In this book Robert Elgood weaves together the story of Greek and Balkan weaponry of the Ottoman period – the technology, manufacture and trade – with the deeds of the weapons’ owners and the history of the region.
Guns and swords were richly ornamented with silverwork or sometimes ivory, mother-of-pearl or coral. Each town developed its own style in weaponry, decoration and costume, often with splendid results. Weapons were an essential part of a man’s attire, carried at all times from around the age of twelve. The quantity of silver they bore indicated the owner’s status, and he would keep it polished and shining to suggest he was a great warrior. When times were hard he might detach a piece of silver to pay a bill.
Balkan weapons were traded in bazaars from North Africa through Arabia to India, while firearms might incorporate gun barrels and locks imported from Italy, France or England. Decorations were often applied by silversmiths in workshops far from the place where a weapon was made. Until now these arms have been loosely described as Ottoman, but Dr Elgood’s groundbreaking research opens a new frontier in arms history.
The Greek war of independence in the 1820s brought to the country large numbers of the Sultan’s soldiers from diverse parts of the Empire. Many captured weapons found their way into the hands of freedom fighters and ultimately into Greek museums. These arms form the nucleus of this book. Some are magnificent; others so poor that one wonders that a man should risk his life with such a thing. Yet it is from these arms, wielded by men of remarkable courage and determination, that a free and independent Greece emerged.