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Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–17)

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Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–17)

Ottoman-Mamluk War
Part of Ottoman wars in the Near East

Outline of the Ottoman Empire, from the Theatro d'el Orbe de la Tierra de Abraham Ortelius, Anvers, 1602, updated from the 1570 edition.
Date 1516–1517
Location Anatolia, Levant, Egypt (region)
Result Ottoman victory, fall of the Mamluk Sultanate
Ottoman Empire Mamluk Sultanate
Commanders and leaders
Selim I
Hadım Sinan Pasha
Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri
Tuman Bey II

The Ottoman–Mamluk War of 1516–1517 was the second major conflict between the Egypt-based Mamluk Sultanate and the Ottoman Empire, which led to the fall of the Mamluk Sultanate and the incorporation of the Levant, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula as provinces of the Ottoman Empire.[1] The war transformed the Ottoman Empire from a realm at the margins of the Islamic world, mainly located in Anatolia and the Balkans, to a huge empire encompassing the traditional lands of Islam, including the cities of Mecca, Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo. It continued to be ruled however from Constantinople.[2]


The relationship between the Ottomans and the Mamluks had been adversarial since the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453: both states vied for control of the spice trade, and the Ottomans aspired to eventually taking control of the Holy Cities of Islam.[3] An earlier conflict, which lasted from 1485 to 1491, had led to a stalemate.

By 1516, the Ottomans were free from other concerns—Sultan Selim I had just vanquished the Safavid Persians at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514[2]—and turned their full might against the Mamluks, who ruled in Syria and Egypt, to complete the Ottoman conquest of the Middle East.[2]


Mamluk heavy cavalry, c. 1550. Musée de l'Armée

The war consisted of several battles. The Mamluk army was rather traditional, mainly consisting in cavalry using bows and arrows, whereas the Ottoman army, and especially the Janissaries, was quite modern, using arquebus.[4] The Mamluks remained proud in their tradition and tended to disregard the usage of firearms.[5][6]

Operations in the Levant (1516)

The Ottomans first captured the city of Diyarbekir in southeastern Anatolia.[2] The Battle of Marj Dabiq (24 August 1516) was decisive, in which the Mamluk ruler Kansuh al-Ghuri was killed.[2] The Ottomans apparently outnumbered the Mamluks by a factor of 3 to 1.[6] Syria fell under the rule of the Ottomans with this single battle.[6]

The Battle of Yaunis Khan occurred near Gaza (1516) and was again a defeat for the Mamluks.

Operations in Egypt (1517)

Ottoman volley gun with 9 barrels, early 16th century

After the death of the Mamluk Sultan, the new Sultan, Tuman Bay, frantically recruited troops from various classes of society and Bedouins, and attempted to equip his armies with some amount of cannons and firearms, but all at the last minute and on a limited scale.[5][6] Finally, at the doorstep of Cairo, the Battle of Ridaniya (24 January 1517) took place, in which the Ottoman commander Hadım Sinan Pasha lost his life.[7] In this battle, Selim I and Tuman Bay faced each other. The firearms and guns deployed by Tuman Bay turned out to be almost useless, as the Ottomans managed an attack from the rear.[6] Tuman Bay was finally captured and hanged at the gate of Cairo.[2]

The campaign had been supported by a fleet of about 100 ships that supplied the troops during their campaign to the south.[8]

A few days later, Cairo was captured and sacked by the Ottomans.[6] As a consequence the Sharif of Mecca also submitted to the Ottomans, placing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina under Ottoman rule.[2] Ottoman power extended as far as the southern reaches of the Red Sea, although control of Yemen remained partial and sporadic.[2]


Ottoman helmet, with markings of Saint-Irene arsenal, Constantinople, c. 1520, Musée de l'Armée

Mamluk culture and social organization persisted at a regional level, and the hiring and education of Mamluk "slave" soldiers continued, but the ruler of Egypt was an Ottoman governor protected by an Ottoman militia.[2][9] The fall of the Mamluk Sultanate effectively put an end to the Portuguese–Mamluk naval war, but the Ottomans then took over the attempts to stop Portuguese expansion in the Indian Ocean.

The conquest of the Mamluk Empire would also open up the territories of Africa to the Ottomans. During the 16th century, Ottoman power would expand further west of Cairo, along the coasts of Northern Africa. The corsair Hayreddin Barbarossa established a base in Algeria, and later accomplished the Conquest of Tunis in 1534.[2]

Cairo remained in Ottoman hands until the 1798 French conquest of Egypt, when Napoleon I claimed to eliminate the Mamluks.[10]

See also


  1. ^ by Tony Jaques xxxivDictionary of Battles and Sieges
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j ff by Saraiya Faroqhi p.60The Ottoman Empire: A Short History
  3. ^ ff by Palmira Johnson Brummett p.52Ottoman seapower and Levantine diplomacy in the age of discovery
  4. ^ by Joan D. Barghusen, Bob Moulder p.41Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Cairo
  5. ^ a b by Kenneth Warren Chase p.104Firearms: a global history to 1700
  6. ^ a b c d e f ff by M. W. Daly,Carl F. Petry p.498The Cambridge history of Egypt
  7. ^ by Martijn Theodoor Houtsma p.432E. J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936
  8. ^ by Palmira Johnson Brummett p.110Ottoman seapower and Levantine diplomacy in the age of discovery
  9. ^ by Caroline Williams p.6Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide
  10. ^ by André Raymond p.189Cairo
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