i MEHEMET ALI: CREATOR OF MODERN EGYPT 3
the third generation. It went to the strongest, whether he was recognised as such by common consent, or simply made good his claim at the point of his sharp sword.
During the earlier period of Mameluke rule, before the diversion of European trade with the East to the new ocean routes round the Cape, these slave-kings were able to levy a heavy toll on the transit trade which still passed through Egypt between Venice and the Orient, and though often cruel and bloodthirsty tyrants, they were possessed by the same love of art, especially in. the matter of architecture, as the great Italian "despots" and condottieri who were their contemporaries. The noblest monuments of Cairo date back to that period and still testify to their opulent and fastidious tastes. The hand of the Ottoman Sultans, though it never uprooted the Mamelukes, exerted upon Egypt the same blighting influence as on every other region over which the shadow of Turkish domination has passed. " Saracenic art in Cairo took wings and departed." The old inspiration and the old sources of wealth dried up. The Turkish Pashas, who represented the Sultan's authority in Cairo, flitted rapidly across the stage, being changed on an average every two or three years, but they preyed all the more ravenously upon the country, whilst the one principle of policy common to all was to set the Mamelukes themselves by the ears. But as the Ottoman Empire waned, the Mamelukes gradually recovered most of the ground they had lost, and in 1771 one of the rare men of mark amongst them, Ali Bey, who, had he lived long enough, might himself have been a Mehemet Ali, sent the Turkish Pasha packing and for a brief moment wrested Syria from the Sultan.
What centuries of Turkish domination had not accomplished Napoleon's meteoric appearance in Egypt did in a few months. It shattered the power of the Mamelukes. The flower of them, some 20,000, perished in battle, mostly at the foot of the Pyramids. Mehemet Ali had merely to deal with the broken remnants after the last of the
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