The Cretan long knife and its history


One of the first tools that built by man, who helped him to survive in the long and difficult period of the dawn of the civilization is the knife, the first Mêlée weapon. For its construction, he imitated the shape claws of wild animals, which they caught and killed their prey.

One of the oldest knife samples in the form in which we know it today was found in Jebel – el – Arak (Gebel – El – Arak) of Egypt, built from raw obsidian and has a handle made of ivory, decorated with reliefs inspired by martial scenes. The knife is constructed around 3,400 BC and now it is in the Louvre. From the other hand in China, Mesopotamia and Iran found knives that touch the age of 5,000 years.

In Mycenaean Greece found knives from 1500 BC and then built magnificent two edged bronze and brass knives, which trade and the profit motive carried them even to other European distant places, since the arms export trade flourished in Mycenaean era. In classical Greece, however, had flourish multitude construction Mêlée weapons, especially knives, used in countless wars, who devoured the Greece of classical times.
At the same time the Mycenaean acne, in Minoan Crete which bequeathed us several brilliant works of an advanced civilization, while peculiar, remarkable knives were manufactured, of which few examples got to our days. In the museum of Heraklion in fact, kept warrior statuette from Sitia Minoan era, armed with a knife which has some similarities with modern Cretan knives. It is worth mentioning that, according to ancient Greek mythology, the Mêlée weapons and military helmets born in Crete after their inventors considered the Curetes, the followers of god Zeus.

The need for defense of the largest Greek island resulted in the development of metallurgy and consequently the arms manufacturing in Crete during the Classical period, when the archers of the island had an excellent reputation in the whole of Greece and Asia Minor, for flair with which handled these weapons. At Roman times, the Romans gained bitter experience of fighting ability of the Cretans and their archery when they occupied the island.

In the middle ages, particularly in the 9th century Crete was occupied by the Saracens, who came from Spain. Starting the island plagued with raiding the entire eastern Mediterranean. The Saracens of Crete manufactured various types of weapons and ground therewith arming ships and crews in naval raids . After the victorious campaign of Nikiforos Fokas the White Death of the Saracen as the Saracens called him and the complete destruction of the Saracens of Crete, the island was returned to power of Eastern Roman Empire, where he stayed until early 13th century, when it passed to the Venetians precious loot from the distribution of the territories of the Byzantine Empire, after the dissolution of the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade.

The Venetians kept Crete under their power for more than 450 years. In fact contributed to this excellent organization of the administrative machine and the defensive system which had developed on the island, according to which apart from the strong regular military forces, defense bolstered by local militia Cretan archers, renowned throughout the East and by the forces of the Greek and Italian landowners of the island. These latter forces fitting securely with weapons which are produced locally Cretans weapon smithers. We have written sources that claim the use knives and long knives for military purposes during the Middle Ages, referred to the revolution of Psaromilingon against the Venetians in the mid 14th century. During the revolution that the Cretan rebels were armed with bows, spears, clubs, machaires, long knives and axes.

According to oral tradition, the era of Venetian rule there were a weapon smithing in Heraklion, Crete, installed in the same position where they are and today. After the Turkish conquest of Crete, the island’s metallurgists continued to produce excellent metallurgical products, including knives which in the 19th century repeated revolutions of the Cretans who thirsted for freedom, acquire special value.

The emotional and practical military value of the Cretan knife continued in this century after the Cretan knife was necessary complement of military dependence of Cretan bravery to the Macedonian struggle, the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor campaign, even during the Second World war where Cretan rebels were armed with their traditional Cretan knife, symbol of Cretan bravery and spirit of resistance of Crete against any invader.

Nikos Vassilatos, “The Cretan Knife” Classic Publishing 1993, ISBN 960-220-470-2



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