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Hamblin, William James


The U niversity of M ic h ig a n Ph .D. 1985

International 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Ml 48106

Copyright 1985
Hamblin, William James
All Rights Reserved

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William James Hamblin

A .dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in The University of Michigan

Doctoral Committee:

Professor Andrew Ehrenkreutz, Chairman

Professor James Bellamy
Associate Professor Rudi P. Lindner
Professor K. Allin Luther

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Microfilmed or bound copies of doctoral dissertations submitted

to The University of Michigan and made available through University Micro
films International or The University of Michigan are open for inspection,
but they are to be used only with due regard for the rights of the author.
Extensive copying of the dissertation or publication of material in excess of
standard copyright limits, whether or not the dissertation has been copy
righted, must have been approved by the author as well as by the Dean of
the Graduate School. Proper credit must be given to the author if any
material from the dissertation is used in subsequent written or published

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William James Hamblin 1985
' All Rights Reserved

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For Loree, Always


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DEDICATION.............. ii

LIST OF APPENDICES................................... iv


I. INTRODUCTION ................................ 1

II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ...................... 6





VII. THE FATIMID ARMY IN A C T I O N ..................235

VIII. C O N C L U S I O N S ................................ 294

APPENDICES...................... 302

BIBLIOGRAPHY ...................................... 309


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A. Chronology................................ 302

B. Nasir-i Khusrav's description

of the Fatimid A r m y ...................... 304


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This study arose from an attempt to answer the

question, "Why and how did the Fatimid army lose

southern Palestine to the Crusaders?" Of course in

reality this question has been asked many times before,

and a number of different answers have been posed by

some excellent scholars. However, past studies of the

early Crusades in southern Palestine have been limited

in a number of ways. First, and perhaps most

significant, is the lack of a serious study of the wide

range of Arabic sources. This is certainly true of most

medievalists who deal with the Crusades, and although

some Islamicists have made important contributions in

this era, the later Fatimids have been woefully

neglected . The full use of Arabic sources can add

significant details to the study of this period.

A second related problem is the nearly universal

tendency on the part of past historians to present the

history of the early Crusades with a strong Latin bias.

1_. Although some study has been done on the early

Fatimid period, there still is no adequate history of
the entire dynasty.

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This tendency, although understandable, is no longer

acceptable. Great strides have been made in recent

years in dealing with the history of the Middle F.ast

from the Muslim point of view for the period after

Saladin , but by comparison, the first half of the

twelfth century has been untouched. The most damaging

effect of a Latin bias is the tendency to establish a

general outline based on Latin sources, using the Muslim

sources mainly to fill in a few additional details. As

I hope to show, serious consideration of the Muslim

sources reveals a substantially different picture of the

Crusader conquests.

This study of the Fatimid loss of Palestine to the

Franks consists of two major parts. The first discusses

the nature of the Fatimid military establishment

opposing the Franks (chapters 3-5). Past descriptions of

the Fatimid army were woefully incomplete. Dr. R. C.

Smail, in his superb book C n .a*a dtn g Waa&ane., regrets

that he was only able to use translated Muslim sources,

adding that, "Scholars better equipped for research into

Byzantine and Arabic sources might well take this

2. Especially Ehrenkreutz, S a la d j. n , Lyons and Jackson,

S a la .d j.n , Humphreys, Faom S a l a d l n t o t k i M o n g o l* , and
Ayalon's works cited in the Bibliography.

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subject further and it is to be hoped that one of them
will do so Unfortunately, Dr. Smail's hope, at least

for the study of the early period of the Crusades, has

remained unfulfilled. It may seem gratuitous at first,

but it is impossible to understand the events in

Palestine until the nature of the Fatimid army and

military response to the Crusaders has been accurately

defined. Until now the Fatimids have often served

historians as little more than straw men for the

Crusaders to knock over one by one.

The second facet of the problem is to examine the

strategic and tactical actions and goals of the Fatimids

in the region. What exactly were the Fatimids doing and

why? This question is discussed in chapters 6 and 7.

Although the story of the early Crusades has often been

told, Fatimid activities have never been studied in

detail. The Latin bias, neglect of Arabic sources, and

ignorance of Muslim technical military terminology ar^

theory by nearly all past military historians has made

it necessary to revise many battle accounts. A fresh

examination of the story from the Fatimid perspective

reveals a number of new dimensions to the course of

3. Smail p. vi.

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Centering only on the Fatimid field army, this study

will not deal with two additional aspects of military

history. Descriptions of Fatimid naval administration,

technology and tactics must await further study.

Likewise, it will not be possible to treat the technical

aspects of siegecraft and fortifications. However, the

Fatimid theory of siegecraft and the broader strategic

importance of the Fatimid navy will be considered in

chapters five and six.

I hope that this study will serve three major

purposes. First, it will shed some much needed

illumination on late Fatimid history and

administration. Second, it will present a more accurate

and balanced interpretation of the events of the first

two decades of the Crusades. Finally, a more complete

understanding of one portion of the military history of

the Islamic world will emerge, thereby correcting some

distortions in medieval military history.

Many of the problems discussed here leave room for

varied opinions. The inclusion of Arabic sources, often

inaccessible or ignored in past studies of the military

history of the Crusades, has added a number of

significant pieces to the story, allowing us to fit

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together what had formerly seemed scattered and

unconnected blocks of evidence. However, many gaps

still remain which will probably never be completely

filled. My goal is not so much to provide a definitive

account of the Fltimid army and military activities

although I have attempted to present as complete a

description as possible but to organize a consistent

picture which can account for the known evidence and

generate useful hypotheses about those areas for which

direct evidence is lacking.

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The political and military situation in the Middle

East in 1095,' when Al-Afdal

* assumed absolute rule in

Egypt in all but name, was drastically different from

that of only thirty-five years earlier. The Fatimid

response to the Crusader invasions can best be

understood with the preceding decades in mind . In 1060

the Middle East was .divided between three more or less

evenly matched and mutually antagonistic empires: the

Saljuqid Sultanate, centered (at least in its western

portions) on Baghdad and maintaining control over

northern Iraq; the Byzantine Empire ruling Anatolia from

its capital at Constantinople; and the Fatimids of

Cairo, who controlled most of Syria. As is well known,

1. For background from the Byzantine perspective see

Jenkins, Byza.niAM.rn; Charanis, "The Byzantine Empire in
the Eleventh Century" in Setton, Ctw.6a.dz6; Hussey,
"Later Macedonians" in Hussey, Empitiz, and
especially the related bibliography for this chapter.
The Saljuqids and Fatimids have received much less
attention than the Byzantines, and a complete modern
study is available for neither dynasty. Brief
introductions can be found in: Cahen "Turkish Invasions"
and Gibb "Caliphate" in Setton Cfiu.6a.dzi; O'Leary,
H i i t o n y o& t h z Fd.iimA.d6; Zakkar, AZ z p p c .

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the developments of the four decades following 1060

completely changed the political map of the Middle East

and greatly facilitate the Crusader invasions.

The crucial decades were the 1060s and 1070s, during

which both the Byzantines and Fatimids suffered major

military defeats and civil wars. Fcr the Byzantines, a

decline in strength culminated in the unprecedented

military disaster at Manzikert in 1071 followed by a

decade of civil war and Turkish invaders. From the

Fatimid military perspective, three significant changes

derived from Manzikert and the Byzantine civil wars.

First, the Byzantines, as a major military power, were

driven from Syria and the Levant. They would not return

in force until the 1130s when they were active only in

northern Syria, far.from any potential military conflict

with the Fatimids. Second, the Turkish invasions of

Anatolia undoubtedly saved Egypt from Saljuqid

conquest. In 1071 Alp Arslan was actually planning an

invasion of Egypt when the advance of the Byzantine army

under Romanus Diogenes distracted his attention from the

south . Although dealing with the "what ifs" of history

is a risky undertaking at best, it seems likely that if

2. Cahen, "The Turkish Invasion" p. 149.

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Turkish access to Anatolia had been barred during the

last quarter of the eleventh century much of the Turkish

military strength that was actually expended against the

Byzantines would have been turned against Egypt, which

in its weakened condition after the great Civil War

would probably have been overwhelmed. Finally, and

perhaps most significant for this study, the Byzantine

loss of Anatolia initiated a chain of events which

culminated in the invasions of the Crusaders.

The great catastrophe for the Fatimids was a

combination of famine, plague, and economic decline

coupled with the transformation of the ever present

factionalism between the various regiments of the army

into a full-fledged civil war. Beginning in 1062, Egypt

suffered from economic depression and anarchy as the

rival Turkish, Berber and Sudani-corps vied for control

of the government and plundered palaces and villages.

This military and economic chaos lasted over ten years

until 1074, when al-Mustansir summoned the Armenian

Muslim general Badr al-Jamali from Syria. As Wazlr Badr

al-Jamall restored peace and stability to Egypt after a

series of campaigns which lasted until 1077, when he

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defeated the major Saljuqid invasion of Egypt .

This period of anarchy had three major effects on

the military affairs of the Fatimids in the twelfth

century. First, the Fatimids, who in 1060 had held

control over most of Greater Syria, by 1077 held only

some of the maritime cities and the southern region of

Palestine. Second. Badr al-Jamali initiated major

military reforms, an important part of which was the

decline of the Turks as the leading military corps and

their replacement by Christian Armenian mercenaries .

Finally, real political power was taken from the Fatimid

Caliphs and invested in the hands of the WazTr Badr

al-Jamali and later his son al-Afdal, who took control

of both the civil and military affairs of Egypt. In the

process there occurred a major shift in Fatimid foreign

policy from an expansionist religious ideology to an

Egyptocentric military dictatorship .

Thus by 1080 the Saljuqids had wrested most of Syria

and much of Anatolia from the Fatimids and Byzantines.

3. Greenstone, "Turkoman Defeat at Cairo."

4. For a discussion of these military matters see ch.

3.1.1 and 3.2.5.

5. The foreign policy goals of the Jamallan dynasty are

discussed in ch. 6.

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But if the politics of the Middle East had developed a

new pattern, it was not stable, for although the

Saljuqids had seemingly emerged victorious.- having

crushed the Byzantine army at Manzikert and driven the

disorganized Fatimids from Syria, their victories were

ephemeral. The death of the great Sultan Malikshah in

1092 once again transformed the situation in the Middle

East. The rulers of the Saljuqids, who had once seemed

destined not only to maintain control over most of the

Middle East but perhaps even to conquer Egypt, became

fragmented into feuding successor states. Both the

Byzantine and the Fatimid Empires were transformed and

revitalized, albeit on a more limited scale, by the

establishment of "successor" dynasties, whose respective

leaders, Alexius Comnenus and Badr al-Jamali, managed to

stem the course of decline, reestablish internal

security, initiate significant institutional reforms and

begin attempts to reconquer lost territory from the

successors to the Saljuqids. In the last decades of the

eleventh century both the Byzantines and Fatimids began

successful military opperations aimed at ousting the

Saljuqids from their recently conquered territories,

while the Saljuqids and other Turkic principalities

became progressively more fragmented, and Armenian lords

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established a number of independent principalities in


Thus in 1095, when Al-Afdal succeeded his father as

WazTr and Supreme Military Commander (Ajtua. a l - J a y U i h . ) ,

the political and military situation in the Middle East

was again in a precarious balance, with the overall

situation much more unstable than in 1060. To the east,

Barkiyaruq had succeeded to the Imperial title of his

father Malikshah, but not to his Imperial authority.

The fragmentation which had begun during his father's

reign was greatly accelerated during the three short

years of his brother Mahmud's rule (1092-5), leaving

Barkiyaruq without authority in Anatolia, and nearly so

in Syria, Northern Iraq, and parts of Iran. To the west

the Comneni had reestablished order and were even

expanding Byzantine power to some degree, but

Constantinople had lost effective control over most of

Anatolia which remained in the hands of either Turkish

or Armenian principalities, or had become a "no-man's

land." The Fatimids maintained control of Egypt but had

lost all of their holdings in Syria except the strip of

coast from Ascalon to Beirut. The area separating these

three major powers, eastern Anatolia, northern Iraq, and

Syria, was held by a series of independent and

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semi-independent principalities and clients. It was

into this region at this time of maximum political and

military confusion that the Crusaders attacked, bringing

about a complete reorganization of the political and

military balance of the region, resulting in a drastic

restructuring of Fatimid foreign policy. The nature of

the Fatimid military response to this important new

element in the political balance of the Middle East is

the subject of this study.

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The activities of the Fatimid army had far reaching

effects in Egypt and Palestine in the twelfth century.

Fatimid government administration centered around the

tasks of feeding, equipping, training and recruiting

soldiers for the army, and almost all government

policies had as at least part of their purpose the

preservation of the strength of the army. During the

first half of the twelfth century the Fatimid army was

responsible both for the security that Egypt enjoyed

against outside invaders, as well as the devastating

anarchy which engulfed Egypt during the periods when the

army plunged the country into civil war.

Despite the importance of the military establishment

in the history of the Fatimid dynasty little has been

written about the details of the organization of the

Fatimid army in the twelfth century, and what has been

written tends to be confused and uncritical . This

chapter will examine how the army of the Fatimid dynasty

was organized during the period of the early Crusades.

1. Beshir "Fatimid Military"; Smail pp. 83-7.


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3.1 Geographical and Ethnic Divisions

In its broadest sense the Fatimid army was divided

into three categories, the (easterners),

soldiers originating east of Egypt; the

(westerners), whose homelands were to the west of Egypt,

and the Sudani or Blacks , whose geographical origins

were to the south of Egypt. Each of these three

divisions could potentially contain a number of

different cultural, linguistic, and religious groups .

The actual numbers, sources, and relative proportions of

the soldiers in each of these three groups varied

greatly throughout the history of the Fatimid dynasty.

Attempting to understand the nature of these groups is

complicated by the fact that depending on the historical

source and period in question, the sub-groups included

under these broad designations coulu vary. For example,

1. In this study I have followed the medieval Arabic

sources by adopting the Arabic word iudanZ to refer to
Black African troops serving in the Fatimid army, either
as mamluks or mercenaries.

2. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves/ p. 481 discusses

this topic briefly.

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Egyptian-born sons of soldiers originally recruited

elsewhere would often still be considered as part of the

groups of their respective fathers . On the other hand,

any regiment of the Fatimid army could also be called

"Egyptian" to distinguish it from regiments of other


Initially these terms seem to have been used to

differentiate between the large body of Fatimid soldiers

who had migrated from North Africa at the time of the

Fatimid conquest of Egypt from those defeated Ikhshidid

soldiers who were recruited by the Fatimids and enlisted

in their army , and should be thought of as being

general descriptions rather than technical

designations. By the twelfth century, however, the

terms were used in a fairly limited sense. The

Maghariba referred primarily to Berber tribes, whether

irregular auxiliaries or soldiers serving in the regular

regiments, although it seems that Arabs from North

Africa and Barqa could have been included as part of the

3. Nasir-i Khusrav tr. p. 217, states that in the 1060s

most of the Mashariqa were actually Egyptian born sons
of Turks or Persians.

4. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves," p. 480 discusses

the fate of Ikhshidid troops after the Fatimid conquest.

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Maghariba. The Mashariqa encompassed a broad range of

peoples, including Turks, Syrians, Arabs, and Armenians,

although at different times different groups tended to

dominate the Mashariqa coalition. Sudanis were drawn

mainly from black slaves fabZ d & l- h k J U u L ') , although it

is not impossible that non-slave Sudanis from Nubia,

Ethiopia, and the black bedouin tribes of upper Egypt

and the Sudan could have enlisted as free mercenaries as


The actual organization of specific regiments did

not always reflect thase broad geographical divisions.

Although some regiments were apparently always composed

of soldiers drawn from a single geographical region ,

others, such as the Hujarlya and the Ustadhs, could be

composed of recruits from any of the regions , while the

geographical origins of some regiments seem to have

changed over time . These geographical terms are used

5. The Da^lami regiment was apparently composed solely

of Daylami mercenaries, while the Rayhaniya regiment
(see 3.2.5 below) seems to have been composed Sudani

6. See 3.2.1 and 3.2.3 respectively.

7. If my interpretation of the development of the__

JuyushTya regiment from mainly Mashariqa to Sudani is
correct, see 3.2.5 below.

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most often in the sources during times of factionalism

and civil wars, which often took the form of pitting the

various regional groups against one another, although

alliances between any two cf the three groups against

the third also occurred on occasion.

Variations and shifts in the policies of recruiting

troops from the three regions were based primarily on

three considerations: the military needs of the dynasty

and perceived or actual military effectiveness of the

soldiers in the respective groups; the current political

situation and relative alignment or factionalism of the

different groups; and the direct accessibility and

availability of men from a given region for

recruitment. Specific details of shifts in the

recruiting pattern are difficult to determine, although

general trends are fairly clear. During the reign of

al-cAzIz and al-Mustansir the dynasty recruited large

nunioers of Turks, Daylamrs and other Mashariqa. This

was due to three major factors: the excellence of these

troops in combat, the desire to establish a

counterweight to the political power of the Maghariba,

and the recent severing of many ties with North Africa

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which rendered recruitment from that region difficult .

An attempt was made to counter the subsequent rise of

Turkish influence in Egypt by recruiting increasingly

large numbers of Sudanis, culminating-in the major civil

wars of the 1060s between the Mashariqa and Sudanis .

The temporary victory of the Mashariqa regiments was

countered by al-Mustansir through the introduction of

Badr al-Jamali from Syria with his army composed largely

of Armenians . Subsequent wars with the Saljuqids of

Syria not only rendered the recruitment of Turks

difficult but also foolish, since it would establish a

large Turkish regiment which could potentially defect to

Syrian Saljuqid princes. Nonetheless, the recruitment

of troops from eastern regions continued at varving

levels throughout the history of the dynasty

It should be emphasized in this regard that during

the entire latter history of the Fatimids no group was

8. See Lev, "Fatimid Army," for a discussion of al-cAziz's

military reforms.

9. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves," pp. 482ff

discusses this development.

10. On the importance and role of Armenians in the

Jamallan army see 3.1.1.

11. See below 3.1.3 and 3.3.2.

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ever completely eliminated as a source of recruits.

Even during the wars with the Saljuqid Turks, the

Fatimid continued to hire Turkish mercenaries and


By al-Afdal's time, however, the numbers and

influence of the Turks and Berbers in the army had been

greatly curtailed. Although they continued to appear as

individual mercenaries, there is no indication that

either group was able to play as significant a political

role as earlier. Thus, although Turkish and Maghariba

troops were never totally eliminated from the Fatimid

ranks, the reign of al-Afdal was dominated by Armenians

and Sudanis. Each of these major groups will be

discussed below.

3.1.1 Armenians

Historians have long recognized the important role

of the Armenians in the political and military history

of the Fatimid dynasty . However, the exact nature and

12. Such as a group of Turks serving under Suqman after

his loss of Jerusalem to al-Afdal in 1098, on which see
3.1.3 and 3.3.2.

13. See Canard, "Vizier." and "Armeniens," for the fullest


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full extent of their activities has never been fully

understood. Although some Armenians found their way to

Egypt in the Ninth and Tenth centuries, the major

migration to Egypt formed a part of a general dispersal

from Anatolia beginning in the eleventh century . The

period of significant Armenian power and influence in

Egypt began in 1073 when the Armenian Muslim Badr

al-Jamali was installed as Wazir and usurped authority

from the Caliph al-Mustansir. By 1087 there were at

least 10,000 Armenian families, numbering around 30,000

people, resident in Egypt, and many, if not most, of the

family heads served in the army . They first appeared

in an independent political role when they demanded that

Badr al-Jamali's eldest son succeed him

Perhaps the most important factor that has not been

recognized is that most of the Armenians who joined the

army remained Christian. In 1087 Gregory, Patriarch of

the Armenians, made a state visit to Egypt and was

14. See Canard, "Armeniens," 143ff.

15. L t i t cr S t . translated in Canard,

"Armeniens," p. 148 for the 10,000 families; Matthew of
Edessa quoted by Canard p. 149 for the 30,000 total.

16. Maq. 3:62.

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received with honor by Badr al-Jamali . While in Egypt

Gregory consecrated his nephew to be Patriarch over the

1 8 _

Armenians in Egypt . In 1090 Badr al-Jamali granted

the Armenian soldiers (al-cuim & n a l - ca6k(Ltu.y(L) the suburb

of al-Hasanlya to the northwest of Cairo, and gave them

an unused Jacobite church for worship , clearly

indicating the presence of a large Armenian Christian

element among the soldiers. Later other churches were

endowed and built for the Armenians by Badr

al-Jamali . In 1110 Shams al-Khilafa attempted an

abortive coup in Ascalon in which he was supDorted by

300 Armenian Christian mercenaries . Bahram, an

Armenian Christian governor and general, became Wazir of

Egypt in 1134 and was supported by a strong Armenian

Christian army. This Christian dominance so infuriated

the Muslims elements of the army that they united under

Ridwan ibn Walkhashi and revolted against Bahram

17. IMuq. 4:145

18. L i . i t OjJ Si. N t t u e - i translation in Canard,

"Armenians," p. 148.

19. IMuq. 2.3:225/355-6.

20. Abu Salih, fol. 47b-48a.

0 '

21. For a discussion of this incident see ch. 6.1.1.

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declaring their campaign to be a j i h a d , using as their

war-cry Ya m u jd h ld Z n = 0 fighters of j i h a d , and

attaching pages of the Qur'an to their lances when they

went into battle in an attempt to lure the Muslim

supporters of Bahram away from his Christian army

The importance of Christians among the Armenian soldiers

continued until the end of the dynasty, for the Armenian

patriarch fled Egypt after the defeat of the Armenian

troops by Saladin in 1171, implying that he somehow felt

threatened by the elimination of the Armenian soldiers

which would be less likely had they not been Christian


These Armenians dominated the Fatimid military

during this period. According the Ibn al-Muqaffac, the

majority of Badr al-Jamali's soldiers fa b k a n ) were

Armenians , a statement confirmed by Maqrizi, who wrote

that Badr al-Jamali "established for himself a j a n d and

ca^kan. of Armenians, and from that time most of the j a y t h

22. IMuq. 3.1:30/48-9. It is interesting to note that

there is no similar instance of Fatimid troops using
J i h a d propaganda against the Frankish Christians during
the first decades of their wars.

23. Abu Salih,

# fol. 2b p.
4 5.

24. IMuq. 2.3:219/344-5

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became Armenians and the Kutamas (Berbers) declined

The exact significance of these statements requires some

attention. When Badr al-JamalT was called by

al-Mustansir to Egypt he brought with him a large army

composed of a number of different elements, including a

significant number of Armenians; many others migrated to

Egypt in subsequent years. In his reconstruction of the

Egyptian army the Armenians played an increasingly

important role. Due to the disruptions in Anatolia

caused by the Turkish invasions large numbers of

Armenians, who were often considered excellent

soldiers , were willing to immigrate and take military

service in Egypt. More important, from Badr al-Jamali's

point of view, a body of Armenian Christian soldiers,

far from their homeland and co-roligionists, would

provide a loyal power base for his personal authority in

Egypt. Whereas the allegiance of Turks, Berbers and

Sudanis might shift to different leaders or power

groups, the Armenians would be bound to the Armenian

Jamali dynasty upon whose success their own power and

position rested.

25. MaqKh. 2:12b

26. Smail, p. 47.

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As will be discussed below, the size of the regular

Fatimid armv stationed at Cairo amounted to between ten

and fifteen thousand men . What portion of this was

Armenian? We have three basically independent sources

on the size of the Armenian force in Cairo: the LLfie

St. Nerses claims there were 10,000 Armenian families in

Cairo ; Michael of Edessa says there were 30,000
Armenians in Egypt , and Maqrizi tells us that "The

largest of the suburbs (of Cairo) was the Hasaniya ...

the Armenian cavalry and infantry lived there, numbering

7000 or more " These three sources can be easily

reconciled: ten thousand families could number around

30,000 people total, of which 7000 would be actual

soldiers, the rest being women, children, or men engaged

in non-military occupations. Accepting the figure of of

7000 Armenian soldiers garrisoned at Cairo, it becomes

clear that they would indeed represent most of the

27. See 3.4.2.

28. Quoted by Canard, "Armeniens," p. 148.

29. Ibid. 149.

30. MaqKh. 2:21d, quoting Ibn cAbd ai-Zahir.

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regular troops there as claimed bv ibn al-Muqaffac and
_ __31

It seems that this numerical dominance by Armenians

in the army did not last long after the death of

al-Afdal, and was perhaps eroded even before. In 1134

when Bahram was summoned by al-Hafiz to restore order in

Cairo, he mobilized the Armenian soldiers from the

countryside in the western Delta where he was

governor . In all the factional fighting between the

various regiments of Cairo in the preceding years there

is no mention of direct political involvement by any

regiment of Armenians . At some point between the

death of Badr al-Jamali and the rise of Bahram the

31. However, beyond the fact that all of these numbers

may simply be inaccurate, another possible
interpretation is that Matthew's 30,000 people and the
Narses 10,000 families represents the total of Armenians
in all_of Egypt rather than just those Cairo, and
MaqrTzi's 7000 figure should be seen as the total number
of Armenians in living in Cairo of which perhaps only
2-3000 might have actually been soldiers.

32. Maq. 3:155

33. Despite the fact that Bahram's Armenians were

located in the Delta, it appears that there were still
some Armenians in Cairo, for Ibn WalkhashT burned their
quarter, sacked their Churches and killed the Armenian
patriarch. IMuq. 3.1:32/50. Furthermore, Armenians were
probably members of certain regiments such as the
Hujarlya, which as a whole would not have been called
Armenian, see ch. 3.2.3.

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Armenians lost their position of dominance in the army

at Cairo. Bahram's coup thus represents the return of

Armenian influence and power to the capital.

All details of the tactical military role of the

Armenians are not clear, but some general outlines

emerge from the sources. First, it should be emphasized

that Armenians fought both as infantry and cavalry

They were also known as excellent archers, and

occasionally are simply called qa.itiA," or bow . A

significant portion, if not all of the Armenian cavalry

served as mounted archers

Armenians also served in garrisons for the defense

34. MaqKh. 2:21d mentions that both Armenian cavalry and

infantry lived in the Hasaniya suburb. The L L jje o S t .
NzA.Ae.4 also mentions that Armenian knights greeted the
Gregory the Patriarch when he visited Cairo, tr. Canard
"Armeniens" p. 148. Bahram was assisted by 2000 Armenian
cavalry, Maq. 3:161. Bacharach, "African Military
Slaves," p. 486, wrongly implies that the Armenians of
Badr al-Jamali were chiefly infantry, although he notes
later on the same page that Bahram had both Armenian
infantry and cavalry.

35. Hak. 43/58, 44/59 says that the Fatimids sent 400
q a w i aAman" and 700 Sudanis to ?aman. IMuq. 86
3.1:31/49 talks of 1000 Armenian- qa.WA supporting 3ahram.

36. Maq. 3:161 states that when Bahram fled to upper

Egypt in 1136 he was accompanied by about 2000 "mounted
archers (j[aLtu.A m m a t ) " . See Ch. 5.1.2 and 5.2 for a
full discussion.

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of the maritime of Palestine against the Crusaders ,
and also occasionally appear as mamluks

3.1.2 Sudanis

Sudani is a generic Arabic term meaning "black" and

was used in medieval Arabic to denote Blacks of any

linguistic group or from any geographical region.

Sudanis began to be recruited for Egyptian armies as

early as the ninth century during the rule of Ahmad ibn

_ 39
Tulun , who is said to have imported at least 12,000
Sudani slaves . They played important military,

political, and administrative roles in Egyptian

governments until the rise of Saladin, when the Sudani

37. IKhal. 4:145 says that Tyre was defended by an

Armenian ca6kan. under cI z z al-Mulk al-Acazz. Shams
al-Khilafa also enlisted Armenians in the defense of
Ascalon, Maq. 3:47; Dhah. 2:23; IKhal. 4:145

38. Usama 21/47.

39. Bacharach "African Military Slaves" gives an

excellent survey of the role of the Sudanis in the
Egyptian army from the ninth century until the rise of
the Ayyubids.

40. Bacharach, p. 478, gives a number of estimates from

the sources, some ranging as high as 45,000.

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regiments were suppressed

Despite the fact that the Sudanis appear on numerous

occasions in the sources, it is difficult to get an

exact idea of their organization and role. Still, a

number of characteristics are clear. Although their

proportion of the entire army varied under different

rulers, Sudanis are found serving in the army under each

administration until the fall of the Fatimid dynasty.

They were divided into a number of different regiments

rather than a single large Sudani corps Furthermore,

as Bacharach points out, "there is no real sense of

development or change during these years (from Badr

al-Jamali to Saladin) in the role of African military

slaves. Africans continued to be used as infantry by

caliphs and wazirs ... They fought on different sides

at different times (of civil war) ."

Although Albert of Aix once described a group of

41. Bacharach, pp. 487-9.

42. See Ch. 3.1.2 and'3.2.5 for a discussion of Sudanis

in various regiments.

43. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves" p. 487.

44. AA 12.18 "mx-Lote* ex gene^e A zopaAX. = knights of the

Azopart people," Azopart being Albert's name for
Sudanis, see below.

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mounted Sudanis , it appears that they were not

extensively recruited as cavalry during the twelfth

century, although there were important Sudani cavalry

regiments in earlier periods . During al-Afdal's reign

the Sudanis most often appear as infantry, while cavalry

seem to be drawn from Armenians, Turks, Arabs and

Berbers . On the other hand there is mention of the

Qaraghulamlya, a mounted regiment mentioned under

Saladin . If their name Qaraghulamlya, probably

meaning "black slaves," is to be understood literally,

it could indicate either that in Saladin's day there was

a mounted Sudani regiment, or that during the Fatimid

period the Qaraghulamiya were mounted Sudanis whom

Saladin eventually replaced with Turks, Kurds, Arabs and

other mercenaries while retaining the earlier Fatimid

name of the regiment.

Although there are only a few descriptions of the

armament of the Sudanis, and it is dangerous to

45. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves," pp. 484-6,

discusses come of the evidence for this.

46. There are numerous clear references to the Sudanis

fighting on foot. FC 2.32.1,11, 3.17.2, AA 6:41 where
they are said to kneel down to fight.

47. MaqKh. 1:86d.

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generalize from these, there is some indication that the

Sudanis formed some of the lighter armed infantry

elements of the Fatimid army. In a description of a

military parade, al-Qalqashandi mentions that "there

were 600 javelins (h a x b a ) with polished heads ... and

three hundred shields with bosses of silver,

borne by 300 black slaves, each carrying two javelins

and a shield ." This general picture of SudinT

armament is confirmed William of Tyre who described "a

countless host of infantry trained to throw the

javelin " who almost certainly should be equated with

the troops described by al-Qalqashandi. Fulcher

describes the "Ethiopians" as defending themselves with

shields , while a Sudani throwing a javelin wounded
king Baldwin . On the other hand, Nasir-i Khusrav,

describing the army in the 1060s, says that the z a n j (=

Sudanis) fought with swords

Sudanis also held important offices and positions in

48. Qal. 3:474.

49. WT 12.6.

50. FC 3.17.3.

51. FC 2.24.1.

52. Nasir-i Khusrav tr. p. 217.

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the Fatimid military, including membership in the elite

53 54
Sibyan al-Khass and the Ustadhs

Sudani troops in the Fatimid army may not all have

been slaves. Nasir-i Khusrav draws a distinction

between -the mamluk Sudani troops, known as the CA oZd

til- h h ltiO L , and another group which he calls the zan/

Although z a n j often referred to Blacks from East Africa,

it is also simply Persian for black and semantically is

the equivalent of Sudani. This distinction may imply a

difference between those Sudani troops were slaves, and

those who were freemen. Egypt's close contacts with

Nubia and Ethiopia, as well as with Black nomadic tribes

of the Sudan, would offer a logical avenue for free

Blacks to enter Fatimid military service. Thus,

although there is no. concrete proof of free Sudani

troops in Fatimid service, such a possibility should not

be totally discounted.

A final interesting problem relating to the Sudanis

is Albert of Aix's use of the word Azopart apparently

53. Usama p. 9/33 mentions that the Sibyan al-Khass were

assigned by the Caliph to murder Ibn al-Sallar, and one
of the murderers was said to be a Sudani.

54. Nasir-i Khusrav tr. p. 217.

55. Ibid.

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either as a term to describe Sudanis in general, or

referring to a specific regiment of Sudanis. Albert

describes them as a "black oeople from the land of

56 57
Ethiopia " and "horrible and black They are

described as "marshalled in the middle of the thousands

of pagans armed with maces like hammers composed of iron

and lead, (who) attacked the king and his men striking

not only the knights, but also their horses, on their

heads and other limbs with blows ."

3.1.3 Turks, Berbers and Others

The role of the Turks in the Fatimid dynasty began

during the Caliphate of al-cAzIz (r. 975-996) when a

number of Turkish mamluks were purchased and enlisted in

the army . Their numbers and influence progressively

increased during the Succeeding decades until in the

early reign of al-Mustansir they were reported to number

56. AA 6.41.

57. AA 6.46.

58. AA 9.4. See 5.1.3_for a further discussion of the

armament of the Sudanis.

59. Lev, "Fatimid Army," pp. 169 ff.

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some 6000 men . After Badr al-Jamali overcame them,

their influence and numbers decreased drastically,

especially in view of the frequent conflicts between

Egypt and Turkish princes in Syria.

However, throughout the entire reign of al-Afdal the

Turks never ceased to play a military role. During the

early twelfth century they appear most frequently in the

sources as officers. Badr al-Jamali had recruited a

number of Turks during his governorship of Syria who

came with him to Egypt where some of them eventually

received important military and administrative commands

under al-Afdal

When al-Afdal conquered Jerusalem in 1098 he

enlisted part of the Turkish garrison into the Fatimid

army . Some were probably the Turks mentioned as being

part of the Fatimid garrison of Jerusalem during the

60. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves," pp. 482-6,

discusses these developments.

61. A number of important Fatimid officers had Turkish

names such as Nasir al-Dawla*Aftikln al-Turkl, and cIzz
al-Mulk Anushtakih.

62. Ibn Sallar was the son of a Turk recruited from the
Jerusalem garrison after the siege of 1098, IKhall.

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Crusader siege in 1099 . Others returned to Cairo where

they continued in the military, often followed by their

sons, such as Ibn Sallar who eventually became WazTr. A

number of sources also mention Turkish participation at

the battle of Ascalon . Other Turkish troops were
engaged by the Fatimids as mercenaries . Throughout

al-Afdal's reign, however, their influence was

numerically and politically minor.

In the second quarter of the twelfth century the

military role of the Turks in the army of Egypt began to

increase, and substantial numbers of Turks again appear

in the army. By 1134 there was a regiment of unknown

size in the Fatimid army known as a l - G k u z z a l-g k u J ia b a ',

the "foreign Turks ." In 1153 300 Turkish cavalry are

mentioned as participating in the factional warfare in

Cairo . In the 1140s there was a regiment of 800 Turks

63. FC 1.30.3.

64. FC 1.31.1; Gesta 88; ME 2.125/311-2 mentions troops

from Scythia, which I take to be Turks.

65. As at Ramla in 1105, Maq. 3:35; the campaign of

1118, Maq. 3:53; the garrison at Tyre included Turkish
mercenaries from Damascus, WT 13.7.

66. Maq. 3:155.

67. IQal. 320.

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who garrisoned the fortress at Bab al-Futuh in Cairo

Nonetheless, the Turks never again managed to regain the

dominant political and military position in the Fatimid

6 9
army they had held in the days of al-Mustansir

Berbers played an even less significant role than

the Turks. Most of the soldiers who conquered Egypt for

the Fatimids were Berbers, and large numbers of Berbers

continued serving in the Fatimid army in Egypt and

Syria. By the Great Civil war and the JuyushI reforms

in the third quarter of the eleventh century, their

importance had already begun to decline . During the

early twelfth century they only appear as irregular

bedouins, mostly of the Lawata tribe from the Libyan

desert, who were suppressed by the government on a

number of occasions . Although individuals probably

continued to enlist in the army, independent regular

units of Berbers are not mentioned in the chronicles for

68. Usama 25/51.

69. The question of the tactical implications of Turks

and horse archery in the Fatimid army will be dealt with
in Ch. 5.1.2, 5.2 and 5.3.

70. On these developments see Lev, "Fatimid Army" and

Beshir, "Fatimid Military," pp. 38-9.

71. See IAth. 10:616; Maq. 3:97 on the major uprising of

the Lawata tribe in 1122.

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this period. The role of Arabs in the Fatimid army will

be discussed in Chapter 3.3.

3.2 The Regular Fatimid Army

In terms of expense, military effectiveness,

political power and frequency of mobilization, the

regular regiments of the Fatimid army were certainly its

most important constituents . These can be divided into

two classes, the Caliphal or Royal Regiments {Khawciu

al-Khalifa) which for the most part were stationed in

Cairo in special barracks either in the Palace or near

it, and the regular army regiments ( t a . u ) a \ a . l - a . j : ~ d )

who were stationed in the suburbs of Cairo or throughout

Egypt. The Caliphal Regiments were divided into three

groups, the Ustadhs who served as the Palace guard,

military administrators, and from whom the officers of

other regiments were frequently drawn; the Sibyan

1. For this study "regular" is defined as those soldiers

who were enrolled in permanent regiments and whose names
were listed on the registers of the Dlwan al-Jaysh (see
4.2 and 4.3). Irregular troops are those whose service
was temporary and who were not individually listed on
the registers.

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al-khass who formed the Caliph's personal bodyguard,

attendants and companions; and the Sibyin al-hujar or

the Hujariya who themselves were divided into a number

of regiments apparently garrisoned around the Palace

rather than in it.

3.2.1 The Ustadhs

The Ustadhs and the Sibyan al-Khass who will be

discussed below, were the attendants, servants,

officers, and bodyguard of the Caliph. They are most

frequently met in the sources either as participating in

royal ceremonies, or as engaged in palace coups or civil

disturbances. According to al-Qalqashandi ;

"the Ustadhs are known_today (1350s) as

the khuddam and the tcuf)K6hZy<L. In the
(Fatimid) dynasty they held an important
position. Among them were found the officers
or the personal attendants of the Caliph. The
most important were the Mu.fumnafe.6 who wound
their turbans on their heads as do the Arabs
and the magkasUba today. They were the
closest and nearest to the Caliph, numbering
over 1000 men."

M. Canard, in his discussion of the ceremonial

functions of the Ustadhs, maintains that they were a

2. Qal. 3:481.

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corps of eunuchs and consistently calls them such

throughout his article . He bases his interpretation on

a passage in al-Qalqashandi, where the Ustadhs are

equated with the khuddam and tau}E6hZya of Mamluk times,

and as David Ayalon has shown, both of these words, as

well as the word a, were used in the Mamluk period

to refer to eunuchs . However, the fact that certain

terms referred to eunuchs during the Mamluk period

should not be seen as evidence that they were always so

understood. For example, most of the cavalry under

Saladin were called iatoaafiZi, a term which, according to


Ayalon, also eventually came to mean eunuch. Yet it

seems incredible that Saladin could have had the

resources or desire to recruit thousands of eunuchs for

his cavalry . The UstSdh- regiment probably contained

some eunuchs as guards or servants for the harem

quarters in the palace, but others could well have been

mamluks or free. For example, Nasr al-Dawla Aftikin was

at first a mamluk of Badr al-Jamali, and later was

3. Canard, "Ceremonial" 367 and n. 4, although he admits

that it is possible that there were non-eunuchs in the

4. David Ayalon, "Eunuchs", passim.

5. MaqKh. 1:86c-d.

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enrolled in the Ustadhs under al-Mustansir . The

Ustadhs included both blacks and whites among their

ranks .

The Muhannaks ("expert, experienced") where the most

powerful and important segment of the Ustadhs, holding

major offices both in the administration and the army,

including the Caliph's personal attendant and dresser

(6'na.dd a l - t K j ), the master of the royal council ( i a h i b

al-majlis), the Caliph's personal secretary USh-tb

al-risala), Master of the Palace (zZmam a l - q u M i t i ) , the

Treasurer (6&hZb b a y t a l ~ m a l ), the Master of

* * 8
Administration ( t a h i b a t - d a i t u K ), and others . Nlsir

al-Dawla Aftikin al-Turkl, a member of the Ustaah

regiment, served as governor of Alexandria and commanded

Nizar's armies during his revolt in 1095 . Control over

such important administrative posts could give a large

measure of political and economic power to the Ustadhs.

6. ITagh. 5:143

7. Nasir-i Khusrav tr. p. 147.

8. Qal. 3:484-5 gives a full list with some details of

their respective functions. See also MaqKh. 1:386d,
411b, and Canard, "Ceremonial," p. 368, for a brief

9. MaqKh. 1:422

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There are a number of examples of Ustadhs serving as

officers for other regiments. Each barrack of the

Sibyan al-hujar was under the command of an Ustadh

Others could be sent in command of armies on

campaigns . Although it is clear that the Ustadhs

participated in combat as officers of other regiments,

it is not possible to determine if they ever served in

battle as an independent regiment.

3.2.2 The Sibyan al-Khass

According to al-Qalqashandi, "the Sibyan al-Khass

were a group of about 500 men who were the special

companions of the Caliph. They included amirs and

others, and are the equivalent of what are known today

as tLl-kha.66a.kZya. ." They appear often in the sources,

usually associated with the Palace establishment. It is

difficult to detail any unique military functions beyond

that of guards and officers, or to distinguish their

10. Qal. 3:481. It is possible that the word is here

used in a general sense as "master" rather than in the
technical sense of a member of the Ustadh regiment

11. Such as Waffi al-Dawla in 1133, Maq. 3:150.

12. Qal. 3:481.

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activities from the Ustadhs. They often participated in

palace coups, and when a new Wazir or Caliph gained

power he might massacre or replace them with supporters

of the new ruler

The Sibyan al-Khass were also used as secret agents

by the Caliphs when plotting against Wazirs or other

members of the government . On another occasion

al-Hafiz ordered a band of the Sibyan al-Khass to

assassinate Abu cAli ibn al-Afdal . They also fought
in military campaigns ^although most often appearing

during civil wars, and as in the case of the Ustadhs, it

is unclear if they ever saw action as an independent

military unit outside Egypt.

13. IMuq. 3.1:28/44_reports that the wazir Yanis

massacred the "Sibyan al-Khass who had been the army
( j u n d ) of the Imam al-Amir" because they had
participated in the assassination of his predecessor.

14. In 1138 al-Hafiz sent one of the Sibyan al-Khas$

with money and letters to rally the support of r'Ali' ibn
al-Sallar against Ridwan, Maq. 3:159.

15. Maq._ 3:141, they were "nun a l - a . j n a d mZn Kha.4&

a .l-K h a .lZ {a .

16. Maq. 3:173, in 1139 in a battle between al-Hafiz and


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3.2.3 The Sibyan al-Hujar

The Sibyin al-Hujar ("Young Men of the Barracks or

Chambers") were also commonly called the Hujarlya. The

buildings called the h u j< v i were built in the days of

M u cizz li-Din Allah , apparently to serve as barracks.

Al-Afdal either renovated these buildings or constructed

new ones on their site between Bab al-Nasr and the

Palace as barracks for his newly organized regiments.

The establishment of the Hujarlya regiments occurred

during the early reign of al-Afdal as a direct reaction

to the Frankish threat. Ibn Tuwayr gives the following

account of the establishment of this corps :

"Al-Afdal ibn Amir al-Juyush received a

letter from Ascalon informing him that the
Franks were gathering and the (garrison of
Ascalon) was concerned that they might march
against them. However, (al-Afdal) had
insufficient wealth, weapons, horses and men.
He therefore assigned his brother al-Muzaffar
Abu Muhammad Jacfar ibn Amir al-Juyush Badr in
the presence of the Caliph to take his place
and set out to rescue the coast (of Syria)
from the Franks. He arrived at Ascalon and
marched towards it with the army, but he was
abandoned by his army which was a terrible
catastrophe, and the fault for this lay with

17. Ibn Abi Tayy, quoted in MaqKh. 1:443.

.18. Quoted in MaqKh. 1:443c-d.

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his army. After his defeat all of his

equipment was burned. There was a poet in the
service of the Franks who composed this poem
in honor of_the Frankish King Raymond St.
Giles (Sanjil): 'The Christian religion was
made victorious by your sword / God achieved
this by Sanjil / Mankind has. never heard tell
a tale / a s shameful as the defeat of
al-Afdal.' Al-Afdal dispatched an agent to
murder this poet.' After this catastrophe none
of the army (ajnad) were of any use to
al-Afdal... He then constructed seven
barracks (hujar) and selected 3000 men from
the sons of the army, and divided them in each
barrack, giving each 100 men a and
naqZb. Over the entire corps he assigned as
zZmam an amir called the m uuJa^i.q. He
distributed to each man whatever horses, arms
and other equipment he needed, and took a
great interest in these soldiers. If there
was a sudden attack he ordered that they be
mobilized with their zimam& to meet it."

There are a number of problems with this passage

which render interpretation difficult. First, there is

no record other than this statement that al-Muzaffar

ever led an army against the Franks in the defense of

Ascalon, although there are a number of expeditions for

which the commander is not known. Second, it is not

possible from other sources to find an exact date for

the founding of the Hujariya regiment. It is certain

that they were founded before 1119/513 since in that

year twenty of the Hujariya were sent as a bodyguard

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with the Fatimid agent Ibn Najib al-Dawla to Yaman by

19 '
al-Afdal . It is unclear how much earlier the regiment

was in existence.

According to the above statement by Ibn Tuwayr,

al-Afdal received news from Ascalon that the Franks were

mustering an army which could potentially threaten

Ascalon, and the garrison asked for assistance.

However, al-Afdal's army was in no condition to fight,

lacking money, troops, mounts and equipment. This

situation can best be explained as occurring after the

disastrous Fatimid defeats by the Crusaders in the first

few years of the wars. Thus the creation of the

Hujariya corps was probably one of the major military

and financial reforms of al-Afdal in 1106-7/501.

19. Hak. 42/57; another company of 100 were sent there

six years later, ibid. 46/62.

20. Quoted in MaqKh. 1:444a. Cf. Qal. 3:481, "The ^Zbyan

a l - h i i j c u i are a corps of young men numbering about 5000
who*live in barracks ( h a j a a ) each of which is designated
by a special name. ..." The Hujariya are described by
Qal. 3:508 as. consisting of the Greater Hujariya and the
Lesser Hujariya ( k u ja s u .y a a l - k i b a n voa a l - h a j a . f u . y a
a t - i ^ g h i f L ) . The exact significance of this phrase is
unknown, but perhaps refers either to the relative size
of the barracks the troops from the larger barracks
( h u j a A ) being known as the Greater Hujariya, while those
from the smaller barracks known as the Lesser or
alternatively one of the barracks might have been known
as a l - k l b a A and another a l-$ i.Q h a s i.

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Ibn cAbd al-Zahir provides some additional

information :

"A group of young men numbering about 5000

were enlisted from a_number of sources. They
were called the Sibyan al-Hujar and were
trained in barracks, each of which had a
special name such as al-Mansura (Victorious),
al-Fath (Conquest), al-Jadlda (New) and so
forth.' The (soldiers) had their arms with
them and when they were mobilized they all set
out immediately, for there was nothing to
hinder them. In this they were like wolves
and guardians. If one of them became known
for his intelligence and courage, such as cAli
ibn Sallar and others, he would be promoted to
be an amir or officer. They would always
sleep in their barracks with their horses and
equipment and clothes. Each barrack had
Ustadhs commanding them who lived with them,
as well as servants."

The fact that the Hujariya were recruited from the

sons of soldiers of a number regiments of the army may

reflect an attempt to disrupt some of the factionalism

between the regiments. For example, Ibn Sallar, who

eventually became Wazir under al-Hafiz, was the son of a

soldier who had served in the army of the Saljuq Suqman

who defended Jerusalem against al-Afdal in 1098. Part of

Suqman's force was recruited by the Fatimids, and Ibn

Sallar, the son of one of these, was eventually enrolled

by al-Afdal in the Hujariya, from which he was promoted

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by al-Hlfiz to be governor of Alexandria and eventually
_ 21
Wazir . The establishment of the Hujariya also

represents a move by al-Afdal's to limit the power of

the Ustadhs, who, as part of the Palace establishment,

would tend to be supporters of the Caliph and thus

potentially opponents of al-Afdal. With the formation

of this new regiment from which al-Afdal could draw

officers the control of the Ustadhs and through them

the Caliph over civilian and military offices could

be further limited.

Ibn tfAbd al-Zahir's statement also implies that

Hujariya were also given special military training by

the Ustadhs. Unlike most Fatimid troops, who were not

continually under arms , the Hujariya were permanently

stationed in Cairo and always available for immediate

service. Part of the purpose behind al-Afdal's military

reforms was to improve the training of his troops and

establish a body of men who could circumvent the long

21. IKhall. 1:370-1, Maq. 3:199 also mentions he was

once one of the Hujariya.

22. See ch. 3.2.3, 4.2 and 4.3. Maq. 3:102 mentions that
in the summer of 1123 "the army spent the entire summer
in readiness and armed," implying that this was usually
not the case.

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delays which often faced the Fatimid army when it

mobilized . Finally, it seems that although al-Afdal's

original regiment numbered only 3000 men, it was

eventually increased to 5000

In sum, the Hujariya were an elite corps,

established by al-Afdal sometime before 1119, and quite

probably related to his reforms of 1107. They were

recruited from the sons of soldiers of other regiments,

given special training and equipment, and kept as an

elite standing army ready for immediate service.

3.2.4 The Rikabiya

The Fatimid army included an additional regiment,

part of the Palace establishment, known as the

Rikabiya . According to Qalqashandi they were also

known as "the Sibyan al-Rikab al-Khass. They are the

same as those known today (1350s) as the Silahdariya and

the Tabardariya. They numbered over 2000 men and had

23. See cu. 6.2 on the delays of mobilization.

24. MaqKh. 1:443 gives the original size as 3000, while

MaqKh. 1:444 and Qal. 3:481 state that they numbered

25. Literally, "Those of the stirrup." The word can

also be read Rukkablya or Rakkabiya meaning horsemen.

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twelve officers (muq a d d a m ). They were the masters of

the stirrups (/u.ka.b) of the Caliph... The most

imDortant of these Rikabiya were commissioned with

26 ___
government offices Maqrizi states that there were

four groups of the Rikabiya, who were paid twenty,

fifteen, ten or five dinars per month respectively

It is impossible to determine specific military or

administrative functions for these troops other than

participation at Caliphal ceremonies and parades . It

is also not possible to say if they were cavalry or

infantry or both

3.2.5 Regular Army Regiments (ToM/a1^ a l- a .j'n a d )

Most of the regular soldiers of the army were formed

into regiments which were given names according to the

26. Qal. 3:484.

27. Maq. 3:341-2. Qal. 3:527 only mentions salaries of

15, 10 and 5.

28. Maq. 3:432 states that they carried the Caliphal

equipment or possessions (a l-m u .k h a .lla .i a . t ). They are
mentioned in processions in Qal. 3:508; MaqKh. 1:389c.

29._MaqKh. 1:389c states that they received the name

Rikabiya from walking at the su.kab or stirrup of the
Caliph, implying that at least some of them were on foot
in Caliphal processions.

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founder or the "ethnic" composition of the troops.

According to al-Qalqashandi :

"There were numerous regiments of the

army, each being named in different ways.
Some regiments were named after Caliphs_, such
as the Hafiziya from al-Hafiz, and the Amiriya
from al-Amir. Others were named after past
Wazirs such as the Juyushlya, from Amlr_
al-Juyush Badr ai-Jamall, and the Afdallya,
from al-Afdal his son. Still otherswere
named according to various categories, such as
the Waziriya and other tribes and peoples,
such as the Turks and the Kurds and the Ghuzz
and the DaylamT and the Masamida, or according
to their nationality, such*as Rum, Franks and
Slavs, or the Sudani from the CAb id CLl-ShVia .',
or the cU ta q a (emancipated slaves) and other
regiments. Each regiment had its own qa.'JLd
and muqadd&m to command it."

There are a large number of questions regarding the

exact nature of recruitment and organization of these

units. These regiments were only semi-permanent in

nature. As a new Wazir or Caliph began his reign he

would immediately set about organizing one or more

regiments troops who would subsequently be named after

him. It is possible that many if not most of the new

soldiers recruited into the army during a given regime

would be enrolled in these new regiments, leaving the

older units to slowly shrink in size and importance as

30. Qal. 3:482. Cf. Qal. 3:508 which lists nearly all
the same regiments.

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their ranks were thinned through casualties in battle

and retirement. During the early part of his reign a

new leader consistently relied on the regiments of his

predecessors for support, while in the later part of the

reign the soldiers from the newly formed regiments

played an increasingly prominent role. On occasion new

rulers disbanded some of the old regiments and

reorganized their soldiers into new regiments under a

different name . A good example of this process comes

from the year 1134 when "the Amir Hasan proclaimed -

himself as Caliph and a group known as the Sibyan

al-zarad ("Mailed Youths") swore allegiance to him.

They were from a mixture of the soldiers from each

regiment ( k k l a i-a .jn a .d mJLn j'am c a l - t a M i a . ' l i ). He was

strengthened by them and they supported him; he granted

them benefits and made them commanders and granted them

JLcia.c& and made them governors of the provinces and

1 32
amirs in his government and his army (a jn cL d ) ."

Although a number of regiments are known by name,

31. Ibn Yanis "disbanded" the Sibyan al-Khass by

massacring them. Al-Afdal possibly used_soidiers from
disbanded regiments in forming his Hujariya.

32. IMuq^ 3.1:28/45, see also Maq. 3:149. In Qal. 3:508

the Sibyan al-zarad are said to have numbered 500 men.

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for most few significant details can be found. The

following is a discussion of some of the more important

regiments most frequently mentioned during the early

twelfth century.

The Rayhaniya regiment was composed of Sudani

- 33
troops who were garrisoned in the Rayhaniya district
of Cairo just inside Bab al-FutUh . They came to

prominence by supporting Haydara ibn al-Hafiz against

his brother Hasan, who was supported by the Juyushiya

when he refused to accept Haydara as Caliph in June

35 36
1134 . They numbered no more than 5000 men . Usama

states that 1000 of the Rayhaniya were killed in a

battle with the Juyushiya in 1149 , after which their

33. IMuy. 140.

34. MaqKh. 2:2c. They were named either because the

regiment was founded by cAziz al-Dawla Rayhan, or
because their barracks were in theRayhaniya quarter of
Cairo, it being unclear if they were named after that
quarter of Cairo or if that part of the city got its
name from them.

35. IMuy. 119.

36. After their battle with the Juyushiya in 11,34 in

which 5000 men were killed from both the JuyushTya and
RayhSniya regiments, the later were said to have
numbered 2000 men, Maq. 3:149. (IMuy. 119 gives the
casualties as 10,000).

37. Usama. 31/7, Maq. 3:189.

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power was broken and they fled Cairo for Giza. This

defeat did not result in their elimination, however, for

they are still found as an independent regiment when

- 38
Saladin became Wazir

Badr al-Jamali Amir al-Juyush established the

Juyushi regiment, giving them his name. They remained

an important regiment in the Fatimid army until their

suppression by Saladin in the civil war of 1171 . In

1134 they supported the usurper Hasan ibn Hafiz in his

bid for the Caliphate, decimating the Rayhaniya regiment\*

the subsequent war . In 1149 they again defeated the

This regiment contained both cavalry and infantry.

The mZn a l - j i i y R i h l y a . - Juyushiya Infantry ,"

were mentioned on one occasion, while on another a group

of cavalry in a royal parade were said to have been from

38. Maq. 3:312.

39. Maq. 3:312 mentions them in 1168.

40. IMuy. 119.

41. IMuy. 140; Maq. 3:189; Usama 7.

42. Maq. 3:153.

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the Juyushiya regiment They are not explicitly called

Sudanis, but in describing the civil war of 1135 which

brought Bahram to power, Maqrizi states that "the

Sudanis were victorious over the a.jricLdn and "the Sudanis

_ 44
supported Hasan against the a jn z d " As the Juyushiya
45 _ _
were the supporters of Hasan in this battle , Maqrizi's

statement clearly implies they must have been Sudanis.

In describing the battle at Cairo in 1171, Maqrizi

states that the Fatimid forces consisted of "the

Rayhaniya, Juyushiya and Farahiya regiments, and other

Sudani regiments Cgha.yJiuhu.rn nun a Z - ta M u ' Z i

46 *
z Z -h u d d n Z y a .)" On the other hand, Maqrizi twice

mentions (in 1134) the Juyushiya and "the foreign Ghuzz

who supported them = w z-m zn yzquZ u bZqzu)ZZhZm mZn

z Z -g h u z z a Z -g ku A a .b a ' ." The a.Z- Ca.6kcui a Z -g k u n a b a .

43. Qal. 5:508.

44. Maq. 3:155, IDaw. 6:514-5 tells much the same story.

45. IMuy. 119; Maq. 3:149.

46. MaqKh. 2:2. The phrasing here can either imply that
all the regiments named above were Sudani, or there were
other regiments not mentioned which were Sudani.

47. Maq. 3:155.

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(foreign soldiers) also supported the Juyushiya

Canard believes that since the Juyushi regiment was

founded by Badr al-Jamali it was probably initially

composed of Armenians , which is not impossible.

However, most, if not all, of the Armenians were clearly

_ 50
Quartered in Hasaniya suburb , while the Juyushiya were
quartered within the walls of Cairo , indicating that

unless the residence of the troops changed over time, or

there was more than one group of Armenian troops, the

Juyushiya should not be considered as chiefly an

Armenian corps, although there may have been Armenians

included in their number.

I would suggest as an hypothesis that Badr al-Jamali

recruited the best troops from a number of nationalities

and sources into his Juyushiya corps, centered initially

around the nucleus of his personal mamluks and Armenian

retainers who had accompanied him from Acre. After the

death of Badr al-Jamali the regiment continued its

48. Maq. 3:153.

49. Canard "Vizier" p. 96, he gives no evidence to

support this assumption.

50. See 3.1.1.

51. MaqKh. 2:21c

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importance for a number of decades until those soldiers

he recruited had either died or retired. In the ensuing

years the regiment maintained its identity, but new

elite soldiers began to be enrolled in other regiments

such as the Hujariya, and the replacements for the

Juyushiya came increasingly from Sudani infantry. By

the 1130s and 1140s, although the regiment retained its

original name, it had been transformed from the elite

unit of the army in the days of Badr al-Jamali to a

regiment largely composed of Sudani infantry.

The Farajiya (also spelled Farahiya and Faranjiya)

do not appear as frequently in the sources as the

Rayhaniya and Juyushiya, and their composition, numbers

or functions cannot be accurately determined, although

chey seem to have been infantry . Although they never

played a prominent role in the army they appear as early

as the days al-Hakim , supported the Juyushiya in the
54 55
civil wars in 1134 , and fought Saladin in 1168

52. Qal. 3:507 lists them as part of the infantry

regiments in a military parade.

53. Maq. 2:56, 166.

54. Maq. 3:155.

55. Maq. 3:312.

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Qalqashandl, in describing a royal parade, calls one

of the units the FaranjTya, or "Frankish" regiment, and

it is almost certain that he is referring to the

Farajlya. Although his statement is probably simply a

varient spelling, it may be that the regiment originated

as a small body of Frankish mercenaries or mamluks

serving the Fatimids in the late 10th and early 11th

centuries. The Fatimids clearly used European mamluks

in their army, usually called the ta q Z a b a or Slavs ,

and it is not impossible that a regiment was called

the Faranjiya, the pronunciation of which eventually

became corrupted to Farajlya. Some type of slave trade

contacts continued between the Fatimids and Western

Europe during the twelfth century, for there are

references to the- serving in the Palace in 1134

and i160

56. See Beshir, "Fatimid Military" pp. 41; Bacharach,

"African Military slaves," p. 481 mentions that the
Fatimids use European slave soldiers ( ^ a J ia n jl) in North
Africa but gives no source for this statement.

57. Maq. 3:154 and 239, where they are mentioned

committing an assassination along with the Ustadhs.

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3.3 Irregular units of the Fatimid Army

In addition to the regular units of the Fatimid army

discussed above, the Fatimids were often aided in their

campaigns by a variety of irregular troops who were

often quite numerous. These irregulars can be somewhat

arbitrarily divided into three classes: the bedouins, by

far the most important, mercenaries, and citizen


3.3.1 Bedouins

Arab bedouins were the dominant source of irregular

troops for the Fatimids during the early twelfth

century. They participated in many campaigns, and there

was almost always an Arab bedouin contingent with each

Fatimid army mobilized for battle in Palestine. In the

twelfth century Arab bedouins were drawn from two

distinct sources, those living in Egypt and those of

1. In Jerusalem a Jew who as an army agent known as the

"Manager of the Bedouin levy." Goitein "Jerusalem" 165,
Doc. 1, 11. 25-6.

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southern Palestine and perhaps Arabia , although earlier

bedouins were also available from northern Syrian

tribes. Many bedouin tribes served in the Fatimid

armies, and a discussion of the exact relationships and

geographical locations of these tribes is beyond the

scope of this study .

At least some of the bedouin tribes received yearly

stipends from the government by means of iqtaccit

Z ctA .ia d Z in return for military service and loyalty,

although they were paid at levels much lower than the

regular soldiers . Makhzumi describes a number of

services the bedouins were expected to perform in return

for these stipends . The first was that the bedouins

were to obey the Fatimid rulers. In a sense this could

be seen as "Danegeld", money paid the nomads to

forestall raids on Fatimid villages and cities. They

were also to guard the roads and offer assistance in

2. Usama 24/50 mentions the Darma, Zurayq, Judham,

Sinbis, Talha and Jacfar tribes. There is a useful but
incomplete study by A. H. Salih, "Le role aes bedouins."

3. On which see ch. 4.3.

4. Ibn Mammati reports that the dZnan. jaythZ for the

bedouins was 1/8th the regular dTnar, tr. by Cahen
"Administration," p. 178-9.

5. Makhzumi tr. pp. 166-7.

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times of invasion or trouble, as well as participating

in offensive expeditions. The exact nature of this

agreement, the number of men to be called, duration of

service, regions in which the nomads were to serve,

etc., probably varied according to tribe and regime. In

addition to this standard annual payment, however, it

was occasionally necessary to pay additional amounts to

gain the active participation of bedouins in an

offensive campaign .

It is impossible to arrive at a precise figure for

the total number of Arabs available for military

service, as opposed to those finally called up for

actual military service. Nasir-i Khusrav gives the

number of bedouins as 50,000, which is undoubtedly

exaggerated . A more accurate figure of those actually

receiving stipends is available from the early reign of

Saladin, when 7000 bedouins from the Judham tribe

6. Al-Afdal managed to buy the support of a group of

bedouins around Alexandria during Nizar's rebellion,
IMuy. 68, Maq. 3:14. The Caliph al-Hafiz gave one of his
officers some money to buy the support of the bedouin
tribes of the Hawf region. Usama 24/50.

7 . Tr. p. 217. See App. B for a complete discussion of

NSsir-i Khusrav's account.

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received one million jayikZ dinars in return for their

services . Although it is likely that the Fatimids paid

stipends to more bedouins than were enlisted under

Saladin, this number probably reflects the potential

bedouin manpower in Egypt. For actual campaigns,

however, only a fraction of this total force would be

mobilized, perhaps a few thousand .

The Arabs exercised little real political power

during the first half of the twelfth century. Although

they often appear fighting for one side or the other

during periods of anarchy or civil war , there is no

evidence that there was any long range plan or well

defined political goal behind their activities. They

simply took advantage of opportunities for pay and

plunder. Even in the later decades of the dynasty, with

8. MaqKh. 1:86d.If we accept Ibn Mammatl's statement

that the value of the bedouin ja y s h x . dinar was on eighth
the standard dinar then this figure should be reduced to
about 125,000 dinars total which is about eighteen
dinars a year per bedouin, or one and a half dinars per
month not an unreasonable figure for non-regular
troops with other sources of income. See 4.2 and 4.3.

9. The numerous problems involved in trying to deal with

the numbers of the Fatimid army will be dealt with in
3.4 below.

10. Salih, "Bedouins/' reviews a number of Arab


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the rise of the Arabs Shawar and Dirgham as wazirs, the

bedouins still fought on both sides in most disputes

Berber tribesmen had played the dominant role in the

12 .

Fatimid army during the early years of the dynasty ,

but by the time of al-Afdal they seem to have been

seldom enlisted as tribal groups, although there may

have been a number of individual Berbers in various

regiments. In the twelfth century their power centered

on the Lawata confederation of the western delta and

Libyan desert, plundering and taking advantage of


3.3.2 Turkish and Syrian Mercenaries

As has been discussed above , Turks continued to

play an active though diminished role in the regular

Fatimid army during the early twelfth century. They

11. Salih, "Bedouins" p. 62-5.

12. See Lev, "Fatimid Army," and Beshir, "Fatimid


13. They revolted after the death of al-Afqlal requiring

a major campaign to subdue them, IAth. 10:616; they are
involved in the civil wars of the 1140s, Usama 24/50,

14. Ch. 3.1.3.

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also appear on occasion as mercenaries hired in Syria,

generally for one campaign.

The nature of the role of Turks and Syrians in the

Fatimid army is clouded by their appearance in Fatimid

armies in Palestine as allied troops from the Princes of

Damascus. Perhaps the most famous example was when

Tughtakln sent 1300 cavalry to support the Fatimids at

the battle of Ramla in 1105 , but this is by no means

the only case. When the Fatimids sent an army of 7000

men to Palestine in retaliation for Baldwin's sacking of

Farama, Tughtakln met them, presumably with a strong

force, and took over command of the army for that

campaign . When an alliance was made between Damascus

and Egypt for the defense of Tyre, the agreement was

that the Fafimids would pay the Damascenes 1/3 of the

revenues of Tyre in return for a garrison force of 700

cavalry from Syria . Exact details concerning terms of

service and how often such mercenaries were hired are


The most illuminating example of Syrian mercenary

15. See ch. 7.5 for details and sources.

16. IAth. 10:543-4.

17. WT 13.7.

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service comes from Usama's activities in Fatimid service

in Palestine in 1150. He was given 6000 dinars and some

fine robes and ordered to recruit a force of mercenaries

from Syria. After receiving permission from Nur al-Dln

to enlist Syrian soldiers who were not currently

enrolled in the regular Syrian army, Usama managed to

hire 860 mounted men

3.3.3 Militia

Although in the twelfth century the city militias

(a h d l t h ) were in general decline as important military

units, they nonetheless played a significant role in

defending Fatimid Palestinian cities . The Franks

describe the efforts of the "citizens" of Muslim cities,

whom they often distinguish .from the regular troops of

the garrison. However, although such troops were

important, especially during sieges, they tended to be

unreliable in martial skill and morale, and were

18. Usama 9/33ff.

19. On the a h d a th in general see von Sievers. and Cahen,


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probably poorly equipped . Thus, although the militias

could be relied on during a siege, a regular Fatimid

garrison was also invariably found in each coastal city,

both to insure loyalty and to bolster the defense in

case of siege . Militia soldiers also occasionally
fought in pitched battles outside their cities . In

terms of numbers, if not skill and equipment, the

militias still played a major role in the Fatimid

defense of Palestine.

Non-Muslims also occasionally assisted the Fatimids

by defending their homes and cities along with Muslim

militias. According to Gilo of Paris, Jews also took an

active part in defending Jerusalemagainst the Crusaders

20. WT 13.7 describes the Fatimid militia at Tyre as

"weak a lid effeminate in character and not at all
accustomed to warfare," although his opinion should not
be thought of as unprejudiced in this matter.

21. See ch. 4.4.

22. The most notable example was at the battle of

Ascalon in 1099 where there was a large force of
Palestinian militia. See ch. 7.1 for details and
sources. The Ascalon Infantry skirmishing with the
Franks described by Usama 16/40-1 may also have been
city militia.

23. Quoted by Goitein, "Jerusalem" p. 163. There is no

confirmation of this in the earlier sources and it may
be late anti-semitic propaganda, although it is accepted
as accurate by Goitein.

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in 1099 , and the large Jewish population of Haifa

played a major role in the defense of the city during

the siege of 1100

3.4 The Size of the Fatimid Army

A significant problem that one continually faces

with the nature of the Fatimid army is the question of

size. Before any estimate of the military effectiveness

of the Fatimid army can be made we must have a

relatively accurate assessment of the potential size of

the army. A battle in which 20,000 Fatimids are

defeated by 5000 Crusaders is very different from a

battle in which only 5000 Fatimids fought and lost.

Figures given for the size of the army as a whole, or of

specific contingents in battle, vary widely in the

sources, and, when taken uncritically, have led to gross

distortions of the numbers in the Fatimid army. There

are three sorts of evidence which can be used to

determine the size of the Fatimid army. First, we must

determine the upper limit of the size of the army based

24. AA 7.22-5.

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on the economic limitations of the military

administration. The army could have no more men than

the Fatimid government was able to recruit, equip, pay

and supply. Second, statements made by medieval

historians giving the total size of the Fatimid army

should be examined. Finally, numbers given for the size

of Fatimid armies in specific battles should be

collected and compared.

The fundamental historiographical problem of the

reliability of the sources, both Latin and Arabic,

deserves some initial attention . Among historians the

response to numbers in medieval chronicles has ranged

from almost naive credence to such extreme skepticism

that almost no figure is acceptable. Some medieval

writers, while occasionally recording extravagant

numbers, recognized the inherent problems of accuracy.

Fulcher of Chartes wrote that :

"The truth regarding the number of dead or

wounded in this or any other battle cannot be
determined since large numbers can only be
estimated. Often when different sorts of
writers speak falsely the cause of the falsity
is really adulation. They try to heap up

1. For an excellent discussion of similar problems see

Smail, pp. 165-8.

2. FC 3.43. 1.

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praise of the victorious men of their country

and to extol the power of their land for the
benefit of the present and future
generations, Kence it is very plain that such
is the shamelessness of lying that they will
exaggerate the number of the enemy slain and
minimize or omit entirely the losses of their

Ibn Khaldun saw things in much the same way. He

believed that there were many ways in which inaccuracies

could enter historical works :

"This is especially the case with figures,

either sums of money or of soldiers, whenever
they occur in stories. They offer a good
opportunity for false information and
constitute a vehicle for nonsensical
statements. They must be controlled and
checked with the help of known fundamental
facts. ... Whenever contemporaries speak
about the dynastic armies cf their own or
recent times, and whenever they engage in
discussions about Muslim or Christian
soldiers, or when they get to figuring the tax
revenues and the money spent by the government
... they are quite generally found to
exaggerate, to go beyond the bound of the
ordinary, and to succumb to the temptation of

Yet despite the very real dangers of exaggeration

and outright falsification of numbers by medieval

historians, if we are to attempt to estimate the -size of

the Fatimid army it becomes necessary to -assume that,

for the most part, the chroniclers recorded numbers

3. IKhal. Muqa.adj.mcL tr. pp. 11, 13.

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which they had derived from personal estimates, were

counted or estimated by others (in government records,

for example), they heard verbally, or saw in some type

of written records. Otherwise, research becomes a

matter of simply accepting those numbers which support

ones preconceptions which "seem reasonable" while

rejecting these which would tend to counter a given


However, accepting that an historian accurately

recorded numbers need not imply that the numbers given

in a text are correct. There are a wide variety of ways

in which numbers could be distorted, of which only a few

will be briefly mentioned here. For propaganda

purposes, Islamic governments occasionally published

exaggerated figures. As will be shown below, this is

quite probably the case with some of the figures given

for the Fatimid army .

It was often difficult for an observer, even with

the best of intentions, to estimate the size of a

military force. An example of this type of problem can

be seen in the following hypothetical situation. A

certain army marshals its soldiers in four ranks with

4. See ch. 3.4.2.

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one meter per man, thus being able to mobilize 4000 men
on a front of 1000 meters . A second army marshals in

three ranks with 1.25 meters per man. On the same

frontage of 1000 meters the second army would marshal

only 2400 men . Now imagine an observer from the first

army, standing 400 meters from the enemy, trying to

estimate the size of the second. He guesses that their

army covers 2000 meters, and based on the density of the

troops in his own army he concludes that the enemy must

number 8000 men. In reality, however, the front of army

two is only 1800 meters long, meaning that there are

only 4320 men in the second army. Thus our hypothetical

observer, although sincerely trying to avoid

exaggeration, still estimated the size of his enemy at

nearly twice their actual number. The problems are

naturally compounded when an observer consciously or

unconsciously att 3Hijpu3 to glorify the victory of his

companions or excuse a defeat.

Numbers recorded by historians who heard or read

them some years or decades after they were transmitted

5. One man per meter x 1000 meters = 1000 men x 4 ranks

= 4000 men.

6. One man per 1.25 meters = 800 men per rank x three
ranks = 2400 men.

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could easily be distorted by inaccurate memory. A

related form of this problem involves numbers which are

reported and passed by word of mouth by a number of

transmitters. What may have started out a fairly

accurate guess of five to ten thousand (a statement

still varying 100%) could be potentially enlarged in

three or four tellings to "nearly ten thousand", "ten

thousand or more," "over ten thousand," and so forth.

Finally, great care should be taken to determine

exactly what the historian is counting. A good example

of this occurs in accounts of the battle of Ramla in

1105. Ibn al-Athlr states that the Fatimid army

consisted of 500C men , while Maqrizi and other later
historians record 5000 cavalry . A Fatimid army with

5000 men might have had 2500 cavalry and 2500 infantry,

while an army with 5000 cavalry would have included

several thousand additional infantry. A similar example

is found in economic history, where Ibn Muyassar records

that the annual revenue of Egypt during al-Afdal's reign

was five million dinars. Maqrizi records that the

kha.Aa.j alone was five million, to which must be added

7. lAth. 10:394.

8. Maq. 3:35.

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other taxes. In this case the revenue of Egypt will be

markedly different depending on whether one accepts

kh(UuLj as original or as an interpolation .

Of course none of this should be taken to imply that

medieval chroniclers were not above exaggerating the

size of armies. Muslim chroniclers even went so far as

to state that the Franks had one million men at the

siege of Jerusalem in 1099 , while Ekkehard gives the

size Fafimid army at the battle of Ascalon in 1099 as

500.000 . If these and other related problems are borne

in mind a careful consideration of the numbers given can

lead us, if not an exact understanding of the size of

the Fatimid army, at least a general idea.

3.4.1 The Military Budget and Maximum Army Size

The first variable which needs to be defined, and

against which all other figures must be compared, is the

potential size of the military budget of the Fa^imids.

As will be discussed in Chapter Four, the total annual

9. See ch. 4.1 for sources and a discussion of this


IU sj ' - X U * I >

11. Ekk. 17.5/176.

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military budget for the Fatimid dynasty probably

amounted to a sum between 2.5 and 3.75 million

dinars . This figure gives us the potential range of

total military spending for the dynasty, including

expenses for equipment and pay for the army, navy and


According to ai-Qalqashandi the monthly pay of an

officer ranged from thirty to seventy dinars a month,

while soldiers received either five, ten, fifteen or

twenty dinars a month, which included allowances for

food and fodder. In addition, however, there was a

yearly clothing distribution and special combat pay

called the n a fa q a , making the actual cost of maintaining

a soldier somewhat more than his monthly salary

Further, a significant sum was spent in yearly stipends

to Arab and perhaps Berber tribes in return for their

occasional military service, which would have further

decreased the resources available to the regular army.

Assuming for the moment that the monthly pay was all the

expense required to maintain a soldier, and there were

no ocher military expenses besides this (both of which

12. See 4.1 for details and sources.

13. See 4.3 for sources and discussion.

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are incorrect assumptions), the following table

summarizes the potential number of soldiers which could

be paid at each pay level with budgets of a number of

different sizes within the ranges established in Chapter

4, sections 1 and 3.

Table 4.1. Potential Army Size

Monthly Pay/ Yearly Budget in Millions of Dinars

Yearly Pay 2.4 3.0 3.6

5/60 40,000 50,000 60,000

10/120 20,000 25,000 30,000

15/180 15,000 17,500 20,000

20/240 10,000 12,500 15,000

If we assume that the army was 50% infantry and 50%

cavalry and the average pay for infantry was 5 dinars a

month and cavalry 15 dinars a month , we find that at a

yearly military budget of 3.0 million dinars the total

size of the Fatimid army would be 12,500 cavalry and

12,500 infantry, or 25,000 men in all . Since we lack

14. See 3.4.2 and 4.3 for a discussion of these


15. That is, 5 dinars per month per infantryman and 15

dinars per cavalryman makes a total of 20 dinars for one
of each. According to table 4.1 a budget of 3 Million
dinars could support 12,500 men at 20 dinars a month, or
12,500 each of cavalry and infantry.

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the necessary sources the exact figures can not be

ascertained. However, if the data presented above is

relatively accurate it establishes the probable maximum

size of the regular Fatimid army at somewhere around

25,000 men. At any rate, what can be known for certain

is that given the financial limitations of the dynasty

the army certainly could not have been much larger than

this figure.

3.4.2 The Total Size of the Fatimid Army

A number of different sources give various figures

said to represent, at different times, the total size of

the Fatimid field army. Perhaps the most significant

figures come from the descriptions of military reviews

held in Cairo during the twelfth century. According to

Maqrizi: "The regiments of the. ca6k(Ln advanced, preceded

by their officers (zZmam)... regiment by regiment,

numbering more than 5000 cavalry, then the infantry

archers with bows and crossbows numbering about 1000,

and then the infantry regiments . .. numbering about

7000, each with its banner and standard ." This did

16. MaqKh. 1:389c.

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not represent the entire army at Cairo for the Rikabiya,

Ustadhs and the Sibyan al-Khass appeared elsewhere in

the procession. If all of these are included the total

number of men reached 16,500 ..

Qalqashandl describes another military review: "Then

came marines on foot, carrying Arab bows called foot

bows or stirrup bows , numbering over 500 men, then the

regiments of infantry from the Masamida, then the

Rayhaniya and the Juyushiya, then the FaranjTya, then

the Waziriya, troop after troop in great numbers,

exceeding 4000 men ... then the regiments of the eahkan.t

the Amiriya and the Hafiziya and the Greater Hujariya

and the Lesser Hujariya (kujanZya ai-ktban. wa

al-hujariya al-sighar) and the Afdaliya and the

Juyushiya, then the commissioned Turks (

al-mustanaun), then the Daylam, the Kurds, the

commissioned Ghuzz and others exceeding 3000

17. The Ustadhs numbered about 1000, the Rikabiya 2000

and the Sibyan 500; see ch. 3.2 for details.

18. "Al-qtiZ al-caxabZya, wa tuAamnia qt&t al-tUjl u>a

a l ' f U k a b both of which were types of crossbows, see
ch. 5.1.

19. Qal. 3:508. The precise date_of this event is not-

certain, but mention of the Amiriya and Hafiziya make it
certainly sometime after the 113Cs.

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cavalry ." To these troops should again be added the

Ustadhs, Riltabiya and Sibyan, also mentioned as

participating in the review, bringing the total number

of men in the review to some 11,000.

Although it is not certain, it would seem that both

of these events represented an ca.nd, one of the regular

military reviews carried out by Islamic governments ,

and if this is true, we can estimate that the regular

army stationed at Cairo numbered between 10,000 and

15,000, depending on the date and whether or not some

troops were absent on military expeditions.' These

figures are confirmed by a report from 1122 that 14,305

robes were distributed as the kJLiwa. (clothing

distribution) to the soldiers and civil servants at


An examination of the grain and fodder distributions

of the Fatimid government are also consistent with an

army of this size. The grain distribution was said to

20. Bosworth "Recruitment" pp. 70 ff. and "Isticrad"

discusses the ca>id in Islamic armies.

21. MaqKh. 1:410. Although it is not clear from the

text, I am assuming that this distribution includes
robes given to both soldiers and civil servants at
Cairo, but excludes distributions which may have been
made to troops stationed in the provinces and
garrisons. See ch. 4.3 for further details.

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have been one million V id a b b i of grain a year, and if

half of this can be thought of as supplying fodder for

mounts it could supply enough fodder for aoout 10,000

horses and mules . Subtracting the several thousand

mounts owned by the Caliph which were probably not used

23 -

for military purposes , this would leave only enough

fodder supplies for perhaps 7-8000 mounts. Further

deductions for pack animals and remounts would leave

sufficient resources to maintain a regular cavalry force

of 4-5000 at Cairo, which is consistent with the other

figures discussed . Although none of these

interpretations is certain, they all consistently point

to an army stationed in Cairo numbering about 10-15,000


Army sizes recorded in a number of others incidents

supports a regular army at Cairo of about 10-15,000

22. The topic of fodder distribution is discussed in

detail in ch. 4.3 with full references.

23. Qal. 3:478 mentions that there were two royal

stables each containing over 1000 horses and mules
specifically for the Caliph and royal processions.

24. It should be emphasized that this discussion is

completely hypothetical, since it is not known what
portion of the grain was used for fodder for animals,
-what portion of the fodder was for military horses, or
even if the fodder distribution represented all the
grain needs for a given mount, etc.

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men. A significant example is the rebellion of 1135,

when the army at Cairo, excluding the Juyushiya regiment

and a group of foreign mercenaries numbered 10,000 men

including both cavalry and infantry . On another

occasion each military and civilian officer in Cairo was

given a robe of honor, the total distribution amounting

to 144 robes. If all of these officers were military

(which they probably weren't), and each commanded 100

men (the usual unit size) , the size of the army under

the command of these officers would have numbered

14,400 . In 1130 a force of 5000 cavalry and infantry

at Cairo were sufficient to compel al-Hafiz to depose

_ 28
and execute his son Hizar . This would tend to

indicate that the size of the entire army at Cairo

probably did not number much over 10,000 men or a force

of 5000 men would not have been able to dominate the

political situation there.

To this army of about 10-15,000 stationed at Cairo

should be added the Mu q t< ic& stationed in the provinces,

25. Maq. 3:153.

26. See ch. 3.5.

27. Maq. 1:390.

28. Maq. 3:137.

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and other troops on garrison duty in Palestine. It is

impossible to estimate their number, but a figure of an

additional 10-15,000 falls within the economic limits

discussed ir. section 3.4.1.

There are other descriptions of the Fatimid army,

however, which would to contradict my reconstruction.

According to Maqrizi the army at the time of Ruzayk

numbered 40,000 cavalry and 36.000 infantry . An

estimate of the total size of the army in 1163 is given

as 10,000 cavalry and 40,000 slaves of the Caliph . In

a letter to Roger of Sicily the Caliph al-Hafiz claimed

that Bahram had 20,000 troops under his command . The

Armenians and Sudanese at Cairo were said to have

numbered 50,000 . These figures point to an army
substantially larger than the one discussed above

29. MaqKh. 1:94d. Maqrizi here states that he read this

in a document written by Ibn MammatT.

30. Maq. 3:266

31. Qal. 6:461.

32. Maq. 2.1,

33. One of the largest estimates of the size of the

Fatimid army, a total of 215,000 men, is given by
Na?ir-i Khusrav. His description will be discussed in
detail in Appendix B, where it will be shown to be
significantly exaggerated in many respects.

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However, each of these statistics is subject to

various historiographical problems. First, it was often

a standard government practice among Islamic dynasties

to exaggerate the numbers in their armed forces for

security or propaganda purposes. By publishing inflated

numbers of troops, their enemies, who would certainly

not accept the figures as accurate, would nevertheless

be confused about the actual military power of a

dynasty. The inflating of published figures would thus

serve to deter possible invasions because a leader could

never be absolutely certain of the size of his enemy's

army. According to the Fakhr-i Mudabbir, a Perso-Indian

government official of the thirteenth century, official

army strengths should exaggerate their actual

numbers . Nizam al-Mulk also advises that care be

taken lest foreign ambassadors learn the size of the

army . The Ma.mluk Sultans also practiced this policy.

David Ayalon has analyzed al-Zahirl's description of the

Mamluk army and determined that it was a purposeful

exaggeration to convince the Mongols that their army was

34. Discussed by Bosworth, "Recruitment," p. 76, where

other techniques of confusing enemy spies are discussed.

35. Nizam al-Mulk ZJLylLkoX Kamah ch 21, tr. pp. 98-101.

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much stronger than it was . Although there is no

explicit evidence that the Fatimids practiced such

official exaggeration, it would clearly be to their

advantage to do so and easily explain some of the

excessively large numbers given in some cases for the

strength of the Fatimid armies.

Furthermore, many of these large figures can be seen

as obvious misinterpretations or exaggerations. For

example, although it is usually assumed that the 40,000

slaves said to have been owned by the Caliph were all

military slaves, this may not actually have been the

case. Some may have been palace slaves , others were
undoubtedly women for the harem , or wives for other

slaves and soldiers.

Also, not all of the military slaves would have been

ready for military service. In the Mamluk military

system slaves were purchased as young teenagers, trained

for a number of years, and sent into battle only when

36. Ayalon, "Structure" III pp. 70-73.

37. Such as the ^ A A c iik Z and other Palace servants

described by Qal. 3:526.

38. The mother of al-Mustansir was a black slave woman.

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they reacned their eariy twenties

With these factors in mind the following model can

be constructed. If it is assumed that the slaves were

purchased at age fourteen, entered the army at age

twenty and served until age fourty it follows that

every year five per cent of the current military slave

corps would retire. However, during any given year

others would have been killed, captured or crippled in

battle, deserted, or died of natural causes. If these

are arbitrarily estimated to average another five per

cent, then each year ten per cent of the total number of

military slaves would need to be replaced. However, as

the training begins at age fourteen, and lasts six years

until age twenty, each years age group of replacements

must contain ten per cent of the total number of active

military slaves in order to keep the regiments at full

strength. If there were 10,000 military slaves in the

39. See Ayalon, "Military Slavery" for an excellent

discussion. It is here assumed that the essential
pattern of recruitment and training for Fltimid military
slaves was basically similar to that of the later

40. Nizam al-Mulk, ch. 27.2, tr. pp. 106 describes a

seven year training program for mamluks, although they
apparently began some type of military service in the
fourth year of training.

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army, an additional 6,000 young slaves, or nearly fourty

per cent of the total force, would need to be in the

training process preparing to fill the yearly gaps in

the. ranks.

Thus, even if the figure given above that the Caliph

owned 40,000 slaves is accepted (and it may be an

exaggeration), a large portion of those slaves would

have been non-military or in training. If it is assumed

that 15,000 of those were non-military, according to the

model described above the actual fighting force would be

only 15,000 men, the rest being recruits and trainees.

Although in practice the actual numbers and proportions

undoubtedly varied, it is certain only a portion of the

total slave manpower of the dynasty could have been

actively engaged in military service.

Al-Hafiz's description of the size of Bahrain's army

is also somewhat tenuous. Although al-Hafiz's letter is

a primary source preserved in archives, copied by

al-Qalqashandl, and as such should be given serious

attention, other sources mention Bahram as being

supported by an army of 2000 rather than 20,000

Armenians , giving the impression that al-Hafiz's

41. Maq. 3:161.

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letter is propaganda aimed at impressing the King of

Sicily with Fatimid power.

Turning to the question of the number of Sudanis and

Armenians at.Cairo during Saladin's coup- although some

sources seem to imply that there were indeed 50,000

soldiers engaged in the revolt against Saladin, others

describe the rebels differently, stating that although

there were 50,000 people involved in the revolution,

this number included not only the Sudani and Armenian

soldiers but a large body of the citizens (cSma) of

Cairo as well . Thus the 50,000 figure given should

not be seen as representing the strength of the army

alone, but of the city mob and the army combined.

3.4.3 Sizes of the Fatimid Field Army

Up to this point only the maximum potential number

of troops in the Fatimid army have been discussed.

Barring civil war or a major national military crisis

42. MaqKh. 2:3a.

43. In the last 100 years of Fatimid history the Delta

was invaded five times: Atslz's invasion in 1077,
Baldwin's abortive raid in 1118 and-the three Syrian
Invasions in the 1160s under Shirkuh, when the dynasty
was disintegrating.

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such as an invasion of the Delta , the Fatimids would

never have fielded all these troops at once. During

expeditions to Syria a significant portion of the army

would have remained in Egypt to defend the country and

maintain the authority of the Wazir against rival

factions. Most field armies numbered only a fraction of

the total Fatimid army.

Latin estimates of the size of Fatimid field armies

range from two to three times the average sizes given by

the Arabic sources. Leaving aside the wild .

exaggerations giving the Fatimids hundreds of thousands

of soldiers , the Latins claimed that there were 11,000
cavalry and 21,000 infantry at Ramla in 1101 , 20,000
cavalry and 10,000 infantry in 1102 , 15,000 total at
Ramla in 1105 , 15,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry in

44. Such as Ekk. 17.5/176 giving the Fatimids at Ascalon

100,000 cavalry and 400,000 infantry; the Gesta gives
them 200,000 men at the same battle.

45. FC 2,11.2.

46. FC 2.15.1.

47. FC 2.32.3.

48. FC 3.2.1; WT 12.6.

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48 49
1118 , and 16,000 total in 1123 . Thus the Latin

estimates for the usual size of the Fatimid army in

major pitched battles ranges from about 15 to 35,000.

The Muslim sources give an entirely different

picture of the usual size of Fatimid expeditionary

forces. In the period before the rise of Badr al-Jamall

Fatimid field armies tended, with few exceptions, to

range roughly from 5000 to 10,000 men. In 970 an army

in Syria numbered 4000 ; in 973 another numbered
51 52
4000 or 10,000 ; in 976 one of the largest armies of
53 54
the period numbered 20,000 ; in 979 again 4000 ; in
_ 55
992 a Fatimid army in northern Syria numbered 13,000 ;
in 997 10,000 ; in 1025 there was a request for 1000

cavalry and 1000 infantry to reinforce the Fatimid army

49. FC 3.18.6, although his earlier redaction gives

30,000; WT 12.21.

50. Maq. 1:126.

51. Maq. 1:202.

52. IQal. 3.

53. Maq. 1:239

54. Maq. 1:253.

55. IAdim. 1:185-8, but it was joined by allies from a

bedouin confederation numbering about 20,000.

56. IQal. 51.

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at Ramla ; in 1067 during the great civil war involving

the entire Fatimid army in Egypt the Turks of the

Mashariqa numbered 6000 while the Sudanis over 15.000

Although this is by no means an exhaustive analysis

of the recorded army sizes in pre-twelfth century

sources, it does give the general impression that the

usual field army of the Fatimids contained 5-10,000 men,

reaching as high as 20,000 men in exceptional cases

A major exception was the army led by the Caliph

al-cAziz to Syria in 978, said to have numbered 70,000.

If this number represents the muster of all regular

Fatimid troops along with large numbers of irregulars it

might be conceivable. However, when faced with the

general trend it seems more reasonable to conclude that

this number is an exaggeration.

During the Crusades the sizes of the Fatimid armies

57. Maq. 2:152.

58. Bacharach, "African Military Slaves" pp. 484-5; Maq.

2:273 states first that the Sudanis numbered 50,000,
fought a battle with the Turks, and numbered 15,000 in a
later battle. Since these supposed 50,000 Sudanis were
defeated by only 6000 Turks it is probable the 50,000
figure is an exaggeration.

59. A combination of Lev, "Fatimid Army," Lev, "Fatimid

Policy," Beshir, "Fatimid Military" and Bacharach,
"African Military Slaves" provides a spotty overview of
the Fatimid army during this period.

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as depicted by the Muslim sources again fall within this

same range. The largest Fatimid force ever mentioned by

the Muslim chroniclers was about 20,000 men at Ascalon,

1099 , but this number included many thousands of
militiamen from Palestine . The Fatimids sent a force
of 4000 cavalry to Palestine in 1103 ; at Ramla in 1105
the Fatimid army numbered 5000 men ; 7000 cavalry were
sent to Syria in response to Baldwin's invasion ;

10,000 troops are mentioned in a faction dominating

Cairo in 1135 ; Bahrain was supported by 2000 Armenian
horse archers in 1136 ; in 1139 RidWan ibn Walkhashi is

said to have defeated a force of 15,000 Fatimid troops

at Cairo with only 300 cavalry , which would tend to

indicate that the 15,000 figure is ah exaggeration;

60. Dhah. 2:15-6; ITagh. 5:149.

61. IQal. 137/48-9.

62. Maq. 3:33; this force probably included an

additional body of infantry as well.

63. IAth. 10:394.

64. IAth. 10:543.

65. Maq. 3:153.

66. Maq. 3:161.

67. Maq. 3:173

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Usama claims that 17,000 Fatimid soldiers were killed in

battle of the civil war in the 1140s, but this figure,

if not an exaggeration, includes large numbers of Arab

and Berber irregulars who had been hired ; in 1149 500
cavalry were sent to relieve the garrison at Ascalon ;
cAbbas had 5000 men in 1154 ; in 1163 a Fatimid army
numbered 6000 cavalry

Although the size of the army for each individual

campaign should be considered independently, this broad

range of references shows that most Fatimid expeditions

generally included 5-10,000 men, which gives a good

indication of the military potential of the dynasty.

These figures, on the average, range from about 1/2 to

1/3 of the Latin estimates.

A final question which remains to be considered is

that of the proportion of infantry to cavalry in Fatimid

armies. It is unfortunately impossible to give any

definitive answer, but some general patterns emerge.

The first point is that the proportions of Fatimid

68. Usama 32/8.

69. Maq. 3:190.

70. Maq. 3:216.

71. Maq 3:267

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armies could vary widely depending on the types of

irregular troops which were enlisted. When large bodies

of militia infantry were included, such as at the battle

of Ascalon, the proportion of cavalry could be much

lower than normal, while if mounted bedouin irregulars

were enlisted in large numbers the proportion of cavalry

could rise sharply. Fulcher described one Fatimid army

as consisting of one third cavalry , another of two
73 74
thirds , and a third of about 40%

Unfortunately the Muslim sources tend to be much

less specific in these matters and often only mention

the number of cavalry in a given field army. Nasir-i

Khusrav describes the total Fatimid army as consisting

of about one half cavalry . Likewise the army at the

time of Ruzayk is said to have consisted of

approximately equal proportions of cavalry and

infantry . The two best descriptions of Fatimid army

72. FC 2.11.2.

73. FC 2.15.1.

74. FC 3.2.1.

75. Nasir-i Khusrav, tr. pp. 217-8.

76. MaqKh. 1:94d. However, the numbers given in both of

these instances are exaggerated, and the proportions may
also be inaccurate.

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reviews discussed above both list about 45-55% of the
soldiers as cavalry . MaqrTzT lists 5000 cavalry and
8000 infantry , to which should be added at least an

additional 1500 cavalry from the .Ustadhs and Sibyan

al-Khass, making the total 6500 cavalry to 8000

infantry, or about 45% cavalry. Qalqashandi has 4000

infantry and 3000 cavalry , to which should be added

1500 from the Ustadhs and Sibyan, which comes to

slightly over 50% cavalry . The tentative conclusion

can be drawn that, although the actual proportion of

cavalry and infantry undoubtedly varied from time to

time, the Fatimids were able to field armies

which could range from one third to two thirds cavalry,

depending on which regular troops were mobilized and the

types and numbers of irregular troops.

In conclusion, the economic constraints of the

dynasty, the size of the regular army garrisoned at

77. See 3.4.2. for details.

78. MaqKh. 1:389c.

79. Qal. 3:508.

80. The RikabTya have been ignored in both of these

cases since it is unclear whether they were cavalry or

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Cairo and the general pattern of numbers for Fatimid

field armies are consistent with a total size for the

regular army during the reign of al-Afdal of between 20

and 30,000, and field armies of from 5 to 10,000, with

about half of the regular army being cavalry.

3.5 Officers and Unit Sizes

Details of the exact structure of the officer corps

and standard size of units are lacking for the Fatimid

army, and only the general outline can be discerned.

During the twelfth century the WazTr was the supreme

commander of the army, but under his command there were

a number of different officers. Al-Qalqashandl

describes the system as follows: "There are three ranks

of Amirs: The first rank consists of the Amirs of the

Necklace ( a Z ~ ' UmanZ aZ-Mutamaqun) who wear a golden

necklace around their necks. They are the equivalent of

the Amirs (of One Hundred end) Commanders of 1000 in our

day (1350s). The second rank consists of the Lords of

Maces (An.bab aZ-Q.udab), who ride in the procession (of

the Caliph) with maces of silver, which the Caliph gives

to them from the aZ-ZajammuZ. They are the

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equivalent of the Tablakhdna in our day. The third rank

consists of the rest of the Amirs who are not allowed to

carry maces. They are the equivalent of the AmTrs of

Ten or Five in our day . The officers in the Fatimid
2 '

army were apparently officially known as zlmdm rather

than A mZA.6.

In addition to the ranks mentioned above there was

the l 6 i a h 6 a l l J i or J6ia.k6a.ldA. a l - cA6kaA. who is

described by Ibn Tuwayr as "the zImam of all who

is in charge of the affairs of the army ." The

\ 6 ia k 6 a t d A was more a government position in the

administration than strictly military, and according to

Maqrizi the l6 ia k 6 a la A was an officer in the V7x)an

a l' H al .

Exact details as to how many men were commanded by

each of the three ranks are not known. It seems fairly

1. Qal. 3:480^ on the equivalent ranks under the Mamluks

of Qalqashandi's day see Ayalon, "Structure."

2. Literally "reins" but perhaps best rendered, "a _

holder of the reins of power." The terms zimam and am lA
seem to be used as equivalents in the sources.

3. See Bosworth "Ispahsalar" on the origin and use of

this term in the Islamic world.

4. Qal. 483

5. Maq. 3:335.

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certain that the smallest tactical unit of the Fatimid

army was a company of 100 men, probably under the

command of an Amir of the third rank. The Hujariya

regiment was divided into companies of 100 men each

under a zim am , and it was the standard practice that

armies sent to relieve the garrison at Ascalon were in

units of 100 men . The "Lords of Maces" can probably be

seen as commanding several of these companies of 100

men, while the "Amirs of the Necklace" would command

entire regiments.

The impression from the sources, which cannot be

confirmed, is that the companies of .100 men were of

fixed size and composition, while the larger regiments

such as the Juyushiya and the Hujariya could fluctuate

in numbers . It appears that only portions of each

regiment would be sent to battle at a given time, and

were apparently organized into temporary battalions and

6. MaqKh. 1:443d

7. Maq. 3:190.

8. The Hujariya increased from 3000 (MaqKh. 1:443d) to

5000 (MaqKh. 1:444a, Qal. 3:481).

9. Thus, although the Hujariya numbered 3 to 5000 men, a

small independent band*of 100 was sent to Yaman in 1124,
Hak. 46/62.

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assigned officers at the beginning of a campaign .

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Dealing accurately with the administration of the

Fatimid army is difficult. Few administrative records

have survived from Fatimid times and the references in

the historians are-scattered, often unclear, and

sometimes contradictory. Another major difficulty is

that modern scholars have yet to give the administration

of the Fatimid dynasty the careful study it deserves.

A significant amount of research and analysis remains to

be done, and the following description must remain

general and tentative. Nonetheless, an attempt should

be made to make some sense of the scattered and

incomplete records which have survived and which can

give us some idea of the administrative and economic

constraints within which the Fatimid army operated.

4.1 Financial Resources

Although there is a lamentable dearth of surviving

documents for the Fatimid dynasty we are fortunate in

possessing a summary of the Ratvk (land and tax survey)


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of Badr al-Jamali in 478/1085-6 as recorded by Abu

Salih . The sum for the kharaj of Egypt is given as

3,121,000 dinars. This amount is generally consistent

with the income for Egypt from a number of

different periods which for the most part ranges from

2.8 to 3.4 million dinars per year . However, this

figure only represents the, and there were other

imDortant sources of revenue available to the Fatimid

government .

The taxes on the textile and other industries in the

1. Abu Salih, fol. 7b-8b, pp. 15-19. Rabie, p. 51

mistakenly states that Abu Salih's figures are from the
Afdall n a w k . Abu Salih, p.*19 states that this was the
revenue in the d a g s of al-Mustansir, and MaqKh. 1:100
gives^3,100,000 dinars as the revenue based on the
Jamal l nau ik.

2. Toussoun, pp. 23ff (summarized pp. 31-2) gives a list

of kka n a j income from Egypt from a wide variety of
sources and over a number of centuries. This data is
also partially summarized in part by Ashtor, Economic
Hlt>tony, pp. 207-8.

3. For much of the following discussion I rely mainly on

the analysis and figures given by Rabie, f i n a n c i a l
Syit&m. Although his work for the most part treats the
Ayyubid and Mamluk periods, he gives a great deal of
information about the Fatimid financial administration
as background to the Ayyubids.

4. Rabie, p. 80-1 where he gives figures for c. 1060

dealing only with the taxes on industries in- parts of
the delta and Cairo. The total industrial tax from all
of Egypt was certainly higher.

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Egyptian delta produced over 370,000 dinars annually .

Another important form of revenue derived from such

state owned monopolies as alum and natron mining, which

could produce tens of thousands of dinars yearly .

Tariffs on trade in Ibn Mammati's time (1190s) in

Alexandria alone amounted to almost 30,000 dinars a

year, while the z a k a i on Muslim merchants produced over

50,000 dinars . A wide range of k Z l a lZ (non-canonical)

taxes which were abolished by Saladin produced 100,000

dinars from Cairo alone , while other cites in Egypt .

also had k Z l a . i l taxes under the Fatimids. Such taxes

produced nearly 1000 dinars from Fayyum alone . Thus

the total revenue from k Z l a iZ taxes from all Egyptian

cities could have been significant. The ja .u ia .li (or

jZ z y a ,
the poll-tax on non-Muslims) produced 130,000
dinars a year-under Ibn Mammati's administration , and

taxes on the minting of new coins, although varying

5. Rabie pp. 82-8.

6. Rabie p. 92 for figure from Alexandria, p. 98 for

the z j . k a t .

7. MaqKh. 1:104.

8. Rabie, p. 105-6.

9. Rabie p. 109.

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greatly from year to year, could produce as much as

36,000 dinars annually . Added to these may have been
a number of public service and other taxes , and

confiscations of private property which, although

irregular, could produce significant sums.

Although these figures are incomplete and possibly

inaccurate, and in our present state of knowledge should

not be used to attempt any detailed reconstruction of

the Fatimid government resources, they do present us

with a broad view. The approximate yearly total from

the non-kh cvicL j taxes mentioned above was between 800,000

and 900,000 dinars, and it should be emphasized that

some of the figures given above (tariffs and h l l a i l Z

taxes especially) represent only a portion of the actual

government income from those sources. Thus when these

figures are added to the k h a Z c ij income of 3,121,000

dinars, we find that the total government income for the

Fatimids %as probably well over 4,000,000 dinars

annually. This sum is partially confirmed by Ibn

10. Rabie, p. 116.

11. Rabie, pp. 113-7. Public service taxes may have

originated with Saladin's economic reforms and therefore
might not have been available as sources for Fatimid
revenue, see Rabie, p. 114.

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Muyassar who states that during al-Afdal's reign the

yearly income of the Fatimid government was 5,000,000

dinars , with an additional 1 ,000,000 lA.da.bb6 in


There are a number of ways in which Ibn Muyassar's

figure can be interpreted. Abu SSlih wrote that the

kha.A.aj of Egypt amounted to 3, 121 ,000 dinars during the

reign of al-Mustansir , and this is confirmed by a

report from al-Maqrlzi that when Badr al-Jamali was

. established as WazTr of Egypt he initiated a A.cuok in

478/1085-6 which gave the revenues as 3,100,000, whereas

in 463/1070-1 the khaJtaj had only amounted to 2,800,000

dinars . As mentioned above, Ibn Muyassar, reports

that during al-Afdal's reign the dJLyaiA.mJL&>i =

revenue of Egypt" amounted to 5,000,000 dinars and an

additional one million iK da.bb6 of grain . The five

million dinSr figure can be interpreted in a number of

different ways: as an inaccurate exaggeration with

12. IMuy. 84, see next paragraph for analysis.

13. Abu Salih, p. 17.

14. MaqKh. 1:100.

15. IMuy. 84. and MaqKh. 1:100. However, Maq. 3:72b

states that it is the revenue from the k k a A a j of Egypt
rather than the entire government revenue.

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little value; a figure given in jayihZ dinars ; a

figure representing a real increase in the khatCaj based

on al-Afdal's new naw k in 1107, the purpose of which was

to eliminate corruption and increase government revenue;

or the total government revenue including both k k a s ia j

and other sources of government income mentioned above.

A final resolution of this problem will require

additional research. At this point it appears that the

simplest solution is to assume that Abu SSlih's and

Maqrizi's figures of 3,100,000 represent the total

revenue from the k k a J u ij alone, while Ibn Muyassar's

5,000,000 dinars should be seen as the combination of

the 3.1 million dinars in khaJuEj along with all other

sources of government revenue.

To the figures discussed above must be added the

revenues from the territory controlled by the Fatimids

in Palestine. The scarcity of sources makes it

impossible to arrive at even a partial estimate for

these numbers, but it would not have represented a major

portion of the total. The nearest chronological figure

16. Following Ashtor, Economic Hi&ofl.y, p. 208, who

points out that this figure is substantially above the
other kkcLAZJ estimates for Egypt at this time, and
concludes ,that it actually represents jc y ^ h Z rather than
standard dinars.

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was given by al-Muqaddasi for the year 985, who states

that the revenues from Palestine were 259,000 dinars,

and from all of Greater Syria as 1,189,000 dinars

Before the Crusader attacks the FStimids controlled the

equivalent of most of the old province of Palestine and

some additional cities on the coast. An initial total

for k k a x E j of somewhere around three hundred thousand

dinars from Palestinian revenues would probably be

fairly accurate, with additional revenues from tariffs,

"industrial" taxes, and the various h i l c i Z taxes

discussed above. This revenue would have been

substantially diminished during al-Afdal's reign as the

Crusaders captured cities, gardens, and farm land, while

their raids devastated crops ar.d choked off trade.

In summary, it must again be emphasized that it is

impossible to arrive at any conclusive totals for the

financial resources of the Fatimid dynasty. However,

based on the figures briefly reviewed above, it can

perhaps be estimated that the annual available resources

17. Al-Muqaddasi, quoted in Le Strange, P a le s t in e . , pp.

44-8 who gives a summary of reports on the revenues of
Palestine from a number of sources all preceding the
twelfth century whjxh generally range from two to three
hundred thousand dinars. These figures are also
summarized by Ashtor, E co n o m ic H i s t o a y , p. 174.

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of the Fatimid dynasty lay somewhere between four and

five million dinars. However, by no means all of the

state revenue was devoted to the military, and some

attempt must be made to establish the proportion devoted

to the military budget. Unfortunately, there is even

less data regarding this question than the for preceding


One way to deal with this question is to examine

some known non-military expenditures of the Dynasty.

The maintenance of the Fatimid court was enormously

expensive. The salaries of the Ustadhs, Rikabiya and

other palace guards and servants would have amounted to

several hundred thousand dinars annually . Al-Afdal

was said to have had over 6 million dinars in his

personal treasury when he died the accumulation of which

would have represented a major drain on the treasury ,

18. Qal. 3:525-7. The Ustadhs numbered about 1000 men

and received from ten to 100 dinars per month, the
Rikabiya, numbering 2000, from five to twenty. If we
take twenty dinars as the average pay for an Ustaclh and
ten dinars for a Rikabiya, the pay for the Ustadhs and
Rikabiya each would be 240,000 dinars a year, or 480,000
dinars total. To this should be added the costs of the
Firrash, the Rashshash and other servants.

19. Maq. 3:70; IZaf. 91.

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and to have freed 10,000 slaves when he died

Building costs totaled ten million dinars during

al-Afdal's reign , which, if divided into the number of

years he served as WazTr, amounts to almost 400,000

dinars per year. The expense of the CId for one

year was 100,000 dinars , and the fCh^zan a l- k h iiv o a was
^ _ 23
said to have had a budget of 600,000 dinars annually

To these figures should be added other civil and

religious expenditures. Although no exact budget can be

reconstructed, it is clear that a substantial portion of

the state budget was spent on non-military matters.

Another way to approach this question is to draw an

analogy from the more detailed data available for

Saladin's reign. Al-Qadi al-Fadil has left us an

account of the revenues and military expenditures of

Egypt for 585/1189 . Al-Fidil lists the revenues from

Egypt as totalling 4,653,01S dinars, of which 3,462,096

20. Maq. 3:71.

21. Maq. 3:72-3.

22. Maq. 3:83, although this figure included the

military expenditure of supplying new uniforms to some
of the soldiers.

23. MaqKh. 1:409; Maq. 3:343.

24. Reported by MaqKh. 1:87.

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were apparently utilized directly for military matters,

he equivalent of nearly 75% of the total budget

Although there is no way of determining if the Fatimid

military budget of some ninety years earlier utilized

precisely the same proportions of the state funds as in

the days of Saladin , this figure presents some idea of

the potential cost of maintaining an army. For

subsequent analysis in an attempt to gain a feeling for

the economic limitations placed on the Fatimid army, it

will be cautiously assumed that potential Fatimid

military expenditures could have ranged from 50-75% of

the total government revenues, or from 2.5 million to

3.75 million dinars.

25. Gibb "Armies" p. 77; Elbeheiry pp. 330ff. However,

there are a large number of unanswered questions and
difficulties concerning these figures, and Saladin's
military budget as a whole.

26. Indeed, it seems likely that the Fatimid military

budget was proportionally lower, both because of the
vast cost of maintaining the Fatimid court had been
eliminated, and because Saladin*was involved much more
extensively in Syrian conquests and in battles with the
Crusaders than were the B'atimids.

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4.2 Military Administration

The military administration of the Fatimid

government was quite sophisticated, especially when

compared with the administration of the Crusaders at the

same period. The major administrative body for the army

was the VXwan al-ja.y6h (Ministry of the Army) which

employed a large number of ministers and secretaries.

According to al-Qalqashandi this dJbxi&n. was divided into

three offices, the VZm.n a l - j a y t h proper, the Vhaan

a.1-KOMioXXh (Ministry of Salaries) , and the Vhaan
a l~ lq td .c (Ministry of lq t a . c4) .

The major duty of the minister of the VZwan a.l-jatj4k

was maintaining a complete register of all regular

I^This office was also associated at times with the

Vim.n which controlled non-military affairs.

2. Qal. 3:525. Al-QalqashandT quotes extensively from

Ibn Tuwayr in his description of the dJua1n&, and it is
likely that much of his unattributed material is from
this source. The fullest description of the financial
aspects of Fatimid military administration is Cahen,
"Administration," which includes a French translation of
a portion of al-Makhzumi's UZnhaj . All references to
al-Makhzumi below are from this translation as the
original manuscript was unavailable to me.

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soldiers. The names of the officers of each regiment

were listed, followed by the names of each soldier under

his command, the district from which the revenues for

his salary were drawn, the quality and type of his

equipment, his physiognomy and his martial skill .

These registers were kept current through regular

military reviews (ca n d ) where each soldier was required

to report for inspection with full equipment and pass

tests of military expertise. The quality of the mounts

and beasts of burden of each soldier was also inspected

at these reviews. All changes in numbers of men in a

regiment, salaries or and quality of equipment

and mounts were updated in the registries based on these

inspections . To insure against such fraud as padding

the ranks with non-military personnel to increase the

pay of a regiment, detailed descriptions of each regular

soldier and his mount were kept in the registers.

3. Makhzumi tr. p. 164-5, mentions all of these subjects

as being listed in the registers except the martial
skill of each soldier. However, other detailed
descriptions of Islamic military reviews ( O n d )
generally mention the practice of grading the troops
according to skill, and it seems likely that the
Fatimids followed this as well. See Bosworth,
"Recruitment" and "Isticrad."

4. Qal. 3:492.

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The VZuaan nl-njimJJib kept registers of the names of

all government employees, both civil and military, who

received stipends in cash from the treasury . These

employees were divided groups according to departments

of the government, and their rank within their

department. These groups included the wazTr, his family

and staff, the personal attendants of the Caliph such as

the UL6tadh.& and personal physicians, the administrators

of the palace, officers of the army, major religious

officials, ministers of the various administrative

offices, and various other palace employees .

Al-MakhzumI states that there were two types of

regular pay distributed by this d X m x i. The first, known

as the A,n^a.q, was paid to the Hujariya regiments, and

probably the other Royal regiments and officials

stationed at Cairo as well; the second, the Z jcib or

monthly stipend, was paid to "those troops employed in

the provincial garrisons The troops and officials

stationed at Cairo received as part of the i n i a q both a

5. Qal. 3:493.

6. Qal. 3:525f, for a discussion of the salaries of

those associated with the military see 4.3.

7. Makhzumi, tr. pp. 165-6, Cahen, "Administration," pp.


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cash stipend and allocations of food and fodder for

mounts and clothing .

The troops in the provinces of Egypt or in garrisons

in Palestine were paid under a somewhat different system

than those stationed in Cairo. A representative of the

Pxutan a l jCLy-S)h was assigned to each garrison in the

provinces. This official held regular military reviews

for his regiment and maintained a registry like the main

registries of the VZuo&n. Copies of these provincial

records would be sent to Cairo where they would be

processed and the necessary monthly stipends ordered to

be paid to the troops of that region . It is unclear .

whether the money for provincial soldiers would be sent

from the treasury at Cairo, taken from local resources,

or some combination of both, or if all or part of the

revenue to pay these troops might have come from i q a c6

in the region where they were garrisoned.

The third office of military administration was the

Dili.ian at-lqta.c which kept registries of the lands

allocated to the army. Rabie rightly maintains that

8. Makhzumi, tr. p. 165, Cahen, "Administration," pp.

171-2.. For a discussion of these payments in kind see

S. Makhzumi, tr. p. 116.

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"the main features of the Fatimid iqta.*-' in Egypt are

still ambiguous and need serious research and no

solution to these difficulties can be offered here.

According to Cahen, government officials and officers

would receive grants of certain agricultural regions as

iqtac6. Part of the revenue would be owed to the

government, while part would be retained by the maqtac.

The maqta0 would usually owe civil or military services,

for which he might occasionally receive an additional

salary. The government's portion of an i q t a ^ , the size

of the iqtac , and its holder could all be changed at the

discretion of the government

The i q t a ^ of the Fatimid system were divided into

two main types, the iqtac jaythZ and the iqta.c i ctidadx

The first was allocated to regular soldiers and civil

officials and included both cash and produce from the

lands . The collection of revenue and produce from

some of these i q t a c jaythi was on an annual basis.

10. Rabie, p. 26.

11. Cahen, "Administration," pp. 173ff; Cahen,

"Evolution," pp. 37-8; Cahen, "Iqtac," p. 1089b; Rabie,
f i n a n c i a l S y s te m , pp. 26-8, 51.

12. Makhzumi tr. p. 166, Cahen, "Administration," pp.

17 3ff.

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According to al-Makhzumi there was another type of

iq x ta c in which the revenue from a certain tract of land

was assigned to a soldier, but collected by the

government, and paid to the soldier as an / . j a b , or

monthly stipend mentioned above . In addition to the

regular troops permanently stationed at Cairo some of

the army was garrisoned throughout Egypt where they had

been given tracts of land as iqta*

*. MaqrTzi mentions

that troops were mobilized from "those regiments present

14 _
(at Cairo) and those visiting their iq Z lc* ." Bahram

is said to have mobilized "a group of the ju.nd and the

cOL*kaJL along with the army of the countryside ( ju n d

n l - a t iy o ii ) ." Maqrlzi, in describing the same situation

says that Bahram gained the support of "a group of

- 16
m uqta.c* of the Gharbiya province In al-Afdal's

military and financial reforms of 11078/5G1 he made a

13. Makhzumi, tr. p. 166.

14. Maq. 3:190, "m in a l - t a w a i via man ka n a

m u*aiiA M .n &
i q t a ci k i . n *The term m a & a iia a n , which I
have translated*"visiting" may imply that the troops
were not permanently based near their iq ta .* -* but only
visited them occasionally, perhaps during harvest or
planting times.

15. IDaw. 6:514.

16. Maq. 3:155

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distinction between the "men of the army and the

mu.qta.c6 ." In 1118 the m a q t a i of the governor of the

eastern delta were mobilized to oppose Baldwin's

invasion, implying that they were stationed in the

eastern delta where the land of their l q t a c& was


The exact significance of such sketchy evidence is

not certain, but as a tentative hypothesis, it seems

likely that the troops paid by the 4 .n lZ q were for the

most part stationed in Cairo, while the m u q ta H resided

as garrisons in towns near the lands of their Z q t a ^ i .

This would make both economic and military sense in that

the m u q p ic6 would be near their lands and at the same

time would also be available as a army for regional

military needs and as garrisons of the major towns.

These troops were paid from the revenue produced from

the land in the region in which they were stationed

which had been assigned to them as l q t a i . Thus the

officers and soldiers of a regiment stationed at

Alexandria, for example, would be assigned a certain

tract of land in that area as their i . q t a 0 . This land

17. Maq. 3:40, " a l - i u L i a l a l - ca6ktLnXya uia al-mmqta.cZn.

18. Maq. 3:53.

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would be administered by government officials, and a

portion of the revenues from it would be sent to Cairo.

The rest would be kept in Alexandria and distributed on

a monthly basis to the troops stationed in Alexandria.

If this hypothesis is correct, troops stationed in the

provinces would have been muqpLCi receiving the Zjab or

monthly stipends, while those stationed in Cairo would

have been paid by In&aq direct from the state treasuries

and granaries and would not, for the most part, have

held A.qta.c&.

The JLqta.c i cida.dt was based on a set of registers

kept by the VZwan a . l- Z q t a . ^ concerning the bedouin tribas

of the region around Alexandria, the Kiriani berbers, and

bedouins of other regions, as well as the fleet. The

registers for the irregular bedouins were less complete

than those of the regular soldiers kept by the VZuocin

al-jaysh, listing only the required number of men from

each tribe, and the stipends for the tribe as a whole in

jayihZ dinars , rather than a detailed listing of each

individual. According to al-Qalqashanai the q a c4 of

19. Makhzumi, tr. pp. 164-5, 166-7; Qal. 3:493.

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: 14

the bedouins were located on the fringes of Egypt and

were of less value than those of the regular soldiers.

However the system actually functioned in practice,

there were two major ramifications for the structure of

the army. The first was that the bedouins of Egypt were

provided with revenues from their yiq ta.*' JLcJLdd.dJL in

return for which they were obligated to undertake the

protection of Egyptian territory and send troops to join

Fatimid expeditionary forces outside Egypt , although

in practice the bedouins tended to receive additional

cash supplements, perhaps a type of na&aqa., when called

up for military service . The second result was that a

portion of the Fatimid army was more or less permanently

stationed in the provinces, while the elite regiments

were based at Cairo

20. Qal. 3:495, an.Z a l - b l l o i d ."

21. Makhzumi, tr. p. 167.

22. See ch. 3.3.1.

23. Ayalon, "Structure" I, 204ff., discusses the fact

that in much the same way the Royal Mamluks were
stationed at Cairo, were better paid and considered
superior troops, while other mamluks and the h&lqa. lived
in the provinces, apparently at or near their I q t a ^ .

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4.3 The System of Payment

Only a brief summary of the Fatimid system of

payment can be attempted here. The subject can not be

fully examined until the economic and administrative

history of the period has been studied in detail.

Furthermore, the Fatimid period lacks the economic

detials which have allowed Dr. Ayalon to make his

excellent studies of the Mamluk system of payment . All

thrt can be done here is to give a general outline of

the system for paying and supplying the armed forces,

with a few details of that system in action.

As has been discussed in the previous section, for

purposes of payment Fatimid troops was divided into

three classes: those who received the Z n ^ K q , those

receiving the Z j'a b which seems to have been usually

supplied from iq a .c&, and those holding JLqfiLc& of one of

the various types discussed above. Unfortunately it is

impossible to determine for certain the monthly pay of

1. Ayalon, "Payment," pp. 38-41 discusses the plentiful

sources for his study.

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these various groups of Fatimid soldiers, although the

general ranges and types of pay can be established.

Qalqashandl provides some figures for pay rates for

many government employees and soldiers serving in

Cairo. The most important government officials received

monthly salaries in the hundreds of dinars , while "the

officers of the soldiers and the Sudanis were

paid fifty, fo rty or thirty dinars per month ." Guards

of government buildings other than the Palace in Cairo

were paid five, ten, fifteen or twenty dTnars each,

while non-military servants in the Palace each received

4 _
five or ten dTnars The pay of the Rikabiya fits the

same pattern, with the officers receiving fifty dinars a

month and the normal soldiers five, ten, fifteen or

twenty dinars .

The general pattern that emerges from these few

known examples is a pay scale of five, ten, fifteen or

twenty dinars a month for the normal soldier and thirty,

2. Qal. 3:525-6.

3. Qal. 3:526.

4. Qal._3:526-. Officers of the city guard were paid

fifty dinars a month, the leaders of the Palace servants

5. Maq. 3:341-2.

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fotfrty or fifty dTriars a month for the officers. It is

difficult to make any distinctions beyond this, although

a few observations are pertinent. These differences in

pay probably are based on three major criteria, the

first whether the soldier was mounted or on foot,

second, the skill and experience of the soldier, and,

finally, the quality and cost of his arms. Cavalry

would naturally receive a higher rate of pay than

infantry to cover the cost of their horse, saddle gear,

groom for the mount, etc.; the heavily armoured man

would likewise receive higher pay than the lightly

armoured due to the increased cost of his equipment and

perhaps the need for a servant to care for it and a mule

or camel to carry it to battle. Finally, in many

Islamic dynasties there was a pay scale and grading

according to military prowess , and it is likely the

Fatimids followed this policy as well.

With these factors in mind the following is a

hypothetical reconstruction of the basis for the pay

structure outlined above. The major division in pay was

between cavalry and infantry. In each group there were

two classes of troops; for infantry, the standard pay

6. Bcsworth, "Recruitment," passim, esp. pp. 73-4.

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was five dTnars, while elite or heavily armed infantry

were p a i d ten dTnars. For calvary, the standard pay was

fifteen dTnars, while the elite or extra heavy cavalry

recei v ed twenty. Infantry off i c e r s rec e i v e d thirty or

fourty dTriars, while cavalry officers received fotfrty or

Although such a reconstruction is completely

co n j e c t u r a l it parallels some known pay rates of other

troops in the Middle East during this time. In Iraq in

the late Tenth century a cavalryman received twelve to

fourteen dinars per month, an infantryman three and a

half , and during the Crusades the Armenian cavalry were

pa i d twelve dTnars a month, w hile the infantry received

three . Another parallel presents itself from the
9 paid to troops mobilizing for combat . The of a cavalry officer was 100 dTnars, or twice

~ 10
their m o n t h l y salary of fifty d T nars . The na6aqa of

the c a v a l r y m a n was thirty dTnars, and if this also

re p r e s e n t e d double his mont h l y salary, the salary would

7. Ashtor, Economic. Hl&tony , pp. 132-3, 154.

8. ME p. 246.

9. On the see the following paragraph.

10. Maq. 3:190.

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be fifteen dinars a month, which fits the general

pattern described above .

Monthly salaries were not the only type of payment

received by Fatimid soldiers. Another important, and

for the government costly, form of pay was the n a fia q a , a

special grant of money on the eve of a campaign or at

the ascension of a new Caliph . If the troops were

being mobilized for combat its purpose was to provide

soldiers with money to refurbish their equipment, buy

camels or mules, and cover all extra expenses involved

in a major campaign, as well as boosting morale. At the

accession of a new ruler it was meant to solidify

support of the army and thereby ease the transfer of


Very few details are known about the actual

procedure and level of the n a ^ a q a in Fatimid times. The

most illuminating example is recorded by Maqrizi, who

11. This hypothesis does not conform to the situation

when UsSma managed to recruit 860 mercenary Cavalry for
6000 dinars at a rate of about seven dinars each (Usama
9/33). However, these troops were unemployed Syrian
soldiers and their actual pay rate was undoubtedly
negotiated on the spot and should not be seen as some
type of standard Fatimid practice.

12. Ayalon, "Payment," pp. 56-65, has an excellent

discussion of this practice during Mamlun times.

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states that whenever the garrison at Ascalon was

relieved the new troops were given a n a fia q a . "The

nafaqa of the amirs was 100 dinars, and for the

(cavalry) soldiers thirty dinars each ." It is

impossible to tell if this was the standard rate paid to

soldiers whenever they went to combat or was a special

n a ^ a q a for garrison duty. However, at an earlier period

a n a fia q a of fourty dinars per cavalryman was

mentioned . During the Mamluk period the was
t h e o r e t i c a l l y 100 dTnars , but in pra c t i c e it usually
t v*

varied from twenty to fifty dinars . It seems likely

that in practice the Fatimid n a fa q a also varied

according to the current reserves of the treasury and

the type of military activity to be undertaken, with a

higher n a fa q a being paid for a more lengthy and arduous


This practice could represent a significant expense

for a campaign. If an army of 5000 cavalry was

13. Maq. 3:190.

14. Maq. 2:152; Lev, "Fatimid Army," p. 189 mistakenly

takes this figure as an increase in pay rather than the
n a fa q a paid on the eve of a campaign.

15. Ayalon, "Payment," p. 57.

16. Ibid., pp. 58, 64.

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mobilized, each receiving a thirty dinar n a & a q a , the

cost of the n a ia q a alone would amount to 150,000 dTnars,

to which would be added the regular pay of the troops,

the cost of supplies, equipment, and the mobilization of

the fleet to transport troops and supplies. Although no

exact costs can be determined each expeditionary force

undoubtedly cost the Fatimid government at least several

hundred thousand dTnars.

The KZ&ida was an annual or semi-annual distribution

of either a robe or its cost to soldiers and government

employees . The governments supplies of clothing and

cloth were kept in the al~ kZ 4 u )a in Cairo, and

according, to Ibn Abl Tayy, the early Fatimid

administration spent approximately 600,000 dinars a year

on the maintenance of this storehouse. However, this

KhZzana included the costly jewel and gold covered robes

of the Caliph and his high officials, as well as the

robes for the slaves and servants of Palace

establishment, and the figure of 600,000 dTnars, if not

an exaggeration, should not be thought of mainly as a

17. Although some could receive clothing more

frequently, for example, al-Afdal's librarian received 3
robes per year, Maq. 3:51.

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military expense

In 1119 the kJ.6wa was said to have amounted to 8775

robes, while in 1122 it was 14,305 . The money spent on

the kZiuia. was said to have been greatly decreased during

_ ^ 2 0
the regime of al-Ma'mun al-Bataql . It thus appears

that in practice there was no set standard as to who

received the )a or how many times a year, or even the

quality or value of the robes distributed. It is clear

that the robes for the high officers and administrators

were much finer and more expensive than those of the

lower ranks, Ibn Abl Tayy stating that the gold

embroidered L>iaz (decorative band) on the robes of the

amirs alone cost 500 dinars each . During Ramadan in

1122 the cost of the distribution of gifts, sweets and

robes given on the cZd a.t~iXXn. amounted to 100,000

18. Quoted by MaqKh. 1:409. (Note that Maq. 3:343

abridges and distorts this same passage.) MaqKtu 3:415
mentions royal robes costing 30,000 and 80,000 dinars
made of gold fabric and covered with jewels and pearls.

19. MaqKh 1:410. Maq. 3:82 gives the second number as

4305, undoubtedly erroneously omitting the 10,000.

20. Ibid.

21. Quoted by MaqKh. 1:409. The subsequent pages of

MaqKh. give additional descriptions of costly robes.

22. Maq. 3:33.

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Although again all the details are not known, it is

clear that the Fatimids had some type of fodder

distribution for the army. According to Ibn Muyassar

the Fatimid government's yearly revenues included one

million V id a b b i of grain for the state granaries

. Qalgashandl states that there were a number

of store houses for grain in which taxes in kind were

stored for distribution to many different government

employees and charities, including the daily food

rations ( ja n Z y K t ) for the army and navy. Two large

storage facilities were established near Fustat for


There was food distribution to some government

employees. Al-Makhzuml's discussion implies that part

of the payment to Fatimid troops was in kind .

Qalqashandi's statement above shows that at least some

of the grain in the storehouses was distributed to civil

servants and the military. There are also cases of

23. IMuy. 84 followed by Maq. 3:72.

24. Qal. 3:479.

25. Makhzumi tr. p. 166, Cahen, "Administration," p.

I 4m

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salaries including flour and meat . There was thus

clearly some kind of food distribution to the soldiers

stationed in Cairo.

According to Ayalon the daily fodder allotment per

soldier under the Mamluk dynasty ranged from three to

five caZZqaA per day . As an ca tZ q a was 1/25th of a

Z n d a b b , this rate of distribution would amount to about

one of barley per week per cavalryman, or around

50 Zn.da.bbA per year . If we arbitrarily assume that

half of the government grain was barley for cavalry

mounts, this would include enough grain to supply 10,000

mounts , which corresponds to the needs of the
estimated size of the army stationed in Cairo . Of

course this is a much simplified and completely

hypothetical model. It is clear that not all of the

government's grain was intended to serve as fodder for

26. Maq. 3:79.

27. Ayalon, "Payment" pp. 261-2.

28._For the ca lZ q a . see Ayalon, "Payment," p.261. At 3

ca .llc ia A
perday the rate is one per 8 days, at 5
ca tiq a .A
it is one per 5 days. For the purposes of
general calculations I am using one per week.

29. One half of a million Zn.da.bbA divided by fifty a per mount equals 10,000.

30. See 3.4.2.

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animals, since some was given to the Navy, government

employees and charitable institutions . Further, not

all fodder was used for distribution to the mounts of

cavalrymen as the Fatimid government maintained the

32 33 34
mounts of the royal stables , mules , and livestock

which probably received some type of fodder distribution

from these storehouses as well. Furthermore, it may be

that the Fatimid barley distribution for military mounts

was less than that of the Mamluk period with the Fatimid

soldiers being expected to supply part of their mount's

needs from their monthly pay.

It should be noted that the costs of the food and

fodder, and perhaps the kZ&wa. as well, were apparently

not paid in addition to the monthly salary. According

to al-Makhzumi, the salaries of soldiers were recorded

on paper in j a y t h ! dTnars, but were distributed in both

cash and payments in kind . As an hypothetical

31. Qal. 3:479.

32. Qal. 3:478, numbering well over 2000.

33. Qal. 3:479.

34. Maq. 3:70 mentions that al-Afdal spent 40,000 dinars

a year feeding his cattle, sheep and camels.

35. Makhzuml tr. pp. 165, 167.

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example, if cavalryman's salary was fifteen dinars per

month, he would receive daily rations of wheat or flour,

and perhaps meat, oil and vegetables or other products,

and a measure of barley and/or straw as fodder for his

mount. The value of all of these products would then be

deducted from his monthly pay, so that although he was

officially listed in the registers as having been paid

fifteen dinars a month, in practice he was paid perhaps

seven dTnars in cash, the rest having been paid in kind

throughout the month.

It is not clear how many of these types of payment

applied to those troops holding I q t a H in the

provinces. Clearly they received the when they

were mustered for military expeditions. However, as

their income from an JL q ta c almost certainly included

produce, it seems possible that they were not given

special fodder or food rations as were the troops based

in Cairo receiving the I n i a q .

4.4 Garrisons

The important role played by the garrisons of the

maritime cities merits some attention.

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Garrisons of regular Fatimid troops were found in most

Fatimid coastal cities. They were numbered for the most

part only in the hundreds, only in the most important

cities or in times of crisis reaching over 1000 men.

When the walls of Jerusalem were breached in 1099 it was

said that 500 men took refuge in the citadel, perhaps

reflecting the general size of the regular garrison

there . Reinforcements to the city of Arsuf in 1100
numbered 100 cavalry and 200 infantry , a strong enough

force to encourage the initiation of counter-raids from

the city. A Turkish mercenary force from Damascus

garrisoning Tyre numbered some 700 cavalry , but as at

that time the revenues of the city were divided between

Damascus and Cairo, and there were probably additional

4 _
Fatimid contingents as well Shams al-Khilafa

1. FC 1.30.3.

2. AA 7:10.

3. WT 13.7.

4. WT 13.5 says that 1/3 of the revenues of Tyre went to

Damascus, 2/3 to Egypt. If this represents the
proportion of defense obligations taken we can perhaps
assume that the total garrison was about 2100 men, 1/3,
or 70C from Damascus, and 2/3 or 1400 from Egypt.

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garrisoned Ascalon with 300 Armenian mercenaries in

1110 . All of these figures indicate the relatively

small size of the regular garrison forces of the


Garrisons were paid from some combination of a

portion of the revenues of each city and direct

payments from the treasury of Egypt, which could include

7 8
regular monthly stipends, na.aqa. payments , supplies ,

and sometimes even stipends to the citizens to encourage

their support . As the Crusaders captured the

agricultural hinterland and interdicted trading through

competition and piracy, the difficulties and expense in

supplying the city and paying and feeding the garrisons

continually mounted.

More information is available concerning the

garrison at Ascalon than any other, and although there

were possibly significant differences in the

5. See 6.1.1 for details.

6. As at Tripoli: Nipir-i Khusrav, tr. in LeStrange,

V a.le.6, p. 349.

7. See ch. 4.3.

8. Maq. 3:96 mentions shipping 15,000 tn.da.bb6 of grain

to Tyre.

9. WT 17.22.

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administration of the garrison of each city, Ascalon can

serve as a paradigm of the coastal defense. Fulcher

makes the general statement that the garrison of Ascalon

was "few in number and this is supported by other

sources. According to Ibn TaghrlbardT, the Fatimids

maintained a garrison of from 300 to 600 cavalry at

11 _
Ascalon , which is confirmed by MaqrTzi, who mentions

that in 1149 a force of 500 cavalry wasfeent to relieve

the Ascalon garrison . Fulcher mentions a raid from

the garrison of Ascalon carried out by 500 cavalry and

1000 infantry, the infantry in this case possibly

representing, at least in part, the militia of


William of Tyre gives an interesting description of

how he viewed the Fatimid policy toward the garrisoning

of Ascalon :

10. FC 2.49.12.

11. ITagh. 5:244

12. Maq. 3:190.

13. FC 2.37.3 claims this entire force was defeated by a

mere sixty five knights from Jaffa, indicating Fulcher's
figures are perhaps exaggerated.

14. WT 14:22, 17:22.

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"Now because of their continued success

(in raids against the Crusaders), the people
of Ascalon were becoming increasingly bold and
insolent and were overrunning the entire
region without restraint. Ascalon itself was
subject to a very powerful Egyptian
potentate-. If this city should be taken, the
prince foresaw with alarm that the Christian
army might invade Egypt and disturb the
peaceful conditions which existed there.
Accordingly, at a great outlay of money and
effort, he was endeavoring to make the land of
Ascalon a barrier, as it were, between Egypt
and our territory. Fearing that the strength
of its people might give way under the
constant hardships and perils of warfare, he
took great care to send to their assistance
every three months new people and fresh
legions, together with provisions and supplies
of arms. The new arrivals aturally wished to
try their strength and to give proofs of their
courage. Hence, against the wishes of the
veterans, they often made experimental sallies
and expeditions... There was a large
population in that city, even the least of
whom and, indeed, according to the general
report, even the youngest babes received
pay from the treasury of the caliph of Egypt."

The garrison was relieved on a regular basis by

fresh troops from Egypt. According to Maqrizi this

relief occurred every six months , while William of
Tyre maintains it was every three months . On the

other hand, Usama only stayed there four months, but he

15. Maq 3:190, 204, and ITagh. 6:244.

16. WT 14:22.

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was apparently called back earlier than usual . It is

possible that during times of relative quiet the

garrison was relieved every six.months as stated by

Maqrizi, while when under siege or facing the danger of

siege, the relief may have been increased to every three

months, or perhaps at one time the standard service

period was six months which eventually changed to three


In addition to.their regular pay, each time a man

was sent from Egypt for his tour of duty at Ascalon he

received a special a type of active duty pay, of

100 dinars per officer and thirty dinars per

cavalryman . With 500 cavalry paid fifteen dinars a

month, five officers at fifty a month, plus the,

the cost of supplies and transportation, and stipends to

the citizens, the total yearly cost of maintaining the

garrison at Ascalon would have been well over 100,000

dTnars. If William of Tyre's statement is correct, the

citizens were also paid a special stipend, presumably

both to encourage them to stay while facing imminent

17. Usama 17/42. He received a letter summoning him back

to Cairo, while his brother, who had come with him to
Ascalon, stayed on in the city.

18. Maq. 3:190, ITagh. 5:244, see ch. 4.3 above.

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danger from the Franks, assist them in meeting the

possibly increased prices due to the need to transport

all goods there by sea from Egypt, and enable the city

militia to provide themselves with better equipment.

The soldiers of the regular garrison were divided

into units of 100 men, each commanded by an amir, while

the commander of the entire force was called the amZa

- 19
aZ-muqaddamZn . The amZn. aZ-muLqa.dda.mZn was not the

governor of Ascalon, as he was to present his

credentials to the governor when his force arrived.

This commander was'sent a purse with 100 dinars (his

na^aqa) as a sign he was to be mobilized , and was

given written orders from the Army Office and additional

money to be distributed for the na^aqa to the troops.

He then dispatched officers to mobilize "the regiments

who were present (in Cairo) and those who were visiting
their Z q & L c6 ."

19. Maq. 190.

20. ITagh. 5:244.12

21. Maq. 3:190. Although both ITagh. 5:244 and Maq.

3:190 appear to be either quoting or paraphrasing Ibn
Tuwayr (specifically mentioned only by ITagh. 5:240.9),
both versions should be consulted since, though giving
generally the same description, each gives specific
information not found in the other.

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Finally, after the invasion of the Crusaders had

effectively cut off the maritime cities from most of the

agricultural hinterland, the maritime garrisons had to

be supported by a constant flow of supplies from Egypt

by sea. There are numerous references to seaborne

supplies being sent from Egypt, but one case merits

special attention. During the final siege of Tyre in

1122-4 15,000 JLk d a b b i of grain were sent there from


In addition to the garrisons stationed in the

maritime cities of Syria the Fatimids maintained troops

in Egyptian towns outside Cairo, although little

information has survived regarding these units

4.5 Al-Afdal's Administrative Reforms

By 1107 the invasions of the Crusaders and the

subsequent loss of Palestine brought to a head a number

of military, administrative and economic problems faced

by the Fatimid dynasty in the early twelfth century.

22. Maq. 3:96. An iA d a b b = c. 110 kg.

23. See 3.4.2 and 4.3 on provincial troops.

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1 34

The defeats at the hands of the Crusaders had resulted

in the loss of a great deal of equipment, money and men,

leaving al-Afdal with "insufficient wealth, weapons,

horses and men " to mount an effective expedition into

Palestine. This military problem was compounded due to

extensive corruption in the Z q ta .c system. The soldiers

were complaining that the revenues from their had

declined and the officers and government agents were

increasing the size of their own at the expense

of the common soldiers . It was said that the revenues

of the j.q tc L c6 were too small to meet the military

requirements of the soldiers, the government took too

much of the revenue, the estates were in disrepair

because of lack of funds for upkeep, and the number of

inhabitants were too few to work the land In .response

to these difficulties al-Afdal initiated two major

series of reforms, one administrative, the other


1. Ibn Tuwayr quoted in MaqKh. 1:443c. For a full

discussion of this passage see Ch. 3.2.3.

2. MaqKh. 1:83a, see also French translation by Cahen,

"Administration," p. 174. Maq. 3:38-9 also mentions the
dismissal of corrupt officials.

3. Ibid.

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Although the details of his reforms have not been

preserved, the general outline is clear. With the

assistance of al-Ma'mun al-Bataql, al-Afdal synchronized

the solar and lunar calendars which had reached a

disparity of about four years , and apparently upset the

tax schedule. A complete cadastral survey of lands in

Egypt was ordered, and the values of each A.qpc was

fixed in registers and guaranteed for the next thirty

5 _
years . The size and values of the of the amirs

and other powerful lords were decreased to a prescribed

level, and the resultant excess in revenue was

reassigned to the weak soldiers (duu^a' a l - j u n d ) , who

could thereby upgrade the quality of their equipment and


Al-Afdal's major military reform was the

_ 7
establishment of the Hujariya regiment . In response to

the Fatimid defeats in Palestine al-Afdal "constructed

seven barracks (hujar) and selected 3000 men from the

4. Maq. 3:40.

5. MaqKh. 1:83a.

6 . MaqKh. 1:83a, Maq. 3:40 gives an abridgement of the

of this text which clarifies some of the meaning.

7. For a full discussion of this regiment see Ch. 3.2.3.

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sons of the army, and divided them in each barrack,

giving each 100 men a and n a q Z b . Over the entire

corp he assigned as zZmam an amir called the m u .iua.H lq.

He distributed to each man whatever horses, arms and

other equipment he needed, and took a great interest in

these soldiers. If there was a sudden attack he ordered

that they be mobilized with with their zLm&mt to meet

it ." Al-Afdal thus hoped that his security and

military power would be increased with this specially

trained and equipped body of cavalry stationed at

Cairo. It is impossible to determine the ultimate

effectiveness of al-Afdal's reforms, but it seems that

they did not ultimately resolve the problem. The

Fatimids continued to suffer setbacks in Palestine, and

al-Ma'mun was forced to again reorganize the JLqHcir


This is the only recorded attempt at a major

military or administrative reform during the early

eleventh century. Although the chronologies and

records for this period are by no means complete,

it appears that the Fatimids made no significant

8 . Ibn Tuwayr quoted by MaqKh. 1 :443c.

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effort to adopt new organizational or tactical theories

in response to the Crusader invasions.

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There are a large number of physical, psychological

and theoretical factors which influenced the

effectiveness of medieval armies in combat such as the

relative superiority in numbers, quality of armour and

weapons, the types of weapons and techniques of their

use, the appropriateness of tactics employed on the

battlefield, motivation, morale and courage. This

chapter will analyze the quality of Fatimid arms and

armour and their tactics and military theory on the

battlefield and in siegecraft, ending with a discussion

of some of the weaknesses of the Fatimid army which

contributed to their loss of southern Palestine to the


5.1 Arms and Armour

The types and quality of weapons can be an important

factor in the relative effectiveness of an army. In a

general sense the Fatimid army was equipped with the

standard weapons of any pre-technical army: spears,


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swords, bows, and various types of armour, shields,

helmets, etc. There were not substantial differences

between the military technology of the Fatimids and the

Crusaders, and if anything,' the Fatimid technology may

have been superior.

However, the relative proportions of heavily as

opposed to lightly armed men in the two armies could

have a significant impact on the results of campaigns.

In attempting to explain the reasons for the Fatimid

defeat at. the hands of the Crusaders, some modern

historians have made the assumption that the Fatimid

troops were in general more lightly armed than the

Crusaders .

Precise data on the types and quality of arms and

armour for the Fatimids is not readily available. Few

actual archaeological examples of their equipment have

survived and Fatimid art with military themes was not

extensive . Nonetheless, a careful examination of the

available evidence, even if it will not as yet produce a

complete picture of Fatimid armament, will at least

1. Runciman 2:74 "the huge army of the Egyptians ...

was lightly armed and untrained." See also 2:77

2. For a survey of some of the significant artistic

remains see Gorelik and Nicolle.

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allow us to dismiss the theory that the Fatimids were

poorly and lightly equipped.

5.1.1 Arsenals

Based on a survey of artistic Gorelik has recognized

that the armour of the Fatimid period included :

"mail (cUac or zcuidZya), lamellar jcLuiAkan,

a type similar to scale with a rounded scale
edge directed upwards beyond the mail and
finally the scale (quilted or lined)
qa.zalza.nd. Like the contemporary short Syrian
mail coat the long mail shirt had full length
sleeves and often served as an undershirt.
Lamellar armour, being knee-length, probably
had a hemmed slit in the front. Armour
similar to scale was waist long and

This general description is confirmed by literary

sources describing the arms and armour contained in the

Fatimid arsenals. The Fatimid government maintained a

number of important arsenals and storehouses in which

all types of military equipment and material was

stored . There were three main storehouses devoted to

military equipment which also served as factories for

3. Gorelik, p. 33.

4. See MaqKh. 1:397, 1:417, 2:423-4 and Qal. 3:477-8.

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making arms and armour . To maintain this highly

organized system of procurement, storage and

distribution of military equipment, the government spent

70-80,000 dinars a year on keeping the stocks of weapons

adequate in the khiza.n o. a l- b iX Z h alone .

The first and most significant of these is the al-&ilah, the "Treasury of arms," or Arsenal. A

detailed descriptions of this arsenal was given by Ibn

Tuwayr describing a large number of different types of
arms and armour includina nka za g h a n d armour
reinforced by mail covered in finely wrought silk

brocade, and ja u iik a n armour reinforced (Madt5uVuz.) by

chain mail and gold... Helmets and most of the many

types cf mail suits and swords were decorated with

5. MaqRh. 2:423 describes 3000 craftsmen as being

employed in the Treasury of Banners.

6 . According to QadI Muhi al-Din al-Zahir quoted in Qal.

3:477. ' *

7. Preserved in MaqKh. 1:417.

8 . Kazagka.nd (khazaghand , qazakand) and ja.u)iha.n were

types of laminar, scale or splint armour which included
a large number of different specific styles. See
Tarsus! p. 116/138; Mayer pp. 36-41; Gorelik p. 32-3
and passim.; Nicolle 66 ff.

9. Madjjuna, literally "buried."

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1 42

silver. These included Arab style and q a Z jiin Z y a .

10 _ 11
swords , lances, painted and gold washed q a n te u iZ y a ,

and lance heads ( from Busra. There were bows

for shooting by hand according to the respective skill

(of the archer), for- example the k h a t u t bow which is

appropriate for skilled archers. (The Caliph) had

arrows brought to him from the arsenal which he

examined, including triangular arrowheads of various

types There were also crossbows (q Z 6 Z a Z - J iZ jZ ) and
13 14
stirrup crossbows (q Z 6 Z a Z -tiZ k a b ) and ballistas

with arrowheads weighing 5 n.a tZ 6 . ... One type of

arrow was called the ja a a d with the length of a span (c.

10. A long slightly curved Persian saber, the q a Z a c h u fi.

Nicolle pp. 123-4

11. A very long cavalry lance, Tarsus! 113/135.

12. Cf. Latham pp. 25-6 "The most reliable and effective
arrowheads are those which are either triangular or
square, these are for use in battle and for piercing
iron and all kinds of armour." See also p. 28 where
they are called or k a A b Z arrowheads, and
illustrations 15.1 and 2 on'page 25.

13. On both of these crossbows see Latham and Huuri p.


14. q Z iZ aZ -Z au )Z a b, literally "spring or pivotal bow".

Huuri pp. 120, 126.

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7-8 inches), which is shot from a bow with an arrow

guide . Neither cavalry nor infantry are aware of it
until it has struck them ."

The treasury was also said to have included

"helmets, suits of armour (d tx x u c), horse barding

, swords embellished with gold and silver, steel

swords, boxes of arrow heads and heathwocd arrow shafts,

boxes of bows, bundles of strong long lances, and mail

and helmets numbering 2 0 0 ,0 0 0 , each type divided into

tens of thousands. " Although the intent is not clear,

the last phrase in this passage probably means that

there were a total of 2 0 0 ,0 On items in the arsenal,

divided according to types in groups of 10 ,0 0 0 , which is

to say, 10,000 helmets, 10,000 swords, 10,000 lances,

and so on.

Other descriptions give further evidence of the

variety, quality and quantity of weapons found in the

15. See Latham pp. 145-50, 184, 191

16. Qal. 3:477 gives an abbreviated and somewhat

different version of the same: "There were mail coats
covered with finely wrought silk brocade decorated with
silver, gold decorated ja u n h a n armour,_ helmets decorated
with gold and silver, Arab and q a lja J iZ y a swords, and
long qointGiru.ycL lances polished and engraven with gold
with huge lance (heads)."

17. MaqKh. 2:417.

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various arsenals. In 1066 the Arsenal was plundered of

a large number of weapons including "cAzizT lances with

lance heads finely inlaid with gold and silver, jeweled

swords, arrows made of heath wood (kka.Zna.jZ), Lamtl

shields (dcuiaqa.) ... suits of armour (dtu.uc) washed

with silver, horse barding and jau)6kan and

kazaakand armour with silk brocade and stars of
silver ." Twenty thousand decorated swords were said
to have been taken during the same period . This

Arsenal also functioned as a type of military museum in

which could be found preserved large quantities of arms

and armour of famous Islamic rulers and warriors

Another important arsenal was known as the

al-bunud, or the "Treasury of Banners" in which 3000

skilled craftsmen were employed in the days of

al-Zahir. During an inspection in the year 1068 it was

18. Vaxaga referred to shields made of leather (Qal.

2:136), i a m t l shields were a type of North African hide
shield. See also Tarsusi p. 114/136

19. The text reads kaaacJLdaJt, which I have amended to


20. MaqKh. 1:397.

21. Qal. 3:478.

22. MaqKh. 1:417.

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found to contain 1900 shields and a similar

number of weapons, as well as banners, gold brocade

robes and other ceremonial items , and at various times

from 10-15,000 swords. This arsenal was apparently

mainly devoted to ceremonial equipment of the guards and


Finally, both military and ceremonial equipment for

horses and other mounts was kept in the a.l-6u.suZj

(Saddle Treasury) . The c.l-ta.ja.m m u.1 (Treasury

of Adornment) contained ceremonial weapons for the

nobles to carry in royal processions and could also

perhaps be considered an independent treasury, although

according to Ibn al-Tuwayr it was actually a part of the

25 a.Z ~ iZ la.k

5.1.2 Cavalry

Although the Berber tribesmen who initially served

ae cavalry in the Fatimid army during their conquest of

23. MaqKh. 2:423-4.

24. Qal. 3:477.

25. Quoted by Qal. 3:477.

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Egypt may have been for the most part lightly armed , a

significant portion of Fatimid cavalry adopted heavy

armour in later periods. About 1000 AD a Fatimid

cavalry regiment is described as "400 military slave

cavalry wearing KZza.gha.nd armour and helmets,

carrying swords and war maces ( I n t u i t ) , with

armour for their horses. " Nasir-i Khusrav's

description of the Fatimid army in 1060s confirms this

when he describes 10,000 cavalry, "with expensive

equipment. Each horse is covered with armour and a

helmet is placed on the pommel of the saddle along with

the other arms ." Usama noted that in a battle in 1144

the Fatimid army had "donned armour ( ) for

combat." In 1163 6000 Fatimid cavalry are described as

having "costly armour and excellent weapons ." Some

Fatimid armour is described as being double strength,

26. According to Beshir "Fatimid Military" 38, 48.

27. I have emended the text from ka d h a g k a n d to


28. IQal. 36.

29. Nasir-i Khusrav text p. 46. On Nasir's exaggeration

of numbers see App. B.

30. Maq. 3:267.

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consisting of a fcaza.ghand covered by mail . With such

double strength armour and barding for horses, which was

uncommon among Frankish knights of this period, it is

not impossible that some Fatimid cavalry units were

actually more heavily armoured than their Frankish

opponents. This is not to say that all Fatimid cavalry

were as heavily armoured as those described above.

Certainly many of the irregular troops, lacking regular

pay and equipment distributions from the state would

have have been more lightly armed, some even altogether

unarmoured. Unfortunately it is not possible to

determine what proportion of the Fatimid cavalry were

lightly or heavily armed.

Smail asserts that "Mounted archers did not form

part of the Fatimid armies ," and that they therefore

did not make use of traditional Turkish mounted archer

tactics. Although the Fatimid use of Central Asian

dispersal tactics is somewhat problematic , there is

strong evidence that a significant number of Fatimid

cavalry served as mounted archers. Maqrizi states that

31. MaqKh. 2:417.

32. mail p. 8 6 .

33. See ch. 5.2.

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when Bahram fled to upper Egypt in 1136 he was

accompanied by about 2000 " { a n t b n u m a t = mounted

archers ." Albert of Aix confirms the use of bows by

mounted Fatimid troops, when he states that the garrison

of Ascalon "sent forth men on horses, extraodinarily

skilled in the use of lance and bow ." Another

possible exampxe of Armenian horse archers comes from a

Fatimid expeditionary force which consisted of 400

_ - 36
Armenian archers and 700 SudanTs . It seems unlikely

that the Fatimid expeditionary force would have

consisted of only infantry, implying that perhaps some

of the Armenian archers were mounted. Furthermore, the

army was defeated in a battle in which all of the

Sudanis were killed and only 50 of the Armenians

escaped, which could best be explained if Sudanis were

on foot while the Armenians were mounted allowing them

34. Maq. 3:161. The reading is somewhat tenuous.

Technically it should read a l a y {a u L b .In a a, with
tiamJLn in the genitive singular as opposed to n u m a ttn ,
the genitive plural. However, as noted by Wright, A
Gnamman o& t h e A r a b ic Language 2:239a, #103 rem., it is
not impossible for a l to be modified by a genitive

35. AA 10.10 p n a e m l6 e a u .n t v ln .06 I n equ.1 6 , la n c z a et

& a g .L tt l i ptfuUULz 6 lm o 6 . "

36. Hak 43/58.

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to flee more easily to safety . Archery was also an

important part of the training of Fatimid cavalrymen.

MaqrizT mentions that in the days of al-Zahir the

_ ' 3 8
Hujariya cavalry regiments were trained in archery .

5.1.3 Infantry

Arabic sources make it clear that there were a

number of important types of infantry in the Fatimid

army. One group was armed with a type of war mace know

as the l i L t a t which had an "elongated head and an iron

shafts two cubits long (c. 3 feet), square in form ."
The l a t i i t was used by cavalry , as well as by Sudani

infantrymen. Albert describes the "Azoparts," or

Sudanis as fighting "marshalled in the middle of the

thousands of pagans armed with maces like hammers

37. Hak. 44/59.

38. MaqKh. 1:423. On the Hujariya as cavalry see ch.

3.2.3. The tactical role of these horse archers will be
discussed in section 5.2.

39. Qal. 3:473; He is here only describing the soldiers

on parade with the Caliph who would undoubtedly have
been armed, if not with better weapons, at least with
more expensive and beautiful one. However, a general
picture of the types of infantry in the Fatimid soldiers
can be obtained from his description.

40. IQal. 36, describes cavalrymen armed with the L u p L t.

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composed of iron and lead, (they) attacked the king and

his men striking not only the knights, but also their
horses, on their heads and other limbs with blows ."

On another occasion these Sudani Azoparts were armed

with "a terrible iron mace penetrating both mail and

helmets, striking horses on their heads, and causing a

great clamor in the ranks of the faithful . These
"maces composed of iron and lead shaped like hammers ",

correspond perfectly with al-Qalqashandi's description

of the Z u t u t as
heavy iron war-maces with shafts a
yard long and square elongated heads , which would have

appeared much like the "hammers" by which Albert

describes the Azoparts' maces.

An important group of Sudani infantrymen are

described as armed with "600 javelins with polished

heads ... and 300 daaaqa shields with silver bosses.

41. AA 9.4, " iu 6 Z b u & , i n modum m a lle ie.A.n.0 e t

pZumbo z o m p o 6 it i6 .

42. AA 6.46, Albert actually uses the word i l a g e . l l a

here, meaning whip, but as it is apparently the same
weapon and tactic described above, and since a whip
could hardly be expected to penetrate armour as here
described, I take it to be a mace.

43. AA 9.4.

44. Qal. 3:473.

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These were carried in the procession by 300 black slaves

each slave with two javelins and a shield ." The

existence of javelin armed Sudani infantrymen in battle

is confirmed by the Latin sources. William of Tyre

mentions a "countless host of infantry trained to throw

the javelin. " and Baldwin was wounded by a Sudani
javelin thrower

Archers and crossbowmen also formed an important

element among the Fatimid infantry. Of 8000 infantry

present during a military review, only iCOO were

archers, armed with both bows and crossbows . In
another review of 5000 infantry 500 were crossbowmen

The role of the Sudanis as archers of the Fatimids has

occasionally been exaggerated by modern scholars.

SudSnl troops are found serving in all types of infantry

45. Qal. 3:473.

46. WT 12.6.

47. FC 2.24.1.

48. MaqKh. 1: 3 8 9 b , 1000 infantry archers with hand bows

and foot bows a .l-a.njU Ll = crossbows"; see Huuri pp.
94, 208)

49. Qal. 3:508. These crossbowmen were specifically

mentioned as being marines from the fleet, and it may
have been that some of the other 5000 infantry were also

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regiments, most often appearing in the sources bearing

javelins or maces. In fact, it was not the Sudanis, but

the Armenians who were well known among the Fatimids as

excellent archers, and are occasionally simply called

" qavoi = bow ." The Armenians who supported Bahram

claimed that they were "A thousand archers (qaw&)

capable of conquering the world to the gates of

Constantinople Maqrizi states that all Armenian
soldiers were archers , and it may well be that during

the period of al-Afdal it was the Armenians rather than

the Sudanis who monopolized archery in the Fatimid


The exact nature of the weaponry of another regiment

is somewhat ambiguous, in that it could be considered

either infantry or cavalry. They are only said to be

armed with pikes seven cubits (c. 11-12 feet) long, on

the top of which was lance head with a neck of iron.

50. Hak. 43/58, 44/59 says that the Fatimids sent 400
qau)6 aiLman and 700 Sudanis to Yaman.

51. IMuqq. 3.1:31/49.

52. Maq. 3:313. The incident refers to the riots of


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These were carried by a group known as the baitZnJiya. ."

Other infantry were armed with "small dafincia. shields and

swords. The Fatimids also apparently had slingers
among there troops, as described by Albert of Aix , and

there are numerous references to stones being cast at

the Franks during sieges, some of which may also have

come from slings.

This discussion should not be thought of as a

necessarily complete description of all types of Fatimid

infantry. However, it is sufficient to show that the

infantry were not simply a mass of archers waiting to be

ridden down by the Franks . They included a large

range of infantry types organized for specific tactical

purposes, including archers, slingers, crossbowmen and

javelin throwers as missile troops, pikemen, and men

armed with swords and heavy maces for defensive lines

53. Qal. 3:473. There is perhaps some relationship

between these infantry and the SatiaiyJL described by
Nasir-i Khusrav tr. p. 217. However, the later are said
tobe drawn from many countries, each fighting with
their own weapons as opposed to being solely pikemen
here described.

54. Qal. 3:473. Ekkehard 17.8/178 mention "Moorish"

swords among the Frankish booty.

55. AA 6.46.

56. As described by Smail p. 86-7.

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and close combat. Additional discussion of the tactical

functions of these troops will be presented in section


Although there is no detailed information concerning

uniforms, al-Qalqashandi also includes some interesting

descriptions of the banners and standards of the army,

from, which some idea of the oomo and color of a Fatimid

" 57*
army on the march can be seen :

"The two most important banners are known

as the 'Two Standards of Praise (to God).'
They are on two tall lances inlaid with joints
of gold up to their lance.heads. Their flags
are of white silk striped with gold ...
(carried) by two amTrs assigned to bear them.
In addition there are two lances with a
crescent moon of gold on the top of each with
seven silk pennants of red and yellow ...
Theyjwere carried by two horsemen from the
Sibyan al-khass. Behind them was a narrow
many colored banner of stripped silk upon
which was written, 'Victory is from God' and
'Conquest in Near!'. The length of each of
these banners was two cubits and the width was
a cubit and a half."

The Latin sources also mention the trumpets and

drums which accompanied the Fatimid battle array

57. Qal. 3:473.

58. WT 11.13; AA 6.41. Examples could be further


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5.2 Tactics

The study of Fatimid tactics against the Crusaders

has been virtually ignored . There are two basic

sources of information which can be utilized to help

clarify this subject. The first is an examination of

how the Latin and Arabic chronicles describe Fatimid

actions in battle. This type of analysis is complicated

by the fact that there are only a few detailed

references to Fatimid tactical military actions in

battle and these are usually ambiguous.

A second source of information comes from the Arabic

military manuals. However, the study of these crucial

documents is fraught with difficulties. Although there

have been some attempts to identify the surviving

manuscripts of the various Arabic and Persian military

manuals, these efforts are incomplete and sometimes

1. Smail pp. 86-7 devotes three paragraphs to the

subject, Beshir another three, pp. 51-3.

2. Mercier pp. 431ff; Ritter; Scanlon pp. 1-21 reviews

the work of these two scholars and adds a number of
other manuscripts as well.

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contradictory . Only a handful of these manuals have
been published, and, excepting the field of archery ,

there has been only preliminary study of the technical

vocabulary and military techniques they describe . Thus

it must be emphasized that the discussion of these

manuals which follows should be considered as a

tentative attempt to shed some much needed light on


Muslim military tactics during the Crusades .

Although most of the military manuals which have

survived date, at least in their current form, to after

the thirteenth century, it is clear from the fJLhnJL&t of

Ibn Nadlm, that by the ninth century military science of

the Muslims was already highly developed , and dependent

in part on even earlier Sassanian, Greek and Indian

3. See Latham SaA.a.ce.n Au c h ttiy and Far is Atiab Afic .h ttiy .

It is somewhat remarkable that so much scholarly
attention has been paid to archery while the other
branches of Muslim military science have been totally

> 4. Tantum, "Muslim Warfare," Wustenfeld, "Das Heerwesen

der Muhammedaner" both deal with the NZhauaX a Z - S u ' l .
See also Rabie, "Training" and Ayalon, "Furuslya."

5. The author is currently preparing a more detailed

study and translation of these documents.

6 . Ibn Nadim tr. pp. 2:737-8.

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military theory . This military tradition was

transferred and transformed throughout the Islamic

world, until the thirteenth century when a significant

disjunction occurred in Muslim military theory in the

Middle East and Egypt, at which time the extensive use

of professional infantry was essentially curtailed in

favor of forces composed mainly of mounted Mamluk

archers . Due to this disjunction there are many

problems in attempting to utilize post thirteenth

century material for the study of pre-thirteenth century

tactics and theory, when armies still utilized large

bodies of professional infantry . Nonetheless, there

are a number of important documents related to Fatimid

military theory in the twelfth century which can provide

7. Ibn Nadim includes in his list works from Greek,

Sassanian and Indian sources. Tantum and Wustenfeld
discuss the relationship to Greek sources, specifically
Aelian's T a c t Z c a . Neither recognizes the dependence on
Sassanian military theory. For example, the passage in
U ih K y a t BM Add. 18866 fol. 208, translated by Tantum p.
199 is directly based_on an Arabic translation of the
Sassanian K<UGLb a l - A y i n found in Ibn Qutayba 1:113-4.

8 . Ayalon's many articles best trace this phenomenon.

9. Of course much of the material in the later manuals

represents quotations and paraphrases from earlier
documents. However, until the exact relationships
between the dozens of texts can be established, it is
dangerous to attempt to trace lines of thought and
development from earlier periods.

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important new information.

An important document is the Mu.khta.6a.

k Si.ya.6dt

al-Hurub by al-Harthami, an abridgement of an earlier

text written for the Caliph al-Ma'mun in the early ninth

century . This manual, although very terse and

sometimes confusing, gives numerous details of military

tactics and theory which can be seen clearly reflected

in Fatimid military activities. The great Fatimid

scholar al-Qadi al-Nucma' wrote a text on the

propagation of Ismacilism, the Va^a'im al-J6lam, which

contains a chapter on jihad detailing some of the battle

tactics of the Fatimids of the late tenth cen'-ury. Two

important military documents of the late twelfth

century, written under the patronage of Saladin, also

contain many items of interest for the study of-Fatimid

military theory. The first is a manual of military

theory written by cAli ibn Abi Bakr al-Harawi and the

second a discussion of arms and armour by al-TarsusI.

Unfortunately none of these documents is precisely

contemporary with early twelfth century Fatimid Egypt.

10. According to cAbd al-Ru'uf cAwn, the editor of

al-HarthamT, the Siya6at is an abridgement of the Kitab
&Z al~FusuL6Zya wa haml ai-6ilah listed in Ibn al-NadTm

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However, although there may have been significant

changes and differences in military organization and

practice between different decades and places, a

comparison of the outlines of the military theory

described in the manuals with the few available

descriptions of Fatimid tactics on the battlefield can

reveal at least the general pattern of the Fatimid

military theory and tactics employed against the


Although the details are unknown, it is clear that

the Fatimids had a sophisticated system of training, at

least for the elite regiments of the regular troops.

The only detailed description of the training method is

recorded by Maqrizi concerning the days of al-Zahir.

'"Barracks ( k u j t i a ) were established for mamluks in which

they were taught in different branches of (military)

knowledge, and (the use) of different types of

instruments of war, and types of military theory,

including archery, lance play, racing, and others

Similar barracks for training and housing soldiers had

been established as early as the days of al-Mucizz and

11. MaqKh. 1:423.

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later reorganized by al-Afdal . Beshir believes that

these Fatimid training centers were based on earlier

cAbbasid and Aghlabid models . The actual training

methods and exercises probably differed in detail, but a

general idea of the wide range of military training can

be seen from later Mamluk military manuals, including

horsemanship, dozens of different techniques of fighting

with lances both mounted and on foot, group training for

military maneuvers, various mounted and foot archery and

crossbow techniques, fencing, wrestling and the use of

maces, axes and shields

Military strategy and tactics were formalized and

highly developed, and probably systematically taught to

Fatimid officers . The importance of proper

reconnaissance and scouting is emphasized in Muslim

12. MaqKh. 1:443.

13. Beshir "Fatimid Military" pp. 46-8.

14. The contents of many of these manuals, most of which

are still unpublished, are summarized by Rabie,
"Training," and Ayalon, "Furusiya."

15. According to MaqKh. 1:423 training included

"different branches of (military) knowledge" (anu)cic
as well as the use of weapons.

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military theory . Al-Afdal's failure to follow this

principle is probably the major reason for his

disastrous defeat at Ascalon in 109S. The building of

camps fortified with trenches is advised whenever the

army is marching within five days of the enemy . There

is no evidence that the Fatimids practiced this policy

in their campaigns in Palestine, but this may be because

they were never much more than a day's march from

Ascalon which could have served the same strategic and

tactical function as a fortified camp

Complex methods of organizing the army are described

in the military manuals. The army is divided into three

major corps, known as the Right, Left and Center, each

of which in turn is divided into three divisions, again

called the right, center and left When describing,

for instance, the Right division, the texts refer to the

"right of the Right" or the right division of the Right

16. Nucman p. 369; Harawi ch. 12, p. 79; HarthamT ch. 9,

pp. 23-5.

17. Harthami ch. 10, p. 25; Nuriman p. 369.

18. Fatimid practice on the march probably resembled

more the description in HarawT ch. 14, p. 87, which does
not mention fortifying campsites with a ditch.

19. HarthamT ch. 11, p. 26; Nu^inan p. 372.

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corps, the "center of the Right" and so on. The same

general organizational pattern was followed by the later

Mamluks . To these were added the Vanguard and the

Rearguard, each of which could have additional

subdivision; the Vanguard including scouts, flying

columns, and skirmishers , while the Rearguard
including army reserves, and baggage . Thirty

different tactical functions of regiments are outlined

by al -Karthami . The best troops were to be placed in

the front ranks, the Right corps, on the far flanks, and

in a reserve division to exploit weaknesses in the enemy

formation . The least experienced were assigned to

20. Described by Ayalon, "Harb," pp. 186-7. In my

discussion I will attempt to distinguish between the
major divisions of an army in corps from the smaller
divisions by capitalizing the words Right, Left and
Center when referring to the major divisions.

21. Harthamich. 11.2, p. 26.

22. H a r t h a m T ch. 19.3, p. 36, ch. 2 2 .2 , p. 39.

23r H a r t h a m T ch. 11 .2 , pp. 26-7, in c l u d i n g a number of

types of scouts, flying columns, rear a n d flank guards,
heavy a nd elite cavalry, ambushers, inf a n t r y in close
m a r s h a l l e d ranks, etc. Unfortunately there is no
e l a b o r ation as to the specific r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s of each
24. H a r t h a m T ch. 2 0 .1 , p. 36-7.

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guard the baggage , while the "unreliable cavalry

should be placed in the rear of the Left Corps so that

if God grants victory over the enemy they can advance to

capture his army there is no other use for them

Specific duties and commands were assigned to various

officers, ranging from a highly formalized system as

described by a l - H a r t h a m T to the practice of assigning

leaders and positions for regiments only on che day of

_ 28
battle as described by ai-Qidi al-Nu^inan . Although it

is clear from Muslim chronicles that the Fatimids

divided their armies into three major corps as described

above, it is impossible to specifically confirm any of

the other organizational details.

It is possible to gain an accurate idea of the

method of marshalling infantry from the manuals.

Al-HarthamT only mentions that the infantry should

precede the cavalry in battle "in ranks and types

25. HarthamT ch. 2 0 .1 , p. 37, ch. 2 1 .6 , p. 38.

26. HarthamT ch. 2 2 .6 , p. 39.

27. Harthami 21.5, pp. 37-8.

28. Nucman p. 372 "cAlT, when he advanced into battle,

marshalled the regiments (k a ta .1i b ) and divided the tribes
placing a man in command of each tribe to order the
ranks and organize the cavalry regiments (kcuuLdj .&),
after which he advanced into battle."

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according to their practice ," without giving any of

the additional details which the unabridged version

probably contained . Al-Harawi adds that "the

infantry, archers, bowmen, naphta throwers and javelin

throwers should precede the cavalry
Al-Qadi al-NuSian gives the fullest description ,

saying that heavy infantry wearing j a v i t h a n armour or

mail, armed with shields and pikes should be placed in

the front ranks of the infantry, behind whom were placed

archers. If attacked the armoured infantry in the front

ranks were ordered to "kneel on your knees and hide

behind your shields in tight solid ranks ( acl mukfcam)

without any gaps." Then they were to "raise up their

pikes, and stand firm and patient; the archers are to

shower the enemy with arrows. They should wave their

t i M *
0 1 1*
W /

30. He does later add that "the infantry archers

( a l - n a j j a i a a l - n a s h Z b a ) should jorecede (the cavalry)
loosing their arrows." Harthami 24.3 p. 41.

31. H a r a w T ch. 20 p._99, "ia y a t a q a d d a m ca l a a l - k h a y y a i a

a l - n a j i a l a via a l - m i m a t via a l - n a b b a l a via a t - z a w i a q u n via
a t- h *a tu ia b a ."
32. All of the following material in this paragraph is
paraphrased from Numan p. 373.

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banners and beat their shields The ranks of the

infantry were to hold their positions until the enemy

was in full retreat, after which they were to engage the

enemy in melee.

This infantry tactic is closely paralleled by an

eleventh century account of Andalusian Muslim infantry

in battle by al-Turtushl, which coincides with all the

specifics of al-Qadi a l - N u ^ a n s description, but is

worth quoting in full for its additional details and

clarity :

"The infantry, armed with large shields,

long pikes and sharp tipped javelins, form the
first ranks, taking their positions with their
pikes thrust into the ground behind them and
the points aimed at the enemy, each man
kneeling on the ground on his left knee with
his shield in front of him. Behind them are
marshalled the elite archers whose arrows can
pierce armour; behind them are the cavalry.
When the Christians ( a i - t u i m ) attack the
Muslims the infantry do not move from their
place and no man advances in front of
another. When the enemy draws near the
archers loose their arrows and the infantry
throw their javelins and take up their pikes.
They then go to the right and the left and the
Muslim cavalry charges between the archers and
the infantry."

33. Nufman 373. The details of this tactic occur in two

sections separated by admonitions to hold firm in the
ranks, making the entire procedure somewhat unclear.

34. TurtushT pp. 309-10.

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That this was a standard Fatimid infantry tactic is

confirmed by a passage from Albert of Aix where he

describes the Egyptian tactics. "The Sudanis, whose

custom in war is to kneel on the ground, advanced

forward to battle, violently attacking the Franks with a

hail of arrows This has usually been interpreted as

meaning that the Sudani infantry knelt down to loose

their bows . In view of the above description of

infantry tactics known to the Fatimids, it seems certain

that the Albert's informant saw the front ranks of the

Fatimid infantry kneeling, while the archers behind the

heavy infantry were loosing volleys of arrows,

slingstones and javelins as described in the military


. Smail maintains that "With a mass of bowmen on foot

... the Fatimid armies provided, as the Turks never

did, a solid target for the most powerful tactical

weapon of the Franks: the charge of the mailed and

35. AA 6.46, "Nam Az opa.A t, q u i & l e x i 4 4uo motit

b e l lu m 4 o l e n t e o m m it t e A e , pAM.etni.44i, i n ^ A o n te b e l l i
g A a .v ite A 4a .g iX ta .w m g A a n d in e G a l l o 4 im p u g n a v e A u n t ."

36. Oman 1:290.

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mounted knights implying that the Fatimid infantry

were generally easily broken and defeated by the

knights . In reality, the Fatimid infantry, when

properly marshalled and supported by cavalry, formed a

formidable barrier to the Frankish knights. It is most

unfortunate that the battle of Ascalon is used by Smail,

and many other historians as the major example of the

39 40
Fatimid army in actions . As will be discussed , the

Fatimid army was completely surprised at Ascalon and

their defeat there, the most grievous of the entire war

with the Crusaders, should not be taken as the norm for

the Fatimid army in battle, any more than the Frankish

defeats at the battles of Mersivar, 1101 , Ramla 1102 ,

Harran 1104, or Ager Sanguinus 1119, should be seen as

the norm for Frankish arn.;es in battle.

At Ramla in 1101 the Fatimid army was able to

sustain four charges of the supposedly invincible

Frankish knights in a battle which ended in a tactical

draw. At Ramla in 1102 the Fatimid army repelled a

37. Smail pp. 86-7.

38. Smail pp. 87, 174-7

39. Smail pp. 87, 74-5.

40. See 7.1.

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massive charge by the knights, culminating'in the

complete defeat of the Frankish army, while at Ramla in

1105 the Fatimid infantry were defeated only after they

had been deserted by their Damascene cavalry allies

Albert of Aix makes mention on two occasions of the

great skill and deadly effectiveness of the Sudani heavy

infantry armed with the l u u mace against the Frankish

knights . Thus although in certain circumstances the

Fatimid infantry could be defeated and overrun by

Frankish knights, (just as the Frankish knights and

infantry, or any other army could be defeated), in

different circumstances they managed to thwart the

knight's attack, and there seems little justification to

conclude with Smail that "the charge alone secured a

Latin victory Despite the general excellence of

Smail's work, the fact that many of the Arabic sources

were not available to him on occasion distorts his

usually illuminating analysis. For example, when the

41. See chs. 7.2, 7.3 and 7.5 for discussions of each of
these battles.

42. AA 6.46 mentions them "penetrating mail and helm and

attacking the heads of the horses." AA 9.4, and ch.

43. Smail p. 175,

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Fatimid infantry at Ramla in 1102 defeated the charge of

the knights he writes, "the (Egyotian) enemy mass

absorbed the charge of the leading squadrons " seeming

to imply that there were just too many Fatimids for the

Franks to kill the*all, while when the Frankish infantry

performed well .at Jaffa in 1102 it was "by virtue of

that defensive ability to be displayed throughout the

century by bodies of armed, dismounted Franks in close


There were a number of different formations and

methods for attacking discussed in the military

manuals. Three general formations are mentioned: the

straight ranks (mu&c.u)a) in which all of the troops

formed up parallel to the enemy; the crescent ( h i l a l Z ) ,

with the two flanks were extended closer to the enemy

than the center; and the recurved (m a ct u O , with the

Right and Left corps withdrawn and the Center closest to

the enemy, which was considered the weakest

formation . Fulcher witnessed the Fatimid use of the

crescent formation at Ascalon in 1099, when the

44. Smail p. 176.

45. Smail p. 177.

46. Harthami ch. 17, pp. 34-6.

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1 70

Egyptians "approached our army like a stag thrusting

forward the branches of his antlers

Scouts and ambushers were to advance in front of the

main army and take the high ground, groves of trees and

sources of water, prevent enemy ambushes, prepare

ambushes against the enemy and cut off the enemy from
water . Strong cavalry regiments were posted on the

extreme wings of the Right and Left corps to prevent the

enemy from accomplishing flanking maneuvers and

attacking the baggage. Reserve cavalry regiments were

marshalled behind the main battle line to fill gaps in

the ranks, reinforce weak areas, and to attack gaps or

weaknesses in the enemy's army. The unreliable cavalry

were held in reserve on the left flank and used to

pursue the enemy's army after it has been routed.

Offensive actions were preceded by volleys of

archery and naphta with flanking attacks by the light

cavalry. The main attack began with the troops of the

right flank and center. If this attack failed and the

47. FC 1.31.6.

48. This entire paragraph is a summary of Harthami ch.

22, p. 39.

49. This paragraph summarizes Harthami ch. 24, pp. 41-4.

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army was forced to retreat each regiment was to remain

in its relative position to the other regiments and

retreat to its former position in the main battle line.

Latin sources clearly reveal that some variation of this

general procedure was generally followed by the

Fatimids. Missile volleys are mentioned as preceding

the general engagement and attempts by Fatimid

cavalry units to outflank the Frankish army and strike

them in the rear are common

Dr. Smail, in his discussion of Fatimid tactics,

makes the important point that the Egyptians "did not

use dispersal as a tactical device, and therefore

offered a solid target for the Latin charge ."

However, this was not, as Smail claims, because the

Fatimids "were not an army of mounted archers ." As

discussed above, the Fatimids indeed had regiments of

regular mounted archers and utilized Turkish

50. AA 6:46.

51. FC 1.31.6 at Ascalon 1099, FC 2.21.10 at Jaffa 1102,

FC 2.32.6 at Ramla in 1105.

52. Smail p. 174.

53. Ibid.

54. See 3.1.1 and 5.1.2.

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mercenary mounted archers on occasion as well . Thus

although Smail's point that the Fatimids did not fully

utilize the fluid nomadic mounted archer tactics is well

taken, the decisive factor underlying difference in

tactics was not whether they did or did not include

mounted archers, but that the Fatimid army contained a

large body of professional infantry who were unable to

avoid the Frankish knights' charge by dispersal.

Fatimid mounted archers could utilize their mounted

archery techniques in a number of ways, but if they

dispersed when faced with a Frankish charge they would

leave their infantry to be surrounded and overrun

Another point of confusion needs to be clarified.

Smail maintains that "the fact that on other occasions

the Egyptian forces outflanked the Latins was a

consequence not of mounted archery, but of numerical

superiority ." As discussed previously, question of

55. See 3.1.3 and 3.3.2.

56. As occurred at Ramla in 1105 when the allied Turks

from Damascus dispersed when attacked by the Frankish
knights leaving the main body of infantry to be
defeated, FC 2.32.6-7, and at the battle of Ramla in
1123, FC 3.18.4.

57. Smail, p. 8 6 .

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1 73

numerical superiority is somewhat problematic . But

even if the Fatimids on occasion outnumbered the Franks,

this alone would not insure that they would have

outflanked them. The area occupied by the front of an

army is dependent not only on the number of men in a

force, but the density of deployment, the number of

ranks per unit, the proportions of cavalry to infantry,

and the number of units held in reserve. Thus even if

the Fatimids outnumbered the Franks in a given battle it

is not certain they would have outflanked them.

Although the view of the Latin chroniclers may be that

Fatimid flanking maneuvers were due solely to numerical

superiority, the military theory described above clearly

indicates that cavalry flanking attacks was a standard

tactical practice of Muslim armies.

5.3 Sieqecraft

Until the development of effective gunpowder siege

artillery the general pattern of siegecraft remained

58. See ch. 3.4 for a general discussion and chapter 7

for detailed analysis, of five major battles.

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quite similar throughout the Middle East during the

Islamic period, and this pattern generally holds true

for the warfare of the Crusades . However unlike the

Latin West, Muslim military theorists formally described

a number of principles of siegecraft, most of which are

clearly reflected in the recorded activities of the

Fatimid army during sieges. This general pattern of

siegecraft will be outlined here and highlighted with

examples from the military manuals and from actual

Fatimid activities during sieges.

In offensive siegecraft the easiest way to capture a

city is to avoid a siege altogether. This can be done

best by unexpectedly striking a city with a force of

cavalry , or by drawing out most of the garrison of the
city into an ambush . Opportunities should be taken to

strike at cities when they can be surprised, the

garrison is weak or they are known to be low on supplies

1. See Smail's excellent chapter on castles in warfare

pp. 204-244.

2. Harthami, ch. 34.4, p. 57. This type of surprise

attack was attempted by the Fatimids against Jaffa in
1115, FC 2.53.7.

3. HarthamT, ch. 34.5, p. 57. This was probably the "

Fatimid intent when they withdrew from their initial
blockade of Jaffa in the summer of 1102. See 7.4.

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and water .

If a siege is necessary it is vital to completely

sever the city from all enemy communications and

supplies . The citizens should always be given a chance

for surrender, for even if this fails it will tend to

create a pro-peace faction within the city and undermine

morale . Attempts to bribe some of the citizens or
garrison into betraying the fortress are also advised .

Careful inspection and spying should be undertaken to

learn of the weaknesses and strengths of the

fortifications and the most effective places for

mangonel bombardments, archery, assaults, and the

4. Harawi, ch. 21, p. 102. The attacks on Jaffa in 1115

and 1123 both took advantage of the temporary absence of
the Latin field army.

5. Harthami, ch. 34.6, p. 57. This is specifically

mentioned at the siege of Alexandria in 1095, Maa. 3:14.

6 . Harthami, ch. 34.7-8, p. 57, as at Jerusalem in 1098

when the townspeople were given a chance to surrender
before the siege began (IQal. 135, IMuy. 6 6 ), and later
a group of them surrendered a gate of the city to
al-Afdal's troops, ITagh. 5:159.5-7.

7. Harawi, ch. 21, p. 102. Al-Afdal's activities during

the siege of Alexandria in 1095 are a good example of _
this, when he bribed members of the Banu Hadid and Banu
Haritha clans to aid him against the Nizari rebels.
IZhaf. 85; IDaw. 6:446.

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placement of ladders or towers . Troops and equipment

of many different types should be gathered, inspected

and given speciric assignments . Trenches should be dug

surrounding the city for the defense of the

besiegers . A major effort of the besiegers should be

to break the morale of the city bringing about surrender

and avoiding the costly necessity of an assault by

storm . General assaults should be undertaken by the

finest warriors bearing heavy armour, large shields,

excellent equipment, spears or long pikes, and naphta.

Ladders, ropes, towers, rams and penthouses are to be

prepared for assaults .

In defending a city or fortress, the first general

principle is to try to avoid sieges in any way possible,

usually by negotiations. There were probably two main

purposes behind such negotiations. First,-it was

certainly much cheaper to pay a relatively small tribute

8 . Harthami, 34.10-14, p. 58; Harawi, ch. 21, p. 106.

Al-Afdal was said to have mustered 40 Mangonels for his
siege of Jerusalem in 1098. IAth. 10:283; Maq. 3:22.

9. Harthami, ch. 34.16-17, p. 59.

10. Harthami, ch. 34.23, p. 60.

11. Harthami, ch. 34.21, p. 60; Harawi, ch. 21, p. 103.

12. Harawi, ch. 21, pp. 105-6.

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to an attacking army than to be forced to endure a siege

which would undoubtedly result in the death of a number

of citizens, the destruction of a great deal of

property, economic losses, and potentially the J-!js of

the entire city. Fatimid governors managed to avoid

sieges at Ascalon in 1099 and Sidon in 1106 by paying

bribes to the Franks. The Fatimids basic strategy

during the initial period of 1099-1101of seeking a

negotiated peace with the Franks could also be thought

of as being in part attempts to avoid sieges by


If a siege became inevitable a number of precautions

should be taken before the enemy arrives. A conference

of war with the officers of the garrison and leading

townspeople *as necessary, both to assign duties and so

the commander can gain insights from the opinions of his

officers . The walls and fortifications of the city or

castle were to be carefully inspected and put in

excellent repair. Military equipment such as crossbows,

13. See ch. 6.1.

14. Harawi, ch. 23, p. 109.

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naphta, mangonels and ammunition should be collected,
prepared and stored . The quality and equipment of the
troops is also to be carefully inspected . Officers

were to be assigned over each gate, tower, wali and

postern . The importance of the morale of the

defenders is well understood by the military theorists.

"The chief weapon of the besieged ... is the

encouragement of the defenders ." Buildings in the

suburbs of the city which could be used for protection

of the attackers should be destroyed and all wood,

stones and other material of potential use to the

attackers should be taken away, and water sources

outside the city should be blocked . Artisans and

other citizens of the city should also be actively

15. On types of mangonels and other siege equipment see

TarsusI, 118-122; French tr. Cahen, "Traite
d'armurerie," pp. 141-5 and notes and illustrations pp.
157-9; partial Enalish translation in Lewis, I6iam

16. Harawi, ch. 23, p. 109; Harthami, ch. 35.1, pp.


17. Harawi, ch. 23, p. 110.

18. Harthami, ch. 35.8, p. 162.

19. Harthami, ch. 35, p. 61.

20. Harawi, ch. 23, p. 110.

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employed in the defense of the city so that "there'no one

capable of working at a useful task who is not employed

in it

The importance of ruses and strategems is

emphasized. The commander should spread false rumors

among the enemy camp telling them of traitors among

their ranks, raids and attacks against their home bases,

and the impending arrival of large relief armies for the

garrison . Every attempt should be made to make the

enemy believe that the strong points of the walls are

actually the weakest, thereby drawing the main enemy

attacks on the strongest towers and walls .

Effort should be made to destroy or neutralize the

siege equipment of the enemy. The range and effect of

each weapon should be understood, and the commander

"should not launch a missile or use a weapon unless he

is sure he will injure his enemy with it Missile

21. Harthami, ch. 35.9, p. 62.

22. Harawi, ch. 23, p. 110-1. The Fa^inuds at Tyre in

managed to spread a false rumor of the approach of a
large non-existent Fatimid fleet from Egypt, WT 13.9.

23. Harthami, ch. 35.7, pp. 61-2, ch. 35.10, p. 62.

24. Harthami, ch. 35.4, p. 61, cf. the sorties of the

Fatimids during the siege of Tyre in 1124, FC 3.32.1.

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1 80

fire, naphta and mangonel bombardments should be

constant. Sorties against the enemy camp should be

employed with caution lest the army be drawn into an

ambush This brief survey of some of the highlights

of the military manuals unfortunately excludes many

other interesting details of defensive siegecraft, but

is sufficient to shew that the Fatimids had access to

some sophisticated manuals and thinking on the subject.

If the Fatimid siegecraft, both offensive and -

defensive, was as well developed as this discussion

would seem to indicate, why did they eventually lose all

of the Palestinian maritime cities by siege to the

Franks, and fail to permanently recapture any of those

which had been conquered ? There are a number of

subtle factors underlying the Frankish success in

siegecraft in Palestine which deserve consideration

If the actual sieges undertaken by each side are

25. Harthami, ch. 35.4, p. 61; Harawi, ch. 23, pp.


26. The Fatimids only managed to retake Ramla in 1102,

but abandoned it after their defeat at Jaffa a few
months later.

27. The general reasons for the Crusader conquest of

Palestine will be dealt with more extensively in ch.
6.2. Here only the perspective of sieges is discussed.

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numbered and compared, we find that of the seventeen

major sieges of the Crusaders against Fatimid held

28 ' 29
cities, nine succeeded and eight failed . Of the

seven major Fatimid sieges undertaken during this same

30 31
period, four succeeded while three failed . The

overall success rate at offensive siegecraft of the

Fatimids and Franks is essentially the same . There

are nonetheless some significant differences in the

patterns of sieges during this period which can help

account for the eventual Frankish strategic triumph.

28. Jerusalem 1099, Haifa 1100, Arsuf 1101, Caesarea

1101, Acre 1104, Tripoli 1109, Beirut 1110, Sidon 1110,
Tyre 1124.

29. Ascalon 1099, Arsuf 1100, Ascalon 1102, Acre 1103,

Sidon 1106, Sidon 1108, Tyre 1108, Tyre 1111.

30. Alexandria 1095, Tyre 1097, Jerusalem 1098, Ramla

1102. Only the last of these was against the Crusaders.

31. Sieges of Jaffa in 1102, 1115 and "123. I am not

here including the naval blockade of Jaffa in 1103 as an
actual siege since the land forces under Taj al-cAjam
did not assist leaving almost no hope for success, nor
the FStimid forays against Jerusalem and other cities
which were little more than plundering raids or attempts
to divert the Franks from other sieges rather than
serious attempts at conquest.

32. In defensive siegecraft the pattern is quite

different. The Fatimids successfully defended their
cities against the Franks seven out of fifteen times,
while the Crusaders defeated Fatimid siege attempts
three out of four times.

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First, the Crusaders simply undertook twice as many

sieges as the Fatimids attacking a total of 11 different

major Fatimid cities. The Fatimids only attempted four

sieges against the Crusaders, three of which were

against Jaffa alone. Another very significant factor is

that most Crusader sieges succeeded before 3 m ci J 0 E*

Fatimid relief army was able to arrive from Egypt

allowing the Franks to carry out their siege attempts

essentially without interference. Fatimid relief armies

required about two months to muster and arrive in

Palestine . The strategic result of this fact is that

five of the eight Frankish victories in siegecraft were

concluded in less than two months, before the arrival of

a major Fatimid relief army from Egypt was possible

Furthermore, Tripoli in 1109 received no assistance

because of Fatimid negligence and apathy, nor did Tyre

in 1123-4 because the Fatimid fleet had been largely

destroyed by the Venetians at a naval battle at Ascalon

in 1122. On the other hand, Fatimid siege attempts

33. See 5.2.

34. The following Frankish sieges were successfully

concluded in less than two months: Jerusalem 1099 after
40 days; Haifa 1100 after about one week; Arsuf 1101 in
2 weeks; Caesarea 1101 after 2 weeks; Acre 1104 3 weeks;
Sidon 1110 after six to eight weeks.

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aiways had to be preceded by either by the elimination

of the Crusader field army in battle, or by its

preoccupation elsewhere in another battle or siege

siege ,

The Fatimids could effectively only strike at Jaffa

and Ramla, which were therefore the only cities the

Crusaders needed to seriously defend in that region. A

siege of Jerusalem, without first eliminating the

Frankish field army and reducing Ramla or Jaffa, would

have be extremely difficult since it would leave the

Fatimid besieging army perilously surrounded by strong

enemy bases and with a tenuous supply and communication

line back to Ascalon. Jerusalem could not be

effectively assaulted until most of the other southern

cities of Palestine were in Fatimid hands. On the other

hand, every Fatimid city in Palestine was in equal

potential peril from Frankish assault, and it was

militarily and economically impossible for the Fatimids

to defend them all adequately at all times. Thus the

Franks were able to pick and chose the cities they would

35. The sieges of Ramla ad Jaffa 1102 followed the

defeat of the Frankish army at Ramla. The sieges of
Jaffa in 1123 was an attempt to relieve the siege of
Tyre by drawing off Franks to defend Jaffa.

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attack, while being required to defend only a narrow

zone against the Fatimids

The Franks were also substantially more fortunate in

their sieges than the Fatimids. Jaffa would most likely

have fallen to the Fatimids in 1102 were it not for

Baldwin's miraculous escape from death or capture at the

battle of Ramla in 1102, and the arrival of substantial

reinforcements by sea. Likewise the Fatimid siege of

Jaffa in 1123 failed only because of the providential

arrival of the Venetian relief fleet.

The policy of terrorism, initiated by the Franks

during the early sieges in the region greatly effected

the morale of the defenders of unconquered cities. When

given the choice of safe conduct and survival upon

surrender versus complete massacre and pillage if the

city was taken by storm, the citizens and garrison would

naturally tend to consider capitulation if the Franks

began to gain the upper hand. Of the eight major

36. This is of course ignoring the threat to the

Crusaderr from Damascus, which, while real enough, in
practice seems to have been adequately met by the
Princes of Galilee and Tripoli, although with strong
support from the King.

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victorious Crusader sieges in Palestine, four were by

37 38
storm , and four by terms . However, of the sieges

after 1101 only one, Beirut in 1110, was by storm,

indicating a clear shift on the part of the Fatimids

from a strong extended defense to surrender by terms.

Finally, it should be emphasized that for the Franks

the capture and possession of the maritime cities w^s

vital to their survival and was central to their

strategy in Palestine. A Fatimid governor of a maritime

city, on the other hand, had absolutely no stake in a

continued and vigorous defense of a city. He saw no

reason to risk his life for a city which was neither his

home, nor from which he directly derived his

livelihood. Thus when the siege became difficult and

Frankish success looked possible, the governors tended

simply to surrender to save their own lives. The

vigorous defense of Tripoli under its indigenous dynasty

compared to the half-hearted efforts under Fatimid rule

in 1109 emphasizes this weakness.

37. Jerusalem 1099, Haifa 1100, Caesarea 1101 and Beirut

1110 .
38. Acre 1104, Tripoli 1109, Sidon 1110, Tyre 1124.

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5.4 The Weaknesses of the Fatimid Military System

It is a clear historical fact that the Fatimids lest

the war in Palestine to the Franks. However, exactly

how and why they lost Palestine has often been

incorrectly described. In Chapter Six the difficult

strategic problems faced by the Fatimids in their

attempts to retain control of Palestine will be

described, and in Chapter Seven a detailed analysis of

what actually happened in some major battles in which

they were involved will be undertaken. At this point

only some of the organizational, tactical and

psychological problems of the military will be


A fundamental factor in past misconceptions about

the weaknesses and quality of the Fatimid army is that

it is generally assumed that the Fatimids far

outnumbered the Franks in any given battle. If the

Franks, while so vastly outnumbered, could still defeat

Fatimids, there must have been grave weaknesses in the

the structure and tactics of the Fatimid army. These

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weaknesses are seldom explicitly dealt with , but can be

inferred from various statements. They can be

categorized as: individual inferiority of the Fatimid

soldier when compared to the Frank, light weapons and

armour, poor training and military incompetence, and

cowardness. As has been demonstrated in Chapter Three ,

in most battles the Fatimids were only fractionally more

numerous than the Franks, if at all, and although there

were certainly grave weaknesses in the Fatimid military

system, they were much more subtle than has usually been


It is occasionally considered that the Muslim

soldier was individually inferior to the Christian

knight. Runciman mentions the "greater physical

strength" of the Crusaders as a reason for their

victories in battle . Dr. Hill, in a recent study of

the Frankish view of Muslim e~^mies, states that "the

crusaders had much less to fear of the Arabs (in context

1. The only major exception is Smail, pp. 83-7.

2. See 3.4.

3. Runciman 2:23. It is, of course, impossible to verify

that the averaga Frankish knight was bigger or stronger
than the Average Arab, Turk, Sudani or Armenian in the
Fatimid army.

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meaning Fatimid Egyptians) than of the Turks, and from a

military point of view they were probably right

Smail seems to agree that the individual Egyptian

soldier was inferior to the Franks. "Their (the Franks)

victory at Ascalon in August 1099 taught the Franks that

the soldiers from Egypt were the equals neither of the

redoubtable Turks nor of themselves. Because this

knowledge of tactical superiority gave them confidence

... in victory ...they did not hesitate to meet

renewed Egyptians counter-attacks with battle ." As

evidence ofthis he cites William of Tyre's biased

description of the Fatimids at the battle of Babayn 1167

as "weak and effeminate and more of a hindrance than a

help ." However, Smail fails to note Maqrizi's opinion

of the performance of the Frankish troops at this same

battle after they fled the field leaving the Fatimids

and Syrians still fighting. Maqrizi states that "the

two sides (Egyptians and Syrians) continued fighting

4. Hill, "Camp Follower" p. 81.

5. Smail, p. 27. See also Smail, p. 87, although in the

later case he is stating that it was the Franks who saw
the Egyptian soldiers as inferior, it seems that he
accepts this idea as well.

6 . Smail, p. 87 quoting WT 19.25.

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after the weakness of the Franks (by fleeing) had been
made evident Such partisan descriptions should not

be accepted as significant historical statements

concerning the military quality of troops. As will be

discussed below, there are numerous examples, even from

the antagonistic Frankish sources, where the Fatimid

troops are described as courageous and skilled.

A second general misconception is that the Fatimid

troops were lightly armed , although Smail feels that

the arms of Arabs probably resembled those of the

Franks . Although it may be true that some elements of

the Faimid army were more lightly armed than their

equivalents in the Frankish army, there were numerous

other heavily armed infantry and cavalry who formed a

significant part of the army

Fatimid troops are also occasionally accused of poor

training and military incompetence . In fact, in

7. Maq. 3:284.

8 . Runciman 2:74.

9. Smail, p. 85.

10. See above ch. 5.1.

11. Runciman 2:74 states that the Egyptian army was


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training and general military skill they were quite

possibly superior to the Franks. As discussed above,

the Fatimids had a well developed sophisticated military

theory, including defined programs of weapons

training . Frankish military skill, though

considerable, tended to be individual rather than

formal, and was often limited in technical matters

For example, during the siege of Tyre, the mangonels of

the F a t i m i d garrison in the city were far more accurate

than the Franks, for "there was no one in (the Crusader)

camp who possessed the expert skill necessary for aiming

and hurling the mighty missiles

Finally, the Fatimids are also sometimes

characterized by modern scholars, based on Latin

chronicler's often biased descriptions, as cowardly.

Although there are numerous examples of cowardness on

the part of the Fatimids , there are certainly cases

12. See 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4.

13. Smail, pp. 120ff.

14. WT 13.10.

15. Perhaps the worse case being when the Fatimid

cavalry abandoned their infantry to be massacred at
Ramla 1123, FC 3.18.4, although this may be more due to
factionalism than cowardness.

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where the Franks showed cowardness and fled from

battle . Both sides on occasion also showed courage in

difficult circumstances. Fulcher reported that "both

sides greatly feared to attack the other ," and that on

occasion "the Christians feared that it would be rash to

rouse so vast an army (as that of the Fatimids) against

them ." Usama related many anecdotes of courage,

skill, folly and cowardness divided equally among both

Franks and Muslims. Such descriptions should not be

thought of as a permanent state of affairs but rather as

temporarily conditions due to specific circumstances.

Nor do Latin chroniclers fail to give words of

praise for the courage and skill of the Fatimids, such

as the garrison at Tyre . The Fatimid assault on Jaffa
is described as a "vigorous effort ," and in battle the

Fatimids "valiantly ... strove to resist and return our

15. Significant deterioration of Frankish morale

occurred at Mersivan 1101, Ager Sanguinis 1119 and
Babayn 1167.

17. FC 3.2.3.

18. WT 12.6.

19. WT 13.14, although the defenders included Damascene

Turks and city militia as well.

20. FC 2.53.4.

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blows wich like vigor ," and were "completely
fearless Albert of Aix describes the victory of the

Fatimids over four successive Frankish cavalry charges

at Ramla in 1101 as due to "the pride and strength of

the gentiles ," and Fulcher agrees that "both sides
fought mightily ." Such examples could be further


If most of these supposed weaknesses of the Fatimid

army do not universally apply, there was still no dearth

of military problems among the Fatimids. The most

significant weakness faced by the Fatimids was a crisis

in leadership, which included a number of different

dimensions. Other than the expedition in 1099, al-Afdal

never personally led a Fatimid army into Palestine. The

main military effect of this was a lack of central

authority capable of compelling united military action

among the officers. The classic example of this problem

is when Taj al-cAjam refused to cooperate with Ibn Qadus

21. WT 12.21, although he adds that "both in courage and

strength, however, they were wholly unequal to us (the

22. WT 10.22.

23. AA 7.67.

24. FC 2.11.12.

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in his attempted siege of Jaffa in 1103 . If al-Afdal

had been in Palestine this problem would never have

arisen, but Ibn Qadus alone had no authority to compel

Taj al-cAjam to military action.

Another dimension of the Fatimid leadership crisis

is that there was no permanent military commander facing

the Franks. Even if al-Afdal would not personally lead

armies against the Franks, it would have been possible

to assign a permanent commander for the armies there.

However, in practice, almost every campaign in Palestine

was placed under the command of a new general, often one

of al-Afdal's relatives. Thus each of these new

commanders would not only potentially be unfamiliar with

the terrain and strategic and tactical situation, but

would also be unfamiliar with the Frankish methods of

warfare. Part of the reason that the Franks were

ultimately victorious over the Fatimids in Palestine was

that each Fatimid army was lea by an inexperienced

leader who would have to relearn all the tactical

lessons of his predecessors, and then by being

subsequently reassigned, would never be able to profit

from those lessons.

25. Maq. 3:33; IAth. 10:365.

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Part of the reason for this constant shifting of the

officer corps in Palestine was perhaps that al-Afdal,

wisely or not, refused to renew the command of an

officer who had once been defeated in battle. Another

significant factor in this decision, however, was that

ultimately al-Afdal could not trust his officers. The

abortive rebellion of Shams al-Khilaia in Ascalon is the

most stunning example of this problem . Al-Afdal

enjoyed much more prestige and authority than any of his

successors, and after his death Egypt was plunged into

successive cycles of anarchy and civil war from which it

never fully recovered. Thus although the symptoms of

this lack of loyalty among the Fatimid officers were not

as frequently overtly expressed in military affairs as

they were after al-Afdal's death, the underlying causes

were nonetheless present, and al-Afdal was thus forced

to continually consider the potential of rebellion among

his officer corps. Indeed, perhaps part of the reason

that al-Afdal never took to the field in Palestine was

that he felt his absence from Egypt would prove an

irresistible temptation to antagonistic elements in

Cairo to attempt a coup. Ultimately al-Afdal's death

26. See Ch. 6.1.1.

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was due precisely to his lack of absolute authority

A second very significant weakness in the Fatimid

military system was the lack of any well defined foreign

policy goals in Palestine. For the Franks their very

survival depended on the achievement of precisely

defined strategic goals, specifically the conquest of

the maritime cities of Palestine. Excepting the need to

maintain a strategic base in Palestine as a defensive

outpost for Egypt, the Fatimids had no overriding reason

for intervention in Palestine, and in difficult and

expensive situations it was simply easier to ignore the

deteriorating situation there than to attempt the type

of major and sustained military action which would have

been required to expel the Franks

Another major problem in the Fatimid army was

factionalism between the various regiments. Although in

theory having regiments drawn from a number of different

linguistic and cultural backgrounds could promote

27. Although specifically initiated by the Caliph

al-Hafiz, the assassination had the backing of the
Palace establishment who subsequently supported
al-Hafiz's attempt to gain complete control over affairs
in Egypt, Maq. 3:60-2, 108ff.

28. This question is fully discussed in Chapter 6 .

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1 96

military efficiency , this was only the case when there

was a strong and effective leadership. After al-Afdal's

death the destructive potential of this factionalism

became clearly manifest. Although al-Afdal managed for

the most part to hold the competing regiments together

during his reign, he continually faced the potential

problems of factionalism. In 1102 after the Fatimid

victory at Ramla, the delays in further military action

due to factionalism between the regiments was partly to

blame for the lack of significant strategic results from

that victory. As Ibn al-Athir wrote, "After he (Sharaf

al-Macal!) took Ramla a dispute arose between the

Egyptians and the Arabs, each claiming that the victory

was due to their efforts. A Frankish patrol advanced

against them, and each groups refused to associate with

the other, so that the Franks almost defeated them ."

In 1123 when the Fatimid cavalry deserted the infantry

' 31
at the battle of Ramla , this may have in part been

based on the fact that the cavalry regiments saw the

29. See Nizam al-Mulk SJLyai&at Namak ch. 24 tr. pp.


30. IAth. 10:394.

31. FC 3.18.4, Maq. 3:100.

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infantry not really as part of the unified army, but as

an opposing military faction.

The Fatimid army also lacked individual motivation

among their soldiers. The Franks were motivated by both

the desire for personal gain from victory through

plunder and the distribution of conquered cities and

lands as fiefs, and by a religious conviction that they

were serving God by their military conquests in

Palestine. For the Fatimids the potential for plunder

remained, but plunder could be gained much more safely

by raiding from Ascalon than by full scale battles and

sieges against the Franks. The Fatimid officers all had

regular monthly stipends or and although a

conquered city would potentially increase tne revenues

to the state treasury, it did not offer.the immediate

potential of an individual lordship that Frankish

officers could hope to receive.

Finally, ideology of jZ h a d was never fully developed

or expressed by the Fatimids, and indeed, the fact that

many of their soldiers were Armenian Christians or

slaves from Christian or pagan backgrounds essentially

precluded the possibility of j i h a d becoming major

motivating and unifying force for the army. It was only

a number of decades after the original Frankish

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invasions that the propaganda of jihad would begin to

play a significant role among the Muslim leaders and

_ 32
soldiers and bear the ultimate fruit of Hattin

32. Sivan, L !i6iam z La Csioliadz, pp. 53-6 discusses

the rise of anti-Frankish Jihad propaganda beginning in
the years following al-Afdal's rule.

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Little attention has been paid to the foreign policy

goals and strategic problems facing the Fatimids in

their warfare with the Crusaders, despite the fact that

the full significance of the military events in

Palestine can never be understood until the nature of

the strategic situation from the Fatimid perspective has

been analyzed. No previous attempt has been made to

describe either the range of potential foreign policy

choices or grave strategic problems facing the Fatimids

in conducting a.war in southern Palestine. These issues

will be discussed in this chapter.

6.1 Fatimid Foreign Policy Goals

Without the availability of archives or documents by

Fatimid officials openly discussing foreign policy goals

and plans and recording directives to various governors

and generals, it is impossible to accurately describe


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the details of Fatimid foreign policy . Nonetheless,

through a careful examination of what al-Afdal actually

attempted to do combined with a few statements briefly

describing the Fatimid goals as found preserved in

chronicles, it is possible to see a general pattern of

policy emergina. Although the strategic goals of the

Fatimid state have seldom been explicitly discussed ,

there seems to be an implicit assumption on the part of

most historians that the major foreign policy goal of

al-Afdal was the destruction of the Crusader state and

the recovery of southern Palestine for the Fatimids. As

will be shown below, in reality this was not at all the

case. Before examining exactly what al-Afdal tried to

accomplish in Palestine, it is important to discuss the

major Fatimid foreign policy goals. These can be

1. It is due to the existence of such an "archive" for

Saladin's reign in the form of the correspondence of
al-Qadi al-Fadil and others that Lyons and Jackson,
SaladZn, have'been able to explore and interpret Muslim
foreign policy during that period.

2. A notable exception to this general rule is Surur,

SJLya&a. al-F atZ m ZyZ k. However Fatimid policy in relation
to the Crusaders is considered only on pp. 156-59, and
amounts to only a brief recounting of the events of the
early Crusades with no significant insights.

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divided into three broad categories: ideological ,

military, and economic.

6.1.1 Ideological Goals

The most important form of ideological motivation

during most of the history of the Fatimid dynasty was

religious the desire to spread the Fatimid version of

Islam both by individual conversion, covert subversion

of opposing dynasties, and open conquest . However

beginning with the rise to power of Badr al-Jamall,

although lip service may have continued to be paid to

the past religious goals of the state, the importance of

reliction as a functioning factor in foreign policy

decisions was greatly diminished , leaving more

extremist elements of ShTcism such as the Assassins to

continue efforts for the triumph of Sh7cIte Islam.

Although it is impossible to determine al-Afdal's

personal religious feelings and motivations, Ibn

3. The term "ideological" will be used here in a broad

general sense including a number of theoretical
psychological motivations, rather than in its modern
technical sense.

4. See Vatikiotis, T a t lm ld I k t o x y .

5. Gibb, "Caliphate" p. 94-5

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al-Qalanisi claims that al-Afdal was a SunnT rather than

a Shicite , which, if true, would illuminate his lack of

concern for Fatimid religious expansion. The major

indication of this attitude is al-Afdal's cynical role

in the succession dispute upon the death of

al-Mustansir, when he invented a last minute change in

the nomination of the heir apparent and placed a child

on the throne in order to secure his authority over the

government . Only in Yaman which was closely linked to

the vital Fatimid economic interests in the trade route

to India , did he actively support Shicite missionary
activities . The general policy of the Jamali dynasty

was clearly to limit rather than expand the influence of

the Fatimid Caliphs. During Badr al-JamalT's rule this

took the form of an attempt to dominate all aspects of

the government and limit al-Mustansir's personal

authority as much as possible. Al-Afdal took the

further expedient of manipulating the succession to the

6 . IQal. 204/164, vZ ctJ iq a d i Z ma.dhh.ab a Z - 6 u n n a "

7. IMuy. 68-9, IQal. 127ff, Mao. 3:12-5, IAth. 10:237-8,

IZaf. 83-5.

8 . Lewis, "India."

9. Hak. passim.

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Caliphate to insure that children were placed on the

throne to be dominated by the WazTr, even when such a

policy risked civil war as during.his dispute with Nizar

over the succession to al-Mustanfir. Al-Afdal1s son

Kutayfat took this policy to its logical end by his

abortive attempt in 1130-1 to eliminate the Fatimid

Caliphate altogether

Personal aggrandizement the desire for military

victory and conquest for the honor of the leader or

dynasty could also be seen as a possible type of

ideological motivation for conflict or expansionism.

MaqrizI records an incident when Baldwin hired an Arab

poet to compose a satire about al-Afdal's defeat in

Palestine, which according so infuriated al-Afdal that

he sent an assassin to kill the poet . Although it

seems unlikely that al-Afdal would have been foolish

enough to risk a major war in order to retaliate for

what he saw as a personal insult, from one perspective,

it could be said that such personal aggrandizement was

necessarily of central concern, in the sense that the

10. Maq. 3:138-44? Stern, "Al-Afdal Kutayfat."

11. MaqKh. i:443, see Ch. 3.2.3 for a further


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ultimate goal of all his activities was to secure his

personal authority and power in Egypt. If al-Afdal

perceived that warfare in Palestine was necessary to

maintain his authority over the Fatimid officer corps

and army he would feel compelled to engage in war. The

question of how southern Palestine was economically and

militarily linked to security in Egypt and the

continuance of al-Afdal's authority thus becomes the

central question

Whatever personal motivations may have been felt by

al-Afdal in this regard, however, there is an important

political side to this problem as well. Defeats in

battle could be interpreted as personal defeats of

al-Afdal and his policies, which would have had the

tendency of undermining his authority among his

officers. The classic example of this problem is Shams

al-Khilafa's rebellion in Ascalon in 1111, which can be

best understood in the light of a preceding decade of

failure of Fatimid military policy in Palestine, giving

Shams al-Khilafa enough confidence to attempt a regional


The year 1110 was disastrous for the Fatimids in

12. See 6.1.3 below.

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Palestine. Beirut had fallen by storm in May, and Sidon

surrendered to Baldwin in December . Immediately

thereafter Baldwin made his way to Ascalon and managed

. 14
to impose tribute on the governor Shams al-Khilafa .

Al-Afdal, angered by his governor's negotiations with

Baldwin, mobilized an army under cIzz al-Mulk al-Acazz

to expel Shams al-Khilafa from Ascalon. When the army

neared Ascalon Shams al-Khilafa openly revolted against

al-Afdal . The exact motivation behind Shams

al-Khilafa's actions can't be determined, but a vital

factor was certairly the near collapse of Fatimid

authority and military prestige in Palestine. Beirut

and Sidon had fallen, leaving only Tyre and Ascalon in

Frankish hands. If Shams al-Khilafa could secure

control of Ascalon under the protection of Baldwin,

there would be little al-Afdal could do about it.

Fatimid failures in Palestine had served to undermine

al-Afdal's authority culminating in Shams al-Khilafa's


The exact nature of the coup in Ascalon is somewhat

13. See Runciman 2;S 13 for a review of these events.

14. IQal. 172/109; Maq. 3:46.

15. Maq. 3:46; IQal. 172/109; IAth. 10:480-1.

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confused. The Muslim sources all agree that Shams

al-Khilafa ousted the Fatimid Egyptian garrison and

enlisted a band of Armenian mercenaries . On the other

hand, Albert of Aix claims that a band of 300 Baldwin's

"knightly and warlike men" were sent to help garrison

Ascalon . This seeming contradiction can be resolved

if it is assumed that the "knightly men" sent by Baldwin

were Christian Armenian mercenaries in Crusader

service . It may also be possible that Shams

al-Khilafa himself was an Armenian Christian, and was

simply recruiting fellow Armenians mercenaries who

happened to be currently in Frankish employ to support

his revolt in Ascalon

Al-Afdals reaction to this outright rebellion was

passive. Instead of initiating a siege to wrest Ascalon

16. IQal.172/110; IAth. 10:480-1; Maq. 3:47; Dhah. 2:23;

IKhal. 4:415.

17. AA 11.35, m J H ltn K th z t b t l l l g z t i o &."

18. This might also explain why they were called

"knightly = m m ta fiJ L h " instead of knights = m i l / j t z * ,
since as Armenians they could not be included socially
as true iriJLtJUtzb.

19. On the importance of Armenian Christians in the

Fatimid army see 3.1.1. His name, Shams al-Khilafa =
"Sun of the Caliphate" could have been borne by a

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from Shams al-Khilafa, al-Afdal actually gave the city

to him as an Z q ta .c and increased his i,qiac holdings in

Egypt, thereby essentially recognizing his new

semi-independent position . Shams al-Khilafa was

finally overthrown not by direct action by al-Afdal, but

by a rebellion among the citizens of Ascalon.

6.1.2 Economic Foreign Policy Goals

In addition to the fact that control of Palestine

might have been indirectly important for the defense of

Egypt, there were a number of more direct economic

benefits which could be gained by control of the region,

and which might have compelled al-Afdal to pursue a war

in southern Palestine. Economic gain could be acquired

from control of Palestine in three way. First, and most

significant, was the tax revenue from Palestine. There

are no accurate figures for land tax revenue for this

period, although it can be estimated as a general figure

that the revenues amounted to about three to four

hundred thousand dinars a year

20. Maq. 3:47; IQal. 172/109.

21. For a discussion of this estimate see Ch. 4.1.

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Second, beyond the agricultural tax revenues the

Fatimid controlled cities in Palestine included a large

number of prosperous trading and industrial centers

which could have brought them a number of economic

advantages. Again no exact figures for revenues are

available, but it could have been as high as several

hundred thousand dinars . One interesting aspect of

this comes from a statement by Nasir-i Khusrav, who

claimed that the Fatimid garrison at Tripoli was paid by

a tithe on the trading goods of foreign merchants who

traded in the city . If this statement is accurate and

generally applicable to other cities in the region it

would mean that in times of peace the revenues from

Palestine paid for the Fatimid military presence there

and probably contributed additional revenues to the

treasury in Egypt, presenting a clear economic

motivation for control of the region.

The intervention of the Crusaders changed this

situation drastically in a number of ways. As the

Crusaders captured a number of ports a great deal of the

22. Alexandria alone produced at least 80,000 dinars in

government revenues, Rabie, Fi n a n z i a l A d tr .in i6 tfia t4 .o n ,
pp. 92, 98; see also ch. 4.6.

23. Nasir-i Khusrav, tr. LeStrange, ? a l z 6 t i n z , p. 349.

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European traffic was diverted to those cities, causing a

proportional decline in mercantile prosperity in the

Muslim controlled cities. The occasional presence of

large hostile Frankish fleets in the coastal waters of

the area, accompanied by widespread piracy, would have

further negatively effected Muslim trade. The conquest

of most of the inland agricultural regions, although.not

completely cutting off the supply of foodstuffs from the

mainland, brought about a general increase in the cost

of food, and occasional need of importation of supplies

from Egypt. Finally, in addition to all of these

economic hardships the cities faced sharply increasing

expenses to maintain their defenses against repeated

Crusader raids and sieges. Thus, whereas before the

Crusader invasions the Fatimid presence in the region

produced an increase in state revenues, as the Crusader

presence increased and solidified, the economic benefits

proportionally declined, and in years when armies or

fleets were mobilized and sent to Palestine Fatimid

expenditures in the region certainly outweighed the

potential income.

It has elsewhere been estimated that mobilization of

a 5000 man army for a summer's campaign in southern

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Palestine cost several hundred thousand dinars . When

all of southern Palestine was in Fatimid hands it is

possible that the revenues of the region could have

supported such an expenditure. However, when much of

the agricultural land and a large number of cities were

in Frankish hands, coupled with the shift in trading

patterns and the increase in piracy and raids, it is

impossible that on a year to year basis any economic

gains could be expected from Fatimid holdings in

Palestine. In purely economic terms the cost of

defending the regions far outweighed the benefits which

could be derived from a continued Fatimid military

presence there.

A final economic motivation for prosecuting war in

southern Palestine was the plunder which could be

derived from such conflicts. Fatimid plundering raids

from Ascalon, and to a lesser degree from other coastal

cities, were almost a yearly affair . Victory in

battle also offered the prospect of financial gain.

24. Ch. 4.3.

25. There are numerous references to Fatimid raids. A

few include Ekk. 27.6/258, 33.3/288-9; FC 2.49.12, 2.37;
WT 3.8,12, 14.22, AA 10-10-4, 10.33, 11.28, which could
be further multiplied.

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Piracy by Fatimid government ships and privateers in

Syria was also frequent, coupled with occasional full

scale naval operations in which plunder could be

acquired. However, such economic motivations were more

important from the perspective of the troops actually

engaged in battle or garrisoning cities rather than from

the broader perspective of regional foreign policy, and

could not have served as a major factor in al-Afdal's

foreign policy decisions. If plunder could be obtained

at the expense of the Franks, that was fine, but there

is no evidence that al-Afdal tailored his activities to

maximize the potential for plunder. When Baldwin's

counter-raiding, culminating in the loss of a large

merchant fleet in 1111 and the capture of a large

caravan from the east in 1113-4 began to cause a serious

economic threat to Egypt, al-Afdal made a treaty

agreeing to a truce and ending the plunder raids.

Al-Afdal "made a peace treaty in 509/1115-6 with Baldwin

the Frank, Lord of Jerusalem. Baldwin had previously

taken a great caravan from the Muslims in the Salt

Marsh, known today as Baldwin's Marsh. So al-Afdal

decided to make a truce because of his inability to

26. Maq. 3:46

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prevent (such raids), and commanded his men


Furthermore, from the point of view of the

individual soldier, permanent reconquest of Palestine

from the Franks would only serve to increase the number

of cities to be defended, while the elimination of

Frankish pilgrim and trading traffic would drastically

reduce the personal profit to be gained by the

individual soldier through plunder. Thus although

plundering raids continued to be carried out by the

Fatimids the net result of the success of these raids

was to further decrease the desire on the part of the

soldiers to attempt more permanent conquests.

6.1.3 Strategic Foreign Policy Goals

The final category of foreign policy goals can

described as military or strategic goals. The. central

strategic concern of al-Afdal was clearly the protection

of Egypt and the maintenance of his personal authority

there. An invasion or conquest of Egypt would bring

about widespread devastation, potentially followed by

27. ITagh. 5:209.8-11.

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famine, disease, brigandage and at least a temporary

economic decline, or even worse, the complete conquest

of the country, the end of the Fatimid dynasty, and the

exile or death of al-Afdal himself.

Thus if Fatimid control of southern Palestine could

somehow increase the security of Egypt, there would

exist a clear need for military intervention in that

region. What strategic role did southern Palestine play

in the defense of Egypt? Dr. A. S. Ehrenkreutz has

discussed the ways in which the control and defense of

southern Palestine was of crucial importance to the

defense of Egypt as a type of "naval alarm system" which

gave Egypt advance notice of Frankish military and naval

activities, and could serve as a fortress to harass anv

Crusader attempts to cross the Sinai into Egypt . The

major threat from lack of Fatimid control of southern

Palestine was that the region could be used for invasion

of the Egyptian delta by either sea or land. This

situation was recognized by Badr al-Jamall, who, after

having defeated Atsiz's invasion of the Delta in 1077

refortified the gates of Cairo and initiated an attempt

to reconquer Palestine. Al-Afdal continued this same

28. Ehrenkreutz, "Naval" p. 102f.

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policy of maintaining a strong military presence in

Palestine with his reconquest of rebellious Tyre and the

capture of Jerusalem from the Urtuqid brothers .

How did the intervention of the Franks in southern

Palestine change these general goals? Until the coming

of the Franks the major enemy facing the Fatimids were

the Saljuqid princes in Syria and Palestine. In one

sense the wedge the Crusaders drove between Damascus and

Egypt admirably served Fatimid strategic goals in that

Egypt no longer faced any significant threat from

Damascus, and indeed al-Afdal began to see Damascus as a

potential ally. As Ibn Zafir saw it, "al-Afdal ...

desired their (the Frankish) conquest of the coast (of

southern Palestine) so they would serve as a barrier

preventing the invasion of the Turks into Egypt ."

Al-Afdal saw the Syrian Turks as the major threat to

Egypt, and thus the Frankish intrusion into the region

was essentially beneficial to Fatimid interests.

The history of al-Afdal's attempts at conciliation

with the Franks confirms that he was not entirely

29= IQal. 135; IMuy. 65-6; IAth. 10:282-3; IKhal.

4:141; Maq. 3:22a; MaqKh. 1:427b; ITagh 5:159.3-7.

30, IZaf. 82.

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opposed to a Frankish presence in the region. Al-Afdal

opened negotiations with the Franks as their army was

besieging Antioch in 1098 . Originally his goal was

probably to allow a Frankish presence in northern Syria

while giving them free access for pilgrimage to

Jerusalem, and negotiations on these lines were

continued by a second embassy sent to the Franks while

they besieged Arqa . Al-Afdal recognized that the

Franks had no plans for the conquest of Egypt, and if an

arrangement could be made with the Franks he woul d have

not only a potential ally against the Syrians, but would

forestall any possible future danger to Egypt without

the necessity of expensive military action.

Apparently the Fatimids felt that the results of

these negotiations were satisfactory, for agreements

were made to provide supplies to the Frankish army

during its advance to Jerusalem. Caffaro mentions that

an embassy was sent to Egypt by John the Camararius

guaranteeing "safe conduct and supplies from the

maritime cities and villages on the route to Jerusalem

31. See Runciman 1:229-30.

32. RA 16, pp. 106f; WT 7.19; Runciman 1:273.

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for the Frankish knights ," indicating that the

provision of supplies to the Crusaders was not

undertaken solely on the initiative of the governors of

the maritime cities but on direct orders from al-Afdal.

It seems hardly credible that al-Afdal would have given

supplies to the Crusaders if he had thought they were

invading to conquer Palestine. The best explanation for

these developments is that he was under the delusion,

probably fostered by lies from the Frankish ambassadors,

that the Franks only intended to visit Jerusalem as


In view of these negotiations the siege and fall of

Jerusalem undoubtedly came as a surprise to al-Afdal,

but even after Jerusalem fell he was still willing to

come to terms with the Franks and formulate some kind of

negotiated division of Palestine. Al-Afdal:s first act

upon arrival at Ascalon in 1099 after the fall of

Jerusalem was to send ambassadors to Jerusalem in

another attempt to negotiate a treaty. Ibn Muyassar

states that al-Afdal "sent (messengers) to rebuke the

Franks because of what they had done, and they (the

Franks) responded favorably. The (Egyptian) messenger

33. Caf. 1:109.

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had barely returned when they (the Franks) came in great

n u n ^ r s and attacked al-Afdal (at Ascalon) Rebuking

an enemy with whom you are at war makes little sense,

and this incident can best be understood if it is

assumed that al-Afdal was rebuking the Franks for having

broken^previous treaty. The Franks sent back a

favorable response to these overtures, while marshalling

their army and rushing to battle . Despite the fact

that this was the only occasion al-Afdal ever personally

led an army against the Franks, and that it was the

largest Fatimid army ever mobilized against them, his

first move was not to attack the Crusaders, but to

attempt to intimidate them into a negotiated peace,

perhaps by granting the Franks control of Jerusalem and

defining respective zones of influence in southern

Palestine. Due to the favorable initial response of the

Crusaders al-Afdal was expecting to negotiate with the

Franks and their attack the next day caught his army

completely by surprise, the Fatimids suffering their

34. IMuy. 6 6 , followed by Maq. 3:24 who gives an

abbreviated version; Dhah. 2:15-6.

35. The sources mentioned above say that the Franks sent
a response "j'awab," which invariably means an
affirmative response to a petition.

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worst defeat of the war

Even after this defeat, or perhaps because of it,

al-Afdal was still willing to continue in his attempts

to formulate a negotiated peace with the Crusaders. In

the spring of 1100 a treaty was concluded between the

Crusaders and the Fatimid coastal cities of southern

Palestine by which a tribute of 60,000 dinars a year

would be paid to the Franks if the Franks agreed not

attack any Fatimid cities . This may have been an

expedient on al-Afdal's part because he was unable to

mobilize a new army to defend the cities after his

defeat at Ascalon the previous summer. However,

al-Afdal might also have perceived it as a permanent

settlement, somewhat along the lines of the Fatimid

treaty dividing the revenues of Tyre with Damascus

The Franks would control Jerusalem having Jaffa as a

port, while sharing the revenues of the other Fatimid

coastal towns with al-Afdal in the form of the monthly

"tribute." It is of course impossible to know if

36. See ch. 7.1.

37. AA 7.12-3 gives the tribute as 5000 dTnars a month,

or 60,000 a year.

38. WT 13.5 discusses the nature of this dyarchy.

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al-Afdal saw this treaty as permanent since the Franks

broke it a few months later, but it does give some

indication that al-Afdal was willing to sacrifice

Jerusalem to the Franks and even surrender a portion of

the revenues of the province in return for a treaty of

friendship with the Crusaders which would leave Egypt

secure and in possession of the rich coastal towns.

By the summer of 1100 when the Franks had broken the

treaties made that spring by attacking Arsuf and Haifa,

it became clear that al-Afdal's policy of conciliation

and a negotiated division of Palestine with the

Crusaders was hopeless and that the ultimate goal of the

Franks was the conquest of the region. As Ibn Zafir

wrote, "when the Franks may God forsake them

conquered Jerusalem, al-Afglal regretted it only after

there was no use in regretting, for he desired their

conouest of the coast so they would be a barrier

preventing the invasion of the Turks into Egypt . Ibn

TaghribardI echoes these same sentiments, "The affairs

of Egypt were reorganized during (al-Afdal's)

administration, which distracted him from the Syrian

coast so that the Franks were able to conquer most of

39. IZaf. 82.

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it. He regretted this fact only after it was no longer

useful to regret it Al-Afdal's initial policy of

reconciliation had succeeded only in allowing the Franks

to become firmly in control of a large section of

southern Palestine.

In order to understand Fatimid strategy in the

following years it should be emphasized that the Franks

had neither the intention or the capability of invading

Egypt. They were too involved their continuing conquest

of Muslim cities on the Palestinian coast and battles

with the Turks in Syria to be able to seriously consider

a major invasion of Egypt. The only Frankish land

invasion of Egypt before the 1160s was by Baldwin in

1118. This was clearly a punitive raid in retaliation

for similar raids from Ascalon in violation of the

treaty of 1115, rather than a serious invasion,

especially when it is remembered that his "army"

consisted of a mere 260 cavalry and 400 infantry . The

military significance of this raid has tended to be

exaggerated. As long as Frankish goals remained limited

to Palestine and the Fatimids could maintain a strong

40. ITagh. 5:153.5.

41. AA 12.25

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naval and military presence at least in Ascalon, Egypt

was relatively secure.

In the following years the guiding policy behind

Fatimid military intervention in Palestine was to defend

existing Fatimid possessions which could serve as the

outer ring of defense for Egypt rather than a serious

attempt at expelling the Franks or reconquering

Palestine. When the Frankish attacks on Fatimid cities

ceased, so did Fhtimid intervention in Palestine. When

a Fatimid city was threatened, the Fatimids usually made

some type of military counter-move

This lack of a clearly defined offensive strategy in

Palestine is reflected in the events of the following

years. After the victory at Ramla in 1102, rather than

moving directly to attempt to reconquer part of

Palestine, the Fatimid officers were unable to decide

what to do next and spent several weeks in indecision

with their troops scattered seeking plunder. Sharaf

al-Macali's "officers disputed about their goal. A

group said 'We should attack and conquer Jerusalem,'

42. The two exceptions to this general rule are the

campaign of 1105 and the raiding activities of Ascalon.

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while another group said. 'We should attack and conquer

Jaffa ," a situation that can be best explained if the

Fatimids had no general strategic plan for the

reconquest of Palestine.

Al-Afdal's cynical response to the requests of the

citizens of Tripoli for aid in defending their city

again points to a passive Fatimid foreign policy. When

the citizens decided they could no longer defend their

city alone and asked Egypt for aid, al-Afdal sent them a

small garrison who plundered their treasury and

imprisoned the leading members of the Banu cAmmar. When

the Franks began a major siege in 1109 al-Afdal spent an

entire year deciding whether to send aid or not, leaving

the garrison to eventually surrender the city on

terms . Al-Afdal had taken whatever wealth he could

from the city and then essentially left it to its own

devices for defense.

In summary, none of the potential foreign policy

goals, except that of using Palestine as base for

defending Egypt, presented an overwhelming argument for

continued and extensive Fatimid military presence in

43. IAth. 10:364.

44. IAth. 10:476.

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southern Palestine. When the Crusaders first invaded a

single military victory in Palestine would have allow

the Fatimids to maintain control of the region with a

minimum of economic and military loss and would have

certainly been beneficial in the long run. However,

after the Crusader's quick reduction of Jerusalem and

their initial surprise defeat of the Fatimid relief

force at Ascalon in 1099, the Franks were able to become

firmly established in the region with a number of

important fortresses and cities in their possession, and

with direct control of much of the agricultural land.

From this point on, the potential economic benefits

from continued military intervention in Palestine

progressively diminished. Each battle presented the

very real possibility of major losses in manpower,

equipment, supplies and treasure, while each fleet faced

the possibility of destruction by storms or by the

enemy. On the other hand the Crusaders continued to

grow stronger militarily and economically with each

passing year, and the potential benefits from victory in

battle progressively decreased. Thus the overall

motivations for Fatimid military intervention steadily


The only foreign policy goal remaining for Al-Afdal

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was to preserve a forward base for naval and military

operations, and to warn and defend Egypt from possible

invasions. As has been discussed previously, Al-Afdal

was willing to go to great lengths and expenses to

insure that Ascalon remained securely in Fatimid

hands , but unless the opportunity presented itself, as

after the battle of Ramla in 1102, little attempt was

made to regain lost territory. Ibn TaghrlbardI in

summarizing al-Afdal's reign, stated that al-Mustacli

was satisfied with al-Afdal as Wazlr, "except for the

fact that he refrained from jZ h Z d (against the

Franks) ."

6.2 Strategic Problems Facing the Fatimids

In addition to the fact that the Fatimid foreign

policy goals in Palestine were essentially passive,

there were a number of strategic factors which made

aggressive action on their part extremely difficult and

hindered their attempts to defend those cities which

45. Ch. 4.4.

46. ITagh. 5:153.10-11.

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remained in their hands. For the most part these

strategic difficulties have not been recognized by most

scholars. Once some of the implications of the Fatimid

strategic and military situation are understood Fatimid

policies and military actions become much more


By far the most significant strategic problem facing

the Fatimids was thattheir army was in Egypt while the

war was in Palestine. When the Franks began to take

offensive action against a Fatimid city word had to be

sent to Egypt, mobilization orders issued, the troops

collected and reviewed, supplies organized and

transported to the fleet, the equipment and draft

animals readied, and the army and fleet had to march

from Ca iro to Ascalon, the journey alone taking up to

two weeks . Although in theory it might have been

possible for a better organized army under an agressive

leader to mobilize a force more quickly, in practice,

Fatimid armies tended to reach Ascalon on the average of

two months after the initiation of hostilities in

Palestine. In 1099 the siege of Jerusalem began on 7

June, while the Fatimid army arrived at Ascalon in the

1. Ayalon, "Harb," p. 185b.

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first week in August. In 1101 the siege of Arsuf began

on 15 April, the main Fatimid army arrived on 30 June .

In 1102 Beirut was harassed beginning on 15 February,

the Fatimid army arrived in early May . In 1103 the
siege of Acre began on 6 April , and the Fatimid army
arrived on 8 June .

In strategic terms this meant that the Crusaders had

two months in which to carry out sieges without

interference from a major FStimid field army. An

examination of the sieges of the period shows that most

sieges were either successfully completed or abandoned

before the this two month period expired . Thus Smail's

statement that "only in 1112 did a Muslim force actively

interfere with the siege operations of the Franks " is

somewhat misleading. In actuality most sieges were

either concluded before a Fatimid army could arrive from

Egypt, or, if it seemed that the city would not swiftly

2. IQal. 140=53, IMuy. 6 8 , Maq. 3:26.

3. See ch. 7.3, IQal. 144=55.

4. AA 9.19, FC 2.22.1.

5. IQal. 142=58.

6 . On the duration of successful sieges see 5.4.

7. Smail p. 27, referring to the siege of Tyre.

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surrender, the Franks abandoned their siege. On the

other hand, the Franks could mobilize most of their

troops in southern Palestine in a few days, and be ready

to face any Fatimid threat to their kingdom.

This points to a second major strategic problem

facing the Fatimids, their inability to achieve any type

of strategic surprise. The fact that it took the

Fatimids some two weeks to march from Cairo to Ascalon

essentially insured that the Franks would have previous

knowledge of the mobilization of an Egyptian army,

allowing them sufficient time to mobilize their own

forces. It was inevitable that any Fatimid army from

Egypt would always arrive at Ascalon, and thus the

Franks always knew exactly where to mobilize and where

they would have to meet the Fatimids.

In theory the Fatimids could have attempted to

achieve some type of strategic surprise by launching

attacks from Tyre or other maritime cities north of

Ascalon by transporting an army and supplies from Egypt

by sea. However, there were a number of logistical

problems hsinpS ring such an operation which rendered it

functionally impossible. The age of the great

amphibious operations which were eventually launched by.

the Crusaders did not begin until the latter decades of

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the twelfth century. A major difficulty was in the

transportation of horses, the technology for large scale

horse transportation by sea still being in its infancy

in the early twelfth century . However, even if the

technology was fully available, the logistical problems

were still immense. The average Muslim horse transport,

the -fa/uTda, carried at most fourty horses , so an army

of 2000 cavalry would have required a fleet of at least

50 naval transports for the horses alone, with a large

number of additional vessels for the infantry, the

horsemen, supplies, servants and additional war galleys

for protection. The Fatimid navy at this period was not

capable of mounting such a major operation without a

large scale ship building project and massive logistical

preparations . Even if the necessary transports could

have been prepared, the fleet would still face

additional dangers of storm and possible encounter with

8 . Pryor, "Transportation," pp. 9-14 discusses

pre-twelfth century naval transport of horses, usually
numbering from twelve to twenty horses per ship, while
later transports were able to carry fourty or more

9. IMam. 339, Pryor, "Transportation" p. 18.

10. According to Qal. 3:523 the Fatimid navy consisted

of only 75 warships and 10 supply ships.

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large European fleets. After the army had arrived

safely at Tyre, large scale naval supply operations

would still be required . Finally, from the Fatimid

point of view, the strategic goals to be achieved by an

assault based at Tyre were not very significant. The

recapture of Jaffa, Acre, or Haifa would have been very

useful to the Fatimids by providing them with an

additional center for the defense of Egypt, but

victories further north would simply have resulted in an

additional city to defend. A sustained effort at the

reconquest of Palestine must necessarily have originated

from Ascalon. Thus although in theory an attack through

a northern port may have been possible, the cost,

difficulty, and lack of practical strategic and economic

benefits made it impractical.

There were also a wide range of strategic defense

problems facing the Fatimids. In 1100 the Fatimids held

Ascalon, Arsuf, Caesarea, Haifa, Acre, Tyre, Sidon and

Beirut. Although the specific defensive requirements in

terms of money, supplies, equipment and troops varied

according to the size and importance of each city, each

11. See Ehrenkreutz, "Naval," on the difficulties faced

by Saladin during his naval operations against the

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city had tc be defended individually. For example, if

2000 men were sent to Palestine to garrison the region,

in actuality eacn city would only have 250 men for

defense. If the Crusaders marshalled an army of 2000

men, they could select whichever city seemed weakest or

most susceptible to attack at any given time. Thus a

siege the Franks could centralize their military power

against only a small fraction of the Fatimid defensive

strength in the region. Until a relief force arrived

from Egypt, which as pointed out above took at least two

months, the Franks were assured of a regional military

superiority against whichever city they decided to

attack, and city by city the coast was conquered.

Although some support could be expected from the other

Fatimid garrisons in the region , in practice the

Franks seldom faced the entire defensive strength of

Palestine. On the other hand, as each Fatimid city on

the coast fell, the defensive strength of the Fatimids

became more concentrated in the remaining cities, which

perhaps in part explains why it took the Franks

12. As when a fleet and reinforcements from Tyre and

Sidon saved Acre from capture in 1103 (AA 9.15), and
Arsuf was reinforced with 100 cavalry and 200 infantry
from Ascalon in 1100 (AA 7.13).

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progressively longer to capture each succeeding city.

In the end the sieges of Tyre and Ascalon each lasted

well over a year and came decades after the initial

Frankish invasions . The early capture by the

Crusaders of Jaffa, Arsuf, Caesarea and Haifa presented

the Fatimids with another significant strategic problem,

in that the remaining northern cities were thereby cut

off from the possibility of any substantial

reinforcements by land, necessitating a defensive

military alliance with the Damascenes.

In addition to all of these strategic difficulties

the Fatimids also faced a major logistical problem.

Once most Palestinian agricultural land was lost the

sources for supplies, equipment and troops for a

campaign were all in Egypt, and nearly every arrow,

biscuit, man and draft animal had to be transported by

sea or land to Palestine. The Franks on the other hand,

had their sources of supply only a few days or hours

from their battles and sieges. Thus any -expedition sent

by the Fatimids became a major logistical undertaking.

13. Tyre finally fell only after the FStimid fleet had
been destroyed by the Venetians the year before so that
Egypt was unable to send naval relief. Ascalon fell
only when civil war in Egypt striped its defenses and
forestalled a land relief effort.

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In a sense, each summer the Fatimids sent an army to

Palestine it was like building and supplying a new city

of thousands of soldiers and servants with many

additional animals. The fact that the Fatimids

repeatedly maintained large armies in Palestine shows

that the problem was not insurmountable, but it was

expensive and provided strict limitations within which

the Fatimid army was required to operate.

A final strategic problem facing the Fatimids was

that in reality they were not fighting just a few

thousand Franks living in Palestine, but a combination

of many of the nations of Europe. The Fatimid victory

at Ramla in 1102 clearly shows the significance of this

fact . The Frankish army was crushed and scattered,

and the Fatimids had overrun the countryside and had

begun siege operations against Jaffa when a massive

relief fleet arrived from Europe which drove off the

Fatimid army and navy and saved the kingdom. Southern

Palestine would have clearly fallen in 1102 there had

been no reinforcements available from Europe.

Strategically, economically, and militarily the Franks

of Palestine alone could never have forestalled an

14. See 7.3 for a discussion.

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eventual Egyptian victory without the constant influx of

wealth and men from Europe. Or, from the opposite

perspective, the Fatimids alone could never have

reconquered Frankish Palestine while it was receiving

the full support of Europe. It was only when the

military and economic power of Egypt, Syria and northern

Mesopotamia was combined that the strategic balance .

ultimately shifted against the Crusaders.

During the period of the early Crusades the Franks

clearly had most of the strategic advantages. They had

advance notice of the mobilization of Fatimid armies,

they could mobilize all their forces in just a few days,

had direct and constant access to their bases for

supplies and reinforcements, and could select from a

large number of targets for sieges while always knowing

exactly where the Fatimids-would inevitably attack.

When defeated they could expect strong support from the

northern Crusader principalities and Europe. For the

Fatimids this situation was exactly reversed. The

Franks could strike with only a day or two of advance

notice, the Fatimids would often have to face additional

unforeseen enemies from Europe, they required two months

to mobilize their army, they had to ship most of their

equipment, men and supplies from Egypt, and had a large

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number of coastal towns to defend, any one of which

could be attacked at any time, and many of which were

beyond the access of their land army.

None of these difficulties alone would have proved

insurmountable, however. A strong and resolute leader,

with clearly defined goals and a motivated army could

have overcome them. However, the Fatimid weakness in

leadership, lack of motivation and passive foreign

policy goals, combined with the basic strategic and

logistical problems described above, proved

insurmountable. Al-Afdal simply allowed affairs in

Palestine to slowly drift from Frankish victory to

victory, culminating in their conquest of nearly the

entire region.

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Nearly every history of the Crusades includes some

accounts of the battles fought between Franks and

Fatimids, while many of these battles have been the

focus of numerous attempts at detailed reconstruction.

Unfortunately for the most part these efforts have

resulted in a distorted perspective of the course and

significance of most battles, due mainly to the failure

to seriously consider the testimony of Arabic sources.

This universal overreliance on the Latin perspective in

the study of these battles can be seen even in the work

of the excellent military historian R. C. Smail who in

his analysis of five major battles between the Crusaders

and Fatimids, does not reference a single Arabic

source . The broader view made possible by the serious

consideration of Arabic testimony will not only allow a

corrected understanding of the nature of the Fatimid

army, but on occasion will necessitate major revisions

1. Smail: Ascalon 1099, pp. 174-7, esp. p. 174 n. 5;

Ramla 1101, p. 175 n. 3; Ramla 1102, p. 176 n. 1; Jaffa
1102 p. 176; and Ramla 1105 p. 177 n. 3. These same five
battles will be studied in this chapter and should be
compared with Smail1s analysis.


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in our understanding of the course and nature of warfare

during the early Crusades.

The following pages include reconstructions of five

major land battles fought by the Crusaders and Fatimids:

Ascalon in 1099, the battles of Ramla in 1101, 1102 and

1105, and the battle of Jaffa in 1102. The study of each

battle includes a section discussing the number of

troops in the opposing armies, a description of the

course of the battle, and a summary of the major primary

sources for the battle. In addition the battles of

Ramla and Jaffa in 1102 contain sections discussing

questions of the dating of those battles. Much of the

discussion is quite technical and detailed, but is

necessary to provide the basis for some of the revisions

in past descriptions which I am suggesting.

7.1 Ascalon: 12 August 1099

7.1.1 Opposing Forces

Ibn al-Qalanisi makes two important statements on

the size of the Fatimid army at Ascalon. The first is

that "death came to the infantry and the volunteers and

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the people of the city. They numbered about 10,000

souls The major question in the interpretation of

this phrase is whether the figure 10,000 refers to the

number of infantry, volunteers and militia who fought,

or to the number of those men who were killed in the

battle. Grammatically it can be understood either way.

However, Ibn al-QalanisT adds that "at this battle about

2700 souls were killed from among the witnesses (those

whose testimony is acceptable under Muslim law), leading

citizens, merchants and city militia ( a h d E tk ) of the

people of Ascalon, not counting the regular army

{ a jn a d ) ."

These two statements can best be reconciled by the

following reconstruction. In the first phrase, k a j Z l ,

"infantry" refers to the regular infantry which came

with Al-Afdal from Egypt, which is probably equivalent

with the a jn a d of phrase two. in the first

phrase refers to volunteers not normally trained for

battle, who should probably be equated with the

"witnesses, leading citizens, and merchants" of phrase

2. IQal. 137 = 48-9, " a t a a i - q a t l ca la . a l-n .d jA .1 wa.

a.l-m uta.uiw Zca. wa a h l a l - b a l a d wa. kanu z u k a a. cashana. ala.&
nai a*."

3. IQal. 138 = 49.

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two. Finally the a h d a th are the city militia of

Ascalon, young men who are trained to some degree in

fighting and better equipped than most of the

"volunteers." Thus the first number given, 10,000

refers to the total number of infantry, both regular and

irregular, involved in the battle, while the 2700 deaths

refers only to the casualties suffered by the irregular

infantry who had been recruited in southern Palestine,

mainly from Ascalon.

Al-DhahabI states that "Al-Afdal arrived at Ascalon

with 20,000 men ." This figure may well be an
exaggeration , but it could be accepted as possibly

correct if 20,000 is taken to be an approximation of the

total number of men in the battle, including the Ascalon

militia and bedouin irregulars, rather than just the

regular army which marched from Egypt. Thus as a

hypothetical reconstruction, Ibn al-QalanisPs 10,000

infantry can be divided into two roughly equal groups,

perhaps 5000 militia and volunteers from the Ascalon

4. Dhah. 2:15-6, followed by ITagh. 5:149.

5. Al-Dhahabi also claims that 100,000 men died in the

battle, 2:17, although this passage is placed under the
wrong year in Dhah.'s chronicle, it seems clearly to
refer to the battle of Ascalon.

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area, and another 5000 regular infantry from Egypt. The

5000 regular infantry would be accompanied by 5000

regular cavalry , to which should be added several

thousand irregular bedouin cavalry which would have

joined the expedition both in Egypt and Palestine

bringing the total Fatimid force to somewhere near the

20,000 figure given by Al-Dhahabi.

The Crusader sources give a wide variety of

unreliable figures for the Fatimid army. The author of

the Ge-s-ta claims they numbered 200,000 ; Ekkehard gives

the Fatimids 100,000 cavalry and 400,000 infantry,

adding that 100,000 "moorish swords (Mau/tOAum gladJLo)

were caotured as bootv , figures which agree precisely
with those given bv Daimbert in his letter to the Pope ;
Matthew of Edessa puts them at 300,000 . In trying to

deal with such figures perhaps it is best to conclude

along with the Anonymous author of the G t& ta. that "the

6. See 3.4.3 on the regular Fatimid army generally

consisting of half cavalry and half infantry.

7. Anon. p. 96.

8. Ekk. 17.5/176.'

9. HEp. p. 172.

10. ME 2.125/311-2.

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multitude of the pagans was innumerable and none (of the

Crusaders) knew their number save only God ."

On the size of the Crusader army, Raymond, followed

by William of Tyre, states that they included 1200

knights ( m lZ Z t & i) and 9000 foot , which is perhaps not

far from accurate. However, this is directly

contradicted by another contemporary source. In the

letter written by Daimbert to the Pope, it is claimed

that there were 5000 knights and 15000 infantry in the

Frankish army, with which Albert agrees, giving the

total force as 20,000 . Ekkehard gives the Franks 1000
knights and 15000 infantry . Although the Fatimids at

Ascalon were probably more numerous than the Crusaders,

the two armies were most likely roughly equal in numbers

of experienced regulars.

11. Anon. pp. 95-6.

12. RA 156 = 270; WT 9.12.

13. HEp. p. 172? AA 6.50.

14. Ekk. 17.5/176. It is possible to reconcile these

figures somewhat if it is assumed that the authors
giving the lower figures are counting only true knights
and regular infantry, while those giving the higher
figures include cavalry who were not knights and poorly
armed pilgrims.

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7.1.2 The Battle

On 11 August Al-Afdal's army was encamped on north

of Ascalon and about seven miles from Ibelin , near a
village named al-Bissa . According to information

gathered from captured Fatimid soldiers, the Crusaders

believed he planned to march against Jerusalem , and

decided to forestall this by an attack on the Fatimids

the next day. Al-Afdal's army was totally unprepared

for this move. He had previously sent ambassadors to

Jerusalem who had only recently returned with word that

the Franks had apparently agreed to some kind of

negotiations , and therefore assumed that there was at

least a temporary truce. However, even if he had cause

to doubt the Frankish sincerity in this matter, he still

could reasonably doubt that the Franks would leave the

15. WT 9.12/295.

16. IZaf. 82.

17. RA 155 = 268-9; WT 9.12.

18. IMuy. 66, see ch. 6.1 for details of al-Afdal's

attempts at negotiations.

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safety of the walls of Jerusalem to attack his large

army . Al-Afdal had every reason to assume that the

Crusaders would not come out to face his force in open

battle, and this, coupled with the apparent truce his

ambassadors announced, made him doubly uncautious

A large flock of animals grazing on the plains

between Ascalon and Ibelin with three hundred bedouin

guards was attacked by 200 Frankish knights who drove
off the Arabs and captured their flocks . Any of the

bedouins who might have fled back to al-Afdal apparently

only reported the presence of a small Frankish raiding

party rather than the full army

The next day the Crusaders marshalled their troops

into nine units formed in three ranks so that they could

19. RA 157 = 271; WT 9.10.

20. Despite his obvious lack of precaution, al-Afdal

still had sent out some scouts according to Anon. 93.

21. Anon. 94 gives their number as 300, while R A . 156=

270 says they numbered 3000, an interesting example of
the inflation of figures. RA. 156-7 = 269-70 states
that the men were "herders of animals = p a n to i z 6 Z 6 6 tn t
antm n which would seem to refer to bedouins, who
were going to sell animals to the Fatimid army. WT

22. RA 156 = 269-70, Anon. 94.

23. RA 158 = 271.

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meet attacks from whichever direction enemy skirmishers

might come . However, the flocks which the Crusaders

had captured the previous day were either following or

being driven along with the army and from a distance the

dark mass appeared to be soldiers, making the Crusader's

army appear much larger than it really was . Panic

began to spread among parts of the Fatimid army, and

some of them began to flee when it appeared to them that

they were badly outnumbered . As the Crusaders

approached the Fatimid army they apparently shifted

formation somewhat, for the author of the G z ita . claims

that Raymond of St. Gilles was on the right flank near

the sea, Robert of Normandy, Robert of Flanders and

24. Anon. 212; RA 158 = 271 (RA describes this order

more fully on 156 = 269); FC 1.31.6; WT 9.12.

25. RA 158 = 271; FC 1.31.5; Ekk. 18.2/180-1; AA 6.45;

WT 9.12.

26. WT 9.12 states that the Fatimids took to flight

before the fighting began. Most other source make it is
clear that there was some fighting.

27. Anon. 95. Oman, 1:290 and plate ix, gives a

reasonable account of how a change in formation from
that described by Raymond to that found in the Gesta may
have been carried out. See also Heerman's description
pp. 49ff. AA 6:45, while generally agreeing with the
Gesta, describes the organization of the Frankish army
in greater detail, and places Godfrey in the center with
2000 cavalry (cqiuutuml and 3000 infantry.

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Tancred were in the center with Duke Godfrey on the


As the Crusaders came into view from the distance

the Fatimid army scrambled in an attempt to organize

itself. Apparently the infantry, not being required to

prepare horses and their saddles, were the first to

marshal . According to Fulcher the Fatimid army

"approached (the Crusader) formation like a stag

thrusting forward the branches of its horns This

formation is probably a description of what is described

as the h Z la Z Z or crescent shaped formation which is

described in the S Z y a ia t a.Z-HuJLab of al-Harthami as

follows: "The crescent shaped (h Z la Z Z ) formation has an

extension of the two wings (ja.naha.ynZ) in front of the

center. This formation was considered stronger for the

center and weaker for the wings. When this formation

was used they marshaled on the far edges of each wing

regiments (kurdus) of strong cavalry to protect them ."

This is exactly what we find the Fatimid troops doing at

28. AA 6:46 describes the Fatimid infantry the archery

duels between the Fatimid archers and the Franks.

29. FC 1.31.6=126.

30. HarthamI ch. 17.2, p. 34. See also ch. 5.2 for
additional discussion.

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Ascalon, marshalling in the h Z l a lZ formation and sending

cavalry regiments (see below) to attack on the flanks.

As the h jL la ilZ formation is said to have been strongest

for the center thus may have been an attempt to delay

the Frankish attack against the center regiments thereby

allowing the main body of troops more time to organize


A unit of bedouin cavalry attempted to circle around

the right Frankish flank in an envelopment tactic , but

these troops were driven off by a countercharge of

Godfrey's heavy knights. Meanwhile the Fatimid heavy

cavalry was attempting to saddle their horses and arm

themselves . But before they could completely mobilize

and marshal their ranks the Crusaders advanced within

archery range and exchanged volleys with the Fatimid

archers. This was followed by a charge of the heavy

Christian cavalry, which swept through the Fatimid

infantry ranks. At this point Al-Afdals standard

31. FC 1.31.6.

32. IAth. 10:286; IKhal. 4:142.

33. Anon. p. 95 states that Robert himself saw the

banner of the "amnuAaiu.A.ix. = amir al-juyush" and
attacked and killed the man carrying it. Later, however
(Anon. 97), the same author states that Robert purchased
al-Afdal's banner from the men who had captured it.

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bearer was killed by a knight of Robert of Normandy ,
who captured the army standard

The Fatimid heavy cavalry was not yet fully prepared

for battle and was cast into confusion by the fleeing

infantry who further disrupted their order. They also

saw Al-Af^al's standard fall, and perhaps assumed he was

dead. At any rate joined the flight, apparently without

. 35
having engaged in combat . Many of the Fatimid

infantry fled into the sea and drowned while trying to

swim to the Fatimid fleet which was anchored offshore

nearby . Others fled into the large grove of sycamore

trees near Ascalon, which were set afire by the

Crusaders who then killed anyone who tried to escape the

flames . Many of the Fatimid cavalry apparent arrived

unharmed to Ascalon.

34. Dhah. 2:17 confirms that the Fatimid army's banner

was lost. The banner was said to have had a golden
apple on the top (Anon. 95). Qal. 3:473 mentions that
the two main Fatimid army banners were placed on "two
long spears dressed with joints of gold up to the spear
point." Perhaps these ended in a bulb of gold which was
mistaken by the Crusaders for an apple.

35. Other than the initial cavalry assaults on the

Crusader flanks there is no mention that the Fatimid
cavalry ever engaged the Franks.

36. Anon. 96.

37. Anon. 96; Maq. 3:24.

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In many modern descriptions of the battle the

Fatimid army is described as preforming much worse than

it actually did, considering all the circumstances.

First, the army was caught off guard, and although many

of the infantry had time to marshal the regular Fatimid

cavalry does not seem to have been extensively involved

in the battle. Al-Afdal and the Fatimids were obviously

taken completely by surprise, and blame for this must be

placed squarely on Al-Afdal. The fact that the

Egyptians were surprised is mentioned by a number of

authors. Ibn al-AthTr specifically states, "The

Egyptians had not received reports of their (Crusader's)

arrival or activities and they were not prepared (u k b a )

for battle. They summoned (the cavalry) to mount their

horses and arm themselves, but the Franks charged and

38 _
routed them ." Ibn Khaldun, probably following Ibn

al-Athir, states that the (Crusaders) "ambushed them

(the Fatimids) while unprepared"

38. IAth. 10:286.

39. IKhal. 4:142, " ea la . ghciyJi u k b a . n This

testimony of the Arabic sources is somewhat contradicted
by Anon. 95 who states that "The Pagans stood prepared
for battle," although he is here only be describing the
infantry, and would not have had direct knowledge of the
actual state of Fatimid readiness.

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Second, the unreliable militia, and perhaps other

troops as well, panicked at the approach of the

Crusaders, assuming them to be much more numerous than

they really were because of the captured flocks

accompanying them . The Crusaders then launched a

massive cavalry charge against the partially formed

infantry, who had never previously faced a European

heavy shock cavalry tactics, and their lines were

crushed . The capture of Al-Afdal's standard, often an

event of crucial significance in medieval battles,

served to further confuse the situation and panic the

army. Finally, the heavy cavalry of the Fatimids never

managed to marshal for battle, and, having been thrown

into confusion by the fleeing infantry and loss of the

standard, also took to flight.

Thus although the battle was strategically a crucial

Crusader victory, which gave the Crusaders the time

needed to more firmly establish themselves in the

40. WT 9.12.

41. RA 158 = 271 mentions the Fatimids fled after a

single charge "u n o I m p t t u . . " Fatimid infantry were
accustomed to facing the " a i - via a l - k a i i i = flight
and return" cavalry tactics of most Muslim armies where
the cavalry would advance, skirmish and retire a number
of times. Thus the shock tactics of the Franks would
have cgme as a complete surprise.

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region, it was by no means the tremendous tactical

success that many modern scholars claim. Smail's claim

that "the (knight's) charge alone secured the victory"

ignores the disastrous tactical situation in which the

Fatimids found themselves before the battle even began.

William of Tyre was probably not far from wrong when he

wrote, "The flight of the enemy gave the victory to the

Christians without effort on their part."

7.1.3 Sources

Arabic: ITagh. 5:149; Mag. 3:23-4; IAth. 10:286;

IQal. 136-7/48-9; IKhal. 4:142; IMuy. 66-7.

Latin: Anon. 210-4; RA 154-9 = 268-72; HEp..170-174;

FC 1.31; AA 6.44-50; Ekk. 17-18/172ff.; WT 9.10-12.

Others: ME. 2.125/311-2; MS. 15.7/3:184-6.

Modern References: Smail 85-7, 174-5 for a list of

other earlier descriptions; Nicholson, Tanc.x&d 98-101;

Runciman 1:297-6; Hill Raymond pp. 135-7.

7.2 Ramla: 7 September 1101

Although the Arabic and Latin sources are in basic

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agreement as to the general course of events of the

battle, they disagree as to the final outcome and

significance, both sides claiming victory. Thus the

study of the battle of Ramla not only offers an

opportunity to examine the Fatimid army in battle, but

also to analyze the differences in perspective between

the Latin and Arabic sources, and how those sources are

used by modern historians.

7.2.1 Opposing Forces

It is impossible to arrive at an accurate estimate

of the number of Fatimid troops involved in the battle.

Fulcher states that the army consisted of 11,000 cavalry

and 21,000 infantry in which he is followed by William ;

Ekkehard qives the total Fatimid force at 40,000, while

Albert gives them 200,000 . These Latin figures are

certainly exaggerated, leaving us with no good evidence

of the size of the Fatimid force. Various phrases in

the Latin sources imply that the Fatimids outnumbered

1. FC 2.11.2; WT 10.17, William saying that there were

only 20,000 rather than 21,000. Note also that Fulcher
calls the Fatimid cavalry m ile .6 while William calls them

2. AA 7.63.

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the Franks, which seems to have been true, but it is

impossible to arrive at an accurate ratio between the

two armies.

Two different sets of figures are given by the Latin

sources for the Crusader army. The first is 260 knights

and 900 infantry by Fulcher , which is roughly

equivalent to Albert's 300 cavalry { z q u Z iu J tu * ) and 1000

infantry . It is possible, however, that when Fulcher

wrote that there were only 260 knights in the army he

was referring only to those heavily armed cavalry who

had obtained knightly status. In his preceding sentence

Fulcher wrote that Baldwin had ordered that "whoever was

able should make his squire (aA .m lge.A iii) a knight

(m L te .i) It can be inferred from this statement that

there was another body of men, the a K m lQ tfu . squires

who perhaps served as cavalry more lightly armed than

the knights, and who were not officially numbered among

the when the cavalry was counted, who would have

perhaps been given heavier arms and knighted on the eve

of the battle. On the other hand, it is also possible

3. FC 2.11.2 followed by WT 10.17.

4. AA 7.63.

5. FC 2.11.2.

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that the (Ln.mlgtnJi were not originally mounted troops and

part of making them knights was giving them horses.

This would seem unlikely, however, for simply giving a

man a horse and arms on the eve of a battle would not

make him an effective cavalryman. Some previous

equestrian and military skill seems implied if the king

thinks it worth the risk of giving expensive arms and

horses to the a xm lg zn J.. In Smail's useful discussion of

this question, he maintain that the s u m lg tJ u . "did not

normally take part in the action ," while nonetheless

holding that there were certainly additional light

cavalry not counted among the Albert speaks

not of knights ( m ilZ te .6 ) but of cavalry ( z q a iX a t Z ) and

gives their number as 300 rather than Fulcher's 260.

Perhaps the forty man difference in the figures is

because Fulcher counted knights only, while Albert added

on fourty mounted and armed OLKmJLgtnJ. to the fiaure of

260 knights .

Another set of figures is given by Ekkehard and the

Muslim sources. Ekkehard states that the Frankish army

6 . Smail p. 108ff.

7. Of course, the differences between these numbers may

also just be that Albert gave rounded figures.

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numbered 1000 cavalryi z q u i X t i ) and 7000 infantry , in

which he is supported by Ibn al-QalanisI and Ibn

Muyassar both of whom claimed that the Frankish army

numbered 1000 cavalryand 10,000 .infantry . Sibt ibn

JawzI goes so far as to claim that 300,000 Franks were

killed in the battle

There are three possible explanations for the

differences between these two sets of numbers. First,

it may be that Ekkehard and the Muslims are simply

giving exaggerated figures. The figures of Fulcher and

Albert would surely be accepted over those of the Arab

writers were it not for Ekkehards figures being so

close to the Muslim's that it would seem more than a

mere coincidence. Second, it may be that Fulcher and

Albert are quoting only figures for the royal army, that

is the permanent troops of the kingdom, while Ekkehard

8 . Ekk. 29.7/268-9. It would be possible to argue that

Ekkehard is giving the total for the Frankish army after
the arrival of the Frankish fleet in Jaffa on 9 Sept.,
except he specifically states elsewhere that those
reinforcements consisted of 12,000 "brother pilgrims" in
30 ships.

9. IQal, 140 = 53-4; IMuy. 68 followed by Maq. 3:26.

Although the accounts of IQal. and IMuy. are similar,
there does not seem to be any direct quoting, which
seems to indicate an independent source for each.

10. Quoted by ITagh. 5:152.12ff.

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and the Muslims are giving figures which include

temporary pilgrim auxiliaries. Although the main

Italian fleet had left earlier in the summer there were

other Frankish pilgrim groups which had coma that year,

for according to Ekkehard, Baldwin summoned troops from

all the cities of his kingdom "and Joppa, where not a

few of the mass of pilgrims remained ." Finally, it is

possible that Ekkehard and the Muslims are giving

figures for the Frankish army when it included the

Italian troops who had fought earlier in the summer but

left before the battle of Ramla was fought, mistakenly

assuming that those forces were still available at the

battle of Ramla when in reality most of the Italians had

gone home . Although none of these explanations can be

confirmed, I tend to favor the later.

7.2.2 The Battle

Following the Latin sources, Kagenmeyer accepts the

11. Ekk.28.6/262.

12. Caf. 5:65 gives the Italian force as 8000 men,

which, if added to Baldwin's permanent army would give a
figure near that of the Muslim chroniclers.

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seventh of September 1101 as the date of the battle

Ibn al-Qalanisx and Ibn Muyassar claim that the battle

occurred sometime in Dhu'l-Hijja, or after 27 Sept.

1101 . As Fulcher was an eyewitness, the Frankish

chroniclers put some importance to the celebration of

the Nativity of St. Mary (8 Sept.) after the battle, and

the Muslim sources only give a month rather than an

actual date, the Frankish dating is probably correct.

The battle took place somewhere near Ramla, probably on

the Jaffa-Ramla road
16 17
The Franks were marshalled in five or six

iit it b (divisions). Fulcher implies that at least some

of the Crusader acl&4 were in front of the others when

he states that the two "anlz/u.0 A &6 (front)" aclzi were

overwhelmed and that Baldwin brought up his unit "a

13. HCh. 604-5.

14. IQal. 140 = 53; IMuy. 68 followed by Maq. 3:26.

15. "Around Lydda and Ramlah" about eight miles from

A baalon [WT 10.17), on thz noad bztuizzn Jaia and Ramla
(AA 7.63), "bztuizzn Ramla and J a{^a" [IKkal. 4:143).

16. AA 7.64.

17. FC 2.11.10; WT 10.17.

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p a t it z p o i& iz m a . = from the rear ." Nothing can be

learned of the Fatimid order of battle except that Sacd

al-Dawla commanded the center with his bodyguard as was

customary in Muslim armies.

The battle opened with a cavalry assault by the

Fatimids against both the right and left wings of the

Crusaders . Smail attributes such attempts .at double

envelopment by the Fatimids not as part of any

preconceived plan on their part, but simply due to the

fact that the Fatimids outnumbered the Franks so greatly .

that they naturally overlapped the Crusader flanks

Although the Fatimids were probably more numerous than

the Franks on this occasion, the Muslim military

theoretician al-Harthami clearly shows us that initial

cavalry attacks on both enemy flanks was an accepted

tactical maneuver for Muslim armies . The Franks then

attacked with two or three of their d z i.z b in succession,

18. FC 2.11.11. Smail discusses other scholars'

interpretations of this evidence and concludes that
nothing certain can be said about the ordering of the
a.zlLzi>, p. 175 n. 4 & 5.

19. FC 2.11.10.

20. Smail p. 86.

21. Harthami ch. 24.5, p. 41, see Ch. 5.2.

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each being badly defeated by the Fatimids . A charge

of the Fatimid cavalry crushed the of the Franks

on the right flank, and continued into the Crusader

infantry in the rear who were also badly defeated, many

of them fleeing . On the other hand, nearly all the

Muslim sources agree that it was the two wings of the

Fatimid army which were defeated while the center held

firm. Ibn al-Qalanisi also adds that the victorious

Fatimid charge occurred after Sa^d al-Dawla had been

killed, which would place it after Baldwin's final


These differing accounts can be somewhat reconciled

by assuming that the Fatimid cavalry on the left flank

attacked and defeated the Frankish right wing, pushing

on to crush the Frankish infantry in the rear and

22. Two attacks according to FC 2.11.11; three from AA

7.64 who also says that only one knight of the first
iIC.A.Z6, two of the second and none of the third survived
the charges. Ibn Muyassar agrees that there were a
number of charges and encounters between the two
armies. IMuy. 68 = Maq. 3:26.

23. FC 2.13.2, stating that the right ac-cea was defeated

by the Fatimids who pushed on into the infantry in the
rear "= pidJLU,bu.i> Yio6tnJ.i> Zn po&tKtm a. p a .fu tz . William
of Tyre 10.17 speaks of "pnj.m az ho6tyiu.m a.c.Ltb = the
first enemy c L c Z ti defeating one of the Frankish a.cZe.6
and then pursuing them off the field.

24. IQal. 140 = 54.

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pursuing the fugitives to Jaffa. At roughly the same

time, Baldwin and the fourth Frankish CLC/.&&, fortified

by the Holy Cross and prayer, made the next attack which

was also nearly defeated, when a final charge by the

fifth acxeA, and the death of the Fatimid commander Sacd

al-Dawla, broke the resistance of at least part of the

Fatimid line .
Thus at roughly the same time sections
of both armies fled while other units were victorious ,

and both sides were able to claim a victory in the


According tc Fulcher the Crusaders lost eighty

knights and a greater number of infantry, while claiming

to have killed 5000 Fatimids . The Muslims give no

25. AA 7.66-7, following Albert's description of the

order of attack of the a cJL ti,, which is given in more
detail than Fulcher's, FC 2.11.13.

26. Which is what Fulcher apparently perceived, writing

that "in the tail the Christians fell, while at the head
they defeated the Saracens" FC 2.12.2.

27. The fact that the Fatimid camp was plundered by the
Crusaders should not be taken as evidence of a major
Fatimid defeat, for the only spoils taken by the
Crusaders were "bread, grain,- and flour as well as their
tents" (FC 2.13.1) which indicates that the camp was a
only temporary field camp and their main base with
weapons, armour, treasure, etc. was not captured.

28. FC 2.11.14, but Fulcher admits rhat no one took the

time to count the Fatimid bodies, so no credence should
be placed in his figure of Fatimid casualties.

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exact figures, but imply that the Franks suffered

heavier casualties than the Fatimids

Following the battle Baldwin gathered what men he

could and spent the night in the tents of the

Fatimids . The next day Baldwin was able to muster

only fourty knights and 200 infantry, which set out for
Jaffa . If Fulcher's figures of 260 knights and 900

infantry are accepted for the size of the original

Crusader force, then Baldwin was left with only about

fifteen per cent of his knights and 22 per cent of his

infantry. This leaves a large portion of the army

unaccounted for.. Although some troops may have still

been scattered in pursuit of the Fatimids, many others

had undoubtedly been killed or fled to Jaffa. The fact

that nearly all modern writers claim that Ramla was a

Crusader victory when less than one fourth of their army

remained intact when the battle had ended again

indicates an overreliance on the medieval Latin


29. IQal. 140 =54 "only a small number of them

(Fatimids) were slain"; IMuy. 68 = Maq. 3:26 "they (the
Fatimids) killed a number and captured many."

30. FC 2.12.3.

31. AA 7.68.

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Baldwins remaining troops encountered a body of

about 500 Fatimid cavalry , armed with captured

Frankish weapons, returning from pillaging the region

around Jaffa. The Fatimids were surprised by the

approach of the Frankish army, which they thought had

been completely defeated, and scattered without a fight

when the knights attacked .

Modern historians have tended to follow the Latin

sources in ascribing victory to Baldwin and the

Crusaders, , despite the fact that Fulcher himself

stated that "on that day none knew the result of the
battle They also seem to be either completely

ignoring or at least essentially disregarding the

testimony of the Arab chronicles . If serious

consideration is given to the Arab sources, it appears

32. Whom FC 2.13 calls Arabs, while AA 7.68 calls them

Saracens, claiming they numbered 20,000.

33. FC 2.13.4-5; AA 7.69.

34. Smail p. 176, speaks of "the victorious Baldwin"

who won the battle; Runciman pp. 74-5.

35. FC 2.12.

36. The Muslim sources are unanimous in claiming victory

for the Fatimids, with the exception of Ibn al-AthTr who
claimed that the Muslims were defeated. However, Ibn
al-Athir's account of this battle is quite confused and
he integrates it with several other battles.

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that the battle was long and hard fought , both sides

being able to claim victory because they were each

victorious in certain sections and episodes of the


It might be possible to conclude that from a

strategic point of view the purposes of the Franks were

better served. They managed to maintain the integrity

of their position and secure their newly conquered

cities. However, the fact that the Fatimid army failed

to continue the siege of Jaffa which had been initiated

by their fleet is probably due more to the arrival of

12,000 additional pilgrims from Europe a few days after

the battle than their supposed defeat at Ramla . On

the other hand, eighty Frankish knights one third

their total force and a large number of infantry had

been killed . Without t.e constant influx of both

seasonal and permanent military manpower from Europe it

would only have taken two or three such "victories" to

37. Agreeing with AA 7.67 who says the fighting lasted

until vespers. Fulcher's statement (2.11.15) that "the
battle was riot long in doubt," in context clearly refers
to events only after the king's charge at the end of the
battle, not the entire conflict.

38. Ekk. 31.

39. FC 2.11.14.

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have completely destroyed the military capability of the

Franks in southern Palestine^

7.2.3 Sources .

Arabic: IQal. 140 = 53-4; IAth. 10:364; IMuy. 68 ;

IKhal. 4:143; Maq. 3:26; ITagh. 5:153.

Latin: FC 2.11; AA 7.57ff; WT 10.17; Ekk. 27-31.

References: Runciman 2:74-5; Smail, pp. 175-6, and

the other earlier sources he mentions.

It is unclear why Smail has concluded that Fulcher's

"account is the only trustworthy source of

information ," seeming to completely ignore both

Albert's and Ibn al-Qalanisi's descriptions in his

reconstruction. It is true that Fulcher was an

eyewitness which makes his version extremely important,

but Albert and the Muslim authors could also easily have

had recourse to firsthand accounts of the battle, either

oral or written, and their testimonies should be

completely discounted.

Although Albert gives extravagant figures for the

size of the Fatimid army (see above) and glorifies

40. Smail p. 175.

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Baldwin's role by having him personally slay Sacd

al-Dawla,- he also gives significant details which would

seem to have been able to come only from eyewitnesses.

For instance, he gives names of the commanders of the

various Latin (7.64), tells us that Gerhard was

carrying the Holy Cross (7.69) whom Fulcher calls only

"a certain abbot" (FC 2.11.7), names the horse of the

king (7.66), and gives the number of men who faced the

Fatimid troops returning from Jaffa on the following day


7.3 Ramla: 17 May 1102

7.3.1 Dating

There is a great deal of uncertainty as to the date

of this battle and the events of the campaign in

general. Hagenmeyer, based on the Latin sources, dates

the battle on 17 May . On the other hand, Muslim

sources, excepting Ibn al-Qalanis!, are confused as to

the year of the battle, and Ibn al-Athir wrongly orders

1. HCh. 10:160ff gives a summary of most of the relevant

information, basically following Fulcher's chronology.

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the events . Ibn al-Qalanisi says that the Egyptian

army reached Ascalon in Eajab (22 April to 21 May), and

the city of Ramla fell to the Egyptians before that

month had ended.

The chronological discrepancies of the various

authors can be reconciled for the most part by the

following theory. The Fatimid army arrived at Ramla

near the beginning of Mav and began preparations to

besiege the city . Baldwin began gathering his forces

during the following week and advanced against the

Fatimids shortly before May 17, when the battle was

fought. Ramla fell before the 21st of May, some three

days after the actual battle of Ramla , but some 15 days
after the siege preparations actually began . Thus

according to this interpretation the siege began about 5

2. IAth. 10:364. His chronology for the events in

southern Palestine for 1101-3 is confused, and he has
described many events of ail those years anno 496

2. FC 2.15.2, and consistent with Ibn al-Qalanisi's

Rajab (22 April to 21 May) for the arrival of the
Fatimid army in Palestine.

4. Fulcher implies that the city fell within a few days

of Baldwin's defeat FC 2.18-20 passim.

5. IAth. 10:364 says the siege lasted 15 days, although

he implies that it began after Baldwin's defeat.

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May. the battle occurred about 17 May and Ramla fell on

20 May, a few days after the battle , but 15 days after

the siege began.

7.3.2 Opposing Forces

Fulcher mentions 20,000 Egyptians in the actual

battle, although he claims that the original army which

came from Egypt consisted of 20,000 cavalry and 10,000

infantry . The Arab sources give no numbers and the
Latin figures are certainly an exaggeration , leaving no

accurate numbers for the size of the Fatimid


Fulcher claimed that Baldwin's Franks numbered no

10 11
more than 200 knights , while Albert gives them 700 ,

in which he is supported by Muslim chroniclersr Ibn

al-Qalanisi claimed that the Frankish army consisted of

6 . AA 9.6 dates the fall of Ramla three days after the


7. FC 2.18.7; WT 10.20.

8 . FC 2.15.1.

9. See ch. 3.4.3.

10. FC 2.18.7 followed by WT 10.20.

11. AA 9.3-4.

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700 infantry and cavalry , while Sibt ibn Jawzi, who

for the most quotes Ibn al-Qalanisi, gives the figure of

900 infantry and cavalry . The two figures can be

reconciled if the 200 knights are seen as those

permanent troops under Baldwin, while an additional 500

were mustered from the knights waiting passage to Europe

at Jaffa .

Albert also mentions that there were 10,000 men

marching on the road fros? Jaffa to Ramla coming to

support the King but who did not participate in the

actual battle . Albert's figure, although perhaps an

exaggeration, is not impossibly large. From his forces

permanently stationed in Palestine Baldwin could raise

1-2000 infantry , to which should be added several

thousand men who were left in Palestine after the

12. IQal. 141 = 55. IQal.'s figure of 700 coincides with

IAth. 10:364 where he states that the Franks had 700 men
not during the battle, but in Ramla during the siege
which began the next day.

13. Sibt. 8.1:1; thi-s is perhaps a scribal error for

IQal.'s 700.

14. FC 2.15.6.

15. AA 9.4.

16. For example 700 in 1101, FC 2.1.1; 900 in 1101 FC

2.11.2; 2000 in 1105, FC 2.32.3.

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Crusade of 1101 , and several thousand others who had
arrived as pilgrims in the Spring of 1102

7.3.3 The Battle

The battle occurred somewhere near Ramla, ten miles

from Jaffa according to Albert . Ibn al-AthTr places
it at Yazur . The Fatimid army was under the general

command of Sharaf al-MacalT, the son of Al-Afdal, and

included contingents from the garrison of Ascalon, which

was at this time commanded by Nasir al-Dawla , as well
as regular Fatimid reinforcements from Egypt

Al-Afdal had originally mobilized the army to relieve

v'.iat he perceived to be the beginnings of a siege of

17. FC 2.18.3.

18. FC 2.15.6.

19. AA 9.4.

20. IAth. 10:364.

21. Sibt. 8.1:1.

22. WT 10.20 said that the army which advanced on Ramla

consisted of "the people of Ascalon and those Egyptians
who had escaped the battle (of Ramla in 1101)."

23. IAth. 10:345; IQal. 141=55. The governor of Beirut

apparently perceived Baldwin's presence there while
awaiting the Crusaders from the Crusade of 1101 as the
precursor to a siege.

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26 8

Beirut which never developed .' When the army arrived

in Palestine they established a base camp and began

siege operations against Ramla. In the meantime a

Fatimid fleet advanced and blockaded Jaffa in

preparations for a siege.

The general outline of the following events is well

known and need not be recounted in any great detail

here . Baldwin gathered some of his local army,

supplemented by a large body of survivors from the

Crusade of 1101 in Jaffa , and advanced against the

Fatimid army at Ramla. As the army was advancing up the

Jaffa-Ramla road Baldwin's scouts reported there was a

small body of Fatimid cavalry ahead. Leaving behind his

infantry, Baldwin with 700 cavalry , advanced to drive

off what he thought was only a small Fatimid vanguard or

scouting party. The Fatimid force was either much

larger than expected, or had been reinforced in the

meantime, and the Frankish charge failed. In the

ensuing melee nearly all of the Frankish knights were

24. See Runciman 2:76ff for a general description.

25. FC 2.18.3

26. As mentioned above the exact number is disputed,

either 200 or 700.

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either killed or captured.

In has generally been assumed by modern writers that

Baldwin's knights faced the entire Fatimid army at this

engagement, although this may not have been the case.

Aside from exaggerated accounts giving the Fatimids

thousands of men, we have a statement by Fulcher that

the scouts reported that there were no more than 700 to

1000 enemy cavalry , probably an accurate estimate.

The Fatimid forces which finally met Baldwin probably

outnumbered the Franks, but exact numbers can not be


At any rate, Smail's judgment that Baldwin attacked

without "any intelligent plan of action," seems harsh.

There are actually a number of ways to interpret

Baldwin's action. It can be assumed that the Fatimids

were many times more numerous than the Franks, who had

little sense of military reality and thought that a few

hundred knights could actually defeat thousands. A

second theory is that the Fatimids prepared an ambush,

with a few hundred men as bait who lured Baldwin to

attack. After he had committed his troops the Fatimids

sprang their trap with a counter attack by hidden forces

27. FC 2.18.5.

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and defeated Baldwin. However, there is no indication

of this in the sources. Finally we can assume that the

Fatimid army, although perhaps outnumbering the Franks,

was not so numerous as to preclude a victory by

Baldwin's charge and won the victory by hard


The number of Frankish casualties according to

different Muslim sources were 400 Franks were killed and

300 taken prisoner . On the other hand Ibn Muyassar
claims that 900 Franks were taken captive to Egypt

If accurate the first figure probably represents those

killed and taken prisoner during the entire campaign

around Ramla in May, while Ibn Muyassar's number perhaps

represents the total number of prisoners taken during

the entire summer.

7.3.4 Sources

Arabic: IQal. 141=55-6; IMuy. 74; IAth, 10:345-6,

28. The bravery and skill of the Fatimid troops in this

battle is described by AA 9.4.

29. IAth. 10:364; followed by Maq. 3:32; Dhah. 2:19,

again supporting the 700 figure for the size of
Baldwin's cavalry force-

30. IMuy. 74.

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10:364; Maq. 3:32; Dhah. 2:18,19; Sibt. 8.1:1; ITagh.


Latin: FC 2.15, 2.18; AA 9.3*4; WT 10.20.

Other: ME 3.7/344*5.

References: Runciman 2:75*9 provides narrative

account. Smail 176-7, and other sources mentioned


7.4 The Battles of Jaffa, 1102

7.4.1 Dating

There are two different seemingly irreconcilable

dates given for the this battle. The first is based on

1 2
Fulcher , and followed by Hagenmeyer , giving the date

of the battle as 27 May. According to this chronology.

the Frankish naval reinforcements mentioned by Albert as

arriving on "a Tuesday in July," could not yet have

arrived when the Fatimid siege was broker. . The Arab

1. FC 2.21.1-9.

2. HCh. #656.

3. AA 9.12.

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sources are not directly helpful in resolving the

question of chronology, as they give no specific dates,

although they all agree that the fleet had arrived

before the battle occurred, thereby supporting Albert.

In order to attempt to resolve this problem it is

necessary to make a detailed examination of Alberts

chronology. According to Albert the battle of Ramla

took place sometime before 25 May , Hagenmeyer argues

that the actual date for the battle was 17 May, which
can be accepted as generally accurate . After fleeing

from the battle Baldwin spent two "days and nights"

evading the Fatimid scouts and raiding parties, which

would have him arriving in Arsuf on 19 May , where he
spent seven days, May 20 to 26 . On 27 May Baldwin

sailed to Jaffa, and the next day, the 28th, made a

4. AA 9.2, that is "near Pentecost."

5. HCh. #645, see ch. 7.3.1. This date agrees with

Albert in being before Pentecost, and can be reconciled
with IAth. who says that the Ramla fell before the end
of Rajab, or May 21, and Fulcher who says the city fell
three days after the battle.

6. AA 9.5, I take this to be the night of the 17th and

all of the 18th, arriving in Arsuf in the evening of the

7. AA 9.9.

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sortie against the Fatimid army , after which the

Fatimids broke camp and marched to the plains of Ascalon

where they established a new base, remaining for three

weeks, 29 May to 18 June. They then returned to Jaffa

and set up a new siege which continued for 15 days, from

19 June to 3 July. During this second siege a European

fleet arrived at Jaffa on " t z /u t ia . izfuLa. J u lL L tnzniZ A or

"a Tuesday in July ," the first Tuesday in July falling

on 1 July. Albert then says that on "Friday," which

would be 4 July, Baldwin led his permanent army and the

new reinforcements from the fleet in an attack against

the Fatimids in which the Egyptians were defeated .

According to Albert, then, the battle of Jaffa occurred

on 4 July, the day after the 15th day of the second

siege of Jaffa Thus Albert's chronology is remarkably
self-consistent . But is it correct?

8 . AA 9.10.

9. AA 9.11.

10. AA 9.12.

11. In other words, the second siege lasted 15 days,

until Thursday the 3rd, and was broken by Baldwin.s
attack on the 16th day, which was Friday the 4th.

12. Hch. #656 has a detailed discussion of Albert's

dating in which he arrives at slightly different
conclusion than mine.

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One would naturally be inclined, along with

Hagenmeyer, to accept Fulcher's chronology since he was

in Jerusalem during these events. In order to do so,

however, one must essentially ignore the testimony of

the Arab and Syrian chroniclers who unanimously state

that the siege of Jaffa was not broken until after the
arrival of the fleet from Europe , thereby lending

strong support to Albert's version.

There is a way, however, to reconcile Fulcher's and

Albert's chronologies. Albert maintains that after his

arrival at Jaffa Baldwin made a sortie against the

Fatimids on 28 May, after which they decided to abandon

their initial siege and retreat toward Ascalon . It is

possible that this sortie by Baldwin is in reality the

battle described by Fulcher, and the later battle on

July 4 was not included in Fulcher's account, who either

confused the two battles or condensed them into one

account, describing the details of the battle which

occurred on July 4 while dating it on the date of the

first skirmish, 28 May.

13. IQal. 141=56; IMuy. 74; Maq. 3:32; IAth. 10:365; ME


14. AA 9.10.

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According to this interpretation there were actually

two battles at Jaffa in the summer of 1102, which modern

historians, following Fulcher, have combined into one.

After the defeat at Ramla the Fatimid army scattered

throughout southern Palestine pillaging the entire

region and disrupting communications. William of Tyre

says that the Fatimids were in full possession of the

countryside . Fatimid troops were found at Ramla,
16 ' 1 7
Arsuf , and Jerusalem as well as Jaffa. Thus the

Fatimid force which arrived outside Jaffa in late May

was not their entire force, but rather only one division

sent to blockade the city. In the meantime the Fatimid

officers could not decide whether to attemot to besiege

Jaffa or Jerusalem . On 28 May Baldwin made a sortie

in force against the Fatimids troops outside Jaffa, who,

surprised by zh e presence of the King, abandoned their

camp and withdrew down the coast where they established

a new camp which would be secure from such surprise

sorties, and spent the next three weeks' regrouping their

15. WT 10.22.

16. FC 2.20.2.

17. AA 9.7.

18. IMuy. 74; Maq. 3:32; IAth. 10:364.

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scattered forces, gathering supplies and preparing siege

equipment. The decision was finally made to strike

against Jaffa and the strengthened army returned there

on the on 19 June and began a second siege in force. It

was this major second siege which was defeated on 4 July

after the arrival of the Crusader reinforcements by


7.4.2 Opposing Forces

The sources do not allow us to accurately determine

the exact or relative sizes of the two armies. Most of

what follows if therefore necessarily conjecture. No

reliable information is given concerning the number of

the Fatimids, although Fulcher insists they far

outnumbered the Franks . Certainly the entire Fatimid

expeditionary force was not present besieging Jaffa.

Five hundred Fatimid cavalry were investing Arsuf ,

while other groups were raiding the region around

Jerusalem, keeping the city garrison constantly on the

19. FC 2.21.10.

20. FC 2.20.2.

21. AA 9.7.

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alert . It is likely that the Fatimid army on 28 May

was only a small portion of the Fatimid forces sent to

blockade Jaffa, while by 4 July much more of the Fatimid

army had been gathered to pursue a full scale siege of

the city.

According to Albert, the Crusaders had a force of

10,COC infantry which were advancing towards Ramla on 17

May but who never participated in the battle there

because they fled to Jaffa when news of the King's

defeat reached them . Many of these men, even if they

actually numbered less than the 10,000 Albert claimed,

would have still been in Jaffa and could have

participated in the first battle there on 28 May. In

addition Baldwin could probably muster about 200

knights, 80 who arrived with Hugh of Tiberius , 90 from
Jerusalem , and probably several dozen others from

various sources.

For the second battle on 4 July Albert claims that

22. AA 9.4; see ch. 7.3 for a discussion of this figure.

23. FC 2.20.2

24. FC 2.21.7

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200 ships full of pilgrims and soldiers arrived ,

although Ibn al-Qalanisi says they numbered only 40

ships . Which ever figure is correct, it is clear that

there would have been several thousand additional

soldiers from the ships, giving Baldwin a very strong

and large force.

7.4.3 Battle

The first battle on 28 May occurred about three

miles from Jaffa according to Fulcher . Little detail

is known but it seems that the King made a sortie with

only a small force, and the Fatimids withdrew almost

immediately . It is quite possible that this flight

was actually a feigned retreat in an attempt to draw the

Crusaders out of their fortifications to be more

easily attacked. Baldwin refused to follow the Fatimid

army which established another camp between Ascalon and

25. AA 9.11.

26. IQal. 141 = 56.

27. FC 2.21.10.

28. AA 9.10.

29. Harthaml, ch. 34.5, p. 57 describes this tactic, see

ch. 5.3.

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Jaffa and began preparations for a renewal of the


In the battle on 4 July, the Franks, with a strong

army reinforced from the newly arrived fleet, managed to

surprise the Fatimids who were preparing siege equipment

in their camp . The Fatimid troops left off their work

on siege equipment and rushed to arms. They suffered

badly from Frankish archery, but managed to sustain

numerous attacks from the Frankish knights , while

striking heavy blows against the Crusader infantry.

Eventually the Fatimid force retired, but apparently in

good order, for Fulcher mentions that they carried much

of their valuables away with them, saying that the

Crusader's booty included only some provisions, camels,

donkeys and tents . This battle demonstrates not only

the Fatimid's capacity to absorb repeated attacks by

Frankish knights, but also to maintain cohesion and

discipline on the battlefield in the face of defeat.

30. FC 2.21.9-13.

31. FC 2.21.11 mentions that the knights were compelled

to attack and withdraw a number of times.

32. FC 2.21.13.

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7.4.4 Sources

Arabic: IQal. 141 = 56; IMuy. 74; Maa. 3:32;

IAth. 10:365.

Latin: FC 2.21; AA 9.7-12; WT 10.22.

Other: ME 3.12/342.

7.5 Ramla: 27 August 1105

The battle of Ramla in 1105 represents one of the

two occasions on which the Fatimid army seems to

have initiated offensive action in Palestine

without previous aggression by the Crusaders. It

has also been studied by several historians who

have seen it as a major defeat of the Fatimid

military system and the last major attempt of the

Fatimids to reconquer Palestine. As will be shown,

these views require some modification.

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7.5.1 Opposing Forces

Ibn al-Qalanisi tells us that the Fatimid army

numbered over 10,000 cavalry and infantry^. This

figure is seemingly contradicted by Ibn al-Athir and

other Arabic sources who mention that the Fatimid

army contained 5000 men, with the assistance of 1300

cavalry supplied by Tughtakin of Damascus .

Al-Dhahabi, however, gives 2300 cavairy from

Damascus which, in view of the other sources,

should probably be considered a scribal error .

Fulcher calls the men from Damascus "excellent

archers" which, in connection with the Arab

sources saying they were cavalry, implies that

4__________ ___
they were mounted archers . In Maqrizi's version

it states that there were 5000 cavalry, rather

than 5000 men; but since he is following

1. IQal. 148/70.

2. IAth. 10:394; Maq. 3:35; IKhal. 4:144.

3. Dhah, 2:20.

4. FC 2.31.1, Smail pp. 85-6.

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Ibn al-Athirs account^, it would seem that this is

an interpolation on his part.

These seemingly contradictory accounts can be

resolved in two ways, it can be assumed that Ibn

al-Qalanisi is describing the entire army as

numbering 10,000 men, of which Ibn al-Athir only

mentioned the 5000 cavalry, implying there were also

5000 infantry in the army . On the other hand, Ibn

Muyassar relates that al-Afdal expended a great deal

of money recruiting a large body of Arabs which were

then mobilized along with regular Fatimid regiments

and sent to Ascalon . It is- thus likely that the

5000 figure given by Ibn al-Athir represents the

5. Although Maq. based most of his work on IMuy., he

did add material from other sources. As the 5000
figure is not given in IMuy., Maq. probably got it
from IAth., whom he seems to paraphrase. It is not
impossible, however, that both IAth. and Maq. both
took their accounts from a source which is now lost,
the SZfiat a l - A ^ d a l for example, in which case Maq.'s
version may actually be more accurate.

6. This proportion of cavalry to infantry is

consistent with the general organization of the
Fatimid army. See Ch. 3.4.

7. IMuy. 75 followed by Maq. 3:35.

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regular Fatimid troops which should be added the 1300

horse archers from Damascus and an additional several

thousand irregular bedouin mercenaries who had been

hired by al-Afdal for this campaign, bringing the

total to around 10,000.

Latin sources consistently give the Fatimids a

much large' army. Fulcher claims they numbered

15.000 including cavalry and infantry8, Albert

9 10
40.000 , and Ekkehard 50,000 . The latter two

figures are impossible, but Fulcher's does not far

exceed Ibn al-Qalanisi's "more than 10,000 men."

The numbers given by the various authors for the

si2 e of the Crusader army also vary considerably,

even among the Latin sources alone. The lowest

figure is given by Fulcher as 500 knights, an

unspecified additional number of cavalry, and

2000 i n f a n t r y E k k e h a r d gives 4000 total,

8. FC 2.32.3 = WT 11.3. .

9. AA 9.49.

10. Ekk. 33.2/285.

11. FC 2.32.3, followed by WT 11.3.

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Albert 6000^. Finally/ Ibn al-Athir, followed by

most later Muslim sources, gives the size of the

Crusader army as 1300 cavalry and 8000 infantry"^.

Although it is basically impossible to attempt

to reconcile these disparate numbers, the following

observations should he made. Ibn al-Athir's figure

for cavalry is not necessarily a gross exaggeration.

To Fulcher's 500 knights must be added an additional

number of "those who were not called knights,

although they were mounted ," who could well have

numbered several hundred, and a force of 100 Turkish

mounted archers sent by Irtash ibn Tutush . Ibn

al-Athxr claims that Irtash \wxiom he calls Baktash)

was himself at the battle. This is contradicted by

Ibn al-Qalanisi who says that Irtash was at the Busra

before the battle, and afterwards fled to Rahba,

12. Ekk. 286; AA 9.49.

13. lath. 10:395; Maq. 3:35; Dhah. 2:20.

14. FC 2.32.3 " i l l i 4 q u i m i l i t a x i nomine, non

czn4zba.ntu.SL, t a n z m zqu.ita.ntZ6".
15. lath. 10:395, followed by IKhal. 4:144.

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seeming to imply that Irtash never left Busra

Albert says that a young Turk named Muhammad joined

Baldwin with 100 Turkish archers, who were

undoubtedly mounted" . It seems likely that despite

Ibn al-Athir1s. statement, Irtash remained at Busra,

as is implied by Ibn al-Qalanisi, but sent 100

mounted archers to support the Franks under the ami*.

named Muhammad. The 500 knights, 100 horse archers

from the Busra, and the additional non-knightly

cavalry could conceivably increase the tocal for

the Frankish cavalry force to 1000 men and possibly

as high as Ibn al-Athir's 1300 . A figure of about

1000 cavalry is given some additional substantiation

by Albert's statement that the Frankish army was

divided into five ac.iz& and Baldwin's contained 160

cavalry. If each division had an equal number of

cavalry, the total would be 800, 500 of whom would

16. IQal. 148-9/71.

17. AA 9.49.

18. However, all of this is simply guess work. It

is equally possible that the non-knightly cavalry
numbered only several dozen rather than several

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have been knights and to which should be added the

100 Muslim horse archers

The figures for the infantry are much more

difficult to deal with. Both Fulcher and Ekkehard

were in Palestine at the time of the battle and their

accounts should be given greater credence than the

others, but even so Ekkehard's number is double that

of Fulcher. On the other hand, Fulcher's figure of

2000 infantry stands alone in opposition to the

figures of all the other sources who cluster between

4000 and 8000 . Furthermore, Fulcher admits that
his figure of 2000 infantry is an "estimate ."

Fulcher's figure could be seen as his estimate of

the general size of Baldwin's permanent infantry force

19. AA 9:49. Of course, the divisions may not have

been of equal size.

20. Ekk. 286, 4000; AA 9:49, 6000; IAth. 10:395

followed by other later Muslims, 8000.

21. FC 2.32.3, "cLZitimabcLntuA .." Of course, most

numbers for army sizes given inthe sources for this
period should be thought of as estimates. Nonetheless,
Fulcher's use of this term perhaps implies that he
was not certain of the accuracy of his figure.

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to which could be added a rew thousand pilgrims who

visited Palestine each summer. Although there is no

evidence that a major Latin pilgrim fleet or naval

expedition operated in southern Palestinian waters

during the summer of 1105, it is clear that the

yearxy summer influx of pilgrims was numerically

significant and they were more than willing to assist

in military operations. Fulcher, describing events

in 1113, wrote that "in that season (July-August) the

pilgrims from overseas were arriving as was customary,

and our army grew from day to day ." As the battle

occurred at the end of August, it is not impossible

that a large number of pilgrims could have been

present. However, this theory is directly

contradicted by Fulcher who states that "we were few

and without the usual assistance of pilgrims ." If

there was significant pilgrim participation,

Ekkehard's or Albert's figures of from four to six

thousand are probably accurate. If only permanent

22. FC 2.51.2.

23. FC 2.31.1.

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troops from Palestine participated, Fulcher's

estimate seems more appropriate.

7.5.2 The Battle

All Muslim sources date the battle on 27 August

1105 , which is accepted by Hagenmeyer as consistent
with the Latin sources . According to Albert, who

gives the most specific geographic information, the

battle occurred on a plain near Ibelin , which is

consistent withthe general sense of all the other

sources: between Jaffa and Ascalon ; four miles
from Ramla

The Fatimid army marched from Ascalon in the

latter part of August and encamped on the plain of

24. = 1 4 Dhu al Hujja: IQal. 149/71; IMuy. 75; Maq.

3:35; IAth. 10:395 dates it only in Dhu al-Kujja.

25. KCh. #756.

26. AA 9.48.

27. IQal. 149/71; IAth. 10:395; IMuy. 75; Maq. 3:35.

28. FC 2.32.3.

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Ibelin about four miles south of Ramla while the fleet

began a blockade of Jaffa. According to Albert and

Fulcher, the Fatimid plar was for the presence of the

fleet to pin down the Crusader army in Jaffa, leaving

the Fatimid army free to atack both Ramla and Jaffa

If their reports of the Fatimid strategy are correct,

this is a good indication of an attempt by the Fatimids

to achieve some type of strategic surprise^. Baldwin,

with his usual vigor, attempted to retain the

initiative and rushed to attack the Fatimid land

forces before any siege attempt on Jaffa would allow

them to link with their fleet

The Fatimid army was composed of a number of

distinct corps, under the overall command of Sanay

al-Mulk Husayn, one of Al-Afdal's sons. As described

above, the main body consisted of the regular

29. AA 9.48; FC 2.32.4.

30. See Ch. 6.2 for a discussion of Fitimid strategic


31. AA 9.49 states specifically that Baldwin's goal

in attacking was "to prevent the infidels from safely

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regiments from Egypt, to which were added the regular

garrison from Ascalon and perhaps additional city

militia under the governor of Ascalon, Jamal al-Mulk,

a large body of Arab bedouin irregulars, and the 1300

Syrian horse archers sent by TughtakTn under the

command of a Turkish cumZi, Sabawa . The Crusaders

marshalled .in five a.tliA of both cavalry and infantry

with Baldwin commanding the reserve

The cwo armies met on the plain of Ibelin and the

forces engaged on the morning of the 27th . The

Fatimid force was taken somewhat by surprise by

Baldwin's swift advance and vigorous attack, which

seems to have disrupted their original marching plan

and thrown their troops into some disorder, compelling

them to reorganize. Nonetheless, the Fatimids managed

37. 4:144.

33. AA 9.49.

34. AA 9.49, FC 2.32.4.

35. FC2.32.4 " A t m u t n.zgZoba.ti A u n t m z t t m t n z Auo

confiuAo ."

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to take the initiative. Their cavalry wings

outflanked the Crusaders and on one flank the

Damascene contingent initiated an archery assault

followed by a melee with swords

Baldwin, although hard pressed by this charge,

launched a counter attack with his reserve regiment

to which the Damascene Turks responded with their

standard evasion tactics. This initial defection

and flight of the Damascene Turks was followed by

a strong Frankish charge against the Fatimid infantry

whose right flank was not at least partially unguarded

due to the flight of the Turks, and the retreat

became general"^. The ^mounted soldiers were able to

36. FC 2.32.6.

37. FC 2.32.6. It is interesting to note here the

Smail Cp. 861 attributes this flanking attack as the
"traditional manner" of attack by the Turks, while
similar Fatimid flanking attacks in other battles
with Syrian allies were due only to a supposed
"numerical superiority" rather than design.

38. FC 2.32.7-8.

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2 92

escape leaving many of the infantry to be cut


The Fatimid flight at this battle in part

reflects the factionalism of the Fatimid army. The

Damascene Turks and Arab mercenaries had no great

stake in the victory of the Fatimid army. When the

Damascene assault on the Crusader's rear met with

stiff resistance from Baldwin's counterattack,

instead of holding firm the Turks simply fled, having

little to lose if the rest of the Fatimid army was

defeated. Likewise, the bedouin contingents, seeing

this initial reverse, would have felt little

compulsion not to flee as well. In this situation

the initial flight of the Turks followed by the

Crusader charge and the death of a number of

important officers culminated in a general rout.

7.5.3 Sources

Arabic: IQal. 148-9/70-1; IMuy. 75; lAth. 10:395;

Maq. 3:35; Dhah. 2720; IKhal. 4:144. The latter

three sources generally paraphrase or copy the earlier


39. FC 2.32.11.

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Latin: Ekk. 33.2/285; FC 2.31-32; AA 9:48-50;

WT 11.3.

References: Smail 85-6, 177 ar.d other sources

mentioned there; Runciman 89-90.

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The evidence and analysis presented in this study

necessitates the modification of a number of previous

misconceptions concerning the nature of the Fatimid army

and its role in Palestine in the early twelfth century.

The way in which the Fatimid army was organized

proved to be both a source of strength to the army, and

a major weakness. The Fatimids recruited troops from

all over the Islamic world, dividing these soldiers into

three major categories, the Mashariqa, recruited from

lands east of Egypt, the Maghariba from North Africa,

and the Sudanis, cr blacks, from sub-Saharan Africa.

The ability to draw on these different sources of troops

provided the Fatimids not only with large numbers of

skilled warriors, but allowed them to maintain a strong

army even when recruitment from one or more of the

regions was interdicted by economic or political

changes. Furthermore, the existence of regiments

recruited from different regions provided a check

against the usurpation of authority by any one group.

However, it also proved to be a major source in

inter-regimental rivalry and factionalism, and, under


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weak rulers, a grave source of instability and potential

civil war. Finally, the existence of regiments drawn

from different cultural, linguistic and religious

backgrounds created a lack of dynastic, tribal or

religious solidarity, and tended to subvert loyalty to

the dynasty.

Structurally, the Fatimid army included both regular

professional troops, and irregular mercenaries, bedouins

and militias. The regular army consisted of two classes

of troops. Royal regiments, including the Dstadhs,

Sibyan al-Khass, Rikabiya and the Hujarlya, provided a

source of officers and administrators, served as a

permanent standing army in Cairo, personal guards for

che Caliphs and WazTrs, and elite troops in battle. The

royal regiments received higher pay, and better

equipment and training than other regular regiments.

Most regular soldiers were enlisted in regiments named

after the ruler who rounded them, their ethnic or

geographical origins, or the quarter where their

barracks were found. Some of these regiments were

stationed in Cairo, while others were located in the

provinces of Egypt or as garrisons in Palestinian

cities. These regiments were provided with regular

training, pay and equipment, had professional officers,

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and were organized in regular tactical units.

The Fatimids also enlisted irregular troops from a

number of different sources. During the early twelfth

century the most important group was the Arab bedouins

in Egypt and southern Palestine. Many bedouin tribes

were enrolled in government registers and received

stipends in return for occasional military service.

Bedouins can be found fighting the Crusaders in most

Fatimid armies. Local militias were drawn from the

citizens of cities and provinces, usually only serving

when their homes were directly threatened by Crusader

invasions and sieges. The Fatimids also hired

mercenaries, often Turks from Syria.

A major misconception of many modern scholars

concerns the size of the Fatimid army. It has often

been simplistically assumed that the Muslims fielded

huge armies of low quality which could be defeated by

smaller bands of Franks, while winning battles due

mainly to force of numbers. Section 3.4 deals with this

problem, providing a wide range of evidence indicating

that the entire regular Fatimid army in the twelfth

century numbered 10-15,000 men, while the field armies

ranged from 5-J0,000 men, averaging one half to one

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third the size of Fatimid armies as recorded by the

Latin chroniclers. Recognition of this fact

necessitates a reevaluation of the strength and

performance of the Fatimid army in battle against the


The Fatimid army was served by a large, well

organized .and sophisticated bureaucracy, with most of

the Fatimid state budget and administrative activity

directed at recruiting, supplying and training

soldiers. Troops were.paid and supplied by a

combination of payment in cash, food, fodder, robes and

equipment, and the revenues from The government

kept detailed records on each regular soldier describing

his equipment, martial skill, and pay, and held regular

military reviews, both to update these records and

inspect the quality of troops and equipment.

The Fatimid army was equipped with a variety of

weapons and included a number of different tactical

types of troops. The government maintained large

arsenals with factories for the storage and manufacture

of arms, armour, warships, and other military

equipment. Although the Frankish knight is often

thought to have been more heavily armed than his Muslim

opponents, the Fatimid army included units of cavalry

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wearing double strength armour and horse barding, who

were thus actually more heavily armed than their

Frankish counterparts. Likewise Fatimid infantry was

not a mass of lightly armed bowmen as it is occasionally

described, but included heavy infantry, and troops armed

with pikes, heavy war maces, javelins and crossbows.

The Fatimids had access to a long tradition of

sophisticated Muslim military theory which is clearly

reflected in descriptions of their army in combat.

Armies were marshalled in complex arrays with each unit

having specific tactical duties. The infantry was

organized in dense marshalled ranks with heavy pike

armed infantry in the front, supported by missile troops

in the rear ranks. Cavalry included heavy elite units

for assaults, mounted archers, and units for scouting,

flanking maneuvers, skirmishing, raiding, and pursuit.

Fatimid siegecraft was both technically and

theoretically highly developed.

A correct understand of the organization, equipment,

tactics and theory of the Fatimid army allows us to come

to a better understanding of the weaknesses of their

military system which contributed to their loss of

Palestine. The weaknesses which are usually cited by-

scholars individual inferiority, light equipment, and

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poor training and morale are usually exaggerated, the

actual problems being much more subtle. The Fatimids

suffered from an acute crisis in leadership with a

number of significant ramifications. Al-Afdal, as the

supreme commander, followed a passive military

strategy. The loyalty of the Fatimid officer corps was

often in question and occasionally openly insubordinate,

and the commanders of field armies were regularly

replaced so that none was able act upon the tactical

lessons learned in battle against the Franks.

Factionalism between the regiments often hindered

campaigns and could deteriorate into open civil war.

The Fatimids also faced important strategic

difficulties in pursuing a war in Palestine. Al-Afdal

and most of the officers and troops lacked'any real

motivation or loyalty to the dynasty beyond the desire

for personal gain, and the Fatimids never managed

utilize jZ h a d to unify and motivate their army.

Economically the costs of continued intervention in

Palestine far outweighed the potential advantages, so

that long as al-Afdal could maintain a forward military

base for the defense of Egypt, such as Ascalon, there

were few ideological, economic or military motives for

extensive military involvement in Palestine. Al-Afdal

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thus pursued a passive foreign policy in Palestine,

attempting to negotiate a division of the region. Most

of his military actions can be best understood as

reactions to Crusader aggression rather than a concerted

effort at driving the Franks out of Palestine.

Logistical problems also hindered the Fatimid war effort

in Palestine. All troops, supplies and equipment had to

be transported from Egypt, which rendered quick

mobilization and extending campaigning difficult. The

Fatimids were forced to defend a.narrow strip of coast

containing nine major cities. Each of these cities was

constantly threatened by a potential Crusader siege,

necessitating the division of Fatimid resources among

all the cities, while the Franks could concentrate their

strength against a single target. The constant influx

of money and troops from Europe allowed the Crusaders to

swiftly recover from any military setback they faced.

An understanding of the structure and size of the

Fatimid army, the nature of Muslim military theory, and

a serious consideration of the perspective of events

offered by the Arabic sources allows us to gain a more

complete view of the nature of warfare between the

Fatimids and Crusaders. The reanalysis of several major

battles shows that the Fatimid army performed much

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better in battle against the Franks than has previously

been thought. The broader perspective offered by a

better understanding of the nature of the Fatimid army

and the course of their conflict with the Franks thus

provides both the means to correct a number of

misconceptions concerning warfare and international

politics in twelfth century Palestine, and a more

complete view of the nature of the Crusader invasion and

conquest of Palestine.

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Except for discussions of special questions of

chronology, all dates appear in the Common Era. For

those interested in conversion of such dates to the

Islamic calendar, the following list is provided showing

the beginning date in the Common Era for each Muslim

lunar year during the rei^n of al-Afdal .


487 21 Jan 1094

488 11 Jan 1095
439 31 Dec 1095
450 19 Dec 1056
491 9 Dec 1097
492 28 Nov 1098
493 17 Nov 1099
494 6 Nov 1100
495 26 Oct 1101
496 15 Oct 1102
497 5 Oct 1103
498 23 Sep 1104

1. This table is based on Jere L. Bacharach, A Nzax. B a i t

S i u d Z z i H a n d b o o k,
rev. ed. Seattle: University of
Washington Press, 1976.


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499 13 Sep 1105

500 2 Sep 1106
501 22 Aug 1107
502 11 Aug 1108
503 31 Jul 1109
504 20 Jul 1110
505 10 Jul 1111
506 28 Jun 1112
507 18 Jun 1113
508 7 Jun 1114
509 27 May 1115
510 16 May 1116
511 5 May 1117
512 24 Apr 1118
513 14 Apr 1119
514 2 Apr 1120
515 22 Mar 1121
516 12 Mar 1122
517 1 Mar 1123
518 19 Feb 1124
519 7 Feb 1125
520 27 Jan 1126

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3 04



An important document in attempting to analyze the

Fatimid army is contained Nasir-i Khusravs famous

S a^aA-NK m a, describing his travels in the Islamic world

in the 1160s . The following is Nasir-i Khusrav's
account :

"Each corps has its own name and

designation. One group are called Kitamis.
These came from Qayrawan in the service of
al-Mucizz li-Din Allah. They are said to
number 20,.000. horsemen. Another group are
called' Batilis, said to be men from North
Africa who came to Egypt before the arrival of
al-Mu!izz. They are said to number 15,000
horsemen. Another group is called Masmudis.
They are blacks from the land of the Masmudis
and are said to number 20,000 men. Another

2. So.fja*-Mama. p. 66-7, tr. pp. 217-8. Bacharach pp.

482-85 believes that these numbers are impossibly large
but accepts the general pattern of proportional
distribution of ethnic units. Beshir "Military", also
believes that Nasir-i Khusravs figures are inflated
(pp. 44-5) but consistently quotes them as if accurate
when discussing the various groups in the Fatimid army.

3. Tr. Bernard Lewis, l i l a m , vol. 1, pp. 217-8

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group are called the Easterners, consisting of

Turks and Persians. They are so-called
because they are not of Arab origin. Though
most of them were born in Egypt, their name
derives from their origin. They are said to
number 10,000 powerfully built men. Another
group are called the slaves by purchase (ckbZd
a t-h h i.K a !), They are slaves bought for money
and are said to number 30,000 men. Another
group are called Bedouins. They are from the
Kijaz and are all armed with spears. They are
said to number 50,000 horsemen. Another group
are called Ustads (Ustadhs). These are
servants (?eunuchs), black and white, bought
for service. They number 30,000 horsemen.
Another group are called palace men (Sarayl).
They are foot soldiers coming from all
countries. They have their own separate
commander who looks after them. Each race
fights with the weapons of its own country.
They number 10,000 men. Another groups are
called Zanj. They all fight with the saber
and are said to number 30,000 men.
All of these troops are maintained by the
Sultan, and each man is assigned fixed monthly
pay, according to his rank."

There are a large number of problems with Nasir-i

Khusrav's text. The first is obviously that the numbers

are far to large for <-he economy of Egypt to have

sustained. The figures total 215,000 men. If we take

the military budqet for Egypt to be between 2.5 and 3.5

_ 4
million dinars , and assume that all of it was spent

solely on the wages of these troops (which, as discussed

in Chapter Four, was clearly not the case) this would

4. See ch. 4.1.

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allow only between twelve and sixteen dinars per soldier

per year, which works out to be from one to one and a

third dinars per month. A wage at this level would

placing the soldiers at the absolute bottom of Egyptian

economic life. It is known, however, that the pay of

Fatimid soldiers varied from between five and twenty

dinars a month Economically it would have been

impossible for Egypt to have maintained such a large

army. As a sign of the degree of exaggeration on the

part .of Nasir, he tells us that the Ustadhs numbered

30,000 cavalry, when it is clear from other complete

descriptions of the Fatimid government that the Ustadhs

in fact numbered only about 1000 men . Furthermore, the

SarayT, whom I would equate with the Sibyan al-Khass,

are said by Nasir to number 10,000 men when in actuality

they numbered only 500 .

What, then, is the historical value, if any, of

Nasir-i Khusrav's text? First, it should be emphasized

that Nasir-i Khusrav may well be accurately reporting

numbers which he had been given by officials of the

5. See ch. 4.3.

6 . See ch. 3.2 above.

/ v
: u:j
X v X u

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Fatimid government. As mentioned above , Islamic

governments often followed the policy of exaggerating

the size of their military forces for security or

propaganda purposes. As Nasir-i Khusrav was a Shiite

missionary, Fatimid officials may have given him

exaggerated figures to publish in order to increase the

glory of the Fatimid dynasty. Thus although his

specific numbers were clearly exaggerated, the structure

he describes can be accepted as potentially accurate,

and at least worthy of some consideration.

As it turns out, the forces mentioned by Nasir

actually correlate nicely with the known military

corps. Kitamls, Masmudis and probably the Bat ills were

Berber tribesmen, although in the 1060s when Nasir

visited Cairo they may have included both regular

regiments and irregular tribesmen. By the time of

al-Afdal the military power of the Berbers had declined

drastically. Nasir divides the Easterners or Mashariqa,

into two groups, the Turks and the Persians, (with whom

the the Daylamis should be included). Again by

al-Afdal's time the Daylamis were no longer to be seen,

and the Turks had declined greatly in number and

8 . ch. 3.4.

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importance. Sudanis are represented by two different

groups by Nasir, the CA b i d a l - b k l n R ' , by which the

Sudanis are frequently known in the sources, and the

Zanj, a word derived from Persian and also used in

Arabic for black. The bedouins are clearly the

irregular bedouins auxiliaries used extensively by the

Fatimids throughout their history. Ustads are, of

course the Ustadh guard of the Caliph, The Sarayi

"palace men" are somewhat problematic. They are

described as foot soldiers drawn from all races, and

unless the Fatimids had a special regiment which was

disbanded before al-Afdal's day, they best seem to match

the description of the Sibyan al-Knass. Thus, although

distorted and exaggerated, Nasir-i Khusrav's description

can be accepted as being broadly accurate of the

pre-Jamall Fatimid army.

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For the most part, Arabic sources are reference by

volume, page, and occasionally line. Thus "ITagh.

5:153.10-11" refers to Ibn TaghrxbardI, vol. 5, page

153, lines 10-11. Some references are followed by lower

case Roman letters, dividing the page into fourths.

Thus "MaqKh. 1:83a" means, Maqrizi's K h i t c i t , volume 1,

page 83, the upper quarter of the text. Al-HarthamT's

work is referenced by chapter, paragraph, and page, so

that "Harthami, ch. 34.16-7, p. 59" refers to chapter

34, paragraphs sixteen and seventeen which are found on

page 59. Latin sources are referenced by book, chapter

and paragraph if the text is so divided, otherwise by

page: i.e. "FC 2.21.10" refers to Fulcher of Chartes,

Bk. 2, ch. 21, para. 10. References following a slash

(7) or an equal sign (=) refer to the page where the

text is found in translation. Thus IQal. 141=56 refers

to Ibn al-Qalanisi, Arabic text, p. 141, Gibb's English

translation p. 56. In all such cases the translation

refered to is listed directly following the original

text in this bibliography.


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AA Albert of Aix

Anon. Anonymous, G z i t a FAancoJium

Caf. Caffaro

Ohah. DhahabT

El 1 EnzyclopzdZa. ojj liZam Old ed.

El 2 EncycZopzdZa o& liZa m New ed.

Ekk. Ekkehard

FC Fulcher of Chartes

Hak. al-Hakimi

HCh. Hagenmeyer CkAonoZogZz da Royaume.

HEp. Hagenmeyer EpZ&tuZae.

IAdim. Ibn al-cAdIm

IAth. Ibn al-Athir

IDaw. Ibn al-Dawadarl

IKhal. Ibn Khaldun

IKhal. Mu q Ibn Khaldun, MaqaddZra.

IKhall. Ibn Khallikan

IMam. Ibn MammatT

IMuq. Ibn al-Muqaffac

IMuy. Ibn Muyassar

IQal. Ibn QalanisF

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ITagh. = Ibn Taghrlbardi

IZaf. = Ibn Zafir

Mag. = Magrlzi, It t i cI z a.l~Huna&a

MaqKh. = Maqrlzi, K h i t u t

MS = Michael the Syrian

Nu'man = al-Qadl al-NuSian

Qal. = Qalqashandi

RA = Raymond d'Aguilers

RHCOcc. = d.e* H i 6 t o n J . e m ...

WT = William of Tyre

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1. Original Sources

1.1. Arabic Sources

Abu Salih. The C u re h z c and M ona6t,e.aiz6 o i E g y p t , ed.

and tr. B. T. A. Evetts. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1895.

al-Hakami,'Umara ibn cAli. TanZkh a l- V a m a n , ed. and tr.

'Henry Cassels Kay. London: E. Arnold, 1892.

al-Harthaml, Abu Sacid al-Shacrani. Mu k h t a i a r S l y a & a t

a l - H u r u b , ed. cAbd al-Ra'uf cAwn. Cairo, (n.d.).

al-Harawi, cAl1 ibn Abi_Bakr. A l- T a d h k lr a a l-H a ra w Z y a

it A l- H ly a t a l-H a rb ly a . Damascus: Manshurat Wizara
al-Tniqafa, 1S7-2.

Ibn al-cAdim, cUmar b. Ahmad (d. 1261). l u b d a t a l - H a l a b

m ln T a r Z k h H a la b , 2 vols. ed. S. al-Dahhan.
Damascus, 1951-4.

Ibn al-Athlr. Al - K a m l l {Z" a - T a r Z k h 12 vols., ed. K.

Tornberg. Beirut: Dar Sader, Dar Beyrouth, 1966.

Ibn al-Dawadarl. Kanz a i - D u r a r uia 3 a m lc a Z - G h u r a r vols.

6-9, ed. Salah ad-DTn al-Munaggid. Cairo: Otto
Harrassowitz, 1961.

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