Crusader invasions of Egypt

Crusader invasion of Egypt
Part of the Crusades
Gustave dore crusades the syrian army by a sand storm.jpg
The Syrian army by a sand storm (Gustave Doré)
Date1154–1169
LocationEgypt
ResultZengid victory
Belligerents
Fatimid CaliphateZengid dynastyKingdom of Jerusalem
Byzantine Empire
Commanders and leaders
ShawarNur ad-Din Zangi
Shirkuh
Saladin
Amalric I
Andronikos Kontostephanos

The Crusader invasion of Egypt (1154–1169) was a series of campaigns undertaken by the Kingdom of Jerusalem to strengthen its position in the Levant by taking advantage of the weakness of Fatimid Egypt.

The war began as part of a succession crisis in the Fatimid Caliphate, which began to crumble under the pressure of Syria and the Crusader states. While one side called for help from Nur ad-Din Zangi, the other called for Crusader assistance. As the war progressed however it became a war of conquest. A number of Syrian campaigns into Egypt were stopped short of total victory by the aggressive campaigning of Amalric I of Jerusalem. Even so, the Crusaders generally speaking did not have things go their way, despite several sackings. A combined Byzantine-Crusader siege of Damietta failed in 1169, the same year that Salah ad-Din, also known as Saladin in the West, took power in Egypt as vizier. In 1171 Saladin became Sultan of Egypt and the Crusaders thereafter turned their attention to the defence of their Kingdom, which, despite being surrounded by Syria and Egypt, held for another 16 years. Later crusades tried to support the Kingdom of Jerusalem by targeting the danger that was Egypt, but to no avail.

Background

Following the capture of Jerusalem by the forces of the First Crusade, the Fatimids of Egypt launched regular raids into Palestine against the Crusaders, while Zengi of Syria launched a series of successful attacks against the Principality of Antioch. The Second Crusade aimed to reverse the gains of Zengi, ironically with an assault on Damascus, Zengi's most powerful rival. The siege failed and forced the Kingdom to turn south for better fortunes.

The Fatimid Caliphate in the 12th century was riddled with internal squabbles. In the 1160s, Power lay not in the hands of the Fatimid Caliph Al-'Āḍid, but in the hands of the Vizier of Egypt, Shawar. The situation in Egypt made it ripe for conquest, either by Crusaders or by the forces of Zengi's successor, Nur ad-Din Zangi. The Crusader capture of Ascalon in 1154 meant that now the Kingdom was at war in two fronts, but Egypt now had an enemy supply base close at hand.