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Mamlūk Loyalty: Evidence from the late Seljuq period


Tor, D G (2011). Mamlūk Loyalty: Evidence from the late Seljuq period. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 65(3):767-796.

Abstract

This article addresses one key aspect of the widespread institution of pre-Mongol era Islamic military slavery: the alleged superior loyalty of slave-soldiers (known as ghulāms or mamlūks), using the late Seljuq period (late 11th–late12th century) as a case study. The examination of the role of slave soldiers during this period reveals that, 1) the assumption of the superior loyalty of slave soldiery is a modern expectation, not one entertained by the slave-soldiers’ contemporaries; 2) the slave soldiery exhibited the same type of self-interest and limited loyalty as did the free soldiery; and 3) the slave system also produced its own additional peculiar and inherent limitations on loyalty: first, a heightened degree of rivalry within the slave corps and obsessive vying for the ruler’s favor that led frequently to jealousy and betrayal; and, second, the strictly personal nature of the ghulām’s tie to his master, which meant that even the most loyal ghulām’s allegiance ended with the said master’s demise, after which the ghulām frequently became a threat to his erstwhile lord’s heirs, since his sole remaining loyalties were to his slave-corps faction and his own personal interest.

This article addresses one key aspect of the widespread institution of pre-Mongol era Islamic military slavery: the alleged superior loyalty of slave-soldiers (known as ghulāms or mamlūks), using the late Seljuq period (late 11th–late12th century) as a case study. The examination of the role of slave soldiers during this period reveals that, 1) the assumption of the superior loyalty of slave soldiery is a modern expectation, not one entertained by the slave-soldiers’ contemporaries; 2) the slave soldiery exhibited the same type of self-interest and limited loyalty as did the free soldiery; and 3) the slave system also produced its own additional peculiar and inherent limitations on loyalty: first, a heightened degree of rivalry within the slave corps and obsessive vying for the ruler’s favor that led frequently to jealousy and betrayal; and, second, the strictly personal nature of the ghulām’s tie to his master, which meant that even the most loyal ghulām’s allegiance ended with the said master’s demise, after which the ghulām frequently became a threat to his erstwhile lord’s heirs, since his sole remaining loyalties were to his slave-corps faction and his own personal interest.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 65 (2011) > 3
Dewey Decimal Classification:950 History of Asia
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:13 Mar 2012 09:20
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:36
Publisher:Schweizerische Asiengesellschaft / Verlag Peter Lang
ISSN:0004-4717
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-58878

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