The Mamluks were first used in Muslim armies in Baghdad by the Abbasid caliphs in the 9th cent. and quickly spread throughout the Muslim world. They served the Ayyubid sultans from the 12th cent. onward and grew powerful enough to challenge the existence of the rulers who were theoretically their masters. Aybak, the first Mamluk to actually rule, persuaded (1250) the mother of the last Ayyubid sultan to marry him after she had murdered her son. For more than 250 years thereafter, Egypt and Syria were ruled by Mamluk sultans supported by a caste of warrior slaves, from which the sultans were chosen. The Mamluks took advantage of their power to become the principal landholders in Egypt.
The Mamluk sultans are usually divided into two dynasties, the Bahris (1250-1382), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burjis (1382-1517), chiefly Circassians who were chosen from the garrison of Cairo. The Bahri sultans were usually selected from a few chief families, but during Burji times there was scant respect for hereditary principle in the selection of rulers. Neither dynasty was able to exercise more than a limited power over the turbulent Mamluk soldiers. The sultans reigned, on the average, less than seven years and usually met violent ends. In spite of the dangers that threatened the sultans at home, they usually conducted a vigorous foreign policy. They defeated the last of the Crusaders and repulsed the Mongol invasion of Syria. At times they held all Palestine and Syria and the holy places of Arabia.
One of the strongest Mamluk rulers, Baybars (1260-77) defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut in Syria (1260), the first serious setback they had received. Baybars also installed a relative of the last Abbasid caliph of Baghdad as a Mamluk puppet caliph at Cairo. The long reign of al-Nasir from 1293 to 1340, although interrupted three times, was one of ostentation and luxury that helped to undermine the Bahri dynasty. The Burji period that followed was one of bloodshed and treachery. It was marked by war against Timur and by the conquest (1424-26) of the Christian-held island of Cyprus.
Toward the end of the 15th cent. the Mamluks became involved in a war with the Ottoman Turks who captured Cairo in 1517. The Mamluks favored the cavalry and personal combat with sword and shield. They were no match for the Ottomans, who skillfully used artillery and their own slave infantry, the Janissaries, to defeat the Mamluks. The Ottoman ruler, Selim, put an end to the Mamluk sultanate and established a small Ottoman garrison in Egypt. He did not, however, destroy the Mamluks as a class; they kept their lands, and Mamluk governors remained in control of the provinces and were even allowed to keep private armies.
In the 18th cent., when Ottoman power began to decline, the Mamluks were able to win back an increasing amount of self-rule. In 1769 one of their number, Ali Bey, even proclaimed himself sultan and independent of Constantinople. Although he fell in 1772, the Ottoman Turks still felt compelled to concede an ever greater measure of autonomy to the Mamluks and appointed a series of them as governors of Egypt. The Mamluks were defeated by Napoleon I during his invasion of Egypt in 1798, but their power as a class was ended only in 1811 by Muhammad Ali.
See studies by Sir William Muir (1896, repr. 1973), N. A. Ziadeh (1953), D. Ayalon (1956), and J. Glubb (1974).
A mamluk (Arabic: مملوك (singular), مماليك (plural), "owned"; also transliterated mamluq, mameluk, mameluke, mamaluke, marmeluke 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 often defeating the Crusaders. On more than one occasion, they seized power for themselves; for example, ruling Egypt in the Mamluk Sultanate from 1250–1517.
The first mamluks served the Abbasid caliphs at the end of the 9th century Baghdad. The Mamluk system was an evolution of a previous system, the Ghulam system, invented by the Caliph al-Mu'tasim, in which Turkic prisoners of war became the caliphal guard. This system ended in disaster in the 860s with the murder of four caliphs in a row, and the Mamluk system was created on its ruins. The main difference was that the Mamluks were captured as children and then trained and moulded within the Islamic world to ensure their loyalty to their masters. The Abbasids "recruited" (i.e., enslaved) them mainly from areas near the Caucasus (mainly Circassian and Georgian) in earlier periods, and in the 13th–14th centuries from areas north of the Black Sea (mainly Turkic, most of whom were Kipchak Turks). Those captured were of non-Muslim religious background.
The mamluk system gave rulers troops who had no link to any established power structure. Local non-mamluk warriors were often more loyal to their tribal sheiks, their families, or nobles than to the sultan or caliph. If a commander conspired against the ruler, it was often not possible to deal with the conspiracy without causing unrest among the nobility. The mamluk 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.
Mamluks lived within their garrisons and mainly spent their time with each other. Their entertainments included sporting events such as archery competitions and presentations of mounted combat skills at least twice a week. The intensive and rigorous training of each new recruit helped ensure continuity of mamluk practices.
While they were no longer actually 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 Iberia.
Sultans had the largest number of mamluks, but lesser 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 such as Egypt, the mamluk forces became linked to existing power structures and gained significant amounts of influence on those powers.
The origins of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt lie in the Ayyubid Dynasty that Saladin (Salah al-Din) founded in 1174. With his uncle Shirkuh he conquered Egypt for the Zengid King Nur al-Din of Damascus in 1169. By 1189, after the capture of Jerusalem, Saladin had consolidated the dynasty'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 himself 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 Ayyubids became increasingly surrounded by the power of the mamluks and soon involved them in the internal court politics of the kingdom itself.
The first Mamluk dynasty was named Bahri after the name of one of the regiments, the Bahriya or River Island regiment. The name Bahri (بحري meaning "of the sea or river") referred to their center in al-Rodah Island in the Nile. The regiment consisted mainly of Kipchak Turks.
When the Mongol troops of Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad in 1258 and advanced towards Syria , Mamluk Emir Baibars left Damascus to Cairo where he was welcomed by Sultan Qutuz . After taking Damascus, Hulagu demanded that Qutuz surrender Egypt but Qutuz had Hulegu's envoys killed and, with Baibars' help, mobilized his troops. Although Hulegu had to leave for the East when great Khan Möngke died in action against the Southern Song, he left his lieutenant, the Christian Kitbuqa, 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 Kitbuqa (see Qutuz).
After this great triumph, Qutuz was assassinated by conspiring Mamluks. It was said that Baibars, who seized power, was involved in the assassination. In the following centuries power was often transferred this way: the average reign of a mamluk ruler was seven years.
The mamluks defeated the Mongols a second time in Homs in 1260 and began 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's troops attacked Acre in 1263, captured Caesaria in 1265, and massacred the inhabitants of Antioch in 1268.
Mamluks also defeated new Mongol attacks in Syria in 1271, 1281 (2nd Battle of Homs), 1303/1304 and 1312. They were defeated by the Mongols and their Christian allies at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar in 1299.
Napoleon defeated Mamluk troops in the Battle of the Pyramids when he attacked Egypt in 1798 and drove them to Upper Egypt. The Mamluks still used their cavalry charge tactics, changed only by the addition of muskets.
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 the Russian consul-general and asked him to act as a mediator with the Sultan to allow them to negotiate for a cease-fire, and a 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 the rise which might have been encouraged by a Mamluk return.
In 1805 the population of Cairo rebelled. This was an excellent opportunity for the Mamluks to seize power, but internal tension and betrayal prevented them from exploiting this opportunity. In 1806 the Mamluks defeated the Turkish forces several times, and in June the rival parties concluded a peace treaty by which Muhammad Ali, who had been appointed as governor of Egypt on 26 March 1806, was to be removed and the state authority in Egypt returned to the Mamluks. However, they were again unable to capitalize on the opportunity due to conflicts between the clans; Muhammad Ali kept his authority.
On March 1, 1811, Muhammed Ali invited all Mamluks to his palace to celebrate the declaration of war against the Wahhabis in Arabia. Between 600 and 700 Mamluks paraded in Cairo. Near the Al-Azab gates, in a narrow road down from Mukatam Hill, Muhammad Ali's forces ambushed and killed almost all in what came to be known as the Massacre of the Citadel. According to the tradition, only one Mamluk, named Hasan, survived when he cut his way through the Turks and jumped his horse over a precipice to freedom.
During the following week, hundreds of Mamluks were killed throughout Egypt; in the citadel of Cairo alone more than 1,000 were killed. Throughout Egypt an estimated 3,000 Mamluks and their relatives were killed.
Despite these attempts by Muhammad Ali to defeat the Mamluks in Egypt, a party of them escaped and fled south into what is now Sudan. In 1811, these Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah in the Sennar as a base for their slave trading. In 1820, the sultan of Sennar informed Muhammad Ali that he was unable to comply with a 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 Kordofan, and accepted Sennar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi VII.
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 the so-called "Instructions" that Bonaparte gave to Kleber after departure, Napoleon wrote that he had already bought from Syrian merchants about 2,000 Mamluks with 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 République". 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 canceled and the squadron reduced to 150 men. The list of effectives on 21 April 1802 reveals 3 officers and 155 other ranks. By decree of 25 December 1803 the Mamluks were organized into a company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
Mamluks fought well at the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December, 1805, and the regiment was granted a standard and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpet. A decree of 15 April 1806 defined the strength of the squadron as 13 officers and 147 privates. Despite the decree of 21 March 1815 that stated that no foreigner could be admitted into the Imperial Guard, Napoleon’s decree of 24 April prescribed amongst other things that the Chasseurs-à-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 the Young Guard were incorporated into the 7th Chasseurs-à-Cheval.
Before 1804: The only "uniform" part was the green cahouk (hat), white turban, and red saroual (trousers), 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-à-Cheval of the Guard, but of a dark blue cloth.
Mameluk 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 members in Parliament fulfilled all wishes of party leader and prime minister Kálmán Tisza in order to preserve their parliamentary seats and accompanying privileges.
|Alama Sultaniya||علامة سلطانية||The mark or signature of the Sultan put on his decrees, letters and documents.|
|Al-Nafir al-Am||النفير العام||General emergency declared during war|
|Amir Akhur||أمير آخور||supervisor of the royal stable|
|Amir Majlis||أمير مجلس||Guard of Sultan's seat and bed|
|Atabek||أتابك||Commander in chief|
|Astadar||أستادار||Chief of the royal servants|
|Barid Jawi||بريد جوى||Airmail (mail sent by carrier-pigeons, amplified by Sultan Baibars)|
|Bayt al-Mal||بيت المال||treasury|
|Dwadar||دوادار||Holder of Sultan's ink bottle|
|Fondok||فندق||Hotel (some famous hotels in Cairo during the Mamluk era were Dar al-Tofah, Fondok Bilal and Fondok al-Salih)|
|Hajib||حاجب||Doorkeeper of sultan's court|
|Iqta||إقطاع||Revenue from land allotment|
|Jamkiya||جامكية||Salary paid to a Mamluk|
|Jashnakir||جاشنكير||Food taster of the sultan (to assure food was not poisoned)|
|Jomdar||جمدار||An official at the department of the Sultan's clothing|
|Kafel al-mamalek al-sharifah al-islamiya al-amir al-amri||كافل الممالك الشريفة الاسلاميةالاميرالأمرى||Title of the Vice-sultan (The guardian of the dignified Islamic kingdoms the commanding prince)|
|Khan||خان||A store that specialized in selling a certain commodity|
|Khaskiya||خاصكية||Courtiers of the sultan and most trusted royal mamluks who functioned as the Sultan's bodyguards/ A privileged group around a prominent Amir|
|Khond||خند||Wife of the sultan|
|Khushdashiya||خشداشية||Mamluks belonging to the same Amir or Sultan.|
|Mahkamat al-Mazalim||محكمة المظالم||Court of complaint. A court that heard cases of complaints of people against state officials. This court was headed by the sultan himself.|
|Mamalik Kitabeya||مماليك كتابية||Mamluks still attending training classes and who still live at the Tebaq (campus)|
|Mamalik Sultaneya||مماليك سلطانيه||Mamluks of the sultan;to distinguish from the Mamluks of the Amirs (princes)|
|Modwarat al-Sultan||مدورة السلطان||Sultan's tent which he used during travel.|
|Mohtaseb||محتسب||Controller of markets, public works and local affairs.|
|Morqadar||مرقدار||Works in the Royal Kitchen|
|Mushrif||مشرف||Supervisor of the Royal Kitchen|
|Na'ib Al-Sultan||نائب السلطان||Vice-sultan|
|Qa'at al-insha'a||قاعة الإنشاء||Chancery hall|
|Qadi al-Qoda||قاضى القضاة||Chief justice|
|Qalat al-Jabal||قلعة الجبل||Citadel of the Mountain (the abode and court of the sultan in Cairo)|
|Qaranisa||قرانصة||Mamluks who moved to the service of a new Sultan or from the service of an Amir to a sultan.|
|Qussad||Secret couriers and agents who kept the sultan informed|
|Ostaz||أستاذ||Benefactor of Mamluks (the Sultan or the Emir)|
|Rank||رنك||An emblem that distinguished the rank and position of a Mamluk|
|Sanjaqi||سنجاقى||A standard-bearer of the Sultan.|
|Sharabkhana||شرابخانة||Storehouse for drinks, medicines and glass-wares of the sultan.|
|Tashrif||تشريف||Head-covering worn by a Mamluk during the ceremony of inauguration to the position of Amir.|
|Tawashi||طواشى||A Eunuch responsible for serving the wives of the sultan and supervising new Mamluks.|
|Tebaq||طباق||Campus of the Mamluks at the citadel of the mountain|
|Tishtkhana||طشتخانة||Storehouse used for the laundry of the sultan|
|Yook||A large linen closet used in every mamluk home|