HISTORY OF EGYPT
From 330 B.C. to the Present Time
By S. RAPPOPORT, Doctor of Philosophy, Basel; Member of the Ecole Langues Orientales, Paris; Russian, German, French Orientalist and Philologist
Containing over Twelve Hundred Colored Plates and Illustrations
THE GROLIER SOCIETY
COLLECTION OF VASES, MODELLED AND PAINTED IN THE GRAND TEMPLE PHILAE ISLAND.
EGYPT DURING THE CRUSADES—RISE OF THE OTTOMAN POWER—NAPOLEON IN EGYPT—THE RULE OP THE KHEDIVES—DISCOVERING THE SOURCE OF THE NILE—ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH AND DISCOVERY.
Spread of Muhammedanism—Spirit of the Crusades—The Fati-mite Caliphs—Saladin's brilliant reign—Capture of Damietta—Conquests of Beybars—Mamluks in power—Wars with Cyprus—Turkish misrule—Napoleon invades Egypt—Battle of the Pyramids—Policy of conciliation—Nelson destroys the French fleet—Napoleon in Syria—Battle at Mount Carmel—Napoleon returns to France—Negotiations for surrender—Kleber assassinated—French army surrenders—Rise of Mehemet Ali-Massacre of the Mamluks—Egyptian army reorganized—Ibrahim Pasha in Greece—Battle of Navarino-Revolt against Turkey-Character of Mehemet Ali—Reforms under his Rule—Ismail Pasha made Khedive—Financial difficulties of Egypt—England and France assume control—Tewfik Pasha becomes Khedive—Revolt of Arabi Pasha—The Mahdist insurrection—Death of General Gordon—Kitchener's campaign against the Dervishes—Prosperity of Egypt under English control—Abbas Pasha becomes Khedive—Education, courts, and government of modern Egypt—The Nile; its valley, branches, and delta—Ancient irrigation systems—The Suez Canal, its inception and completion—The great dam at Aswan—Ancient search for the sources of the Nile—Modern discoveries in Central Africa—The Hieroglyphs—Origin of the alphabet—Egyptian literature—Mariettas discoveries—The German Egyptologists—Jeremiah verified—Maspero, Naville, and Petrie—Palaeolithic man—Egyptian record of Israel—Egypt Exploration Fund—The royal tombs at Abydos—Chronology of the early kings—Steles, pottery, and jewelry-The temples of Abydos—Seals, statuettes, and ceramics.
CHAPTER I—THE CRUSADERS IN EGYPT
The Ideal of the Crusader: Saladin's Campaign: Richard I. in Palestine: Siege of Damietta: St. Louis in Egypt: The Mamluks: Beybars' Policy.
The traditional history of the Christian Church has generally maintained that the Crusades were due solely to religious influence and sprang from ideal and moral motives: those hundreds of thousands of warriors who went out to the East were religious enthusiasts, prompted by the pious longings of their hearts, and Peter the Hermit, it was claimed, had received a divine message to call Christendom to arms, to preach a Crusade against the unbelievers and take possession of the Holy Sepulchre. That such ideal reasons should be attributed to a war like the Crusades, of a wide and far-reaching influence on the political and intellectual development of mediaeval Europe, is not at all surprising. In the history of humanity there have been few wars in which the combatants on both sides were not convinced that they had drawn their swords for some noble purpose, for the cause of right and justice. That the motives prompting the vast display of arms witnessed during the Crusades, that the wanderings of those crowds to the East during two centuries, and the cruelties committed by the saintly warriors on their way to the Holy Sepulchre, should be attributed exclusively to ideal and religious sources is therefore quite natural. It is not to be denied that there was a religious factor in the Crusades; but that the religious motive was not the sole incentive has now been agreed upon by impartial historians; and in so far as the motives animating the Crusaders were religious motives, we are to look to powerful influences which gradually made themselves felt from without the ecclesiastical organisations. It was by no means a movement which the Church alone had called into being. On the contrary, only when the movement had grown ripe did Gregory VII. hasten to take steps to enable the Church to control it. The idea of a Crusade for the glory of religion had not sprung from the tenets of Christianity; it was given to mediaeval Europe by the Muhammedans.
History can hardly boast of another example of so gigantic a conquest during so short a period as that gained by the first adherents of Islam. Like the fiery wind of the desert, they had broken from their retreats, animated by the promises of the Prophet, and spread the new doctrine far and wide. In 653 the scimitar of the Saracens enclosed an area as large as the Roman Empire under the Caesars. Barely forty years elapsed after the death of the Prophet when the armies of Islam reached the Atlantic. Okba, the wild and gallant leader, rode into the sea on the western shore of Africa, and, whilst the seething waves reached to the saddle of his camel, he exclaimed: "Allah, I call thee as witness that I should have carried the knowledge of Thy name still farther, if these waves threatening to swallow me would not have prevented me from doing so." Not long after this, the flag of the crescent was waving from the Pyrenees to the Chinese mountains. In 711 the Saracens under General Tarik crossed the straits between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and landed on the rock which has since been called after him, "the hill of Tarik," Jebel el-Tarik or Gibraltar. Spain was invaded and captured by the Moslems. For awhile it seemed as if on the other side of the Garonne the crescent would also supplant the cross, and only the victory of Charles Martel in 732 put a stop to the wave of Muhammedan conquest.
Thus in a brief period Muhammedanism spread from the Nile Valley to the Mediterranean. Muhammed's trenchant argument was the sword. He gave a distinct command to his followers to convince the infidels of the Power of truth on the battle-field. "The sword is a surer argument than books," he said. Accordingly the Koran ordered war against unbelievers: "The sword is the key to heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer; whoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven, and at the day of judgment his limbs shall be supplied with the wings of angels and cherubim." Before the battle commenced, the commanders reminded the warriors of the beautiful celestial houris who awaited the heroes slain in battle at the gates of Paradise.
The first efforts having been crowned with success, the Moslems soon became convinced of the fulfilment of the prophecy that Allah had given them the world and wished them to subdue all unbelievers. Under the Caliph Omar, the Arabs had become a religious-political community of warriors, whose mission it was to conquer and plunder all civilised and cultured lands and to unfurl the banner of the crescent. They believed that "Paradise is under the shadow of the sword." In this belief the followers of Muhammed engaged in battle without fear or anxiety, spurred to great deeds, reckless in the face of danger, happy to die and pass to the delights of Paradise. The "holy war" became an armed propaganda pleasing to Allah. It was, however, a form of propaganda quite unknown and amazing to Christendom. In the course of two centuries the crescent had supplanted the cross. Of what avail was the peaceful missionary's preaching if province after province and country after country were taken possession of by the new religion that forced its way by means of fire and sword?
Was it not natural that Christian Europe should conceive the idea of doing for their religion what the Moslems did for Islam! and that, following the example of Moslems in their "holy war," Christians should emulate them in the Crusades?
It must not be forgotten also that the Arabs, almost from the first appearance of Muhammedanism, were under the refining and elevating influences of art and science. While the rest of Europe was in the midnight of the Dark Ages, the Moorish universities of Spain were the beacon of the revival of learning. The Christian teacher was still manipulating the bones of the saints when the Arab physician was practising surgery. The monachal schools and monasteries in Italy, France, and Germany were still grappling with poor scholastic knowledge when Arab scholars were well advanced in the study of Aristotle and Plato. Stimulated by their acquaintance with the works of Ptolemy and Euclid, Galenus and Hippocrates, they extended their researches into the dominions of astronomy, mathematics, and medicine.
The religious orders of the knights, a product of the Crusades, found their antitype in similar organisations of the Moslems, orders that had exactly the same tendencies and regulations. Such an order established for the spread of Islam and the protection of its followers was that of the Raabites or boundary-guards in the Pyrenean peninsula. These knights made a vow to carry, throughout their lives, arms in defence of the faith; they led an austere existence, were not allowed to fly in battle, but were compelled either to conquer or fall. Like the Templars or the Hospital Knights their whole endeavour was to gain universal dominion for their religion. The relation existing between the Moslems and the Christians before the Crusades was much closer than is generally imagined. Moslem soldiers often fought in the ranks of the Christian armies; and it was by no means rare to see a Christian ruler call upon Moslem warriors to assist him against his adversary. Pope Gregory rescued Rome from the hands of his imperial opponent, Henry of Germany, only with the aid of the Saracen soldiers.
When, therefore, the influence of Muhammedanism began to assert itself throughout the south of Europe, it was natural that in a crude and stirring age, when strife was the dominant passion of the people, the idea of a holy war in the cause of faith was one in which Christian Europe was ready to take an example from the followers of Islam. The political, economical, and social state of affairs, the misery and suffering of the people, and even the hierarchy and the ascetic spirit of the time certainly made the minds of the people accessible to the idea of war; the spirit of unrest was pervasive and the time was ripe, but the influence of Islam was a prominent factor in giving to it an entirely religious aspect.
But even in the means employed to incite the Christian warriors and the manner in which the Crusades were carried on, there is a great similarity between the Christian and the Muhammedan procedure. The Church, when espousing the cause of the Crusader, did exactly what Muhammed had done when he preached a holy war. The Church addressed itself to the weaknesses and passions of human nature. Fallen in battle, the Moslem, so he was told, would be admitted—be he victor or vanquished—to the joys of Paradise. The same prospect animated the Crusader and made him brave danger and die joyfully in defence of Christianity. "Let them kill the enemy or die. To submit to die for Christ, or to cause one of His enemies to die, is naught but glory," said Saint Bernard. Eloquently, vividly, and in glowing colours were the riches that awaited the warriors in the far East described: immense spoil would be taken from the unbelievers. Preachers did not even shrink from extolling the beauty of the women in the lands to be conquered. This fact recalls Muhammed's promise to his believers that they would meet the ever-beautiful dark-eyed houris in the life after death. To the material, sensual allurements, the Church added spiritual blessings and eternal rewards, guaranteed to those who took the red cross. During the Crusades the Christians did their utmost to copy the cruelties of the Moslems. That contempt for human life, that entire absence of mercy and the sense of pity which is familiar in all countries where Islam has gained sway is characteristic also of the Crusades.
Although the narrative of the Crusades belongs rather to the history of Europe than of any one country, it is so closely intertwined with the history of Egypt at this period that some digression is necessary. About twenty years after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Turks, in 1076, the Holy Sepulchre was visited by a hermit of the name of Peter, a native of Amiens, in the province of Picardy, France. His resentment and sympathy were excited by his own injuries and the oppression of the Christian name; he mingled his tears with those of the Patriarch, and earnestly inquired if no hope of relief from the Greek emperors of the East could be entertained. The Patriarch exposed the vices and weakness of the successors of Constantine. "I will rouse," exclaimed the hermit, "the martial nations of Europe in your cause;" and Europe was obedient to the call of the hermit. The astonished Patriarch dismissed him with epistles of credit and complaint; and no sooner did he land at Bari than Peter hastened to kiss the feet of the Roman pontiff. Pope Urban II. received him as a prophet, applauded his glorious design, promised to support it in a general council, and encouraged him to proclaim the deliverance of the Holy Land. Invigorated by the approbation of the pontiff, this zealous missionary traversed with speed and success the provinces of Italy and France. He preached to innumerable crowds in the churches, the streets, and the highways: the hermit entered with equal confidence the palace and the cottage; and the people of all classes were impetuously moved by his call to repentance and arms.
The first Crusade was headed by Godefroy de Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine; Baldwin, his brother; Hugo the Great, brother of the King of France; Robert, Duke of Normandy, son of William the Conqueror; Raymond of St. Gilles, Duke of Toulouse; and Bohemond, Prince of Tarentum. Towards the end of 1097 A.D. the invading force invested Antioch, and, after a siege of nine months, took it by storm. Edessa was also captured by the Crusaders, and in the middle of the summer of 1098 they reached Jerusalem, then in the hands of the Fatimites.
El-Mustali b'Illah Abu'l Kasim, son of Mustanssir, was then on the throne, but he was only a nominal ruler, for El-Afdhal, a son of El-Gemali, had the chief voice in the affairs of the kingdom. It was the army of Kasim that had captured Jerusalem. The city was besieged by the Crusaders, and it surrendered to them after forty days. Twice did new expeditions arrive from Egypt and attempt to retake the city, but with disastrous results, and further expeditions were impossible for some time, owing to the internal disorders in Egypt. Mustali died after a reign of about four years; and some historians record, as a truly remarkable circumstance, that he was a Sunnite by creed, although he represented a Shiite dynasty.
The next ruler, El-Amir, was the five-year-old son of Mustali, and El-Afdhal conducted the government until he became of age to govern. His first act was to put El-Afdhal to death. Under El-Amir the internal condition of Egypt continued unsatisfactory, and the Crusaders, who had been very successful in capturing the towns of Syria, were only deterred from an advance on Egypt by the death of their leader, Baldwin. In a.h. 524, some of the surviving partisans of El-Afdhal, it is said, put El-Amir to death, and a son of El-Afdhal assumed the direction of affairs, and appointed El-Hafiz, a grandson of Mustanssir as caliph. Afdual's son, whose name was Abu Ali Ahmed, perished in a popular tumult. The new caliph had great trouble with his next three viziers, and at length abolished the office altogether. After reigning twenty years, he was succeeded by his licentious son, Dhafir, whose faults led to his death at the hand of his vizier, El-Abbas.
For the ensuing six years the supreme power in Egypt was mainly the bone of contention between rival viziers, although El-Faiz, a boy of five, was nominally elected caliph on the death of Dhafir. El-Abbas was worsted by his rival, Tatae, and fled to Syria with a large sum of money; but he fell into the hands of the Crusaders, was returned to Tatae, and crucified.
The last of the Fatimite caliphs, El-Adid, in 555 a.h., was raised to the throne by Tatae, but his power was merely the shadow of sovereignty. Tatae's tyranny, however, became so odious that the caliph had him assassinated a year after his accession, but he concealed the fact that he had instigated the murder. The caliph appointed Tatae's son, El-Adil, as vizier in his stead. The governorship of Upper Egypt was at this time in the hands of the celebrated Shawir, whom El-Adil dispossessed, but in a test of battle, El-Adil was defeated and put to death. In his turn, Shawir yielded to the more powerful Ed-Durghan, and fled to Damascus. There he enlisted the aid of the Atabeg Sultan Nur ed-Din, who sent his army against Ed-Durghan, with the result that Shawir was reinstated in power in Egypt. He thereupon threw off his promised allegiance to Nur ed-Din, whose general, Shirkuh (who had led the Damascenes to Egypt), took up a strategic position. Shawir appealed for aid to the Crusaders, and with the help of Amaury, King of Jerusalem, Shawir besieged his friend Shirkuh. Nur ed-Din was successfully attacking the Crusaders elsewhere, and in the end a peace was negotiated, and the Damascenes left Egypt.
Two years later, Nur ed-Din formulated a plan to punish the rebellious Shawir. Persecuted by Shirkuh, Nur ed-Din sent him with his army into Egypt. The Franks now joined with Shawir to defend the country, hoping thereby to baffle the schemes of Nur ed-Din. The Christian army was amazed at all the splendour of the caliph's palace at Cairo. Shawir retreated to entice the invaders on, who, advancing beyond their base, were soon reduced to straits. Shirkuh then tried to come to terms with Shawir against the Christians as a common foe, but without success. He next thought of retreating, without fighting, with all his Egyptian plunder. Persuaded at length to fight, he defeated the Franks and finally came to terms with Shawir, whereby the Franco-Egyptian alliance came to an end, and he then left Egypt on receiving an indemnity, Shawir still remaining its ruler.
The peace, however, did not last long, and Nur ed-Din sent Shirkuh again with many Frankish free-lancers against the ill-fated country. On the approach of the army towards Cairo, the vizier set fire to the ancient city of Fostat, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the invaders, and it burned continually for fifty days. El-Adid now sought aid of Nur ed-Din, who, actuated by zeal against the Franks, and by desire of conquest, once more despatched Shirkuh. In the meantime negotiations had been opened with Amaury to raise the siege of Cairo on payment of an enormous sum of money. But, before these conditions had been fulfilled, the approach of the Syrian army induced Amaury to retreat in haste. Shirkuh and Saladin entered the capital in great state, and were received with honour by the caliph, and with obsequiousness by Shawir, who was contriving a plot which was fortunately discovered, and for which he paid with his life. Shirkuh was then appointed vizier by El-Adid, but, dying very shortly, he was succeeded in that dignity by his nephew Saladin (A.D. 1169).
Saladin inaugurated his reign with a series of brilliant successes. Egypt once again took an important place among the nations, and by the wars of Saladin it became the nucleus of a great empire. Military glory was never the sole aim of Saladin and his successors. They continued to extend to letters and the arts their willing patronage, and the beneficial effects of this were felt upon the civilisation of the country. Though ruler of Egypt, Saladin gained his greatest renown by his campaigns against the Crusaders in Syria. The inability of Nur ed-Din's son, El-Malik es-Salih Ismail, to govern the Syrian dominions became an excuse for Saladin's occupation of Syria as guardian of the young prince, and, once having assumed this function, he remained in fact the master of Syria. He continued to consolidate his power in these parts until the Crusaders, under Philip, Count of Flanders, laid siege to Antioch. Saladin now went out to meet them with the Egyptian army, and fought the fierce battle of Ascalon, which proved to be disastrous to himself, his army being totally defeated and his life endangered. After this, however, he was fortunate enough to gain certain minor advantages, and continued to hold his own until a famine broke out in Palestine which compelled him to come to terms with the Crusaders, and two years later a truce was concluded with the King of Jerusalem, and Saladin returned to Egypt.
In the year 576 a.h., he again entered Syria and made war on Kilidj-Arslan, the Seljukide Sultan of Anatolia, and on Leon, King of Armenia, both of whom he forced to come to terms. Soon after his return, Saladin again left Egypt to prosecute a war with the Crusaders, since it was plain that neither side was desirous of remaining at peace. Through an incident which had just occurred, the wrath of the Crusaders had been kindled. A vessel bearing fifteen hundred pilgrims had been wrecked near Damietta, and its passengers captured. When the King of Jerusalem remonstrated, Saladin replied by complaining of the constant inroads made by Renaud de Chatillon. This restless warrior undertook an expedition against Eyleh, and for this purpose constructed boats at Kerak and conveyed them on camels to the sea. But this flotilla was repulsed, and the siege was raised by a fleet sent thither by El-Adil, the brother of Saladin, and his viceroy. A second expedition against Eyleh was still more unfortunate to the Franks, who were defeated and taken prisoners. On this occasion the captives were slain in the valley of Mina. Saladin then threatened Kerak, encamped at Tiberias, and ravaged the territory of the Franks. He next made a futile attempt to take Beirut. He was more successful in a campaign against Mesopotamia, which he reduced to submission, with the exception of Mosul. While absent here, the Crusaders did little except undertake several forays, and Saladin at length returned towards Palestine, winning many victories and conquering Aleppo on the way. He next ravaged Samaria, and at last received the fealty of the lord of Mosul, though he did not succeed in actually conquering the city.
In the year 1186 war broke out again between Saladin and the Christian hosts. The sultan had respected a truce which he had made with Baldwin the Leper, King of Jerusalem, but the restless Renaud, who had previously attacked Eyleh, had broken through its stipulations. His plunder of a rich caravan enraged Saladin, who forthwith sent out orders to all his vassals and lieutenants to prepare for a Holy War. In the year 1187 he marched from Damascus to Kerak, where he laid close siege to Renaud. At the same time a large body of cavalry was sent on towards Nazareth under his son El-Afdhal. They were met by 730 Knights Hospitallers and Templars, aided by a few hundred foot-soldiers. Inspired by the heroic Jacques de Maille, marshal of the Temple, they defied the large Saracen army. In the conflict which ensued, the Crusaders immortalised themselves by fighting until only three of their number were left alive, who, after the conflict was over, managed to escape.
Soon after this, Saladin himself approached with a great army of eighty thousand men, and the Christians with all their forces hastened to meet him upon the shores of Lake Tiberias. The result of this battle proved to be the most disastrous defeat which the Christians had yet suffered. They were weakened by thirst, and on the second day of the conflict a part of their troops fled. But the knights nevertheless continued to make a heroic defence until they were overwhelmed by numbers and forced to flee to the hills of Hittun. A great number of Crusaders fell in this conflict, and Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, and his brother, Renaud de Chatillon, were among the prisoners of war. The number of those taken was very great, and Saladin left an indelible stain upon a reign otherwise renowned for mercy and humanity by allowing the prisoners to be massacred. Tiberias, Acre, Nabulus, Jericho, Ramleh, Caesarea, Arsur, Jaffa, Beirut, and many other places now fell into the hands of the conqueror.
Tyre successfully resisted Saladin's attacks. Ascalon surrendered on favourable conditions, and, to crown all, Jerusalem itself fell a prey to his irresistible arms. The great clemency of Saladin is chronicled on this occasion by Christian historians, but the same was an offence to many of the Moslems and is but little referred to by their historians.
Tyre was now again besieged and was on the point of capture when the besieged were relieved by the arrival of Conrad, son of the Marquis of Monferrat. The defence was now fought with such vigour that Saladin abandoned it and made an attack upon Tripoli, but with no better success, although he succeeded in forcing Bohemond, Prince of Antioch, and ruler of Tripoli, to submit on terms favourable to himself. After this, Saladin took part in the defence of the ever-memorable siege of Acre, which called forth deeds of gallantry and heroism on both sides, and which lasted for two years, during which it roused the interest of the whole of the Christian world. The invading army were in time reinforced by the redoubtable Richard Coeur de Lion, King of England, and Philip II. of France, and, breaking down all opposition, they captured the city, and floated upon its walls the banners of the cross in the year 1191 A.D. Unfortunately for the good name of the Christians, an act of ferocious barbarity marred the lustre of their triumph, for 2,700 Moslems were cut down in cold blood in consequence of the failure of Saladin to fulfil the terms of the capitulation; and the palliative plea that the massacre was perpetrated in the heat of the assault can scarcely be urged in extenuation of this enormity. While many historians have laid the blame on King Richard, the historian Michaud believes it rather to have been decided on in a council of the chiefs of the Crusade.
After a period of rest and debauchery, the army of the Crusaders, led on by King Richard, began to march towards Jerusalem. Saladin harassed his advance and rendered the strongholds on the way defenceless and ravaged the whole country. Richard was nevertheless ever victorious. His great personal bravery struck terror into the Moslems, and he won an important victory over them at Arsur. Dissensions now broke out among chiefs of the Crusaders, and Richard himself proved to be a very uncertain leader in regard to the strategy of the campaign. So serious were these drawbacks that the ultimate aim of the enterprise was thereby frustrated, and the Crusaders never attained to their great object, which was the re-conquest of Jerusalem. At the time when the Christian armies were in possession of all the cities along the coast, from Jaffa to Tyre, and the hosts of Saladin were seriously disorganised, a treaty was concluded and King Richard sailed back on the return journey to England. The glory acquired by Saladin, and the famous campaigns of Richard Cour de Lion, have rendered the Third Crusade the most memorable in history, and the exploits of the heroes on both sides shed a lustre on the arms of both Moslems and Christians.
Saladin died about a year after the conclusion of this peace, at Damascus, A.D. 1193, at the age of fifty-seven. With less rashness and bravery than Richard, Saladin possessed a firmer character and one far better calculated to carry on a religious war. He paid more attention to the results of his enterprises; more master of himself, he was more fit to command others. When mounting the throne of the Atabegs, Saladin obeyed rather his destiny than his inclinations; but, when once firmly seated, he was governed by only two passions,—that of reigning and that of securing the triumph of the Koran. On all other subjects he was moderate, and when a kingdom or the glory of the Prophet was not in question, the son of Ayyub was admired as the most just and mild of Muhammedans. The stern devotion and ardent fanaticism that made him take up arms against the Christians only rendered him cruel and barbarous in one single instance. He displayed the virtues of peace amidst the horrors of war. "From the bosom of the camps," says an Oriental poet, "he covered the nations with the wings of his justice, and poured upon his cities the plenteous showers of his liberality." During his reign many remarkable public works were executed. The Muhammedans, always governed by fear, were astonished that a sovereign could inspire them with so much love, and followed him with joy to battle. His generosity, his clemency, and particularly his respect for an oath, were often the subjects of admiration to the Christians, whom he rendered so miserable by his victories, and of whose power in Asia he had completed the overthrow. Previous to his death, Saladm had divided the kingdom between his three sons; El-Afdhal received Damascus, Southern Syria, and Palestine, with the title of sultan; El-Aziz obtained the kingdom of Egypt, and Ez Zahir the princedom of Aleppo.
El-Aziz undertook a campaign against Syria, but was defeated and obliged to retreat to Cairo on account of a mutiny among his troops. El-Afdhal pursued him, and had already pressed forward as far as Bilbeis, when El-Adil, who had hitherto espoused his cause, fearing that he might become too powerful, forced him to conclude a peace. The only advantage he obtained was that he regained possession of Jerusalem and the southern part of Syria. Soon after, El-Adil prevailed upon his nephew Aziz, with whom he stood on friendly terms, to renew the war and to take Damascus; El-Afdhal was betrayed, and only Sarchod was left to him, whereas El-Adil occupied Damascus and forced Aziz to return to Egypt again (June, 1196). After Aziz's death, in November, 1198, El-Afdhal was summoned by some of the emirs to act as regent in Egypt. Others called upon El-Adil to adopt the same course. El-Afdhal, however, became master of Egypt, and besieged Damascus, reinforced by his brother Zahir, who feared his uncle's ambition no less than himself. The agreement between the brothers, however, did not last long; their armies separated, and El-Afdhal was obliged to raise the siege and retreat to Egypt. He was pursued by his uncle, and forced, after several skirmishes, to surrender the capital and content himself once more with Sarchod and one or two towns on the Euphrates (February, 1200). El-Adil ruled for a short time in the name of El-Aziz's son; he soon came forward as sultan, forced Zahir to recognise him as his suzerain, and appointed his son El-Muzzain as governor of Damascus; the towns which belonged to him in Mesopotamia were distributed among his other sons, and he thus became, to a certain extent, the overlord of all the lands conquered by Saladin. His son, El-Ashraf, later became lord of Chelat in Armenia, and his descendant, Masud, Kamil's son, obtained possession of happy Arabia; so that the name Malik Adil was pronounced in all the Moslem chancels from the borders of Georgia to the Gulf of Aden.
El-Adil was so much engaged with wars against the Moslem princes,—the princes of Nissibis and Mardin,—and also with repulsing El-Afdhal, who wished to recover his lost kingdom, that he was unable to proceed with any force against the Crusaders; he took unwilling measures against them when they actually broke the peace, and was always ready to conclude a new treaty. He took Jaffa by storm when the pilgrims, armed by Henry VI., came to Palestine and interfered with the Moslem devotions, and when the chancellor Conrad thereupon seized Sidon and Beirut, El-Adil contented himself with laying waste the former town and hindering the capture of the fortress Joron; Beirut he allowed to fall into the enemy's hands. Still later he permitted several attacks of the Christians—such as the devastation of the town Fuah, situated on the Rosetta arm of the Nile—to pass unnoticed, and even bought peace at the expense of the districts of Ramleh and Lydda, which had formerly belonged to him. It was not until the year 1206 that he acted upon the offensive against the regent, John of Ibelin, and even then he contented himself with slight advantages and concluded a new truce for thirty years.
Shortly before his death, El-Adil, like his brother Saladin, narrowly escaped losing all his glory and the fruits of so many victories. Pope Honorius III. had successfully aroused the zeal of the Western nations for a new Crusade. Numerous well-armed and warlike-minded pilgrims—among whom were King Andreas of Hungary and Duke Leopold of Austria—landed at Acre in 1217, and King John of Jerusalem led them against the Moslems. El-Adil hastened from Egypt to the scene of action, but was forced to retreat to Damascus and to give up the whole of the southern district, with the exception of the well-fortified holy town, to be plundered by the Christians. In the following spring, whilst El-Adil was in Syria, a Christian fleet sailed to Damietta, and besieged the town. The attacking forces were composed of Germans and Hungarians, who had embarked at Spalato on the Adriatic for St. Jean d'Acre, where they spent a year in unfortunate expeditions and quarrels with the Christians of Syria. They were joined by a fleet of three hundred boats furnished by North Germans and Frisians, who, leaving the banks of the Rhine, had journeyed there by way of the Straits of Gibraltar, prolonging the journey by a year's fighting in Portugal.
The Christians then in Palestine had persuaded the Crusaders to begin with an attack on Egypt, and they had therefore chosen to land at Damietta. This was a large commercial town to the east of one of the arms of the Nile, which was defended by three walls and a large tower built on an island in the middle of the Nile, from which started the chains that barred the river.
The Frisian sailors constructed a castle of wood, which was placed between the masts of two ships, and from which the Crusaders were able to leap to the tower, and thus they were able to blockade and starve the town. The siege was long, and an epidemic breaking out among the besiegers carried off a sixth of their number. The sultan tried to succour the besieged by floating down the stream corpses of camels, which were stuffed with provisions, but the Christians captured them. He then offered to give the Crusaders, on condition they would depart, the True Cross and all he possessed of the kingdom of Jerusalem; but Pelagius, the papal legate,—a Spanish monk who had himself named commander-in-chief,—rejected the offer.
El-Adil was so stunned by the news of the success of the Christians that he died a few days after (August, 1218). El-Kamil, however, was not discouraged; he not only defended Damietta, but also harassed the enemy in their own camp by means of hordes of Bedouins. Not until he was forced, by a conspiracy of his troops in favour of his brother El-Faiz, to fly to Cairo, did the Christians succeed in getting across the Nile and completely surrounding Damietta. Order was soon restored in Egypt, owing to the arrival of Prince Muzzain, who had taken over the government of Damascus on the death of his father. The rebels were chastised, and both brothers proceeded towards Damietta: they could not succeed, however, in raising the siege, and the garrison diminished daily through hunger, sickness, and constant attacks, and the fortress soon fell into the hands of the Crusaders, almost without a blow (November 5, 1219). The Crusaders pillaged the town, taking from it four hundred thousand gold pieces. The Italians also settled there, and made it the seat of their commerce with Egypt. This conquest caused excitement in Europe, and the Pope called Pelagius "the second Joshua."
If the Franks had been more at peace among themselves, they might easily have pushed forward to Cairo after the fall of Damietta. But the greatest discontent prevailed between the papal legate, Pelagius, and King John of Brienne, so that the latter soon after left Egypt, while Pelagius was forced to wait for reinforcements before he could get away from Damietta.
El-Kamil, meanwhile, reinforced his army with the help of the friendly Syrian princes, and, by destroying the channels and dams of the Nile canals, so endangered the Christian camp that they were soon forced to sue for peace, and offered to quit Damietta on the condition of an unmolested retreat. El-Kamil, equally anxious for peace, accepted these conditions (August, 1221). Scarcely had the AEyubites thus warded off: the threatening danger when they proceeded to fall out among themselves.
After the death of El-Kamil, who in the end was generally regarded as overlord, a new war broke out, in March, 1238, between his son El-Adil II., who was reigning in Egypt, and his brother Ayyub, who occupied Damascus. Ayyub conquered Egypt, but, in his absence, his uncle Ismail, Prince of Balbek, seized upon Damascus and made a league with the Franks in Palestine and several of the Syrian princes. Through this unnatural league, Ismail, however, estranged not only the Moslem inhabitants of Syria, but also his own army. Part of the army deserted in consequence to Ayyub, who was thus enabled easily to subdue the allied army (1240). Another coalition was formed against him a few years later, and this time Da'ud of Kerak was one of the allies. Ayyub sent a strong army of Egyptians, negroes, and Mamluks under the future sultan, Beybars, to Syria. The Syrian troops fought unwillingly against their fellow-believers in the opposite ranks, and the wild Chariz-mites, who had also joined the ranks, inspired them with terror, so that they deserted the field of battle in the neighbourhood of Gaza (October, 1244). The Christians, left to themselves, were not in a position to resist the enemy's attacks; and the Egyptians made themselves masters of Jerusalem and Hebron, and in the following year obtained Damascus, Balbek, Ascalon, and Tiberias. In 1248 Ayyub came again into Syria, in order to chastise El-Malik en-Nasir, Prince of Aleppo, who had seized upon Hemessa when he heard of the coming Crusaders under Saint Louis. To this end he made peace with the natives of Aleppo, and returned to Jerusalem in order to make the necessary preparations for defence. The pilgrims, however, succeeded in landing, for Emir Fakhr ed-Din, the Egyptian commander, had taken to flight after a short skirmish, and the fortress was allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy (June, 1249). Ayyub now established a firm footing in the town of Cairo—which his father had founded—in a district intersected by canals, and harassed the Christian camp with his light cavalry. Louis was expecting reinforcements, but they did not arrive until the inundations of the Nile made any advance into the interior almost impossible. At last, on the 21st of December, the Christian army arrived at the canal of Ashmum Tanah, which alone separated them from the town of Mansuria. The Egyptians were now commanded by Emir Fakhr ed-Din. Ayyub had died a month before, but his wife, Shejret ed-Durr, kept his death a secret until his son Turan Shah should arrive from Mesopotamia. Fakhr ed-Din did everything in his power to retrieve his former error. He attacked the Christians when they were engaged in building a dam across the canal, hindering their work on the southern bank with his throwing-machines, destroying their towers with Greek fire; and when, in spite of all discouragements, their toilsome work was nearly finished, he rendered it useless by digging out a new basin, into which he conducted the water of the Ashmum canal.
On the 8th of February, 1250, the French crossed the canal, but, instead of collecting there, as the king had commanded, so as to attack the enemy en masse, several troops pressed forward against the Egyptians, and many, including the Count of Artois, the king's brother, were killed by the valiant enemy under Beybars. The battle remained long undecided, for the Egyptians had barricaded Cairo so well that it could only be stormed at the cost of many lives, and after the capture the army needed rest. The Egyptians took advantage of this delay to bring a fleet up in the rear of the Egyptian ships, which, in combination with the fleet stationed near Mansuria, attacked and completely destroyed them. As soon as they were masters of the Nile, the Egyptians landed troops below the Christian camp, which was thus completely cut off from Damietta, and soon suffered the greatest hardships from lack of provisions. Under these circumstances, Louis opened negotiations with Turan Shah, and when these proved fruitless, nothing remained for him but to return to Damietta. Although they began their retreat by night, they did not thus escape the vigilance of the Egyptians. The fugitives were overtaken on the following morning, and so shut in by the enemy that resistance was impossible. A large portion of the army was cut to pieces, in spite of their surrender; the rest, together with the king and his brother, were taken prisoners and brought in triumph to Cairo. Turan Shah treated the king with consideration and hastened to conclude peace with the Bahritic Mamluks,—so called because they had been brought up on the Nile (Bahr), on the island Rhodha,—as soon as the ransom money of his prisoners was assured. The Bahrites grumbled at this peace because it left the Christians in Palestine in possession of their towns, and they forthwith murdered Turan Shah, with the help of Shejret ed-Durr, whom he had maltreated (May 2, 1250).
After Turan Shah's death, his mother was proclaimed sultana, and the Mamluk Aibek became general of the army. Later, when the caliph of Baghdad revolted against the rule of a woman, Aibek assumed the title of sultan and married Shejret ed-Durr. He ruled again after some time in the name of a young descendant of Kamil, so as to be able to fight against the Ayyubids in Syria, who, with En-Nasir at their head, had taken possession of Damascus, with an appearance of right. A battle took place between Aibek and the Syrians (February, 1251), which was decided in favour of Aibek in consequence of the treachery of the Turks under Nasir. Aibek again assumed the title of sultan after the victory, but was soon after to be murdered by the Mamluks, who were unwilling to be subject to any control. He anticipated their plot, however, and slew their leader, the Emir Aktai, putting his followers to flight. He then demanded the diploma of investiture and the insignia of his office from the caliph, and also pressed the Prince of Mosul to grant him his daughter in marriage. His own wife, unable to endure such perfidy, had him murdered in his bath (April 10, 1257).
When Beybars first ascended the throne, he assumed the name of Sultan Kahir (the over-ruler), but afterwards, when he was informed that this name had always brought misfortune to its bearer, he changed it to that of Sultan Zahir (the Glorious).
Now that he was absolute master of Syria and Egypt, Beybars tried to obliterate the remembrance of the misdeeds he had formerly been guilty of by means of undertakings for the general good and for the furtherance of religion. He had the mosques repaired, founded pious institutions, designed new aqueducts, fortified Alexandria, had all the fortresses repaired and provisioned which the Mongols had razed to the ground, had a large number of great and small war-ships built, and established a regular post between Cairo and Damascus. In order to obtain a semblance of legitimacy, since he was but a usurper, Beybars recognised a nominal descendant of the house of Abbas as caliph, who, in the proper course of things, ought to invest him with the dominions of Syria and Egypt. Beybars bade his governors receive this descendant of the house of the Prophet with all suitable marks of honour, and invited him to come to Egypt. When he approached the capital, the sultan himself went out to meet him, followed by the vizier, the chief cadi, and the chief emirs and notabilities of the town. Even the Jews and Christians had to take part in the procession, carrying respectively the Tora and the Gospel. The caliph made his entrance into Cairo with the greatest pomp, rode through the town amidst the shouts of the multitude, and proceeded to the citadel, where Beybars had appointed him a magnificent dwelling. Some days afterwards the caliph had a reception of the chief cadi, the most celebrated theologians and lawyers of Egypt, and many notables of the capital. The Arabs who formed his escort and an eunuch from Baghdad testified to the identity of the caliph's person, the chief cadi recognised their assertion as valid, and was the first to do homage to him as caliph. Thereupon the sultan arose, took the oath of allegiance to him and swore to uphold both the written laws of the Koran and those of tradition; to advance the good and hinder the evil, to fight zealously for the protection of the faith only, to impose lawful taxes, and to apply the taxes only to lawful purposes. After the sultan had finished, homage was done by the sheiks, the emirs, and the other chief officers of the kingdom. The caliph invested the sultan with power over all the kingdoms subject to Islam, as well as over all future conquests, whereupon the people of all classes were admitted to do homage likewise. Then command was sent out to all the distant princes and governors to do homage to the caliph, who has assumed the name of El-Mustanssir, and to place his name beside that of the sultan in their prayers and also on their coins.
Beybars' treatment of his viziers, governors, and other important emirs, one or other of whom he either imprisoned or executed on every possible occasion, was merciless, but he proceeded even more shamelessly against Malik Mughith, Prince of Kerak and Shaubek, whom he feared so much as one of the bravest descendants of the house of Ayyub that he stamped himself publicly as a perjured assassin, in order to get him out of the way. Beybars had at first, without any declaration of war, in fact, without any notification of it in Egypt, suddenly sent a detachment of troops under the leadership of Emir Bedr ed-Din Aidimri, which took the fortress Shaubek by surprise, and placed the Emir Saif ed-Din Bilban el-Mukhtasi in it as governor. In the next year, in order to win over Mughith, he liberated his son Aziz, whom Kotuz had captured at Damascus and imprisoned at Cairo; he also assured Mughith of his friendly intentions towards him and repeatedly urged him to arrange a meeting. El-Malik el-Mughith did not trust Beybars, and invented all kinds of reasons not to accept his invitations. Beybars resolved at last to calm the fears of his intended victim by means of a written oath. The fears of Mughith, however, were not allayed, and he hesitated to fall in with the wish of the sultan and to appear at his court. The following year, when the sultan came to Syria and again urged a meeting, he was at a loss for an excuse, and was forced either to acknowledge his mistrust or risk everything. He sent his mother first to Gaza, where she was received with the greatest friendliness by the sultan, and sent back laden with costly presents; on her return to Kerak, corrupted by the hospitality and generosity of the sultan, she persuaded her son to wait on him, as did also his ambassador Alamjad with equal zeal. Finally he set out from Kerak—when he had made his troops do homage to his son El-Malik el-Aziz—on a visit to the sultan, who wras then in Tur. The sultan rode out to meet him as far as Beisan. Malik Mughith wished to dismount when he perceived the sultan, but he would not permit this, and rode beside Mughith till he reached his own tent. Here he was separated from his followers, thrown into chains, and brought into the citadel of Cairo (a.h. 660). In order to palliate this crime, the sultan made public the correspondence of the Prince of Kerak with the Mongols, which it was thought would stamp the former as a traitor to Islam. The judges whom he brought with him, and amongst whom we find the celebrated historian Ibn Khallikan, who was then chief judge of Damascus, declared him guilty, but we only have historical proof of the sending of his son into Hulagu's camp to beg that his province might be spared, at a time when all the princes of Syria, seized with panic, threw themselves at the feet of the Mongolian general. Be that as it may, he none the less committed a piece of treachery, since he had sworn not to call him to account for his former crimes. Beybars hoped, now that he had disposed of Malik Mughith, that the fortress Kerak would immediately surrender to his emissary, Emir Bedr ed-Din Beisari, but the governor of the fortress feared to trust the promises of a perjurer and offered resistance. Beybars therefore set out for Syria with all the necessary siege apparatus, constructed by the best engineers of Egypt and Syria. The garrison saw the impossibility of a long resistance and capitulated.
The son of Malik Mughith, El-Malik el-Aziz, a boy of twelve, was honoured as prince and taken to Egypt, as also Mughith's family. His emirs and officials were treated with consideration, but the prince was later thrown into prison. Nothing certain is known with regard to the death of Mughith. According to some reports, because he offended the wife of Beybars, when as a wandering Mamluk he once was staying with him, he was delivered over to the sultan's wives and was put to death by them; another account says that he died of hunger in prison.
After the conquest of Shekif, the sultan made an attack on the province of Tripoli because Prince Bok-mond, Governor of Antioch and Tripoli, was his bitterest enemy and the truest ally of the Mongolians, and had, moreover, at the time of Hulagu's attack on Syria, made himself master of several places which till then had belonged to the Mussulmans. The whole land was wasted, all the houses destroyed, all Christians who fell into the hands of the troops were murdered, and several strongholds in the mountains conquered. Laden with rich booty, the Moslem army set out for Hemessa. From here Beybars proceeded towards Hamah and divided the army into three divisions; one division, under the Emir Bedr ed-Din Khaznadar (treasurer), was to take the direction of Suwaidiya, the port of Antioch; the second, under Emir Izz ed-Din Ighan, struck the route towards Der-besak; the third, which he led himself, proceeded in a straight line over Apamaa and Schoghr towards Antioch, which was the meeting-place for the two other emirs, and would so be shut in from the north, the west, and the south. On the 16th May the sultan found himself in front of the town, which contained a population of over one hundred thousand. Fighting soon ensued between the outposts of the sultan and the constable who advanced against him at the head of the militia. The latter was defeated, and the constable himself taken prisoner. On the 3d of Ramadhan the whole army had united and preparations were made for the siege. Meanwhile the sultan had already attempted to persuade the imprisoned constable to return to the town and enduce them to surrender, and to leave his own son behind as a hostage. But when several days had passed in fruitless discussions, at last the sultan gave the word for the attack. In spite of the resistance of the Christians, the walls were scaled on the same day, and the garrison retired thereupon into the citadel; the inhabitants were massacred or taken prisoner and all the houses plundered. No one could escape, for Beybars had blocked all the entrances. On the next day the garrison, women and children included, which numbered eight thousand, surrendered on account of lack of water and meal. The chiefs apparently made their escape during the confusion and fled into the mountains. The garrison only saved their lives by surrendering. Beybars had them chained and distributed as slaves amongst his troops; he then had the other prisoners and the rest of the booty brought together, and proceeded with the lawful distribution. When everything had been settled, the citadel was set on fire, but the conflagration was so great that the whole town was consumed.
Beybars died soon after his return from Asia Minor (July 1, 1277). According to some reports his death was occasioned by a violent fever; other accounts say that he died in consequence of a poison which he had prepared for an Ayyubid and which he accidentally took himself. He had designated the eldest of his sons as his successor, under the name of El-Malik es-Said, and in order to give him a strong support he had married him to the daughter of the Emir Kilawun, one of his best and most influential generals. In spite of all this, however, es-Said was not able to maintain himself on the throne for any length of time.
Kilawun conspired against his master, and was soon able to ascend the throne under the title of El-Malik el-Mansur. His fame as a warrior was already established, and he added to his successes during his ten years' reign. His first task was to quell disturbances in Syria, and he despatched an army thither and captured Damascus. In the year 680 of the Hegira he took the field in person against a large force of Tatars, defeated them, and raised the siege of Rahabah. Eight years later he laid siege to Tripoli, then rich and flourishing after two centuries of Christian occupation, and the town was taken and its inhabitants killed. Other expeditions were undertaken against Nubia, but the Nubians, after they had been twice defeated, appear to have re-established themselves.
The fortress of Acre was at this time the only important stronghold still retained by the Christians, and for its conquest Kilawun was making preparations when he died, on the 10th of November, 1290. Kilawun, says the modern historian Weil, has been unduly praised by historians, most of whom lived in the reign of his son. He was certainly not so bloodthirsty as Beybars, and he also oppressed his subjects less. He, too, cared more for the increase and establishment of his kingdom than for justice and good faith. He held no agreement sacred, if he could get any advantage by breaking it, as was shown by his behaviour towards the Crusaders and the descendants of Beybars. The most beautiful monument which he left behind him was a huge building outside Cairo, which included a hospital, a school, and his own tomb. The hospital was so large that every disease had a special room allotted to it; there were also apartments for women, and large storerooms for provisions and medical requirements, and a large auditorium in which the head doctor delivered his lectures on medicine. The expenses were so great—for even people of wealth were taken without compensation—that special administrators were appointed to oversee and keep an account of the necessary outlay. Besides these officers, several stewards and overseers were appointed to control the revenues devoted to the hospital by different institutions. Under the dome of the tomb the Koran and traditional charters were taught, and both teachers and scholars received their payment from the state. A large adjacent hall contained a library of many works on the Koran, tradition, language, medicine, practical theology, jurisprudence, and literature, and was kept in good condition by a special librarian and six officials. The school building contained four audience-halls for the teachers of the Islamite schools, and in addition to these a school for children, into which sixty poor orphans were received without any charge and provided with board, lodging, and clothes.
Khalil, the son of Kilawun, who succeeded him, with the title of El-Malik el-Ashraf, was able to begin operations in the spring of 1291 against Acre, and on the 18th of May, after an obstinate resistance, the town was taken by storm. Those who could not escape by water were either cut down or taken prisoner; the town was plundered, then burnt, and the fortifications razed to the ground.
After the fall of Acre, towns such as Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and others, which were still in the hands of the Christians, offered no resistance, and were either deserted by their inhabitants or given up to the enemy. El-Ashraf, now that he had cleared Syria of the Crusaders, turned his arms against the Mongols and their vassals. He began with the storming of Kalat er-rum, a fortress on the Upper Euphrates in the neighbourhood of Bireh, the possession of which was important both for the defence of Northern Syria and for attacks on Armenia and Asia Minor. In spite of many pompous declarations that this was only the beginning of greater conquests in Asia Minor and Irak, he retired as soon as the Ilkhan Kaikhatu sent a strong detachment of troops against him. Later on he threatened the Prince of Armenia-Minor with war, and obliged him to hand over certain border towns. He also exchanged some threatening letters with Kaikhatu. But neither reigned long enough to make these threats good, for Kaikhatu was soon after dethroned by Baidu, and Baidu in his turn by Gazan (1295), after many civil wars which had continually hindered him from carrying on a foreign war. El-Ashraf was murdered in 1294, whilst hunting, by the regent Baidara, whom he had threatend to turn out of his office. Kara Sonkor, Lajin, El-Mansuri, and some of the other emirs had conspired with Baidara in the hope that, when once the deed was accomplished, all the chiefs in the kingdom would applaud their action, since El-Ashraf had slain and imprisoned many influential emirs, and was generally denounced as an irreligious man, who transgressed not only against the laws of Islam, but also against those of nature. Baidara, however, immediately proceeded to mount the throne, and a strong party, with the Emir Ketboga at its head, was formed against him. Ketboga called upon El-Ashraf's Mamluks to take vengeance, pursued the rebels, and killed Baidara. He then returned to Cairo, and, after long negotiations with the governor of the capital, Muhammed, a younger brother of El-Ashraf, was proclaimed sultan, with the title of El-Malik en-Nasir.
Muhammed en-Nasir occupies such an important place in the history of these times that the other Moslem princes may easily be grouped around him. He was only nine years old when he was summoned to be ruler of the kingdom of the Mamluks. Naturally he was the sultan only in name, and the real power lay in the hands of Ketboga and Vizier Shujai. These two lived in perfect harmony so long as they were merely occupied with the pursuit of their rivals,—not only the friends and followers of El-Ashraf's murderer, but also the innocent ex-vizier of El-Ashraf, because he had treated them with contempt and was in possession of riches for which they were greedy. He shared the fate of the king's assassins, for, in spite of the intercession of the ladies of the royal harem, he ended his life on the gallows. But as soon as the two rulers had got rid of their enemies and appeased their own avarice, their peaceful union was at an end, for each wished to have complete control over the sultan. Shujai had the Mamluks of the late sultan on his side; while Ketboga, who was a Mongol by birth, had with him all the Mongols and Kurds who had settled in the kingdom during Beybars' reign. A Mongol warned Ketboga against Shujai, who had made all necessary preparations to throw his rival into prison, and he immediately was attacked by Ketboga and defeated after several attempts.
Ketboga's ambition was not yet fulfilled, although he was now supreme ruler. He first demanded homage as regent; as he met with no opposition, he conceived the idea of setting the sultan, Nasir, aside; and he hoped to carry out his plan with the assistance of Lajin and Kara Sonkor, El-Ashraf's murderers, and their numerous following. He had the pardon of these two emirs proclaimed, whereupon they left their hiding-places and joined Ketboga, for it was to their interest also that the sultan should be put out of the way. This coup d'etat was a complete success (December, 1294), but in spite of these plans, Ketboga's reign was both unfortunate and brief. The old emirs were vexed with him because he raised his own Mamluks to the highest posts of honour, and the clergy were displeased because he received favourably a number of Mongols, although they were heathens. The people blamed him for the severe famine which visited Egypt and Syria and which was followed by a terrible pestilence. Several emirs, with Lajin again at their head, conspired against him, and forced their way into his tent while he was on the way to Syria; overpowering the guard, they attempted to get possession of his person. He managed to escape, however, and so saved his life and liberty, but Lajin obtained possession of the throne, with the agreement of the other emirs. In spite of his advantages, both as man and as pious Moslem, and in spite of his brilliant victories over the princes of Armenia, Lajin was murdered, together with his successor, and Nasir, who was then living in Kerak, was recalled as sultan (January, 1299).
Nasir was still too young to reign alone; he had to let himself be ruled by the emirs who had already assumed a kind of regency before his return. At the head of these emirs stood Sellar and Beybars Jashingir. Distrust and uneasiness existed between these two, one of whom was regent and the other prefect of the palace, for each wanted to assume the chief power; but soon their private intrigues were put into the background by a common danger. The Ilkhan Gazan was actively preparing for war against the Mamluk kingdom because the Governor of Aleppo had fallen upon Mardin, a town belonging to the Mongols, and brutally maltreated the inhabitants; also because the refugees from Egypt and Syria assured him that the moment was favourable for extending his dominion over these lands.
The internal history of Egypt at this period offers nothing but tedious strifes between different emirs, and specially between the two most powerful, Beybars and Sellar, who would have often brought it to open warfare had not their friends and followers intervened. They agreed, however, on one point, namely, to keep the sultan as long as possible from taking over the reins of government, and to keep him as secluded as possible in order to deprive him of all influence. Whilst Sellar was wasting immense sums, the sultan was in fact almost starving. When Sellar went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he paid the debts of all the Moslems who had retired to this town; he further distributed ten thousand malters of fruit amongst the poor people in the town, and so much money and provisions that they were able to live on it for a whole year. He also treated the inhabitants of Medina and Jiddah in an equally generous way. The sultan, who was hunting in Lower Egypt, at the same time tried in vain to obtain a small loan from the Alexandrian merchants, to buy a present for his wife. Finally, his vizier, who had granted him two thousand dinars ($5,060), was accused on Sellar's return of embezzling the public money, was led round the town on a donkey, and beaten and tortured so long that he succumbed under his torments.
In the year 1307, when Nasir was twenty-three years old, though still treated as a child, he attempted, with the help of the Emir Bektimur, who commanded the Mamluks in the palace, to seize the persons of his oppressors. The plan failed, for they had their spies everywhere, and the only result was that the sultan's faithful servants were banished to Syria, and the sultan himself was more oppressed than ever. It was two years before he succeeded in deceiving his tyrants. He expressed the wish to make a pilgrimage to Mecca; this was granted, as the emirs saw nothing dangerous in it, and, moreover, as a religious duty, it could not be resisted. As soon as he reached the fortress Kerak, with the help of those soldiers in his escort who were devoted to his cause, and having deceived the governor by means of false letters, he obtained possession of the fortress, and immediately declared his independence of the guardianship of Sellar and Beybars. Sellar and Beybars, on hearing this, immediately summoned the sultan to return to Cairo; but, even before they received his answer, they realised that their rule was over, and that either they must quit the field, or Nasir must be dethroned. After long consideration amongst themselves, they proceeded to the choice of another sultan, and the choice fell on Beybars (April, 1309). Beybars accepted the proffered throne on the condition that Sellar also retained his place. He confirmed the other emirs also in their offices, hoping thereby to gain their support.
The change of government met with no resistance in Egypt, where the majority of the emirs had long been dependent on Beybars and Sellar. In Syria, on the other hand, the emirs acting as governors refused to acknowledge Beybars, partly from devotion to Nasir's race, and partly because the choice had been made without their consent. Only Akush, Governor of Damascus, who was an old friend of Beybars, and like him a Circassian, took the oath of allegiance. The governors of Aleppo, Hamah, and Tripoli, together with the governors of Safed and Jerusalem, called upon Nasir to join them, and, with the help of his other followers, to reconquer Egypt. The cunning sultan, who saw that the time for open resistance had not yet arrived, since Egypt was as yet too unanimous, and Damascus also had joined the enemy, advised them to deceive Beybars and to take the oath of allegiance, which they could break later, as having been obtained by force. He himself feigned to submit to the new government, and even had the prayers carried on from the chancel in Beybars' name. Beybars was deceived, although he knew with certainty that Nasir carried on a lively intercourse with the discontented emirs. He relied chiefly on Akush, who kept a strict watch over Nasir's movements. The spies of Akush, however, were open to corruption, and they failed later to take steps to render Nasir harmless at the right moment. Beybars believed Nasir to be still in Kerak, when he was well on the way to Damascus; and when he finally received news of this, the rebellion had already gone so far that some of the troops who had been sent out against the sultan had already deserted to his side. The only possible way of allaying the storm was for Beybars to put himself at the head of his troops, and, joining forces with Akush, to offer battle to Nasir. The necessary courage and resolution failed him. Instead of having recourse to the sword, he applied to the caliph, who declared Nasir an exile, and summoned all believers to listen to the Sultan Beybars—whom he had consecrated—and to take part in the war against the rebel, Nasir. But the summons of the caliph, which was read in all the chancels, had not the slightest effect. The belief in the caliph had long disappeared, except in so far as he was considered a tool of the sultan on whom he depended. Even Beybars' party mocked the caliph's declaration, and wherever it was read manifestations were made in favour of the exile. Beybars, also, was now deserted by Sellar, and he at length was obliged to resign. Beybars was then seized and throttled by Nasir, and Sellar was starved to death.
Nasir, who now came to the throne, had grown suspicious and treacherous on account of the many hardships and betrayals endured by him during his youth. He was, however, favourable to the Christians, and to such an extent that he received anonymous letters reproaching him for allowing Moslems to be oppressed by Christian officials. He found them to be experienced in financial matters, for, in spite of all decrees, they had never ceased to hold secretaryships in different states: they were, moreover, more unscrupulous than born Muhammedans, who always had more respect for law, custom, and public opinion. Certainly the sultan considered the ministers in whom he placed great confidence less dangerous if they were wow-Moslems, since he was their only support, whereas comrades in religion could always find plenty of support and might easily betray him.
Nasir died on the 6th of June, 1341, at about fifty-eight years of age, after a reign of forty-three years. His rule, which did not actually begin until he mounted the throne for the third time, lasted thirty-two years. During this period he was absolute ruler in the strongest sense of the word; every important affair was decided by him alone. The emirs had to refer all matters to him, and were a constant source of suspicion and oversight. They might not speak to each other in his presence, nor visit each other without his consent. The mildest punishment for breaking such decrees was banishment to Syria. Nasir inspired them with fear rather than with love and respect, and, as soon as it was known that his illness was incurable, no one paid any further attention to him. He died as a pious Moslem and repentant sinner in the presence of some of his servants. His burial, which took place by night, was attended by a few emirs, and only one wax candle and one lamp were carried before the bier. As one of his biographers justly remarks, the rich sultan, whose dominion had extended from the borders of Abyssinia to Asia Minor and up the Euphrates as far as Tunis, and the father of a large family, ended his life like a stranger, was buried like a poor man, and brought to his grave like a man without wife or child. Nasir was the last sultan who ruled over the Bahritic Mamluk kingdom with a firm hand. After his death we read of one insurrection after another, and the sultans were either deposed or became mere slaves of the emirs. Abu Bekr, whom Nasir had appointed his successor, did not hold his own for quite two months, because he maltreated the discontented emirs and put his favourites in their places. An insurrection, with the Emir Kausun at its head, was formed against him; he was dethroned and his six-year-old brother Kujuk was proclaimed sultan in his stead. The dethroned sultan was banished to Upper Egypt, whither his elder brother Ahmed should have been brought; Ahmed, however, refused to leave his fortress of Kerak, and, finding support among the Syrian emirs, he conspired against Kausun, who was at this moment threatened also with an insurrection in Cairo. After several bloody battles, Kausun was forced to yield, and Ahmed was proclaimed sultan (January, 1342). Ahmed, however, preferred a quiet, peaceful life to the dangerous post of sultan, and not until he had received the most solemn oaths of allegiance did he proceed to his capital, where he arrived quite unexpectedly, so that no festivities had been prepared. After some time, he had all the Syrian emirs arrested by his Mam-luks, because they tried to usurp his powers; he then appointed a regent, and himself returned to Kerak, taking with him everything he had found in the sultan's palace, and there he remained in spite of the entreaties of the faithful emirs, and lived simply for his own pleasure.
The natural consequence of all this was Ahmed's deposition in June, 1342. His brother Ismail, a good-hearted youth of seventeen years, sent troops to Kerak to demand an oath of allegiance from Ahmed, but they could effect nothing, as the fortress was well fortified and provisioned, and, moreover, many of the emirs, both in Syria and Egypt, were still in league with Ahmed. Not until fresh troops had been sent, and Ahmed himself betrayed, did they succeed in taking the fortress; and Ahmed was put to death in 1344. Ahmed's death made such a deep impression upon the weak sultan that he fell into a fit of depression which gradually increased until he died in August of the following year.
His brother and successor, Shaban, was an utter profligate, cruel, faithless, avaricious, immoral, and pleasure-loving. Gladiators played an important part at his court, and he often took part in their contests. Horse-racing, cock-fights, and such like amusements occupied him much more than state affairs, and the whole court followed his example. As long as Shaban did not offend the emirs, he was at liberty to commit any atrocities he pleased, but, as soon as he seized their riches and imprisoned and tortured them, his downfall was certain. Ilbogha, Governor of Damascus, supported by the other Syrian emirs, sent him a list of his crimes and summoned him to abdicate. Meanwhile an insurrection had broken out in Cairo, and, although Shaban expressed his willingness to abdicate, he was murdered by the rebels in September, 1346. His brother Haji met with a similar fate after a reign of fifteen months, though some accounts affirm that he was not murdered but only exiled.
Haji was succeeded by his brother Hasan, who was still a minor; the emirs who ruled in his name competed for the highest posts until Baibagharus and his brother Menjik carried off the victory. These two ruled supreme for a time. The so-called "black death" was ravaging Egypt; many families were decimated, and their riches fell to the state. The disease, which differed from the ordinary pest in the blood-spitting and internal heat, raged in Europe and Asia, and spread the greatest consternation even amongst the Moslems, who generally regarded disease with a certain amount of indifference, as being a divine decree. According to Arabic sources, the black death had broken out in China and from there had spread over the Tatar-land of Kipjak; from here it took its course towards Constantinople, Asia Minor, and Syria on the one hand, and towards Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany on the other, and was probably brought to Egypt from Syria. Not only men, but beasts and even plants were attacked. The ravages were nowhere so fearful as in Egypt; in the capital alone in a few days as many as fifteen or twenty thousand people were stricken. As the disease continued to rage for two years, there was soon a lack of men to plough the fields and carry on the necessary trades; and to increase the general distress, incursions were made by the tribes of Turcomans and Bedouins, who plundered the towns and villages. Scarcely had this desperate state of affairs begun to improve when court intrigues sprang up afresh, and only ended with the deposition of the sultan in August, 1351. He was recalled after three years, during which his brother had reigned, and he was subsequently deposed and put to death in March, 1361. Finally the descendants of Nasir, instead of his sons, began to rule. First came Muhammed Ibn Haji, who, as soon as he began to show signs of independence, was declared to be of unsound mind by his chief emir, Ilbogha; then Shaban, the son of Husain (May, 1363), who was strangled in March, 1377; and finally Husain's eight-year-old son Ali. After repeated contests, Berkuk and Berekeh, two Circassian slaves, placed themselves at the head of the government. Berkuk, however, wished to be absolute, and soon put his co-regent out of the way (1389). He contented himself at first with being simply regent, and, even when Ali died, he declared his six-year-old brother Haji, sultan. The following year, when he discovered a conspiracy of the Mamluks against him, and when many of the older emirs were dead, he declared that it was for the good of the state that no longer a child, but a man capable of directing internal affairs and leading an army against the enemy, should take over the government. The assembly, whom he had bribed beforehand, supported him, and he was appointed sultan in November, 1382.
The external history of Egypt during this time is but scanty. She suffered several defeats at the hands of the Turcomans in the north of Syria, lost her supremacy in Mecca through the influence of the princes of South Arabia, and both Alexandria and several other coast towns were attacked and plundered by European fleets. This last event occurred in Shaban's reign in 1365. Peter of Lusignan, King of Cyprus, had, in league with the Genoese, the Venetians, and Knights of Rhodes, placed himself at the head of a new Crusade, and since his expedition was a secret even in Europe,—for he was thought to be advancing against the Turks,—it was easy for him to take the Egyptians by surprise, and all the more so because the Governor of Alexandria happened to be absent at the time. The militia tried in vain to prevent their landing, and the small garrison held out for but a short time, so that the prosperous and wealthy town was completely sacked and many prisoners were taken before the troops arrived from Cairo.
The Christians living in Egypt suffered from this attack of the King of Cyprus. They had to find ransom money for the Moslem prisoners and to provide means for fitting out a new fleet. All negotiations with Cyprus, Genoa, and Venice were immediately broken off. This event, however, had the effect of reconciling the Italian traders again with Egypt, and an embassy came both from Genoa and Venice, expressing regret at what had happened, with the assurance that the government had had no hint of the intentions of the King of Cyprus. Genoa also sent back sixty prisoners who had fallen to them as their share of the Alexandrian booty. As Egypt's trade would also be at a standstill if they had no further negotiations with the Franks, who imported wood, metal, arms, oil, coral, wool, manufacturing and crystal wares in exchange for spices, cotton, and sugar, the former trade relations were re-established. The war with Cyprus continued, however; Alexandria was again threatened and Tripoli was surprised by the Cyprian fleet, whereupon a number of European merchants in Egypt were arrested. In the year 1370, after the death of Peter of Lusignan, peace and an exchange of prisoners were finally brought about. After this peace the Egyptians were able to concentrate their whole force against Leo VI., Prince of Smaller Armenia, who was brought as a prisoner to Cairo; and with him the supremacy of the Christians in this land was at an end: henceforth Egypt was ruled by Egyptian governors.
Faraj, Berkuk's son and successor, had to suffer for his father's political mistakes. He had scarcely ascended the throne when the Ottomans seized Derenda, Albustan, and Malatia. Preparations for war were made, but given up again when it was seen that Bayazid could not advance any farther south. Faraj was only thirteen years old, and all the old intrigues amongst the emirs broke out again. In Cairo they fought in the streets for the post of regent; anarchy and confusion reigned in the Egyptian provinces, and the Syrians wished to revolt against the sultan. When at last peace was re-established in Egypt, and Syria was reduced, the latter country was again attacked by the hordes of Tamerlane.
Tamerlane conquered the two important cities of Aleppo and Hemessa, and Faraj's forces returned to Egypt. When the sultan's ally, Bayazid, was defeated, Faraj concluded a peace with Tamerlane, at the price of the surrender of certain lands. In 1405 Tamerlane died, and Faraj was collecting troops for the purpose of recovering Syria when domestic troubles caused him to flee from Egypt, his own brother Abd el-Aziz heading the insurrection. In the belief that Faraj was dead, Aziz was proclaimed his successor, but three months later Faraj was restored, and it was not until 1412 that he was charged with illegal practices and beheaded, his body being left unburied like that of a common malefactor. The fact that criminal proceedings were brought against the sultan is evidence of a great advance in the spirit of civilisation, but the event must be regarded more as a proof of its possibility than as a demonstration of its establishment.
The Caliph El-Mustain was then proclaimed sultan, but after some months he was dethroned and his former prime minister, Sheikh Mahmudi, took over the reins of government (November, 1412). Although Sheikh had obtained the throne of Egypt so easily, he experienced great difficulty in obtaining the recognition of the emirs. Newruz, Governor of Damascus, in league with the other governors, made a determined resistance, and he was obliged to send a strong army into Syria to put down the rebels. Newruz, after suffering one defeat, threw himself into the citadel of Damascus and capitulated, when Sheikh had sworn to keep the terms of the capitulation. Newruz's ambassadors, however, had not a sufficient knowledge of Arabic to perceive that the oath was not binding, and when Newruz, trusting to this oath, appeared before Sheikh, he was immediately thrown into chains, and afterwards murdered in prison because the cadis declared the oath was not binding. In the next year (1415) Sheikh was obliged to make another expedition against Syria to re-conquer some of the places of which the smaller princes had taken possession during the civil war. One of these princes was the Prince Muhammed of Karaman, who had taken the town of Tarsus. Sheikh was summoned by Muhammed's own brother to overcome him, which he easily succeeded in doing. Many other princes were forced to submit, and finally the town of Malatia, which the Turcoman Husain had stormed, was recaptured. The war against Husain and the Prince of Karaman was to have been continued, but Sheikh was forced to return home, owing to a wound in his foot. As soon as certain misunderstandings between Sheikh and Kara Yusuf had been cleared up, another army was despatched into Asia Minor, for Tarsus had been recaptured by the Prince of Karaman, who had driven out the Prince of Albustan, whom Sheikh had installed. Ibrahim, the sultan's son, took command of this army, and occupied Caasarea, Nigdeh, and Kara-man. Whilst he was occupied in the interior of Asia Minor, the Governor of Damascus had defeated Mustapha, son of the Prince of Karaman, and the Prince Ibrahim of Ramadhan, near Adana, which latter town, as well as Tarsus, he had re-conquered.