Mameluke - Mameluke (or
Mamluk or Mameluk or mamaluke or mamluq or marmeluke or marmluk) (Arabic:
مملوك (singular), مماليك (plural), literally means "owned by the king" or
"slave." It refers to white slave soldiers, primarily Christians , like the
Janissaries but also Mongols, who converted to Islam and were employed by
various rulers including the Abbasid
dynasties and the
Mamelukes converted to Islam and served the Muslim rulers until modern times.
And like the Janissaries, the Mameluke caste was governed by rules that
supposedly prevented children of Mamelukes from inheriting their position and
similar restrictions designed to ensure they would never be a threat. As in the
case of the Janissary soldiers, the rules were often eroded or disregarded. The
Mamelukes seized power for a time in Egypt, Damascus and India and set up their own
dynasties. They did two signal services to the
world: They stopped the advance of the Mongols at Ayn Jalut, and they finally
drove the Crusaders from Palestine.
|Mameluke Mithrab, Al Azhar,
At its largest extent, the Mameluke empire
included the three most important religious cities of Islam: Mecca, Medina and
Jerusalem. However, the real capital in terms of political power as well as
culture and development, was always Cairo. The sack of Baghdad by Mongols had
eliminated it as a Muslim center, so Cairo was also the economic capital of the
Muslim world in their time. The Mameluke empire reached its greatest extent and
highest cultural achievements from 1250 to about 1350, immediately after their
rise to power in Egypt. They left behind achievements in historiography and in
architecture, including renovations and new building work in Cairo and
Jerusalem. The madrassas, khans (hostels) and other buildings that the Mamelukes
built are often characterized by the alternate use of red and white stones,
geometric black and white stone interlace ("ablaq"), softening of angles using
domes, use of "stalactite" like formations in domes and arches, and elaborate
facades with carved stone frames as if in a picture.
The map shows a portion of the Mameluke empire in the Middle East,
excluding the Indian branch.
Mamelukes in Egypt
The Mamelukes were evidently brought to
Egypt originally with the armies of
and his uncle Sharkuh. The last of the
Sultans, as Salih, brought additional slaves from foreign lands to shore
up his army. In 1250, the French Crusaders invaded Egypt.
In June 1249, the Seventh Crusade under
Louis IX of France landed in Egypt. The Crusaders conquered Damietta. The
Egyptians retreated. When the Egyptian sultan As-Salih Ayyub died, power passed
briefly to his son Turanshah and then his favorite wife Shajar Al-Durr. She took
control with Mameluke support and the Egyptians counterattacked. The Bahri
commander Baibars defeated Louis, who was captured by the Mamlukes in March 1250
Shajar married a Mameluke commander named Aybak
who was murdered. The vice-regent Qutuz took power after a struggle and founded
the Mameluke Bahri dynasty, named for the Bahriya or river regiment, so named
because they were quartered in an island on the Nile. They were mostly Turks.
The Mamelukes never defined a process of succession or legitimacy of individual
leaders, thus successive rulers often came to power by murdering legitimate
pretenders. The Mameluke dynasties through Bahri and Burji, took
their names from the quarters where the troops that seized power had been
Mameluke Cavalry Training Manual
The Mongols and the
Hulagu Khan the mongol sacked Baghdad in
1258 and advanced towards Syria. The Mameluke Emir Baibars fled Damascus.
After conquering Damascus, Hulagu demanded that Qutuz surrender Egypt as well.
Qutuz and Baibars murdered Hulagu's envoys. Qutuz drew the Mongol army into an
ambush near the Orontes River, routed them at the Battle of Ain Jalut and
captured and executed the Mongol commander Kitbuqa. Qutuz was promptly
assassinated by other Mamelukes and Baibars ascended to the throne. The
Mamelukes again defeated in Homs in 1260 and began to drive them back east.
Baibars' armies subdued Syria and Palestina and the Mongols defeated the Mongols
in subsequet battles in Syria in 1271, 1281, 1303, 1312, though they were
defeated by a Mongol-Crusader alliance at Wadi al-Khazandar in 1299. In 1324,
the Mamelukes concluded a peace treaty with the Mongols. In 1348, Black Plague
wiped out a large part of the population of Cairo, weakening the Mameluke
dynasty. In 1381 or 1382, the Bahri line was replaced by the Burji.
About 1400, Mameluke rule over Syria was
ended by the invasion of Tamerlane (Timur Lenk).
Ottomans and Mamelukes
On August 24, 1516, Sultan Selim 1
defeated the Mamelukes at Marj Dabik and put an end to formal Mameluke rule.
The picture shows the hanging of the last Mameluke Sultan, al-Ashraf Tumanbay
However, for much of the ensuing period, the Mamelukes continued to hold actual
power in Egypt as "Beys" or Emirs subject to the Sultan. In 1768, the Ottomans
put down a revolt by Ali Bey Al-Kabir who had declared himself Sultan. In 1798,
Napoleon defeated Mameluke troops in the Battle of the Pyramids. The independent
ruler Mohamed Ali finally put an end to the Mamelukes in 1811. He invited their
leaders to a large feast to celebrate the declaration of war against the
in Arabia. He ambushed and slaughtered about 700 of them on that day, another
thousand were supposedly killed in the Cairo citadel and in all about 3,000
Mamelukes were killed in about a week. A number of them escaped however, and
reached what is now Sudan, forming a state there. This was suppressed by Mohamed
Ali around 1820.
Mameluks in India and
Two minor Mameluke dynasties ruled for a
time in India and in Iraq, with no real relation to each other or the main
Mameluke dynasty in Egypt. In 1206 the Mameluke commander in India, Qutb-ud-din
Aybak, proclaimed himself sultan and founded a dynasty that lasted until
1290. From 1747 Iraq was ruled, with short intermissions, by Georgian
Mameluke officers, except for brief periods. This continued until 1831, when the
Ottomans overthrew Daud Pasha, the last Mameluke ruler.
The French Emperor Napoleon organized
a Mameluke mercenary corps, a small "regiment" of about 250 men. These presumably
fought under the banner of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, not only in Egypt,
but in Europe. They distinguished themselves at the Battle of Austerlitz. They
are immortalized in a painting by Goya.
Synonyms and alternate spellings: