Suvar-bulgar culture: history of arms and armour


The history of mankind is the history of wars. And the development of civilizations is full of uninterrupted wars: tribal conflicts, invasions of horse people, slave rebellions, feudal wars, and global warfare.

Since the 7th century B. C. in Ancient Rome there was the Temple of Two-faced Janus. Traditionally the gates of the temple were opened only in war time. As the history says, during the whole period of its existing they were closed only four times and the peace did not last long.

The peoples living on the huge territory of Eurasia were not isolated from each other, as they had constant cultural contacts, and they had conflicts too. On these vast areas great civilizations were born and died.

The migrations of peoples can be compared with the swing of a huge fantastic pendulum. From time to time different peoples left their homes for a better life. Plenty of them moved to the East Siberia and Asia with the purpose to capture foreign lands. Others moved in the opposite direction with the same purpose. In Bronze Age and in Early Iron Age, which followed it, a great amount of wars took place in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Babylonian and Assyrian empires. Later on, wars were unleashed by the great ancient military leaders: Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Darius and Julius Caesar. Plenty of people had to abandon the traditional lands and moved further to the East, Siberia and Asia, hoping to find safety there. In the 2nd and 1st millennium Before Christ there were series of military campaigns waged by the Indo-Aryan tribes. Since the 7th and 1st centuries B. C. it was Scythians, Sarmatians, Savromats and The Saka who redrawed the map of the Ancient World. Since the 1st—4th centuries A. D. numerous hordes of nomads, — Huns and mixed ethnicity tribes with Turkic peoples at the head, — moved to Europe. In the 13th-14th centuries Mongols’ armies under the leadership of Genghis Khan and later Timur the Lame conquered large territories in Eurasia. These campaigns changed the face of Europe.

The numerous ruins of strong fortresses and fortifications on the territories of Mesopotamia, Caucasia, Black Sea Coast, Volga region, Middle and Central Asia — are dumb witnesses of endless wars, which took place in ages past and gone.

In spite of it there are not many items of ammunition kept. Since extreme antiquity weapons were highly appreciated. In general they were piece-goods and were considered the most desired, as a trophy. That is why weapons were kept thoroughly. They were passed from one generation to another and belonged to one and the same warrior during his whole life. In Bronze and Iron ages the personal weapons were seldom put into burials of fallen warriors. People used to put not real weapons but the models from bronze, iron or wood into the graves. The ancients thought, that the weapons had not to be buried, because they were alive and were able to find the new owners themselves. At that time the custom was highly spread, when only a 

part of the item was put into the burials instead of the whole thing, or instead of the whole set of the weapons only some elements of it were put into — for example: an armored plate, an arrowhead etc.

Since ancient times in the battle a warrior did his best to kill the enemy or at least to wound him. To win or to fail in the battle — depended on the weapon and the battlecraft of the warriors. To win in the battle meant to make the enemy not resist any more.

The first weapons appeared in the primitive society. They were used for hunting and fighting with other tribes. So a weapon was a thing, using for destruction. But primitive people couldn’t do without instruments of labour either. The latter were things, using for creation. Since the time the first people appeared they needed as tools and weapons as well. Further weapons were made specially for struggling in the battle with the aim to defeat the enemy.

The first primitive weapons of ancient people were their teeth and fists, a strong stick or a stone, they could come across. Then a club (чукмар) and a spear (сана) were invented. First spearheads were made of wood with fire hardened points and then of stone. A spear was the most dangerous weapon in Stone Age. Later a stone axe (чул пурта), a javelin (пемелли сана), — used as a ranged weapon, — and a sling (авалкка), — used as a projectile weapon, — were invented. The invention of great importance was metal-working when people learned to make bows and arrows (ухапа ёмёрен) with iron heads.

In the fourth millennium B. C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia they made battle axes, knives, daggers, swards, spear heads and arrowheads. They were made of native copper by means of cold hammering. Then people learned to produce bronze from copper and tin. Bronze is fusible alloy and at the same time it is stronger and harder than copper. But spear heads and arrowheads from copper and bronze often bent and the swards broke. That is why the method of producing iron from ore became an outstanding invention of the ancient world, because it was considerably firmer than copper and bronze.

The evolution of lethal weapons lead to the invention of the armour. In its turn the latter forced the further improvement of lethal weapons. For many ages rivalry between the leather weapons and the armour have been going on. The result of it was the invention of spears with iron heads, and swards of two kinds: thrusting and cutting swards. On the contrary the armour made of metal and wood have been developing: a coat of arms, a chain mail, a helmet and a shield. Such kinds of weapons: chariots, and espringals also appeared on the battlefields.

There isn’t much information about weapons fighting qualities of different peoples and states. According to the archeological materials they were approximately the same. From time to time fighting qualities of the armies of the states changed but the difference was little, and it didn’t last long. Then the situation could change again. If one of the countries dominated, then the neighbouring states made up a union to withstand the potential enemy.

The strengthening of ancient states and the development of weapons production made the countries compete with each other. The further development of the countries led to the invention of new kinds of weapons and bettering the strategy and tactics of future struggles. Weapons were produced by armourers. According to the quality, one could judge about the skill of the craftsmen. As other products the weapons displayed the level of technical achievements and production of the country as well as the cultural traditions of the people. At all times the decoration of weapons was of great importance. The ancients thought that the images of magic signs-symbols on the weapon saved the warrior and helped him to win in the battle.

While inventing new kinds of weapons, every people borrowed the best elements of them from those who lived in the neighbourhood. That is why it’s no wonder, that over the vast territory the weapon showed striking similarities. Thus, bronze and iron arrowheads, used by the warriors living in Black Sea Coast, Volga region, Caucasia and Siberia were identic with Scythian, Savromatian-Sarmatian, Salto- vo-Mayak arrowheads, striking Persians and Macedonians.

Such arrowheads were also found in Mesopotamia and Urartu, in Western Asia, Derbent and Suar in the Caucasus, Bulghar, Bilyar and Suwar in mid-Volga Region.

We can speak about the arms market from the time the weapons were invented. The distribution of weapons around the whole territory of Eurasia can be explained by the processes of people’s migration, travelling and business trips. Being produced in one region, the weapons could be found far away from that place and even abroad. Gradually they became universal international examples.

For-instance, bows of such types as Scythian-Sarmatian, Hun-Bulgarian and Turkic-Mongol; short swards — acinaces, iron long swards, backswards, sabres, daggers, knives and also different kinds of armour were highly spread throughout Eurasia. They were in general identic and differed from each other only by some native peculiarities.

In this connection we can find full information about different kinds of weapons in the region, if we are aware of the problem concerning neighbouring regions.

For a very long period of time Su- var-Bulgars (the Chuvashes) and their ancestors have been keeping the main features of material and spiritual culture unchanged. Their way of life and beliefs were also stable. Symbolism was also widely spread in the whole area of life. That’s why if there is not much information in written sources about Suvar-Bulgars’ weapons, one can find it from archeological, ethnographic and folklore records. To reconstruct the images of Suvar-Bulgar warriors and the arms of different periods one should use the historical chronicles concerning their clothing, footwear and hair-does of the 18-19th centuries. The ornaments of the clothes, embroideries, ceramics and other ware help us to reconstruct the military equipment of Suvar- Bulgar warriors. Symbols-signs on the weapons of the warriors of Bronze and Iron ages, living in the neighbourhood, are just alike those on the handicraft and cold arms of the people of Subartu (Hur- rians and Subars), — the inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Middle Asia, — and their off-springs of the 6th — 20th centuries — Suvar-Bulgars. This fact makes it easier for us to learn the military science of our glorious ancestors.