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  Mamluk Sultanate

Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo

Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo (1250-1517) (W)

Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo (1317)

Extent of the Mamluk Sultanate under Sultan an-Nasir Muhammad

Capital Cairo
Common languages Arabic (Egyptian and Classical), Turkic (Oghuz and Cuman-Kipchak), Circassian
Religion Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Christian minorities
Government Monarchy

• 1250 Shajar ad-Durr
• 1250-1257 Izz al-Din Aybak
• 1260-1277 Baibars
• 1516-1517 Tuman bay II

• Murder of Turanshah 2 May 1250
• Second Ottoman-Mamluk War 22 January 1517

The Mamluk Sultanate (Arabic: سلطنة المماليكSalṭanat al-Mamālīk) was a medieval realm spanning Egypt, the Levant, and Hejaz. It lasted from the overthrow of the Ayyubid dynasty until the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517. Historians have traditionally broken the era of Mamlūk rule into two periods—one covering 1250-1382, the other, 1382-1517. Western historians call the former the Baḥrī” period and the latter the “Burjī” due to the political dominance of the regimes known by these names during the respective eras. Contemporary Muslim historians refer to the same divisions as the “Turkish” and “Circassian” periods in order to stress the change in the ethnic origins of the majority of Mamlūks.

The Mamlūk state reached its height under Turkic rule with Arabic culture and then fell into a prolonged phase of decline under the Circassians. The sultanate's ruling caste was composed of Mamluks, soldiers of predominantly Cuman-Kipchaks (from Crimea), Circassian, Abkhazian, Oghuz Turks and Georgian slave origin. While Mamluks were purchased, their status was above ordinary slaves, who were not allowed to carry weapons or perform certain tasks. Mamluks were considered to be “true lords,” with social status above citizens of Egypt. Though it declined towards the end of its existence, at its height the sultanate represented the zenith of medieval Egyptian and Levantine political, economic, and cultural glory in the Islamic Golden Age.


Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar

Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar (W)

The Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, also known as the Third Battle of Homs, was a Mamluk victory over the Mongols in 1299.

(W) The Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar (Battle of Homs) of 1299 (14th-century miniature).


This is an early depiction of a “star and crescent” flag. It is important to note that various combinations of stars and crescents are shown in this manuscripts, and they are not consistently attributed to a particular faction (e.g. the Crusaders have a crescent flag on fol. 19v and a star flag on fol. 9v, and the Mongols have a star and crescent on fol. 22rv -- a secondary source is needed for a coherent discussion).(LINK)

Date between circa 1300 and circa 1325 (early 14th century).



📹 History of Mamluk Sultanate / Every Year (VİDEO)

History of Mamluk Sultanate / Every Year (LINK)



📹 The Ottoman-Mamluk War (1516 1517) / Every Fortnight (VİDEO)

The Ottoman-Mamluk War (1516 1517) / Every Fortnight (LINK)

See how the Ottomans decisively conquered the Mamluks to establish themselves as not only the dominant Eastern Mediterranean power but the new Caliphate.



Mamluk (W)

Mamluk (Arabic: مملوك mamlūk (singular), مماليك mamālīk (plural), meaning “property,” also transliterated as mamlouk, mamluq, mamluke, mameluk, mameluke, mamaluke or marmeluke) is an Arabic designation for slaves. The term is most commonly used to refer to Muslim slave soldiers and Muslim rulers of slave origin.

More specifically, it refers to:


The most enduring Mamluk realm was the knightly military caste in Egypt in the Middle Ages, which developed from the ranks of slave soldiers. These were mostly enslaved Turkic peoples, Egyptian Copts, Circassians, Abkhazians, and Georgians. Many Mamluks were also of Balkan origin (Albanians, Greeks, and South Slavs). The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior class, was of great political importance; for one thing, it endured for nearly 1000 years, from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries.

Over time, Mamluks became a powerful military knightly caste in various societies that were controlled by Muslim rulers. 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 emirs or beys. Most notably, mamluk factions seized the sultanate centered on Egypt and Syria, and controlled it as the Mamluk Sultanate (1250-1517). The Mamluk Sultanate famously defeated the Ilkhanate at the Battle of Ain Jalut. They had earlier fought the western European Christian Crusaders in 1154-1169 and 1213-1221, effectively driving them out of Egypt and the Levant. In 1302 the mamluks formally expelled the last Crusaders from the Levant, ending the era of the Crusades.

While mamluks were purchased as property, their status was above ordinary slaves but they 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" and "true warriors", with social status above the general population in Egypt and the Levant. In a sense they were like enslaved mercenaries.


The Mamluks as ‘Slaves’

The Mamluks as ‘Slaves’ (W)

A Mamluk from Aleppo (painted between circa 1816 and circa 1824).

(W) This is one of twenty-one costume figure studies, probably intended for illustration, by Page in the Museum’s collections. They show Ottoman subjects of various ranks and occupations, both male and female. Page recorded in fine detail their elaborate costumes in the last years preceding the modernising reforms that steadily eroded many traditional forms of dress and behaviour. It is not clear how many Mamluks survived the massacre by Muhammad Ali in 1811, but the detail of the costume of this individual, and that it seems to be a kind of portrait, implies that Page saw this survivor first-hand. Unlike Henry Alken’s preoccupation with horses [See SD.17], Page has focused his attention on the remarkable costume, including the embroidered shawl round the waist and the distinctive turban. The fact that he was a horseman is only suggested by the rope he is holding, and the long lance that had made the Mamluks so feared in battle.

The Mamluks (literally `owned’, i.e., slaves) had controlled Egypt from 1250 until the Ottoman conquest of 1516-17, yet even then they still continued to govern Egypt for the Ottoman Sultan, while paying tribute. Originally they had been a military caste of former slaves serving the Egyptian sultans. Young boys, mainly Kipchak Turks from regions north of the Black Sea, were bought from slave dealers and trained as warriors by previous generations of Mamluk amirs or commanders. They were set free on reaching adulthood, given a horse and arms, and then took employment with their former masters. In 1250, a group of Mamluk generals seized power from the Ayyubid dynasty, and ruled Egypt, even after the Ottoman conquest, until the time of Napoleon’s invasion in 1797. Under the Mamluk Sultan Baybars, they had even defeated the Mongols in a pitched battle in 1260. Although to the end spectacularly brave horsemen, their power slowly declined. The Egyptian economy was weakened by the rise of European trading rivals and new trade routes, and by devastating visitations of the plague. After surviving the invasion by the French, and then the British, the Mamluks struggled on. Yet, apart from a few survivors, the most prominent were finally eliminated in a treacherous massacre by the new ruler of Egypt, the Albanian general Muhammad Ali in 1811.



Language (W)


By the time the Mamluks took power, Arabic had already been established as the language of religion, culture and the bureaucracy in Egypt, and was widespread among non-Muslim communities there as well. Arabic's wide use among Muslim and non-Muslim commoners had likely been motivated by their aspiration to learn the language of the ruling and scholarly elite. Another contributing factor was the wave of Arab tribal migration to Egypt and subsequent intermarriage between Arabs and the indigenous population. The Mamluks contributed to the expansion of Arabic in Egypt through their victory over the Mongols and the Crusaders and the subsequent creation of a Muslim haven in Egypt and Syria for Arabic-speaking immigrants from other conquered Muslim lands. The continuing invasions of Syria by Mongol armies led to further waves of Syrian immigrants, including scholars and artisans, to Egypt.

Although Arabic was used as the administrative language of the sultanate, Turkish was the spoken language of the Mamluk ruling elite.According to Petry, "the Mamluks regarded Turkish as their caste's vehicle of communication, even though they themselves spoke Central Asian dialects such as Qipjak, or Circassian, a Caucasic language." According to historian Michael Winter, “Turkishness” was the distinctive aspect of the Mamluk ruling elite, for only they knew how to speak Turkish and had Turkish names. While the Mamluk elite was ethnically diverse, those who were not Turkic in origin were Turkicized nonetheless. As such, the ethnically Circassian mamluks who gained prominence with the rise of the Burji regime and became the dominant ethnic element of the government, were educated in the Turkish language and were considered to be Turks by the Arabic-speaking population.



Religion (W)

A wide range of Islamic religious expression existed in Egypt during the early Mamluk era, namely Sunni Islam and its major madhabs (schools of thought) and various Sufi orders, but also small communities of Ismai'li Shia Muslims, particularly in Upper Egypt. In addition, there was a significant minority of Coptic Christians. Under Sultan Saladin, the Ayyubids embarked on a program of reviving and strengthening Sunni Islam in Egypt to counter Christianity, which had been reviving under the religiously benign rule of the Fatimids, and Ismailism, the branch of Islam of the Fatimid state. Under the Bahri sultans, the promotion of Sunni Islam was pursued more vigorously than under the Ayyubids. The Mamluks were motivated in this regard by personal piety or political expediency for Islam was both an assimilating and unifying factor between the Mamluks and the majority of their subjects; the early mamluks had been brought up as Sunni Muslims and the Muslim faith was the only aspect of life shared between the Mamluk ruling elite and its subjects. While the precedent set by the Ayyubids highly influenced the Mamluk state's embrace of Sunni Islam, the circumstances in the Muslim Middle East in the aftermath of the Crusader and Mongol invasions also left Mamluk Egypt as the last major Islamic power able to confront the Crusaders and the Mongols. Thus, the early Mamluk embrace of Sunni Islam also stemmed from the pursuit of a moral unity within their realm based on the majority views of its subjects.


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