CRETAN DAGGER

 

Originally one of the first tools made by man were shaped like daggers in the bronze age, imitating the shape of wild animals nails with which they caught and killed their prey. Whilst during the Mycenaean Civilisation, daggers of outstanding quality were produced, exquisite double edged bronze and copper, all manufactured in Minoan Crete from 1500 B.C. onwards. According to ancient Greek mythology, edged daggers and swords including war helmets were first construct in Crete. However, few specimens have survived to this day. 
 

Many battles and wars were fought throughout the various ages up until the 14th century, when the Venetians ruled Crete for more than 450 years. This was possible by their excellent organisation and administrative skills and by the defence system they had installed on the island, along with the powerful local militia of Cretan archers, renowned throughout the East, and with the forces of the Greek and Italian landowners of the island who were most certainly armed with weapons made by Cretan craftsmen. 

 

After the conquest of Crete by the Turks, the island continued to fabricate exquisite metallic products, including daggers, which acquired special value during the 19th century because of the repeated revolutions of the Cretans, whose thirst for freedom was so great. The Cretan dagger remains the necessary complement of every gallant youth's weaponry in the struggle over Macedonia, the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor Campaign and even during the Second World War, when the weapons of Cretan partisans included the traditional dagger, a symbol of their gallantry and the spirit of Crete's resistance against any conqueror.

 

The typical Cretan dagger as we know it today was born in the late 18th century and has a shape reminiscent of a dart.

 
Its steel blade is sturdy and has only one sharpened edge, while the side opposite to this edge, the 'rahi', is flat, reinforced at its base and growing thinner to the tip of the blade, ending with a very sharp point which has a slight upward gradient. The blade's length varies. In the mid 19th century Cretan dagger manufacturers fabricated oversized daggers, the length of which could reach 80 cm. These huge daggers could be used as sabres.

  
The hilt part of the dagger is called 'manika' often having various shapes. Although there are three dominant types. In the first, the hilt's end resembles a bird's beak, the second shape is the same as that of the 18th and 19th century cutlasses and the third, being the classical Cretan type, is V-shaped making them the quintessential Cretan dagger.  The hilt is always made of animal horn or bone, while in the most lavishly manufactured daggers it is made of ivory. Hilts which are not made of this precious material are made of white bone, derived mainly from ox feet, boiled in a mixture of water, ash and lime so that it acquired a bright white colour. Thankfully today hilts are rarely made from the horns of the island's wild goats' , the 'kri–kri'. Daggers with dark - coloured hilts are called 'mavromanika'.

  
Great aesthetic value lies in the silver scabbards or 'foukaria' of the silver-sheathed daggers. The distinct perfection of the Cretan silversmiths' art is concentrated in this part of the dagger.
 

The importance of the Cretan dagger is symbolic, even today. One of the traditions is that prior to a wedding, one of the gifts a groom would offer his fiancée would be a small silver dagger called a 'argyrobounialaki' to be worn during the wedding ceremony tucked inside the silk sash tied around her waist. An indication to other men that the girl was married and that she belonged to one man only.
 

 
 

 

Top
Top

  

 More Culture pages
: Easter : Christmas : Cretan Wedding : Baptism : Roadside Shrines : Kafenion : Periptero :
: Raki : Komboloy : Hunting Season : Black Veil : Cretan Dagger : Cretan Biscuit :
: Threshing Circles : Tavli : Puppet Theatre : The Mitato :

Home

 

Copyright © 2009 Only Crete