The Hansa, though in a stage of increasing decrepitude, now lingered on until the final crash came in 1630, when all the members dissolved their allegiance to the league. Only the three Hanse towns of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck renewed the compact, which, however, to-day is purely nominal. The Hansa had fulfilled its great historic mission. It had impressed the stamp of German culture upon the North; given German commerce the supremacy over that of all other nations; protected the northern and eastern boundaries of the empire at a time when the imperial power was impotent and the State disrupted; and maintained and extended the prestige of the German flag in the northern seas. Said a great German writer: “When all on land was steeped in particularism, the Hansa, our people upon the sea, alone remained faithful to the German spirit and to German tradition.”
From A.D. 969 to 1171 the Arabian dynasty of caliphs called Fatimites—because they professed to trace their descent from Fatima, the daughter of Mahomet—reigned in Egypt. Their downfall was due to their own decline into imbecility, through which they fell into the hands of Turkish viziers who, keeping their nominal masters in subserviency, themselves assumed the actual rule.
For several generations the caliphs of Bagdad, under whose sway the Fatimites were now reduced, had attracted to their capital slaves from Turcoman and Mongol hordes. These slaves they used both as bodyguards and as contingents to offset the dominating influence of the Arab soldiery in their affairs. In the end the slaves superseded the Arab soldiers altogether, and from bondmen became masters of the court. They stirred up riots and rebellion and hastened the fall of the effete caliphate.
Under the Eyyubite dynasty in Egypt, which Saladin founded about 1174, the same practice was followed with the same results. The Eyyubites were strangers in Egypt, and welcomed the support of foreign myrmidons. Slave dealers bought children of conquered tribes in Central Asia, promising them great fortunes in the West. These children, together with prisoners of war from the eastern hordes, streamed into Egypt, where they were again bought by the rulers, who thus unwittingly prepared the way for their own destruction. The military body created by Saladin, called mamelukes ("slaves;” literally “the possessed"), obtained ascendency in the manner here related by Muir.
The thousands who, with uncomely names and barbarous titles, began to crowd the streets of Cairo, occupied a position to which we have no parallel elsewhere. Finding a weak and subservient population, they lorded it over them. Like the children of Israel, they ever kept themselves distinct from the people of the land—but the oppressors, not, like them, the oppressed. Brought up to arms, the best favored and most able of the mamelukes when freed became, at the instance of the Sultan, emirs of ten, of fifty, of a hundred, and often, by rapid leaps, of a thousand. They continued to multiply by the purchase of fresh slaves who, like their masters, could rise to liberty and fortunes.