Treatise on Military Art


Kitāb al-makhzūn jāmiʻ al-funūn (The treasure that combines all arts) is a treatise on military arts, covering such topics as training, cavalry, infantry, archery, and crossbow. The treatise has been attributed to Ibn Akhi Hizam (died around 864), one of the early Arab veterinarians who lived during the Abbasid era, and also to Miqdad ibn Aswad, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad known for his prowess in combat during the Battle of Badr (624). It appears, however, that the work was likely written in Mamluk Egypt by an unknown author around the 14th century. Contextual and vocabulary evidence suggest that it is unlikely the treatise was written in an earlier Islamic era. The tract also resembles in its subject matter and terminology works by members of the al-Tarabulsi al-Rammah, a known family of lancers who wrote on the subject of combat for more than two centuries during the Mamluk era, especially in the 14th century. The treatise begins with a brief introduction to the knowledge required to be a horseman. This is followed by colored drawings of military formations, flags, weapons, and combat styles. Each drawing illustrates two lines of poetry, one in red ink on the top, and the other in black at the bottom. This layout continues until the end of the book, although the text later changes from poetry to prose. A large number of well-drawn illustrations are inserted within the text. As with other Arabic works on the same topic, this treatise includes much technical terminology and terms used in command. The manuscript presented here was written in 875 Hegira (1470‒71) for a prominent person on the court of the Mamluk sultans, whose name was carefully erased from the ornate frontispiece. The title al-maqarr al-ʻālī al-mawlawī al-amīrī almālikī al-makhdumī (His highness my lord the prince who deserves to be served) is still legible. This title is known to have been used by some Mamluk regional governors, such as Sawdun al-Muzaffari, the governor of Aleppo under Sultan Barquq (1340–99). Several folios are missing between those currently numbered 1 and 2.

Last updated: February 28, 2017