MACE ("Gorz")

A mace is a blunt weapon, a type of club or virge that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful strikes. In the Holy Bible & Holy Quran it is mentioned that Cain murdered Abel (Probably with a Club or Mace), whereupon after it was proclaimed:

"What have you done? Listen! your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother's blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it will no longer give you strength. A restless wanderer shall you be on the earth."

The story of Cain and Abel has always been used as a deterrent from murder in Islamic tradition.

A mace typically consists of a strong, heavy, wooden or metal shaft, often reinforced with metal, featuring a head made of stone, bone, copper, bronze, iron, or steel. During medieval times, the mace was a weapon used by warriors in close combat during war to break the chain mail or body armour of opposing knights.

The head of a military mace can be shaped with flanges or knobs to allow greater penetration of plate armour. The length of maces can vary considerably. The maces of foot soldiers were usually quite short (two or three feet, or sixty to ninety centimetres). The maces of cavalrymen were longer and thus better suited for blows delivered from horseback. Two-handed maces could be even larger.

Persians used a variety of maces and fielded large numbers of heavily armoured and armed cavalry (see Cataphract). For a heavily armed Persian knight, a mace was as effective as a sword or battle axe. The Parthian and the Sassanian heavy cavalry made extensive use of maces, in fact, Shahnameh has many references to heavily armoured knights facing each other using maces, axes, and swords.

The hero Bahram Gur’s weapon of choice was also the mace that was supposedly made in memory of the cow that nursed him.

The Khorassanian troops of Abu Moslem Khorassani prided themselves in the usage of maces. In later periods, we also see an extensive use of the maces during the Safavid, and Afsharid periods. Beautiful maces from the Zand and even Qajar period are also extant as representative of the Qajar revival of ancient Iranian imagery.

The following excerpts are taken from the
Terminology of Arms and Armor used in the Shahname:
a Comparative Analysis "Swords and Maces"
By: Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani

Beautiful maces from the Zand and even Qajar period are also extant. Maces had a double function, both as a war instrument and as a symbol of authority and power. Different types of maces were used on the battlefield, but in general Iranian maces can be divided into three different categories: a) maces with round heads, b) flanged/ studded maces, and c) human or animal-head maces (see Moshtagh Khorasani, 2006:in print).

The usage of human or animal-headed maces has a very long tradition in Iran, going back to the Bronze Age. Beautiful examples of bronze maceheads with human faces were excavated in Marlik in northern Iran. Other excavated examples of human-headed maces also exist from the Parthian era. The renowned bull-headed face belongs to this category.

This mace was originally used on the battlefield and later examples of it were made to symbolize the power and authority. In the Shahname, it is reported that Fereydun used a bull-headed mace to defeat Zahak. The legend has it that Fereydun ordered his smith to make a bull-headed mace since he wanted to revenge the death of the cow, which had fed him as a child, by Zahak.

The interesting phenomenon is that the bull-headed mace is still used in the initiation ceremonies of the young Zoroastrians. Ferdowsi uses different terms to refer to the bull-headed mace in the Shahname, such as gorz-e gav-peikar (mace with the shape like a bull) or gorz-e gavsar (bull-headed mace).

Bar avikht ba namdaran be jang/ yeki gorz-e gav-peikar be chang
He started to fight against the renowned [warriors], holding a mace with the shape of a bull in each hand, Taken from the Story “The Kingdom of Zavetahmasp“ (see Yahaghi, 1990/1369:72)

To rafti va shamshir-zan sad hezar/ Zerehdar ba gorz-e gavsar
You went away as if ten thousand swordsmen [went away]
You the armored [one] with a bull-headed mace
Taken from the Story “The End of Keikhosrow“ (see Yahaghi, 1990/1369:347)

Maces from the first and second category are also mentioned in the Shahname and Ferdowsi refers to this type by using the general term gorz (mace). Different adjectives are used in combination with the term gorz, resulting in different collocations.

One of the adjectives that occur frequently with the word gorz (mace) is geran (heavy), resulting in the very frequent combination gorz-e geran (heavy mace).

Chegune keshidi be Mazandaran / Kamand kiyani va gorz-e geran?
How did you carry the Kiyanid lasso and the heavy mace to Mazandaran?
Taken from the Story “Keikavus“ (see Yahaghi, 1990/1369:93)

Two other words that are used in the Shahname to refer to mace are gopal and amud. All there terms gorz, gopal, and amud can be used interchangeably to refer to the mace:

Cho divan bedidand gopal uy / Bedarideshan del ze changal-euy
When the demons saw his mace, their hearts were torn by his grasp
Taken from the Story “Keikavus“ (see Yahaghi, 1990/1369:105)

A very interesting collocation is amud-e khamide (literally curved mace). This would only make sense if it described the macehead that is set at 90 degrees to the handle of the mace:

Amudi khamide bezad bar sarash/ ze niru beyoftad targ az sarash
He hit him with a curved mace, making him lose his helmet with the force.
Taken from the Story “The Story of Rostam and Sohrab“ (see Yahaghi, 1990/1369:154)

The enchanted talking mace Sharur also has made its first appearance in Sumerian/Akkadian mythology during the epic of Ninurta.

The Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata describe the extensive use of the gada (mace) in ancient Indian warfare as gada-yuddha or 'mace combat'. Both the epics narrate various characters – gods, men and demons alike – using the gada. During the Mughal era, the flanged mace of Persia was introduced to South Asia. The term shishpar originates from the Indo-Iranian word used for sharp edged mountains in the Hindu Kush. The shishpar mace was introduced by the Delhi Sultanate and continued to be utilized until the 18th century.

In the philosophical meaning expounded by the Vishnu-worshipping Vaishnava sect, Kaumodaki symbolizes "the intellect, the power of knowledge and the power of time". While explaining the symbolism of four attributes in Vishnu's hands, the Gopala Tapani Upanishad says that the gada – which represents primordial knowledge – is held in the lower left hand, which denotes "individual existence". The Vishnu Purana calls the gada the power of knowledge. Kaumodaki is said to "intoxicate" the mind.

According to the Vishnudharmottara Purana, Kaumodaki represents Vishnu's wife Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and beauty. The Krishna Upanishad equates the gada to the goddess Kali, "the power of time". The text further says that like the invincible Time, the mace is the destroyer of all opponents.

Another interpretation suggests that the Kaumodaki symbolizes the life-force (prana) from which all "physical and mental powers" arise. Vishnu's gada also stands for discipline, complemented by his lotus, that denotes praise. While the lotus and shankha in his hands are water symbols representing life and love, the gada and the chakra are fire symbols denoting pain and destruction and command adherence to the rules of society and nature. The Varaha Purana says the gada is to teach a lesson to irreligious rulers. Vishnu is also said to clear illusion by his gada.

In the Christian world it is popularly believed that maces were employed by the clergy in warfare to avoid shedding blood (sine effusione sanguinis). The evidence for this is sparse and appears to derive almost entirely from the depiction of Bishop Odo of Bayeux wielding a club-like mace at the Battle of Hastings in the Bayeux Tapestry, the idea being that he did so to avoid either shedding blood or bearing the arms of war.

Maces have had a role in ceremonial practices over time, including some still in use today. The mace bearer is recognised as a representative of the sovereign and people had to obey them accordingly. Over time, the mace became more of a symbol of royal authority than a weapon and have had a role in ceremonial practices over time, including some still in use today.

Ceremonial Maces include Parliamentary maces which are carried in, while parliament is in session to show that a parliament is fully constituted and removed when the session ends. Ecclesiastical maces borne before eminent ecclesiastical corporations, magistrates, and academic bodies as a mark and symbol of jurisdiction, Parade maces as a parade item, rather than a tool of war, notably in military marching bands. University maces are employed in a manner similar to Parliamentary maces. They symbolize the authority and independence of a chartered university and the authority vested in the provost. They are typically carried in at the beginning of a convocation ceremony and are often less than half a meter high.

Some scepters are also shaped like maces.