Timeline: Ayyubid [ 1169-1260}

Medieval dynasty which ruled Syria, Palestine, Iraq. Egypt and Yemen during the 12th-13th c./5th-6th c. AH

The founder of the dynasty was Shirukh, a Kurdish retainer of the Zengid prince Nur al-Din. First Shirukh secured the governorship of Aleppo and later was appointed vizier to the Fatimid ruler of Egypt. Shirukh was succeeded by his nephew Salah al-Din who rapidly extended his position and became ruler of Egypt, Syria, and northern Iraq whilst he appointed his brother ruler of Yemen. Salah al-Din's greatest accomplishment was the defeat of the Crusaders and the reconquest of Jerusalem. Salah al-Din died in 1189/584 AH and his empire fragmented under his successors who ruled various parts of the empire until the mid-13thc./6th c. AH.    

Ayyubid architecture was dominated by the need to combat two enemies: the Crusaders in Palestine and the rising threat of Shi'ism and religious dissension. To combat the Crusaders a network of fortresses was built which rivaled those of the Crusaders both in size and technical sophistication. Amongst the best examples of Ayyubid military architecture are Qal'at Rabad at Ajlun in Jordan and Qal'at Nimrud at Banyas in Syria. In addition, the fortification of citadels was improved and the famous gateway of the Aleppo Citadel dates from this period. Some of the techniques of fortification were learned from the Crusaders (curtain walls following the natural topography), although many were inherited from the Fatimids (machicolations and round towers) and some were developed simultaneously (concentric planning). Shi'ism was an equally dangerous threat to the Ayyubids who built a large number of madrassas in both Syria and Egypt. In Egypt, the Ayyubids had to reintroduce religious orthodoxy after two centuries of government-imposed Shi'ism. In Syria, there was a so a growing threat of Shi'ism in the form of the Assassins who had benefited from the confusion of the Crusader conflict. The Ayyubids tried to promote Sufism as an orthodox alternative and began to build khanqas and Sufi shrines to provide a focus for these activities.

Petersen, Andrew. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

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