The New International Encyclopædia/Mamelukes

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The New International Encyclopædia
Mamelukes
Edition of 1905. See also Mamluk on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MAM'ELUKES (from Fr. mameluk, mamaluc, from Ar. mamlūk, purchased slave, from malaka, to possess). A dynasty of Egyptian sultans who ruled from 1250 to 1517. The name was originally applied to the Turkish slaves who were brought in large numbers into Egypt and came to constitute the main strength of the army, filling at the same time the highest posts in the State. In time the Mamelukes were recruited by large numbers of Circassian slaves. In 1250 the last Ayubite ruler died and the power fell into the hands of the Emir Eybek, who married Sheger-ed-Durr, the mother of the dead monarch. The dynasty founded by Eybek is known as that of the Bahrite Mamelukes. Eybek was killed in 1257 and the government was assumed by the Viceroy Kutuz, who in 1260 gained a notable victory over the Mongols, and established his power over Syria. The celebrated Bibars ruled from 1200 to 1277. He waged war against the Christians in Syria, and in 1268 put an end to the principality of Antioch. His armies overran Armenia and penetrated far into Asia Minor. His power toward the south extended as far as Nubia. Al-Mansur (1279-90) carried on successful wars against the Mongols and Christians. He took Damascus and made himself master of Tripolis, which for two centuries had been held by the Christians. Al-Mansur's two sons ruled in succession and increased the power of the sultanate, while at the same time the condition of the people was improved by the construction of important public works. Cairo was greatly beautified and rose in importance as one of the capitals of the East. There followed a period of steady decline during which the real power passed from the hands of the Sultans to the commanders of the troops, which were now largely composed of Circassians. In 1389 the last Bahrite ruler was deposed and Barkuk, first of the Circassian or Burgite Mamelukes, ascended the throne. During the reign of Barkuk Egypt was threatened by the power of Timur, who wrested from Barkuk's son, Faraj, a great part of Syria. Barsa Bey (1422-37) reduced Cyprus to the position of a vassal State, and exercised considerable influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Kait Bey (1467-96) carried on war against Sultan Bajazet II. in support, partly, of the claims of the latter's brother, Jem. After Kait Bey's death, five sultans ruled within as many years, most of them perishing by assassination. In 1501 Kansuh El-Ghuri was raised to the throne. After reigning for fifteen years, he engaged in war with the Turkish Sultan, Selim I., and was overthrown and slain in a sanguinary battle at Marj Dabik, near Aleppo (1516). The Mamelukes under Tuman Bey II. resisted the invasion of Egypt by Selim and fell in large numbers on the field or during their desperate defense of the capital. Their dynasty disappeared from the throne, and Egypt became a Turkish province (1517). To conciliate the surviving Mamelukes, Selim divided Egypt into twenty-four military provinces and placed Mameluke beys over them subject to the supreme authority of a Turkish pasha. With the decay of the Turkish Empire, the Mameluke beys arrogated to themselves greater powers and finally ruled in almost virtual independence. Napoleon encountered the Mamelukes under Murad Bey in the battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798, and utterly defeated them. After the expulsion of the French from Egypt the Mamelukes contended with the Turks for dominion. The ambitious Mehemet Ali (q.v.) determined to crush and exterminate this military aristocracy. On August 17, 1805, more than one hundred of the Mamelukes were enticed into Cairo and slaughtered. On March 1, 1811, treachery was again resorted to and nearly 470 Mamelukes were shot down in the citadel at Cairo. This was followed by a general slaughter of Mamelukes all over Egypt. A remnant of them fled to Nubia, where they were followed by Ibrahim Pasha (q.v.), who put to death some and dispersed the rest. With their disappearance, Egypt was rescued from the conditions of anarchy into which the struggle of the beys had plunged it for so many years. Consult Makrizi's history of the Mameluke sultans, translated by Quatremère (3 vols., Paris, 1837-41).