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(măm`əlo͞ok) [Arab.,=slaves], a warrior caste dominant in Egypt and influential in the Middle East for over 700 years. Islamic rulers created this warrior caste by collecting non-Muslim slave boys and training them as cavalry soldiers especially loyal to their owner and each other. They converted to Islam in the course of their training.

Mamluk Rule

The Mamluks were first used in Muslim armies in Baghdad by the Abbasid caliphs in the 9th cent. and quickly spread throughout the Muslim world. They served the Ayyubid sultans from the 12th cent. onward and grew powerful enough to challenge the existence of the rulers who were theoretically their masters. Aybak, the first Mamluk to actually rule, persuaded (1250) the mother of the last Ayyubid sultan to marry him after she had murdered her son. For more than 250 years thereafter, Egypt and Syria were ruled by Mamluk sultans supported by a caste of warrior slaves, from which the sultans were chosen. The Mamluks took advantage of their power to become the principal landholders in Egypt.

The Mamluk sultans are usually divided into two dynasties, the Bahris (1250–1382), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burjis (1382–1517), chiefly Circassians who were chosen from the garrison of Cairo. The Bahri sultans were usually selected from a few chief families, but during Burji times there was scant respect for hereditary principle in the selection of rulers. Neither dynasty was able to exercise more than a limited power over the turbulent Mamluk soldiers. The sultans reigned, on the average, less than seven years and usually met violent ends. In spite of the dangers that threatened the sultans at home, they usually conducted a vigorous foreign policy. They defeated the last of the Crusaders and repulsed the Mongol invasion of Syria. At times they held all Palestine and Syria and the holy places of Arabia.

One of the strongest Mamluk rulers, Baybars IBaybars I
, 1223–77, Mamluk sultan (1260–77) of Egypt and Syria. Once a Turkish slave, Baybars became a commander of the Ayyubid and then Mamluk armies. In 1260 he led Mamluk troops to victory against the Mongols at the Battle of Ayn Jalut.
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 (1260–77) defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut in Syria (1260), the first serious setback they had received. Baybars also installed a relative of the last Abbasid caliph of Baghdad as a Mamluk puppet caliph at Cairo. The long reign of al-Nasir from 1293 to 1340, although interrupted three times, was one of ostentation and luxury that helped to undermine the Bahri dynasty. The Burji period that followed was one of bloodshed and treachery. It was marked by war against TimurTimur
or Tamerlane
, c.1336–1405, Mongol conqueror, b. Kesh, near Samarkand. He is also called Timur Leng [Timur the lame]. He was the son of a tribal leader, and he claimed (apparently for the first time in 1370) to be a descendant of Jenghiz Khan.
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 and by the conquest (1424–26) of the Christian-held island of Cyprus.


Toward the end of the 15th cent. the Mamluks became involved in a war with the Ottoman Turks who captured Cairo in 1517. The Mamluks favored the cavalry and personal combat with sword and shield. They were no match for the Ottomans, who skillfully used artillery and their own slave infantry, the JanissariesJanissaries
[Turk.,=recruits], elite corps in the service of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). It was composed of war captives and Christian youths pressed into service; all the recruits were converted to Islam and trained under the strictest discipline.
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, to defeat the Mamluks. The Ottoman ruler, Selim ISelim I
(Selim the Grim) , 1467–1520, Ottoman sultan (1512–20). He ascended the throne of the Ottoman Empire by forcing the abdication of his father, Beyazid II, and by killing his brothers.
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, put an end to the Mamluk sultanate and established a small Ottoman garrison in Egypt. He did not, however, destroy the Mamluks as a class; they kept their lands, and Mamluk governors remained in control of the provinces and were even allowed to keep private armies.

In the 18th cent., when Ottoman power began to decline, the Mamluks were able to win back an increasing amount of self-rule. In 1769 one of their number, Ali Bey, even proclaimed himself sultan and independent of Constantinople. Although he fell in 1772, the Ottoman Turks still felt compelled to concede an ever greater measure of autonomy to the Mamluks and appointed a series of them as governors of Egypt. The Mamluks were defeated by Napoleon INapoleon I
, 1769–1821, emperor of the French, b. Ajaccio, Corsica, known as "the Little Corporal." Early Life

The son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte (or Buonaparte; see under Bonaparte, family), young Napoleon was sent (1779) to French military schools at
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 during his invasion of Egypt in 1798, but their power as a class was ended only in 1811 by Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali,
1769?–1849, pasha of Egypt after 1805. He was a common soldier who rose to leadership by his military skill and political acumen. In 1799 he commanded a Turkish army in an unsuccessful attempt to drive Napoleon from Egypt.
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See studies by Sir William Muir (1896, repr. 1973), N. A. Ziadeh (1953), D. Ayalon (1956), and J. Glubb (1974).

References in periodicals archive ?
The first city to fire a Ramadan cannon was Cairo in the era of the Mamluks, specifically during the reign of Sultan Khashukdume (865/872 Hijri).
Predominantly of Turkic origin, the Mamluks were a caste of military slaves who from the mid 13th to early 16th century ruled over an empire that controlled Egypt, the Levant and what is now western Saudi Arabia: their first sultans were responsible for recapturing all territory in the area held by Christian crusaders.
The eighth chapter illustrates the establishment of the Mamluks who overthrew their former masters, the Ayyubids, and finally helped with the expulsion of the crusaders from the Levant once for all.
Among the topics are paid troops in the service of military orders during the 12th and 13th centuries, the early Mamluks and the end of the crusader presence in Syria 1250-91, maritime commerce in the Latin east as reflected in the import of ceramics, and aspects of crusade historiography and a new reading of the Nazareth sculpture.
Bauden, "The Recovery of Mamluk Chancery Documents in an Unsuspected Place," in The Mamluks in Egyptian and Syrian Politics and Society, ed.
1317), which condemns Christian slave traders, the Genoese in particular, and Segurano above all, for trafficking with the Mamluks.
This got the attention of the Mamluks from Egypt, who rode east across the Sinai and up the coast, violently repulsing Crusaders and Mongols alike until they ended up with Damascus, capturing and making it into a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate; the rest of Syria eventually followed.
He added that the fortress of Smar Jbeil resisted all guardianships and occupations from the Ottomans, Romans, Mamluks, Crusaders and Syrians.
The Mamluks seek breeding females to continue their bloodline since their women are sterile and Emily, along with other Earth women, has been chosen as a suitable host to the spawn that will result from the union of Mamluk and human.
Khanqa is a Persian word, which was the language of the Mamluks and the Egyptian elite at the time; it means a large mosque which includes a school for teaching Islamic jurisprudence and rooms for foreign students and teachers.
The story of Amir Taz mirrors the ambitions, rivalries, adventures and tragedies that mark the whole of Mamluk history (The Mamluks ruled Egypt from 1250 " 1517 AD).
The author describes how elite women gained power from their own wealth, from their control over others' property as administrators of religious endowments, and from their role in the kinship construction of the Mamluks.