Mamelikks (Arabic Memalik A Slave), a body of soldiery who ruled Egypt for several centuries. They were introduced into that country by the sultan Malek el-Add 11. about the middle of the 13th century, and were composed originally of young captives purchased from the Mongols. They were called the Bahri Mamelukes, or Mamelukes of tin-river, because they were trained on an island in the Nile. They formed the body guard of the sultan. Turan Shah, the son and successor of Malek el-Adel, becoming unpopular, the Mamelukes deposed and murdered him about 1250, and raised their commander Eybek to the throne. A line of sultans known the Bahri or Turkish dynasty now followed, all of whom were raised to power by the Mamelukes, and many of them deposed and slain. A new band of Mamelukes, however, had been created by these sovereigns, composed of Circassians and Georgians, who were called Borgis, suggestive of a tower or castle, from the fact that they had been employed on fortifications in Egypt. In 1382 the Borgi Mamelukes gained the ascendancy over the Bahris, and made their commander Barkok sultan.
The Borgis continued in power till 1517. when they were subdued by the ottoman Turks, and Egvpt became a dependency of Constantinople.' The Turkish sultan, however. placed the 24 provinces into which he divided Egypt under Mameluke governors or beys who served to keep the Turkish viceroy in'check. The bevs also had the right to elect the governor of Cairo, an official of great power The number of the Mamelukes was about 12,000, and they were nearly all from the region between the Black sea and the Caspian, whence they were brought in their youth to Cairo, compelled or persuaded to embrace Mohammedanism, and educated as soldiers.They did not intermarry with the natives of Egypt, but bought wives of their own race from the traders in Circassian slaves These from from the north seldom bore children in Egypt, or if they did their offspring were sickly and short-lived. Though instance of hereditary succession among the Mamelukes were not unknown, they were comparatively rare, and it was generally from master to slave, and not from father to son. Yolney, who visited Egypt in the latter part of the 18th century, rted that all Mameluke children perished in the first or second descent.
Each of the 24 beys maintained 500 or 600 followers, thorough armed and equipped, and forming an admirable cavalry force. Each of the Mamelukes was attended by two armed slaves who fought on foot. In 1*798, when Bonaparte invaded Egypt, his army first encountered the Mamelukes while on the march from Alexandria to Cairo. "The whole plain was covered with Mamelukes,"says Scott, "mountedon the finest Arabian horses, and armed with pistols, carbines, and blunderbusses of the best English workmanship, their plumed turbans waving in the air. and their rich dresses and arms glittering in the sun. Entertaining a high contempt for the French force, as consisting almost entirely of infantry, this splendid barbaric chivalry watched every opportunity for charging them, nor did a single straggler escape the unrelenting edge of their sabres. Their charge was almost as swift as the wind, and as their severe bits enabled them to halt or wheel their horses at full gallop, their retreat was as rapid as their advance. Even the practised veterans of Ltaly were at first embarrassed by this new mode of fighting, and lost several men; especially when fatigue caused any one to fall out of the ranks, in which case his fate became certain.
But they were soon reconciled to fighting the Mamelukes, when they discovered that each of these horsemen carried about him his fortune, and that it not uncommonly amounted to considerable sums in gold," At the battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798, the Mamelukes mustered theirfull force, consisting of T.niio men under Murad Hey, and attacked the French with desperate courage; but they were repulsed with terrible slaughter, and about 2,500 of them who survived tied to Upper Egypt. "Could 1 have united the Mameluke horse to the French infantry," said Napoleon, " I would have reckoned myself master of the world." After the French were driven from Egypt by the British, the Mamelukes regained m sonic degree their power, and a civil war broke out between them and the Turks. they were twice victims of treacherous mas-sacres, and were completely crushed March 1, 1811, when Mehemet Ali beguiled 470 chiefs into the citadel of Cairo, and then closed the gates and ordered his Albanian soldiers to fire upon them. Only one escaped, a bey who eaped his horse from the ramparts and alighted uninjured, though the animal was killed by the fall. Immediately afterward a general massacre of the Mamelukes in every province of Egypt was ordered.
The few who escaped fled to Nubia, and especially to the province of Sennaar, where they built the town of New Dongola and attempted to keep up their force by disciplining negroes in their peculiar tactics. They did not succeed, however, and a few years later their number was reduced to about 100, when they dispersed, and the Mamelukes ceased to exist.