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Illustration of a horse's "good points", 13th century manuscript of the Kit?b al-bay?ara by A?mad ibn ?At?q al-Azd?.
Late Mamluk / early Ottoman Egyptian horse armour (Egypt, c. 1550; Musée de l'Armée).

Fur?siyya (‎; also transliterated as fur?s?yah) is the historical Arabic term for equestrian martial exercise.[1]Fur?siyya as a science is especially concerned with the martial arts and equestrianism of the Golden Age of Islam and the Mamluk period (roughly 10th to 15th centuries), reaching its peak in Mamluk Egypt during the 14th century.

Its main branches concerned horsemanship (including aspects of both hippology and equestrianism), horse archery and use of the lance, with the addition of swordsmanship as fourth branch in the 14th century.

The term is a derivation of faras () "horse", and in Modern Standard Arabic means "equestrianism" in general. The term for "horseman" or "cavalier" ("knight") is f?ris,[2] which is also the origin of the Spanish rank of alférez.[3] It is also a possible origin of the still common Spanish surname Álvarez. The Perso-Arabic term for "Fur?siyya literature" is faras-n?ma or asb-n?ma.[4]Faras-n?ma is also described as a small encyclopedia about horses.[5]


Late Mamluk-era manuscript on training with the lance (The David Collection Inv. nr. 19/2001, c. 1500).
Illustration from a late Ottoman copy of Tuhfat ül-farisin fi ahval-i huyul il-mucahidin, a Turkish version of a furusiyya treatise, by Ahmed 'Ata Tayyarzade (written 1854-55).

Furusiyya literature, the Arabic literary tradition of veterinary medicine (hippiatry) and horsemanship, much like in the case of human medicine, was adopted wholesale from Byzantine Greek sources in the 9th to 10th centuries. In the case of furusiyya, the immediate source is the Byzantine compilation on veterinary medicine known as Hippiatrica (5th or 6th century); the very word for "horse doctor" in Arabic, bay?ar, is a loan of Greek hippiatros.[6]

The first known such treatise in Arabic is due to Ibn Akh? ?iz?m ( ?‎), an Abbasid-era commander and stable master to caliph Al-Mu?tadid (r. 892–902), author of Kit?b al-Fur?siyya wa 'l-Bay?ara ("Book of Horsemanship and Hippiatry").[2]Ibn al-Nadim in the late 10th century records the availability in Baghdad of several treatises on horses and veterinary medicine attributed to Greek authors.[7]

The discipline reaches its peak in Mamluk Egypt during the 14th century. In a narrow sense of the term, fur?siyya literature comprises works by professional military writers with a Mamluk background or close ties to the Mamluk establishment. These treatises often quote pre-Mamluk works on military strategy. Some of the works were versified for didactic purposes. The best known versified treatise is the one by Taybugha al-Baklamishi al-Yunani ("the Greek"), who in c. 1368 wrote the poem al-tullab fi ma'rifat ramy al-nushshab.[8] By this time, the discipline of furusiyya becomes increasingly detached from its origins in Byzantine veterinary medicine and more focussed on military arts.

The three basic categories of fur?siyya are horsemanship (including veterinary aspects of proper care for the horse, the proper riding techniques), archery, and charging with the lance. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya adds swordsmanship as a fourth discipline in his treatise Al-Fur?siyya ( 1350).[9] Ibn Akhi Hizam also cited that there are three fundamentals to the fur?siyya: horse mastery, proficiency in handling all types of weapons, and bravery.[2]

Persian faras-n?ma which can be dated with confidence are extant only from about the mid-14th century, but the tradition survives longer in Persia, throughout the Safavid era. One treatise by ?Abd-All?h ?af?, known as the Bahman? faras-n?ma (written in 1407/8) is said to preserve a chapter from an otherwise lost 12th-century (Ghaznavid-era) text.[4] There is a candidate for another treatise of this age, extant in a single manuscript: the treatise attributed to one Mo?ammad b. Mo?ammad b. Zang?, also known as Qayyem Neh?vand?, has been tentatively dated as originating in the 12th century.[4] Some of the Persian treatises are translations from the Arabic. One short work, attributed to Aristotle, is a Persian translation from the Arabic.[10] There are supposedly also treatises translated into Persian from Hindustani or Sanskrit. These include the Faras-n?ma-ye hem? by Zayn-al-bed?n ?osayn? Ha?em? (written 1520), and the To?fat al-?adr by ?adr-al-D?n Mo?ammad Khan b. Zebardast Khan (written 1722/3).[4] Texts thought to have been originally written in Persian include the Asb-n?ma by Mo?ammad b. Mo?ammad W?se (written 1365/6; Tehran, Ket?b-na-ye Malek MS no. 5754). A partial listing of known Persian faras-n?ma literature was published by Gordfar?marz? (1987).[11]

List of Furusiyyah treatises

The following is a list of known Furusiyyah treatises (after al-Sarraf 2004, al-Nash?r? 2007).[12]

Some of the early treatises (9th to 10th centuries) are not extant and only known from references by later authors: Al-Asma'i, Kit?b al-khayl ( "horse"), Ibn Abi al-Dunya (d. 894 / AH 281) Al-sabq wa al-ram?, Al-?abar?n? (d. 971 / AH 360) Fa?l al-ram?, Al-Qarr?b (d. 1038 / AH 429), Fa'il al-ram?.

Author Date Title Manuscripts / Editions
Ibn Akh? Hiz?m (Mu?ammad ibn Ya?q?b ibn Gh?lib ibn ?Al? al-Khuttal?) fl. c. 900[2] "Kit?b al-Fur?siyya wa-al-Bay?arah" (or "Kit?b al-Fur?siyya wa-Shiy?t al-Khayl") Istanbul, Bayezit State Library, Veliyüddin Efendi MS 3174; British Library MS Add. 23416 (14th century);[13] Istanbul, Fatih Mosque Library MS 3513 (added title "Al-Kam?l f? al-Fur?siyya...");

ed. Heide (2008).[14]

Al-Tarsusi (Mar ibn ?Al? al-?ars?s?) died 1193 / AH 589 "Tab?irat arb?b al-alb?b f? kayf?yat al-naj?t f? al-?ur?b min al-anw?' wa-nashr a?l?m al-a?l?m f? al-?udad wa-al-?l?t al-munah ?alá liq?' al-a?d?'" Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Huntington 264
Ab? A?mad (Ab? Mu?ammad A?mad ibn 'At?q al-Azd?) 1223 / AH 620 "Kit?b al-fur?siyya wa-l-bay?arah" (an abbreviated version of Ibn Akh? ?iz?m's treatise) British Library Or 1523[15]
Al-Zahir? (Badr al-D?n Bakt?t al-Ramm al-Kh?zind?r? al-Zahir?) 13th century "Kit?b f? ?Ilm al-Fur?siyya wa-La?b al-Rum? wa-al-Birj?s wa-?Il?j al-Khayl" (or "?Ilm al-Fur?siyya wa-Siy?sat al-Khayl", "Al-Fur?siyya bi-rasm al-Jih?d wa-m? a?adda All?h li 'l-Muj?hid?n min al-?Ib?d") Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2830 (fols. 2v.-72r.);

ed. al-Mihraj?n al-Wa?an? lil-Tur?th wa-al-Thaq?fah, Riyadh (1986); ed. Mu?ammad ibn L?j?n Ramm, Silsilat Kutub al-tur?th 6, Damascus, D?r Kin?n (1995).

Al-A?dab (Najm al-D?n ?asan al-Ramm) died 1295 / AH 695 "Al-Fur?siyya wa-al-manib al-?arbiyya" (The book of military horsemanship and ingenious war devices) ed. d ?ayf ?Abb?d?, Silsilat Kutub al-tur?th, Baghdad (1984).
Al-?amw? (Mu?ammad ibn Ibr?h?m Ibn Jamah al-?amw?) died 1332 / AH 733 "Mustanad al-ajn?d f? ?l?t al-jih?d"
Ibn al-Mundhir (Ab? Bakr al-Bay?ar ibn Badr al-D?n al-N?sir?) died 1340/1 "K?shif al-Wayl f? Ma?rifat Amr al-Khayl" (or "K?mil al-?inatayn f? al-Bay?arah wa-al-Zardaqah") Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2813
Al-Aqsar?'? (Mu?ammad ibn ?Isá ibn Isml al-Hanaf? al-Aqsar?'?) died 1348 "Nih?yat al-S?l wa-al-Umniyya f? Ta?l?m A?m?l al-Fur?siyya" British Library MS Add. 18866 (dated 1371 / AH 773);[16] Chester Beatty Library MS Ar 5655 (dated 1366 / AH 788).
Al-Nir? (Mu?ammad Ibn Mangl? al-Nir?) died after 1376 "Al-Adillah al-Rasmiyya f? al-Tab? al-Harbiyya" Istanbul, Ayasofya Library MS 2857
Al-Nir? (Mu?ammad Ibn Mangl? al-Nir?) died after 1376 "Al-Tadb?r?t al-Sulniyya f? Siy?sat al-Sinah al-Harbiyya" British Library MS Or. 3734
Al-Nir? (Mu?ammad Ibn Mangl? al-Nir?) died after 1376 "Uns al-Mal? bi-Wa?sh al-Fal?" Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2832/1
Ajuq (Al?anbugh? al-Hus?m? al-Nir?) 1419 / AH 822 "Nuzhat al-Nuf?s f? La?b al-Dabb?s" D?r al-Kutub al-Mi?riyya MS 21 fur?siyya Taym?r[17]
Sulaym?nah (Y?suf ibn A?mad) written before 1427 / AH 830 "Faraj al-Makr?b f? a?k?m al-?ur?b wa mun?tih? wa-mudaratiha wa-lawazimiha wa-ma yasu'u bi-amrih?"
Muhammad ibn Ya?q?b ibn a ?oz?m 1470 / 1471 "Kit?b al-makhz?n j?mi? al-fun?n" Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar 2824[18]
"Al-?Ad?m al-Mithl al-Raf al-Qadr" Istanbul, Topkap? Saray? Library MS Revan 1933
pseudo-Al-A?dab; A?mad ibn Mu?ammad Ab? al-Mal? al-K?f? 17th century "Kit?b al-Fur?siyya" (added title) Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2829[19]
Al-Asad? (Ab? al-R ?Isá ibn Hass?n al-Asad? al-Baghd?d?) "Al-Jamharah f? ?Ul?m al-Bayzarah" British Library MS Add. 23417; Madrid, Escorial Library MS Ar. 903
?Umar ibn Rasl?n al-Bulq?n? "Qa?r al-Sayl f? Amr al-Khayl" Istanbul, Süleymaniye Library MS ?ehid Al? Pasha 1549
Sharaf al-D?n ?Abd al-Mu'min ibn Khalaf al-Dimy "Fa?l al-Khayl" Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2816
Ab? Mu?ammad Jam?l al-D?n ?Abd All?h Ibn Maym?n "Kit?b al-If?dah wa-al-Tabr li-Kull R?min Mubtadi' aw M?hir Na?r?r bi-al-Sahm al-Taw?l wa-al-Qar" Istanbul, Köprülü Mehmet Pasha Library MS 1213
?Al?'al-D?n ?Al? ibn Ab? al-Q?sim al-Naq?b al-Akhm?m? "Hall al-Ishk?l f? al-Ramy bi-al-Nib?l" Bibliothèque Nationale MS 6259
?Al?'al-D?n ?Al? ibn Ab? al-Q?sim al-Naq?b al-Akhm?m? "Naq?wat al-Muntaqá f? N?fit al-Liq?" British Library MS Add. 7513/2
Rukn al-D?n Jamsh?d al-Khw?razm? untitled British Library MS Or. 3631/3
"Kit?b f? La?b al-Dabb?s wa-al-Sir ?alá al-Khayl" Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar. 6604/2
"Kit?b al-Hiyal f? al-Hur?b wa-Fat? al-Mad?'in wa-Hifz al-Dur?b" British Library MS Add. 14055
"Kit?b al-Makhz?n J?mi? al-Fun?n" / "Kit?b al-Makhz?n li-Arb?b al-Fun?n" Bibliothèque Nationale MS 2824 and MS 2826
Hus?m al-D?n L?j?n ibn ?Abd All?h al-Dhahab? al-Hus?m? al-Tar?bul al-Ramm "Kit?b ?Umdat al-Muj?hid?n f? Tart?b al-May?d?n" Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar. 6604/1
"Al-Maq?mah al-Saliyya f? al-Khayl wa-al-Bay?arah wa-al-Fur?siyya" D?r al-Kutub al-Mi?riyya MS 81 fur?siyya Taym?r
Shams al-D?n Mu?ammad ibn ?Abd al-Ra?m?n al-Sakh?w? "Al-Qawl al-T?mm f? (Fa?l) al-Ramy bi-al-Sih?m" D?r al-Kutub al-Mi?riyya MS 2m fun?n ?arbiyya
"Shar? al-Maq?mah al-Saliyya f? al-Khayl" Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar. 2817
al-Hasan ibn Mu?ammad ibn ?Ays?n al-Hanaf? al-Sinj?r? "Hid?yat al-R?m? ilá al-Aghr wa-al-Mar?m?" Istanbul, Topkap? Saray? Library MS Ahmet III 2305
Nir al-D?n Mu?ammad ibn ?Al? al-Q?z?n? al-Sughayyir "Al-Mukhta?ar al-Mu?arrar" Istanbul, Topkap? Saray? Library MS Ahmet III 2620
Nir al-D?n Mu?ammad ibn ?Al? al-Q?z?n? al-Sughayyir "Al-Hid?yah f? ?Ilm al-Rim?yah" Bodleian Library MS Huntington 548
Nir al-D?n Mu?ammad ibn ?Al? al-Q?z?n? al-Sughayyir "Shar? al-Qadah al-L?miyya lil-Ust?dh S?li? al-Shagh?r?" Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar 6604/3
Jal?l al-D?n ?Abd al-Ra?m?n ibn Ab? Bakr al-Suy "Ghars al-Ansh?b f? al-Ramy bi-al-Nushsh?b" British Library MS Or. 12830
Ab? Mu?ammad ?Abd al-Ra?m?n A?mad al-Tabar? untitled fragment British Library MS Or. 9265/1
Ab? Mu?ammad ?Abd al-Ra?m?n A?mad al-Tabar? "Kit?b al-Wi? (f? ?Ilm al-Ramy)" British Library MS Or. 9454
Taybugh? al-Ashraf? al-Baklam?sh? al-Yun?n? "Kit?b al-Ramy wa-al-Ruk?b" (added title) Bibliothèque Nationale MS 6160
Husayn ibn ?Abd al-Ra?m?n al-Y?n?n? "Al-Nih?yah f? ?Ilm al-Rim?yah" Istanbul, Ayasofya Library MS 2952
Ab? al-Na?r al-Q?sim ibn ?Al? ibn Husayn al-H?shim? al-Zaynab? "Al-Qaw?n?n al-Sulniyya f? al-Sayd" Istanbul, Fatih Mosque Library MS 3508


Faris, by January Suchodolski (1836).

The term fur?siyya, much like its parallel chivalry in the West, also appears to have developed a wider meaning of "martial ethos". Arabic furusiyya and European chivalry has both influenced each other as a means of a warrior code for the knights of both cultures.[20][page needed][21]

The term f?ris (?) for "horseman" consequently adopted qualities comparable to the Western knight or chevalier ("cavalier"). This could include free men (such as Usama ibn Munqidh), or unfree professional warriors, like ghulams and mamluks). The Mamluk-era soldier was trained in the use of various weapons such as the sword, spear, lance, javelin, club, bow and arrows and tabarzin or axe (hence Mamluk bodyguards known as tabardariyya), as well as wrestling.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Behrens-Abouseif, Doris (2014). Practising Diplomacy in the Mamluk Sultanate: Gifts and Material Culture in the Medieval Islamic World. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 177. ISBN 9781780768779.
  2. ^ a b c d Daniel Coetzee, Lee W. Eysturlid, Philosophers of War: The Evolution of History's Greatest Military Thinkers (2013), p. 59, 60, 63. "Ibn Akh? Hiz?m" ("the son of the brother of Hizam", viz. a nephew of Hizam Ibn Ghalib, Abbasid commander in Khurasan, fl. 840).
  3. ^ Simon Barton, The Aristocracy in Twelfth-century León and Castile, Cambridge (1997), 142-44.
  4. ^ a b c d ?raj Afr, Encyclopedia Iranica s.v. "FARAS-N?MA" (1999).
  5. ^ Gommans, J. J. L. (2002-08-15). Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and Highroads to Empire 1500-1700. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-55275-7.
  6. ^ Anne McCabe, A Byzantine Encyclopaedia of Horse Medicine: The Sources, Compilation, and Transmission of the Hippiatrica (2007), p. 184, citing: A. I. Sabra, "The Appropriation and Subsequent Naturalization of Greek Science in Medieval Islam: A Preliminary Statement", History of Science 25 (1987), 223–243,; M. Plessner in: Encyclopedia of Islam s.v. "bay?ar" (1960);
  7. ^ B. Dodge (tr.), The Fihrist of Al-Nadim (1970), 738f. (cited after McCabe (2007:184).
  8. ^ ed. and trans. Latham and Paterson, London 1970
  9. ^ "Arab epic heroes and horses". Halle an der Saale: 29. Deutscher Orientalistentag. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Furusiyya covers four disciplines: the tactics of attack and withdrawal (al-karr wa-l-farr); archery; jousts with spears; duels with swords. [...] Only the Muslim conquerors and the knights of the faith have fully mastered these four arts.
  10. ^ ed. ?asan T?jba, T?r-e d?mpeze?k? wa peze?k?-e ?r?n I, Tehran (1993), 414–428.
  11. ^ . Soln? Gordfar?marz?, ed., Do faras-n?ma-ye manr wa manm, Tehran (1987).
  12. ^ Ibn Qayyim al-Jawz?yah, Mu?ammad ibn Ab? Bakr (2007), al-Nash?r?, Z?'id ibn A?mad (ed.), Al-fur?siyya al-Mu?ammad?yah, D?r lam al-Faw?'id lil-Nashr wa-al-Tawz, pp. 7-9
  13. ^ Qatar Digital Library: Add MS 23416
  14. ^ Martin Heide (trans.), Das Buch der Hippiatrie, Kit?b al-Bay?ara, Veröffentlichungen der Orientalischen Kommission 51.1-2, Harrassowitz (2008).
  15. ^ Qatar Digital Library: Or 1523
  16. ^ A Mamluk Manuscri(bl.uk), Qatar Digital Library
  17. ^ Maml?k Studies Review 8 (2004), 176.
  18. ^ Bibliothèque Nationale MS Ar 2824
  19. ^ M. Reinaud, "De l'art militaire chez les Arabes au Moyen-Age ", Journal asiatique, septembre 1848, p. 193-237
  20. ^ Hermes, Nizar (December 4, 2007). "King Arthur in the Lands of the Saracen" (PDF). Nebula.
  21. ^ Burton, Richard Francis (1884). Read, Charles Anderson; O'Connor, Thomas Power (eds.). The cabinet of Irish literature: selections from the works of the chief poets, orators, and prose writers of Ireland, with biographical sketches and literary notices, Vol. IV. London; New York: Blackie & Son; Samuel L. Hall. p. 94. Were it not evident that the spiritualising of sexuality by imagination is universal among the highest orders of mankind, I should attribute the origin of love to the influence of the Arabs' poetry and chivalry upon European ideas rather than to medieval Christianity.
  22. ^ Nicolle, David (1994). Saracen Faris AD 1050-1250 (Warrior). Osprey Publishing. pp. 8-9. ISBN 978-1-85532-453-4.


  • Ayalon, David (1961). Notes on the Furusiyya Exercises and Games in the Mamluk Sultanate, Scripta Hierosolymitana, 9
  • Bashir, Mohamed (2008). The arts of the Muslim knight; the Furusiyya Art Foundation collection. Skira. ISBN 978-88-7624-877-1
  • Haarmann, Ulrich (1998), "The late triumph of the Persian bow: critical voices on the Mamluk monopoly on weaponry", The Mamluks in Egyptian politics and society, Cambridge University Press, pp. 174-187, ISBN 978-0-521-59115-7
  • Nicolle, David (1999). Arms & Armour of the Crusading Era 1050-1350, Islam, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1-85367-369-6
  • al-Sarraf, Shibab (2004), "Mamluk Fur?s?yah Literature and Its Antecedents" (PDF), Maml?k Studies Review, 8 (1): 141-201, ISSN 1086-170X
  • Housni Alkhateeb Shehada, Mamluks and Animals: Veterinary Medicine in Medieval Islam (2012).
  • Waterson, James (2007). The Knights of Islam: The Wars of the Mamluks. Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1-85367-734-2

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