Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2022
The Sultanate was a global state that interacted with regimes in North, West and East Africa, Mediterranean Europe, Asia Minor, the Arabian Peninsula and Southwest Asia. Its ideology of diplomacy focused on maintenance of the balance of power extant during the formative stage of its founding: control over the Syrian Littoral and Red Sea nautical routes to South and East Asia. Senior officers appointed from Cairo ruled Syrian provincial capitals as viceroys, tying them directly to the imperial center. On the Red Sea coast of Arabia (Hijaz), the Hasanid Sharifs of Mecca exercised local political authority, but from Baybars’ reign were compelled to comply with the Sultanate’s commercial and fiduciary policies over the spice trade. Tensions in Southeastern Asia Minor heightened when objectives of territorial stasis advocated by the Mamluks clashed with aims of territorial conquest asserted by the Ottomans. Regional principalities pursued their own goals of autonomy with varying degrees of success. The international system of commerce, centered on Venetian and Mamluk exploitation of trade routes to Asia through the Red Sea, was decisively altered by the Portuguese entry to the Indian Ocean. When the Ottomans defeated the Cairo Sultanate, its centrality in the global environment was already diminished.