Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar

Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar

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The Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, also known as the Third Battle of Homs, was a Mongol victory over the Mamluk
Mamluk
A Mamluk was a soldier of slave origin, who were predominantly Cumans/Kipchaks The "mamluk phenomenon", as David Ayalon dubbed the creation of the specific warrior...

s in 1299.

Background


In 1260, Hulagu Khan
Hulagu Khan
Hulagu Khan, also known as Hülegü, Hulegu , was a Mongol ruler who conquered much of Southwest Asia...

 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 only 20,000 soldiers of an army numbering possibly 800,000 in the area. This army was defeated at the Battle of Ain Jalut
Battle of Ain Jalut
The Battle of Ain Jalut took place on 3 September 1260 between Mamluks and the Mongols in eastern Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley, not far from Ein Harod....

, and the Mongols were expelled from Palestine and Syria. Hulegu returned with another force but his invasion was permanently delayed after his Muslim cousin Berke
Berke
Berke Khan was the ruler of the Golden Horde who effectively consolidated the power of the Blue Horde and White Hordes from 1257 to 1266. He succeeded his brother Batu Khan of the Blue Horde and was responsible for the first official establishment of Islam in a khanate of the Mongol Empire...

 of the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

 secretly allying with Mamluks began a civil war with him in Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

.

After recovering the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, the Mamluks went on to invade the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia
The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia , also known as the Cilician Armenia, Kingdom of Cilician Armenia or New Armenia, was an independent principality formed during the High Middle Ages by Armenian refugees fleeing the Seljuk invasion of Armenia...

 and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, both Mongol protectorates, leaving after a near defeat forced 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
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

 river (the Mamluk-Ilkhanid border) and seized Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

. The Mongol army then proceeded southwards until they were only a few miles north of Homs
Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

 in a battle line that was almost 10 miles wide.

The Sultan of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 who was in Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 at the time marched an army of 20,000 to 30,000 Mamluks northwards from Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 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.

The battle



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 superior to the Mongols in close quarters fighting as the Mongols' general tactics in battle were based on the use of mounted archers, hence the Mamluks were at an advantage although being purportedly outnumbered over 3 to 1.

Eventually in the afternoon of the battle, a rumour that the Mamluk right flank had been broken through by the Mongols circulated. It was unknown whether this was rumour was true as the Mamluk army began to rout once hearing the rumour. Messages between sections of the army could take hours to reach the other side of the battlefield.


It was learnt, however, that the battle line of the Mamluks had purportedly held until the next day when both sides retreated.

Casualties


Mamluk sources state that only 200 Mamluk soldiers had been killed whilst Mongol casualties numbered 5,000-10,000. These figures can be considered suspicious when an important factor in the battle was the rumour that the right flank of the Mamluks had collapsed yet only 200 soldiers died during the entire battle.

Other sources cite Mongol casualties at 14,000 while Mamluk casualties were only 1,000.

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".

Aftermath


The Mamluk army fled southwards towards Damascus. However, en route they were constantly harassed by 12,000 Maronite and Druz bowmen who wanted independence of their homeland. 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
Chagatai Khanate
The Chagatai Khanate was a Turko-Mongol khanate that comprised the lands ruled by Chagatai Khan , second son of the Great Khan Genghis Khan, and his descendents and successors...

.

There were no concerted Christian efforts to build on the Mongol victories and the Mamluks were soon in repossession of Syria and Palestine. Participation of the Georgian and Armenian troops in the campaign apparently was out of any context of the western Christian Crusades.

After the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar the Mongols kept pushing into Syria. The Mongols were able to reach the outskirts of Damascus. However, in 1303 at the Battle of Marj al-Saffar
Battle of Marj al-Saffar
The Battle of Marj al-Suffar, also known as the Battle of Shaqhab, took place on April 20 through April 22, 1303 between the Mamluks and the Mongols near Kiswe, Syria, just south of Damascus...

the Mongols were defeated by the Mamluks ending Mongol incursions into Syria.