Mamluk

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Image:Mamluke.jpg
A Mamluk cavalryman, drawn in 1810

A mamluk (Arabic: مملوك (singular), مماليك (plural), "owned"; also transliterated mameluk, mameluke, or mamluke) was a slave soldier who converted to Islam and served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. Over time they became a powerful military caste, and on more than one occasion they seized power for themselves, for example in Egypt from 1250 to 1517.

Contents

[edit] Overview

The first mamluks served the Abbasid caliphs in 9th century Baghdad. The Abbasids recruited them mainly from areas near the Caucasus (Georgians, Circassians and Turkics) and in areas north of the Black Sea. Most of the captured were of non-Muslim origin (except the Circassians). The mamluks were often sold into slavery by impoverished steppe families or kidnapped by slave-traders.

The mamluk system gave rulers troops who had no link to any established power structure. The local warriors were often more loyal to their tribal sheiks, their families or nobles other than the sultan or caliph. If some commander conspired against the ruler, it was often not possible to deal with him without causing unrest among the nobility. The slave-troops were strangers of the lowest possible status who could not conspire against the ruler and who could easily be punished if they caused trouble, making them a great military asset. Mamelukes were frequently used as mercenaries.

[edit] Organization

After mamluks were converted to Islam, they were trained as cavalry soldiers. Mamluks were to follow the dictates of furusiyya, a code of conduct that included values like courage and generosity but also doctrine of cavalry tactics, horsemanship, archery and treatment of wounds.

Mamluks lived within their garrisons and mainly spent their time with each other. Their entertainments included sports like archery competitions and presentations of mounted combat skills at least twice a week. The intensive and rigorous training of each new recruit helped ensure a great deal of continuity in mamluk practices.

While technically they were no longer slaves after training, they were still obliged to serve the Sultan. The Sultan kept them as an outsider force, under his direct command, to use in the event of local tribal frictions. The Sultan could also send them as far as the Muslim regions of Spain.

Sultans had the largest number of mamluks, but the other amirs could have their own troops as well. Many mamluks rose to high positions throughout the empire, including army command. At first their status remained non-hereditary and sons were strictly prevented from following their fathers. However, over time in places like Egypt the mamluk forces became linked to existing power structures and gained significant amounts of influence on those powers.

A similar evolution occurred in the Ottoman Empire with the Janissaries.

[edit] Mamluks in India

Main article: Slave dynasty

In 1206, the mamluk commander of the Muslim forces in India, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, proclaimed himself sultan, becoming, in effect, the first independent Sultan-e-Hind. This Mamluk dynasty lasted until 1290.

Further information: Delhi Sultanate

[edit] Mamluk power in Egypt

[edit] Origins

Image:View from the citadel.JPG
Sultan Hassan Mosque (left) along with the later El Rifai Mosque (right) and two Ottoman mosques (foreground) - Cairo
Image:Cairo.png
Mamluk Flag over Cairo according to the Catalan Atlas c.1375

The origins of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt lies in the Ayyubid Dynasty that Saladin (Salah al-Din) founded in 1174. With his uncle Shirkuh he conquered Egypt for the Zengid King Nur ad-Din of Damascus in 1169. By 1189, after the capture of Jerusalem, Saladin had solidified his Kurdish family's control over the Middle East. After Saladin's death his sons fell to squabbling over the division of the Empire, and each attempted to surround themselves with larger expanded mamluk retinues.

By 1200 Saladin's brother, Al-Adil, succeeded in securing control over the whole empire by defeating and killing or imprisoning his brothers and nephews in turn. With each victory, Al-Adil incorporated the defeated mamluk retinue into his own. This process was repeated at Al-Adil's death in 1218, and at his son Al-Kamil's death in 1238. The Ayyubid's became increasingly surrounded by the power of the mamluks and soon involved them in the internal court politics of the kingdom itself.

[edit] French attack and Mamluk takeover

In June 1249, the Seventh Crusade under Louis IX of France landed in Egypt and took Damietta. The Egyptian troops retreated at first. When the Egyptian sultan As-Salih Ayyub died, the power passed briefly to his son Turanshah and then his favorite wife Shajar Al-Durr (or Shajarat-ul-Dur). She took control with mamluk support and launched a counterattack. Troops of the Bahirya commander Baibars defeated Louis's troops and the king delayed the retreat too long. The Mamluks captured him in March 1250 and received a ransom of 400.000 livres. Political pressure for a male leader made Shajar marry the mamluk commander Aybak. Aybak was later killed in his bath and in the following power struggle vice-regent Qutuz took over. He formally founded the first Mamluk sultanate and the Bahri dynasty.

The first Mamluk dynasty was named Bahri after the name of one of the regiments, the Bahirya or River Island regiment. The name Bahri (بحري meaning 'of the sea', referred to their center in al-Manial Island in the Nile. The regiment consisted mainly of Kipchak Turks, and Circassians).

[edit] Mamluks and the Mongols

When the Mongol troops of Hulegu Khan sacked Baghdad and took over Damascus in 1258, one of those who escaped from Damascus was the Mamluk general Baibars. He fled to Cairo. When Hulegu demanded that Qutuz surrender Cairo, Qutuz had Hulegu's envoys killed and, with Baibars' help, mobilized his troops. Although Hulegu had to leave for the east when great Khan Mongke died, he left his lieutenant Kit Buqa in charge. Qutuz drew the Mongol army into an ambush near the Orontes River, routed them at the Battle of Ain Jalut and captured and executed Kit Buqa.

But Qutuz' triumph did not last long: When he and the mamluks returned to Cairo, Baibars assassinated Qutuz and seized power. In the following centuries, power would transfer the same way numerous times; the average reign of a mamluk ruler was seven years.

The Mamluks defeated the Mongols the second time in Homs in 1260 and begun to drive them back east. In the process they consolidated their power over Syria, fortified the area, formed mail routes and formed diplomatic connections between the local princes. Baibars troops also defeated the last of the Crusader states in the Holy Land.

[edit] Burji dynasty

In 1382 the Bukri or Burji dynasty took over. Burji, برجي meaning 'of the tower', referred to their center in the citadel of Cairo, and it consisted of Circassians.

[edit] Ottomans

The Mamluk Sultanate would survive until 1517, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The institution of the mamluks would continue under the Ottomans, though it would not be the same as that of the Sultanate.

[edit] Mamluks independence from the Ottomans

In 1768, Sultan Ali Bey Al-Kabir declared independence from the Ottomans but the Mamluks crushed the movement and retained their position after his defeat. By this time the new slave recruits were introduced from Georgia in the Caucasus.

Napoleon defeated Mamluk troops when he attacked Egypt in 1798 and drove them to Upper Egypt. By this time Mamluks had added only muskets to their typical cavalry charge tactics.

After the departure of French troops in 1801, Mamluks continued their struggle for independence, this time against the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. In 1803, Mamluk leaders Ibrahim Beg and Usman Beg wrote a letter to Russian general-consul and asked him to act as a mediator with the Sultan as they wanted a ceasefire and return to their homeland, Georgia. The Russian Ambassador in Istanbul categorically refused to mediate because the Russian government was afraid of allowing Mamluks to return to Georgia, where a strong national-liberation movement was on rise and the Mamluk return may have encouraged it.

In 1805, the population of Cairo rebelled. There was an excellent opportunity for the Mamluks to seize the state authority, but their internal tension and betrayal by some Mamluks did not allow them to exploit this opportunity. In 1806, the Mamluks defeated the Turkish forces several times, and in June the rival parties concluded a peace treaty. According to it Muhammad Ali, who was appointed as governor of Egypt on 26 March 1806, was to be removed and the state authority in Egypt returned to the Mamluks. But again, internal tension and conflicts between the clans did not allow the Mamluks to use this opportunity. Muhammad Ali kept his authority.

[edit] End of Mamluk power in Egypt

Muhammed Ali knew that eventually he would have to deal with the Mamluks if he ever wanted to control Egypt. They were still the feudal owners of Egypt and their land was still the source of wealth and power.

On March 1, 1811, Muhammad Ali invited all Mamluks to his palace to celebrate the declaration of war against the Wahhabis in Arabia. There were nearly 600 Mamluks (according to another source about 700) on parade in Cairo. Near the Al-Azab gates, in a narrow road down from Mukatamb Hill, Muhammad Ali's forces ambushed and slaughtered almost everyone. According to the tradition, only one Mamluk named Hasan survived when he cut his way though the Turks and jumped with a horse over a precipice to freedom.

Over the following week hundreds of Mamluks were killed throughout Egypt. In the citadel of Cairo alone more than 1000 Mamluks were killed. In the streets around Egypt an estimated 3,000 Mamluks and their relatives were killed.

Despite these attempts by Muhammad Ali's to defeat the Mamluks in Egypt, a party of them escaped and fled south into present-day Sudan. In 1811 these Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah, in Sennar, as a base for their slave trading. In 1820 the sultan of Sennar informed Muhammad Ali that he was unable to comply with the demand to expel the Mamluks. In response the pasha sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan, clear it of Mamluks, and reclaim it for Egypt. The pasha's forces received the submission of the kashif, dispersed the Dunqulah Mamluks, conquered Kurdufan, and accepted Sennar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi VII.

[edit] Mamluks in Baghdad

In the Ottoman Empire, mamluks of Baghdad proclaimed their independence in the 18th century and remained autonomous until the Ottoman reconquest in 1832.

[edit] Mamluks in the service of Napoleon

Napoleon formed his own Mamluk corps in the early years of the 19th century and they became the last known Mamluk force. Even his Imperial Guard had Mamluk soldiers during the Belgian campaign, including one of his personal servants. Napoleon's famous bodyguard Roustan was also a Mamluk from Egypt.

One of the pictures by Francisco de Goya shows a charge of Mamluks against the Madrilene on 2 May 1808.

Throughout the Napoleonic era, there was a special Mamluk corps in the French army. In his history of the 13th Chasseurs, Colonel Descaves recounts how Napoleon used the Mamluks in Egypt. In his so-called "Instructions", that Bonaparte gave to Kleber after departure, Napoleon wrote that he had already bought about 2,000 Mamluks from Syrian merchants from whom he intended to form a special detachment. On 14 September 1799, General Kleber established a mounted company of Mamluk auxiliaries and Syrian janissaries from Turks captured at the siege of Acre.

On 7 July 1800, General Menou reorganized the company, forming 3 companies of 100 men each and renaming it the "Mamluks de la Republique". In 1801, General Rapp was sent to Marseille to organize a squadron of 250 Mamluks under his command. On 7 January 1802, the previous order was cancelled and the squadron reduced to 150 men. The list of effectives on 21 April 1802 reveals 3 officers and 155 members of rank and file. By decree of 25 December 1803, the Mamluks were organized into a company attached to the Chasseurs-a-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.

Mamluks fought well at Battle of Austerlitz on December 2 1805 and the regiment was granted a standard and a roster increased to accommodate a standard bearer and a trumpet. A decree of 15 April 1806 defined the strength of squadron as 13 officers and 147 privates. In 1813 its Chasseurs-a-Cheval of the Imperial Guard a decree of 17 March established another company attached to the Young Guard. Despite the Imperial decree of 21 March 1815 that stated that no foreigner could be admitted into the Guard, Napoleon’s decree of 24 April prescribed inter alia that the Chasseurs-a-Cheval of the Imperial Guard included a squadron of two companies of Mamluks for the Belgian Campaign.

With the First Restoration, the company of the Mamluks of the Old Guard was incorporated in the Corps Royal des Chasseurs de France. The Mamluks of Young Guard were incorporated in the 7th Chasseurs a Cheval.

[edit] Mamluk uniform

During their service in Napoleon’s army, the Mamluk squadron wore the following uniform:

Before 1804: The only "uniform" part was the green cahouk (hat), white turban, and red saroual (pants), all to be worn with a loose shirt and a vest. Boots were of yellow, red or tan soft leather. Weapons consisted of an "Oriental" scimitar, a brace of pistols in a holder decorated with a brass crescent and star, and a dagger.

After 1804: The cahouk became red with a brass crescent and star and the shirt was closed and had a collar. The main change was the addition of a "regulation" chasseur-style saddle-cloth and roll, imperial green in color, piped red, with a red and white fringe. The saddle and harness remained Arabic in style. The undress uniform was as for the Chasseurs-a-Cheval of the Guard but of a dark blue cloth.

[edit] Similar terms

Mameluco is a Portuguese word derived from "mamluk", used to identify people of mixed European and Amerindian descent in South America. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Mameluco also referred to organized bands of Portuguese slave-hunters based at São Paulo, known primarily as bandeirantes.

Mameluk name was used in Hungary in the last decades of the 19th century as a nickname for Members of Parliament, belonging to the governing "Liberal" party. This party governed Hungary for 30 years (1875-1905) and its MPs - to preserve their seat in the Parliament and the accompanying privileges - fulfilled all wishes of the party leader and prime minister Tisza.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

  • A. Allouche: Mamluk Economics : A Study and Translation of Al-Maqrizi's Ighathat. Salt Lake City, 1994
  • R. Amitai-Preiss: Mongols and Mamluks: The Mamluk-Ilkhanid War 1260-1281. Cambridge, 1995
  • D. Ayalon: The Mamluk Military Society. London, 1979
  • Ulrich Haarmann: Das Herrschaftssystem der Mamluken, in: Halm / Haarmann (Hrsg.): Geschichte der arabischen Welt. C.H.Beck (2004), ISBN 3-406-47486-1
  • James Waterson - The Mamluks (History Today March 2006)ar:مماليك

bg:Мамелюци cs:Mamlúci da:Mameluk de:Mamelucken es:Mameluco fr:Mamelouks gl:Mameluco it:Mamelucchi he:ממלוכים nl:Mamelukken ja:マムルーク no:Mamelukk pl:Mamelucy pt:Mameluco ru:Мамлюки simple:Mamluk fi:Mamelukit sv:Mamluker ur:مملوک zh:马木鲁克

Mamluk

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