Skip to main content

Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

See other formats

2                      THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                OHAP.
great victory of the Nile had doomed Napoleon's enterprise to ultimate failure, realised in turn that, in the steady disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt offered a rich and fertile field of incalculable potentialities to his masterful genius.
No European force had landed in Egypt since the
Crusaders, when St. Louis of France was defeated and
captured at Mansourah in the thirteenth century.   But
the Egyptian people were not then and never had been
an independent  nation  since  the   Persians   conquered
them five hundred years before the Christian era.    Greeks
and Romans and Byzantines had been their successive
masters until the Arabs swept over Egypt in the first
tide of Mahomedan conquest.   Egypt became subject in
turn to the Khalifs of Damascus and of Baghdad, and
for a period to the Fatimite rulers of Tunis.    In the
twelfth century she passed into the hands of the great
Saladin, whose dynasty did not long survive him, and
from the middle of the thirteenth century down to the
beginning of the nineteenth century she submitted to the
domination of an alien caste of rulers whose power was
only superficially affected by their more or less nominal
allegiance to Constantinople after the Turkish conquest.
The rule of the Mamelukes in Egypt represents one of the
strangest systems of military despotism which the world
has ever seen.    As their name indicates they were slaves.
It was not so much by heredity as by the constant purchase
of male children, chiefly Circassians, who were brought
up from the moment they arrived in Egypt to become
members of the ruling military caste, that Mameluke
domination   endured   for   nearly   six   centuries.   The
Mamelukes seldom if ever intermarried with the people
of the country, whom  they regarded and  treated as
serfs, and though they certainly did not profess celibacy
as the great  military  orders  of  Christendom  did,  to
whom   they   have   been   sometimes    Compared,   their
institutions   discouraged   the   family   instinct.    Seldom
did the supreme power pass from father to son beyond      it in Egypt.    Within the first year of the Occupation