Murḍa al-Tarṣuṣi

  • Author: Murḍa Ibn ˁAli al-Tarṣuṣi the courtier of Saladin
  • Title: Tabṣirat arbāb al-lubāb “Information for the intelligent on how to escape injury in combat”
  • Original Language: ArabicPlace of Composition: Date of Composition: c. 1167-1187
  • Source of Text: Claude Cahen, “Une Traité d’Armurerie Composé Pour Saladin,” Bulletin d’études orientales,Tome 12 (1947-1948) pp. 103-163 https://www.jstor.org/stable/41603236
  • Source of Translation: my translation, January 2021
  • Conditions of Use: please ask before citing or quoting in print

This Arabic text on arms and armour and engines has been edited and partially translated into French.  Here I retranslate a few passages of that French translation.  Other short sections may have been translated into English from the Arabic, but I don’t know where to find them.  Its not always clear whether these passages come from the French or the Arabic eg. in Howard L. Blackmore’s Hunting Weapons: From the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century p. 178 or W.F. Patterson’s Guide to the Crossbow p. 35. Some passages on siege engines are translated in Bernard Lewis, Islam, from the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople. Vol. I: Politics and War (Harper & Row: New York 1974) pp. 218-223

Cahen’s French TranslationEnglish Translation (from the French)
(p. 132) Puis vient l’arc de pied ( ar-rijl ), qui se bande par la poussée des deux pieds de l’homme avec la force de son dos, car pour tirer il a besoin de se passer à la taille une sangle de cuir de bœuf bien tanné et durci, aux deux bouts de laquelle il y a deux crochets de fer où l’on passe la corde. L’homme placé ses pieds dans l’intérieur de l’arc, et tire avec son dos la sangle où sont les crochets jusqu’à ce que la corde atteigne le verrou du conduit. Il y introduit la clé, puis il saisit l’arc avec les mains, place la flèche (nabl) dans le conduit, ôte la clé du verrou pour le faire passer dans l’intérieur du conduit; le verrou tourne, car il est comme la poulie légère, sur un axe de fer cloué aux deux ouvertures du conduit, et s’en est détourné pour se rapprocher de la clé; la poulie tourne, la corde est relâchée, la flèche propulsée, et elle sort à l’extrémité du conduit (12).Then comes the foot bow (ar-rijl), which is spanned with the push of the two feet of the man with the strength of his back, for in order to pull it it is necessary to pass a strap of well-tanned and toughened cowhide around the waist. On its two ends are two hooks of iron where one puts the string. The man places his feet on the inside of the bow, and pulls with his back the strap where the hooks are until the string reaches the lock of the trough. The key (ie. trigger) is put in, then he grasps the bow with the hands, places the arrow (nabl) in the trough, and removes the key from the lock to make it pass down the inside of the trough. The lock turns, because it is light as a pulley, on an axle of iron nailed on two holes in the trough, and since it was held back by the presence of the key; the pulley turns, the string is released, the arrow launched, and it goes out from the end of the trough (12).

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