MAMLUK

An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath


[based on the St. Petersburg Manuscript of 1280AD of the History of Outremer by William of Tyre.]
57.      MAMLUK

This figure, from a 'History of Outremer' of c. 1280, is typical of those appearing in the mss. executed in Acre in the second half of the 13th century, so can be assumed to be a fairly reliable representation of a Mamluk warrior of that time.

He wears Khuff boots, a small turban (big turbans were banned at least in Syria in 1291) and a long outer robe, the 'Islamic coat' (Qaba al-Islamiyya). The Qaba could be wool, satin, silk or cotton and was apparently most commonly either white or striped in red and blue. By the 15th century only winter topcoats appear to have been coloured and decorated thus, most Mamluks' outer garments (as well as their boots) being white in summer. Another type of coat sometimes worn was the Sallari, an outer garment with elbow-length sleeves.

He is armed with a mace, a favourite Mamluk weapon, used principally to crush helmets and, consequently, heads. It was called either Dabbus or 'Amud (Persian Gurz) depending on whether it was entirely of iron or had a wooden handle. Some were flanged or spiked. When not in use it was normally tucked beneath the knee and stirrup strap to the right of the saddle, mamluks being recorded carrying their maces 'from the stirrup' in this way at least as early as the mid-12th century. Another typical Mamluk weapon related to the mace but only recorded in later sources is the Ghaddara, a steel staff kept in a case at the saddle and capable of cutting off a man's arm. One figure in the Baptistère de Saint Louis seems to be carrying such a weapon, where it appears to be about 30 inches long.

Although the Mamluks adopted the kite-shield (see 31) the Turs clearly remained far more popular. Like the main figure, 57a-f are all from the Acre mss. so are fairly typical of the heraldic charges carried by Mamluks. Most noticeable are the large number of crescent devices. It has been claimed that the crescent was not widely adopted amongst Moslems until the Ottomans adopted it in the 15th century, but the frequency with which it appears in these mss. would seem to disprove this, the crescent being, alongside the rosette, the most common shield device depicted. See also 64.



Mamluk Heraldry by Ian Heath

Next: 58. MAMLUK IN FULL ARMOUR c. 1290




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