Middle-eastern mounted warfare

Period texts


I posess theese texts but I will not upload them to this site considering copyright issues. However I collect the information useful for reenactment and will rewrite it with my own words in the corresponding topic.


This is the best manual of warfare existing in English translation I know. It is our primary source considering the lance, but there are also useful chapters about horsemanship, fencing, archery.
It is a 14th century military treatise written in Mamluk-Kipchak Turkic and composed during the Mamluk reign in Egypt. The English edition is based on the only existing manuscript of the work, that is preserved in the library of the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul (Section: Ahmed III, No. 3468). Kurtulus Öztopcu translated it to English.


Kitsab al-makhzun jami`al-funun (or Kitab al-funun) by ibn Akhi Hizam

A Mamluk manual of military practice and horsemanship written in Egypt or Syria in 1470. I have the original text but no translations. It has excellent pictures about training, I have used many of theese on this website.

Nihayat al-Su'l wa'l Umniyaya fi Ta'lim A'mal al-Furusiyya

An other manual full of valuable information considering armours and weapon preferences in different situations.
I have only two chapters of it. One chapter by David Nicolle can be found at Osprey Publishing website. I have obtained the other chapter from swordforum.com, which is about fighting with the mace.

A very informative essay is now available about it, "The Mamluk Lancer", written by Kjersti Enger Jensen:


Kitab ghunyat at-tullab fi marifat ramy an-mushshab

The famous book on archery written by Taybugha al-Ashrafi al-Baklamishi al-Yunani in the 14th century.
It is „processed” in a very informative book: Saracen Archery. An English Version and Exposition of a Mameluke Work on Archery (ca. A.D. 1368) With Introduction, Glossary, and Illustrations. Translated by J. D. Paterson, And Lt. CDR. W. F. Latham]


An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades; Memoirs of Usāmah ibn-Munqidh (Kitab al i'tibar)

Usama’s (1095-1188) memoirs are great sources regarding not just warfare, but the everyday life during the first and second crusades. My favourite parts are of course the stories about fighting and hunting. He depicts a few actual techniques or tips for battle, and writes a lot about human feelings around fighting and injuries. This book is really worth reading.


An interesting letter from Ottoman Constantinople. Calendar of (British) State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 16.

July 1582, 21–25

July 21. (Section 178.) News from Constantinople.
I gave you an account of what happened in the square of the Hippodrome up to Saturday, the 9th ult. Now I will continue until today.
On Sunday, the 10th, the Venetian ambassador and Bailo went to the Pashas, who were in their box (palco) at the Hippodrome, and having paid them the due attentions and had some agreeable conversation, we went to our own box, whither was brought the ordinary meal, fowls, mutton, lamb, roast and boiled, rice dressed in various ways, some kinds of pastry with honey, and other condiments after their manner, and sherbet to drink. This went on till the 10th of this month, when the public feeding ceased. We saw many races of Barbs, much music after their manner, which to us is very ungraceful. One man who had climbed a high mast, in coming down fell when half way, and injured himself all over. Food as above was given to the people, and at the end was a hunt of boars, wolves, hares and foxes, which was most entertaining. At night were bonfires, and three great castles were burnt, with other fireworks.
On Monday morning (lune mattina) the 11th, food was given in the public square exactly as above, to all the spahis with their chiefs to the number of 4,000, to whom the same kinds of viands were served as I have described elsewhere, under the tents above mentioned, and dispatched by them in the same manner. After midday appeared in the field 100 horsemen, part clad in haircloth (?), part with liveries, and part in the Rumelian style. These coursed after one another in this way. A very long mast with a golden ball at the top of it was planted in the middle of the Hippodrome, and on one side and the other in a straight line were planted two rows of trenchers (or clouts) with a little blank (bulls eye) in the middle, on rods six quarte (?) high from the ground, and over against them was extended on the ground a log of wood representing a man. These marks were laid in order a good hand cast apart.

The horseman rode straight for them, and at the beginning of the course drew his sword, aimed a blow at the log, at once replaced his sword, shot an arrow at the ball on the mast, and at once taking another from his quiver shot it at the other mark, almost as the course was ending. This was done by all, always in one course. Then they ran with their arrows only, shooting the first at the first mark, and taking another smartly shot at the mast, and then did the same at the last mark, always at full speed, and returned to do the same feats with the left hand. Then some ran with shields, shooting the arrow with the right hand and holding the shield in the left, and then put the shield in the right and shot with the left, doing all this at unbroken speed. Others, with sword and arrow, shifting the sword to the right hand and the left, did marvellous things. Others after shooting their arrows, drew their swords, and rising from their horses touched the ground with one foot, struck a blow and remounted instantly with much dexterity, aimed a second arrow at the mark at the end of their course, doing it to right and left alike; and certainly very few shots went astray, some having in one course hit all the marks except the ball, but many were. . . . . Very good were those shots when riding one after another they turned, looking backwards, and shot the arrow behind them, hitting the mark to the great marvel of everyone. Then they went two on one horse, and in mid career dismounted, one on one side, the other on the other, holding the pommel with their hand, and with one foot on the ground and the other in the stirrup, they remounted with such agility and precision that they seemed like one man. Two others in several courses did wonderful things. They threw darts standing upright on the saddle, and then with their head on the saddle and their feet in the air. Then they turned somersaults from the croup to the saddle and back. The courses were all at full speed; and those who bore themselves thus honourably had many presents from his Majesty, who was all the time intent upon all these things.

Food was as usual given to the people, a great quantity of boxes (? cabinetti) of rice, with a loaf on the top, being placed on the ground, and afterwards mats, the whole length of the square, with beef in portions on them, and at the sound of trumpets and drums all the people fell upon the spoil (si dara all arm' et alla rapina) and in a moment cleared everything off. This continued to be done from the beginning of these festivities to the end in this manner. At night the same fireworks as above went on till the 5th hour of the night, his Majesty always being present, and the square and boxes always full of people.
On the 12th, Tuesday, the same horsemen appeared in the afternoon, and being divided into two cornets, one with a red, one with a yellow banner, on the same ground performed many displays, caracoles (caraguoli) and other feats of horsemanship. They arranged themselves the whole length of the field in long lines on either side, and setting spurs to their horses passed in the same order in line one side through the other without disorder, holding wands on high, as though to strike. After spending much time on these feats, they fell to shooting with the bow, and doing the same things as the day before. The usual meal was given in the evening, and at night, models having been made of the seven towers that are at the western end of the city, they set them on fire one after another, with such a quantity of fireworks that the air seemed to burn on all sides. This was the festival of the Aga of the Janissaries.
The 13th and 14th nothing appeared in the square, so I will only say that on the latter day the meal was given in the morning under tents, in the same order as above, to all the bombardiers, gunners (topighi), and others of the army to the number of 3,000 persons with the same number of viands, and in the evening the ordinary meal was given to the people; but at night were many fireworks, among which a 'mountain' was burnt, which the High Admiral (capitanio del mare) had had made by the slaves. This was as high as a pike and more, and was brought uncovered into a corner of the square, and there covered up, and by degrees furnished with all the fireworks that went with it, which were in very great quantity; but they had not much success, compared with what was expected of them, because having been drawn into the middle of the square by slaves, who made believe it was drawn by two serpents, fire was put to it at the second hour of the night which set it all alight at once, and all the fireworks went off so furiously with no interval that they filled the square and the whole air with fire and it burnt up at once. Some of the other castles were burnt, which succeeded better; and some models of men on horseback, but full of fireworks, were thrust in among the people, and the rockets and other fireworks with which they were fitted took their way through them. Then a great tent was seen to appear in the middle of the square, all made of fire joined together in such wise that the shape was perfectly kept. This gave much pleasure to the eye, and after lasting a quarter of an hour, suddenly all went out.
On Saturday the 16th dinner was given in the square under the same tents, which were pitched both mornings (?) and then struck by the Signior's Christian slaves, to the High Admiral, . . . . to those receiving pay at sea and all their people, which was very fine to see, for the order which was kept in dispensing the viands, which was as above, and for the number of the guests, which exceeded 5,000. A great deal of food was given them, nor was there anything left over. After dinner till evening nothing was seen except many people playing practical jokes and other mountebank's mummeries.
Sunday the 17th passed without anything worth writing. The usual meals were given to the people and the usual fireworks at night, among which was seen a very pretty effect of two galleys as long as a gondola which fought together with fireworks for more than an hour so artfully that it gave the people the greatest pleasure, because having gradually approached each other one was seen to overcome the other in such wise that it was all burnt, and the victor then made great rejoicing with fireworks. This took place under the Signior's balcony (poggio), who was present every night at these fireworks, not missing any, which he found to give him very great pleasure.


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