What was the area of the Mamluk Sultanate?

What was the area of the Mamluk Sultanate?

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Both in the Baḥrī period and the Burjī period. I've been trying to find an answer for about 30 minutes and I've found nothing, so if you know, a source would be good too.

According to Wikipedia the Mamluk Sultanate ruled part or all of the territory of the following countries:

> Today part of


Egypt Israel Jordan Lebanon Libya State of Palestine Palestine Saudi Arabia Sudan Syria Turkey

Thus the maximum area of the Mamluk sultanate must be smaller than the total area of those countries.

Egypt: 1,010,407.87 square kilos

Syria: 185,180 square kilos

Israel: 20,770 square kilos

Jordon: 89,341 square kilos

Lebanon: 10,452 square kilos

Palestine: 6,220 square kilos

total area: 1,322,370.87.

The Mamluk Sultanate probably ruled most of the area of those countries.

Then there are four large countries that the Mamluk Sultanate probably ruled relatively small parts of:

Libya: 1,759,541 Square kilometers

Turkey: 783,356 Square kilometers

Sudan: 1,861,484 Square kilometers

Saudi Arabia: 2,149,690 Square kilometers

total: 6,554,071 square kilometers. But the Mamluk Sultanate ruled relatively small parts of those countries.

Thus the Mamluk Sultanate probably ruled somewhere between about 1,322,370.87 square Kilometers and about 7,886,441.87 square kilometers.

The Mamluk Sultanate in 1337 was approx. 1 802 679 sq km.

The Mamluk Sultanate in 1444 was approx. 838 316 sq km in directly ruled territories plus 354 751 sq km governed indirectly without Cyprus, an additional 9 251 sq km, which from 1426 to 1473 was at least under nominal Mamluk suzerainty if not an official dependency.

See maps towards the end of this post with regards to what this territory included for these dates.

Accuracy & Caveats

This answer was reached by referencing Paradox Studios' 'Crusader Kings II' (CKII) and 'Europa Universalis IV' (EUIV) starting maps for 1337 and 1444, georeferencing these, and measuring the georeferencing area.

Some problems should be expected using this methodology:

  • It relies on the accuracy of Paradox's map-making;
  • It relies on the accuracy of Paradox's historical modelling and research;
  • Inhabitable territory in deserts may have been extended outwards compared to the real situation to improve gameplay;
  • Minor territories may have been excluded from these maps;
  • Small enclaves / exclaves are probably not represented due to the scale of the map;
  • Georeferencing can introduce errors.

I was lucky to find an already georeferenced map of all of EUIV's provinces, and I was able to assess some of the accuracy there:

  • Cyprus, which is 9,251 sq km, is a province of 9,202 sq km (99.4% accuracy);
  • My "drawn" Mamluk Sultanate (1444) amounted to 963 583 sq km; the measured provinces on the pre-georeferenced map to 903 663 sq km (an 'overestimation' of 6.3%). => Edit: Both of these numbers were quoted prior to me removing the Eastern Desert as prompted in the comments.

In light of the above, I would give the 1444 area value an accuracy measure of ±2-5%.

Regrettably, the CKII map was a lot more difficult to georeference accurately (because of its bounds). Only in Cyrenaica, I might be overestimating its area by about 10 086 sq km. The rest of the territory (towards Asia) worked a lot better though, so I would give an accuracy measure of ±4-8% for this date marker.


So everyone can see the territory the games cover at these dates, I've included snippets below. I have removed the same "Egyptian Desert" (reflecting the Eastern Desert) area from both sets of maps.

1337 Game Scenario:

The territory under the "Bahri" is depicted here:

1444 Game Scenario:

Territory under the Mamluks is what I've considered as "directly ruled" above while the "indirectly" covers the Fadl, Hejaz, and Medina which are depicted as (at least relatively) independent nations in this timeframe.

1337 Comparison:

To see the "accuracy" of these maps against the GSHHG coastline (and rivers and lakes) and in comparison to each other, I've added two further comparative maps below.

1444 Comparison:

Mamluk dynasty (Delhi)

The Mamluk dynasty (Persian: سلطنت مملوک ‎, romanized: Salṭanat Mamlūk) was directed into Northern India by Qutb ud-Din Aibak, a Turkic Mamluk general from Central Asia. The Mamluk dynasty ruled from 1206 to 1290 it was the first of five unrelated dynasties to rule as the Delhi Sultanate till 1526. [4] [5] [6] Aibak's tenure as a Ghurid dynasty administrator lasted from 1192 to 1206, a period during which he led invasions into the Gangetic heartland of India and established control over some of the new areas. [ citation needed ]


MAMLUKS (lit. slaves), a military class which ruled *Egypt from 1250 to 1517 and *Syria (including *Palestine) from 1260 to 1516. Under the Mamluk sultans in Egypt and Syria, local Jews often suffered at the hands of government officials and Muslim zealots, although at times the sultan and his representatives were also a restraining influence on fanatical mobs or leaders. The Mamluks were one of the most important dynasties in the history of medieval *Islam, gaining fame for stopping the *Mongol advance into Syria and for eradicating the Crusader presence in Palestine and elsewhere along the Syrian coast. They were great patrons of culture, and many buildings with the distinctive building style of the period are scattered throughout Israel, especially Jerusalem. Scholars divide the Mamluk era into almost two equal sub-periods: the Baḥrī period (1250–1382), when the dominant group was mainly composed of Qipchaq Turks and, the Circassian period (1382–1517) when Mamluks from the northern Caucasus region were predominant, although Turks continued to play an important role. The latter period is often still mistakenly called the Burjī period. Most Mamluk sultans were themselves Mamluks of slave origin, although some were the sons of sultans.

Military slavery, primarily of pagan Turks brought as youngsters from the Eurasian Steppe, had existed in the heart of the Muslim world since the ninth century. Later referred to as Mamluks (pl. mamālik), these soldiers of slave origin – particularly those who became officers – played an important role in the military and political life of many Muslim states. Turks were particularly favored since they combined hardiness, horsemanship, and archery which they had begun to learn in their Central Asian milieu. These nascent skills were reinforced by years of training in military schools in which the young Mamluks were enrolled after their conversion to Islam. Generally the sons of Mamluks were excluded from this military formation: Muslim rulers had learned that the sons of Mamuks had neither the hardiness nor loyalty of their fathers and therefore there was a continual import of young Mamluks to the centers of the Muslim world. In other words, the Mamluk system was a one-generational, continually replicating military elite. On the whole, Mamluks fought in organized units of mounted archers, and were generally loyal to their patrons, be they sultans or senior officers, although there were some notable exceptions.

Mamluks were certainly important in the armies of the *Ayyubid sultans and princes, and, since the time of the dynasty's founder Saladin (d. 1193), played a key role in the war against the Crusaders. In 1250, they overthrew their masters in Egypt ten years later, in the aftermath of their victory over the Mongols at Ayn Jalut in northern Palestine, they gained control of all of Syria up to the Euphrates River, and embarked on a 60-year war against the Mongols, whom they successfully kept at bay. The Sultan Baybars i (1260–77) was the real architect of Mamluk power, expanding and strengthening the army, reforming the judicial system and generally bringing stability to the subjects of the state, in spite of his many wars against the Mongols and Crusaders. The latter culminated in the conquest of Acre in 1291. The Mamluk Sultanate was a relatively centralized state, governed from *Cairo, although most of the military activities were in Syria. Although the Mamluk regime became increasingly oppressive and rapacious over the decades, it was never seriously threatened by internal opposition. There were, however, many cases of urban disorder and riots, often over food shortages or other economic matters. The position of the *dhimmīs ("protected people," i.e. Christians and Jews) was also a source of occasional disorder and dissatisfaction, not the least because of the many Christians (and some Jews) still employed in various government offices, some of them holding relatively high positions. Without a doubt, the Mamluk period saw an increase in anti-dhimmī feeling and the consequent decline of the position of these peoples. This appears to be a result of several factors: the militant rhetoric of the Mamluks themselves, engaged in holy war (jihād) for decades the culmination of almost two centuries of war against the Crusaders the apparent perception that the local Christians, while Arabic speakers, were secretly sympathetic to the enemies of the state, be they Crusaders or Mongols the declining economic situation, which began to be felt from the mid-14 th century onward, particularly after the outbreak of the Black Plague in the region in 1349 and perhaps the competition over government jobs in which members of the Muslim learned class had a particular interest. It should be noted that the lion's share of anti-dhimmī feelings were directed at the Christians of Egypt and Syria, a much larger group than the Jews and better represented in the government bureaucracy. The impression gained is that the acts and activities against the Jews were often side effects of steps taken against their Christian "colleagues." It appears that, during the Mamluk period, there was a long-term islamization process among the Sultanate's Christian population (certainly among the Copts of Egypt). It is difficult to gauge the exact long-term impact of the Mamluk period on the size of the Jewish community, but there was some demographic decline caused by conversions and perhaps emigration, although apparently not to the same degree as among the Christians.

The paucity of the Cairo *Genizah documents from the Mamluk period indicates the great change in Egyptian Jewry whereas these archives of Cairo Jewry contain many documents from the 11 th and 12 th centuries, there are relatively few preserved from the subsequent period. Perhaps rather than indicating only the decline of the Jewish community in Old Cairo, it may reflect the weakening of Egypt's participation in the Mediterranean trade, which was the economic basis of this particular Jewish community. In any event, the numerous Arab chronicles and other sources for the Mamluk period contain much information on the Jews. From these and various Jewish sources we can reconstruct a picture of the main developments of the Jewish community in the main provinces of the Mamluk Sultanate. The difficulties experienced by the Jews were not only with the Muslim majority and authorities, but were also related to tensions within the community and "the depressed condition of community life" (M.R. Cohen). On the whole, we can say that during the Baḥrī period there was a series of acute outbreaks of anti-dhimmī activity and measures, which also affected the Jewish population of the Sultanate. In the Circassian period, the anti-dhimmī (and therefore anti-Jewish) measures were generally less sweeping, but the Jews (and the Christians) suffered from both chronic and temporary harassments. The terms of the so-called Covenant of *Omar are mentioned time and again during the period as the model which the dhimmīs were expected to follow, indicating perhaps that, between the anti-dhimmī measures enacted and mentioned in the sources, the non-Muslims lived under easier conditions. On the other hand, the repeated acts took their toll.

When Damascus was reconquered from the Mongols in 1260, there were riots against the local Christians, which spilled over to the Jews the latter were soon curtailed when it was remembered that the Jews had not cooperated with the Mongols. Five years later the Christians in Cairo were accused of arson. Thereupon Sultan Baybars i (1260–77), who had just returned from Syria and the conquest of Caesarea and Arsuf from the Crusaders, assembled many Christians and Jews and ordered that they be burned alive, but released them on condition that they pay a heavy tribute in annual installments. These were, however, sporadic measures, which show how Jews could be caught up in what was originally a mainly anti-Christian activity. One act directed only against Jews was in *Damascus in 1271. There the Sufi shaykh Khidr, a Rasputin-like figure who was the favorite of the sultan, attacked and expropriated the largest synagogue. However, this figure was known for his attacks on Christians too. It was mainly later that more concerted and widespread actions against the dhimmīs were taken, including the frequent dismissal of non-Muslim officials. One Arab chronicler, al-ʿAynī, notes that, already under Sultan Qalāwūn (1279–90), "the dhimmīs had been in a state of extreme humiliation and degradation." Arab chroniclers sometimes mention only measures taken against Christians, but they state explicitly that Jews suffered during the dismissal of the officials in 1293 under Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf Khalīl (1290–93), which followed riots that broke out in Cairo in the aftermath of supposed overweening behavior by Christians. In 1301 the hatred of non-Muslims burst into severe persecution riots occurred in several towns in Egypt and many Christians and Jews were compelled to adopt Islam, including all the Jews of Bilbeis, in Lower Egypt, according to the Jewish-Egyptian chronicler of the Ottoman period, Joseph b. Isaac *Sambari. All churches and synagogues in Cairo were closed in Alexandria, houses of non-Muslims which were higher than those of their Muslim neighbors were destroyed. These were unprecedented acts. Furthermore, the government decreed that henceforth Christians must wear blue turbans Samaritans, red and Jews, yellow. The willingness of the Mamluk authorities in this case to countenance the anti-dhimmī disorders and to enact stringent sumptuary laws may have been strengthened by the embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Mongols in Syria at the end of 1299, so that this became a way of diverting attention and demonstrating to the population the Mamluk commitment to Islam. In 1309, however, under Byzantine pressure, several churches and a synagogue were reopened, so there were occasional rays of light in this difficult period. There were again riots against Christians in Egypt, in which Jews are not mentioned, except in so far as some Christians borrowed their clothes to escape the wrath of the mob. In 1354 there was another general persecution of the non-Muslims in Egypt. There were riots during which Christians and Jews were attacked in the streets, with the rioters "throwing them into bonfires if they refused to pronounce the shahādatayn [the Muslim profession of faith]" (D.P. Little). Jewish and Coptic leaders were forced to listen to a list of the sumptuary measures which theoretically had already been in force. Non-Muslim government officials were dismissed, even those who embraced Islam. This particular set of measures seems to have had some impact on the conversion of Copts to Islam whether it affected the Jews in the same way is unclear.

The anti-dhimmī atmosphere was not only a result of riots or repeated enactments of sumptuary laws. The early Mamluk period saw the appearance of several anti-dhimmī polemical works, such as that by al-Ghāzī b. al-Wāsiṭī, as well as the fatwas (responsa) and essays by the famous, but uncompromising, scholar Ibn Taymiyya. In addition, sometime in the first century or so of Mamluk rule, a humiliating oath which Jews had to take when appearing in Muslim courts was reintroduced after a hiatus of some 500 years (the text of the oath, from al-Umarī's Tarif, is found in Stillman, Jews of Arab Lands, 267–68).

In the second half of the 14 th century restrictive laws and various vexations followed. Non-Muslim officials were dismissed in Damascus in 1356 and in 1363. At that time Jews and Christians were forbidden to ride horses and mules. They were allowed to ride donkeys only, using packsaddles and mounted so that both feet were on one side of the animal. In public baths they had to distinguish themselves by wearing little bells around the neck, and women had to wear one black and one white shoe. In 1365 Muslim zealots in Damascus searched Jewish and Christian homes for wine and poured the wine they found into the streets and rivers. Restrictive laws were again enforced Jewish and Christian women were forbidden to frequent the public baths. Although the frequency of these ordinances proves that the discriminatory laws were not systematically kept, it is evident that their periodic enactment humiliated Jews and Christians whose communities were sizably weakened and diminished by the end of the rule of the Baḥrī Mamluks in 1382.

The Slave Warriors Who Saved The Muslim World | The Mamluk Sultanate Of Egypt

The Islamic civilisation series takes a look at prominent Muslim empires that have existed throughout history. In this article we present a brief overview of the rise and fall of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt.

The Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo is a standout epoch in Islamic history and is perhaps the grandest example of a rags-to-riches story. The Mamluks left behind a fascinating legacy, fraught with controversy, political assassination and factional conflict - the perfect plot for the next blockbuster TV series. The Mamluks of Egypt would rise from mere servants to commanders of a vast empire which would eventually encompass Egypt, Hijaz and the Levant.

The word Mamluk (singular) or Mamalik in the Arabic language means something that is owned and can be used more generally to refer to slaves who were used for military purposes by various Islamic empires throughout history including in the Abbasid period and also emerging in India.

The Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt lasted in an intermittent form between 1250 and 1517. The Mamluks were mostly made up of ethnic Turks who had ancestral ties with the Turkic Kipchaks, they were originally acquired as slaves but were given a higher status within the empires they served, being provided extensive military training and education in the Islamic sciences. Their emergence begins within the 10th century under the famed Ayyubid dynasty founded by Salahuddin Al Ayubi. Under the Ayyubids the Mamluks were given extensive military positions and were an integral part of the military structure. After the final substantive Sultan As-Salih Ayyub passed away following his successful campaign against the 7th crusade, a convoluted series of events resulted in the Mamluks effectively inheriting the seat of power.

The first of the Mamluk Sultans was Izz al-Din Aybak who also happened to marry Shajar al-Durr the widow of the final Ayyubid Sultan As-Salih Ayyub. Aybak inherited power as a result of Shajar's abdication as the Sultana (Female Sultan) of Egypt. In a bizarre turn of events, Aybak was murdered by Shajar after his decision to strategically marry the daughter of the Emir of Mosul. Aybak's reign lasted a mere 7 years and his adolescent son inherited power being put in place by an assembly of loyalist Mamluks known as the Mu'iziyya Mamluks who were principally led by the renowned Saif ad-Din Qutuz. Following in the tradition of his father Aybak's son ruled for a meagre two years and thereafter Saif ad-Din Qutuz ascended to power.

Qutuz is perhaps the most illustrious Sultan of the entire Mamluk period despite ruling for an even shorter period than his predecessors. Qutuz was a Kipchak originally enslaved by the Mongols and later sold to Aybak the Ayyubid Sultan. As the leader of the Mamluks, Qutuz led the first ever army to defeat the Mongols on the battlefield an achievement that has cemented his vestige in Islamic history centuries on. His reign was followed by that of Baibars who reigned for 54 years, under Baibars the Mamluks firmly established their government and made significant territorial gains wiping out Crusaders in the Levant and unifying Egypt and Syria.

The Mongols and The Mamluks

The Battle of Ain Jalut was a defining moment in the formation of the Mamluk state and is also the reason behind Qutuz and Baibars renown in relation to other Mamluks Sultans. The Battle of Ain Jalut was initiated after the sacking of Baghdad and the continued advance of the Mongol army. At the time Baghdad was considered the ‘capital’ of the Islamic world and numerous tales tell of the devastating attack when the Tigris river ran red with blood and the ink of books turned the water black. The attack on the Islamic capital of Baghdad which also contained the House of Wisdom library (Bayt al-Hikma) sent shockwaves throughout the empire, and this sentiment was further exacerbated by a letter sent by the Mongol leader Hulagu to the Mamluk leadership.

“From the King of Kings of the East and West, the Great Khan. To Qutuz the Mamluk, who fled to escape our swords. You should think of what happened to other countries and submit to us. You have heard how we have conquered a vast empire and have purified the earth of the disorders that tainted it. We have conquered vast areas, massacring all the people. You cannot escape from the terror of our armies. Where can you flee? What road will you use to escape us? Our horses are swift, our arrows sharp, our swords like thunderbolts, our hearts as hard as the mountains, our soldiers as numerous as the sand. Fortresses will not detain us, nor armies stop us. Your prayers to God will not avail against us. We are not moved by tears nor touched by lamentations. Only those who beg our protection will be safe. Hasten your reply before the fire of war is kindled. Resist and you will suffer the most terrible catastrophes. We will shatter your mosques and reveal the weakness of your God and then will kill your children and your old men together. At present, you are the only enemy against whom we have to march.”

Qutuz’s response to the letter was damning and he responded by killing the two envoys who had delivered the message, placing their decapitated heads on spikes outside the entrance of the city of Cairo. The Mongols swept through the Muslim lands taking Baghdad as well as cities in Syria such as Damascus and Aleppo. With the Mongol advance threatening the centre of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt the Mamluks were pressed to make a decision and Qutuz eventually led an army through the Levant region to meet the Mongols on the battlefield. Both Qutuz and Baibars participated in the battle and through skilful military tactics which included a carefully orchestrated attack and retreat manoeuvre the Muslims were able to conclusively defeat the Mongols and halt the western advance. A landmark achievement at the time as the Mongols had never previously lost in combat.

A Mamluk Soldier at Ain Jalut

Qutuz had successfully done what many other commanders before him had failed to do but unfortunately for him, his attainment was not enough to spare him his life. While returning to Cairo he was assassinated by the very men he had led in battle. There are debates around who exactly was responsible for his death however evidence seems to suggest Baibars was involved in Qutuz’s demise. Baibars then went on to reign for 54 years, it was under his rule that the Mamluks firmly established their government and made significant territorial gains wiping out Crusaders in the Levant and unifying Egypt and Syria.

The Mamluk Sultanate is described as an 'intermittent empire' due to it having two unique periods of existence. The Sultanate can be characterised under two forms, the early Bahri period (1250 - 1382) and the Burji dynasty (1382 – 1517). Generally, the Bahri period is seen to be the more stable and successful period whereas the Burji dynasty was fraught with controversy and infighting.


In regards to the long-term contributions of the Mamluk sultanate one area which can not be dismissed was the cultivation of religious scholarship. The Sultanate generally adhered to the Shafite school of thought. However, under the rule of Baibars, multiple schools of thought were facilitated for, creating a hub of Islamic scholarship. The emergence of the Mamluk Sultanate created a breadth of scholarship of which the Muslim world is indebted to till this day. This era saw the works of figures such Imam Nawawi, Jalaluddin Suyuti, Ismail Ibn Kathir, Taj al-Din Subki, Al Dhahabi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Hajar and Ibn Al Qayyim to name but a few.

The Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo, construction began in 757 AH and it is still operational to this day.

The relationship between religious clergy and government was not always a smooth one. Although Ibn Taymiyyah is perhaps one of the most renowned scholars of this time his views were not representative of the Sultanates conventional ideas and he often found himself in conflict with the judicial system.

The Mamluks did not consider themselves Caliphs of the Muslim Ummah rather they held in great esteem the Khalifa of the former Abbasid empire. Although the Abbasids had fallen into decline and the Mamluk sultans had acquired total political control, as a general policy they never took up the position of Khalifas of the Muslim world. Instead, the members of the Abbasid family held the symbolic title of Khalifa and were used to legitimise the Sultans control over the Muslims.

The Fall

Towards the end of the Burji dynasty, a series of events including poor military decisions and infighting resulted in the weakening of the Mamluk state and a new Muslim dynasty was rising in the North. The Ottoman Turks after a successful campaign against the Safavids made their way through Syria and after successfully defeating the Mamluks at the Battle of Marj Dabiq they were able to annexe Syria, paving the way for a final attack on the Mamluk heartland of Cairo. The Mamluks finally lost control of Egypt in 1517 at the hands of Ottoman Sultan Selim I. Similar to the Mamluk-Ayyubid relationship after their ascension to power the Ottomans kept the Mamluks in control of Egypt but as subordinates to the ultimate power in Constantinople.

Looking back at this point in Islamic history the Mamluks contribution to Islam was incredibly important. If the battle of Ain Jalut was lost the Mongol advance would have been orchestrated with relative ease, crushing the Mamluk capital in Cairo and making its way to North Africa. If it weren’t for the efforts of the Mamluks against Mongol and Crusader armies, Islam in Africa and the Levant may have been under severe threat. The lessons one can take from the Mamluks is one of perseverance and dedication, the Mamluks fought as loyal servants and were able to rise to the honoured position of leaders of an empire that saved the Islamic world.

This article was inspired by the wonderful brothers over at the Mad Mamluks podcast. If you're looking for an informative but also entertaining Islamically oriented podcast show, I would definitely recommend checking these guys out.

Historic Realms: The Mamluk Sultanate Trivia Quiz

    The Ottoman Empire had recently pushed the Byzantines out of Constantinople, moving their capital there and concentrating their power. The Mamluks had generally supported the Ottoman efforts and even relied on them for protection from European colonists and merchants attempting to stifle their trade routes.

Baibars saw the pratical use of the Hashashin and began to systematically murder his political opponents. It was very common for Mamluk sultans to die by assassination, and it was actually rare for them to die of natural causes. In fact, the average rule for a Mamluk sultan was only seven years.

Christian communities actually openly fought against Muslim sultanates, and the Mamluks were terrified of a Christian/Mongol alliance. The defeat of Hulagu Khan (brother of the Great Khan Kublai) helped pacify these Christian cities.

Firstly, justify on Israel and Jordan. Jordan should fall without any issues. If, by bad luck, Israel is a player, you may need to build arty. However, this scenario is unlikely. Do all this with you homeguard. Now, is Lebanon or Syria taken by Turkey? If not, attack them both, probably without a problem.

If Turkey is a player, heres what to do. Ally Iran and Russia if you want. Build electronic factories, and block their access to the Suez Canal. Ask calmly in the chat for Syria and Lebanon. If they are unwilling to give, put you homeguard along their border. put some artillery behind that. This is simply a distraction, so don't worry if they get through. Make tanks if you can, and out arty in Cairo for defence. Now build two subs, as well as two 2K tank divisions. Justify and declare war. Make it seem like you are trying hard on the frontline, when really you're not. Talk in the chat about how good Turkey is, while they slowly push you. Now those two tank divisons? Send one to Istanbul, and the other to Ankara. Use your subs to guide them through this. Catch them by surprise, then when the cities are captured, split the division and auto-capture. Hopefully, this works.

By now, you have two situations. Firstly, Saudi Arabia is A.I, and attacking them isn't a problem. Secondly, they are not a player, and have formed Arabia, possibly taking Iraq and even invading Iran. If you are in the first situation, just attack them and form Mamluk. If not, here what to do.

Make destroyers in the Red Sea. Allow your troops to recover from the war with Turkey. Then put your homeguard and arty on the border with Jordan (and Syria if they have taken Iraq), then declare war. Allow them to attack your homeguard, then using 3K Tanks, attack the east coast. If you want to, stop there to recharge (the arid biome is tough), then continue. Use a 2K division to attack through Iraq, further pressuring them. Finally, a 1K division is needed to capture Riyadh, and by then you can get them to surrender. Then form the Mamluk Sultanate!

The Next Delhi Sultanate Dynasties

The second dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate was the Khalji Dynasty. Founded by Jalal-ud-din Khalji, who had been a vassal of the former dynasty, the Khaljis ruled the Delhi Sultanate until 1320. Although this dynasty lasted for only 30 years, they were mighty conquerors who extended their rule into the Deccan.

Additionally, the armies of the Khalji Dynasty were able to reach the southern part of India, and the major Hindu kingdoms there were reduced to tributary states of the Delhi Sultanate. The greatest achievement of the Khaljis, however, was in their war against the Mongols. Thanks to their military might, the Khaljis were successful in repelling several major Mongol offensives.

‘The army of Alaudeen on March to Deccan’ , a 20th-century artist's impression. ( Public Domain )

Like the Mamluk Dynasty, the Khalji Dynasty also came to an end when its last ruler was assassinated. The assassin was Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, who, like Jalal-ud-din Khalji before him, founded the Tughlaq Dynasty. It was during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq that the Delhi Sultanate reached its greatest extent.

Nevertheless, this lasted for only a short period of time, i.e. from 1330-1335, as numerous revolts resulted in the loss of much territory. Moreover, the Tughluqs made no attempt to regain these lost territories. Thus, in 1347, for instance, the Muslim aristocracy in the Deccan were successful in throwing off the Delhi Sultanate, and established the Bahmani Sultanate. Further south, the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire was established in 1351, following its independence from the Delhi Sultanate. In 1398/99, the Delhi Sultanate suffered its greatest defeat at the hands of Tamerlane, and Delhi itself was sacked.

The Tughluq Dynasty continued to rule until 1413, after which it was replaced by the Sayyid Dynasty. Politically speaking, this dynasty had little achievement of note, apart from the strengthening of Islam in the Kashmir region.

A painting of west gate of Firozabad fort, near Delhi. This fort was built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq in the 1350s but destroyed by later dynasties. ( Public Domain )


The Mamluks formed one of the most powerful and wealthiest empires of the time, lasting from 1250 to 1517 in Egypt, North Africa, and the Levant—Near East.

Development Edit

In 1250, when the Ayyubid sultan as-Salih Ayyub died, the Mamluks he had owned as slaves murdered his son and heir al-Muazzam Turanshah, and Shajar al-Durr the widow of as-Salih became the Sultana of Egypt. She married the Atabeg (commander in chief) Emir Aybak and abdicated, Aybak becoming Sultan. He ruled from 1250 to 1257. [5] [c]

The Mamluks consolidated their power in ten years and eventually established the Bahri dynasty. They were helped by the Mongols' sack of Baghdad in 1258, which effectively destroyed the Abbasid caliphate. Cairo became more prominent as a result and remained a Mamluk capital thereafter.

The Mamluks were powerful cavalry warriors mixing the practices of the Turkic steppe peoples from which they were drawn and the organizational and technological sophistication and horsemanship of the Arabs. In 1260 the Mamluks defeated a Mongol army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in present-day Israel and eventually forced the invaders to retreat to the area of modern-day Iraq. [6] The defeat of the Mongols at the hands of the Mamluks enhanced the position of the Mamluks in the southern Mediterranean basin. [7] [d] Baibars, one of the leaders at the battle, became the new Sultan after the assassination of Sultan Qutuz on the way home. [9] [e]

In 1250 Baibars was one of the Mamluk commanders who defended Al Mansurah against the Crusade knights of Louis IX of France, who was later definitely defeated, captured in Fariskur and ransomed. Baibars had also taken part in the Mamluk takeover of Egypt. In 1261, after he became a Sultan, he established a puppet Abbasid caliphate in Cairo, [f] and the Mamluks fought the remnants of the Crusader states in Palestine until they finally captured Acre in 1291. [g]

Tatars and Mongols Edit

Many Tatars settled in Egypt and were employed by Baibars. [h] [13] He defeated the Mongols at the battle of Elbistan [14] and sent the Abbasid Caliph with only 250 men to attempt to retake Baghdad, but was unsuccessful. In 1266 he devastated Cilician Armenia and in 1268 he recaptured Antioch from the Crusaders. [15] [i] In addition, he fought the Seljuks, [j] and Hashshashin he also extended Muslim power into Nubia [13] for the first time, before his death in 1277.

Sultan Qalawun defeated a rebellion in Syria that was led by Sunqur al-Ashqar in 1280, [17] [k] and also defeated another Mongol invasion in 1281 that was led by Abaqa outside Homs. [19] After the Mongol threat passed he recaptured Tripoli from the Crusaders in 1289. [20] His son Khalil captured Acre, the last Crusader city, in 1291. [21]

The Mongols renewed their invasion in 1299, [22] but were again defeated in 1303 in the Battle of Shaqhab. [23] The Egyptian Mamluk Sultans entered into relations with the Golden Horde who converted to Islam [l] and established a peace pact with the Mongols [25] in 1322.

Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad married a Mongol princess in 1319. His diplomatic relations were more extensive than those of any previous Sultan, and included Bulgarian, Indian, and Abyssinian potentates, as well as the pope, the king of Aragon and the king of France. [26] Al-Nasir Muhammad organized the re-digging of a canal in 1311 which connected Alexandria with the Nile. [25] He died in 1341.

Dissolution Edit

The constant changes of sultans that followed led to great disorder in the provinces. Meanwhile, in 1349 Egypt and the Levant in general were introduced to Black Death, which is said to have killed many inhabitants. [27] [m]

In 1382 the last Bahri Sultan Hajji II was dethroned and the Sultanate was taken over by the Circassian Emir Barquq. He was expelled in 1389 but returned to power in 1390, setting up the succeeding Burji dynasty. [28]

On a general level, the military during the Bahri dynasty can be divided into several aspects

Chapter Eleven: Famine, Plague, War, and Rebirth (1300-1500)

1250-1517: Mamluk Sultanate 1309: Beginning of Avignon Papacy 1315-1322: Great Famine in Europe 1331: Outbreak of Bubonic Plague in Yuan China 1335: Bubonic Plague reaches the Ilkhanate 1337: The Hundred Years’ War begins c. 1350: Beginning of Italian Renaissance and Humanism 1347-1351: The Black Death arrives in Europe nearly a third of Europe’s population dies 1358: French Peasant Revolt 1368: Fall of Yuan Dynasty 1368-1644: Ming Dynasty

1370-1507: The Timurid Dynasty

1453: Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the final fall of the Byzantine Empire 1453: End of Hundred Years’ War and English attempts to conquer France

1492: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella complete the Reconquista with the conquest of Granada, Christopher Columbus, sailing for the Spanish crown, makes landfall in the Western Hemisphere


Questions to Guide Your Reading

  1. What factors led to the decline of the Yuan Dynasty?
  2. Where did the Black Death begin? What factors allowed it to spread across Afro-Eurasia?
  3. What were the social, political, and economic effects of the Black Death on Europe?
  4. How did European states and religious institutions change during the late Middle Ages? What caused these changes?
  5. What were the sources of the Italian Renaissance? How did it alter European culture?
  6. Why did Timur attempt to “externalize” the violence of the steppe?

Key Terms

  • Council of Constance
  • Babylonian Captivity of the Church
  • Humanism
  • Hundred Years’ War
  • Italian Renaissance
  • Malthusian Limits
  • Mamluk Sultanate
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Reconquista
  • Timur

Introduction: The End of the Yuan Dynasty and the Beginning of the Ming.

In 1331, there was a recorded outbreak of Bubonic Plague in Yuan Dynasty China. Within a few years, deaths from the plague would reach nearly 5 million people. Along with the crisis of the Bubonic Plague, floods, famine and widespread unrest led to the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in 1368 and the rise of the new Ming dynasty, which would last until 1644. The Ming Dynasty would rebuild China’s infrastructure after the devastation of plague and other natural disaster. To do so, it resurrected and strengthened the bureaucratic systems that had long been in place in China. The Ming dynasty also, during the 1400s, authorized a number of long-range ocean voyages under the command of Zheng He, a court eunuch. Zheng He’s voyages took Chinese fleets to the Middle East as well as the eastern coast of Africa. Following Zheng He’s death, Ming rulers would put an end to the expensive voyages. Burning the fleet, China turned inward during the Ming dynasty.

The Plague that began in China in 1331 would have global repercussions. The disease would spread across the trade routes of central Asia, reaching Europe in 1347. It was just one of the catastrophes that struck the Afro-Eurasian world between 1300 and 1500.

Famine and the Black Death in Europe

As the thirteenth century drew to a close, Europe began to run into its Malthusian limits, i.e., how many people a land’s resources can support before food starts to run short. At the same time, the previously-warm climate began to cool, making conditions less suitable for agriculture. Famine returned to Europe.

Between 1315 and 1322, a set of extremely rainy, wet summers—accounts written at the time speak of castle walls being washed away in flood waters—caused crops to fail, resulting in massive famines and starvation. At the same time, livestock throughout western Europe died in droves from outbreaks of Rinderpest, Anthrax, and other diseases.

License: © Ian Mladjov. Used with permission.

Many peasants starved. Many more suffered from malnutrition. Contemporary accounts refer to hungry peasants resorting to cannibalism. Like all other crops, cash crops also failed, so that those who did survive were poorer.

Scarcely a generation had passed after the Great Famine when Europe was hit by a global pandemic: the Black Death. The Black Death was almost certainly an outbreak of Bubonic Plague, caused by the bacterium Yersina pestis. This disease has an extremely high mortality rate—certain varieties can have a mortality rate of over ninety-nine percent, and even the more survivable varieties usually kill the majority of the infected. The Plague acts in three ways: the variety called Bubonic Plague results in painful, swollen lumps around the armpits, crotch, and neck (locations associated with the lymph nodes) when they burst, a foul-smelling pus emerges. The septicemic variety results in skin turning black and dying all over the body, and the pneumonic variety—almost always fatal—shows no visible symptoms, but affects the lungs, and can cause a victim to go from healthy to dead in the space of twenty-four hours.

As discussed earlier, the pandemic began in the Yuan Empire. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the trade routes opened by the Mongols meant that not only could ideas and technology travel, but that disease could as well. The Plague began in the East and Central Asia, but it quickly spread to the Middle East and North Africa, to the Swahili Coast, and eventually to Western Europe.

Its impact was calamitous. A little over half of Europe’s population died. After the first outbreak of the Plague, between 1347 and 1351, less virulent outbreaks continued to strike Europe nearly every year until 1782. Europe’s population began a long decline it did not start recovering until the fifteenth century. It did not return to its pre-Plague levels until the seventeenth (and in some regions, the eighteenth) century. Casualty rates among clergy were as high as sixty percent, with some monastic houses having casualty rates as high as ninety-nine percent, as monks living in communal environments were more likely to spread disease.

Victims of the Black Death | Note that above, we can see St. Sebastian in heaven praying to God on behalf of the Plague’s victims. He was known for having been executed by arrows during the reign of Diocletian, and so Christian art usually pictured him as being covered in arrows.

Source: The Walters Art Museum

In the aftermath of the Plague, however, living conditions for those peasants who survived improved in many ways. Because there were fewer people, those who survived had access to more lands and resources. In addition, the need to nd peasants to work the lands of the nobility meant that nobles often o ered better wages and living conditions to those who would settle on their lands. As a result, peasant wages rose and serfdom in Western Europe gradually vanished. Although in some kingdoms, monarchs and their assemblies attempted to create legislation to reinforce the social status of the peasantry, these e orts were often unsuccessful. This failure to maintain prexisting status distinctions stood in contrast to Mamluk Egypt, where, in the aftermath of the Plague, Egypt’s ruling class of largely Turkic Mamluks managed to keep the peasantry in a firmly subordinate role and prevent the rise of peasant wages.

European Wars in the Late Middle Ages

Famine and disease were not the only disasters to strike late medieval Europe. The fourteenth century also saw an increase in both civil wars and wars between states. The Holy Roman Empire saw nearly a decade of civil war (1314 – 1326) between rival emperors and, because of the close relations of their kings, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway experienced frequent combinations of civil and interstate war until the 1397 Union of Kalmar brought the three together under one crown.

The longest-running of these wars was between England and France, the so-called Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453). In 1328, the French king Charles IV died without a direct heir. England’s king, Edward III (r. 1327 – 1377), related to the French royal family, claimed to be rightful heir to the crown of France. The resulting war would last over a century, although it was broken by frequent, lengthy truces. Although France had many more people than England, the kingdom of England was often able to defeat it. The main reason was that the English kings made increasing use of trained, disciplined infantry armies. Horses are effective in battle against raiders or other horsemen. A horse, however, is less effective when an infantry formation is able to present a solid front against the horses and use missile weapons on those horses before they can close with their enemy. Using a combination of archers and infantry, the English were able to inflict severe defeats on the French at both Crécy (26 August 1346) and Poitiers (19 September 1356).

England’s King Edward III Surveying the Dead after the Battle of Crécy | Note that by the fourteenth century, a knight’s armor was a combination of chain mail and metal plates.

Author: Virgil Master (illuminator)

The war was particularly hard on the civilians of the French countryside: the method of waging war of a pre-modern army often involved invading enemy territory and burning crops, looting villages, and murdering civilians. French peasants, who had suffered first from the Plague and then from war, rose in rebellion in 1358, but this rebellion was ruthlessly crushed, with the peasants slaughtered and leaders brutally executed.

The Hundred Years’ War would spill over into Spain, which itself was suffering from a vicious war between Castile and Aragon that eventually caused a Castilian civil war, with both French and English intervening.

The wars of the fourteenth and especially fifteenth century saw not only an increasing use of trained, professional armies, but also the employment of gunpowder weapons, invented in Song China and first seen in Europe in the early 1300s. At first, firearms were limited to heavy, cumbersome artillery pieces that were deployed from fixed points. Their use on the battlefield and in sieges was limited, although by the fifteenth century, cannons could blast open the gates of most existing fortifications. By the mid-1400s, the harquebus, a man-transportable rearm, appeared on the battle field in Spain, bringing gunpowder to the individual infantryman.

Southeastern Europe in the Late Middle Ages

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the restored Byzantine Empire was unable to fully re-establish itself even as a regional power in the Aegean. The warring Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice controlled many of the best ports of the Aegean and Black Sea, and a new Turkic power, that of the Ottomans, was rising in Central Anatolia in the aftermath of the Mongol destruction of the Saljuq sultanate. Emperor Andronikos II (r. 1282 – 1328) hired a company of mercenaries from the region of Spain called Catalonia, but this Catalan Company, although it won some victories against the Turks, eventually turned on its employer and established a state in Athens that would last for seventy years. With the failure of the Catalan Company to shore up Byzantine defenses in Anatolia, by 1331, nearly all Byzantine territory in Asia Minor had fallen under Turkish rule shortly thereafter, the nascent Ottoman Empire began expanding into southeastern Europe.

The disintegration of the Byzantine state did allow for the fourteenth-century flourishing of Serbian and Bulgarian Empires, whose cultures emerged as a melding of both Greek and Slavic elements to create a unique synthesis of cultures and institutions. In the end, though, these Empires would eventually be overwhelmed by the Turks, with the Ottomans conquering Serbia between 1389 and 1459 and Bulgaria in 1396. But even as the Byzantine state crumbled, intellectual activity flourished in the Orthodox Church. Greek intellectuals of the fourteenth century sought to engage with the thought of Aquinas and experiment with new forms of prayer and meditation.

Late Medieval Serbian Monastery

In the end, Ottoman power swept away all resistance, Bulgar, Serbian, and Byzantine, and in 1453, the Turkish army conquered Constantinople. After two thousand years, the last remnant of the Roman Empire was gone. In the meantime, though, the fall of the Byzantine Empire would also be one factor eventually contributing to Europe’s Renaissance.

The Late Medieval Papacy

In 1250, the papacy looked like it was at its high point. After nearly two centuries of struggle, the popes had definitively broken the power of the Holy Roman Empire. Within less than a century, however, the power and prestige of the papacy would be heavily damaged.

The first major blow came when Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294 – 1303) clashed with King Philip IV (r. 1285 – 1314) of France. When King Philip attempted to tax French clergy, Pope Boniface resisted strongly, claiming not only that a king had no right to tax any clergy, but also that all earthly authority was subordinate to the authority of the popes, who were rightful lords of the earth. This conflict ended when King Philip had a gang of mercenaries kidnap and abuse the pope. Even though Boniface himself escaped, he died of the shock shortly thereafter.

In order to avoid further antagonizing the French crown, the College of Cardinals (those churchmen in Rome who elect the pope) elected Clement V (r. 1305 – 1314), a Frenchman, to succeed him. Clement, however, never took up residence in Rome. In 1309, he settled the papal court in Avignon, a city owned by the papacy which sat just across the border of the Kingdom of France.

The Kidnapping of Pope Boniface VIII

To many observers at the time, it looked as though the papacy had been relocated to France under the thumb of the French monarchy.

The Italian poet Petrarch referred to the period when the papacy resided at Avignon as the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. He was referring metaphorically to the account in the Old Testament (also referred to as the Hebrew Bible) in which the people of Judaea had been held captive in the city of Babylon. Petrarch was insinuating that God’s community was now held captive in a foreign land rather than occupying Rome, the city of St. Peter and thirteen subsequent centuries of popes.

The crisis would only grow worse. In 1377, Pope Gregory XI (r. 1370 – 1378) moved the papal court back to Rome. At his death, the cardinals, pressured by an angry Roman mob, elected Urban VI, an Italian. Urban, however, soon proved to be erratic and abusive, so many cardinals ed Rome to Avignon, where they elected another pope. The result was that the Catholic Christian world now had two popes, each one claiming to be the rightful representative of Jesus Christ on earth. This period, lasting from 1378 to 1417, is known as the Great Schism it resulted in a divided church, with different bishops following different popes.

The Papal Palace at Avignon

License: © Jean-Marc Rosier. Used with permission.

A 1409 council convened to depose both popes and appoint a single pope instead resulted in three popes, as neither Rome nor the Avignon papacy recognized this new pope. In the end, although the con ict was resolved with the Council of Constance (1415 – 1417) deposing all three popes and selecting a new one, the prestige of the papacy had been tarnished. The popes spent much of the later fifteenth century attempting to rebuild the Church’s authority and prestige, although whether they would fully succeed remained to be seen.

The European Renaissance

No intellectual movement can be traced to a single cause. An idea has many parents and even more children. But if we look to the Mediterranean world of the fourteenth century, we can nd at least a few causes of an intellectual and cultural movement historians generally call the Italian Renaissance. Renaissance comes from the French word for rebirth. It was an intellectual movement whose ideals were to return to the art, literature, and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Northern Italy was well-suited to allow for the emergence of the Renaissance. Thanks to Mediterranean trade, it was one of the wealthiest and most urbanized regions of Western Europe. It was also politically fragmented so that the princes of its many courts all offered sponsorship to artists and intellectuals. Moreover Italy’s education system had focused more on the literature of Ancient Rome than the rest of Europe, whose scholastic curriculum often focused on logic and philosophy.

In this environment, the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch’s (1307 – 1374) writings prompted a greater interest in the literature of Ancient Rome. This focus on studying literature rather than philosophy and theology is often known as humanism, since poetry and literature were called humanistic studies in medieval schools. Another key element of the humanistic movement was that its proponents believed in studying the ancient texts themselves rather than the centuries of commentaries that had grown up around these texts. These values of returning to the original texts shorn of their commentaries also led to an increase in the study of how the writers of ancient Rome had used the Latin language and even of how Latin style had altered during different times in the Roman Empire’s history.

Originally, humanistic scholars had focused on the study of Latin. But other circumstances soon brought about a greater emphasis on the study of Greek. As the Byzantine Empire crumbled before the Ottoman Turks, many Greek-speaking refugees fleeing the Aegean area settled in Italy, particularly in the city-state of Florence. These refugees brought Greek books with them and founded schools for the study of Greek. In Western Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century, the study of Greek had declined.

As a result, most readers had known of the literature of Ancient Greece, but they had usually only known it in Latin summaries. By the twelfth century, Western Europeans had read the philosophy of Aristotle and the science of Ptolemy, but usually they knew these philosophers only in translations—which had often been translated from Greek to Arabic to Latin. So a return to the study of Greek meant that scholars were now reading Greek literature in its original language. Manuel Chrysoloras (c. 1350 – 1415) established a school for the study of Greek in Florence. Western Europeans now had direct access to most of the writings of Plato and Homer for the first time in centuries. This interest in the culture of the ancient world also led to an interest in the art and architecture of Greece and Rome. Churches, such as Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence (built between 1420 and 1436), sprang up in imitation of the domed temples (and churches) of ancient Rome, while sculptors such as Donatello (1386 – 1466) produced naturalistic sculptures the like of which had not been seen in more than a thousand years.

This intellectual movement was not simply an a air of scholars and artists. Indeed, its impacts would be far-reaching throughout Western Europe. The children of princes and wealthy merchants gradually came to be educated along humanistic lines, and the fashion for a humanistic education would eventually spread from Italy to the elites of all Western Europe.

Humanism’s political impacts would be broad ranging as well. Since the eighth century, the popes had relied on the text of the Donation of Constantine in their struggles with the Holy Roman Empire and to demonstrate their right to rule as earthly princes as well as to spiritually direct the Church. In 1440, the humanist scholar Lorenzo Valla (1407 – 1457) analyzed the Donation of Constantine—and showed definitively that it was a forgery. Its Latin writing style was most certainly not the Latin of fourth-century Rome. Valla had shown that one of the foundational documents by which the papacy claimed legitimacy as an earthly power was a fraud.

Even the ideals of how a ruler should govern came under the influence of Renaissance humanism. In his analysis of the historical writings of Ancient Rome, the humanist Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) argued that the circumstances of history show that a prince should not necessarily attempt to rule virtuously, but instead should ruthlessly set aside ethics and morality in order to accomplish the goals of the state. One should note that in many ways rulers already behaved this way, but Machiavelli gave an intellectual justification for doing so.

And, of course, an intense study of the language of ancient texts would lead to an intense study of the ancient text that was most important for Western Europe of the later Middle Ages: the Bible. Humanists such as the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1469 – 1536) used the tools of linguistic investigation to analyze the Greek text of the New Testament. Other scholars also began looking at the Bible not with the intellectual tools of logic and philosophy, but with linguistic analysis. They began to look at such a text as it had been written, and not at the intervening fourteen centuries of commentary.

European States in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

As Europe transitioned into the fifteenth century, two of Europe’s most organized states remained locked in destructive warfare. England’s king Henry V (r. 1413 – 1422) came close to conquering all of France, aided largely by the fact that France itself was riven by a civil war between two powerful houses of nobles, the Armagnacs and Burgundians. Eventually, however, when France’s rival houses ended their differences, the unified nation was able to expel English troops, using trained and disciplined infantry funded by a centralized apparatus of taxation. The Hundred Years’ War thus ended in 1453. England’s loss in France was followed by a civil war (usually known as the Wars of the Roses because the rival factions used a red and a white rose, respectively, as their emblems) that lasted from 1455 to 1485.

In Northern Italy, at the same time as the brilliant artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance, the city-states of Italy were locked in near-continual warfare until the 1454 Treaty of Lodi brought almost half a century of peace to the Italian peninsula. That peace would come to an end, however, in 1494, when King Charles VIII of France (r. 1483 – 1498) turned the power of the newly consolidated French state to an invasion of Italy. In the wars that followed, the cannons used by the French army were able to effortlessly batter down the Italian cities’ and castles’ medieval walls. A new era of warfare was beginning.

Iberia and the Atlantic: New Worlds

To the southwest of Europe, events in Iberia would eventually bring about several changes that would usher in the end of Europe’s Middle Ages and the beginnings of modern times.

Portugal, Castile, and Aragon were steeped in the traditions of the Reconquista, of expanding the dominion of the Christian world by force of arms. The Reconquista had established a habit in the Iberian kingdoms of conquering Muslims lands and reducing their Muslim and Jewish inhabitants to subordinate status (or in some cases to outright slavery). By the fifteenth century, these kingdoms had nearly completed the Reconquista. As stated earlier, only Granada remained under Muslim rule.

Meanwhile, over the fourteenth century, both Venice and the Ottoman Empire had forced the Italian city-state of Genoa out of the Eastern Mediterranean, so its sailors and ship owners turned their focus to the western half of the Mediterranean Sea. Constantly on the lookout for new markets, Genoese merchants already knew from trade with the Islamic Maghreb that West Africa was a source of gold. In 1324, Mansa Musa’s hajj to Mecca (see chapter ten) had put so much gold into circulation that the price of gold fell by twenty-five percent in the Mediterranean market. If the Muslim rulers of Morocco controlled the overland routes by which gold traveled from Mali to the Mediterranean, then perhaps certain sailors could bypass the overland route by sailing into the Atlantic and around the Sahara and arrive at the source of Africa’s gold.

License: © Ian Mladjov. Used with permission.

By 1300, the combination of the compass, a map called the portolan (a map that could accurately represent coastlines), and ships that by operating on sails rather than oars needed fewer people meant that European navigators could begin venturing into open waters of the Atlantic that the Arabs and Ancient Romans had largely avoided.

A Portolan Map of Europe and Africa from 1375 CE | Note the depiction of Mansa Musa holding a gold nugget on the bottom of the map and the Azores and Canaries on the bottom left

Genoese merchants began tentatively sailing into the Atlantic. In the early 1300s, they were regularly visiting the Canary Islands. These merchants (and others from Western Europe) increasingly served in the employ of Iberian kings. In 1404, King Henry III of Castile (r. 1390 – 1406) began Spanish efforts to conquer the Canaries and convert their indigenous peoples to Christianity. Over the next century, the Spanish would conquer and settle the islands, driven by the Reconquista ideal of the military spread of the Christian faith. In the mid-fifteenth century, the kingdom of Portugal began the conquest and colonization of the Azores, nearly 700 miles to the southwest of Iberia in the Atlantic.

The Mamluk Sultanate

The year was 1249, and Louis IX’s seventh crusade had just gotten underway when as-Salih, the last Ayyubid ruler, took to his deathbed. Under the eminent threat of a Crusader invasion, as-Salih’s wife, Shajar al-Durr, a Turkish concubine, agreed to take over the reins of government until her son, Turanshah, could assert himself. But he had never truly gained the trust of his father, and a cabal of mamluks loyal to as-Salih murdered Turanshah. They then raised Shajar al-Durr to the throne. Her rule resulted in much controversy and su ered from many internal problems. According to tradition, she sought recognition as sultana from the figurehead ‘Abbasid Caliph, but he refused to pay homage to her. The mamluks responded by installing into power one of their own, a certain Aybak. He married Shajar al-Durr, and she abdicated the throne. The most powerful mamluk in Egypt, Aybak placated some of the opposition to Shajar al-Durr’s rule and also dealt with Louis IX’s crusade to Egypt. While mamluks did not possess a tribal ‘asabiyah in the traditional sense, they did constitute a proud caste of elite warriors who had an exaggerated sense of group solidarity. As a social group, their former status as slaves provided them with enough group cohesion to overthrow the Ayyubids.

Shajar al-Durr remained unsatisfied in her new role, however. In fact, she saw herself as another Cleopatra and wanted to rule in her own right. She also feared the consequences of Aybak’s potential marriage alliance with the daughter of the Ayyubid Emir of Mosul. In 1257, Shajar al-Durr had Aybak strangled and claimed that he had died a natural death. However, Qutuz, a leading mamluk, did not believe her story. Under duress, her servants confessed to the murder. Qutuz arrested Shajar al-Durr and imprisoned her in the Red Tower. Not long thereafter, Aybak’s fteen year old son, al-Mansur ‘Ali, had Shajar al-Durr stripped and beaten to death. He reigned as sultan for two years until Qutuz deposed him, as he thought the sultanate needed a strong and capable ruler to deal with the looming Mongol threat.

Map of the Mamluk Sultanate, 1317 CE

The Mamluk Sultanate appeared to be on a collision course with Hulagu’s Ilkhanate, one of Mongol Empire’s four khanates, whose forces were advancing through the Mamluk-held Levant. Then in the summer of 1260, the Great Khan Möngke died and Hulagu returned home with the bulk of his forces to participate in the required khuriltai, or Mongol assembly, perhaps expecting to be elected the next Great Khan. Hulagu left his general Kitbuqa behind with a smaller army to fight the Mamluks. In July of that year, a confrontation took place at Ayn Jalut, near Lake Tiberias. During the ensuing battle, the Mamluk General Baybars drew out the Mongols with a feigned retreat. Hiding behind a hill, Aybak’s mamluk heavy cavalrymen ambushed the unsuspecting Mongols and defeated them in close combat, securing a rare victory over the Mongols. The Mamluks captured and executed Kitbuqa, and forced the remnants of the Mongol forces to retreat.

Just days after their signal victory over the Mongols, Baybars (1260 – 1277) murdered Qutuz, continuing a pattern of rule in which only the strongest Mamluk rulers could survive. Too clever to be deposed, Baybars developed a strong military oligarchy that rested on the iqta‘ system, a centralized system of land tenure based on money that, by the thirteenth century, had been perfected in Egypt. Under the iqta‘ system, individual mamluks received a percentage of profit from the sale of crops for their upkeep. Baybars owned all of the land, so mamluks only received the right to collect taxes from the land, a right akin to usufruct in feudal Europe.

Baybars relocated the ‘Abbasid Caliph from Baghdad to Cairo in order to present a veneer of legitimacy to mamluk rule. Since the Ptolemys, Egypt had been ruled by foreigners. In fact, the only impact native-born Egyptians had was in religion. The Mamluk Sultanate practiced Sunni Islam and emphasized Sufism. Sufis believed that traditional, orthodox Islam lacked compassion, and their Sufism helped conversion efforts because of its emphasis on love and making a closer connection to God, as opposed to a strict adherence to the dictates of the Quran. Sufis desired something more from religion and emphasized integrating the reality of God into man. Sufis thought that they could achieve a union with God based on love, a notion that contrasted sharply with the general perception of orthodox Islam which denied believers a direct experience to God because Muhammad represented the Seal of the Prophets and all understanding of God came through the prophet. They set up new religious schools to pass on this Sufism. These madrasa consisted of a complex, with a mosque, school, hospital, and water supply for each community.

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries witnessed the decline of the Mamluk Empire. Several internal and external factors help explain their decline. Domestically, the Black Death ravaged Egypt for years. In fact, it continued in North Africa longer than it did in Europe. This plague caused economic disruption in the sultanate. With fewer people available, labor, or human capital, became much more expensive. Further, plague-related inflation destabilized the economy, as the value of goods and services also rose. The mamluks responded to inflationary pressures by increasing taxes, but their revenue from those taxes actually decreased. This decrease made it difficult for the mamluks to maintain their irrigation networks and, without irrigation, agricultural productivity decreased.

Externally, plague was not the only cause of inflation. Columbus’s discovery of the New World began a process in which gold began ltering through Europe and into North Africa. Egypt’s weak economy could not absorb this massive in ux of money, thus causing more inflation. New trade routes offered Europeans direct sea routes to Asia. No longer was Egypt the middleman for long-distance trade between Europe and Asia, thereby losing out on valuable revenue from tariffs. The profits from commerce transferred to the ascending states of Portugal and Spain. The decline of the Mamluks set the stage for the rise of the Ottomans.

Timur and Central Asia

It was under Timur (1370 – 1405) that Central Asia moved to the fore of world events. He attempted to soothe the persistent differences that existed between the steppe and sedentary societies and actually developed a political arrangement that could harness the best attributes of each society, without the dangerous side effect of communal violence associated with combining the two civilizations. He also constructed a new political and military machine that was deeply ingrained in the political background of the Chagatai Khanate, even while he acknowledged that Inju satisfied neither the nomad nor the settled society and eliminated the practice. Astutely recognizing that serious conflict existed between these two incongruent cultures under his control, Timur provided a framework for both societies to live in harmony.

Born in 1336 near Kesh in modern day Uzbekistan, Timur came out of Central Asia and was a product of the Turko-Mongol fusion. He descended from an aristocratic Mongol clan, but he was raised as a Muslim and spoke a Turkic language. Although Timur himself was a native to Transoxiana, he could not assert Genghis-Khanid legitimacy. Unable to trace his ancestry to Genghis Khan, he could not take the title of khan in his ow right. Timur understood that because he did not have the correct pedigree, he would have to earn it. His solution was to take the title of emir, meaning commander, and rule through a Chagatayid puppet khan acting as a figurehead. The emir also married into the family of Genghis Khan. While the law of descent was not intended to work this way, Timur changed it to accommodate his children, who would be able to claim Genghis-Khanid legitimacy.

To strengthen the security of his position as emir, he constructed a system of support that ordered his political connections in a series of concentric rings. In his primary circle resided his family and close allies.

Map of the Timurid Empire, 1400 CE

Author: User “Gabagool” Source: Wikimedia Commons License: CC BY-SA 3.0

The second ring consisted of loyal tribes and Timur’s own Barlas Clan, from which he traced his lineage. The third circle was made up of those peoples Timur had defeated on the battle eld the second and third rings balanced one another. The outermost bands included Timur’s hereditary professional administrators and bureaucrats, soldiers from the plains serving in his cavalry units, and finally the Persian urban and agricultural populations, from which he recruited his infantry and siege units.

Like many transitional figures in history, such as Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire, Timur bridged the medieval and modern worlds. He attempted to imitate Genghis Khan’s success in the field and designed a novel military machine that was well adapted to the environment in which he lived. His military was the product of a Turko-Mongol fusion, employing Turkic siege techniques and the Mongol cavalry. Unlike Genghis Khan, however, Timur increasingly combined his cavalry, siege, and infantry units, placing his heavy cavalry at the center of formations. His army also utilized an early form of artillery. He ventured to monopolize the market on gunpowder technology so that other powers could not benefit from it.

Timur Facial Reconstruction | Forensic Facial Reconstruction by M. Gerasimov, 1941

Timur was determined to keep his volatile army occupied, so they would not be a burden to the sedentary population in his realm. It was in this context that he developed a formula for success that promoted peace at home and war abroad, a policy that best served the interests of the merchants and townspeople. He externalized the violence of the steppe and destroyed all of the other trade routes that bypassed his territory. Timur attempted to reactivate and dominate the Silk Road and diverted trade to his lands in order to help rebuild the cities that had been damaged from years of Mongol and nomad rule. He did not aim at permanent occupation or the creation of new states he just wanted to devastate, even going so far as to campaign against the Golden Horde, Delhi Sultanate, and the Ottoman Empire, all in an effort to redirect trade in his direction.

Timur began his military campaigns at- tempting to secure the back door of the steppe. During this period, which lasted from 1370 to 1385, he conquered and subdued Mogholistan to the northeast, with the aim of securing the core central land route of the Silk Road. (The Chagatai Khanate had already been divided into two parts by the 1340s, Transoxania in the west, and Mogholistan in the east.) Then he engaged the Golden Horde between 1385 and 1395. The Golden Horde had been the master of the northern trade route that bypassed Timur’s territory. In order to eliminate this option, he went to war against them in order to divert trade to toward his lands. Timur showed his strategic genius in these expeditions. He defeated a steppe power on the steppe. He put the pieces of his army together in such a way so that he could take his enemies on in their arena and on their terms. In this manner, Timur crushed Tokhtamysh, leader of the Golden Horde, in 1395. During the course of this campaign, Timur destroyed their principle trade cities of Astrakhan and Sarai. An interesting byproduct of Timur’s campaign against the Golden Horde was that it precipitated the rise of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. He had weakened the Golden Horde to such an extent that it made it possible for Moscow to throw off the Mongol yoke.

Timur raided into India from 1398 to 1399 and dealt a blow to the southern sea route that connected the Occident to the Orient. This expedition was primarily for looting, since he never intended to conquer and annex the territory of Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq, the last member of the Tughluq Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. During this campaign, Timur’s tactical brilliance was on full display he had an uncanny ability to adapt to any martial environment that he confronted. For instance, when threatened with a cavalry of war elephants, Timur responded by unleashing a pack of camels laden with incendiary material to charge the enemy lines. Shrieking dromedaries with their backs ablaze incited utter pandemonium among Nasir-ud-Din’s cavalry of elephants, who rampaged through the sultan’s own lines. Timur easily routed the sultan’s forces. When faced with the townspeople of Delhi rising up against their aggressors, Timur brutally sacked the capital of the sultanate and justified the violence in religious terms. His was a Muslim victory over the Hindu unbelievers of India.

In Timur’s final period of conquest, which lasted from 1400 to 1404, he campaigned against the Islamic far west, directing his army against the Ottomans. Actually, Timur had initially attempted to avoid conflict with the Ottomans, whose forces had earned an impressive reputation on the battlefield. In fact, Timur had even tried to negotiate with Bayezid I, the Ottoman Sultan, offering him part of Golden Horde’s territory west of Dnieper River. But these two expansionist realms inevitably came into con ict in eastern Anatolia. The conflict between the two empires began as the Ottomans expanded to the east and took control of some Turkmen tribes in eastern Anatolia already under the protection of Timur. The emir responded by taking some other Turkmen tribes under Ottoman suzerainty. Offensive missives replete with insulting incriminations ensued. Timur bided his time, waiting for the perfect moment to attack the Ottomans. In 1402, he launched a devastating attack into the heart of Anatolia, as the Ottomans were preoccupied with campaigning against the Hungarians. During the Battle of Ankara in 1402, Timur managed to convince many of the Ottoman forces to defect to his side. He captured the Ottoman sultan, who died in captivity three months later. Timur had not attempted to conquer the Ottomans he just wanted to punish them for their unwillingness to cooperate. His Levantine expedition also seems to have been designed to weaken the western terminus of the Silk Road in Aleppo, Syria.

Timur died in 1405 while on a campaign against the Ming Dynasty. He had built an empire that spanned the breadth of Central Asia. Unlike Genghis Khan, whose empire continued to expand after his death, the sons of Timur and their followers squabbled over succession, leading to a series of internecine battles. Members of the Timurid Dynasty competed among themselves, with commanders switching loyalties. The empire consequently fragmented. The successors of Timur could not manage the difficulties of governing an empire, and it withered away quickly. The political situation resembled that which Chagatayids had to contend with, the steppe military that had been redirected, but with Timur’s death, they returned. A number of Timurid rulers followed a weak state emerged from all this strife.

Timur certainly committed what we would describe today as war crimes there definitely was an element of terrorism to his campaigns. In fact, as an admirer of architecture, he is known to have constructed pyramids of human skulls. Extant accounts describe him slaughtering 100,000 Indian prisoners following the Delhi uprising. But not all destruction was the same and there was a definite difference between that of Genghis Khan and Timur. The emir’s annihilation of the region was not meant to serve a utilitarian purpose so much as to inflict suffering. Genghis Khan’s used terror as a method to protect his troops, whereas Timur engaged in terror and destruction for pleasure.

A product of the Turko-Mongolian fusion, Timur had been the first to reunite the eastern and western parts of the Chagatai ulus. His empire represents the construction of the political boundaries passed down to posterity the maintenance of this space would de ne boundaries of modern day Central Asia up to the twentieth century. Under Timur we see growing political and cultural distinctions between Iran, Central Asia proper, and India begin to cement. In this context, we see a split taking place on the steppe that will lead to a differentiation of the Uzbeks and Kazaks. By the late fourteenth century, the tribes on the steppe to the north will become known to Muslim writers as Kazaks, whereas the tribes to the south will be increasingly referred to as Uzbeks, a differentiation that has continued to persist and helped to delimit modern borders.

Works Consulted and Further Reading

Fernández-Armesto, Felipe. Before Columbus: Exploration and Colonization from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 1229 – 1492. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Jensen, De Lamar. Renaissance Europe: Age of Recovery and Reconciliation. 2 nd ed. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1992.]

The Mamluk Sultanate

Irwin, Robert. The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk Sultanate, 1250-1382. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.

The Ottoman Empire Finkel, Caroline. Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300–1923 . New York: Basic Books, 2005 Central Asia Marozzi, Justin, Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World , London: HarperCollins, 2004.

Links to Primary Sources

From Berger, Eugene Israel, George Miller, Charlotte Parkinson, Brian Reeves, Andrew and Williams, Nadejda, “World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500″ (2016). History Open Textbooks. Book 2.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Mamluk Project: A Historical Overview

Armies of the middle east and central Asia made an undeniable impact on dynasties in areas such as North Africa, India, and the later period Ottoman Empire. From arms, armor, organization , religion and cultural customs, armies of the middle east and central Asia have created subsequent military classes both fascinating and misunderstood by the general public. Images and fantasies of desert born horseback archers, firing volleys of arrows with large crescent shaped swords are what come to mind when thinking of these people. But the reality of the population that made up these units is far more complex than some of the orientalist ideas that have survived into the 21st century. One of the most culturally diverse, militarily sound, and politically influential dynasties to be born from North Africa’s exposure to the aforementioned militaries was that of the Mamluk Dynasty of Egypt and Syria. It is with this project that the Historical African Martial Arts Association and its affiliates look to translate and interpret to the public, “ Kitab al-makhzun jami al-funun” (The Treasure that Combines All Arts). This work is a 15th century treatise that explains many aspects of the martial arts and tactics used by 15th century Egypt’s most elite and prized soldiers, the Mamluks.

mamluk vs. Mamluks: Defining the Warrior Class and Dynasty

The term Mamluk, to many has become synonymous with that of being a conscripted or slave soldier. However, the term “slave soldier” presents a plethora of misconceptions and western ideas and images of slavery, i.e. chattel slavery. When translated however , the word simply means “Property”, and the life of those conscripted to service did not carry the same burdens and harshness as what many Africans were subject to in the Americas and Europe. Infact, the lives of these warriors were in ways favorable to those of many free born men in Europe, and although the most famed mamluks may be of a single dynasty in Egypt, the caste was a common one throughout many areas of the middle-east, central Asia, India, and Persia. So how was it that large sprawling Islamic Empires were able to conscript military elite, how were mamluks chosen, and why were these people chosen? Broadly speaking, these recruits were chosen due to several factors that are impossible to separate and would be an injustice to do so to the complicated fabric that made up the very being of conscripts used throughout several dynasties, as well as the Mamluk dynasty of Egypt and the Levant.

Islamic dynasties were not monolithic, unified entities that all functioned the same way. In fact, many dynasties existed at the same time and worked opposite on another to gain territory and influence. With the gain of territories came the need of man-power to govern them, secure them, and if needed, expand them. This became difficult as numbers of freeborn troops such as the halqa of North Africa and Arabia began to be spread too thin as Empires increased. Additionally, many freeborn troops began to develop allegiances to individual unit leaders or tribal chieftains over that of a national ruler, sultans, etc. The answer to this issue came in the form of conscription. Starting in the 10th century various dynasties, such as the Samanids began to collect soldiers, both children and adults alike. These troops were not only purchased, but often collected as tribute or given in exchange for the protection against other tribes or military forces that only the large armies of Islamic empires could counter.

The specific group of mamluks beings studied in relation to this treatise are those who’s command center was situated in Egypt by the early 13th century. Their influence began to be shown under the rule of the Ayyubids . Not yet the dynasty that came to power, these conscripted warriors were not yet in positions of high power, although one did manage to rise to the position of Sultan due to the high influence and respect he began to command. This in turn, began to lead to concern amongst Ayyubid rulers. Nonetheless, mamluks continued to dominate militarily in Egypt during some of the most important battles of the Crusades, especially while under the command of Saladin. In the early days of conscription, the favored people were those of Turkic origin, in later days those of southern Slavic origin became favorable. In both cases, they were favored over other ethnic groups for three major reasons geography, religion, and culture. Both the Turkic and Slavic people were from regions far enough away from the capitol that loyalties to local rulers were unlikely to be preexisting, especially from a young age. Secondly, many of these people, especially during early periods of conscription were of pagan origin, so the issue of conscripting them was not forbidden by the Quran. Finally, many of these people were of nomadic origin, and were renowned for their natural inclination at mounted archery and group warfare, a style shared by that of Arab tradition.

Now begins where close detail must be paid attention to as the class of mamluks became the Mamluk Dynasty. This came at an incredibly opportunistic moment when Egypt had repelled on of its most serious threats, King Louis IX. After the French King’s siege of Damietta in 1249 (the seventh crusade), Egypt was left without a Sultan as as-Silah Ayyub passed away from infection after his leg was amputated in order to treat an abscess. Not trusting his heir, as-Silah handed control over to his widow Shajar al-Durr before his death. In quite the amazing show of power, the female commanded mamluks marched on Damietta and forced a French retreat, thus resulting in the capture and subsequent ransom of King Louis IX. Ultimately, Shajar married the mamluk commander Aybak who was shortly assassinated by the Vicegerent Qutuz who was also a mamluk. After this assassination Qutuz officially placed himself on the throne, ushering in the beginning of the Bahri dynasty and the Mamluk Sultanate. It was from this point onward, that only those of mamluk origin or descent could reign as Sultan of Egypt.

The treatise we are analyzing however was written during the reign of a later dynasty known as the Burji dynasty, when soldiers of Slavic and Caucuses origins began to fill the ranks of the core. Nonetheless the treatise highlights the military and martial pinnacle of everything the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt had accomplished, and what made them so successful on the battlefield. Since the founding of the Sultanate, the Mamluks had expelled the crusaders from the Levant, halted the Mongol invasion of Europe and maintained an Empire across two continents. From horsemanship, mounted archery, swordsmanship and a variety of other martial disciplines, we hope to uncover just how these men trained, and fought so that in order to paint a more complete picture of the complex lives of the mamluks.

Watch the video: Founding of the Mamluks in Egypt (December 2022).

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