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Mamluk (Arabic: مملوك mamlūk (singular), مماليك mamālīk (plural), meaning "property" or "owned slave" of the king; also transliterated as mamlouk, mamluq, mamluke, mameluk, mameluke, mamaluke or marmeluke) is an Arabic designation for slaves. More specifically, it refers to:

  • Khwarazmian dynasty in Persian (1077–1231)
  • Mamluk Sultanate (Delhi) (1206–1290)
  • Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo) (1250–1517)
  • Mamluk dynasty of Iraq (1704–1831, under Ottoman Iraq)

The most enduring Mamluk realm was the military caste in medieval Egypt that rose from the ranks of slave soldiers who were mainly of Kipchak Turk,[1] Circassian[2] and Georgian[3][4] origin, although in the Burji (post-1389) Mamluk sultanate many Mamluks could also be of Balkan origin (Albanian, Greek, South Slavic).[5][6] The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior class,[7] was of great political importance and was extraordinarily long-lived, lasting from the 9th to the 19th century AD. Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies. Particularly in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Mesopotamia, and India, mamluks held political and military power. In some cases, they attained the rank of sultan, while in others they held regional power as amirs or beys. Most notably, mamluk factions seized the sultanate for themselves in Egypt and Syria in a period known as the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517). The Mamluk Sultanate famously beat back the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut and fought the Crusaders, effectively driving them out from the Levant by 1291 and officially in 1302 ending the era of the Crusades.[8]

While mamluks were purchased, their status was above ordinary slaves, who were not allowed to carry weapons or perform certain tasks. In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords", with social status above freeborn Muslims.[9]


Mamluk lancers, early 16th century (etching by Daniel Hopfer)

The origins of the Mamluk system are disputed. Everybody agrees that the story of an entrenched military caste like the mamluks in Islamic societies begins with the Abbasid caliphs of the 9th century Baghdad. The question is more precisely when in the 9th century. The dominant narrative up to the 1990s was that the earliest mamluks were known as ghilman (another term for slaves, broadly synonymous[10]) and were bought by the Abbasid caliphs, especially al-Mu'tasim (833-842). By the end of the 9th century, these slaves had become the dominant element in the military. Conflict between these ghilman and the population of Baghdad prompted the caliph al-Mu'tasim to move his capital to the city of Samarra, but this did not succeed in calming tensions; the caliph al-Mutawakkil was assassinated by some of these slave-soldiers in 861 (see Anarchy at Samarra).[11] A more recent interpretation would distinguish between a ghilman system, in Samarra, without training and relying on pre-existing Central Asian hierarchies, mixing adult slaves and freemen, and a later creation of an actual mamluk system, with the systematic training of young slaves, after the return of the caliphate to Baghdad in the 870's [12]). The mamluk system would have been a small-scale experiment of al-Muwaffaq, combining the efficiency of the steppic warriors with improved reliability. This recent interpretation seems to have been accepted [13]). The use of mamluk soldiers gave rulers troops who had no link to any established power structure. Local non-mamluk warriors were often more loyal to their tribal sheikhs, 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 foreigners 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.

After the fragmentation of the Abbasid Empire, military slaves, known as either mamluks or Ghilman, became the basis of military power throughout the Islamic world. The Fatimids of Egypt bought Armenian, Turkic and Sudanese slaves, who formed the bulk of their military and often their administration.[14] The powerful vizier Badr al-Jamali, for example, was a mamluk of Armenian origin. In Iran and Iraq, the Buyids used Turkic slaves throughout their empire, such as the rebel al-Basasiri who eventually ushered in Saljuq rule in Baghdad after attempting a failed rebellion. When the later Abbasids regained military control over Iraq, they also relied on the military slaves called Ghilman.[15]

Under Saladin and the Ayyubids of Egypt, the power of the mamluks increased until they claimed the sultanate in 1250, ruling as the Mamluk Sultanate. Military slavery continued to be employed throughout the Islamic world until the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire's devşirme, or "gathering" of young slaves for the Janissary corps, lasted until the 17th century, while mamluk-based regimes thrived in such Ottoman provinces as Iraq and Egypt into the 19th century.


Ottoman Mamluk heavy cavalry armour, circa 1550.

Under the Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo, mamluks were purchased while still young and were raised in the barracks of the Citadel of Cairo. Because of their particular status (no social ties or political affiliations) and their austere military training, they were often trusted. Their training consisted of strict religious and military education to help them become “good Muslim horsemen and fighters."[9] When their training was completed they were discharged, but still attached to the patron who had purchased them. Mamluks relied on the help of their patron for career advancements and likewise the patron’s reputation and power depended on his recruits. A mamluk was also "bound by a strong esprit de corps to his peers in the same household."[9]

Mamluks were proud of their origin as slaves and only those who were purchased were eligible to attain the highest positions. The privileges associated with being a mamluk were so desirable that many free Egyptians arranged to be sold in order to gain access to this privileged society. Mamluks spoke Arabic and cultivated their identity by retaining an Egyptian name. However, despite humble origins and an exclusive attitude, mamluks were respected by their Arab subjects. They earned admiration and prestige as the “true guardians of Islam by repelling both the Crusaders and the Mongols."[9] Many people viewed them as a blessing from Allah to the Muslims.[citation needed]

After mamluks had converted to Islam, many were trained as cavalry soldiers. Mamluks had to follow the dictates of furusiyya, a code that included values such as courage and generosity, and also cavalry tactics, horsemanship, archery and treatment of wounds, etc.

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 once 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.

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

Relations with backgrounds

In Egypt Georgian mamluks retained their native language, were aware of the politics of the Caucasus region, received frequent visits from their parents or other relatives, and sent gifts to family members or gave money to build useful structures (a defensive tower, or even a church) in their native villages in Georgia.[16]

Mamluk power in Egypt

Early Mamluks in Egypt

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The battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, 1299. depicting Mamluk cavalry and Mongol archers (14th-century illustration from a manuscript of the History of the Tatars)

Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan (left) along with the later Al-Rifa'i Mosque (right) and two Ottoman mosques (foreground) – Cairo

Ahmad ibn Tulun was a Turkish Mamluk whose father was sent as a gift to the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun in (200H./815–16 A.D.). Ibn Tulun was sent to Egypt in 868 as regent governor for the Abbasids, but through diplomatic intrigue and military might, he effectively operated his Tulunid dynasty autonomously as the earliest Mamluk ruler in Egypt. The Tulunid dynasty was short-lived, and Egypt was reoccupied by Abbassid forces in the winter of 904–05.

Throughout the next centuries, Egypt was controlled by a variety of rulers, notably the Ikhshidids and Fatimids. Throughout these dynasties, thousands of Mamluk servants and guards continued to be employed, and even took high offices, including governor of Damascus. This increasing level of influence worried the Arab rulers, foreshadowing the eventual rise of a Mamluk sultan.

The origins of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt lie in the Ayyubid dynasty that Saladin (Salah ad-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 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, acting semi-autonomously as regional Atabegs, and soon involved them in the internal court politics of the kingdom itself.

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, spurring the sultan to hang more than 50 commanders as deserters. 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 Bahri commander Baibars defeated Louis's troops. The king delayed his retreat too long and was captured by the Mamluks in March 1250, and agreed to a ransom of 400,000 livres (150,000 of which were never paid).[17] Political pressure for a male leader made Shajar marry the mamluk commander Aybak; he was later killed in his bath, and in the power struggle that ensued 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 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/Cumans.[18]

Mamluk-Syrian glassware vessels from the 14th century; in the course of trade, the middle vase shown ended up in Yemen and then China.

Mamluks and the Mongols

When the Mongol Empire's troops of Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad in 1258 and advanced towards Syria, Mamluk Emir Baibars (Turkish: Baybars, Circassian: Bipars, a common Circassian name which means the frontier defending warrior) left Damascus for Cairo where he was welcomed by Sultan Qutuz.[19] After taking Damascus, Hulagu demanded that Qutuz surrender Egypt but Qutuz had Hulagu's envoys killed and, with Baibars' help, mobilized his troops. Although Hulagu pulled the majority of his forces out of Syria to attend the Kuraltai when great Khan Möngke died in action against the Southern Song, he left his lieutenant, the Christian Kitbuqa, in charge with a token force of about 18,000 men as a garrison.[20] Qutuz drew the Mongol army into an ambush near the Orontes River, routed them at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 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 the rule of mamluks was discontinuous, with an average span of seven years.

The Mamluks defeated the Mongols a second time in the First Battle of Homs and began to drive them back east. In the process they consolidated their power over Syria, fortified the area, and formed mail routes and diplomatic connections between the local princes. Baibars's troops attacked Acre in 1263, captured Caesarea in 1265, and took Antioch in 1268.

Mamluks attacking at the Fall of Tripoli in 1289.

Mamluks also defeated new Mongol attacks in Syria in 1271 and 1281 (Second Battle of Homs). They were defeated by the Mongols and their Christian allies at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar in 1299, but soon after that the Mamluks defeated the Mongols again in 1303/1304 and 1312. Finally, the Mongols and the Mamluks signed a treaty of peace in 1323.

Burji dynasty

By the late fourteenth century, Circassians from the North Caucasus region had become the majority in the Mamluk ranks.[2] In 1382 the Burji dynasty took over, as Barkuk was proclaimed sultan, so ending the Bahri dynasty. Burji (برجي meaning "of the tower") referred to their center in the citadel of Cairo. The dynasty consisted mainly of Circassians.[2]

Barkuk became an enemy of Timur, who threatened to invade Syria. Timur invaded Syria, sacked Aleppo and captured Damascus after defeating the Mamluk army. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Bayezid I then invaded Syria which was regained by the Mamluk sultan Faraj when Timur died in 1405, but continually facing rebellions from local emirs, he was forced to abdicate in 1412. In 1421, Egypt was attacked by the Kingdom of Cyprus, but the Egyptians forced the Cypriotes to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Egyptian sultan Barsbay. During Barsbay's reign Egypt's population was greatly reduced from what it had been a few centuries before, with only 1/5 the number of towns.

Al-Ashraf came to power in 1453 and had friendly relations with the Ottoman Empire, who captured Constantinople later that year, causing great rejoicings in Egypt. However, under the reign of Khoshkadam Egypt began the struggle between the Egyptian and the Ottoman sultanates. In 1467 sultan Kait Bey offended the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II, whose brother was poisoned. Bayezid II seized Adana, Tarsus and other places within Egyptian territory, but was eventually defeated. Kait also tried to help the Muslims in Spain by threatening the Christians in Syria, but without effect. He died in 1496, several hundred thousand ducats in debt to the great Venetian trading families.

Portuguese-Mamluk Wars

Vasco da Gama having in 1497 found his way round the Cape of Good Hope pushed his way across the Indian Ocean to the shores of Malabar and Kozhikode, attacking the fleets that carried freight and Muslim pilgrims from India to the Red Sea, and struck terror into the potentates all around. Various engagements took place. Cairo's Mamluk sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri was affronted at the attacks upon the Red Sea, the loss of tolls and traffic, the indignities to which Mecca and its port were subjected, and above all at the fate of one of his ships. He vowed vengeance upon Portugal, first sending monks from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as envoys, he threatened Pope Julius II that if he did not check Manuel I of Portugal in his depredations on the Indian Sea, he would destroy all Christian holy places.[21]

The rulers of Gujarat and Yemen also turned for help to the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. Their chief concern was the fitting-out of a fleet in the Red Sea which could protect their sea routes from Portuguese attack. Jeddah was soon fortified as a harbor of refuge so Arabia and the Red Sea were protected, but the fleets in the Indian Ocean were at the mercy of the enemy.

The last Mamluk sultan Al-Ghawri accordingly fitted out a fleet of 50 vessels. As Mamluks had little expertise in naval warfare, the naval enterprise was carried out with the help of the Ottomans.[22] In 1508 at the Battle of Chaul the Mamluk fleet won over the Portuguese viceroy's son Lourenço de Almeida, but in the following year the Portuguese won the Battle of Diu in which the Port city of Diu was wrested from the Gujarat Sultanate. Some years after, Afonso de Albuquerque attacked Aden, while the Egyptian troops suffered disaster in Yemen. Al-Ghawri fitted out a new fleet to punish the enemy and protect the Indian trade; but before its results were known, Egypt had lost her sovereignty, and the Red Sea with Mecca and all its Arabian interests had passed into the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Ottomans and the end of the Mamluk Sultanate

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The Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II was engaged in Europe when a new era of hostility with Egypt appeared in 1501. It arose out of the relations with the Safavid dynasty in Persia. Shah Ismail I sent an embassy to the Republic of Venice via Syria, inviting Venice to ally with Persia and recover her territory taken by the Ottomans. Mameluk Egyptian sultan Al-Ghawri was charged by Selim I with giving the Persian envoys passage through Syria on their way to Venice and harboring refugees. To appease him, Al-Ghawri placed in confinement the Venetian merchants then in Syria and Egypt, but after a year released them.

After the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, Selim attacked the bey of Dulkadirids, as Egypt's vassal had stood aloof, and sent his head to Al-Ghawri. Now secure against Persia, in 1516 CE he formed a great army for the conquest of Egypt, but gave out that he intended further attacks on Persia.

In 1515, Selim began the war which led to the conquest Egypt and its dependencies. Mamluk cavalry proved no match for the Ottoman artillery and Janissary infantry. On 24 August 1516, at the Battle of Marj Dabiq, Sultan Al-Ghawri was killed. Syria passed into Turkish possession, an event welcomed in many places as it was seen as deliverance from the Mamelukes.

The Mamluke Sultanate survived in Egypt until 1517, when Selim captured Cairo on 20 January. Although not in the same form as under the Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire retained the Mamluks as an Egyptian ruling class and the Mamluks and the Burji family succeeded in regaining much of their influence, but as vassals of the Ottomans.

Mamluk independence from the Ottomans

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

Napoleon invades

Charge of the Mamluk cavalry by Carle Vernet

In 1798, the ruling Directory of the Republic of France authorised a campaign in "The Orient" to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to India. To this end, Napoleon Bonaparte led an Armée d'Orient to Egypt.

The French defeated a Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids and drove the survivors out to Upper Egypt. The Mamluks relied on massed cavalry charges, changed only by the addition of musket. The French infantry formed square and held firm. Despite multiple victories and an initially successful expedition into Syria, mounting conflict in Europe and the earlier defeat of the supporting French fleet by the British Royal Navy at the Battle of the Nile decided the issue. Napoleon left with his personal guard in late 1799. His successor in Egypt, General Jean Baptiste Kléber, was assassinated on 14 June 1800. Command of the Army in Egypt fell to Jacques-François Menou. Isolated and out of supplies, Menou surrendered to the British in 1801.

After Napoleon

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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.[citation needed] The Russian ambassador in Constantinople 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 that 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.

End of Mamluk power in Egypt

Portrait of a Mamluk, 1779.

A Mamluk cavalryman, drawing by Carle Vernet, 1810

The Second of May 1808: The Charge of the Mamluks by Francisco de Goya (1814)

Charge of the Mamluks during the Battle of the Pyramids by Felician Myrbach. An elite body of cavalry whom the French encountered during their campaign in Egypt in 1798, the Mamluks could trace their lineage of service to the Ottomans back to the mid-13th century.

Armenian mamluk Roustam Raza was Napoleon's personal bodyguard; portrait by Jacques-Nicolas Paillot de Montabert

Soldiers of Napoleon's 62ème régiment de ligne and a Mameluk (historical reenactment)

Today's U.S. Marine Corps officers' Mameluke sword resembles those used by the Mamluks

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. The constant strain on sustaining the military manpower necessary to defend the Mamluks's system from the Europeans and the Mamluk's would eventually weaken them to the point of collapse.[23]

On 1 March 1811, Muhammad Ali invited all of the leading 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 period reports, only one Mamluk, whose name is given variously as Amim (also Amyn), or Heshjukur (a Besleney), survived when he forced his horse to leap from the walls of the citadel, killing it in the fall.[24]

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 Muhammad Ali's destruction of 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.

Other Mamluk regimes

There were various places in which mamluks gained political or military power as a self-replicating military community.

South Asia

In 1206, the Mamluk commander of the Muslim forces in the Indian subcontinent, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, proclaimed himself Sultan, becoming in effect the first independent Sultan-e-Hind. This Mamluk Sultanate lasted until 1290.


Mamluk corps were first introduced in Iraq by Hasan Pasha of Baghdad in 1702. From 1747 to 1831 Iraq was ruled, with short intermissions, by Mamluk officers of Georgian origin[4][25] who succeeded in asserting autonomy from the Sublime Porte, suppressed tribal revolts, curbed the power of the Janissaries, restored order, and introduced a program of modernization of the economy and the military. In 1831 the Ottomans overthrew Dawud Pasha, the last Mamluk ruler, and imposed direct control over Iraq.[26]

Under Napoleon

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Napoleon formed his own Mamluk corps, the last known Mamluk force, in the early years of the 19th century, and used Mamluks in a number of his campaigns. Even his Imperial Guard had Mamluk soldiers during the Belgian campaign, including one of his personal servants. Napoleon's famous bodyguard Roustam Raza was a Mamluk who had been sold in Egypt.

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 Kleber established a mounted company of Mamluk auxiliaries and Syrian Janissaries from Turkish troops captured at the siege of Acre. Menou reorganized the company on 7 July 1800, forming 3 companies of 100 men each and renaming it the "Mamluks de la République". In 1801 General Jean Rapp was sent to Marseille to organize a squadron of 250 Mamluks. 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. A famous painting by Francisco Goya shows a charge of Mamluks against the Madrilene on 2 May 1808.

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.

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 (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.

Mamluk rulers

In Egypt

Bahri Dynasty

  • 1250 Shajar al-Durr (al-Salih Ayyub's Widow de facto ruler of Egypt)
  • 1250 al-Muizz Izz-ad-Din Aybak
  • 1257 al-Mansur Nur-ad-Din Ali
  • 1259 al-Muzaffar Saif ad-Din Qutuz
  • 1260 al-Zahir Rukn-ad-Din Baibars al-Bunduqdari
  • 1277 al-Said Nasir-ad-Din Barakah Khan
  • 1280 al-Adil Badr al-Din Solamish
  • 1280 al-Mansur Saif-ad-Din Qalawun al-Alfi
  • 1290 al-Ashraf Salah-ad-Din Khalil
  • 1294 al-Nasir Nasir-ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun first reign
  • 1295 al-Adil Zayn-ad-Din Kitbugha
  • 1297 al-Mansur Husam-ad-Din Lajin
  • 1299 al-Nasir Nasir-ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun second reign
  • 1309 al-Muzaffar Rukn-ad-Din Baybars II al-Jashankir
  • 1310 al-Nasir Nasir-ad-Din Muhammad ibn Qalawun third reign
  • 1340 al-Mansur Saif-ad-Din Abu-Bakr
  • 1341 al-Ashraf Ala'a-ad-Din Kujuk
  • 1342 al-Nasir Shihab-ad-Din Ahmad
  • 1342 al-Salih Imad-ad-Din Ismail
  • 1345 al-Kamil Saif ad-Din Shaban
  • 1346 al-Muzaffar Zein-ad-Din Hajji
  • 1347 al-Nasir Badr-ad-Din Abu al-Ma'aly al-Hassan first reign
  • 1351 al-Salih Salah-ad-Din Ibn Muhammad
  • 1354 al-Nasir Badr-ad-Din Abu al-Ma'aly al-Hassan second reign
  • 1361 al-Mansur Salah-ad-Din Mohamed Ibn Hajji
  • 1363 al-Ashraf Zein al-Din Abu al-Ma'ali ibn Shaban
  • 1376 al-Mansur Ala-ad-Din Ali Ibn al-Ashraf Shaban
  • 1382 al-Salih Salah Zein al-Din Hajji II first reign

Burji Dynasty

  • 1382 az-Zahir Saif ad-Din Barquq, first reign
  • 1389 Hajji II second reign (with honorific title al-Muzaffar or al-Mansur) – Temporary Bahri rule
  • 1390 az-Zahir Saif ad-Din Barquq, Second reign – Burji rule re-established
  • 1399 An-Nasir Naseer ad-Din Faraj
  • 1405 Al-Mansoor Azzaddin Abdal Aziz
  • 1405 An-Nasir Naseer ad-Din Faraj (second time)
  • 1412 Al-Adil Al-Musta'in (Abbasid Caliph, proclaimed as Sultan)
  • 1412 Al-Muayad Sayf ad-Din Shaykh
  • 1421 Al-Muzaffar Ahmad
  • 1421 Az-Zahir Saif ad-Din Tatar
  • 1421 As-Salih Nasir ad-Din Muhammad
  • 1422 Al-Ashraf Sayf ad-Din Barsbay
  • 1438 Al-Aziz Djamal ad-Din Yusuf
  • 1438 Az-Zahir Sayf ad-Din Jaqmaq
  • 1453 Al-Mansoor Fahr ad-Din Osman
  • 1453 Al-Ashraf Sayf ad-Din Enal
  • 1461 Al-Muayad Shihab ad-Din Ahmad
  • 1461 Az-Zahir Sayf ad-Din Khushkadam
  • 1467 Az-Zahir Sayf ad-Din Belbay
  • 1468 Az-Zahir Temurbougha
  • 1468 Al-Ashraf Sayf ad-Din Qaitbay
  • 1496 An-Nasir Muhammad
  • 1498 Az-Zahir Qanshaw
  • 1500 Al-Bilal Ayub
  • 1500 Al-Ashraf Janbulat
  • 1501 Al-Adil Sayf ad-Din Tuman bay I
  • 1501 Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri
  • 1517 Al-Ashraf Tuman bay II

In India

The mausoleum of Qutub ud Din Aibak in Anarkali, Lahore, Pakistan.

  • 1206 Qutb-ud-din Aybak, founded Mamluk Sultanate, Delhi
  • 1210 Aram Shah
  • 1211 Shams ud din Iltutmish. Son-in-law of Qutb-ud-din Aybak.
  • 1236 Rukn ud din Firuz. Son of Iltutmish.
  • 1236 Razia Sultana. Daughter of Iltutmish.
  • 1240 Muiz ud din Bahram. Son of Iltutmish.
  • 1242 Ala ud din Masud. Son of Rukn ud din.
  • 1246 Nasir ud din Mahmud. Son of Iltutmish.
  • 1266 Ghiyas ud din Balban. Ex-slave, son-in-law of Iltutmish.
  • 1286 Muiz ud din Qaiqabad. Grandson of Balban and Nasir ud din.
  • 1290 Kayumars. Son of Muiz ud din.

In Iraq

  • 1704 Hasan Pasha
  • 1723 Ahmad Pasha, son of Hasan
  • 1749 Sulayman Abu Layla Pasha, son-in-law of Ahmad
  • 1762 Omar Pasha, son of Ahmad
  • 1780 Sulayman Pasha the Great, son of Omar
  • 1802 Ali Pasha, son of Omar
  • 1807 Sulayman Pasha the Little, son of Sulayman Great
  • 1813 Said Pasha, son of Sulayman Great
  • 1816 Dawud Pasha (1816–1831)

Other uses of the word

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Mameluco is a Portuguese word derived from "mamluk" (also named ameluco in Spanish), 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.

Mammaluccu in the Sicilian dialect is used to mean stupid, idiot or simpleton.

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 slavishly obeyed party leader and prime minister Kálmán Tisza to keep their parliamentary seats and accompanying privileges.

An officer of the United States Marine Corps carries a ceremonial Mameluke sword. The United States Army also uses Mameluke swords in ceremonies.

In Italian American vernacular English, the term "mamaluke" is often used to refer to someone who does something stupid. It has roughly the same meaning as the Yiddish term "schmuck". However, mamalook is usually used in a joking way, whereas schmuck is more insulting.

Mamluk office titles and terminology

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The following terms originally come from either Turkish or Ottoman language (it is developed form of Turkish) that is composed of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian words and grammar structures. The "English" column indicates its written form in English.

English Arabic Notes
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 أمير Prince
Amir Akhur أمير آخور supervisor of the royal stable (from Persian آخور meaning stable)
Amir Majlis أمير مجلس Guard of Sultan's seat and bed
Atabek أتابك Commander in chief (literally "father-lord," originally meaning an appointed step-father for a non-Mamluk minor prince)
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
Cheshmeh ششمه A pool of water, or fountain (literally "eye"), from Persian چشمه
Dawadar دوادار Holder of Sultan's ink bottle (from Persian دوات‌دار meaning bearer of the 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 (from Persian جامه‌دار, meaning keeper of cloths)
Kafel al-mamalek al-sharifah al-islamiya al-amir al-amri كافل الممالك الشريفة الاسلامية الأمير الأمرى Title of the Vice-sultan (Guardian of the Prince of Command [lit. Commander-in-command] of the Dignified Islamic Kingdoms)
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 (from Persian خاصگیان, meaning close associates)
Khastakhaneh خاصتاخانة Hospital (from Ottoman Turkish خسته‌خانه, from Persian)
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 سلطانية 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 (from Persian مرغ‌دار meaning one responsible for the fowl)
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 قصاد Secret couriers and agents who kept the sultan informed
Ostaz أستاذ Benefactor of Mamluks (the Sultan or the Emir) (from Persian استاد)
Rank رنك An emblem that distinguished the rank and position of a Mamluk (probably from Persian رنگ meaning color)
Sanjaqi سنجاقى A standard-bearer of the Sultan.
Sharabkhana شرابخانة Storehouse for drinks, medicines and glass-wares of the sultan. (from Persian شراب‌خانه meaning wine cellar)
Silihdar سلحدار Arm-Bearer (from Arabic سلاح + Persian دار, meaning arm-bearer)
Tabalkhana طبلخانه The amir responsible for the Mamluk military band, from Persian طبل‌خانه
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 (from Persian تشت‌خانه, meaning tub room)
Wali والى viceroy
Yuq يوق A large linen closet used in every mamluk home, which stored pillows and sheets. (Related to the present Crimean Tatar word Yuqa, "to sleep". In modern Turkish: Yüklük.)

"Mamluk" as derogatory term

The term Mamluk became known throughout Europe following the Ottoman conquests of Egypt and Palestine in 1516–1517. It was used in derogatory meaning in Geneva just prior to the overthrow of Savoy rule in 1526 by the supporters of Philibert Berthelier to describe the faction in the state council that advocated the continued rule of the Savoy dynasty. As Mamluk means "slaves of the king", the republican faction in Geneva used it to suggest that the supporters of Savoy rule were the enemies of freedom.

See also


  1. Isichei, Elizabeth (1997). A History of African Societies to 1870. Cambridge University Press. pp. 192. Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 McGregor, Andrew James (2006). A Military History of Modern Egypt: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 15. ISBN 9780275986018. "By the late fourteenth century Circassians from the north Caucasus region had become the majority in the Mamluk ranks." 
  3. Relations of the Georgian Mamluks of Egypt with Their Homeland in the Last Decades of the Eighteenth Century. Daniel Crecelius and Gotcha Djaparidze. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 45, No. 3 (2002), pp. 320—341. ISSN 0022-4995.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Basra, the failed Gulf state: separatism and nationalism in southern Iraq, p. 19, at Google Books By Reidar Visser Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "bbs" defined multiple times with different content
  5. István Vásáry (2005) Cuman and Tatars, Cambridge University Press.
  6. T. Pavlidis, A Concise History of the Middle East, Chapter 11: Turks and Byzantine Decline, 2011
  7. Ayalon, David (1979). The Mamlūk military society. Variorum Reprints. ISBN 978-0-86078-049-6. 
  8. Asbridge, Thomas. "The Crusades Episode 3". BBC. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. Cairo of the Mamluks: A History of Architecture and Its Culture. New York: Macmillan, 2008.
  10. See D. Sourdel's "Ghulam" in the Encyclopedia of Islam and David Ayalon's "Mamluk" in the Encyclopedia of Islam. Ayalon uses "mamluk" to refer to military slaves in Egypt and Syria and "ghulam" (sing. of ghilman) to refer to military slaves elsewhere.
  11. D. Sourdel. "Ghulam" in the Encyclopedia of Islam.
  12. See E de la Vaissière Samarcande et Samarra, 2007, and also M. Gordon, The Breaking of a Thousand Swords, 2001.
  13. See for instance the review in Der Islam 2012 of de la Vaissière's book by Christopher Melchert: 'Still, de la Vaissière’s dating of the Mamluk phenomenon herewith becomes the conventional wisdom'
  14. Walker, Paul E. Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and its Sources (London, I. B. Tauris, 2002)
  15. Eric Hanne. Putting the Caliph in His Place.)
  16. Relations of the Georgian Mamluks of Egypt with Their Homeland in the Last Decades of the Eighteenth Century. Daniel Crecelius and Gotcha Djaparidze. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 45, No. 3 (2002), pp. 320-341. ISSN 0022-4995.
  17. Madden, Thomas F. Crusades the Illustrated History. 1st ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan P, 2005. 159
  18. István Vásáry (2005) Cumans and Tatars, Cambridge University Press
  19. Al-Maqrizi, p. 509/vol.1 , Al Selouk Leme'refatt Dewall al-Melouk, Dar al-kotob, 1997.
  20. David Chambers, The Devil's Horsemen, Atheneum, 1979. p. 153-155
  21. Palmira Johnson Brummett, "Ottoman seapower and Levantine diplomacy in the age of discovery", SUNY Press, 1994, ISBN 0-7914-1701-8
  22. Andrew James McGregor, A military history of modern Egypt: from the Ottoman Conquest to the Ramadan War, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 ISBN 0-275-98601-2
  23. Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Before European Hegemony The World System A.D. 1250-1350. New York: Oxford UP, USA, 1991. PP. 213
  24. For the use of the name Amim, see Giovanni Finati, Narrative of the Life and Adventure of Giovanni Finati native of Ferrara, 1830; for Heshjukur, Mustafa Mahir, Marks of the Caucasian Tribes and Some Stories and Notable Events Related to Their Leaders, Boulaq, Cairo, 1892
  25. The Arab Lands under Ottoman Rule: 1516-1800. Jane Hathaway, Karl Barbir. Person Education Limited, 2008, p. 96. ISBN 978-0-582-41899-8.
  26. "Iraq" Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 15 October 2007

Further reading

  • Janet L. Abu-Lughod (1 February 1991). Before European hegemony: the world system A.D. 1250–1350. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 978-0-19-506774-3. 
  • A. Allouche: Mamluk Economics: A Study and Translation of Al-Maqrizi's Ighathat. Salt Lake City, 1994
  • Reuven Amitai-Preiss (1995). Mongols and Mamluks: the Mamluk-Īlkhānid War, 1260–1281. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-46226-6. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  • Matthew Gordon, "The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: A History of the Turkish Military of Samarra (200-275 Ah/815-889 Ce)", SUNY Press, 2001.
  • Ulrich Haarmann: Das Herrschaftssystem der Mamluken, in: Halm / Haarmann (Hrsg.): Geschichte der arabischen Welt. C.H. Beck (2004), ISBN 3-406-47486-1
  • E. de la Vaissière, Samarcande et Samarra. Elites d'Asie centrale dans l'empire Abbasside, Peeters, 2007 (French)
  • James Waterson, "The Mamluks" (History Today March 2006)

External links

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