Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar


Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar


caption=Victory of the Mongols (left) over the Mamluks (right) at the 1299 Battle of Homs (Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar).
partof=the Mongol Invasion of Syria (1299)
date=December 22 – December 23, 1299
place=at Wadi al-Khazandar, north-east of Homs
result=Pyrrhic Mongol Victory
combatant1=Ilkhanate, Georgia and Armenia
combatant2=Mamluks of Egypt
commander1=Ghazan Khan
commander2=Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad
strength1=60,000 Mongol troops 40,000 Georgian and Armenian auxilliaries 12,000 Maronite and Druze bowmenfact|date=July 2008
strength2=20,000-30,000 Mamluks
casualties1=5,000-14,000?? Mongols
casualties2=200-1,000?? Mamluks (Army Routed)|

The Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, also known as the Third Battle of Homs, was a Mongol victory over the Mamluks in 1299.

Background

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 only 20,000 soldiers of an army numbering possibly 800,000 in the area. 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 Muslim cousin Berke of the Golden Horde secretly allying with Mamluks began a civil war with him in 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, 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 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 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.

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.Fact|date=June 2008

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.Fact|date=June 2008

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". [Burns, Ross (2005) "Damascus, a History". Routledge, ISBN 978-0415271059, p. 202.]

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",Fact|date=June 2008 continued their march south until they reached Damascus. It was soon sacked and the 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. 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 the Mongols were defeated by the Mamluks ending Mongol incursions into Syria.

References

* Adh-Dhababi's Record of the Destruction of Damascus by the Mongols in 1299-1301(http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/somogyi1.htm)
*


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