Damask armor - what is it? Damask steel: characteristics. The mystery of the ancient Bulat


Sparkling damask is born

Made of soft iron, hard steel.
And the sword becomes a hundred times stronger
And on the blade - patterned spirals.


( Alexander Simonov, "Bulat sword" )

Come from a fairy tale

Everyone knows that fairy tales are not just interesting stories with which you can take kids, but also a storehouse of wisdom that weaves a cunning pattern with historical events and epics.

In the tales of the mighty warriors and noble knights, such a term as "damask armor" is often found. The strongest and bravest heroes performed their exploits with weapons of damask steel. What kind of metal is it? Why is he so good? Why was it so expensive and so valuable? And anyway, damask armor - what is it? Armor, shield, visor? Or maybe this metal is the secret development of blacksmiths who have sunk into oblivion, an alien experiment or a gift from above?

Is there in our time and is valued as in antiquity, damask armor? The meaning of the word "damask", the origin and use of this metal are described in this article. We will reveal all the secrets of truly fabulous steel, which is actually quite real.

Weapons of famous heroes

Damask armor is an obsolete name for cold weapons. And not at all armor, as it may seem at first glance. For comparison: analogues of the word "armor" in the twin languages ​​of Polish (bron) and Czech (zbrane) mean precisely weapons made of steel, such as damask blade, sword, knife, dagger or saber.

Such well-known fairy tale characters like the bogatyrs Ilya Muromets and Dobrynya Nikitich, King Arthur and Svyatogor, possessed unbreakable weapons of damask steel, thanks to which they were considered invincible warriors. The meaning of the word "damask" is simple - it is hardened steel.


Mystery from space

The mystery of the ancient Bulat lies in the distant past, or rather in 1421, when an iron meteorite fell to the ground near the Russian city of Yaroslavl. A huge piece of metal that fell from the sky was considered a gift from the gods and was spent only on unique weapons. Only a few eminent blacksmiths had access to extraterrestrial metal, and the damask blades and knives were forged for selected warriors.

Legendary uniqueness

Swords, forged from ordinary iron, broke and bent after the first 2-3 strikes, damask steel served forever. They could easily chop the iron shield or rip the enemy's mail. It is also surprising that, despite its incredible strength, the damask blades were very elastic and bent 90-120 degrees without losing their integrity. Thus, a simple cold weapon of the enemy in battle, if not stupid, then scattered into pieces, like broken glass, while damask armor remained intact and sharp. According to the legend, for a damask sword they gave as much gold as the blade weighed, and it weighed a lot!

Fabulous metal

Despite the fact that the meteorite was great, and the blacksmiths were extremely thrifty, the reserves of the unique metal were exhausted. Damask armor eventually turned into a legendary weapon from the past, thanks to which many great victories were won. Information about the wonderful weapon passed from mouth to mouth, from old to young.

Many years have passed since that time, but the heroic damask armor, the significance of which has only increased in the course of time, did not give people peace of mind. Patterned blades forged from steel were glorified in epics, myths and legends. Here are just a few examples of how damask mentions damask and armor from it:

  • in the book about Vladimir Krasno Sunny, one of the knights, flashing with damask armor, fights against the “cursed enemy”;
  • in The Tale of Tsar Saltan, written by Pushkin, merchants, in addition to gold and silver, brought bulat;
  • peasant son Ivan defeats the unknown Miracle Yudo, knocking his head off with a damask sword;
  • in the tale of the adventures of the resourceful tramp Aladdin, travelers are frightened by poison and damask;
  • Brother Ivanushka, who drank water from a puddle and turned into a goat, calls Alyonushka’s sister for help with the words: “Knives sharpen damask wire, they want to cut me …”;
  • Finley the hunter in the fairy tale of the same name, a kind fairy warns that they want to kill him with a sharp damask sword;
  • in the book "Mistress of the Enchanted Forest" the main character Velimir in search of the evil witch with a sword from Bulat cuts his way into the branches and thickets;
  • the great and mighty bogatyr Eruslan Lazarevich cuts the head of an insidious Snake with a damask sword.

In addition to old tales and legends, the phrase “damask armor” is often found in modern poems and prose. The meaning of the word is invaluable in the literature, respectively, thanks to the modern authors of damask still exists. Here are the contemporaries, the efforts of which preserve the knowledge of super-sharp weapons:

  • Victor Prishchepenko ("And armed with zelo").
  • Andrei Shabelnikov ("The sword of damask of the brave Teuton").
  • Sergey Semenov ("Riding on the Gorynych").
  • Ninel Koshkina ("Does Shadow Know Their Place?").
  • Sergey Stepanov ("The Fury of the Normans").

Treasure from india

The first artificially created Bulat learned to do in India. Then the secret of the production of high-strength metal leaked to Iran and Central Asia. True, in those parts damask steel, whose characteristics exceeded all the most daring expectations, was called differently. In India, it was "high school", and in Asia and Iran - "farand", "taban", "Khorasan".

Al-Biruni, a Persian scholar and encyclopaedist, who lived in the Middle Ages and possessed knowledge in almost all scientific fields of the time, wrote a whole treatise on Bulat. It is preserved in the ancient archives to the present day. Al Biruni wrote: "The damask armor is obtained by melting two substances that melt unevenly and do not mix up to homogeneity with each other. As a result, two-color blades are obtained that are valued unusually high."

Damask armor is easily recognizable by the characteristic patterned pattern. It is obtained as a result of the crystallization of carbon and is a peculiar sign of distinction between such products. In addition, the blades of damask steel were incredibly sharp. For example, they easily cut through a shawl thrown over the tip of the thinnest gas fabric.


Damask smiths mastery

Most bulat armor produced in Syrian Damascus. Bulat round ingots were brought to Syria from India, and Damascus blacksmiths forged a magnificent, fabulous weapon. Daggers, sabers and swords cost more than gold and were a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

The price of Indian damask rose exponentially. And Syrian craftsmen by composing different types of steel and multiple forging created welded damask steel, which to this day is called Damascus steel and is very much appreciated.

After Syria was captured by one of Khan Togluk’s commanders, Tamerlan, he took all the blacksmiths out of the conquered country and settled them in Samarkand. However, in captivity masters worked very badly. And over time, blacksmithing has withered. The descendants of the Syrian masters settled around the world, and the method of manufacturing the damask and armor from it was completely forgotten.

In the footsteps of ancient merchants

There is evidence that steel, very similar to damask steel, made in Japan. The blades brought from this country had the same flexibility and durability as weapons made from space material.

With the expansion of trade routes, the oriental metal, as well as sabers, daggers and knives of damask steel turned out to be in Russia. Historical sources have information that Russian blacksmiths bought this material for the manufacture of very expensive weapons.

Damask armor, the value of which was unusually high in those countries with which the East conducted trade, was very much appreciated in England. This is evidenced by the message of the Royal Academy of England, dated 1795 and preserved to our days. They describe events related to the purchase of blades of steel for research.

However, the secret of making the wonderful metal was kept behind seven seals. And this is not surprising: after all, in ancient times there had not yet been chemical laboratories and analyzes, so it was simply impossible to derive the formula for an ideal bulat. Everything was done by eye, and the approximate proportions and composition were kept in the strictest confidence. Few people knew for certain how to make damask armor correctly. The meaning of the word "damask" was nevertheless associated with the best quality of weapons and led the soldiers in awe.


Spread fake

Over the years, the blacksmiths of Europe tried to recreate at least Damascus steel, but failed. They had no choice but to learn how to make a false metal, the weapon from which outwardly looked like damask, but for the rest of the qualities it could not be compared with the true myths of armor.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the production of fake bulat was widespread in Italy, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria and France. Weapons from it, especially the Germanic and Spanish, enjoyed frenzied popularity due to the beautiful appearance, combining mirror polishing and beautiful patterns. The quality of false bulat armor left much to be desired. Because the weapons were made from ordinary low-quality carbon steel.

Recreated from the darkness of ages

It took several centuries before Russia created damask steel, which in its composition was almost a copy of Oriental samples. The reproduction of the legendary two-color metal was done personally by a mining engineer, a metallurgical scientist, and concurrently a major general - Pavel Petrovich Anosov. He, a talented Russian, a patriot of his homeland, who grew up on fairy tales about heroes, was sure that damask armor is an unbreakable weapon.

It all started in 1828, when the Mining Department commissioned the head of the Zlatoust plant (Chelyabinsk region) Anosov to reveal the secret of super-strong steel and to develop the bulat formula. Developments and experiences, a succession of successes and failures lasted more than 10 years. In the process of research, the scientist first used a microscope to study metals, and also replaced the gilding of blades with galvanization.

Anosov mixed iron ore and graphite, combined different types of iron, melted metals in air and in vacuum - in a word, he experimented.

At the end of 1838, Pavel Petrovich still managed to get a patterned steel - cast damask steel, in no way inferior to the quality of ancient Oriental designs. In 1839, metal ingots and products from it went to the exhibition in St. Petersburg. And already in 1841, Anosov wrote one of his largest works - "On Bulat", which was nominated for the Demidov Prize.

Thanks to this cleverest man, damask armor, the value of which was celebrated in ancient legends, ceased to be an unattainable dream.


Anosov damask

What was the damask recreated by Anosov? In terms of its chemical properties, this metal differed from steel by an increased amount of various carbon contents and was very similar in parameters to cast iron. However, unlike the nekovkovogo, brittle cast iron, damask was softer and more pliable and at the same time incredibly hard and strong. To get high-quality bulat, it was necessary to strictly follow the production technology. Otherwise, improper processing can turn this strong metal into ordinary steel.

After the death of Anosov, the secret of making high-quality bulat was lost again. Perhaps he was simply hidden from prying eyes, or maybe it happened as a result of negligence. However, after some time, the inventor and metallurgist Dmitry Konstantin Chernov set out to recreate the Anosov bulat.

He conducted a great many experiments, mixing low-sulfur iron and silver graphite in different proportions. As a result, Chernov received a beautiful patterned metal, but found that the pattern disappears when forged. The scientist came to the conclusion that the main condition for creating damask armor is the right temperature for forging. Despite the attempts made, he did not succeed in obtaining that famous metal.


Is it molybdenum?

More recently, during the next excavations, a blade from the Japanese damask made in the 12th century was found. Chemical analysis of weapons revealed one of the secrets of the unique qualities of this material. Scientists have discovered molybdenum in steel - a malleable transitional refractory metal that does not occur naturally. In modern weapons industry, molybdenum has long been used as an alloying agent for various types of steel. This increases the strength and toughness of the weapon.

It is unlikely that the ancient Japanese knew about molybdenum. Most likely, the iron ore from which they manufactured the weapon contained a large amount of this chemical element.

The mystery is not solved!

To date, modern species have become significantly superior to bulat. Nevertheless, it is still one of the most advanced metals for the production of melee weapons.


If you set a goal, you can find a craftsman-blacksmith, who is able to forge a damask knife. In the end, in life there is always a place for a fairy tale …

The blade pattern is always unique,

With others, he is not similar as a person.
The sword to the warrior is both a friend and a twin …
In it - the pain of war and peace is poetry.

( Alexander Simonov, "Bulat sword" )

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