|Faction Overview||Saracens in Rise of Chivalry||Saracens in Renovatio Europam|
Faction Type: Muslim
Suggestions and Spoilers
- Strengths: Excellent cultural bonuses with enhanced food production; enhanced raiding abilities, enhanced naval production bonuses, simple tech tree for units.
- Weaknesses: UUs have little or no armour, poor Imperial game.
At first glance, most people are willing to dismiss the Saracens as being extremely weak, with fairly crappy armour and a limited tech tree. After all, nothing can beat an arbalest-and-pike formation of the late game, right?
Although in possession of fairly weak units that normally do not perform well against others, especially with regards to infantry, the Saracens however possess several advantages that make up for this weakness. First is its base military abilities. A glance at Saracen cultural bonuses indicates one thing: its infantry are perfect gatecrashers, capable of destroying buildings with sufficient military research. Despite the heavy infantry jundi line having poor armour and hitpoints compared to normal pikemen, these units have greater operational range, given their near-superhuman speed and their awesome attack power. The same also goes for the camel jundi line, of which the Saracens have three. Best of all, the mamluk units of the Saracens also do not require the Imperial Era, but need Darul Islam to be researched.
If that was not enough, the Saracens also have several other cards up their sleeve: religion. As Muslims, the Saracens enjoy 2 different perks: the first one is a technology based in the House of Worship, stylised Five Pillars which serves to speed up knowledge creation. This in turn is required to research Darul Islam from the Nobles' Court itself, which generates more knowledge, and also grants access to a special unit, the fedayeen. This implies several possibilities for the Saracens, being that gameplay will revolve around strengthening your defences and penetrating your opponents' own. Fedayeen are highly dangerous agent units — not only can they turn your opponents' troops if left unchecked, but are also powerful fighters if amassed together with other sturdier units. Your opponents' woes don't just stop on the land, but are also worsened on the seas because of the Saracens' ability to amass ships: against a faction such as the HRE or France, the Saracens can amass four ships out of the resources required by either one of the former two to produce three. Religion is also a vital component: the Muslim militia, consisting of ahdath and ghazis, do not require age or military upgrades, but rather require religion to be upgraded, as with all other chivalric order units.
So while sea battles should be a breeze with your command of superior fishing and cheaper ships, it is at land where your abilities will be tested to the utmost. The Saracen war machine is one that requires unconventional approaches and a strong economy to survive a fight with more heavily armed factions, such as the Holy Roman Empire or the Japanese. Camel archery serves well in early raiding, being capable of knocking down enemy civilian units with just one shot. Use these units to hurt your opponent's economy while building up your own - do not overlook the Saracen's propensity for food production. Aside from its camel line and its weak but highly specialised heavy infantry, the Saracens also share Muslim militia, namely the ahdath and the ghuzat with Andalus and Sicily, meaning that a militia rush is also feasible with proper research.
- Faction based on raiding and economic production.
- Prince of the Seas: Do not neglect your navy or the sea. Use your superior marine bonuses (cheaper vessels and more efficient fishing) to gain control of resources and to secure a stranglehold over coastal areas.
- Gate Crashing: The Saracen heavy infantry are weak in armour and hitpoints, but make up for it over several areas - military research will enhance their building-razing abilities. Use these units in tandem with your camelry to raid unprotected towns, stump your opponent and gain resources.
- Scare tactics: one of the most vicious units is the Fedayeen agent unit. Although weak, they are fast on foot and can bribe enemy units. Use them to neutralise key targets such as European chivalric orders, or to massacre lone units but be wary of enemy scout units. Note, however, that all non-Christian factions have special agents in the Castle Age.
- Finding Religion — Like all non-Christian factions, the Saracens cannot train advanced barracks and stable units, and must rely on religion to save the day. Research the Muslim unique technologies from your house of worship and (later on) your Nobles' Court to unlock your army by the Castle Age.
Settlements: Baghdad; Makkah; Cairo; Jeddah; Madina; Ammam; Hadramaut; Aswan; Tarabalus; Sidon; Beirut; Kirkuk; Basra; Najaf; Tal Afar; Karbala; Iskandariyyah; Mosul; Nasiriyah; Muqdadiyah; Baqubah; Damascus; Fallujah; Al Qa'im; Ramadi; Ar Rutba; Hamath; Samawah; Al Diwaniya; Afak; Sulaymaniyah; Dendera; Umm Qasr; Balad; Samarra; Tikrit; Kut; Siwa; Aden; Muscat; Yamamah
Leaders: Abu Bakar, Noordin, Kamil, Muawiyah, Saladin, Harun al-Rashid, Hakeem, Mamoun, Baibars, Walid
Best age(s): Castle
The First Islamic Empires
After the death of the Prophet in 632, the first Islamic nation, centred around Mecca and Medina, faced potential extinction at the hands of the Christian Byzantines and the Zoroastrian Persian Empire. The first Caliph, Abu Bakar as-Sidiq "the Rightful", a personal friend of the Prophet, chose instead to invade both empires as pre-emptive measures once negotiations with all sides broke down. Syria and Iran fell to the invaders. Successive caliphs would then extend the sway of Islam further to Roman Palestine and Africa, creating the largest land empire unseen for centuries.
Unfortunately, despite these great feats, the Islamic empire faced great political instability. There were uprisings in southern Arabia, and differences in doctrine and political interests. Although Abu Bakar was lucky to end his reign dying peacefully, his other successors were not so lucky — all of them died at the hands of assasins. The death of the caliph Uthman ibn Affan in 656 resulted in the Battle of Karbala, an earthquake which split the ummah and whose tremors are still felt to this day. One side opined that the post of caliph was to be held only by those who were descendants of the Prophet, and backed Ali ibn Ali Talib as caliph, while another party supported the Prophet's former secretary, Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan. Outmatched and outnumbered, Ali was killed at Karbala, and Muawiyah eventually became Muawiyah I, the first ruler of the Umayyad dynasty.
Muslims in Spain...
While not considered greatly pious, the Umayyad dynasty was known to be fascinated with building projects...and building empires. Architectural wonders often followed in the wake of conquests by the Umayyads. In 711, a Muslim army under Jabal Tariq ibn Ziyad (whose name Gibraltar was derived from) crossed into Spain, and killed the king of the Visigoths, who until that time had been ruling Iberia since the day they first arrived there. Ibn Ziyad would return to Morocco eventually, but in the next year Musa ibn Nusair, invaded with a force of 20,000 men. They quickly swept through Spain, aided by the vast Roman road system, and were able to defeat the Visigoth defenders relatively easily due to the political disarray of the nobility. Muslim forces spread northward throughout the Iberian Peninsula and eventually crossed the Pyrenees into the domain of the Franks (in modern day France) to be turned back at Poitiers in 732 by Charles Martel.
...and in Italy
Further expansion occurred in 827 when an Arab armada landed at Mazara; Sicily, on 17 June, and began a rolling campaign culminating in the middle of the 10th century. The Aghlabid sultanate in Ifriqiyya, unable to tolerate Byzantine control of the seaways, and learning that Sicily was torn with internal strife, decided the moment was propitious for a full-scale attack. Unlike Spain, which fell like ripe fruit, the conquest of Sicily, after Mazara fell, took 75 years but immigration and settlement on the land began almost immediately. The Aghlabids were succeeded by the Fatimids, who in turn gave way to the Kalbids. The unique achievements of the period were not political, however, and are hardly mentioned in many works of historians. Under the Muslims, Sicily once more became a granary to the world, as it had been under the Romans, but the Arabs introduced many new exotic crops, such as oranges, and new irrigation techniques to grow them. These innovations, along with breaking up of the large estates and the redistribution of land, meant an end to the long years of economic and social depression of the Dark Ages, and would last even after Sicily was back in Christian hands.
The "Golden Age"
A "Golden Age" of Islam did exist, but this was only because of a variety of factors. Firstly, Muslims controlled important trade routes from Asia and Africa into Europe. Baghdad controlled the last Asian stop of the Silk Road, while Andalus on the other end of the great Arabophone empire dominated trade between Africa and Spain. Although it was true that such trade routes existed since time immemorial, it was only when some semblance of organised government, facilitated by the spread of Islam, existed, ensuring the security and predictability of civilised living that could make the great intellectual and architectural feats of the Arabs to take place before being exported into Europe and elsewhere.
The Abbasids: Twilight in the Desert
Despite this Golden Age, the Islamic Middle East remained a politically instable place. While European princes were absorbing rival tribes or factions and centralising power, the age-old institution of the qabila or tribe remained much ingrained in the politics of the Middle East. Thus, insurrections eventually doomed the Umayyad empire (although Umayyad rule of Spain would continue until the close of the 12th century), and soon a new leader, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, a relative of the Prophet, was appointed as caliph. Abbas' rule now covered the eastern half of the original Umayyad empire but his realm was to soon fall apart. Racked with internal unrest, racial tensions between Arab Muslims, non-Arab Muslims and non-Muslims, this empire broke apart into several ruling houses within the space of a few generations: the Idrisids and Aghlabids arose in Africa, while the Tulunids took Egypt; and the Buyids; Uqaylids; Samanids and Hamdanids took over and fought each other in Iran.
Meanwhile, ominous events were taking place in Asia. Ever since Muslim colonists began making inroads into the heart of the continent, they began to assimilate the fierce horse-riding tribes who haunted the steppes, eventually converting many of them to Islam and recruiting them as mercenaries and then civil servants, much as in the same way the Romans towards the end of their empire tried to employ the Goths in the same fashion. Called by the Arabs "mamluks" or "slaves", this caste of new converts to the Islamic faith were slave to their Arab masters only in name and would eventually eclipse them in power and prestige.
Decline and Fall
Despite the usurpation of power by the newly proselytised Turks, and the depredations of the Crusaders and the Mongols, the Caliphate managed to hold out over the centuries, even if it was more ceremonial in role and purpose. Yet, for all purposes, the Caliphate's days were numbered: by the 1300s, the descendents of these Turkic colonists of the Middle East were carving out for themselves small petty kingdoms throughout the Middle East and Turkey. There then emerged in the sultanate of Rum, in central Turkey, a ruling family known as the Osmanoglu, transliterated in Western circles as the Ottomans. Under their scion Osman I Etogrul, they would unite the other petty rulers of the sultanate under their rule. By 1453, this state had captured Byzantium, ending almost a thousand years of Christian rule in Asia Minor. By 1517, Ottoman forces had reached Egypt. There, the last descendant of Abbas, Mutawakkil III, was deported to Constantinople (now renamed Istanbul) where he surrendered the title of caliph to the Sultan of the Ottoman Turks.
- Wells HG et al; A short history of the world (1967 rev ed); Penguin Books
- Nicolle D & McBride A; The Moors: The Islamic West 7th–15th Centuries AD; (2001), Osprey Publishing
- Nicolle D & McBride A; The Armies of Islam: 7th–11th Centuries; (2008), Osprey Publishing
- Saudi Aramco World magazine; Muslim Sicily
- Sardar D & Malik Z A; Understanding Islam; Icon Books