OF AL - MARQAB
source for the biography of the Mamluk sultan al-Malik al-Mansur Qala'un,
and for his role in combating the crusader invasions, is the anonymous
work Tashrif al-Ayyam wa l-'Usur bi-Sirat al-Sultan al-Ma/ik
nl-Mansur (Honoring the Years and the Days of the Life of Sultan al-Malik
al-Mansur), of which there is a manuscript in the collection of the
Caetani Foundation for Muslim Studies in Rome. It includes an account,
abbreviat- ed here, of the siege of Margat Castle known to the Muslims
as al-Marqab that differs in its details from the version passed on by
This is a grewat and mighty castle, which
had long keen n challenge to our lord the Sultan al-Malik al-Malik God
grant him victory. He studied every means of securing it for Islam and
supported every plan or method for conquering it and overcoming it....
The Franks believed that it was unassailable by any combination of force
and cun- ning, and that no one was clever enough to get the better of
it. So they went 071 with their haughty ways, broke their oaths, and ...
committed every possible crime and perfidy, rapine and robbery. But our
lord the Sultan al-Mansur lay in wait for them like n man-eating
He brought siege-engines from Damascus without
anyone knowing where they ... were destined for; armies were mobilized
from the vari- ous countries in uncountable number, with their stores,
equipment and commanders.... The Sultan had sent for a great arsenal
from Egypt, with great bundles les of arrows and other arms, and issues
of arrows were made to the amirs and troops to carry with them and use
when given the word; iron implements and flame-throwing tubes were
procured, such as exist only in the royal magazines and arsenals.... A
number of experts on the art of siege and the techniques of blockade
were also enlisted. The catapults of the neighbouring forts were
requisitioned and mobilized.... Catapults and fighting gear were carried
on men's shoulders. Eventually, our lord the Sultan left his camp at 'Uyun
Qasab and by forced marches arrived to besiege al-Marqab on Wednesday
April 17, 1285.
Immediately the catapults were brought up, ...
and the fort was sur- rounded by a murderous circle of weapons....
[There were] three of the great 'Frankish' type [of catapult], three 'qarabughas'
and four 'dev- ils'.... These began a formidable, murdurous assault with
stones, while excavations were started on each side to undermine the
walls. The 'Frankish' catapults broke up those of the enemy, ... but the
Franks repaired their cata pul ts, aimed them at the Muslims and smashed
some of theirs, killing some of the Muslims who operated them. It is
incon- testable that the fortunes of war ebb and flow and that not
everyone can save his skin.
When the Sultan's tunnel under the wall was
finished the wood was put into it and set on fire on Wednesday May 25;
the fire reached mid- hlnnel under the tower at the angle of the bastion
and the Muslims moved in to attack the walls themselves, but after
violent fighting the attacking force proved insufficiently powerful to
scale the wall. At sun- set [however]] the tower collapsed [due to the
undermining], which in the opinion of our army increased the difficulty
of gaining a foothold in the fortress. Thus the night passed in great
confusion, for the use of cat- apults was made impossible by what had
happened, and everything that could be done with mines had been done.
Now God alone could exterminate the enemy.
On the following Friday God mad e the Franks
think that the tunnels under the entire wall were all equally far
advanced, that they ... were undermining the walls themselves. In fact
the tunnels, travelling in conduits under the moats, had reached [only]
as far as the towers, but the Franks were unaware of this. When they did
discover it they lost their courage and presence of mind and gave
themselves up for lost.... [The Sultan] agreed to grant them pardon and
amnesty, and they, in the faith that our Sultan's word was worth more
than any oaths, sent their leaders to the tent of victory and asked only
for their lives and nothing more.... Safe-conducts were issued for them
and they ... surrendered the fort in its entirety at the eighth hour of
Friday May 25 [sic]....
The Muslims went up [to take possession of the
fort] and from the heights of the citadel the call to prayer resounded
with praise and thanks to God....
The fall of al-Marqab
Terms of engagement
Art in Amrit
Tal al kazal