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Published by jack elliot

I

 

The history of the civilized world from the downfall of the Roman
Empire to the present day may be summarized as the struggle between
Cross and Crescent. 

This struggle is characterized by a persistent ebb and flow. 

Mohammed in 622 A.D. transformed, as if by magic, a cluster of Bedouin tribes into a warlike people. 

An Arabian Empire was formed, which reached from the Ebro to the Indus. 

Its further advance was stemmed in the year 732, just a hundred years after Mohammed's death, by Charles Martel, in the seven days' battle of Tours.



The progress of the culture of the Arabs was as rapid as had been that
of their arms. 

Great cities such as Cairo and Bagdad were built.

Commerce and manufactures flourished. 

The Jews, who enjoyed protection under the benign rule of the Caliphs, transmitted to the Arabs the learning and science of the Greeks. 

Schools and universities arose in all parts of the Empire. 

The dark age of Christendom proved to be the golden age of literature for Jew and Arab.



By the eleventh century, however, the Arabs had lost much of their
martial spirit. 

Islam might have lost its ascendancy in the East had
not the warlike Seljuk Turks, coming from the highlands of Central
Asia, possessed themselves of the countries which, in days of old,
constituted the Persian Empire under Darius. 

The Seljuks became ready converts to Islam, and upheld the failing strength of the Arabs.



It was the ill-treatment by the Seljuks of the Christian pilgrims to
Palestine which aroused Christian Europe and led to the First Crusade.


The feudal system adopted by the Seljuks caused endless dissension
among their petty sovereigns, called "Atabegs", all of whom were
nominally vassals of the Caliph at Bagdad.

 Thus it came about that  Islamism, divided against itself, offered but a poor resistance to the  advance of the Christians.

 The Crusaders had little difficulty in  making their way to Palestine. 

They captured Jerusalem, andestablished the Latin kingdom there.



By the middle of the twelfth century Mohammedan power had shrunk to
smaller dimensions. 

Not only did the Franks hold Palestine and all the  important posts on the Syrian coast, but, by the capture of Lesser  Armenia, Antioch, and Edessa, they had driven a wedge into Syria, and  extended their conquests even beyond the Euphrates.




At length there came a pause in the decline of Islam. Zengi, a
powerful Seljuk Atabeg, in 1144 captured Edessa, the outpost of
Christendom, and the Second Crusade, led by the Emperor Conrad of
Germany and by King Louis VII of France, failed to effect the
recapture of the fortress. Nureddin, the far-sighted son and successor
of Zengi, and later on Saladin, a Kurd, trained at his court,
discovered how to restore the fallen might of Islam and expel the
Franks from Asia. 

A necessary preliminary step was to put an end to the dissensions of the Atabeg rulers. 

Nureddin did this effectually by himself annexing their dominions.

 His next step was to gain possession of Egypt, and thereby isolate the Latin Kingdom. 

Genoa, Pisa, and Venice, the three Italian republics who between them had command of the sea, were too selfish and too intent upon their commercial
interests to interfere with the designs of the Saracens. 

The Latin  king Amalric had for some years sought to gain a foothold in Egypt.

 In November, 1168, he led the Christian army as far as the Nile, and was
about to seize Fostat, the old unfortified Arab metropolis of Egypt.


The inhabitants, however, preferred to set fire to the city rather
than that it should fall into the hands of the Christians. 

To this very day many traces may be seen in the neighbourhood of Cairo of this conflagration. Nureddin's army, in which Saladin held a subordinate
command, by a timely arrival on the scene forced the Franks to
retreat, and the Saracens were acclaimed as deliverers.

The nominal ruler of Egypt at that time was El-Adid, the Fatimite
Caliph, and he made Saladin his Vizier, little thinking that that
modest officer would soon supplant him. 

So efficiently did Saladin administer the country that in a few months it had regained its prosperity, despite the five years' devastating war which had 
preceded.

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