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)
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 itself. 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. 306. 4. Al-Maqrizi, As-suluk (ed. Ziada), II, part 2.
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