Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Amir Grades of Rank

A brief explanation regarding the ranks of Mamluke ameers [sic] may here be useful. The government was divided into two distinct classes, “men of the pen” and “men of the sword,” civil servants and soldiers. The men of the sword at this period consisted solely of Turkish Mamlukes born on the steppes….

When the sultan wished to promote an efficient soldier to officer rank, he was given a commission and the rank of “an ameer of ten,” corrosponding, let us say, to a lieutenant. He was obliged to maintain ten mamlukes of his own, and was given a small fief of government land, on the income from which he had to live and maintain his ten mamlukes. In the event of war, the officer and his ten men served in the army, providing their own horses, weapons and supplies.

Next above an ameer of ten was an ameer of forty, who maintained forty trained mamlukes. We may compare this officer to a captain. At this stage, he was allowed to have a tablkhana, a small military band, consisting of drums, and possibly also cymbals, oboes and trumpets. The essential component was the drums, which were used in battle.

…The drums were not merely a military ritual, but played a vital part in battle. An ameer of forty was consequently often called “an ameer of drums”….

The next rank above ameer of drums was that of ameer of one hundred, whom we may liken to colonels. The establishment of ameers of one hundred under Baybars was twenty-four. These senior ameers were each supposed to have one hundred private mamlukes. They had larger bands than those of the ameers of forty. The sultan’s own band was larger still, and was commanded by a band-master. The drums were presumably side-drums or kettle-drums, for they were beaten on horseback.

Ameers of one hundred are often described as “commanders of one thousand.” The one hundred were the ameer’s personal retainers, always under arms. In war time, when the reserves were mobilized, the ameer commanded a thousand troopers. All real Mamluke units were mounted. They had no infantry and disliked fighting on foot.

In peace time, the sultan and all ameers of a hundred were entitled to have their bands play outside their houses at sunset. History does not explain what happened if several ameers lived next door to one another in the same street, for in Egypt all ameers seem to have had houses in Cairo. The resulting evening cacophany must have been trying for civilian neighbours….

Reasonably enough, the right to beat drums was a military privilege….

Soldiers of Fortune, pp. 77-80