art in pre-Mongol Iran belong to the period of the downfall of the Great Saljuqs in the second half of the twelfth and first half of the thirteenth centuries. Warriors are portrayed on ceramics and reliefs from the central Iranian cities of Rayy and Kashan (figs 38-51) and especially in the miniatures of the unique manuscript of the poem Varqeh va-Golshāh, by ʿAyyūqī (figs. 52-76; 38), copied and designed by the artist ʿAbd al-Muʾmin ibn Muḥammad from the Āẕarbāyjān city of Khūy in North-West Iran, probably in the first quarter of the thirteenth century. Four types of armour are depicted at this time:
1 The zereh mail shirt (fig. 47) with a low collar and elbow-length sleeves. Being mid-length, it was often worn underneath an outer shirt or jacket (fig. 44) or in conjunction with:
2 The quilted khaftān (fig. 45).
3 An armour of small, square, iron plates pinned to a fabric base (fig. 41). Of particular interest are the differing sleeve lengths, the left arm being protected by the shield and therefore not requiring full-length protection.
4 A composite garment of quilt and plate, the metal plates or lamellar strips being clearly visible (fig. 46).
    Three types of armour can be found in the Varqeh va-Golshāh miniatures: the first is the jawshan lamellar cuirass type (fig. 63: 38). This belonged to the Central Asian/Far Eastern tradition brought to Iran from Middle Asia by the Saljuq Turks, and seemingly retained in areas of concentrated Turkic population. The second type displayed by the miniatures is the khaftān quilted armour shaped like a shirt with vents and elbow-length sleeves (fig. 60). A purely Iranian (third) type was a composite short coat armour with sleeves and slits at the sides, but the two knee-length tassets seem to show Central Asian influence. The soft material of the coat was reinforced with lamellar strips (fig. 62) or large metal discs (fig. 64).
    Iranian helmets of the mid-twelfth to mid-thirteenth century period maintain a constant domed profile: they have a semi-round shape and often they are without a finial (figs. 53, 62) or are crowned with a flat disc (fig. 52) or a tube for a plume (figs. 51, 56, 58; 38) and finally with a sharpened cone (figs. 38-41, 57, 61; 38). The last two features were without doubt the precursors of the popular fifteenth- to seventeenth-century helmet known to the Turkish warriors as the chīchak , in Russian shishak and zischägge in German. The helmet dome was usually forged from one piece, reinforced along the edges, although the helmets could consist of four pieces pinned together. The neck protection consisted of a shoulder-length metal neck guard that was either attached to the helmet dome (figs. 39, 40, 52, 57, 58; 38) or forged in the same piece. Leather camail (fig. 53) and mail (figs. 56, 62) were also used, but there are examples of helmets without neck guards. Iranian helmets often had small nasals, together with a pair of plates pinned on to the front (figs. 38, 39).
    A hood of mail, sometimes drawn over the face descending to the shoulders, was also worn. Extra protection could be given to the top of the head by the addition of a metal plate which is indicated by a finial spike (fig. 54). Popular from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, these mail helmets were known by the Caucasian/Russian term missiourka (the ‘Egyptian’ helmet).
    The Varqeh va-Golshāh miniatures depict elbow-length mail capes, enclosing the face, with slits for the eyes, and covering the chest and back (fig. 63), which also show what appears to be a high, conical hat worn beneath this hood. Iranian mail capes of the thirteenth century were the result of the presence of the Crusaders in Syria and Egypt at the end of the twelfth century. The covered face mail defence may be a continuation of the late Sasanian/Iranian tradition, or that of the seventh- to ninth-century Soghdian/Central Asian one.7
    Like the North Iraqi warriors of the beginning of the thirteenth century the central Iranians protected the neck, shoulders and upper parts of the body with broad gorgets of mail (figs. 52, 56, 57, 59-62; 38) or scale (fig. 64). These gorgets in the tenth century, had been a feature of the North Iranian/Caucasian area (figs. 32, 84) and in the twelfth century had spread to the Byzantines and North Iraq. The gorgets, being initially metal plates, probably came from seventh- and eighth-century Soghdia,8 which had in turn been influenced by the armour of the Chinese T’ang epoch.9 The Iranian shields of the mid-twelfth to mid-thirteenth century period (called a separ from the tenth to the nineteenth centuries) were mainly round and of three sizes: small with an elbow-length diameter (fig. 49; 38), medium and large, being from head to mid-thigh length (figs. 65, 67, 71, 72, 74, 76). The smaller shields were made of leather or wood, and had metal umbos and forged edges or were constructed from a single piece of forged metal with the additional attachments of a conical umbo and semi-circular plates (38) or possibly constructed from leaf-like segments pinned in double-layers, and fixed with a central umbo which effected a floral design (fig. 73 ). These smaller shields had simple, horizontal handles. The two larger types of shield were metal (fig. 65) and had a high conical umbo, together with a decorative internal lining (figs. 67, 72, 74-76; 38). Apart from round shields, mid-twelfth to mid-


thirteenth century Iranian art portrays kite shields styled on those of the Byzantines and Caucasian Christians. These varied in size: small (fig. 48), medium (fig. 43), and finally the largest type which reached from the chin almost to the feet, of painted leather-covered wood, (figs. 68-70; 38). The edges of both the round and the kite shields were often scalloped (figs. 69, 70). Greaves are very seldom found in Iranian art of the second half of the twelfth to the first half of the thirteenth centuries and then only as soft leggings with a metal disc protecting the knee (fig. 42). Iranian armour, judging by post-Saljuq art monuments, was much more richly decorated than contemporary Arab armour. Engraved designs, gilding and painting can be seen on armour and shields. Typically Iranian was the wearing of tassels on the helmets (fig. 40), neck guards (fig. 53), and shields (figs. 66, 71).

Armour in Asia Minor and the Caucasus from the tenth to thirteenth centuries
Examples of the armour used by the Saljuqs of Rūm (in Anatolia) are rarely shown in local art. Only one portrait of warriors exists, dating from the end of the twelfth to the early thirteenth century (fig. 77). This shows waist-length lamellar or scale armour. The helmets were round, rising to a point and had a neck guard of long metal plates sewn on to a soft cloth (probably the only original local feature). The small round shield had a simple handle. Probably their armour was similar to that of contemporary North Iran. It is, however, to twelfth-century Byzantine illustrations showing the Byzantine’s eastern enemies that the researcher is forced to turn (figs. 78-81). The armour in the miniatures consist of mail or scale shirts, reaching the knees and have wrist-long or slightly shorter sleeves (fig. 81). The helmets are pictured as a Byzantine-style forged hemispherical basin (fig. 80), (anticipating West European kettle hats and eisenhüte and some East European helmets10 which appeared at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century), or circular-conic ones without a point on the top with a band along the lower even edge (fig. 81) and mail or scaled camail (fig. 78). All helmets have mail or scale aventails. The shield in the Byzantine portrayals of the Saljuq Turks (whose ethnic identity is demonstrated by the typical Saljuq conical-shaped qalpaq of white felt with flaps worn by one of the warriors) is small, round with reinforced edges (figs. 79, 80).
    The rare picture of a twelfth/thirteenth-century warrior from Shirvan (fig. 83) shows a waist-length mail shirt with wrist-length sleeves.
    Thus, the armour of the Muslims in Asia Minor and the Caucasus did not differ in principle from that worn by the East Christian peoples. The same poncho-shaped jawshan type can be identified in Byzantine, Armenia (fig. 84) and in Georgia (fig. 85) together with mail (figs. 82, 86), scale and plate. A local characteristic was the wrist-length armoured sleeves of Georgia (figs. 85, 86). The round helmet, without a finial but with the dome and neck guard forged from one piece, was common to those areas some centuries prior to the Saljuqs (figs. 84, 85). The round, small shields from the North East while the larger

38 Miniature from MS Varqeh va Golshāh by ‛Ayyūqī. (Topkapu Saray Museum, Hazine 841, fol. 10/12a)


round shield was adopted from the Byzantines.
    It can be concluded that pre-Mongol armour of the Near and Middle East was descended from two traditions: the Hellenic Byzantine tradition and the Iranian Sasanian tradition which absorbed the Central Asian and Far Eastern elements. This development was illustrated by European artists of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

A synopsis of armour development from the mid-thirteenth to mid-fourteenth centuries

The Mongol conquest
Although the Mongol conquest brought strong new influences into the development of armour, local traditions continued. Metal greaves and mail thigh guards with knee-guards appeared at this time. Mongol style armour was common in the early fourteenth century. The Mongol lamellar or laminated armour (khuyagh) had two styles: the cuirass to which shoulder guards and tassets were attached, and the coat which also included shoulder guards. Some armour had metal discs on the front and back. Soft Mongol armour (khatangku dehel) was coat-shaped and worn either under the khuyagh or alone. Mongol helmets were remarkable for their pointed tops and lamellar or laminated aventails, with ear pieces being incorporated about this time. The Mongols introduced a new type of round shield with a metal boss surrounded by concentric canework which was decorated with multicoloured wool or silk overlay.

Iranian armour and the Mongol conquest
Many cultural aspects of life, including the development of defensive armour, were radically affected by the Mongol conquest and subsequent establishment of the Īlkhān state. These changes were not always effected immediately, nor was their impact regionally uniform. As the Īlkhān state, and thus the main concentration of Mongol warriors, was established in Āẕarbāyjān, one might expect Mongol style armour to have been particularly common there. Marāgheh miniatures, however, continued to portray standard Iranian armour (figs. 89, 90). This may be explained by the fact that prior to the fourteenth century most of the local craftsmen, according to Rashīd al-Dīn were still unable to reproduce Mongol armour.11 Once these difficulties were overcome, Rashīd al-Dīn informs us, some articles of armour, especially the shields, were still produced according to the traditional Iranian pattern (figs. 91-93, 95, 96). Furthermore, in central Iran, where local dynasties served the Īlkhāns, thus retaining their power, Iranian armour prevailed until the middle of the fourteenth century (figs. 87, 88, 94). It did undergo modification during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Apart from the traditional thigh-length coats of mail with elbow-length sleeves (fig. 90), jawshan coats (fig. 88) and mail or scale shirts with wrist-length sleeves were worn (fig. 89), armour typical of the region from Georgia to Anatolia in the previous century. There also appeared long scale or mail thigh guards reaching to the knee (fig. 89) which bore a pointed iron disc, as well as greaves, initially in the form of a curved iron strip tied to the front of the leg (figs. 89, 90) eventually taking the form of a double splint (fig. 87). Traditional helmets were still being produced in the 1330s-1340s at Fārs (figs. 88, 123, 125, 154). Small and larger shields were retained (figs. 91, 92, 96) which had iron ‘leaves’ pinned to them with a

39 Jāmi‛ al-Tawārikh by Rashīd al-Dīn , Tabriz, c.1314 (Edinburgh University Library, Royal Asiatic Society, Morley. fol. 58b).


40 Kitāb-i-Samak Ayyār by Ṣadaqah Shīrāzī, c.1330-1340. (Bodleian Library, Oxford, Ouseley 381, fol. 61 inedit)

41 Miniature from 'Demotte' Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1340-1350. (Detroit Institute of Arts. accession no. 35-54)


central boss and a forged edge; as well as the kite shields (figs. 93, 94). The late thirteenth century sees the emergence of a small round shield of leather or metal, with four bulging metal plates, a style which continued until the nineteenth century (fig. 90). Closed mail defence of the face and neck was retained, having been widely adopted in the early thirteenth century (figs. 88, 136; 41)

Mongol armour
Rashīd al-Dīn testifies that by the beginning of the fourteenth century Iranian craftsmen had finally overcome the difficulties inherent in manufacturing Mongol style armour, and the contemporary Tabriz and Shiraz miniatures depict body armour, helmets and shields of a type previously unknown to this area.
    There were two types of Mongol defensive armour: hard khuyagh and soft khatangku dehel (literally ‘a coat as hard as steel’). The hard version had a lamellar structure (figs. 101, 103, 109, 111, 113, 114, 117; 39-41) or a laminated structure (figs. 104-108, 110, 115, 116; 39-41). The two styles are often combined in one armour (figs. 102, 112; 39). Strips and plates of armour were mainly of iron, sometimes of bronze, and Plano Carpini (writing in the mid-thirteenth century)12 informs us that plates were made of thick bands of triple layered leather held together by tar. Carpini also gives a detailed description of the Mongol armour lamellar structure which shows that it differed greatly from the structures familiar to Iran, Western Europe, China and Tibet. The difference lay in the arrangement of the lamellar bands: they were not joined through every plate but held with the help of belts to which smaller plates were tied. This made the armour more reliable and increased its strength but decreased its flexibility and necessitated a soft seam down the back, which is not typical of other regions or periods (figs. 109, 111, 117; 39-41). There were two styles of khuyagh armour: the first being based on the cuirass clasped on the sides and held up by straps. There were other cuirasses with slits and clasps on the chest (figs. 110, 111) or on the back.13 This type of armour consisting of a cuirass with shoulder guards and tassets (figs. 101-103, 105-107) was generally adopted (as recorded by Plano Carpini).14 Examples can be found of warriors wearing less than the complete armour. (Compare figs. 109-111 with figs. 104, 108.) The shoulder guards were attached to the straps of the cuirass which could be the belt-type already mentioned (figs. 104, 109), lamellar (fig. 103) or made of curved iron bands.15 The shoulder guards and cuirass were similarly produced, but sometimes they consisted of large rectangular plates sewn on to a leather base (figs 107, 108). All complete Mongol armours had shoulder guards often extending to the elbow or the wrist. Hard armour usually had rectangular shoulder guards, but sometimes a leaf-shaped design is to be seen in the miniatures (fig. 113; 42). Rectangular tassets reached from the waist to mid-thigh or mid-calf length, and were manufactured by the same methods as the cuirass.
    The second khuyagh armour style was a calf-length slit from the neck to the hem in the front, and from the sacrum to the hem in the back, which enabled the warrior to sit a horse (40-41). The coat comprised two vertical halves joined by a flexible seam down the back and fastened on the chest by clasps: the vents in the skirt of the coat created two wide tassets.
    The softer khatangku dehel Mongol armours (figs. 118-126) were naturally more widespread than the khuyagh. The heavy cavalry wore the khatangku dehel under the khuyagh while the light cavalry wore the usual pure soft khatangku dehel or its more solid versions. The purely Mongol soft armour, similar in style to the khuyagh coat, always had leaf-shaped shoulder guards (figs. 118-122). The light khatangku dehel made of thin leather, felt or thick cloth, with a cotton or hair lining, could be plain (figs. 118, 119, 121) or have decorative stitching (fig. 120). A strengthened khatangku dehel type had an iron layer of small hexagonal plates (fig. 122) with a securing pin or knot in the middle of each hexagon, placed between two layers of soft material which was stitched around the plates. This method of making armour was extremely popular in the Far East in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.16 The Mongol armours of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were the precursors of the popular brigandine armour in the Arab East and in Europe (called the qarqal by the Arabs, brigandine and yak in Europe, and tegheliay and kuyak in Russian). It is noteworthy that the khatangku dehel was, judging by the miniatures, used mostly in Āẕarbāyjān (the seat of Īlkhān power) while the Persian khaftān was retained in Fārs during the first half of the thirteenth century (figs. 123-125). Rather surprisingly, Shiraz miniatures dating from about 1340 display Sino-Mongol armour of both types - the khuyagh (42) and the khatangku dehel (fig. 126; 43). They have the same style, being waist or mid-thigh length coats split in the front from neck to hem and having leaf-shaped elbow length shoulder guards (this feature seemingly a Chinese influence in purely Mongol armour). The Sino-Mongol khuyagh is lamellar (42) and differs not only in length but in having iron discs on the shoulder guards on both sides of the chest (typical of Chinese armour as far back as the T’ang epoch). The Sino-Mongol khatangku dehel (fig. 126; 43) is always portrayed as plain and was probably made of thick hard leather judging by the stiff hem that we see in illustrations. Metal discs are observed not only on Sino-Mongol armour, they are positioned in the centre of the chest and back and were adopted on purely Mongol armour in the 1320s-1330s (42). These discs, besides providing thoracic defence, had a resemblance to mirrors which was not entirely fortuitous. Mirrors enabled the wearer to repulse the negative influence of evil spirits (a clearly expressed magical belief that was still retained in nineteenth-century Sino-Manchurian armour).
    The magic properties of these discs spread with the Mongol conquest. Note the later Persian cuirass of four plates (called the chāhar-ā’īneh - literally four mirrors) and the Russian word zertzallo of the same meaning.
    A unique set of armour is depicted on a Shiraz miniature of the 1330s-1340s: the khatangku dehel (fig. 127) shaped like a coat with iron plates attached to it with a big rectangular plate on the chest and shoulder discs. This type, which had a knee-length vent in the front, was closely wrapped around the torso and had


42 Shāh-Nāmeh by Ferdawsī, Shiraz, c.1340. (British Museum 1948-12, fol. 11-021)

43 Shāh-Nāmeh by Ferdawsī, Shiraz, c.1340. (British Museum 1948-12, fol. 11-022)


narrow wrist-length sleeves. (Such armour was represented in the Japanese painting of 1293 Moko Shurai Ekotoba Emaku, The Story of the Mongol Conquest, by the artist Tosa Nagataka in which he depicts Mongol warriors.) The big rectangular plate, strongly anticipating the later Persian chāhar-ā’īneh, probably, like the shoulder guard (42), was of Sino-Mongol influence. A possible alternative is that the shoulder guards are of Western European influence where similar protection for the arms was popular. Iranian mail was adopted by the Mongols (fig. 134; 41) but, under their influence its style changed to a Turco-Mongol wrap-around coat (fig. 129). The basic body defence in Mongol times consisted of a broad gorget (of painted leather) with leaf-like shoulder guards of hard leather attached to it (fig. 128). These gorgets were widely used in the period under consideration and were made of painted leather (figs. 101, 102, 112, 118-121, 126) often strengthened on the underside by iron plates (fig. 113; 41, 43) or fringed with metal scales (fig. 128). In the period of the 1320s-1350s, mail tended to replace leather (figs. 106-108, 114). To protect themselves from the sun, the Mongols frequently wore a light, knee-length sleeveless coat over their armour (fig. 114).
    Mongol armour was very much a product of the Central Asian/Far Eastern tradition. The cuirass was a characteristic feature of all the regions in this huge area, while the armour coat is of Central Asiatic origin where it was always popular and from where it spread into Manchuria, China, Korea and Tibet as well as Japan.
    The helmets in the miniatures of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries may be classified, though not always distinctly, into Iranian, Mongol and Irano-Mongol types. The purely Iranian helmets have been described earlier. The features of the Mongol helmet varied greatly, though the shapes of their domes were similar to those of the Iranian types of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (the semi-round shape crowned with a tube for the plume, or with a short, thick spike) (figs. 132-142). The purely Mongol helmet had either an ovoid-shaped dome consisting of four parts pinned together supported on a broad band at the base, with a finial topped by a plume holder (fig. 143) or a low, hemispherical dome, on which a cylinder is sometimes placed crowned by a variety of plume holders (figs. 131, 136, 138). The practice of constructing helmet domes from many narrow segments pinned together may be regarded as a feature of the Central Asiatic tradition (figs. 116, 133; 41). Most of the Mongol helmets consist of four segments (figs. 112, 114, 115, 135-140, 143; 41) although not infrequently they are forged in one piece or made of hard, thick leather (figs. 101, 102, 113, 118, 120, 122, 126, 132, 134, 146, 148; 42). The segments of the four-part Mongol helmets are frequently decorated with small applied round plates (figs. 136-140). The segments of the helmets were sometimes overlapped and pinned together (figs. 112, 116, 133) but more frequently they were pinned on to a framework of strips, the lowest circle of which formed the rim of the helmet. Of varied width, these rims or bands were almost always included in Mongol helmet design. The edges sometimes had arches cut over the eye (fig. 128; 41) following an old Central Asian and Far Eastern tradition. The upturned peak is another feature of Mongol armour (figs. 101, 102, 113, 115, 118, 120-122, 136, 137, 139; 39) with the horizontal peak being rarer (fig. 146). The methods of protecting the lower parts of the head, face, neck and throat are just as varied in Mongol armour as they were in earlier times. The problem was to protect this vulnerable area of the body, while maintaining ease of head movement. The Mongols used lamellar and laminated aventails with the throat uncovered (figs. 104, 141, 146, 147, 149, 150; 39) and covered (fig. 156: 41), and with the face covered from the throat up to the nose or eyes (41). They had neck guards of smooth, painted leather (figs. 101, 102, 112, 113, 118-122: 39); cloth or felt (figs. 115, 116, 133-135, 142) and quilted cotton with decoratively shaped lower edges (fig. 132). The ears were protected by dangling ear-pieces made of metal or hard leather (fig. 90) or two or three discs joined together (figs. 105, 110, 128, 138-140: 42, 43). The disc-shaped pieces (figs. 137-140) were often covered in cloth for the wearer’s comfort and protection against the sun. Mongol helmets frequently incorporated additional protective features. A trefoil-shaped piece from the helmet band can sometimes be seen which covered the side of the face and neck supplementing the usual neck guard (figs. 131, 132). A long nasal (fig. 146) or even an original cross-like visor formed by a nasal with a horizontal steel band attached to it are also occasionally visible in the illustrations.
    The differing armour traditions of the Mongols and Iranians began to merge in central Iran during the early fourteenth century. By the 1320s and 1330s the basic style of the Irano-Mongol helmet was established, incorporating a broad edge band and a one piece forged dome or a dome of four or more segments pinned together. Sometimes a spike, pointed cone or a plume holder was included (figs. 103, 105, 111, 152, 153, 155). These helmets could also have, as did the purely Mongol ones, lamellar or laminated Mongol neck guards (figs. 149, 150, 152, 153) and Iranian mail open aventails (figs. 103, 106, 107, 109, 111, 117, 143, 144), with covered throats (figs. 123, 125, 155) and covered faces with eye holes (figs. 88, 136: 41). The two helmets from the 1325 to 1340 period exhibited in the Topkapu Saray Museum in Istanbul17 undoubtedly belong to the Irano-Mongol tradition, and are possibly the oldest surviving Iranian helmets from the Islamic period. Helmets of Iran from the late thirteenth century feature vertical fluting with a broad rounded lower edge (figs. 90, 106-108, 124) later to become a basic element in the dome shape design.
    The Iranian mail helmet also continued to be worn (fig. 157) as well as its successor (fig. 158) which appeared by the mid-fourteenth century, made of mail or small scales mounted on a soft base and strengthened by a rosette-shaped plate supporting a sharp finial cone and rounded metal ear pieces. The Mongol khalkha shields were round and made of rods wrapped in multi-coloured threads (figs. 159, 160, 163) similar to Persian and Turkish kalkan shields used till the eighteenth century; there were also round painted leather shields (figs. 101, 119, 120, 164), leather shields with metal radial triangles (figs. 112, 165) and of overlapping metal radial triangular plates and discs (fig. 161).


    Metal and leather-metal Iranian ‘rosette’ shields (fig. 162; 41) were widely used in Iran during the Mongol period. Small, forged Mongol shields with decorative engraving (fig. 105) are evident in the miniatures, as well as larger versions with what is possibly an embossed design (fig. 113). All shields, both Mongolian and Iranian, apart from wholly forged ones had metal umbos.

Mongol armour of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and Indian armour of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries: An anachronism?
Indian miniatures of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries show Mongol and Irano-Mongol style armour. For some inexplicable reason much of this type of armour continued to be used in the sub-continent until late in the eighteenth century.18 It is difficult to explain quite why this should have happened for as far as is known, there were no Mongol contingents in India for any substantial period of time. It may be surmised that Mongol and Mongol/Iranian armour was exported to India during the second half of the thirteenth century from Iran and central Asia when it was still widely used. That this armour survived the successful conquest of Hindustan by Babur in 1526 is even more extraordinary as by this date armour in Iran and Central Asia had evolved along totally different and presumably superior lines. Nor is it either a local or Indian phenomenon as far as can be judged from artistic evidence. This (essentially Indian) Mongol and Mongol-Iranian armour featured a cuirass with shoulder straps and shoulder guards known as a peti in India. The shoulder guards are figure cut in the Sino-Mongol pattern and are a typical feature of this tradition. It is noteworthy to recall that this armour was principally made of a soft material (like the brigandine), and where metal details were sewn on to this base the influence of the Irano-Mongol style of the mid-fourteenth century is apparent. The pieces that comprised the Mongol pattern of armour were sometimes taken as a model by Indian craftsmen for the manufacture of purely metal armour. It may be surmised that Mongolian and Mongol/Iranian armour appeared in India in the late thirteenth to fourteenth centuries as a result of exporting Mongol/Iranian armour (which was still widely used in the second half of the thirteenth century20) as much as a result of the military and peaceful infiltration of Turkic and Persian warriors from Khurāsān. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Mongol armour continued to be worn in India and was not superseded by the mail and plate armours worn by the Muslim forces during their campaigns of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.

Armour in Iraq and Syria from the mid-thirteenth to early fourteenth century
Very few illustrations of armour of the period under consideration in these areas have survived. Those we see are inlaid copper or silver on metal utensils (figs. 166-170). The armour is exclusively Mongol, Irano-Mongol or Sino-Mongol. The Mongol style includes the laminated cuirass, without shoulder guards, but with knee-length tassets (figs. 166, 167) or without tassets (fig. 168); and helmets with a broad edge band and domes that are low semi-spheres merging with a cylinder crowned by a cone and plumes, with laminated neck guards (fig. 167). The brimmed, hemispherical helmet crowned by a finial (fig. 166) belongs to the Irano-Mongol style while the short khatangku dehel coats with slits on the sides and leaf-like shoulder blades (fig. 169) are of Sino-Mongol style. An impression that the Mongol tradition prevailed in Iraq and Syria throughout this period is created, and though evidence indicates the wearing of the old style round gorgets (figs. 171, 172) often used by the Mongols, this impression is subject to modification. Mongol influence in Iraq was very strong, affecting the artists and craftsmen to a great degree. As for Syria, the main influence stemmed from the Mamlūks despite the influx of Mongol-Iranian peoples and culture. In 1296, for example, the Amīr of the Oirats - a Mongol tribe - having successfully defeated an Īlkhān army during a time of civil war, brought thousands of Oirat warriors into Syria from Diyār Bakr in North Mesopotamia, and became a subject of the Mamlūk Sultan Kitbughā, himself originally an Oirat.21 These Oirats are possibly the warriors depicted on an inlaid bowl known as the ‘Baptistry of Saint Louis’, made in Damascus in the late thirteenth/early fourteenth century.

A synopsis of armour development in the second half of the fourteenth century
Mongol armour was widespread in this period, but began to assimilate local traditions, such as the Uigur cuirass. In the late fourteenth century, Central Asian and Near Eastern traditions interact and give rise to two styles of armour. The first comprises metal bands shaped to the body and joined to form one piece, similar to contemporary West European designs. Handbraces with metal gauntlets, and folding greaves with oval knee-guards together with metal boots indicates this style, developed in North West Iran. The second style, originating in Iraq at the end of the fourteenth century, featured an armour of mail mixed with metal plates and thigh-guards. Helmets of this period are increasingly equipped with earpieces in combination with mail aventails

Armour in Iran in the second half of the fourteenth century
Much armour, of the types depicted in minute detail in the Tabriz and Shiraz miniatures of the 1370s-1390s, still survives (44-50). Although the Īlkhān state, together with Mongol leadership as a whole, collapsed in the mid-fourteenth century, the armour remained Mongol. This style was dominant by the second half of the fourteenth century and had all but supplanted the Iranian type of armour (especially mail). Mongol armour continued to develop in Iran, subject to modifications based on local influences.
    The khatangku dehel type of soft armour retained its essential style, even the leaf-shaped shoulder guards (44) but changes are evident: the tassets became longer and narrower; a rectangular piece was added to the belt behind and a smaller piece to the front (46, 47, 49, 52), these being a Central Asian feature brought to Iran.22 This style only appears in the later part of the fourteenth century because it is of Uigur rather than Mongol inspiration and it was the Uigurs who, after the collapse of the Īlkhānids, inherited a major role in Iran’s development. The soft



44 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1370-1380. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 2153, fol. 22b)

armour frequently had wrist-length sleeves (46) which were strengthened above the elbow by metal guards. Metal discs in front and behind became an almost obligatory feature of the soft armour, but disappeared from the hard armour; occasionally they can be seen on mail shirts (51, 52). The body of the soft armour was usually vertically quilted, while the sleeves were horizontally quilted and strengthened with layers of metal plates, whose pinheads were visible on the cloth surface. The soft armour, when worn separately, was often covered with a light blue or violet material and sometimes had lamellar tassets and shoulder guards (47), or else worn under the hard armour (khuyagh in Mongol, jawshan in Persian). In such cases it was covered with a violet, red, brown or dark grey material and the suit could be complete (44, 46, 51, 52) or partially complete, that is, devoid of shoulder guards or sleeves (figs. 171-173) or without tassets (fig. 173). The soft armour, worn beneath the hard type, could be of a different style, the slits being on the sides rather than on the chest (figs. 171-173; 47). Soft armour frequently had protective metal discs in the armpit (fig. 171; 46, 47-50).
    The principal style of lamellar and laminated armour (khuyagh, jawshan) was the cuirass with features similar to the soft armour (figs. 171-173; 44-50), which separated it from the previous period. The cuirass itself did not cover the upper reaches of the chest and back in many instances (figs. 171-173; 46, 47, 50), these areas being protected by the soft armour reinforced with metal discs. The hard shoulder guards gradually altered, the upper part (attached by straps to the cuirass) becoming metal and one-piece, rounded at the top, and the lower part becoming narrower and more curved. A seam is frequently to be seen on the chest for greater comfort and flexibility (44-47). Miniatures of this period amply illustrate the belts or laces which tied the side vents of the cuirass (47), the shoulder guards and tassets to the body (fig. 171; 47-49). Even the straps of the cuirass (fig. 173) can be seen.
    The soft brigandine or plate-decorated old Iranian round



45 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1370-1380. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 2153, fol. 35a)


46 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1370-1380. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 2153, fol. 52b-53a)



47 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1370-1380. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 2153, fol. 102a)



48 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Tabriz, c.1370-1380. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 2160, fol. 76b)


49 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Shiraz, c.1370-1371. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 1511)


50 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Shiraz, c.1370-1371. (Topkapu Saray Museum. Hazine 1511)


gorget (48) or those consisting of narrow metal plates (figs. 174, 175) were anachronistic and gradually disappeared. New types of arm and leg defences began to evolve. We encounter the real bāzūband, a vambrace of two steel bands for the first time (figs. 171-173; 44, 46, 47, 50). Of uncertain origin, a similar vambrace of horizontal plates is found in tenth century Armenia (fig. 84) and another from the thirteenth-century Kiev area23 though probably the first example dates from fifth-century South Korea. The bāzūband shown here is unique (fig. 177) with a highly developed system of hand protection consisting of a mail gauntlet covered by a metal phalanx of plates. It is difficult to determine just how regional these gauntlets were; they may have been the invention of fourteenth-century Iranian armourers or possibly the idea was borrowed from Europeans. A similar process was responsible for the development of leg guards (fig. 178), comprising belts and mail, oval knee guards, folding greaves and mail or plated boots. The leg guards were strapped to the legs and also to the belt of the clothing worn underneath the armour. As their appearance was more widespread than the gauntlets, there is more justification in believing them to be of Iranian invention.
    The Iranian helmets of this period retain the same hemispherical dome, with a broad band at the brow and plume holder. The dome was of four segments pinned together or more often forged in one piece and decorated with fluting. Protection for the lower part of the head and neck was given by the increasingly encountered lamellar aventail which covered the neck and lower facial area (figs. 171, 172; 45, 47, 49, 50), combined with rectangular-shaped ear-pieces (50) or the more frequently encountered discs (fig. 176; 41, 46, 48, 49). Some helmets had a triangular peak covering the forehead (fig. 176), independent arching above each eye (41) and nasals (41) similar to those that appeared in the 1330s-1350s (46).
    The Iranian shields of the second half of the fourteenth century were generally round, often made of concentric rods, with a steel umbo (fig. 180; 44, 48), known under the Turkic name kalkan, or are painted leather shields with a metal umbo and edge (fig. 181; 47). The handle of the shields consisted of either two straps or a string (44). The Iranian kite shield of wood and painted leather appeared for the last time in the 1370s (fig. 182). The size had become rather standardized and covered the body from the waist to the neck.
    The armour became increasingly more decorated throughout this period, with gilding and engraving frequently used. Small plates sewn on to the soft fabrics of neck guards, gorgets and sack helmets were increasingly woven (48).

Armour in Iraq in the late fourteenth century
The Iraqi armour of the post-Mongol period is depicted in a few late fourteenth century miniatures painted in Baghdad. These miniatures from treatises on astronomy, though of poor quality, do show pictures of armour similar to those in the Tabriz miniatures (figs. 171-173; 48, 49). This coincidence may be explained by the fact that Baghdad and Tabriz were both major cities within the same political and cultural ambit, under
51 Miniature from Shāh-Nāmeh, Shiraz, c.1397. (Chester Beatty Library, MS 114, fol. 38)

52 Miniature c.1397-1398. Garshāsp-Nāmeh and other epics by Asadī, Shiraz (British Library or. 2780. fol. 213v)


53 Three Metric Romances by Khwāju Kermānī, painter Junayd al-Sulṭānī, Baghdad, c.1396, (British Museum, Add. 18113, fol. 31v)


the Jalāyirids. Another source of information is the splendid work of the Baghdad artist Junayd al-Sulṭānī (53, 54), which reflects the originality of Iraqi arms. We observe true plate and mail armour for the first time (46), styled as a short waist-length coat, slit in the front, the upper part made of mail with the lower part laminated, and having steel bands attached to several belts or joined together by a mail juncture, rather than the former method of thin belts or laces. The mail shirt is also to be found here (54), being waist-length with a festooned hem and having a mid-forearm-length sleeve. Lamellar armour is retained (53) in fourteenth-century Iraq similar to that of Iran, except that the upper part is fixed to the shoulders instead of using straps. The gilded steel discs on top of the chest plates are of late fourteenth-century style. The shoulder guard consists of small plates as do the tassets (which do not quite reach the knees). These tassets are often made of plates similar to those on the body. Thigh guards are first portrayed in the works of Junayd al-Sulṭānī (fig. 183) and resemble the mail suspended from the belt under the armour with a big protruding metal disc at the knee. Round gorgets are still in evidence in Iraq, made only of mail in the late fourteenth century (fig. 183; 53). The folding bāzūband vambraces are also featured (53, 54). The helmets resemble Iranian ones in shape and structure, but with lamellar aventails (53) and movable nasals (53, 54), precursors of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century turban helmet nasals.
    Thus we see in the late fourteenth century cardinal changes in the armour of Iran and Iraq with a continuation of the powerful Central Asian tradition merging with the developing influence of the Uigurs, a further development of the Iranian and Mongol helmet, and the supplanting of Iranian wooden or leather shields by the Mongol khalkha. The appearance of new types of arm- and leg-guards featuring folding vambraces and greaves further supports this evidence of change. Their appearance indicates West European influence on armour development. Contemporary Baghdad miniatures illustrated new types of armour which appeared in late fourteenth-century Iraq and which would eventually replace previous styles and lead the development of armour in the Near and Middle East along essentially different lines from those of West European countries, especially in the armours of mail and plates. The plate armours were termed jawshan, but this term was soon to embrace the mail and plate armours as well. Such an application of the term implies the development of another structure, and has made contemporary researchers use the term jawshan with regard to mail and plate armour. Since the term dates back to the late tenth century, early types of armour might also be regarded as being of mail and plate.24 This is incorrect, however, as we have already observed that mail or plate armour appeared in the late fourteenth century while the earlier jawshan armours were generally of a lamellar type or occasionally of metal plates sewn on to a soft fabric.

A synopsis of armour development in the first half of the fifteenth century
Both Mongol and Iranian armour continued to develop in this period. Western European ideas were assimilated in Central and Eastern Iran, where body armour joined leg armour, the complete set resembling the late sixteenth-century armour of European knights. Iraq and Western Iran adopted and developed the second style, in which each piece of protective mail and plate was worn separately. Particularly noticeable are large metal discs on the chest and back. Soft armour continued to be widely worn, and turban helmets appear in North Western Iran.

Armour in the fifteenth century - The Timurid Period: Āẕarbāyjān, Pars, Khurāsān in the early fifteenth century
The same tradition in the development of armour in Tabriz and Shiraz in the late fourteenth century is shown in paintings to have existed in Herat (Khurāsān) and Shiraz (Fārs). Similar styles and structures are featured; hard and soft armours (figs. 186, 187, 192, 194-196). Differences in development do occur. The steel disc is here shown to have been used not only on soft armour (figs. 192, 194) or mail but also in the jawshan (fig. 193). The jawshan is often the short, waist-length type (figs. 186, 187; 55). The tassets of the complete jawshan sets are narrow and develop protruding knee discs, (a compromise between the Irano-Iraqi thigh-guards of mail with knee discs and the Mongol-Iranian laminated tassets,) and merge with the wholly metal folding greaves, frequently combined with boots of plate and mail (figs. 193, 194). Though similar to the Western European tradition of development, the Persian armours of the early fifteenth century differed from contemporary Western European styles, and more closely resembled those of the late sixteenth century.

54 Three Metric Romances by Khwāju Kermānī, painter Junayd al-Sulṭānī, Baghdad, c.1396, (British Museum, Add. 18113, fol. 56v)





    The new style of narrow jawshan tassets were sometimes mixed with the earlier broader style (fig. 188). Soft armours were also affected by changes: they began to resemble short coats with both short and wide and long and narrow sleeves, (fig. 191; 55) possibly with metal lining in the upper parts of the sleeves (figs. 191, 196; 57). The wearing of two soft armours together is an interesting development (fig. 194). The armour worn underneath long narrow sleeves and narrow tassets joined with an all-metal defence of the knee, calf and foot while the external, coat-shaped armour has shoulder guards. The bāzūband forearm defence continued to develop, the metal gauntlet being discarded in favour of a plate covering the upper part of the hand (figs. 188, 191, 192, 196; 56, 57). Two types of leg guards are in evidence in the sources: a laminated tasset joined to the knee-guard on the greaves, with mail or plate boots, or another tasset of triangular form falling freely to the calf (56). A mail shirt or coat with small steel discs was common in early fifteenth-century Tabriz (fig. 190), while late fourteenth-century Baghdad developed a jawshan of mail and plates with large steel discs (closely resembling the later ‘mirrors’) and still featuring the laminated shoulder guards and tassets (fig. 189). The old gorget of mail still continued in service until the second quarter of the fifteenth century in Herat (figs. 186-196; 55).
    Early fifteenth-century Iranian helmets in Fārs and Khurāsān are identical to those of the previous period (figs. 186-188, 191-193, 195, 196) with archaic Mongol characteristics including the vertical peak and laminated mail which survived until about the 1430s (fig. 186; 55). The Tabriz helmets of this
55 Shāh-Nāmeh by Ferdawsī. Herat. c.1440. (Royal Asiatic Society. London. Morley 239 fol. 270)

56 Shāh-Nāmeh. Shiraz. c.1435. (Bodleian Library. Oxford. Add. 176. fol. 63v)
57 Shāh-Nāmeh. Shiraz. c.1420-1430. (British Museum. 1948-10-9-50)


period (fig. 189, 190) are more progressive so far as their design is concerned which disregards the Mongol vertical peak (of Chinese influence) and closely resembles the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century turban helmet.
    All Iranian shields of this period are round, and of the same size as the previous period. The woven kalkans with metal bosses continued, but the painted leather, and the metal varieties still existed. The decoration of the helmets remained modest, but was more ornate on the jawshan armour and the shields.
    A complete set of armour, believed to be Turkish in origin from the fifteenth century, has survived, and is exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.25 However, examination of the piece suggests that it should rather be classed as originating in the Herat area in the second quarter of the fifteenth century (55). In the author’s opinion, the suit shows signs of the Near and Middle Eastern development of armour removed from Western European influence.

A synopsis of armour developed in the second half of the fifteenth century
Lamellar armour disappears at this time, while the cuirass of metal bands merges with the fabric or mail coat. Armour of mail and plates, together with thigh-guards, continue to develop. Armoured ‘waistcoats’ of metal bands or large plates pinned to a soft base are widely used. Armoured sleeves of quilted leather or thick, hard leather bands are also encountered. The helmets of this period are elongated having a round or conical shape, and are crowned with plumes or finials surmounted with flags. Rod woven kalkan shields become common.
    The last of the periods under consideration has its illustrated evidence supported by surviving pieces of armour.

Armour in Khurāsān in the late fifteenth century
Evidence of the development of Iranian armour of the late fifteenth century is best found in the miniatures of the Herat school, since the contemporary Shiraz miniatures are of a poor quality, and sources from Tabriz for this period are unhelpful. In the middle of the fifteenth century we still find complete sets of laminated armour although it becomes increasingly combined with soft armour. There are instances where only the shoulder guards themselves are laminated, the rest being of soft fabric (58). Such combined armour, styled as a coat, is also found in the 1490s where steel bands are used for waist-length armour, with the bands joined either by mail (fig. 199) or sewn on to the fabric (figs. 197, 198). The row consisted of two pieces joined on the back by leather thus creating a flexible seam; the shoulders had additional protective steel plates in the form of discs (figs. 197, 198) or rectangles (fig. 199). Laminated ‘waistcoats’ are sometimes found in the late fifteenth century (fig. 200), as were versions of large scale plates pinned to a soft base (fig. 201). Mail and plate armour become increasingly popular: the sleeveless poncho-styled bakhteretz [bakhteretz in Russian, bekhtez in Polish, both from Persian bākhtā(?)] with straps on the sides of small horizontal plates and a ‘mirror’ (ā’īneh in Persian, gögüsluk in Turkish) (59); and mail shirts and coats with elbow-length sleeves with small rectangular plates on the body and larger rectangular and triangular shoulder plates (figs. 202, 203). The simple mail shirt is also common (fig. 204). Short-sleeved armour coats falling to the calf, with iron plates attached from the inside on the upper part (from the neck to the waist) are frequently depicted (figs. 205, 206). Khurāsān leg armour consisted of thigh guards, with metal knee discs, which were attached to a belt worn beneath the armour. These thigh guards varied in structure, being completely of mail (figs. 198, 201, 204, 205; 59) or their upper part of steel and broad leather bands (figs. 197, 199, 206), or of rows of small steel plates joined by mail (figs. 200, 202, 203). Folding steel greaves are rare (59) and steel boots have disappeared completely. Late fifteenth-century miniatures from Herat depict a rare arm protection which later disappears - the armoured sleeve. They were made of soft, quilted cotton, leather and shaped metal plates at the elbow and shoulder (fig. 208), or of thick, hard leather bands attached to straps with (fig. 206), or without (fig. 207), additional metal shoulder guards.
    Helmets also changed in shape, with new types of finial plume holders (figs. 198, 199). Rectangular ear pieces with geometrically cut lower edges also become very common (figs. 199, 202) while disc versions disappeared. Tall, conical helmets appear (contrast figs. 205, 207 with figs. 203, 206). As portrayed, the helmets are often covered with fabric (fig. 206). Late fifteenth-century Khurāsān shields were all of the round, kalkan type with a flexible vertical handle (figs. 197, 200). Contrast fig. 199 which also shows the small cushion beneath the grip designed to absorb the impact of blows.

Armour in Iraq in the mid-fifteenth century
Few Mesopotamian miniatures depicting armour survive, but one of the few examples (fig. 199) suggests that the Iraqis rivalled, and by the late fifteenth century overtook, the Iranians in some aspects of armour design. A mid-fifteenth century miniature depicts an armour, (bekhtez?) the upper part of which consists of small horizontal plates predating by a decade an Iranian illustration (of the same development) (59). Mail thigh guards with protruding knee discs, and spherical helmets with rectangular ear pieces would also seem to have developed later in Iran than Iraq, judging by pictorial evidence.

Fifteenth-century miniatures indicate that this period produced designs of armour which were to be retained until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the early fifteenth century, the stylistic freedom created by the merging of Mongol and Iranian armorial traditions allowed a Western European tendency to appear for a brief period, in a form which entailed constructing whole steel pieces in anatomical shape. An alternative school of design emerged in Iraq at the end of the fourteenth to the mid-fifteenth centuries representing the inter-relationship of designs from Central Asia, the Near and the Far East. This type of armour combined the maximum flexibility provided by a coat of mail with the protection of metal plates woven into it. As a result of


58 Ta’rīkh by Ṭabarī, Herat, c.1469. (Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, MS 144, fol. 236v)

59 Bustān by Sā‛dī, Herat, c.1478. (Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, MS 156, fol. 102v)

this development, only one armour, instead of the former hard and soft types, was required for protection. (True, the tradition of wearing a flexible coat of mail with hard mirrors - ā’īneh or gögüsluk - over it remained.) Helmet construction and design remained regional whereas for shields two separate traditions remained.
    Miniatures of the late fifteenth century have their information corroborated by the existence of a considerable number of surviving armour pieces. Unfortunately we have no illustrations of Egyptian or Syrian armour from the mid-fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, but most of those surviving belong to these areas.
    Representative art reflecting the development of defensive arms in the medieval Muslim East cannot provide a comprehensive history. Nevertheless, the aphorism that one picture is worth a thousand words has a certain validity when studying the minutiae of Islamic armour development.

Figures in M. GORELIK, "Oriental Armour of the Near and Middle East from the Eighth to the Fifteenth Centuries as Shown in Works of Art"


1 L. A. Mayer, ‘Saracenic Arms and Armour’, Ars Islamica, Vol. X, 1943.
2 H. R. Robinson, Oriental Armour, London, 1967.
3 V. P. Darkevich, B. I. Marshak, ‘On the so-called Syrian dish from the Perm region’, Soviet Archaeology, 1974, No. 2, pp. 216-219.
4 Usāma ibn Munqidh, Book of Guidance, translated by M. A. Salié, Moscow, 1958, p. 105.
5 Op. cit., p. 172.
6 C. Blair, European Armour, London, 1972, Fig. 6.
7 H. R. Robinson, op. cit., Fig. 11; A. von Le Coq, Chotscho, Berlin, 1913, Taf. 47d; A. M. Belenitsky, The Monumental Art of Pendzhikent, Moscow, 1973, Tables 8, 12.
8 V. N. Lazarev, History of Byzantine Pictorial Art, Moscow, 1948, Vol. II, Table 106b; A. V. Bank, ‘Relief with Image of St. George from the Hermitage Collection, Researches into the Cultural History of the Peoples of the East’. Collected work in honour of Academician I. A. Orbeli, Leningrad, 1963, Fig. 2.
9 Soghdian: A. M. Belenitsky, op. cit., pp. 19, 20, 31; Chinese: C. Glaser, Ostasiatische Plastik, Berlin, 1925, Taf. 99, 102, 107; Cheng si cheng ch’ou t’ou t’ang yung hsiuang tsi, Peking, 1968, pl. 27, 130, 131.
10 A. N. Kirpichnikov, Ancient Russian Arms, Armour, various battle weapons ninth-thirteenth centuries. Leningrad, 1971, Table xv, 2-2a.
11 Rashīd al-Dīn, Collected Chronicles, Vol. III, translated by A. K. Arends, Moscow-Leningrad, 1940, p. 302.
12 Plano Carpini and Rubruk, Travels in Eastern Lands, translated by I. P. Minaev, Moscow, 1956, pp. 50-51.
13 M. S. Ipsiroglu, Saray-Alben, Diez’sche Klebebände aus den Berliner Sammlungen, Wiesbaden, 1964, Taf. IX, No. 13.
14 Plano Carpini and Rubruk, op. cit., p. 50.
15 Op. cit., p. 50.
16 B. Thordeman, Armour from the Battle of Wisby, Vol. I, Stockholm, 1939, Fig. 296; G. Vianello, Armi in Oriente, Milano, 1966, Tav. 47.
17 H. Stöcklein, ‘Die Waffenschätze im Topkapu Sarayi Müzesi, zu Istanbul’, Ars Islamica, Vol. I, Part 2, 1934, Fig. 3.
18 S. Tyulyaev, Miniatures of manuscript Bābur-Nāmeh, Moscow, 1960, reproductions 5, 10, 11-13; W. Forman, J. Marek, H. Knižková, Tschingischan und sein Reich, Prague, 1963, Abb. 6, 12, 17, 20, 24; G. C. Stone, A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor, Portland, Maine, 1934, Fig. 61, 2, 62; H. R. Robinson, op. cit., Fig. 51, pl. XIV, c.d., XV, XVIII, a.
19 Anand Krishna, An early Rāgāmāla series, Ars Orientalis, Vol. 4, 1961, Figs. 38, 39; ‘Paintings from Islamic Lands’, (ed.) R. Pinder-Wilson, Oriental Studies, IV, Oxford, 1969, Fig. 85.
20 Plano Carpini and Rubruk, op. cit., p. 186.
21 Rashīd al-Dīn, op. cit., p. 167.
22 H. R. Robinson, op. cit., Fig. 14.
23 A. A. Kirpichnikov, op. cit., Fig. 23. Akio Ito, Zur Chronologie der frühsillazeitlichen Gräber in Südkorea, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosofisch-Historische Klasse, Abhandlungen, Neue Folge, Heft 71, München, 1971, Band B.
24 L. A. Mayer, op. cit., p. 3; H. R. Robinson, op. cit., p. 77.
25 G. C. Stone, op. cit., Fig. 53; H. R. Robinson, op. cit., pl. VI.

Source: M. GORELIK, "Oriental Armour of the Near and Middle East from the Eighth to the Fifteenth Centuries as Shown in Works of Art", in: Islamic Arms and Armour, ed. ROBERT ELGOOD, London 1979
Also available at

See also David Nicolle, "An introduction to arms and warfare in classical Islam", in: Islamic Arms and Armour, ed. Robert Elgood, London 1979
Illustrations referenced by The military technology of classical Islam by David Nicolle
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers