SARACEN STANDARDS

An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath

[based on Varka wa Gulshah f.38/36b, Maqamat of 1237AD, f18v, Maqamat of 1237AD, f19r & Maqamat of 1237AD, f94v.]


65.      SARACEN STANDARDS

Under the Ayyubids and early Mamluks the royal standard was of gold-embroidered yellow silk or damask. Their Royal Mamluk units also carried yellow standards, each one embroidered with the heraldic device of its unit commander. Joinville records these devices to have been in crimson, mentioning roses, 'bends' and birds as examples. This practice may also be intended by a remark in the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi that at Arsouf Taqi ad-Din commanded 700 of Saladin's mamluks, each unit of which carried a yellow standard together with 'a pennon (device?) of a different colour', especially since this source also refers to the use of emblems on standards. Taqi's own standard resembled 65a; the Itinerarium describes it as 'a pair of trousers'.

The Itinerarium mentions banners and pennons of 'countless' shapes and sizes, other sources noting many different colours in use. Imad ad-Din records red as well as 'Jasmin' standards in Saladin's army at Hattin, while green standards are recorded in the Seljuk army at Dorylaeum. The Abbasid Caliphs continued to use black standards up until the destruction of the Caliphate by the Mongols in 1258, though in 1057 purple banners decorated with gold script are also recorded, probably similar to 65g. In 1171 the Abbasid Caliph sent black banners to both Saladin and Nur ed-Din.

The standards given here are characteristic of those depicted in contemporary sources. Most date to the 13th century. The devices on 65b and c of c. 1250, and on 65d and e which date to 1287, are heraldic. 65f is a horsetail banner of Turkish design such as was probably carried by many mamluk units of steppe origin, as well as by Seljuks and Turcomans; see also 90b. The Fatimid vizier al-Afdal's standard at Ascalon in 1099, described as having a golden ball atop a silver-plated staff, was probably just such a banner, as were the Khwarizmian lances recorded by Joinville on which were fashioned 'heads with hair, that seemed like the heads of devils.' Joinville also speaks of Khwarizmian standards which were 'red and indented up towards the lance', presumably swallowtail pennons.

65g, h and i depict a type of standard called a Tu, an ornamental metal blade atop a wooden shaft. It was usually perforated or damascened, often with inscriptions or heraldic devices. These particular examples are from Hariri's 'Maqamat' of 1237, while 65j shows an actual Mamluk Tu in detail. In the source the ribbons of 65i are black with gold band and fringe, while the flag of g is black, blue, red or crimson with black or white lettering. The Tu was used in Rum, Persia, Syria and Egypt.



See also
standards in the St. Petersburg manuscript of Maqamat of al-Hariri, 1225-35.

1. PILGRIMS in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath
30. FATIMID INFANTRYMAN c. 1100 in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath
Next: 66, 67, 68 & 69. BYZANTINE HEAVY INFANTRYMEN c. 1100 in Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291 by Ian Heath




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