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The History of the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517)

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The Mamluk Sultanate was a medieval feudal state in the Middle East, which existed from 1250 to 1517. The sultanate was formed as a result of the seizure of power in Cairo by the Mamluks, who overthrew the Ayyubid dynasty.

In 1382, the caste of the Mamluks arranged a coup and proclaimed their representative, a native of Circassia, as Sultan. The Circassian dynasty of Bahri ruled the Mamluks sultanate until the end of its existence. In 1517, the Sultanate was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Egypt achieved autonomous status. IIt was ruled by the Turkish governors – the Pasha.

The Mamluks’ were the majority of Egyptian troops under the Ayyubids. Each sultan and high-ranking emir had his own personal corps, and the sultan as-Salih Ayub (1240-1249) relied especially on them. His Mamluks, numbering from 800 to 1000 horsemen, were called Bahri, since their barracks were located on the Nile island of Rhoda. They were mostly Kypchaks, originating from the steppes of the Northern Black Sea coast.

In 1249, Louis IX led a crusade to Egypt, captured Damietta and slowly advanced south. At this time, as-Salih Ayyub died, and his son Turan-shah succeeded him. But before the arrival of the new Sultan to the front, the Mamluks-Bahrites defeated the Crusaders in the Battle of Mansour and captured Louis in 1250. Turan Shah empowered people in his entourage, particularly from the personal guards of Musazia, infringing upon the interests of the Bakhrites. On May 2, 1250, four weeks after the capture of Louis IX, a group of Bakhrites killed Turan Shah II.

Mamluk Sultanate at its peak

Wars with the Mongols and the Crusaders

After the death of Turan Shah in Egypt, a decade of political instability followed, as various groups fought for power. In 1254, when one of the rival factions led by Kutuz gained strength, most of the Bahrites fled Cairo and joined the Ayyubid emirs in Syria. Meanwhile, large numbers of Mongols, led by Hulagu, invaded the Middle East. In 1258, they plundered Baghdad and, continuing westward, seized Aleppo and Damascus. In 1259, Kutuz and the Bahrites agreed to put aside their differences in order to jointly face a common threat. However, Hulagu, with the bulk of the army, learning of the death of the great Khan Mongke, was forced to leave to the east; and in Palestine, there was only a relatively small corps under the command of Kitbuki. Kutuz and the Bakhrites defeated the Mongols of Kitbuki at the Battle of Ain Jalut (1260). The Mongolian threat temporarily weakened, the rivalry between the Mamluks resumed, and the leader of the Bakhrit, Baybars, upon killing Kutuz, declared himself a Sultan.

During the reign of Sultan Baybars, the Mamluks waged successful wars in Syria, Nubia, Libya and Asia Minor. After the death of Baybars in 1277, his son Baraka-khan as-Said Nasir ad-Din ascended the throne, but in 1280 he was deposed by Kalun al-Mansur Sayf al-Din. In 1281, Calaun repelled the new invasion of the Mongols and began the conquest of the Crusader states in the Middle East and, in 1289, captured Tripoli. In 1290, his son Khalil al-Ashraf Salah al-Din, who succeeded Kalauen in 1291, took Akra, after which Beirut, Tire, Sidon and Haifa surrendered without any resistance. After the killing of Khalil in 1294, his younger brother Muhammad I al-Nasir Nasir ad-Din achieved stabilization with the Mamluks. From the rival party of Burjits in the Mamluk Sultanate, the state strengthened the positions of the central government, lowered taxes, supported low prices for bread, fought corruption, and deployed active urban development.

After the death of Muhammad I, internal turmoil began in the Mamluk Sultanate. The real power was concentrated in the hands of the provincial Mameluke emirs, united only to combat external threats and conduct aggressive campaigns. In the middle – the second half of the 14th century, the Mamluks turned from military to military feudal quasikast, many of whose representatives became large landowners.

Portuguese-Egyptian War

In 1505, Kansukh al-Gauri sent the Egyptian fleet to India. In 1508, the united Egyptian-Indian fleet defeated the Portuguese; but in 1509, the Portuguese defeated the Egyptian ships at the Battle of Diu, and the remnants of the Egyptians returned to Egypt. In 1511, the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II sent powder and wood to Egypt to build ships. In 1515, the new Egyptian-Ottoman fleet approached Yemen and captured Zabid, but the siege of Aden ended in failure. But after Selim I came to power, the alliance between the Ottoman Empire and the Mamluks ended.

Ottomans and Sunset of the Mamluk Sultanate

While Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II fought in Europe, a new round of conflict erupted in 1501 between Egypt and the ruling Persian dynasty of the Safavids.

After the Chaldyran battle of 1514, Selim I attacked the vassal of Egypt, and sent the head of his ruler to Sultan al-Ashraf Kansuh. The war began in 1515, which led to the later involvement of Egypt and its vassals in the Ottoman Empire. The Mamluk cavalry could not withstand Ottoman artillery and janissaries. August 24, 1515, in the Battle of Marge, Dabik Sultan al-Gauri was killed. Syria became part of the Ottoman Empire. Everywhere the Turks were greeted as rescuers from the Mamluks.

The Mamluks sultanate existed until 1517, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Sultan, Selim I, seized Cairo on January 20. The center of power was Istanbul. Although not in the same form as the Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire retained the Mamelukes as the ruling class in Egypt, and the Burj dynasty managed to regain much of its influence, but Egypt remained in vassal dependence on the Ottoman Empire.

The End of Power of the Mamluks in Egypt

In 1806, the Mamluks repeatedly defeated the Turkish troops, and in June of that year, the warring parties concluded a peace treaty under which Muhammad Ali became ruler of Egypt on March 26, 1806, and the state power in Egypt was transferred to the Mamluks.

Muhammad Ali understood that ultimately he would have to deal with the Mamluks if he wanted to rule Egypt. Despite Muhammad Ali’s attempts to destroy the Mamluks, some of them fled to Sudan. In 1811, these Mamluks created the state in Dongola as a base for their slave trade. Egyptian troops destroyed the Mamluks in Dongola.


  • Ali-zade AA Mamlyuki: Islamic Encyclopedic Dictionary.
  • Ryzhov K. V. Bakhrites // All monarchs of the world. The Muslim East. VII-XV centuries.
  • Al-Maqriz
  • Ayalon, David: The Mamluk Military Society
  • Shayyal, Jamal, Prof. of Islamic history
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