Page 1369


but two months. On his death he was succeeded by his nephew, named Sallah-u-deen

or Saladin, destined erelong to become the

most famous of all the leaders in the later

annals of Islam. This young Moslem chief

was by birth a native of Kurdistan, who had

drifted westward out of obscurity and joined

his uncle's army in the two invasions of

Egypt. His military genius first revealed

itself in the defense of Alexandria, which

he conducted in so able a manner as to win

the applause of the Moslem leaders. This

episode, together with the influence of Syracon, procured for the ambitious young Kurd

the viziership at his uncle's death, nor was

it long until, by his abilities, his intelligence

and far-reaching plans, he had made himself the real, though not the nominal, master

of Egypt.

Even at this early period he had conceived the design of uniting in one all the

dominions of Islam in the East. As a measure

inaugurative of so bold a plan he presently

caused one of his followers-a priest-to

go into the principal pulpit of Cairo and offer

prayers, substituting the name of the Caliph

of Baghdad for that of the Fatimite. Such

was the audacity of the business that it

succeeded. The people were either dumb

or indifferent. As for the Egyptian Caliph

himself, he was secluded in his palace and

knew not what was done. A few days afterwards he died a natural death, and one

troublesome obstacle to the success of Saladin's schemes was removed. He then

caused the green emblems of the Fatimites

to be removed from the mosques and palace

of Cairo and to be replaced with the black

badges of the Abbassides. Thus silently, and

as if by magic, the descendants of Ali, who

for two centuries had held sway over Egypt,

were overwhelmed, and their dynasty extinguished by a parvenu Kurdish chieftain

blown up from the desert.

Saladin, now emir of Egypt under the

sultanate of Noureddin of Damascus, abided

his time. While his master lived he deemed

it prudent to remain in loyal subordination. But when in 1173 Noureddin-one of

the greatest and best Moslems of his times

-died, Saladin threw away all concealment

of his designs, and putting aside the minor

sons of the late sultan, usurped the government for himself. Such was the brilliancy

of his coup de main that all stood paralyzed

until the work was accomplished, and then

applauded the 'thing done. In a short time

Saladin had united in one all the Moslem

states between the Nile and the Tigris. He

it was who was now in a position to look with

a malevolent and angry eye upon the figure of

the Cross seen above the walls of Jerusalem.

In the mean time, while Saladin remained

in Egypt waiting for the death of Noureddin

to open the way before him, the king of Jerusalem died, and bequeathed his crown to his

son, Baldwin IV. This young prince was

afflicted with leprosy, to the extent of being

wholly incapacitated for the duties of government. He accordingly, without himself resigning the crown, committed the kingdom to

the regency of his sister, Sybilla, and her husband, Guy of Lusignan. This event happened in the same year in which Saladin, by his stroke of policy, had made himself master of Islam-1173.

The consort of Sybilla soon showed his

inability to bear the cares of state. His

conduct was so little worthy of his position

that the barons of Palestine turned from

him with contempt. Their hostility was

increased by the machinations of Raymond

II., of Tripoli, whose misfortune it was to

be no more virtuous than he whom he opposed. The lords and knights of the kingdom were thus divided into factions, whose

partisan selfishness boded no good to the

Christian cause in the East. At length the

leprous Baldwin IV. was obliged by his

vassals to make a new settlement of the

kingdom, which he effected by abolishing

the regency of Sybilla and her husband,

and bestowing the crown upon her son by

her former husband, the Count of Montferrat.

This prince, who, by his uncle's abdication,

took the name of Baldwin V, was himself

a minor, and was for the time committed

to the guardianship of Joscelyn de Courtenay,

son of that unheroic son of a hero, from

whom Noureddin had snatched the Principality of Edessa. At the same time of the

settlement of the crown of Jerusalem upon

Baldwin V. the custody of the fortresses of

the Holy Land was entrusted to the Hospitallers and the Templars, and the general

regency of the kingdom to Count Raymond

of Tripoli.

Soon after this adjustment of affairs