Eurapeans fighting with Ayyubids

Scott Fridenberg scottf at
Sun Feb 16 23:03:09 PST 1997


     The following message was posted in the soc.history.midieval newsgroup.  
I thought some might find it interesting.

Robert Fitzmorgan
Barony of Northkeep

--- Forwarded message follows ---
From: Grandfather <"jaystr at jaystr">
Subject: Re: Eurapeans fighting with Ayyubids
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 1997 19:10:42 -0800

David Rainger wrote:
> I am currently putting together an army based on that of the Ayyubid
> Egyptians, Saladin and crew, for war gaming with, using DBM rules.
> I have discovered during my research into the period that contrary to
> popular belief large numbers of europeans and latins (2nd, 3rd
> generation europeans that had settled in the middle east) actually
> fought with and/or supported the Ayyubids. Unfortunately I've not been
> able to develop information on actual numbers. So I don't know if I'll
> only need the odd figure here and there for local colour, or if I
> could put together a full command worth of european troop types.
> Therefore:
> I would like to ask if anybody has any ideas on the numbers of
> european troops fighting with the Ayyubids.
> Also would these troops have retained their fighting style and
> equipment, or would they have been assimilated into the local forces
> they were fighting with. (Gone native so to speak)
> Any information will be gratefully accepted.
> With thanks.
> --
> Dave

In small numbers during the Crusades, and in somewhat larger numbers
after, there were indeed bands of heavyweight Christian cavalry serving
Moslem princes all over North Africa. To be brief:

1) They kept their religion -- indeed, there are many letters from Popes
and Cardinals to Moslem rulers (!) during those several centuries,
reminding the guys across the pond that much large-scale unpleasantness
could result from any forced conversions. In many cases, altars were
built especially for them.

2) They did not 'go native' with regard to their fighting style -- that
would have negated the reason they got hired. With heavy chargers and
heavy armor, their survivability and shock value allowed them to
function as a superheavy reserve that could be thrown into the line at a
decisive point. Since they were extraordinarily reliable as long as they
were paid on time, and immune to intrigue (they weren't related to
anybody local, and had a different faith, and couldn't even speak the
language in most cases), they also made great bodyguards both on and off
the field. Up until the Renaissance, many Berber chieftains and sultans
made it their first order of business to hire out a band of roving
Christian cavalry until their hold on the throne was secure.

Congratulations on uncovering this odd-but-true chapter of medieval
history. I have no idea what numbers they may have served in, but I very
seriously doubt it was ever more than a hundred or two at a time. Make
up a single unit and use it to guard your general or army banner or
whatever, and you'll be reasonably true to form.

-- Cael O'sreanachan

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