University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

XX: The Aiyubids,   pp. 693-714 PDF (8.7 MB)

Page 694

the pre-Selchukid period; and the superficial disturbances caused by rivalries
within the Aiyubid family, by the ambitions of some of its members, and by
the struggles of the princes of Damascus and Aleppo to maintain their independence
against their more powerful kinsmen in Egypt and Mesopotamia, give the history
of the Aiyubid period an appearance of anarchical disorder. But in reality
it was closely knit together by a basic family solidarity, reinforced by
interrnarriages and by the moderating influence of a powerful religious bureaucracy,
which carried on the traditions of Nür-ad-Din and Saladin. The lesser
princes, especially those of Hamah and Horns, played an important part in
maintaining the balance between rival forces (primarily in order to preserve
their own principalities from absorption); and even when the Aiyubids themselves
were crushed out of existence between the Mamluks and the Mongols, the structure
which they created survived in the institutions of the Mamluk empire. 
 The stability of the Aiyubid regime is shown further by the rapid growth
of material prosperity in Syria and Egypt, and the remarkable expansion of
literary, artistic, and intellectual culture. The former was due largely
to the enlightened policy of the princes in promoting agricultural and economic
development and their fostering of commercial relations with the Italian
states. The corollary of this policy was the maintenance of peaceful relations,
as far as possible, with the Frankish states in Syria, and there are few,
if any, occasions during the whole period on which Aiyubid princes took the
offensive against the Franks. 
 A further stabilizing factor, at least in the long run, was the emergence
in each generation of one leading member of the family, who succeeded in
time in imposing his authority over all or most of the others, though at
the cost of increasingly violent effort and opposition in successive generations.
In the first generation the keystone of the whole Aiyubid structure was Saladin's
brother al ' Adil Saif-ad-Din, who had been during Saladin's reign his chief
counselor and, next to him, the strongest and most able personality in the
family. Not only did he enjoy great prestige, as against the youth and inexperience
of Saladin's sons, but, having at different times governed Egypt, Aleppo,
and Kerak, he was familiar with the internal conditions of all the principalities.
As prince of the Jazira, his immediate task after Saladin's death was to
defeat the attempt of the Zengids ' Izz-ad-Din of Mosul and ' Imäd-ad-Din
of Sinjar to exploit the opportunity to recover their former possessions
in Mesopotamia. With the aid of his nephews at Aleppo and 

Go up to Top of Page