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Turkish ghulam cavalry

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

Turkish ghulam cavalry


Turkish ghilman (the plural of ghulam) were armoured mounted archers prominent in many Islamic armies from the 9th century onwards. Under DBM most are classed as Reg Cv (S), but some (if lacking both lances and horse-armour) as Reg Cv (O) (see the Seljuq Turk page). Under DBMM, all are probably included in the definition of Cv (S).




1. Some contributors have been very unhappy with the clumping of ghilman and similar mounted archers together with javelin cavalry in the Cv class.


2. While the published lists do not generally allow ghilman to dismount (except in the specific circumstances where the rules allow any cavalry to dismount) there is considerable evidence suggesting that Turkish ghilman should be able to dismount as Bw (O) at any time.


- It's the standard tactic for Arab horse into the C8th and beyond (as noted by Kennedy, The Armies of the Caliphs, who identifies the functional division of Islamic armies beginning only in the early C9th).


(Hence, several members observed, since there appears to be no evidence either for Turks in the Chinese sphere nor for nomadic Turkomans in the Middle East dismounting in battle, it may be a tactic that ghilman and other Middle Eastern Turkish professional soldiers adopted from their Arab employers.)


- Interestingly, even the second generation Turkish ghilman used against the Zanj in the C9th feature as dismounted troops in amphibious operations.


- During the Buyid civil wars there is an account of Turkish ghulams dismounting to attack the emir and his Dailamis who had taken refuge in date groves or the like. The fighting is very confused with the Turks infiltrating through the groves by crawling on their stomachs in ones and twos. (Original source for this incident not clear.


- Prior to this ghulams also fought on foot for the Abbasids in the long conflicts in Azerbaijan - Arab foot was not used in these campaign as it was either too militarily ineffective or to politically suspect.


- At ?Mallaha in 1157, Nur ed-Din surprised the Franks, who hastily mount and charge, whereupon al-Qalanisi says Nur ed-Din's cavalry dismounted and crushed them with "their arrows and swords".


- Ibn al-Qalanisi describes several instances of ghulams dismounting, but these only cover instances of attacking forts etc.


- Dismounted ghulams were used as assault troops by the Ayyubids at Tyre during the Hattin campaign.


- We also have the battle of Arsuf:


"...The Turks who deliberately dismounted from their horses to fire darts and arrows more easily at our people all lost their heads at once in that military engagement..." (Itinerarium, tr. Nicholson, p253).


- Similarly, Jalal al-Din dismounted his army against the Mongols (prompting that list note that allows this).


- In the 14th century Ibn Khaldun (tr. Rosenthal) writes:


"{The Turks} divide their army into three lines, one placed behind the other. They dismount from their horses, empty their quivers on the ground in front of them, and then shoot from a sitting position..."


So in general, dismounting is described as being a peculiarly Turkish thing to do, it is attested to in Abbasid, Buyid, Ayyubid, Khwarizmian and Mamluk eras - and there are instances of this occuring in battle.


(Brendan Moyle, TNE message 2815; Nigel Tallis, 2816; Kevin Donovan, 2832)

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