Noureddin Mahmud, Malek-al-adel
Noureddin Mahmud, Malek-Al-Adel one of the most illustrious men of his time, and the scourge of the Christians who had settled in Syria and Palestine, was born at Damascus Feb. 21, 1116. His father, Omad-ed-din Zengui, originally governor of Mosul and Diarbekir on behalf of the Seljuk sultans, had established his independence, and extended his authority over Northern Syria, including Hems, Edessa, Hamah, and Aleppo. Noureddin succeeded him in 1145, and, the better to carry out his ambitious designs, changed the seat of government from Mosul to Aleppo. Count Joscelin of Edessa, thinking the accession of a young and inexperienced sovereign afforded him a favorable opportunity of regaining his territories, made an inroad at the head of a large force, but was signally discomfited under the walls of Edessa, his army, with the exception of 10,000 men, being completely annihilated. The report of Noureddin's success being conveyed to Western Europe, gave rise to the second crusade. The Crusaders were, however, foiled by Noureddin before Damascus, and, being defeated in a number of partial conflicts, abandoned their enterprise in despair. Noureddin next conquered Tripolis and Antioch, the prince of the latter territory being defeated and slain in a bloody conflict near Rugia (June 29, 1149), and before 1151 all the Christian strongholds in Syria were in his possession. He then cast his eyes on Egypt, which was in a state of almost-complete anarchy under the feeble sway of the now effeminate Fatimites; and, as a preliminary step, he took possession of Damascus (which till this time had been ruled by an independent Seljuk prince) in 1156; but a terrible earthquake which at this time devastated Syria, leveling large portions of Antioch, Tripolis, Hamah, Hems, and other towns, put a stop to his scheme at that time, and compelled him to devote all his energies to the removal of the traces of this destructive visitation. An illness which prostrated him in 1159 enabled the Christiana to recover some of their lost territories, and Noureddin, in attempting their resubjugation, was totally defeated near the Lake of Gennesareth by Baldwin III, king of Jerusalem; but, undismayed by this reverse,, he resumed the offensive, defeated the Christian princes of Tripolis and Antioch, making prisoners of both, and again invaded Palestine. Meanwhile he had obtained the sanction of the caliph of Bagdad to his projects concerning Egypt, and the true believers flocking to his standard from all quarters, a large army was soon raised, which under his lieutenant, Shirkoh, speedily overran Egypt. Shirkoh dying soon after, was succeeded by his nephew, the celebrated Salah-ed-din (q.v.), who completed the conquest of the country. Noureddin, becoming jealous of his able young lieutenant, was preparing to march into Egypt in person, when he died at Damascus, May 15, 1174. Noureddin is one of the great heroes of Moslem history. Brought up among warriors who were sworn to shed their blood for the cause of the Prophet, he retained in his exalted station all the austere simplicity of the first caliphs. He was not, like the majority of his co-religionists, a mere conqueror, but zealously promoted the cultivation of sciences, arts, and literature, and established a strict ad-. ministration of justice throughout his extensive dominions. He was revered by his subjects, both Moslem and Christian, for his moderation and clemency, and even his most bitter enemies among the Christian princes extolled his chivalrous heroism and good faith. He possessed in an eminent degree the faculty of impressing his own fiery zeal for the supremacy of Islam upon his subjects, and his descendants at the present day have faithfully preserved both his name and principles.