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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XIV: The Mamluk Sultans, 1291-1517,   pp. 486-512 ff. PDF (11.2 MB)

Page 487

Ch. XIV THE MAMLUK SULTANS, 1291—15 17 487 
suggesting ways and means of resuscitating the old crusading flame, was debated
in various European courts.2 
 For the Mamluk sultanate itself, the fall of Acre was no more than another
major step toward the eventual elimination of the militant, "infidel" Frank
from the world of Islam. In December 1293, after destroying the other crusading
strongholds in Syria, al-Ashraf Khalil, the victor of Acre, was brutally
murdered, less than three years after he had been hailed in Cairo as a liberator.
As Khalil left only a daughter, no recourse was necessary to the usual Mamluk
tragi comedy of installing a son of the deceased sultan on the throne, until
the most acceptable among the Mamluk oligarchy was ready to usurp it. Yet
the Mamluk leaders proceeded to set up Khalil's step-brother, an-Nãsir
Muhammad, a boy eight years of age, whom they later twice deposed, but then
twice reinstalled, alternately with three other sultans from the powerful
Mamluk ranks, all in less than twenty years. Such strange caprice reflects
the sheer in ability of the Mamluk emirs to leave any one of themselves in
the sultanate for long undisturbed, once a chance to oust him pre sented
 It was in the year 13 10 that an-Nãsir began his third reign, in
an ugly frame of mind, understandable after the vicissitudes of the previous
seventeen years. Whatever kindly traits he might have devel oped in his youth
had been soured and embittered by his unhappy experiences, when he was used
as a mere pawn in the Mamluk game of making and unmaking sultans at pleasure.
"Though only in his twenty-fifth year," wrote Lane-Poole, "he was already
a cynic, a double dealer, and thirsty to revenge the miseries of his boyhood
and youth, and to free himself entirely from the interference of the powerful
emirs. He managed it by trickery and deceit,"3 with a technique of delaying
action to strike down an enemy until the latter was least expecting it.4
Yet he proved himself to be an able and calculating administrator. He was
especially interested in the eco nomic development of the Mamluk empire,
preferring a commercial treaty to a pitched battle, a devious diplomatic
success to a victori ous campaign, a thoroughbred horse to a huge sum of
money, and an architectural gem of a palace to amassed gold. In some respects
he could be likened to Louis XI, king of France in the fifteenth century,
 2. See A. S. Atiya, The Crusade in the Later Middle Ages (London, 1938),
PP. 29—230, and above, chapter I. 
 3. S. Lane-Poole, A History of Egypt in the MiddleAges (London, 1914), p.
 4. Al-Maqrizi, As-suluk (ed. Ziada), II, part 2. 

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