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Baibars or Baybars ( ), nicknamed Abu al-Futuh (Arabic: أبو الفتوح) (1223 – July 1, 1277, Damascus), was an Mamluk Sultan of Egyptmarker and Syriamarker. He was one of the commanders of the forces which inflicted a defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France and he led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked the first substantial defeat of the Mongol army and is considered a turning point in history. His reign marked the start of an age of Mamluk dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean and solidified the durability of their military system. He managed to pave the way for the end of the Crusader presence in Syriamarker and to unite Egyptmarker and Syria into one powerful state that was able to fend off threats from both Crusaders and Mongols . As Sultan, Baibars also engaged in a combination of diplomacy and military action which allowed the Mamluks to expand their empire.


Early life

Born in the Crimeamarker, Baibars was a Kipchak Turk. It was said that he was captured by the Mongols on the Kipchak steppe and sold as a slave, ending up in Syriamarker.

His first master, the emir (prince) of Hamamarker, was suspicious of Baibars because of his unusual appearance (he was dark-skinned, very tall and had a cataract in one of his bluish eyes). Baibars was quickly sold to a Mamluk officer and sent to Egyptmarker, where he became a bodyguard to the Ayyubid ruler As-Salih Ayyub.

Rise to power

Baibars icon from 1260
Baibars 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 when he decisively defeated the Mongols. After the battle Sultan Qutuz was assassinated while on a hunting expedition. It was said that Baibars was involved in the assassination because he expected to be rewarded with the governorship of Aleppomarker for his military success; but Qutuz, fearing his ambition, refused to give such a post and disappointed him. Baibars succeeded Qutuz as Sultan of Egypt.

As Sultan of Egypt and Syria

He continued what was to become a lifelong struggle against the Crusader kingdoms in Syriamarker, starting with the Principality of Antioch, which had become a vassal state of the Mongols, and participated in attacks against Islamic targets in Damascus and Syria.

In 1263, Baibars attacked Acremarker, 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 (Arsufmarker, Athlithmarker, Haifamarker, Safadmarker, Jaffamarker, Ashkalonmarker, Caesareamarker).

In 1266 Baibars conquered the Christian country of Cilician Armenia, which, under King Hethum I, had submitted to the Mongol Empire. This isolated Antioch and Tripoli, led by Hetum's son-in-law, Prince Bohemond VI. In 1268, Baibars besieged Antioch, capturing the city on May 18. Baibars had promised to spare the lives of the inhabitants, but broke his promise and had the city razed, killing or enslaving the population upon surrender. This tactic was common in Baibars' campaigns, and was largely responsible for the swiftness of his victories. Antioch's ruler, Prince Bohemund VI of Antioch, was then left with no territories except the County of Tripoli. Because Prince Bohemund was away during this attack, he was not there to witness the slaughter of his subjects, and so Baibars wrote him a detailed letter describing exactly what methods of torture and brutality he had visited upon the people of Antioch, and concluded the letter by writing, "If you had been there to see it, you would have wished to have never been born."

Baibars then turned his attention to Tripoli, but interrupted his siege there to call a truce in May 1271. The fall of Antioch had led to the brief Ninth Crusade, led by Edward I of England, who arrived in Acre in May of 1271 and attempted to ally with the Mongols against Baibars. So Baibars declared a truce with Tripoli, and also agreed to a truce with Edward (who was never able to capture any territory from Baibars anyway). According to some reports, Baibars tried to have Edward assassinated with poison, but Edward survived the attempt, and returned home in 1272.

In 1277, Baibars invaded the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm, then dominated by the Mongols. He defeated a Mongol army at the Battle of Elbistan, captured the city of Kayserimarker, but was unable to hold any of his Anatolianmarker conquests and quickly withdrew to Syria.


Baibars married several women and had seven daughters and three sons. Two of his sons, al-Said Barakah and Solamish, became sultans.


Baibars died in Damascusmarker on June 1, 1277. His demise has been the subject of some academic speculation. Many sources agree that he died from drinking poisoned kumis that was intended for someone else. Some accounts speculate that Baibars himself may have prepared the poison: having been warned by astrologers that a coming lunar eclipse was portentous of the death of a king, he may have intended to poison another prince in order to ward off his own death, and mistakenly imbibed his own poison. Other accounts suggest that he may have died from a wound while campaigning, or from illness. He was buried in the Az-Zahiriyah Librarymarker in Damascus.


As the first Sultan of the Bahri Mamluk dynasty, Baibars made the meritocratic ascent up the ranks of Mamluk society. He took final control after the assassination of Sultan Sayf al Din Qutuz, but before he became Sultan he was the commander of the Mamluk forces in the most important battle of the Middle Periods, repelling a Mongol force at the legendary Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260. Although in the Muslim World he has been considered a national hero for centuries, and in Egyptmarker and Syriamarker is still regarded as such, Sultan Baibars was reviled in the Christian world of the time for his destruction of holy sites and massacres or expulsion of Christian populations. A Templar knight who fought in the Seventh Crusade lamented:

Baibars also played an important role in bringing the Mongols to Islam. He developed strong ties with the Mongols of the Golden Horde and took steps for the Golden Horde Mongols to travel to Egyptmarker. The arrival of the Golden Horde Mongols to Egypt resulted in a significant number of Mongols accepting Islam.


Baibars was a popular ruler in the Muslim World who had defeated the crusaders in three campaigns, and the Mongols in the Battle of Ain Jalut which many scholars deem of great macro-historical importance. In order to support his military campaigns, Baibars commissioned arsenals, warships and cargo vessels. He was also arguably the first to employ explosive hand cannons in war, at the Battle of Ain Jalut. ( Part 4 and Part 5) His military campaign also extended into Libyamarker and Nubia.

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 Cairomarker to Damascusmarker in four days. He also built bridges, irrigation and shipping canals, improved the harbours, and built mosques. He was also a patron of Islamic science, such as his support for the medical research by his Arab physician, Ibn al-Nafis.

His memoirs were recorded in Sirat al-Zahir Baibars ("Life of al-Zahir Baibars"), a popular Arabic romance recording his battles and achievements. He has a heroic status in both Egyptmarker and Syriamarker.

Al-Madrassa al-Zahiriyya is the school built adjacent to his Mausoleum in Damascusmarker. The Az-Zahiriyah librarymarker, has a wealth of manuscripts in various branches of knowledge to this day.

In fiction

  • Baibars figures prominently in the story "The Sowers of the Thunder" by Robert E. Howard. While liberties are taken with history for the sake of the tale, and many characters and events are purely imaginary, his character is fairly close to the folkloric depiction and the general flow of history is respected.
  • Baibars is the main character of a novel "Yemshan" by Russian-Kazakh writer Moris Simashko (Moris Davidovich Shamas)
  • Baibars is one of the main characters of Robyn Young's books, Brethren (starting shortly before he becomes Sultan) and Crusade.
  • Baibars is the main character of Jefferson Cooper's (Gardner Fox) 1957 novel, The Swordsman
  • According to Harold Lamb, Haroun of Baghdad in the Arabian Nights was really Baibars of Cairo.

See also


  1. Baibars was nicknamed Abu al-Futuh and Abu al-Futuhat which means father of conquests, pointing to his victories
  2. The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Macropædia, H.H. Berton Publisher, 1973-1974, p.773/vol.2
  3. The history of the Mongol conquests, By J. J. Saunders, pg. 115
  4. Al-Maqrizi, Al Selouk Leme'refatt Dewall al-Melouk, p.520/vol.1
  5. Ibn Taghri, al-Nujum al-Zahirah Fi Milook Misr wa al-Qahirah, Year 675H /vol.7
  6. Abu al-Fida, The Concise History of Humanity , Tarikh Abu al-Fida pp.71-87/ year 676H
  7. Ibn Iyas , Badai Alzuhur Fi Wakayi Alduhur , abridged and edited by Dr. M. Aljayar, Almisriya Lilkitab, Cairo 2007, ISBN 977-419-623-6 , p.91
  8. Baibars in Concise Britannica Online, web page
  9. Brief Article in Columbia Encyclopedia, web page
  10. Al-Maqrizi, Al Selouk Leme'refatt Dewall al-Melouk, Dar al-kotob, 1997. p. 98/vol.2 Idem in English: Bohn, Henry G., The Road to Knowledge of the Return of Kings, Chronicles of the Crusades, AMS Press, 1969.
  11. Abu al-Fida, The Concise History of Humanity , Tarikh Abu al-Fida pp.71-87/ year 676H
  12. Ibn Taghri, al-Nujum al-Zahirah Fi Milook Misr wa al-Qahirah, Dar al-Kotob, Beirut 1992. pp.106-273 / vol.7. History of Egypt, 1382-1469 A.D. by Yusef. William Popper, translator Abu L-Mahasin ibn Taghri Birdi, University of California Press 1954.
  13. Marsot, Afaf Lutfi Al-Sayyid. A History of Egypt: From the Arab Conquest to the Present. Cambridge University Press, 2007. page 33
  14. It should be noted that the story of the involvement of Baibars in the assassination of Sultan Qutuz was told by different source-books historians in different ways, in one account the assassinators killed Qutuz while he was giving a hand to Baibars. (Al-Maqrizi) and (Ibn-Taghri). On another account, which is an Ayyubid source, Qutuz was giving a hand to someone when Baibars struck his back with a sword.(Abu-Al-Fida). A third account mentioned that Baibars tried to help Qutuz against the assassinators.(Hassan,O.). According to Al-Maqrizi the Emirs who struck Qutuz were Badr ad-Din Baktut, Emir Ons and Emir Bahadir al-Mu'izzi. (Al-Maqrizi, p.519/vol.1)
  15. MacHenry, Robert. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1993. Baibars
  16. Hudson Institute > American Outlook > American Outlook Article Detail
  17. Ibid.
  18. Zahiriyya Madrasa and Mausoleum of Sultan al-Zahir Baybars
  19. 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present By Paul K. Davis, pg. 141
  20. The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith, By Thomas Walker Arnold, pg. 192
  21. Ahmad Y Hassan, Gunpowder Composition for Rockets and Cannon in Arabic Military Treatises In Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
  22. Albert Z. Iskandar, "Ibn al-Nafis", in Helaine Selin (1997), Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 0792340663.
  23. Lamb, Harold. The Crusades. Garden City Publishing, 1934. page 343

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