Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar
|Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar|
|Part of the Mamluk-Ilkhanid War (1299)|
14th century illustration from a manuscript of the History of the Tatars
Kingdom of Georgia
Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ghazan Khan||Al-Nasir Muhammad|
|Casualties and losses|
In 1260, Hulagu Khan had invaded the Middle East all the way to Palestine. Before he could follow up with an invasion of Egypt, he was called back to Mongolia. He left two tumens (20,000 men) under his best general Kitbuqa. This army was defeated at the Battle of Ain Jalut and the Mongols were expelled from Palestine and Syria. Hulegu returned with another force, but his invasion was permanently delayed after his Mongol cousin Berke of the Golden Horde secretly allied with the Mamluks and instigated a civil war in the Caucasus.
After recovering the Levant, the Mamluks went on to invade the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, both Mongol protectorates, but they were defeated, forcing them back to Syria.
In 1299, nearly 20 years after the last Mongol defeat in Syria at the Second Battle of Homs, Ghazan Khan and an army of 60,000 Mongols and 40,000 Georgians and Armenians crossed the Euphrates river (the Mamluk-Ilkhanid border) and seized Aleppo. The Mongol army then proceeded southwards until they were only a few miles north of Homs in a battle line that was almost 10 miles wide.
The Sultan of Egypt who was in Syria at the time marched an army of 20,000 to 30,000 Mamluks (more, according to other sources) northwards from Damascus until he met the Mongols two to three Arab farsakhs (6–9 miles) north-east of Homs at the Wadi al-Khazandar on the 22nd of December 1299 at 5 o'clock in the morning. The sun had already risen.
||This section includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but the sources of this section remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (April 2009)|
The battle started with the Mamluk infantry charging the Mongols. Then the Mongol heavy cavalry charged at the Mamluks while Mongol archers stood behind their horses and peppered the Mamluks with arrows.
It seems that early on in the battle, the two forces ended up in hand to hand combat. The Mamluks were thought to be superior to the Mongols in close quarters fighting as the Mongols' general tactics in battle were based on the use of mounted archers.
Eventually in the afternoon of the battle, the Mamluk right flank had been broken through by the Mongols. It was unknown whether this was rumor or a true fact as the Mamluk army began to rout upon hearing about the Mongol breakthrough. Messages between sections of the army could take hours to reach the other side of the battlefield.
Eventually the Mongols were left in complete control of the battlefield and the remaining Mamluk army was routed and forced into retreat.
Mamluk sources state that only 200 Mamluk soldiers had been killed whilst Mongol casualties numbered 5,000-10,000. These figures are considered suspicious when an important factor in the battle was the fact that the right flank of the Mamluks had collapsed yet only 200 soldiers died during the entire battle.
Despite the apparent casualty disparity, it is assumed from the fact that the Mongols were left in control of the battlefield and went on to capture Damascus that the Mamluks suffered a "serious reverse".
The Mamluk army fled southwards towards Damascus. However, en route they were constantly harassed by 12,000 Maronite and Druze bowmen who wanted independence for their homeland. The Mongols followed them as far as Gaza.
The Mongols, who had claimed a "great victory", continued their march south until they reached Damascus. The city was soon sacked and its citadel besieged. However, in 1300 the Mongols moved back across the Euphrates to face an invasion to the east by the Chagatais.
There were no concerted Christian efforts to build on the Mongol victories and the Mamluks were soon in repossession of Syria and Palestine after the Mongol withdrawal. Participation of the Georgian and Armenian troops in the campaign was apparently out of any context of the western Christian Crusades.
After the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar the Mongols kept pushing into Palestine. The Mongols were able to reach the outskirts of Jerusalem. However, in 1303 at the Battle of Marj al-Saffar the Mongols were defeated by the Mamluks, ending Mongol incursions into Syria until 1399 when Mongol hordes led by Timur the Lame invaded and defeated the Mamluks outside Damascus and sacked it alongside Aleppo.
- Wadi 'L-Khaznadar, R. Amitai, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol XI, ed. P.J.Bearman, T.Bianquis, C.E.Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P.Heinrichs, (Brill, 2002), 18.
- Wadi 'L-Khaznadar, R. Amitai, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol XI, 18.
- Burns, Ross (2005) Damascus, a History. Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-27105-9, p. 202.
- Adh-Dhababi's Record of the Destruction of Damascus by the Mongols in 1299-1301(http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/somogyi1.htm)
- Henry Hoyle Howorth (1876). History of the Mongols: From the 9th to the 19th Century. Longmans, Green, and Co.