Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2022
The Sultanate drew upon concepts of martial skill, valor and aggression attributed to the Mongol Imperium and its unprecedented conquests. While idealizing these traits, Mamluk Sultans exploited them to thwart Mongol expansion into their territories. They welcomed renegades from Mongol armies (Wafidiyya) to mimic their prowess while limiting their aggression. Mamluk cadets were imported initially from the Qipjaq Steppe in Central Asia, subsequently from Circassia in the Caucasus, with numerous other regions represented. They were instructed in Arabic, Turkish and Islam prior to being trained in arms. The Mamluk military hierarchy consisted of elite Mamluks imported as cadets in the Sultan’s service, Mamluks of senior officers, soldiers of former rulers restive over their loss of status, and descendants of 1st-generation Mamluks who served as infantry and assimilated into Arabic civil society (awlad al-nas). Advancement through the military hierarchy was marked by endemic factional rivalry in which conspiracy was expected not repudiated. Whether conspiracy enhanced the Sultanate’s military prowess or destabilized its governance remains a debated issue.