Египтяне на службе в мамлюкской администрации: семья ат-Таблави
The Burji period (1382-1517) in Egypt and Syria was marked by significant changes in the state system and substantial shifts in the social structure. The purpose of the current paper is to examine the activities of the several generations of the Egyptian al-Tablawi family, whose members served the Mamluks in the late 14th through the first half of the 15th centuries, as a tangible evidence of the gradual transformation of the sultanate’s military administrative structure.
The al-Tablawi family members served in various government positions, the most prominent being those of wazir and wali. Throughout the almost entire burji period the former was occupied by the Men of the Pen, i.e. civilians, while the latter was reserved for the Men of the Sword, i.e. Mamluk amirs. The al-Tablawis thus straddled the social divide between the military and civilian population that had been practically impermeable in the early Mamluk period, which makes the history of this family worth special attention.
The paper draws on the evidence from the Arabic chronicles and biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias of the 14th-16th centuries. Our earliest source is the multivolume encyclopedia of Subh al-ʿashā fi kitābat al-inshaʾ («The Blind Man's Illumination in the Art of Chancery Communication») by ʿAli al-Qalqashandi (1355–1418), which describes the structure of the Mamluk administration, including the positions occupied by the al-Tablawis. The most extensive use is made of the works by Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi (1364-1442) and Jamal al-Din Abu al-Muhasin Ibn Tagri Bardi (1409/1411-1469/1470). The former author was of Egyptian origin and served in the administration for some time, whereas the latter had a mamluk background, being a son of a high-ranking amir who was in service during the reigns of Barquq (1382-1399) and Faraj (1399-1412).
The paper also relies on the writings of Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (1372-1449), his disciple al-Ṣayrafī (1416-1495), ʿAbd al-Rahman al-Sakhāwī (1427-1497) and Muhammad Ibn Iyās (1448-1524).
The al-Tablawi family exemplifies a bureaucratic dynasty – a common phenomenon in the burji period, which has received some researchers’ attention (see, for instance, Bernadette Martel-Thoumian Les civils et l'administration dans l'état militaire mamlūk (IXe/XVe siècle)). The distinguishing characteristic of this family that initially did not belong to the privileged classes of the Egyptian society was that its members occupied both military and civil positions in the government; a circumstance which, in our opinion, reflects the gradual changes within the Mamluk military administrative structure and a move towards the new patterns of recruitment to the political and bureaucratic elite.