Friday, 31 July 2015

Military History Photo Friday: Mamluk Warriors

This impressive guy is a Mamluk nobleman from Aleppo, in what is now Syria. He was painted by William Page in the early 19th century and the image comes via Wikimedia Commons. The Mamluks started as slave soldiers in 13th century Egypt, fighting as elite cavalry and eventually taking over.

As rulers of Egypt they were famous for their martial prowess and harsh rule. They were highly conservative, however, and didn't update their tactics, eventually becoming subservient to the Ottomans in the early 16th century.

One of the last great fights of the Mamluk cavalry was the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798, when they tried to fight off Napoleon's invading army. They tried their usual tactic of a mass charge, firing their carbines, then their brace of pistols, before closing with a lance or scimitars in each hand. While this always worked well against Bedouin raiders or peasants rebelling against their high taxes, the French easily pushed them back with concentrated volleys and cannon fire. The Mamluks lost several thousand men while the French lost only 29.

That fateful charge is depicted in another early painting, this one from 1906. If the Mamluks looked like that, the French must have been pretty sure of themselves. I would have been climbing the nearest pyramid!

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Kind of like how the fighting tactics of the British did them in during the American Revolution.

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