Brief Description                                                                          Edit


Ewer of Saladin. Dated 1258 in Damascus, it is made of copper alloy and has a silver inlay pattern. 33.8cm in height and 17.5cm in diameter. It is currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The Ewer of Saladin is named after Sultan Salah Al Din Yusuf also known as Saladin.  Saladin established the Ayyubid Dynasty which unified Egypt and Syria under one Sultan and spanned from 1171-1260 CE.  Saladin achieved great fame as a ruler and as a military leader during the Second and Third Crusade .  Although his dynasty survived until 1260 CE, Saladin died in 1193 CE.  Crafted more than half a decade after Saladin's rule, this ewer not only illustrates the significance and impact of Saladin's rule, but also the role that Saladin played on the Muslim outlook on the Crusades as well as the impact of foreign influence during this time.

Technical EvalutionEdit

Made of a beaten copper alloy and a sophisticated silver inlay pattern, the Ewer of Saladin was believed to be influenced by Mosul crafters and traders from Iran.  Around the time of the 13th century, Mosul crafters in Iran had become very skilled in metalwork, especially patterns and inlays using silver.  According to historian Eva Baer: "Muslim merchants came from all over the Islamic islands and traveled freely between Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Alexandria, and the Black Sea." [See Baer 1989, 2]  Although the Second and Third Crusades created conflict throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the trading of foreign goods and ideals continued allowing goods and ideas to spread throughout these territories.  Even as the armies of Europe and the Middle East fought, Muslim and Christian traders and merchants would conduct business peacefully throughout many cities [See Baer 1989, 1].

While the states under the rule of the Ayyubid Dynasty practiced and enforced ideals of Islam, many artifacts and crafts from this period depict Christian Imagery. [See Baer 1989, 24]  Christian images not only displayed a sense of the divine, but also an image of strength and power.  Princes, royals, and other members of the aristocracy during the Ayyubid Dynasty had many of these artifacts made to further illustrate their power, authority, and wealthy; many artifacts were referred to as: "luxury goods." [See Baer 1989, 4].  Although the Ewer of Saladin does not show depictions of Christian happenings, it displays a rich Mosul influence as well as many unique patterns. [1]

 Local Historical ContextEdit

This ewer, dated 1258, was crafted toward the end of the Ayyubid Dynasty.  It has been attributed to Saladin who ruled over half a century prior.  Saladin began his political and military career under the rule of Nur-al-Din , ruler of Syria in the name of the Sejuk empire during the Zangid Dynasty .  After gaining high positions in the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt, Saladin slowly began to oppose the authority of the Fatimid Caliphate [See Ehrenkreutz 1972, 87].  In the year 1171 CE, the last caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty, Al-Adid, died opening the seat of power in Egypt to Saladin [See Ehrenkreutz 1972, 92]  With the death of Nur-al-Din in the year 1174 CE, Saladin quickly claimed Syria and, after declaring himself Sultan of both Egypt and Syria, estblished the Ayyubid Dynasty.

During the Ayyubid Dynasty, Saladin saw the expansion of his empire and his dynasty in regions around North Africa and the Middle East [See Ehrenkreutz 1972, 155].  One of Saladin's greatest moments came during the time of the Second Crusade.  In the Battle of Hattin , Muslim forces under Saladin fought the Christian armies from Jerusalem for control of the Holy Land.  Not only did the battle establish dominant Muslim control in the Holy Land, it also prompted the Christian armies from Europe to attempt another attack on the Holy Land; this was known as the Third Crusade [Mohring 2005, 62-65].  After Saladin's death in 1193 CE, the empire and the right to the sultanate was divided amoung his heirs.  This created competition between the empire's divided territories leading to conflicts amoung the royals and states of the dynasty [Mohring 2005, 88-90].  Competition was one of the many factors that contributed to the decline of the Ayyubid empire.

Although many factors sparked the dynasty's decline, the empire's dependence on Mamluk forces quickly caused the dynasty to decline.  Because of the constant threat of Crusaders, as well as other surrounding territories, during this time leaders of the Ayyubid Dynasty depended greatly on the strength of Mamluk armies to help repel foreign armies and to assert authority to other kinmen [See Perry 2004, 49].  This dependence took a negative turn in the year 1250 CE.  After the death of the Ayyubid sultan, al-Salih of Egypt, Mamluk forces killed all heirs and claimed Egypt in the name of a new Mamluk Dynasty also known as the  Bahri period [See Perry 2004, 49-51].

While the Ayyubid's power in Egypt ended, the dynasty's power and influence in Syria was still strong.  Al Nasir Yusuf was the emir of the city of Aleppo in Syria.  After opposing the Mamluk influence in Egypt, Yusuf was granted the city of Damascus in 1250 CE.  In 1251 CE, Yusuf attempted to reclaim Egypt in the name of the Ayyubid Dynasty from the Mamluk Sultan Aybak.  Yusuf campaign was unsuccessful and was forced to retreat back to Damascus [Humphreys 1977, 315-317].  Yusuf attempted to reclaim Egypt again in the year 1255 CE, but was again greeted with failure.

The final blow to the Ayyubid empire came with the invasion of the Mongol armies.  After Al Nasir Yusuf's failed attempts to persuade the Mongols not to attack, the Mongols conquered Baghdad in 1258 CE and continued marching south [See Humphreys 1977, 335-337].  Both Aleppo and Damascus were conquered in 1260 CE.  This ended the rule of Al Nasir Yusuf as well as the Ayyubid Dynasty in Syria [Humphreys 1977, 349-352].

 World Historical SignificanceEdit

The Ewer of Saladin symbolizes the merging of cultures during the time of the Crusades.  Although the Crusades brought madness, conflict, and animosity to the Middle East, trading between cultures and territories continued, influencing art and technology.  The sharing of cultures created a link between the two cultures and created a sense of respect and appreciation.  Saladin played key role in the expansion of his empire and in the Crusades.  Considered a "noble heathen", by some Europeans, Saladin gained great respect and helped create the link between cultures [Mohring 2005, 91].  Because of this, by crafting an artifact in his name, Syrian people displayed that Saladin was the backbone and initiator of their prosperity.

As stated previously, the Ewer of Saladin was crafted in 1258 CE, long after his rule.  During the time of it's creation, Al-Nasir-Yusuf was in power and was struggling to maintain the power and influence of the Ayyubid Dynasty in Syria.  By crafting and naming an object after Saladin, the Syrian people exhibt their need to revert to older ways after the fall of Eygpt to the Mamluk Dynasty.  By reverting to older ways, the Syrian people continued to preserve the Ayyubid dynasty from Mamluk influence until the time of the Mongol invaders.


Humphreys, R. Stephen. From Saladin to the Mongols: The Ayyubids Dynasty of Damascus, 1193-1260. Albany: State University of New York, 1977. Print

Ehrenkreutz, Andrew S. Saladin: Albany: State University of New York, 1972. Print

Baer, Eva. Ayyubid Metalwork with Christian Images. Netherlands: E.J Brill, 1989. Print

Perry, Glenn. The History of Egypt. London: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print

Mohring, Hannes.  Saladin: The Sultan and His Times, 1138-1193. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. Print

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