Al-Adil I

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Al-Adil I (Arabic: العادل‎, in full al-Malik al-Adil Sayf al-Din Abu-Bakr ibn Ayyub, Arabic: الملك العادل سيف الدين أبو بكر بن أيوب‎; 1145–1218) was an Ayyubid-Egyptian general and ruler of Kurdish descent. From his honorific "Sayf al-Din" (Sword of Faith) he was sometimes known to the Frankish crusaders as "Saphadin". A gifted and effective administrator and organizer,[1] Al-Adil provided crucial military and civilian support for Saladin's great campaigns (an early example of the great minister of war). He was also a capable general and strategist in his own right, and the foundation and persistence of the Ayyubid state was as much his achievement as it was Saladin's.

Early life[edit]

Al-Adil was a son of Najm ad-Din Ayyub, and a younger brother of Salah ad-Din Ayyubi. He was born in June 1145, possibly in Damascus. He first achieved distinction as an officer in Nur ad-Din Zengi's army during his uncle Shirkuh's third and final campaign in Egypt (1168–1169); following Nur ad-Din's death in 1174, Al-Adil governed Egypt on behalf of his brother Saladin and mobilized that country's vast resources in support of his brother's campaigns in Syria and his war against the Crusaders (1175–1183). He was governor of Aleppo (1183–1186) but returned to administer Egypt during the Third Crusade (1186–1192); as governor of Saladin's northern provinces (1192–1193), he suppressed the revolt of 'Izz Al-Din of Mosul following Saladin's death (March 1193). On Saladin's death he was governor of Damascus.

Succession Struggles[edit]

The key question in the ruling Ayyubid family following the death of Saladin was whether power would remain with Saladin's own sons, or be distributed more widely among its various branches, or, indeed, be concentrated in the hands of al-Adil himself. Saladin had required all the Amirs to swear loyalty to his son al-Afdal Ali, but after his death some of his other sons would not accept al-Afdal's overlordship [2] In the disputes which followed al-Adil often found himself in the position of honest broker between al-Afdal Ali and his brother al-Aziz Uthman, trying to keep the peace.[3] Eventually however al-Adil concluded that al-Afdal Ali was simply unfit to rule, and he supported al-Aziz Uthman to become Sultan in his place, forcing his brother into exile.[4] Al-Aziz Uthman's death in 1198 following a riding accident reopened the dynastic struggles once again. Al-Afdal Ali was invited back to Egypt to act as regent to a-Aziz Uthman's twelve year-old successor, al-Mansur Mohammed. From this power base he joined forces with his brother az-Zahir Ghazi to try and drive al-Adil out of Damascus.[5] Although he was closely besieged in Damascus (1199), he defeated Al-Afdal at the Battle of Bilbeis in January 1200. In the ensuing power struggles Al-Adil was able to defeat various combinations of his relatives and in 1201 was recognised as Sultan.

Rule[edit]

After his victory, he was proclaimed Sultan and ruled wisely and well over both Egypt and Syria for nearly two decades, promoting trade and good relations with the Crusader states (1200–1217). For much of his reign however the effective ruler of Egypt was his son Al-Kamil.[6]

The reign of al Adil was generally more one of consolidation than of expansion. He was in his late fifties by the time he consolidated his power, and by that time had been almost constantly at war for two decades. His first concern was to rebuild his treasury, which had been left almost empty by his brother’s empire-building, the wars with the Crusaders and the struggles within the Ayyubid dynasty itself. Al-Adil introduced reforms both to the currency and to the taxation system.[7] The effectiveness of his measures can be judged from the relatively rapid recovery Egypt made from an earthquake in 1200 (597) and the low flooding of the Nile between 1199 and 1202 (595-98). The resulting drought and famine were serious threats, but by a range of measures including sending his soldiers out to work the land, al-Adil ensured continued social and political stability as well as economic recovery.[8]

Avoiding a new crusade was the second main concern of al-Adil's reign, and to this end he encouraged trade with European merchants, calculating that if the trading cities of the Mediterranean had a stake in peaceful trade they would be less inclined to support a new Crusade. He was not entirely successful in this, and there were Frankish naval raids on Rosetta in 1204 (600) and Damietta in 1211 (607).[9]

His third concern was to maintain hegemony within the Ayyubid domains without resort to force. He proved to be a skilled diplomat in this respect and managed to avoid any confrontations after 1201. Of particular importance was the marriage of his daughter Dayfa Khatun to Saladin's son Az-Zahir Ghazi of Aleppo in 1212, which marked the end of the rivalry between the two branches of the family.[10] Al-Adil also undertook a major programme of refortification throughout his domains, and the massive citadel of Damascus was one of his most notable achievements in this respect.[11]

Al-Adil’s territorial ambitions were focused far away from the main centres of Ayyubid rule, in southern Anatolia and northern Iraq. He succeeded over time in bringing much of the old Zengid dominions, apart from Mosul and Sinjar, under his control, as well as the region around Lake Van.[12] He took Ahlat in 1207 and brought to an end the rule of the Ahlatshahs.

Death and Legacy[edit]

One of the main objects of al-Adil's foreign policy was to avoid provoking the launching of a new Crusade. However in September 1217 (Jumada II 612) a new crusader army disembarked at Acre. Al-Adil was totally unprepared for this assault and despite being seventy-two years of age he hurriedly took his forces into Palestine to engage with them. The campaigns in Palestine did not bring him any notable success however, and in August 1218 (Jumada 1 615) he received the shocking news that a second Crusader force had landed in Egypt and were attacking Damietta.[13] He fell ill and died while on campaign (August 1218) and was succeeded by his son Malik Al-Kamil.

Al Adil's rule was decisive in determining the shape of the Ayyubid realm for many years to come. After him, the succession in Egypt and to the coveted title of Sultan remained in the eldest male line of his successors. His descendants also controlled the critical border fortress of Mayyafariqin in the far northeast of the Ayyubid realm. Elsewhere, Saladin's descendants retained Aleppo, and the family of Al-Adil's other brother Nur ad-Din Shahanshah held Baalbek and Hama. Homs was held by the descendant's of Al-Adil's uncle Shirkuh. Damascus became the main focus of rivalry between different branches of the family, changing hands a number of times before Ayyubid rule came to an end.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ From Saladin to the Mongols: The Ayyubids of Damascus, 1193-1260 by R. Stephen Humphreys, SUNY Press 1977, p. 155
  2. ^ A History of the Crusades: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades by Steven Runciman, p.79
  3. ^ A History of the Crusades: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades by Steven Runciman, p.79
  4. ^ A History of the Crusades: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades by Steven Runciman, p.81
  5. ^ A History of the Crusades: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades by Steven Runciman, p.81
  6. ^ The Cambridge History of Egypt, eds. M. W. Daly, Carl F. Petry, Volume 1, p.221
  7. ^ The Cambridge History of Egypt, eds. M. W. Daly, Carl F. Petry, Volume 1, p.221
  8. ^ The Cambridge History of Egypt, eds. M. W. Daly, Carl F. Petry, Volume 1, p.221
  9. ^ The Cambridge History of Egypt, eds. M. W. Daly, Carl F. Petry, Volume 1, p.221
  10. ^ From Saladin to the Mongols: The Ayyubids of Damascus, 1193-1260 by R. Stephen Humphreys p.155
  11. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History: pts. 1-2. c. 1024-c. 1198 eds. Rosamond McKitterick, David Edward Luscombe, David Abulafia p.748
  12. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History: pts. 1-2. c. 1024-c. 1198 eds. Rosamond McKitterick, David Edward Luscombe, David Abulafia p.748
  13. ^ From Saladin to the Mongols: The Ayyubids of Damascus, 1193-1260 by R. Stephen Humphreys, p. 160
  14. ^ Lane-Poole, Stanley,The Mohammedan Dynasties, COnstable, London 1894 p.77
  • Nicolle, David (2008). The Second Crusade. Osprey Publishing. 
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Al-Afdal ibn Salah ad-Din
Emir of Damascus
1196–1218
Succeeded by
al-Mu'azzam
Preceded by
al-Mansur Nasir al-Din Muhammad
Sultan of Egypt
1200–1218
Succeeded by
al-Kamil