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Baibars was born a Kipchak Turk in the city of Solhat in Crimea. He was captured by the Mongols and sold as a slave, ending up in Egypt. If he had stayed in his native land he would have been known as a Crimean Tatar.
He was a commander of the Mamluks in around 1250, when he defeated the Seventh Crusade of Louis IX of France. He was still a commander under Sultan Qutuz at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. After the battle he killed Qutuz and took power for himself.
He continued what was to become a life long struggle on the Crusader kingdoms in Syria, starting with the Principality of Antioch, which had attempted to ally with the Mongols against Baibars at Ain Jalut.
In 1263 he attacked Acre, the capital of the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but was unable to take it. Nevertheless, he defeated the Crusaders in many other battles (Arsuf, Athlith, Haifa, Safad, Jaffa, Ashkalon, Caesarea); whenever possible he took as prisoners members of the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, who were much hated in the Muslim world then, and considered to be the greatest military threat.
In 1266 Baibars defeated the Armenians in Cilicia, the only powerful ally of Antioch. In 1268 he besieged Antioch, capturing the city on May 18. He razed the city and killed or enslaved the population, although Prince Bohemund was able to escape. The fall of Antioch led to the brief Ninth Crusade in 1271 led by Edward I of England, who also attempted to ally with the Mongols, although they were unable to capture any territory from Baibars. Although Edward and Baibars settled a truce, Baibars tried to have Edward killed by the Hashshashin, and Edward returned home in 1272.
Baibars then fought the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia, who were by this time subjects of the Mongols. Throughout his reign Baibars attempted to avoid another battle with the stronger Mongol force, and he retreated from Seljuk territory before Mongol reinforcements arrived. He died in Syria in 1277.
Baibars was a popular ruler in his time, and after his death.
In order to support his military campaigns, Baibars commissioned arsenals, warships and cargo vessels. He was also an efficient administrator who took interest in building various infrastructure projects, such as a mounted message relay system capable of delivery from Cairo to Damascus in 4 days. He also built bridges, irrigation and shipping canals. He also improved the harbours, and built mosques.
al-Madrassa al-Zahiriyya is the school build adjacent to his Mausoleum in Damascus, and its library (al-Maktaba al-Zahiriyya ) has a wealth of manuscripts in various branches of knowledge.
As the first great Sultan of the Bahri Mamluk dynasty, Baibars made the meritocratic ascent up the ranks of Mamluk society. He took final control by killing Sayf al Din Qutuz, but it was he who led the Mamluk forces in the most important battle of the Middle Periods, repelling a diminished Mongol force at the legendary battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. His reign marked the start of an age of Mamluk dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean, and solidified the durability of their servile military system. He took his ideal as Saladin, but Baibars was more ruthless. He managed to all but end the Crusader presence in Syria, and managed to unite Egypt and Syria into one powerful state that was able to fend off both threats.
- Baybars al-Bunduqdari, the First Great Mameluke Ruler of Egypt, by Ismail Abaza
- Baibars article from Encyclopedia of the Orient
- Baibars in Concise Britannica online
- al-Madrassa al-Zahiriyya and Baybars Mousoleum
- Brief Article in Columbia Encyclopedia
- Extensive Arabic Article on Baybars
- Brief Biography
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