The Ayyubid Dynasty of Egypt and Syria

Quick Start


Scholars, soldier-strategists, but separated from the history of their land.

The Ayyubid value culture and learning greatly, but they are the fiercest of warriors and apply their understanding of the world as readily to the way of the sword as to that of the scholar. Perhaps most subtly the Ayyubid dynasty and the people they rule are set apart from their lands, not truly heirs but a new beginning.

Salah al-Din has his court in the city of Cairo, upon the banks of the Nile. There every scholar is given welcome and the arguments of philosophers and historians are common amongst the learned nobles with which Salah al-Din surrounds himself. It is said that to have a truly novel idea is as good as gold in attracting the attention of the powerful. The practical arts are not neglected, the city is endowed with numerous astronomers, mathematicians and alchemists. As well-respected as their more philosophical cousins they play a smaller role in the life of the court, doubling often as architects for the great public works that Salah al-Din has ordered be built. Cairo is still a shanty-town in many regards, still absorbing the destruction of its neighbour Fustat.

But is not for his patronage of the arts and sciences that Salah al-Din is most famous, it is for his strong swordarm and keener insight into the ways of armies. Amongst the scholars that throng his court are those that study his many successes and teach the lessons to be derived from them. And it is true that success breeds success, and noble example excellent followers. The people of the new-born Ayyubid dynasty have a command of armies and soldiers that is impossible to teach, insights that come from cradle and culture.

The people of Egypt and Syria, over which the Ayubbid rule, are surrounded by the titanic ruins of those who occupied their lands before them. In Egypt there still exist colossal temples to the pagan deities, and in both realms the ruins of Greeks, then Romans, Christians and now a dozen different caliphates and sultanates. It is an unstated knowledge, shared by those who till the fields and even those historians that study the past of the land rather than Mohammed, that the people of these lands are a new beginning. Unlike the Byzantines trapped by the weight of their past, or even the Latins with their tales of a past so much brighter than their present, the Ayubbid know that by the Grace of Allah they will build better.

Who to Play

The archetypal Ayyubid is either a soldier or a scholar, with the former having a leaning towards strategy and the command of armies and the latter a leaning towards alchemy or the sciences of mathematics or astronomy. The imams and nobles of the Ayyubid who do not practice such arts themselves very ostentatiously fund or promote them, for to be known as wiser than others is more fitting in the eyes of Allah than to be richer.

The Ayyubid also produce a great number of historians and a notable number of “explorers” more interested in directly (and financially) benefiting from the past. The tombs and palaces of Syria and Egypt are reputed to be filled with treasures, and rumours speak of great valleys filled with the wealth of nations hidden in the desolate valleys away from the Nile.


  • All who hail from Egypt and Syria are followers of Islam, and members of the Muslim states faction. Few who hail from the court of Salah al-Din are other that Sunni.
  • Ayyubid characters start with a +1 bonus to either their Research or Strategy skill. This means that the first rank of the chosen skill comes free - if you wish to have the skill at a higher rank, it simply costs one point cheaper.
  • Ayyubid characters have access to alchemy, as well as hedge magic and witchcraft.

In Detail

“There have been many great Sultans before him, monarchs to whom might be applied the sub-titles of the Wise, the Magnificent, the Valiant. It remained for Saladin to win that of the Chivalrous. To him the unfortunate Christian captive addresses his last appeal, confident of securing justice, and hopeful of mercy. It is to him the weeping widow and orphan come for succour, never to be turned away empty-handed. On his generosity the vanquished enemy relies for terms he would never have granted himself. Extravagant in largesse to the extreme of imprudence, a spendthrift in beneficence, yet of the utmost simplicity in his own manner of living. Almost foolishly lenient and forbearing, in fact. By consequence, a gallant hero in the esteem of all nations and all races, admired by all the civilized world. For many of them a very Prince of Chivalry.”
– the bard, and happy captive, Henry of Giscard

In truth the history of the Ayyubid is the history of one man, Salah al-Din ibn Al-Ayubbi, the greatest warrior and statesman of Islam that has arisen in a dozen generations of men. He is known as “Saladin” amongst the Christians, and his name sets to knocking the knees of their kings and knights.

Salah al-Din ibn Al-Ayubbi

upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_5_57_saladinrexaegypti.jpg Salah al-Din was born in what is now Northern Iraq. At an early age he came to the attention of Nur ad-Din, who dreamed of uniting the Muslim states and driving the Crusaders from the Holy Land. It was under that ruler's patronage that he attended university at Damascus.

His aunt Shirkuh was a senior commander of the emir Nur ad-Din, and it was under Shirkuh that Salah al-Din was granted his first command and his first lessons in the arts of war. In 1168 the Crusaders struck against Egypt and the teenage caliph and his scheming vizier Shawar, the true ruler, appealed for aid from their brothers in Syria. Shirkuh led the army and Salah al-Din was by her side.

“Shawar ordered that Fustat [the capital of Egypt] be evacuated. He forced [the citizens] to leave their money and property behind and flee for their lives with their children. In the panic and chaos of the exodus, the fleeing crowd looked like a massive army of ghosts…. Some took refuge in the mosques and bathhouses…awaiting a Christian onslaught similar to the one in Bilbeis. Shawar sent 20,000 naphtha pots and 10,000 lighting bombs [mish'al] and distributed them throughout the city. Flames and smoke engulfed the city and rose to the sky in a terrifying scene. The blaze raged for 54 days…”
– Al-Maqrizi

In the aftermath of the defence of Egypt, Shirkuk and Shawar struggled for supremacy. Both died and Salah al-Din became commander of the Syrian forces and vizier to the caliph. From there it was a short step to becoming Sultan of Egypt. His rulership began a golden age for an Egypt scarred by war and slowly the territory he conquered extended along the coast and down the Nile.

It was now be began his first wars with the Crusader Kingdoms.

With the death of Nur ad-Din, with whom open war was brewing, Salah al-Din marched on Damascus and became ruler of Syria too. While he was occupied in besieging Aleppo, on May 22, 1176, the shadowy Ismaili assassin group, the Hashshashin, attempted to murder him. They made two attempts on his life, the second time coming close enough to inflict wounds. It is fair to say that the Abuyyids take a dim view of assassins.

Salah al-Din and his kingdoms have made regular war upon the Crusader States ever since.


Salah al-Din has a reputation as a chivalrous knight amongst even the Crusaders, and he expects the same from his followers. His name means “Righteous of Faith” and he has always striven to live up to it. He is a strict adherent of Sunni Islam. He will not maim, kill or retaliate against those whom he defeated. He will not tolerate oathbreakers or the lawless.

Here is a tale told in the Levant about Salah al-Din Once a Frankish woman's three month old baby was stolen from her camp and sold on the market. The Franks urged the woman to approach Salah al-Din herself with her grievance. After Salah al-Din used his own money to buy the child, “he gave it to the mother and she took it; with tears streaming down her face, and hugged it to her breast. The people were watching her and weeping and I (Ibn Shaddad) was standing amongst them. She suckled it for some time and then Saladin ordered a horse to be fetched for her and she went back to camp.”

The Holy Cities

The Abuyyid Dynasty controls the Holy Cities of Medina and Mecca. It is the fifth pillar of Islam that each able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so should make one pilgrimage to the sacred cities in their lifetime. Considerable respect accrues to those who protect the Holy Cities. (It is also extremely lucrative since the pilgrims must spend to reach the cities and stay there.)

The Abuyyid take their role as the guardians of Medina and Mecca very seriously. Salah al-Din has launched preemptive wars against the Crusaders states merely at the suggestion of such action.


The Ayyubid Dynasty is the family of Salah al-Din, his brothers and cousins are the emirs and rulers of the major cities and provinces within Egypt and Syria. Ultimately all power derives from Salah al-Din and his success as a ruler, but the day to day running of his kingdom is a family matter. Salah al -Din's brother al-Adil rules in that part of Iraq held by the Ayyubid and in the Transjordan; his brother Toghtekin rules in Yemen; his nephews rule the Lebanon and Syria; and the descendants of Shirkuh rule along the Eastern border of the Crusader states.

Salah al-Din's children hold the highest positions, however. al-Afdal, the eldest, holds Damascus and is intended to be heir and overlord of the whole; the second, al-Aziz, is regent in Egypt when her father is absent; and a third, az-Zahir, rules Aleppo near the borders with the Byzantines and Seljuk. The eldest brother and sister are known to harbour a deep grudge against az-Zahir, though none knows why. Most of Salah al-Din's seventeen sons and thirteen daughters content themselves with the studies and luxuries of the Court.


Egypt and Syria are dotted with ruins from the Pharoahs and Phoenicians and Greek and Romans. They lack the mystery, and the apparent danger, of the great lost cities rumoured to lie hidden in the Empty Quarter of Araby, but they don't lack for gold. At least those that haven't been looted centuries before don't.

The desert away from the Nile is the great hunting ground of the treasure hunters. The alchemists of Cairo need ground mummy for their potions, and what they don't buy the alchemists of Byzantium will pay just as much for. Some villages along the Upper Nile earn their entire income from mining graveyards. The greatest treasure is rumoured to lie in the hidden burial place of the ancient pharaohs.

The Holy Land

Salah al-Din is determined to add Jerusalem to the great cities of Islam that he defends and glorifies. However, he has twice saved the Crusader kingdoms from invasion; in the early 1170s, when Egypt and Syria were not united but instead rivals, the Crusader states proved a valuable buffer and Salah al-Din's diplomacy and troops proved impossible for Nur ab-Din of Syria to ignore. But that time has passed.

Now Salah al-Din is unconstrained. His fleet, based at Alexandria threatens Beirut and the other coastal cities of the Crusaders, and his armies regularly raid and besiege the smaller towns and castles. Twice he has besieged Kerak near the Dead Sea, and twice been barely thrown back.

The Crusaders know that Salah al-Din is coming and they are afraid.

Past Actors

  • Asad ad-Din Shirkuh bin Shadhi, the Lioness of the Mountains and the Faith, was Salah al-Din's aunt and tutor in the arts of the warrior and of the statesman. In her youth she slew a Christian with whom she was quarrelling and the family was exiled, she joined the armies of Nur ad-Din and protected and then conquered Egypt in his name. “It was the case that Asad ad-Din was a great eater, excessively given to partaking of rich meats. She suffered many bouts of indigestion and from quinsy, from which she would recover after putting up with great discomfort. She was taken severely ill, afflicted with a serious quinsy, which killed her.”
  • Iṣmat ad-Dīn Khātūn, Lady Pure of Faith, is the commander of the garrison at Damascus. In her prime she held the city against the besieging forces of the Crusaders and threw them back. She is one of Salah al-Din's wives and the nearest match to him in craftiness on the battlefield; many say she is the most beloved too for he writes to her every day without fail. Others wonder if it is not the business of the state and secrets of the Crusaders that pass between them.
  • Jabir Ibn Hayyan, was the greatest scholar of his age when he died some dozen years ago. The greatest of polymaths he made breakthroughs in astrology, engineering and surgery amongst other areas. The great vaulted roof of the palace in Cairo was built under his direction. But alchemy was his first love; it is said that he died but seven days from completing the philosopher's stone of the Latins - an exercise purely of research! His students and apprentices are numerous, and more than usually argumentative.
egypt.txt · Last modified: 2009/03/17 18:29 by innokenti
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