Armour of Sultan Qaitbay

Sultan Qaytbay and his reign Edit

Al-Ashraf Qaytbay was a mamluk purchased by Sultan al-Ashraf Barsbay (ruled 1422–1438) and served under several Mamluk sultans, the last of whom – Sultan al-Zahir Timurbugha (ruled 1467-1468) – appointed him amir al-kabir, the commander-in-chief or highest position for an amir under the sultan. [1] : 246 [2] : 273 [3] : 135 Qaytbay succeeded Timurbugha as sultan at the age of 54, and ruled for nearly 29 years from 1468 to 1496, the second-longest reign of any Egyptian Mamluk sultan (after al-Nasir Muhammad). His period was marked by external threats and internal rebellions, notably from the rising Ottomans, which required costly military expeditions, as well as by financial problems. [1] : 246 [2] : 273 Nonetheless, he is also known as an effective ruler who brought long-term stability while he remained in power, and he is especially notable as one of the greatest patrons of architecture in the Mamluk period, and particularly of the Burji Mamluk period which was otherwise marked by Egypt's relative decline. [4] He is known for at least 85 structures which he built or restored in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Mecca, including 17 in Cairo, and this period is characterized by a refinement of the Mamluk architectural style which included greater decorative detail. [1] : 246

Construction and context Edit

Qaytbay's funerary complex was one of his earliest architectural commissions construction work for the complex began in 1470 and the mausoleum was completed in 1474. [2] : 275 The construction period was long by Mamluk standards however, Qaytbay's complex was on a large scale and constituted an entire royal quarter or walled suburb in the then-lightly urbanized desert cemetery area east of Cairo – now known as the Northern Cemetery. [2] : 275 This desert area was developed by the Burji Mamluks in the 15th century as the main southern Qarafa necropolis, not to mention the main city itself, became too full for major new monuments. Major construction projects like Qaytbay's may have been aimed in part at urbanizing this spacious area at the time, though eventually it became mostly an extension of the city's vast cemeteries. [5] Its religious and commercial establishments took advantage of a caravan route which ran through it from Cairo to Mecca in the east and to Syria in the north. [1] : 233 Qaytbay's large complex, like others built by Mamluk amirs and sultans, combined various charitable and commercial functions, which might have contributed to his family's financial future after his death. [1] : 246 [2]

Qaytbay's mausoleum and complex was also built close to the shrine of the Muslim mystic 'Abd Allah al-Manafi, over whose tomb Qaytbay built a new dome in 1474. [1] : 244 This may have influenced his decision to appoint a shaykh of the Maliki madhhab to his mosque, which was unusual for Mamluk institutions. [2] : 275

Overview Edit

Qaytbay's complex contained numerous buildings over a relatively vast area, enclosed by the same wall, of which one gate, Bab al-Gindi, still remains to the south of the mausoleum. [1] : 246 Many of the original structures which once faced each other on both sides of the existing street have vanished. [2] : 275 What remains today is the mosque, which is attached to the mausoleum of Qaytbay himself, as well as a maq'ad (loggia), a smaller mosque and mausoleum for Qaytbay's sons, a hod (drinking trough for animals), and a rab' (an apartment complex where tenants paid rent). At one point it was also described to have had large gardens. [2] : 275

The mosque/madrasa Edit

The mosque (originally a madrasa), along with the mausoleum of the sultan, forms the main building of the complex and is considered exceptional for its refined proportions and the subdued yet exquisite decorations. [1] : 244–246 [2] : 276 The mosque's entrance faces north and diverts the main road slightly eastwards around the walls of the mausoleum, possibly to enhance its visual effect. [2] : 276 The façade features ablaq stonework (alternating dark and light stone) and the entrance portal is enhanced by a high elaborate groin-vaulted recess with muqarnas squinches. The minaret stands above the entrance on the western side and is exquisitely carved in stone, divided into three stories with elaborately carved balconies. The eastern corner of the façade is occupied by a sabil (from which water could be dispensed to passers-by) on the ground floor and by a kuttab (school) on the top floor. The former is marked by large windows with iron grilles, while the later is marked by a loggia with open arches on two sides.

Inside, the vestibule features another ornate groin-vault ceiling and leads to the main sanctuary hall which follows a modified layout of the classic madrasa, with two large iwans on the qibla axis and two shallow or reduced iwans to the sides. [1] : 245 The hall is richly decorated in stone-carving, painted wooden ceilings and coloured windows. The mihrab is relatively modest but the wooden minbar is richly carved with geometric patterns and inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl. [6] The wooden lantern ceiling above the central space is notable for its carving and painted pattern but is a restoration work by the "Comité" and not the original. [2] : 276 The central floor also features elaborate polychrome patterned marble but is usually covered by carpets. [6]

View of the entrance façade of the mosque/madrasa, with the sabil on the lower left and the kuttab on the upper left above it


The Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria is considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It formulated an important part of the fortification system of Alexandria in the 15th century AD. [3] [4] [5]

Lighthouse of Alexandria Edit

The Citadel is situated at the entrance of the eastern harbour on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest, then several disasters occurred and the shape of the lighthouse was changed to some extent, but it still continued to function. Restoration began in the period of Ahmed Ibn Tulun (about 880 AD). During the 11th century an earthquake occurred, causing damage to the octagonal part. The bottom survived, but it could only serve as a watchtower, and a small mosque was built on the top. In the 14th century there was a very destructive earthquake and the whole building was completely destroyed.

15th-century fortifications Edit

About 1480 AD, the Circassian Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay fortified the place as part of his coastal defensive edifices against the Turks, who were threatening Egypt at that time. He built the fortress and placed a mosque inside it. The Citadel continued to function during most of the Mameluke period, the Ottoman period and the Modern period, but after the British bombardment of Alexandria in 1882, it was kept out of the spotlight. It became neglected until the 20th century, when it was restored several times by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The founder of the Citadel of Qaitbay is a Circassian Sultan named Al-Ashraf Abou Anasr Saif El-Din Qaitbay El-Jerkasy Al-Zahiry (1468–1496 AD) who was born about 1423 AD (826 AH). He was a Mamluke who had come to Egypt as a young man, less than 20 years old. Bought by Al-Ashraf Bersbay, he remained among his attendants until Al-Ashraf Bersbay died. Then the Sultan Jaqmaq bought Qaitbay, and later gave him his freedom. Qaitbay then went on to occupy various posts. He became the Chief of the Army (Atabec Al-Askar) during the rule of the Sultan Timurbugha. When the Sultan was dethroned, Qaitbay was appointed as a Sultan who was titled Almalek Al-Ashraf on Monday 26th Ragab, 872 AH (1468 AD). He was one of the most important and prominent Mameluke Sultans, ruling for about 29 years. He was a brave king, who tried to initiate a new era with the Ottomans by exchanging embassies and gifts. He was fond of travel and made many prominent journeys.

The edifice's mason Edit

Qaitbay was so fond of art and architecture that he created an important post among the administrative system of the state it was the Edifices Mason (Shady Al-Ama'er). He built many beneficial constructions in Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. In Egypt there are about 70 renovated edifices attributed to him, among them are Mosques, Madrasas, Agencies, Fountain houses (Sabils), Kuttabs, houses, military edifices like the Citadels in Alexandria and Rosetta (Nowadays the city of Rashid). These Citadels were built to protect the north of Egypt, mainly against the Ottomans, whose power was increasing in the Mediterranean.

Qagmas Al-Eshaqy, The Edifices Mason, was the architect of the Citadel. Before his arrival in Egypt he was a Mameluke of Djakmaq in Syria. During the rule of Qaitbay he became the edifices mason, and then the Viceroy of Alexandria. He was appointed governor of Syria (Damascus), built a Mosque outside the gate of Rashid (Bab Rashid) as well as a Cenotaph and a Khan. He also renovated the Mosque of El-Sawary outside the gate of Sadrah (Bab Sadrah).

Qagmas was intelligent and modest, as well as the overseer of many constructions during the time of Qaitbay. In 882 AH (1477 AD) the Sultan Qaitbay visited the site of the old lighthouse in Alexandria and ordered a fortress to be built on its foundations. The construction lasted about 2 years, and it is said that Qaitbay spent more than a hundred thousand gold dinars for the work on the Citadel.

Construction Edit

Ibn Ayas mentioned that building of this fort started in the month of Rabi Alawal 882 H. He said that the Sultan Qaitbay travelled to Alexandria, accompanied with some other Mameluke princes, to visit the site of the old lighthouse and during this visit he ordered the building of the Citadel.

In the month of Shaban 884 H, the Sultan Qaitbay travelled again to Alexandria when the construction was finished. He provided the fort with a brave legion of soldiers and various weapons. He also, as Ibn Ayas mentioned, dedicated several waqfs from which he financed the construction works as well as the salaries of the soldiers.

Throughout the Mameluke period, and due to its strategic location, the Citadel was well maintained by all the rulers who came after Qaitbay.

Strengthening of the garrison Edit

The Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri gave the Citadel special attention. He visited it several times and increased the strength of the garrison, providing it with various weapons and equipment. It included a large prison made for the princes and the state-men whom the Sultan kept away from his favour for some reason. In the episodes of the year 920 H, Qansuh Al-Ghouri travelled to Alexandria with other princes.

Approach of the Ottoman threat Edit

They went to the Citadel of Qaitbay where he watched some manoeuvres and military training on the defensive weapons of the Citadel of that era. When he felt the approach of the Ottoman threat, he issued a military decree to forbid weapons to be taken out of the Citadel, he even announced that the death penalty would be the punishment to those who try to steal anything from the Citadel, and he ordered the inscription of this decree on a marble slate fixed to the door leading the court. It says: b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful".

"A decree by the order of our master, the noble rank, King Al-Ashraf Abou El-Naser Qansoh El-Ghoury, May God eternalise his reign, that no body should take Makahel weapon, gun powder, tools, or any other thing from the noble tower in Alexandria: and any one of the tower party, whether Mameluke, Slaves or Zarad Kashia, who breaks this (decree) and leaves the tower with something will be hanged at the gate of the tower, deserving the curse of God." Dated Rabei Alawal 907 H.

After the Ottoman Turks had conquered Egypt, even they cared for this unique Citadel. They used it for shelter, as they had done with the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo and the Citadels of Damietta, Rosetta, Al Borollos and El-Arish. They kept it in good condition and stationed it with infantry, artillery, a company of drummers and trumpeters, masons and carpenters.

The Ottoman threat recedes Edit

As the Ottoman military became weak, the Citadel began to lose its military importance. In 1798 AD, during the French expedition of Egypt, it fell into the hands of the French troops, mainly because of the weakness of the Citadel garrison, and the power of the French modern weapons at that time. Inside, the French found some crusader weapons, which dated back to the campaign of Louis IX. These may have been spoils from the Battle of Al Mansurah.

19th-century renovation Edit

When Muhammad Ali Pasha became the ruler of Egypt in 1805, he renovated the old Citadel, restoring and repairing its outer ramparts, and he provided the stronghold with the most modern weapons of the period, particularly the littoral cannons. We can consider the reign of Mohammed Ali as being another golden era for the Citadel.

The Orabi revolt Edit

The Citadel retained the interest of Mohammed Ali's successors until the year 1882 when the Orabi Revolt took place. The British fleet bombarded Alexandria on 11 July 1882 and damaged a large part of the city, especially in the area of the Citadel. This attack cracked the fortress, causing great damage. The north and western facades were severely damaged as a result of cannon explosions, aimed directly at the structure. The western facade was completely destroyed, leaving large gaps in it.

20th-century renovation Edit

The Citadel then remained neglected, until 1904 when the Ministry of Defence restored the Upper floors. King Farouk wanted to turn the Citadel into a royal rest house so he ordered a rapid renovation on it.

After the revolution of 1952 the Egyptian Naval troops turned the building into a Maritime Museum. The biggest restoration work dates to 1984, when the Egyptian Antiquities Organization made ambitious plans to restore the fort.


Historians agree that an entrenched military class such as the Mamluks appeared to develop in Islamic societies beginning with the 9th-century Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad. When in the 9th century has not been determined. Until the 1990s, it was widely believed that the earliest Mamluks were known as Ghilman or Ghulam [4] (another term for slaves, and broadly synonymous) [Note 1] and were bought by the Abbasid caliphs, especially al-Mu'tasim (833–842).

By the end of the 9th century, such slave warriors had become the dominant element in the military. Conflict between the Ghilman and the population of Baghdad prompted the caliph al-Mu'tasim to move his capital to the city of Samarra, but this did not succeed in calming tensions. The caliph al-Mutawakkil was assassinated by some of these slave soldiers in 861 (see Anarchy at Samarra). [22]

Since the early 21st century, historians suggest that there was a distinction between the Mamluk system and the (earlier) Ghilman system, in Samarra, which did not have specialized training and was based on pre-existing Central Asian hierarchies. Adult slaves and freemen both served as warriors in the Ghilman system. The Mamluk system developed later, after the return of the caliphate to Baghdad in the 870s. It included the systematic training of young slaves in military and martial skills. [23] The Mamluk system is considered to have been a small-scale experiment of al-Muwaffaq, to combine the slaves' efficiency as warriors with improved reliability. This recent interpretation seems to have been accepted. [24]

After the fragmentation of the Abbasid Empire, military slaves, known as either Mamluks or Ghilman, were used throughout the Islamic world as the basis of military power. The Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171) of Egypt had forcibly taken adolescent male Armenians, Turks, Sudanese, and Copts from their families in order to be trained as slave soldiers. They formed the bulk of their military, and the rulers selected prized slaves to serve in their administration. [15] The powerful vizier Badr al-Jamali, for example, was a Mamluk from Armenia. In Iran and Iraq, the Buyid dynasty used Turkic slaves throughout their empire. The rebel al-Basasiri was a Mamluk who eventually ushered in Seljuq dynastic rule in Baghdad after attempting a failed rebellion. When the later Abbasids regained military control over Iraq, they also relied on the Ghilman as their warriors. [25]

Under Saladin and the Ayyubids of Egypt, the power of the Mamluks increased and they claimed the sultanate in 1250, ruling as the Mamluk Sultanate. [18] Throughout the Islamic world, rulers continued to use enslaved warriors until the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire's devşirme, or "gathering" of young slaves for the Janissaries, lasted until the 17th century. Regimes based on Mamluk power thrived in such Ottoman provinces as the Levant and Egypt until the 19th century.

Under the Mamluk Sultanate of Cairo, Mamluks were purchased while still young males. They were raised in the barracks of the Citadel of Cairo. Because of their isolated social status (no social ties or political affiliations) and their austere military training, they were trusted to be loyal to their rulers. [21] When their training was completed, they were discharged, but remained attached to the patron who had purchased them. Mamluks relied on the help of their patron for career advancement, and likewise the patron's reputation and power depended on his recruits. A Mamluk was "bound by a strong esprit de corps to his peers in the same household". [21]

Mamluks lived within their garrisons and mainly spent their time with each other. Their entertainments included sporting events such as archery competitions and presentations of mounted combat skills at least once a week. The intensive and rigorous training of each new recruit helped ensure continuity of Mamluk practices. [18]

Sultans owned the largest number of mamluks, but lesser amirs also owned their own troops. Many Mamluks were appointed or promoted to high positions throughout the empire, including army command. [18] At first their status was non-hereditary. Sons of Mamluks were prevented from following their father's role in life. However, over time, in places such as Egypt, the Mamluk forces became linked to existing power structures and gained significant amounts of influence on those powers. [18]

In Egypt, studies have shown that mamluks from Georgia retained their native language, were aware of the politics of the Caucasus region, and received frequent visits from their parents or other relatives. In addition, they sent gifts to family members or gave money to build useful structures (a defensive tower, or even a church) in their native villages. [26]

Early origins in Egypt Edit

From the 900's through the 1400's, Egypt was controlled by dynastic rulers, notably the Ikhshidids, Fatimids, and Ayyubids. Throughout these dynasties, thousands of Mamluk servants and guards continued to be used and even took high offices. This increasing level of influence among the Mamluk worried the Ayyubids in particular. Eventually a Mamluk rose to become sultan. [18] [27] According to Fabri, a historian had asserted that Mamluks of Egyptian origin were enslaved Christians. He believed that after they were taken from their families, they became renegades. [18] Because Egyptian Mamluks were enslaved Christians, Islamic rulers did not believe they were true believers of Islam despite fighting for wars on behalf of Islam as slave soldiers. [18]

By 1200 Saladin's brother Al-Adil succeeded in securing control over the whole empire by defeating and killing or imprisoning his brothers and nephews in turn. With each victory Al-Adil incorporated the defeated Mamluk retinue into his own. This process was repeated at Al-Adil's death in 1218, and at his son Al-Kamil's death in 1238. The Ayyubids became increasingly surrounded by the Mamluks, who acted semi-autonomously as regional atabegs. The Mamluks increasingly became involved in the internal court politics of the kingdom itself as various factions used them as allies. [18]

French attack and Mamluk takeover Edit

In June 1249, the Seventh Crusade under Louis IX of France landed in Egypt and took Damietta. After the Egyptian troops retreated at first, the sultan had more than 50 commanders hanged as deserters.

When the Egyptian sultan as-Salih Ayyub died, the power passed briefly to his son al-Muazzam Turanshah and then his favorite wife Shajar al-Durr, a Turk according to most historians, while others say was an Armenian. She took control with Mamluk support and launched a counterattack against the French. Troops of the Bahri commander Baibars defeated Louis's troops. The king delayed his retreat too long and was captured by the Mamluks in March 1250. He agreed to pay a ransom of 400,000 livres tournois to gain release (150,000 livres were never paid). [28]

Because of political pressure for a male leader, Shajar married the Mamluk commander, Aybak. He was assassinated in his bath. In the ensuing power struggle, viceregent Qutuz, also a Mamluk, took over. He formally founded the Mamluke Sultanate and the Bahri mamluk dynasty.

The first Mamluk dynasty was named Bahri after the name of one of the regiments, the Bahriyyah or River Island regiment. Its name referred to their center on Rhoda Island in the Nile. The regiment consisted mainly of Kipchaks and Cumans. [29]

Relationship with the Mongols Edit

When the Mongol Empire's troops of Hulagu Khan sacked Baghdad in 1258 and advanced towards Syria, the Mamluk emir Baibars left Damascus for Cairo. There he was welcomed by Sultan Qutuz. [30] After taking Damascus, Hulagu demanded that Qutuz surrender Egypt. Qutuz had Hulagu's envoys killed and, with Baibars' help, mobilized his troops.

When Möngke Khan died in action against the Southern Song, Hulagu pulled the majority of his forces out of Syria to attend the kurultai (funeral ceremony). He left his lieutenant, the Christian Kitbuqa, in charge with a token force of about 18,000 men as a garrison. [31] The Mamluk army, led by Qutuz, drew the reduced Ilkhanate army into an ambush near the Orontes River, routed them at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, and captured and executed Kitbuqa.

After this great triumph, Qutuz was assassinated by conspiring Mamluks. It was widely said that Baibars, who seized power, had been involved in the assassination plot. In the following centuries, the Mamluks ruled discontinuously, with an average span of seven years.

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

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

Burji dynasty Edit

By the late fourteenth century, the majority of the Mamluk ranks were made up of Circassians from the North Caucasus region, whose young males had been frequently captured for slavery. [8] In 1382 the Burji dynasty took over when Barquq was proclaimed sultan. The name "Burji" referred to their center at the citadel of Cairo. The dynasty officials were composed mostly of Circassians.

Barkuk became an enemy of Timur, who threatened to invade Syria. Timur invaded Syria, defeating the Mamluk army, and he sacked Aleppo and captured Damascus. The Ottoman sultan, Bayezid I, then invaded Syria. After Timur's death in 1405, the Mamluk sultan an-Nasir Faraj regained control of Syria. Frequently facing rebellions by local emirs, he was forced to abdicate in 1412. In 1421, Egypt was attacked by the Kingdom of Cyprus, but the Egyptians forced the Cypriotes to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Egyptian sultan Barsbay. During Barsbay's reign, Egypt's population became greatly reduced from what it had been a few centuries before it had one-fifth the number of towns.

Al-Ashraf came to power in 1453. He had friendly relations with the Ottoman Empire, which captured Constantinople later that year, causing great rejoicings in Muslim Egypt. However, under the reign of Khushqadam, Egypt began a struggle with the Ottoman sultanate. In 1467, sultan Qaitbay offended the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II, whose brother was poisoned. Bayezid II seized Adana, Tarsus and other places within Egyptian territory, but was eventually defeated. Qaitbay also tried to help the Muslims in Spain, who were suffering after the Catholic Reconquista, by threatening the Christians in Syria, but he had little effect in Spain. He died in 1496, several hundred thousand ducats in debt to the great trading families of the Republic of Venice.

Portuguese–Mamluk Wars Edit

Vasco da Gama in 1497 sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and pushed his way east across the Indian Ocean to the shores of Malabar and Kozhikode. There he attacked the fleets that carried freight and Muslim pilgrims from India to the Red Sea, and struck terror into the potentates all around. Various engagements took place. Cairo's Mamluk sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri was affronted at the attacks around the Red Sea, the loss of tolls and traffic, the indignities to which Mecca and its port were subjected, and above all for losing one of his ships. He vowed vengeance upon Portugal, first sending monks from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as envoys, he threatened Pope Julius II that if he did not check Manuel I of Portugal in his depredations on the Indian Sea, he would destroy all Christian holy places. [32]

The rulers of Gujarat in India and Yemen also turned for help to the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. They wanted a fleet to be armed in the Red Sea that could protect their important trading sea routes from Portuguese attacks. Jeddah was soon fortified as a harbor of refuge so Arabia and the Red Sea were protected. But the fleets in the Indian Ocean were still at the mercy of the enemy.

The last Mamluk sultan, Al-Ghawri, fitted out a fleet of 50 vessels. As Mamluks had little expertise in naval warfare, he sought help from the Ottomans to develop this naval enterprise. [33] In 1508 at the Battle of Chaul, the Mamluk fleet defeated the Portuguese viceroy's son Lourenço de Almeida.

But, in the following year, the Portuguese won the Battle of Diu and wrested the port city of Diu from the Gujarat Sultanate. Some years after, Afonso de Albuquerque attacked Aden, and Egyptian troops suffered disaster from the Portuguese in Yemen. Al-Ghawri fitted out a new fleet to punish the enemy and protect the Indian trade. Before it could exert much power, Egypt had lost its sovereignty. The Ottoman Empire took over Egypt and the Red Sea, together with Mecca and all its Arabian interests.

Ottomans and the end of the Mamluk Sultanate Edit

The Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II was engaged in warfare in southern Europe when a new era of hostility with Egypt began in 1501. It arose out of the relations with the Safavid dynasty in Persia. Shah Ismail I sent an embassy to the Republic of Venice via Syria, inviting Venice to ally with Persia and recover its territory taken by the Ottomans. Mameluk Egyptian sultan Al-Ghawri was charged by Selim I with giving the Persian envoys passage through Syria on their way to Venice and harboring refugees. To appease him, Al-Ghawri placed in confinement the Venetian merchants then in Syria and Egypt, but after a year released them. [34]

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

In 1515, Selim began the war which led to the conquest of Egypt and its dependencies. Mamluk cavalry proved no match for the Ottoman artillery and Janissary infantry. On 24 August 1516, at the Battle of Marj Dabiq, Sultan Al-Ghawri was killed. Syria passed into Turkish possession, an event welcomed in many places as it was seen as deliverance from the Mameluks. [34]

The Mamluk Sultanate survived in Egypt until 1517, when Selim captured Cairo on 20 January. Although not in the same form as under the Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire retained the Mamluks as an Egyptian ruling class and the Mamluks and the Burji family succeeded in regaining much of their influence, but as vassals of the Ottomans. [34] [35]

Independence from the Ottomans Edit

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

Napoleon invades Edit

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

The French defeated a Mamluk army in the Battle of the Pyramids and drove the survivors out to Upper Egypt. The Mamluks relied on massed cavalry charges, changed only by the addition of muskets. The French infantry formed square and held firm. Despite multiple victories and an initially successful expedition into Syria, mounting conflict in Europe and the earlier defeat of the supporting French fleet by the British Royal Navy at the Battle of the Nile decided the issue.

On 14 September 1799, General Jean-Baptiste Kléber established a mounted company of Mamluk auxiliaries and Syrian Janissaries from Turkish troops captured at the siege of Acre. Menou reorganized the company on 7 July 1800, forming three companies of 100 men each and renaming it the "Mamluks de la République". In 1801 General Jean Rapp was sent to Marseille to organize a squadron of 250 Mamluks. On 7 January 1802 the previous order was canceled and the squadron reduced to 150 men. The list of effectives on 21 April 1802 reveals three officers and 155 of other rank. By decree of 25 December 1803 the Mamluks were organized into a company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard (see Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard).

Napoleon left with his personal guard in late 1799. His successor in Egypt, General Jean-Baptiste Kléber, was assassinated on 14 June 1800. Command of the Army in Egypt fell to Jacques-François Menou. Isolated and out of supplies, Menou surrendered to the British in 1801.

After Napoleon Edit

After the departure of French troops in 1801 the Mamluks continued their struggle for independence this time against the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. In 1803, Mamluk leaders Ibrahim Bey and Osman Bey al-Bardisi wrote to the Russian consul-general, asking him to mediate with the Sultan to allow them to negotiate for a cease-fire, and a return to their homeland Georgia. The Russian ambassador in Constantinople refused however to intervene, because of nationalist unrest in Georgia that might have been encouraged by a Mamluk return. [34]

In 1805, the population of Cairo rebelled. This provided a chance for the Mamluks to seize power, but internal friction prevented them from exploiting this opportunity. In 1806, the Mamluks defeated the Turkish forces in several clashes. in June the rival parties concluded an agreement by which Muhammad Ali, (appointed as governor of Egypt on 26 March 1806), was to be removed and authority returned to the Mamluks. However, they were again unable to capitalize on this opportunity due to discord between factions. Muhammad Ali retained his authority. [18]

End of power in Egypt Edit

Muhammad Ali knew that he would have to deal with the Mamluks if he wanted to control Egypt. They were still the feudal owners of Egypt and their land was still the source of wealth and power. However, the economic strain of sustaining the military manpower necessary to defend the Mamluks's system from the Europeans and Turks would eventually weaken them to the point of collapse. [36]

On 1 March 1811, Muhammad Ali invited all of the leading Mamluks to his palace to celebrate the declaration of war against the Wahhabis in Arabia. Between 600 and 700 Mamluks paraded for this purpose in Cairo. Muhammad Ali's forces killed almost all of these near the Al-Azab gates in a narrow road down from Mukatam Hill. This ambush came to be known as the Massacre of the Citadel. According to contemporary reports, only one Mamluk, whose name is given variously as Amim (also Amyn), or Heshjukur (a Besleney), survived when he forced his horse to leap from the walls of the citadel. [37]

During the following week an estimated 3,000 Mamluks and their relatives were killed throughout Egypt, by Muhammad's regular troops. In the citadel of Cairo alone more than 1,000 Mamluks died.

Despite Muhammad Ali's destruction of the Mamluks in Egypt, a party of them escaped and fled south into what is now Sudan. In 1811, these Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah in the Sennar as a base for their slave trading. In 1820, the sultan of Sennar informed Muhammad Ali that he was unable to comply with a demand to expel the Mamluks. In response, the pasha sent 4,000 troops to invade Sudan, clear it of Mamluks, and reclaim it for Egypt. The pasha's forces received the submission of the Kashif, dispersed the Dunqulah Mamluks, conquered Kordofan, and accepted Sennar's surrender from the last Funj sultan, Badi VII.

According to a 2013 study in the American Political Science Review, the reliance on mamluks by Muslim rulers may explain the democratic divergence between the West and the Middle-East. Whereas European rulers had to rely on local elites for military forces, thus giving those elites bargaining power to push for representative government, Muslim rulers did not face the same pressures to implement representative government. [38]

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

South Asia Edit

India Edit

In 1206, the Mamluk commander of the Muslim forces in the Indian subcontinent, Qutb al-Din Aibak, proclaimed himself Sultan, creating the Mamluk Sultanate in Delhi which lasted until 1290.

West Asia Edit

Iraq Edit

Mamluk corps were first introduced in Iraq by Hasan Pasha of Baghdad in 1702. From 1747 to 1831 Iraq was ruled, with short intermissions, by Mamluk officers of Georgian origin [13] [39] who succeeded in asserting autonomy from the Sublime Porte, suppressed tribal revolts, curbed the power of the Janissaries, restored order, and introduced a program of modernization of the economy and the military. In 1831 the Ottomans overthrew Dawud Pasha, the last Mamluk ruler, and imposed direct control over Iraq. [40]

In Egypt Edit

Bahri Dynasty Edit

  • 1250 Shajar al-Durr (al-Salih Ayyub's Widow de facto ruler of Egypt)
  • 1250 Aybak
  • 1257 Al-Mansur Ali
  • 1259 Qutuz
  • 1260 Baibars
  • 1277 Al-Said Barakah
  • 1280 Solamish
  • 1280 Qalawun
  • 1290 al-Ashraf Salah-ad-Din Khalil
  • 1294 al-Nasir Muhammadfirst reign
  • 1295 al-Adil Kitbugha
  • 1297 Lajin
  • 1299 al-Nasir Muhammadsecond reign
  • 1309 al-Muzaffar Rukn-ad-Din Baybars II al-Jashankir
  • 1310 al-Nasir Muhammadthird reign
  • 1340 Saif ad-Din Abu-Bakr
  • 1341 Kujuk
  • 1342 An-Nasir Ahmad, Sultan of Egypt
  • 1342 As-Salih Ismail, Sultan of Egypt
  • 1345 Al-Kamil Sha'ban
  • 1346 Al-Muzaffar Hajji
  • 1347 al-Nasir Badr-ad-Din Abu al-Ma'aly al-Hassanfirst reign
  • 1351 al-Salih Salah-ad-Din Ibn Muhammad
  • 1354 al-Nasir Badr-ad-Din Abu al-Ma'aly al-Hassansecond reign
  • 1361 al-Mansur Salah-ad-Din Mohamed Ibn Hajji
  • 1363 al-Ashraf Zein al-Din Abu al-Ma'ali ibn Shaban
  • 1376 al-Mansur Ala-ad-Din Ali Ibn al-Ashraf Shaban
  • 1382 al-Salih Salah Zein al-Din Hajji IIfirst reign

Burji Dynasty Edit

  • 1382 Barquq, first reign
  • 1389 Hajji IIsecond reign (with honorific title al-Muzaffar or al-Mansur) – Temporary Bahri rule
  • 1390 Barquq, Second reign – Burji rule re-established
  • 1399 An-Nasir Naseer ad-Din Faraj
  • 1405 Al-Mansoor Azzaddin Abdal Aziz
  • 1405 An-Nasir Naseer ad-Din Faraj (second time)
  • 1412 al-Musta'in (Abbasid Caliph, proclaimed as Sultan)
  • 1412 Al-Muayad Sayf ad-Din Shaykh
  • 1421 Al-Muzaffar Ahmad
  • 1421 Az-Zahir Saif ad-Din Tatar
  • 1421 As-Salih Nasir ad-Din Muhammad
  • 1422 Barsbay
  • 1438 Al-Aziz Jamal ad-Din Yusuf
  • 1438 Jaqmaq
  • 1453 Al-Mansoor Fakhr ad-Din Osman
  • 1453 Al-Ashraf Sayf ad-Din Enal
  • 1461 Al-Muayad Shihab ad-Din Ahmad
  • 1461 Az-Zahir Sayf ad-Din Khushkadam
  • 1467 Az-Zahir Sayf ad-Din Bilbay
  • 1468 Az-Zahir Temurbougha
  • 1468 Qaitbay
  • 1496 al-Nasir Abu al-Sa'adat Muhammad bin Qait Bayfirst reign
  • 1497 Qansuh Khumsama'ah [arz]
  • 1497 al-Nasir Abu al-Sa'adat Muhammad bin Qait Baysecond reign
  • 1498 Qansuh Al-Ashrafi
  • 1500 Al-Bilal Ayub
  • 1500 Al-Ashraf Janbalat
  • 1501 Tuman bay I
  • 1501 Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri
  • 1517 Tuman bay II

In India Edit

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

In Iraq Edit

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

In Acre Edit

The following terms originally come from either Turkish or Ottoman Turkish language (the latter composed of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian words and grammar structures).

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Adal is believed to be an abbreviation of Havilah. [14]

Eidal or Aw Abdal, was the Emir of Harar in the eleventh century. [15] In the thirteenth century, Arab writer Al Dimashqi refers to the Adal Sultanate's capital, Zeila, [16] by its Somali name "Awdal" (Somali: "Awdal"). [17] The modern Awdal region of Somaliland, which was part of the Adal Sultanate, bears the kingdom's name.

Locally the empire was known to the Muslims as Bar Sa'ad ad-din meaning "The country of Sa'ad ad-din" [18]

Kingdom established

Adal Kingdom (also Awdal, Adl, or Adel) [19] was centred around Zeila, its capital. [20] [21] [22] It was established by the local Somali tribes in the early 9th century. Zeila attracted merchants from around the world, contributing to the wealth of the city. Zeila is an ancient city and it was one of the earliest cities in the world to embrace Islam. [23] [19] [24]

In the late 9th century, Al-Yaqubi, an Armenian Muslim scholar and traveller, wrote that the Kingdom of Adal was a small wealthy kingdom and that Zeila served as the headquarters for the kingdom, which dated back to the beginning of the century. [25] [26]

Islamic influence

Islam was introduced to the Horn region early on from the Arabian peninsula, shortly after the hijra. Zeila's two-mihrab Masjid al-Qiblatayn dates to about the 7th century, and is the oldest mosque in Africa. [27] In the late 9th century, Al-Yaqubi wrote that Muslims were living along the northern Somali seaboard. [25] [26] The polity was governed by local Somali dynasties established by the Adelites. [28] Adal's history from this founding period forth would be characterized by a succession of battles with neighbouring Abyssinia. [26]

Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn was born in Zeila during the Adal Kingdom period. Al-Kawneyn is a Somali Muslim saint. [29] He is believed to be the founder and ancestor of the royal family known as the Walashma Dynasty, which later governed both the Ifat Sultanate and the Adal Sultanate during the Middle Ages. [29] [30]

Rise of the sultanate

Adal is mentioned by name in the 14th century in the context of the battles between the Muslims of the Somali and Afar seaboard and the Abyssinian King Amda Seyon I's Christian troops. [31] Adal originally had its capital in the port city of Zeila, situated in the northwestern Awdal region. The polity at the time was an Emirate in the larger Ifat Sultanate ruled by the Walashma dynasty. [16]

In 1332, the King of Adal was slain in a military campaign aimed at halting Amda Seyon's march toward Zeila. [31] When the last Sultan of Ifat, Sa'ad ad-Din II, was killed by Dawit I of Ethiopia at the port city of Zeila in 1410, his children escaped to Yemen, before later returning in 1415. [32] In the early 15th century, Adal's capital was moved further inland to the town of Dakkar, [16] where Sabr ad-Din II, the eldest son of Sa'ad ad-Din II, established a new Adal administration after his return from Yemen. [16] [33] During this period, Adal emerged as a centre of Muslim resistance against the expanding Christian Abyssinian kingdom. [16] Adal would thereafter govern all of the territory formerly ruled by the Ifat Sultanate, [34] [35] as well as the land further east all the way to Cape Guardafui, according to Leo Africanus. [28]

After 1468, a new breed of rulers emerged on the Adal political scene. The dissidents opposed Walashma rule owing to a treaty that Sultan Muhammad ibn Badlay had signed with Emperor Baeda Maryam of Ethiopia, wherein Badlay agreed to submit yearly tribute. This was done to achieve peace in the region, though tribute was never sent. Adal's Emirs, who administered the provinces, interpreted the agreement as a betrayal of their independence and a retreat from the polity's long-standing policy of resistance to Abyssinian incursions. The main leader of this opposition was the Emir of Zeila, the Sultanate's richest province. As such, he was expected to pay the highest share of the annual tribute to be given to the Abyssinian Emperor. [36] Emir Laday Usman subsequently marched to Dakkar and seized power in 1471. However, Usman did not dismiss the Sultan from office, but instead gave him a ceremonial position while retaining the real power for himself. Adal now came under the leadership of a powerful Emir who governed from the palace of a nominal Sultan. [37]

Adalite armies under the leadership of rulers such as Sabr ad-Din II, Mansur ad-Din, Jamal ad-Din II, Shams ad-Din and Emir Mahfuz subsequently continued the struggle against Abyssinian expansionism.

Emir Mahfuz, who would fight with successive emperors, caused the death of Emperor Na'od in 1508, but he was in turn killed by the forces of Emperor Dawit II (Lebna Dengel) in 1517. After the death of Mahfuz, a civil war started for the office of Highest Emir of Adal. Five Emirs came to power in only two years. But at last, a matured and powerful leader called Garad Abuun Addus (Garad Abogne) assumed power. When Garad Abogne was in power he was defeated and killed by Sultan Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad, and In 1554, under his initiative, Harar became the capital of Adal. [16] This time not only the young Emirs revolted, but the whole country of Adal rose against Sultan Abu Bakr, because Garad Abogne was loved by the people of the sultanate. Many people went to join the force of a young imam called Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, who claimed revenge for Garad Abogne. Al-Ghazi assumed power in Adal in 1527, however he did not remove the Sultan, but instead left him in his nominal office. Yet, when Abu Bakr waged war on him, Ahmad ibn Ibrahim killed Abu Bakr, and replaced him with his brother Umar Din. [38] They fought under a combination of three banners used by Ahmad al-Ghazi [39]

In the 16th century, Adal organised an effective army led by Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi that invaded the Abyssinian empire. [16] This campaign is historically known as the Conquest of Abyssinia or Futuh al Habash. During the war, Ahmed pioneered the use of cannons supplied by the Ottoman Empire, which were deployed against Solomonic forces and their Portuguese allies led by Cristóvão da Gama. Some scholars argue that this conflict proved, through their use on both sides, the value of firearms such as the matchlock musket, cannons and the arquebus over traditional weapons. [40]

The Walashma dynasty of the Ifat and Adal sultanates possessed Somali genealogical traditions. [41] [42] [43]

During Adal's early period, when it was centred on the city of Zeila in the present-day northwestern Awdal region, the kingdom was primarily composed of Somalis (Predominantly), Afars, Hararis, and Arabs. [9] [44] [45] [46] [47]

Here the Portuguese infantries had their first glimpse of Ahmad. Their views were recorded by Miguel de Castanhoso, a soldier on the expedition who wrote the official Portuguese account:

While his camp was being pitched, the king of Zeila Imam Ahmad ascended a hill with several horse and some foot to examine us: he halted on the top with three hundred horse and three large banners, two white with red moons, and one red with a white moon, which always accompanied him, and [by] which he was recognized. [48]

Among the earliest mentions of the Somali by name has come through a victory poem written by Emperor Yeshaq I of Abyssinia against the king of Adal, as the Simur are said to have submitted and paid tribute. "Dr Enrico Cerulli has shown that Simur was an old Harari name for the Somali, who are still known by them as Tumur. Hence, it is most probable that the mention of the Somali and the Simur in relation to Yishaq refers to the king's military campaigns against Adal, where the Somali seem to have constituted a major section of the population." [49]

Of the early history of the Imam Ahmad but little is known. He was the son of one Ibrahim el Ghazi, and both he and his father were common soldiers in the troop of Garad Aboun. Nothing even is said as to his nationality. He was certainly not an Arab : probably he was a Somali, for we find him closely connected with many who were Somalis. [50]

According to Leo Africanus (1526) and George Sale (1760), the Adelites were of a tawny brown or olive complexion on the northern littoral, and grew swarthier towards the southern interior. They generally had long, lank hair. Most wore a cotton sarong but no headpiece or sandals, with many glass and amber trinkets around their necks, wrists, arms and ankles. The king and other aristocrats often donned instead a body-length garment topped with a headdress. All were Muslims. [28] [51] In the southern hinterland, the Adelites lived beside pagan "Negroes", with whom they bartered various commodities. [52] [53]

Various languages from the Afro-Asiatic family were spoken in the vast Adal Sultanate. Arabic served as a lingua franca, and was used by the ruling Walashma dynasty. [54]

One of the empire's most wealthy provinces was Ifat it was well watered, by the large river Awash. Additionally, besides the surviving Awash River, at least five other rivers in the area between Harar and Shawa plateau existed. [55] The general area was well cultivated, densely populated with numerous villages adjoining each other. Agricultural produce included three main cereals, wheat, sorghum and teff, as well as beans, aubergines, melons, cucumbers, marrows, cauliflowers and mustard. Many different types of fruit were grown, among them bananas, lemons, limes, pomegranates, apricots, peaces, citrons mulberries and grapes. Other plants included sycamore tree, sugar cane, from which kandi, or sugar was extracted and inedible wild figs

The province also grew the stimulant plant Khat. Which was exported to Yemen. Adal was abundant in large numbers of cattle, sheep, and some goats. There was also chickens. Both buffaloes and wild fowl were sometimes hunted. The province had a great reputation for producing butter and honey. . [56]

Whereas provinces such as Bale, surrounding regions of Webi Shabelle was known for it cotton cultivation and an age old weaving industry. While the El Kere region produced salt which was an important trading item [57]

Zeila the headquarters of the Kingdom was a wealthy city and abundantly supplied with provisions. It possessed grain, meat, oil, honey and wax. Furthermore, the citizens had many horses and reared cattle of all kinds, as a result they had plenty of butter, milk and flesh, as well as a great store of millet, barley and fruits all of which was exported to Aden. The port city was so well supplied with victuals that it exported it's surplus to Aden, Jeddah, Mecca and "All Arabia"" which then was dependent on the supplies/produce from the city which they favoured above all. Zeila was described as a "Port of much provisions for Aden, and all parts of Arabia and many countries and Kingdoms".

The Principal exports, according the Portuguese writer Corsali, were gold, ivory and slaves. A "great number" of the latter was captured from the Ethiopian Empire, then were exported through the port of Zeila to Persia, Arabia, Egypt and India.

As a result of this flourishing trade, the citizens of Zeila accordingly lived "extremely well" and the city was well built guarded by many soldiers on both foot and horses. [58]

Historian Al-Umari in his study in 1340's about the history of Adal, the medieval state in western and northern parts of historical Somalia and some related areas, Al-Umari of Cairo states that in the land of Zayla’ (Awdal):

“they cultivate two times annually by seasonal rains … The rainfall for the winter is called ‘Bil’ and rainfall for the ‘summer’ is called ‘Karam’ in the language of the people of Zayla.”

It appears that the historian was referring, in one-way or another, to these still used Somali terms, Karan and Bil. This indicates that the Somali solar calendar citizens of Zeila was using to farm with at that time was very similar to the one they use today and gives us further insight into the local farming practices during that period. [59]

The kingdoms agricultural and other produce was not only abundant but also very cheap according to Maqrizi thirty pounds of meat sold for only half a dirhem, while for only four dirhems you could purchase a bunch of about 100 Damascus grapes. [60]

Trade on the upland river valleys themselves connected with the coast to the interior markets. Created a lucrative caravan trade route between Ethiopian interior, the Hararghe highlands, Eastern Lowlands and the coastal cities such as Zeila and Berbera. [61] The trade from the interior was also important for the reason that included gold from the Ethiopian territories in the west, including Damot and an unidentified district called Siham. The rare metal sold for 80 to 120 dirhems per ounce. [62] The whole empire and the wider region was interdependent on each other and formed a single economy and at the same time a cultural unit interconnected with several important trade routes upon which the economy and the welfare of the whole area depended [63]

During its existence, Adal had relations and engaged in trade with other polities in Northeast Africa, the Near East, Europe and South Asia. Many of the historic cities in the Horn of Africa such as Abasa, Amud, Awbare and Berbera flourished under its reign with courtyard houses, mosques, shrines, walled enclosures and cisterns. Adal attained its peak in the 14th century, trading in slaves, ivory and other commodities with Abyssinia and kingdoms in Arabia through its chief port of Zeila. [16] The cities of the empire imported intricately coloured glass bracelets and Chinese celadon for palace and home decoration. [64] Adal also used imported currency such as Egyptian dinars and dirhems. [65]

The Adalite military was divided into several sections such as the infantry consisting of swordsmen, archers and lancers that were commanded by various generals and lieutenants. These forces were complemented by a cavalry force and eventually, later in the empire's history, by matchlock-technology and cannons during the Conquest of Abyssinia. The various divisions were symbolised with a distinct flag.

Elite unit of military warriors in the Adal army was branded with the title Malassay or Malachai (Portuguese spelling). The term often became synonymous with Muslims in Ethiopia to outsiders, but contrary to popular beliefs it did not denote a tribe or clan. Reading the Futūḥ al-Ḥabaša, the Malasāy appear as the basic unit of the army of the imām. Unlike the other groups that make up this army, the Malasāy were a group social and not a tribe or a clan. Unlike the Balaw, Somali or Ḥarla, a man Malasāy is not born. He obtained this title after demonstrating his military capabilities. ‘Arab Faqīh gives a relatively precise definition of what he means by "malasāy: [66]

وفرقة الملساي اھل الغزو والجھاد ا c صلي المعتمد عليھم في القتال والصناديد ا c بطال فيھم ا c مام

And the Malasāy troop, who are people of raids and ğihād, worthy men of confidence, who could be trusted during the fighting, of the army chiefs who not only do not flee from the battlefield but who protect the retreat of his family.

(بطال c ا والصناديد.)

The imām was with them.

The Adal soldiers donned elaborate helmets and steel armour made up of chain-mail with overlapping tiers. [67] The Horsemen of Adal wore protective helmets that covered the entire face except for the eyes, and breastplates on their body, while they harnessed their horses in a similar fashion. In siege warfare, ladders were employed to scale buildings and other high positions such as hills and mountains. [68]

Somali forces contributed much to the Imām’s victories. Shihāb ad-Dīn, the Muslim chronicler of the period, writing between 1540 and 1560, mentions them frequently (Futūḥ al-Ḥabasha, ed. And trs. R. Besset Paris, 1897). The most prominent Somali groups in the campaigns were the Geri, Marrehān, and Harti – all Dārod clans. Shihāb ad-Dīn is very vague as to their distribution and grazing areas, but describes the Harti as at the time in possession of the ancient eastern port of Mait. Of the Isāq only the Habar Magādle clan seem to have been involved and their distribution is not recorded. Finally, several Dir clans also took part. [69]

Ethnic Somalis being the majority of the army is further evidenced in the Oxford History of Islam:

The sultanate of Adal, which emerged as the major Muslim principality from 1420 to 1560, seems to have recruited its military force mainly from among the Somalis. [70]

The Ethiopian–Adal war was a military conflict between the Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia) and the Adal Sultanate that took place from 1529 until 1543. Abyssinian troops consisted of Maya, Amhara, Tigrayan and Agaw ethnic groups. [71] Adal forces consisted mostly of Afar, Somali, Harla, Argobba, and Arab formations, supported by the Ottomans. [72]

In the mid-1520s, Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi assumed control of Adal and launched a war against Abyssinia, which was then under the leadership of Dawit II (Lebna Dengel). Supplied by the Ottoman Empire with firearms, Ahmad was able to defeat the Abyssinians at the Battle of Shimbra Kure in 1529 and seize control of the wealthy Ethiopian highlands, though the Abyssinians continued to resist from the highlands. In 1541, the Portuguese, who had vested interests in the Indian Ocean, eventually sent aid to the Abyssinians in the form of 400 musketeers. Adal, in response, received 900 from the Ottomans.

Imam Ahmad was initially successful against the Abyssinians while campaigning in the Autumn of 1542, killing the Portuguese commander Cristóvão da Gama in August that year. However, Portuguese musketry proved decisive in Adal's defeat at the Battle of Wayna Daga, near Lake Tana, in February 1543, where Ahmad was killed in battle. The Abyssinians subsequently retook the Amhara plateau and recouped their losses against Adal. The Ottomans, who had their own troubles to deal with in the Mediterranean, were unable to help Ahmad's successors. When Adal collapsed in 1577, the seat of the Sultanate shifted from Harar to Aussa [73] in the desert region of Afar and a new sultanate began. [74] [75]

After the death of Imam Ahmad, the Adal Sultanate lost most of its territory in Abyssinian lands. In 1550 Nur ibn Mujahid assumed power after he killed Abyssinian emperor Gelawdewos. [76] Due to constant Oromo raids both Adal and Abyssinian rulers struggled to consolidate power outside of their realms. The Adal Sultanate subsequently ended due to infighting with tribes. [77] The Adal Sultanate was weakened after the death of Emir Nur due to the Oromo raids in 1577 and its headquarter were relocated to the oasis of Aussa in the Danakil desert under the leadership of Mohammed Jasa. The Imamate of Aussa declined gradually in the next century and was destroyed by the local Afar nomads in 1672.

After the conflict between Adal and Abyssinia had subsided, the conquest of the highland regions of Abyssinia and Adal by the Oromo (namely, through military expansion and the installation of the Gadaa socio-political system) ended in the contraction of both powers and changed regional dynamics for centuries to come. In essence, what had happened is that the populations of the highlands had not ceased to exist as a result of the Gadaa expansion, but were simply incorporated into a different socio-political system.

The Adal Sultanate left behind many structures and artefacts from its heyday. Numerous such historical edifices and items are found in the northwestern Awdal province of Somaliland, as well as other parts of the Horn region where the polity held sway. [78]

Archaeological excavations in the late 19th century and early 20th century at over fourteen sites in the vicinity of Borama in modern-day northwestern Somaliland unearthed, among other artefacts, silver coins identified as having been derived from Qaitbay (1468–89), the eighteenth Burji Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. [78] [79] Most of these finds are associated with the medieval Adal Sultanate. [80] They were sent to the British Museum for preservation shortly after their discovery. [79]

In 1950, the British Somaliland protectorate government commissioned an archaeological survey in twelve desert towns in present-day Republic of Somaliland, near the border with Ethiopia. According to the expedition team, the sites yielded the most salient evidence of late medieval period affluence. They contained ruins of what were evidently once large cities belonging to the Adal Sultanate. Towns such as Awbare, Awbube, Amud, Abasa and Gogesa, featured between 200 and 300 stone houses. The walls of certain sites still reportedly stood 18 meters high. Excavations in the area yielded 26 silver coins, unlike the copper pieces that were more common in polities below the Horn region. The earliest of these recovered coins had been minted by Sultan Barquq (1382–99), also of the Egyptian Burji dynasty, and the latest were again Sultan Qaitbay issues. All of the pieces had been struck in either Cairo or Damascus. A few gold coins were also discovered during the expedition, making the area the only place in the wider region to yield such pieces. Besides coinage, high quality porcelain was recovered from the Adal sites. The fine celadon ware was found either lying on the surface, or buried at a depth of seven and a half inches, or ensconced within dense middens four to five feet high. Among the artefacts were grey granular sherds with a cracked blue-green or sea-green glaze, and white crystalline fragments with an uncracked green-white glaze. Some Ming dynasty ware was also discovered, including many early Ming blue-and-white bowl sherds. They were adorned with tendril scrolls on a bluish ground and ornamented with black spotting, while other bowls had floral patterns outlined by grey or black-blue designs. Additionally, a few Ming red-and-white sherds were found, as well as white porcelain fragments with bluish highlights. The Adal sites appeared to reach an Indian Ocean terminus at the Sa'ad ad-Din Islands, named for Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din II of the Ifat Sultanate. [81]

Additionally, local tradition identifies the archaeological site of Tiya in central Ethiopia as Yegragn Dingay ("Gran's stone") in reference to Imam Al-Ghazi. According to Joussaume (1995), who led archaeological work there, the site is relatively recent. It has been dated to between the 11th and 13th centuries CE. Tiya contains a number of megalithic pillars, including anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic/non-phallic stelae. Flat in form, these structures are characterized by distinctive, elaborate decorations, among which are swords, a standing human figure with arms akimbo, and plant-like symbols. [82]

Images of African Kingship, Real and Imagined

The exhibition Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art (on view at the Getty Center until February 16, 2020) examines the figure of the Black king, an artistic invention arrived at by Europeans painting during the 1400s.

Nativity (or crèche) scenes from the Middle Ages to today often include three kings (or magi) bringing gifts to the infant Jesus. Often, these scenes include a Black king, sometimes referred to by the name Balthazar (his two traveling companions are known as Caspar and Melchior).

European Christian tradition often referred to Balthazar as coming from Africa, and maps from the time reveal a combination of fantasy, desire, and lived encounters with Africa and African people.

In 1597, German Protestant scholar and cartographer Heinrich Bünting designed a map of Africa marked by both real and imagined kingdoms. In West Africa, we encounter the realm of the Muslim king Mansa Musa of Mali, who was famous for wealth and piety.

Mediterranean North Africa features numerous cultures, including kingdoms in Tunis and Egypt (visible on the map above). In East Africa, near the horn of the continent, we read the name of the legendary Christian king Prester John, who was said to reign in Ethiopia or India—reflecting Europeans’ imprecise understanding of world geography at the time. Beginning in the 1440s, Portuguese sailors embarked on searches for Prester John and his mythical kingdom, violently enslaving non-Christian Black Africans along the way.

The mythical Prester John and images of Balthazar reveal European fantasies about Africa and the wealth of kingdoms there. Below, extending the themes covered in the exhibition, we look at three rulers from premodern Africa, each of whom had a major impact on the politics, economy, religion, and culture of the time. We also wish to acknowledge the presence of free Africans living in Europe during this period.

The continent of Africa is vast and was home to more kingdoms than premodern Europeans imagined, and to more than we’re exploring here (see The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History). While histories of Afro-European contact have traditionally focused on the three faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Africa was home to many other literate and oral religions and traditions.

Mansa Musa: The Wealthiest Person in the History of the World

Mansa Musa and the Sahara Desert in the Catalan Atlas of Abraham Cresques, 1375, made in Majorca, Spain. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms. Espagnol 30, fol. 5v. Source / BnF

The map of Africa, Europe, and Asia above was created by the Spanish Jewish cartographer Abraham Cresques. It contains a rare medieval depiction of Mansa Musa, who ruled the West African Mali Empire, a territory the covered parts of present-day Mauritania and Mali, from 1312 to 1337. Mansa Musa’s holdings in gold were so great that to this day he is unsurpassed in personal wealth.

A pious Muslim who embraced charitable almsgiving as one of the five pillars of Islam, Mansa Musa made the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca with an entourage reportedly consisting of 60,000 subjects, 80 camels, and thousands of pounds of gold dust. His donations to the poor and diplomatic gifts along the way pumped so much gold into the economy of the Mediterranean that it devalued gold currency in the wealthy European mercantile cities such as Florence for decades.

The 14th-century Arab scholar Ibn Fadl Allah al-Umari lived in Cairo at the time and later reported on the ruler in his encyclopedia: “This man flooded Cairo with his gifts. He left no court emir nor holder of a royal office without the gift of a load of gold. The people here profited greatly from him and from his entourage in buying, selling, giving, and taking. They traded gold until these lessened its value in Egypt, making its price fall…”

Sultan Qaitbay: Mediterranean Diplomacy with Muslim African Rulers

Reception of a Venetian delegation in Damascus, 1511, artist unknown, Venice, Italy. Oil on canvas. Louvre-Lens Museum, France. Collection of king of France Louis XIV (1643 – 1715). Image: Wikipedia

Shirt of Mail and Plate of Qaitbay, probably Egyptian, about 1468–96. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016.99. Image:

Qaitbay’s Mausoleum, Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Casual Builder, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-SA 3.0). Source: Wikimedia Commons

Italian artists from Florence to Venice traveled frequently throughout the Mediterranean to broker political, religious, and mercantile partnerships with their Muslim neighbors. One powerful individual in the 1400s was the Mamluk sultan of Egypt called Qaitbay, who reigned from 1468 to 1496.

An anonymous Venetian painter depicted a reception scene in Damascus, Syria, between Europeans and representatives of the sultan, whose escutcheon is emblazoned on the gates of the city in the painting. “Glory to our Sultan, the master, the king of kings, the wise, the ruler, the just al-Ashraf Abu al-Nasr Qaitbay, the Sultan of Islam,” reads the gilded inscription, proclaiming the sovereignty of Qaitbay. His dominions stretched from the Nile basin of the southeastern Mediterranean to Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

Like Mansa Musa, Qaitay made a pilgrimage to Mecca and as an act of piety, he commissioned brass candlesticks for the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina. Architectural monuments built under his reign are still major destinations for curious travelers and the faithful alike.

Qaitbay’s diplomatic relationships included the wealthy Medici merchants in Florence, who received rare and valuable gifts from the Sultan. The most notorious gift that the sultan sent to the Tuscan city-state was a giraffe, which was memorialized in works of art, including a fresco of The Adoration of the Magi by Ghirlandaio in the church of Santa Maria Novella. The arrival of the giraffe with a retinue of Egyptian delegates may have evoked the pageantry of gift-giving reenacted in the annual magi processions in Florence, commemorated each January 6 on epiphany day.

For Qaitbay, such relationships with the Italian courts could lead to financial and military support against their shared rival in the northeastern Mediterranean: the Ottoman Turks. European princes and popes also feared Ottoman expansion and thus maintained ties with the Mamluks. Trade goods from Egypt—including metalwork, manuscripts (from Coptic Christian and Muslim communities), and glassware—had a great impact on European art at the time (see Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797).

Zar’a Ya’eqob and the Medieval Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia

Bete Giyorgis (Church of Saint George), Lalibela, Ethiopia. Photo: Bernard Gagnon, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-SA 3.0). Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Virgin and Child with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel in a Gospel book, about 1504–5, made in Ethiopia (probably Gunda Gunde). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 102 (2008.15), fol. 19v

Cross, about 1200–1400, Ethiopia (Zagwe or Solomonic dynasty). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2015.18.1. Image:

Ethiopia has a long history as a powerful Christian kingdom, as an empire, and later, as a nation. By the end of the third century, the four great powers of the ancient world were considered to be Rome, Persia, China, and the African kingdom of Axum—which occupied parts of present-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.

The later kingdom of Ethiopia, an early adopter of Christianity, developed a vibrant artistic tradition that included rock-hewn churches, illuminated manuscripts, and liturgical crosses. In the 15th century, successive Ethiopian nägäst (rulers) sent church delegations to Italy in an attempt to forge alliances, both religious and military, with Rome.

The 15th-century Ethiopian emperor Zar’a Ya’eqob was known for his strength and diplomacy. Zar’a Ya’eqob, who reigned from ‎1434 to 1468, resolved a major internal theological strife, a debate over the observance of the Sabbath (holy day of worship) that had been waged for over a century prior to his rule. It was also during his reign that the 1441 delegation joined the Council of Florence, one of the great church gatherings of that century. In Florence, his subjects were perplexed at Europeans’ continued identification of Zar’a Ya’eqob with the legendary priest-king Prester John.

At home, Zar’a Ya’eqob reportedly had an honor guard that stood to either side of his throne, holding drawn swords. The opening image of a Gospel book made at the Gunda Gunde monastery shows the Virgin Mary and Christ child similarly flanked by the archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Ethiopian kingdom had been Christian since the fourth century, but Zar’a Ya’eqob had Muslim subjects as well. The emperor’s wife, Eleni, was a Muslim convert and she continued to rule and exert significant influence after Zar’a Ya’eqob’s death.

Servant or King? Constructing Balthazar

Head Study for Balthazar, about 1609–11, Peter Paul Rubens. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018.48

Mulay Ahmad, about 1535–36. Jan Cornelisa. Vermeyen. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Mulay Ahmad, about 1609, Peter Paul Rubens. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, M. Theresa B. Hopkins Fund, 40.2. Image:

This study for Balthazar helped Peter Paul Rubens refine the figure of the king for a large painting of The Adoration of the Magi, commissioned by the town council of Antwerp, in Flanders (northern Belgium). The biblical story of three kings traveling from afar with gifts for the Christ child resonated in Catholic Antwerp, Rubens’s home city and a center of international commerce. The cult of the magi so captured the imagination of local inhabitants that many children were named Balthazar, Melchior, or Caspar after the kings. This oil sketch was painted on repurposed ledger paper the marks of mercantile transactions are visible through the figure’s robe, face, and turban.

The immediacy and vibrancy of Rubens’s figure, with his parted mouth and gaze directed to the side, suggest an individual captured in a moment of speech and motion. Was this depiction inspired by an actual person, and if so, whom?

Rubens often drew from life (a practice used by other artists, including Andrea Mantegna, whose Adoration of the Magi is featured in the exhibition together with the oil study). One of Rubens’s patrons in Antwerp had Black African servants in his household, and Rubens made other studies using them as models. The Flemish city of Antwerp was a major center for the slave trade. Much research remains to be done on the status of forcibly Christianized Black Africans living there, specifically their positions and rights within domestic settings.

We also know that Rubens used an earlier print of Mulay Ahmad, the Hafsid Muslim ruler of Tunis, as inspiration for other works (see The Three Magi Reunited. The Tunisian turban in Rubens’s head study casts the biblical character of Balthazar as a sixteenth-century North African king.

Thus Rubens’s Balthazar may be an amalgam of an unidentified sitter, likely a servant or enslaved person, and a nearly contemporary ruler. The artist’s image speaks to the intersections of power, faith, and race in commercial Antwerp at the height of its global reach.

African Europeans in the Courts of Europe

Portrait of an African Man (Christophle le More?), about 1525–30, Jan Jansz Mostaert. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum. Image: Rijksmuseum

Europeans came to know African people in many different ways. While rulers made their way into the imagination of European artists, Africans living in Europe also became part of the art being produced at the time.

A significant number of Africans or members of the African diaspora in Europe occupied positions in the courts or noble households. Little documented, their histories can be guessed at from the evidence in archival documents and in art. Portrait of an African Man was long speculated to have been a painting of Christophle le More, a Black man, formerly a slave and groom, who went on to become an archer the bodyguard of Emperor Charles V.

This painting by Jan Jansz Mostaert has long been celebrated as the only surviving European portrait of a Black man during this early period. Unlike images of Balthazar or other biblical figures, he wears the attire of a Flemish courtier. Moreover, he does not appear as a member of an entourage, but in the context of an individualized portrait. Who was this man?

Unlike the institution of slavery that became codified in the Americas at the time, it was possible for enslaved people in Europe to gain their freedom and to possess social mobility, working in positions as disparate as the elite bodyguard of the Holy Roman Emperor or as gondaliers in Venice.

Recent research has discouraged the identification of this sitter with Christophle, which leaves us only with the frustrating hints provided by his costume, such as the pilgrimage badge in his cap (to Our Lady of Halle, near Brussels), his gloves appropriate for a court setting, or for the embroidered bag at his waist, perhaps a gift from a wealthy patron. (Download Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe (PDF) to learn more.)

Although his identity is unknown, he nevertheless offers a potent reminder of the lived experiences of Africans in medieval and Renaissance Europe.

Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art is on display at The Getty Center until February 16, 2020.

Egyptian Armor Sells for $2.3 Million at Rock Island Auction Co.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. , Dec. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- 15th century Egyptian armor incorporating gold inlaid plates sold for $2.3 Million at Rock Island Auction Company's 2015 December Premiere Firearms Auction. Dating to the 15th century, the armor is attributed to popular military powerhouse and architectural patron Qaitbay, Sultan of Egypt . The armor had a conservative high estimate of $500,000 and sold to a U.S. buyer.

"We are thrilled with the results of this auction, and especially with the historic armor," said Owner and President of Rock Island Auction Company, Patrick Hogan. "These strong results provided yet another record-breaking year for Rock Island Auction Company. We were able to surpass $51 million in annual sales, something no other firearms auction house has approached, and maintained our place as the #1 firearms auction house in the world for a twelfth straight year. This also has immensely positive implications for the growth of firearm collecting as a whole."

The auction saw a realized total of over $14.7 million , finishing 2015 with a flourish by drawing thousands of bidders from more than 21 countries. The $51 million in annual sales is the highest amount ever achieved for a firearms auction house. Other notable sales in the auction were a group of 19 historical Imperial German trophy mounts that sold separately for $420,612 , and an engraved Winchester lever action rifle inlaid with gold that brought $207,000 .

To view the items description in full, click Qaytbay Mamluck Sultan Armor.

Delving into History ® _ periklis deligiannis

By Periklis Deligiannis

Ottoman horsetail-standards (credit: Erich Lessing archive)

The saddle of Khan Murat Giray, the Khan of the Crimean Tatars who contributed an army to the Ottomans for the siege of Vienna in 1683.

Detail of the chichak helmet of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha (credit:

A dagger with a highly decorated scabbard.


An odd combination of an Ottoman chichak-helmet and European armour.


A collection of Turkish arms and other military items


Captured Ottoman map of the city of Vienna, 1683.


Battle between Polish hussars and Ottoman cavalrymen over the Turkish Banner, 1683 (by Jozef Brandt, specifically this artwork is kept in the National Museum of Krakow).


Another view of the chichak of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha.
Periklis Deligiannis

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Delving into History ® _ periklis deligiannis

The chichak type helmet of the Ottoman Grand Visier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha who as a military commander confronted the army of the Habsburgs in 1566, between the two sieges of Vienna (credit:
By Periklis Deligiannis
The two sieges of Vienna by the Ottomans in 1529 and 1683 and the intermediate wars between the Ottoman Empire on the one side and the Habsburg dominions and the Poles on the other, had been remarkably decisive conflicts for the History of Europe. In both sieges of Vienna and the subsequent battles, the Ottomans were finally defeated leaving behind many dead, prisoners and valuable arms and armourand other military items, while the victorious European side paid a heavy toll in casualties as well. Today the most important spoils captured from the Turks are exhibited in the Military History Museum of Vienna. In these posts I present some images of Ottoman arms and armour in this exceptional museum.

Military History Museum Vienna

A richly decorated battle-axe.


The helmet and mail-and-plate armour of a Mamluk warrior of the Ottoman army.


Horsetails, Turkish insignia.


A military knife or dagger.

The decorated hilt of the sword of the Ottoman commander Kasim Bey.

Ottoman Sancak standard.
Periklis Deligiannis

Watch the video: Citadel of Qaitbay -. قلعة كايتباي - الإسكندرية (January 2022).