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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 1744 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #30 on: January 04, 2009, 11:03:07 pm »

The celebrated Emod-ed-deen (Pillar of Religion) Zengi, who gave the Christian power in the east its first shock by the conquest of Edessa, perished by the hand of a slave shortly after that achievement. His power and the title Atabeg fell to his son Noor-ed-deen, who carried on the war against the Christians with all the activity of his father, and with more of the gentleness and courtesies which shed a lustre on zeal and valour. Noor-ed-deen was one of the most accomplished characters which the East has exhibited. He was generous and just, and strict in the observance of all the duties of Islam. No pomp or magnificence surrounded him. He wore neither silk nor gold. With the fifth part of the booty, which was his share as prince, he provided for all his expenses. A zealous Moslem, he was evermore engaged in the combats of the Holy War,--either the greater, which was held to be fought against the world and its temptations by fasting and prayer, by study, and the daily practice of the virtues required of him who is placed in authority,--or the lesser, which was fought with natural weapon's against the foes of Islam. From this union of piety and valour he acquired the titles of Gasi (Victor) and Sheheed (Martyr); for, though he did not fall in the defence of the faith, he was regarded as being entitled to all the future rewards attendant

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on actual martyrdom. Notwithstanding his being one of the most deadly foes that the Christians ever encountered, their historians did justice to the illustrious Noor-ed-deen, and the learned William, Archbishop of Tyre, says of him, "He was a prudent, moderate man, who feared God according to the faith of his people, fortunate, and an augmenter of his paternal inheritance."

The possession of Mossul and Aleppo made Noor-ed-deen master of northern Syria; the southern part of that country was under the Prince of Damascus. Twice did the atabeg lay siege, without effect, to that city; at length the inhabitants, fearing the Crusaders, invited him to take possession of it, and the feeble prince was obliged to retire, accepting Emessa in exchange for the "Queen of Syria." The power of Noor-ed-deen now extended from the Euphrates to the Holy Land, and his thoughts were directed towards his grand object of expelling the Franks from the East, when an opportunity presented itself of bringing Egypt once more under the spiritual dominion of the house of Abbas.

Degeneracy is the inevitable lot of unlimited power. The Fatimite Commanders of the Faithful were now become mere puppets in the hands of their ministers, and the post of vizir was now, as was so often the case with the throne, contended for with arms. A civil war was at this time raging in Egypt between Shaver and Dhargam, rival candidates for the viziriate. The former came in person to Damascus, and offered the atabeg Noor-ed-deen a third of the revenues of Egypt if he would aid him to overcome his rival. Without hesitation Noor-ed-deen ordered Asad-ed-deen (Lion of Religion) Sheerkoh (Mountain Lion) * a Koordish chief who commanded for him at Emessa, to assemble an army and march for


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[paragraph continues] Egypt. Sheerkoh obeyed, and sorely against his will, and only at the urgent command of Noor-ed-deen, did his nephew, the then little known, afterwards so justly famous, Saladin, quit the banquets and enjoyments of Damascus, and the other towns of Syria, to accompany his uncle to the toils and the perils of war. Dhargam was victorious in the first action, but he being murdered shortly afterwards by one of his slaves, Shaver obtained possession of the dignity which he sought. 'The new vizir then tried. to get rid of his allies, but such was not the intention of Noor-ed-deen, and Sheerkoh took his post with his troops in the north-eastern part of the kingdom, where he occupied the frontier town of Belbeïs, on the most eastern branch of the Nile, under pretext of receiving the third part of the revenue which had been promised to Noor-ed-deen. Shaver, anxious to get rid of such dangerous guests, formed a secret league with Amalric, King of Jerusalem, and engaged to give him 60,000 ducats for his aid against them. Sheerkoh, who had been reinforced, advanced into Upper Egypt, and Saladin took the command of Alexandria, which he gallantly defended for three months against the combined forces of the Christians and Egyptians, and, after some fighting, peace was made on condition of Noor-ed-deen receiving 50,000 ducats, and double that sum being paid annually to the King of Jerusalem.

Shortly afterwards an unprincipled attempt was made on Egypt by Amalric, at the suggestion of the Master of the Hospitallers, and Shaver, in his distress, had once more recourse to Noor-ed-deen. The phantom-khalif joined in the supplication, and sent what is the greatest mark of need in the east--locks of the hair of his women, which is as much as to say, "Aid! aid! the foe is dragging the women forth by the hair." Belbeïs had now been conquered, and

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[paragraph continues] Cairo was besieged by the Christians. Shaver had burnt the old town, and defended himself and the khalif in the new town, the proper Cairo. Sheerkoh appeared once more in Egypt with a larger army than before *, but, ere he reached the beleaguered town, Shaver and Amalric had entered into a composition, and the former had withdrawn on receiving a sum of 50,000 ducats. Sheerkoh however advanced, and pitched his tents before the walls of Cairo. The khalif Adhad and his principal nobles came forth to receive him, and that unhappy prince made his complaints of the tyranny and selfishness of Shaver, who had brought so much misery on him and his kingdom. He concluded by requesting the head of his vizir at the hand of the general of Noor-ed-deen. Shaver, aware of the danger which menaced him, invited Sheerkoh, his nephew, and the other chiefs of the army, to a banquet, with the intention of destroying them, but his plot was discovered, and his head cast at the feet of the khalif. Sheerkoh was forthwith appointed to the vacant dignity, with the honourable title of Melik-el-Mansoor (Victorious King), but he enjoyed it only for a short time, having been carried off by death in little more than two months after his elevation. He was succeeded in his rank, and in the

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