Monday, February 25, 2008

The Knights of Islam

James Waterson (2007) The Knights of Islam: The Wars of the Mamluks, London: Greenhill Books.

Many of us are aware of the formidable legendary armies of the Greeks, Romans, Mongols, and Persian. Few of us will have heard of the Mamluks, the legendary armies of Islam of slave soldiers. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered a book on them at my local MPH bookstore.

The Mamluks were the greatest military force during the Islamic era of the Middle Ages. These soldiers were trained from boyhood when they are either purchased or kidnapped from the steppes of present day Turkey. From this tender age, they were brought up in a military lifestyle that rivals that of the Spartans. To ensure their loyalty to their sultans, they were isolated from the rest of society; living in their own cities and military camps. They developed their own caste system and had a military code that rivals that of Western chivalry and the Japanese Bushido.

They were the first army to defeat the Mongols and effectively contained and destroyed the armies of the Crusaders and the Ottomans. At the height of its influence, the Mamluks established a powerful Mamluk sultanate under Baybars.

Interesting reading.

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