Battle of al-Babein

Battle of Al-Babein
Part of the Crusades
DateMarch 18, 1167
ResultCrusaders failed to secure Egypt
Kingdom of JerusalemZengids of Syria
Commanders and leaders
Amalric I of JerusalemShirkuh
374 knights, some horse archersUnknown
Casualties and losses
100 knightsUnknown

The Battle of al-Babein took place on March 18, 1167, during the third Crusader invasion of Egypt. King Amalric I of Jerusalem, and a Zengid army under Shirkuh, both hoped to take the control of Egypt over from the Fatimid Caliphate. Saladin served as Shirkuh’s highest-ranking officer in the battle. The result was a tactical draw between the forces, however The Crusaders failed to gain access to Egypt.


After the death of Zengi, his son, Nur al-Din came to power in Aleppo. In 1154, he gained control of Damascus when there was no one in power over the city. He became the first Seljuq leader since the 1090s to unite north and south Syria. Nur al-Din embraced jihad ideals when battling against the Franks and was a crucial figure in the recovery of Jerusalem.[1]

Vizier Shawar had full authority over the Fatimids and was the advisor to the caliph. Shawar required the support of Nur al-Din’s generals to gain control. Shawar turned to Shirkuh for assistance. After Shawar found out Shirkuh’s price for fighting for him was higher than he was willing to pay, Shawar turned to Amalric. Shirkuh was almost ready to establish territory of his own in Egypt when Amalric I invaded. After several months of campaigning, Shrikuh was forced to withdraw.[2]

Shirkuh had the ability to conduct politics and aspired to become Nur al-Din’s right-hand man. Shirkuh fought in the Battle of Inab in 1149. He had killed Raymond of Antioch in the battle fighting one on one with him. After that battle, he gained his reputation for his attention to detail and his excellence with tactics. When Nur al-Din captured Damascus in 1154, he sent Shirkuh before the ambassadors to negotiate the terms for the border lines between Damascus and Aleppo.[3]

Amalric I was the king of Jerusalem, and held power from 1163 to 1174. Amalric had been an ally and nominal protector for the Fatimid government. In 1167, Amalric wanted to destroy the Zengid army sent by Nur al-Din from Syria.[4] Amalric depended on his Military Orders for his invasion of Egypt.[5] The Military Orders is a Christian order of Knighthood. The Military Orders were set down for the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar to go against pagans or Muslims, or in the Holy Lands, to anyone who persecuted the Christian beliefs and practices.[6] Amalric’s obsession was to take over Egypt, after first trying to befriend the nation.[7] Later on, he decided to serve under Saladin after he declared himself sultan in 1171.[8]

Another key participant in the battle of al-Babein was Saladin. Saladin entered the army at the age of 14.[9] At age of 18, he was promoted as personal officer to Nur al-Din. At first Saladin was reluctant to go with his uncle, Shirkuh, to take over Egypt. Saladin only agreed to this because Shirkuh was family. He took thousands of troops, his bodyguards, and 200,000 gold pieces to Egypt, to take over the nation.[10]

Because Amalric was an ally and protector of the Fatimid government, fighting in the Battle of al-Babein was in his best interest. He invaded Egypt several times during his reign. These campaigns were not very successful, as they always ran into complications leading to failure each time.[11] Nur al-Din organized the battle strategy on the Muslim side. Nur al-Din was the Muslim leader who unified Syria.[12] The troops were led by Shirkuh. Since both sides wanted to be in charge of Egypt, whoever won the battle would accomplish that goal. This contest brought on the Battle of al-Babein in 1167.