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SUDANESE GHULAM

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


104.      SUDANESE GHULAM

In addition to fighting the Sudanese, the Moslems also employed them in their own armies in large numbers, principally as archers but also as swordsmen and spearmen and often in guard roles.

Khumarawayh, son of Ahmad ibn Tulun (who had as many as 45,000 Negro ghulams in his employ at his death in 884 - almost twice as many as he had white ghulams), maintained a unit of 1,000 Sudanese guardsmen who must have made a rather awesome spectacle; an 11th century historian says that they wore 'black coats and black turbans so that the onlooker could fancy them to be a black sea spreading over the face of the earth, because of the blackness of their skin and of their clothes. With the glitter of their shields, of the chasing on their swords, and of the helmets under their turbans, they made a really splendid sight.' The drawing depicts one such guardsman.

As archers the Sudanese were held in high regard, and the Fatimids recruited most of their archers from amongst them. Leo describes these as lightly armed and unarmoured.

Others still were employed as cavalry, but this was mainly in North Africa.



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