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With the accession of the first of the Abbasid Caliphs (AD 750) it became clear that the dominions of Islam would consist, henceforth, of a number of separate and independent Islamic states. Even in the time of the Umayyad Caliphs the unity of the Muslim Empire was maintained with difficulty and was never quite complete. In Arabia, the birthplace and the original home of the new world-power, there was neither the military strength nor the political organization required for the rule of the conquered lands. The movement of the seat of government to Damascus under the Umayyads is, in one aspect, a practical acknowledgment of this fact. For a time the Arabian families who ruled the subject provinces were a connecting link and a partial bond of unity. But even they adopted and so perpetuated the national governments of Persia and Syria and Egypt, and thus the Muslim Empire was from the first a loosely-knit federation of Muslim states. The superiority of Mesopotamia and Persia over Syria and Arabia was declared by the triumph of the Abbasids. It was symbolized by a further movement of the capital from Damascus to Ambar and finally to Baghdad. But, inevitably, this movement of the capital to the distant east weakened the control of the Abbasid Caliphs over the lands of the far west. An Umayyad prince became ruler of Muslim Spain in AD 755, and founded a dynasty which afterwards claimed the Caliphate and assumed the much disputed title of “commander of the faithful” (AD 929). In Morocco Idris ibn Abdallah, a descendant of Ali, established in 788 the first Shiite Caliphate. The dynasty of the Idrisites, so established, maintained their power for about 200 years (788-985). In Tunis Ibrahim ibn Aghlab (800-811) was the first of another line of independent emirs with a brilliant history (800-909). This process of disintegration continued in all parts of the Muslim dominion. Every provincial governor was potentially an independent ruler. National traditions and aspirations reinforced the drift to separatism. Egypt and Syria and Arabia and Persia once more fell apart. The Arab conquest created a permanent international brotherhood of learning, literature, and religion; it achieved a spiritual federation and affinity between much-divided races and nationalities; it encouraged and made easy the migration of individuals from one land to another; but it did not permanently obliterate national boundaries and national rivalries.

Parallel to the development of Islam  as a world-power went the development of the Caliphate, its highest dignity. On the political side this office was an adaptation to new conditions of the ancient city governments of Mecca and Medina. Yet its holder was, essentially, a successor of the Prophet and so the supreme head of Islam. Local traditions and needs were bound to yield to this pre-eminent fact. When the Caliphs ceased to reside in Arabia, their local functions were soon practically abrogated. Only the restriction that they must be descended from the ancient ruling families of Mecca long remained to mark their political ancestry. The sovereign power inherent in the Caliphate was most fully realized in the case of the Umayyad princes. After them, in the Abbasid period, the authority of the office was circumscribed and diminished by the existence of rival Caliphates and by the disappearance of the political unity of Islam. The Caliphs of Baghdad drifted towards the condition of being a line of Muslim princes with a especially venerable ancestry. From this destiny they were partly saved by a further transformation of their position. They surrendered their political authority, even in their own territories and capitals, first to Persian and then to Turkish sultans, whose mere nominees they became. The Caliphate was now a dignity conferred by certain Muslim princes upon the descendants of an old Arabian family, which had formerly ruled Islam and still had a recognized hereditary right to its position. Some forms of power remained to it, which expressed respect for an ancient tradition and occasionally decided the course of events. The case of the Frankish kings of the seventh century, who ruled by the grace of the mayors of the palace, may be referred to as a parallel. It may not be superfluous to add that in this phase the Caliphate cannot be described as having been reduced to a purely spiritual function. The office is not a kind of Papacy. In name, if not in fact, the Caliphs have always been great Muslim sovereigns. The separation of Egypt and of Syria from the jurisdiction of the Abbasid Caliphs and the subsequent conflicts between them and their Fatimite rivals, to be narrated in this chapter, are essentially a sequence of military and political events.

The distinctive principles and the historical origin of the Shiite party, who supported the exclusive claims of Ali to the Caliphate, have been explained in a previous chapter. Having failed to secure the succession for one of Ali's descendants when the Umayyads were overthrown, they turned their intrigues and plots with increased energy against the Abbasid usurpers.  Two branches of this Shiite agitation, with apparently a common origin, have a notable influence on the history of Egypt and Syria in the ninth and tenth centuries. One of the Shiite sects is known as the Ismailian, because its adherents believed that the Mahdi, who was to establish their cause and set the world right, would be a son or descendant of the seventh Imam, Ismail. About the middle of the ninth century a certain Abdallah ibn Maimun, a Persian, gained a position of great influence among these Ismailians, and directed a wide-spread propaganda from Salamiyah, his headquarters in northern Syria. At least two of his descendants, Ahmad ibn Abdallah and Said ibn Husain, succeeded him as the heads of the organization which he established. In the beginning of the tenth century the supporters of Said gained sufficient power in North Africa to enable them to overthrow and depose the last of the Aghlabite emirs. In 909 they proclaimed a certain Ubaidallah ibn Muhammad as the Mahdi and the first of the Fatimid Caliphs (909-934). There is strong reason to believe that this personage was actually Said ibn Husain, who had disappeared from Salamiyah some years previously. But his followers held that he was a descendant of Ali and of the Prophet's daughter Fatimah. In 969 the fourth Fatimid Caliph conquered Egypt, and soon afterwards Egypt became the seat of the dynasty, with Cairo as its capital.

The Qarmatians were another offshoot of the propaganda organized by Abdallah ibn Maimun. They became a political power in Bahrain and amongst the Arabs on the borders of Syria and Mesopotamia, towards the end of the ninth century. Their special name is derived from the name (or nickname) of the agent whose preaching converted them to Shiite doctrines. They are alleged to have been to some extent under the secret control of the Fatimid Caliphs, who are thus supposed to have been the heirs of the authority of Abdallah ibn Maimun and his successors in Salamiyah. During the tenth century the Qarmatians were persistent and formidable enemies of the Abbasid Caliphs. Their repeated attacks on the pilgrim caravans to Mecca and their famous seizure of the Black Stone, which they kept in Bahrain for 21 years (930-951), are evidence of the looseness of their attachment to Islam.

Ahmad ibn Tulun (870-884) was the first of the Abbasid governors of Egypt to make himself practically independent of the Caliphs and to transmit his emirate to his descendants. He invaded Syria in 878, and joined it and a large part of Mesopotamia to his dominions. His territory extended to the borders of the Greek Empire, with which he came into conflict.  His successor, Abul-jaish  Khumarawaih (884-896),  on the whole maintained his authority in Syria and was confirmed in his position by the Abbasid Caliph. Three other members of the Tulunite family were also, at least nominally, rulers of Egypt. In 903 the first great Qarmatian invasion of Syria took place. The governor of Damascus and the army of Egypt were unable to save the province. Help was asked from Muktafí, the last of the Caliphs of Baghdad to exercise a measure of independent political power. His troops defeated the Qarmatians (903), put an end to the authority of the Tulunites (904-905), and then repelled a second attack of the Qarmatians on Syria (906).

For thirty years Egypt and Syria were again ruled by a series of emirs nominated by the court of Baghdad. Their brief terms of office reflect the unstable condition of the central government. The first amir al-umara to exercise supreme power in Baghdad, the eunuch Munis (908-933), also effectively influenced the course of events in the provinces. It was he who saved Egypt from the first attacks of the Fatimites. Twice (914-915 and 919-920) an invading army captured Alexandria and occupied pail of the country for several months, but was in the end repulsed. During the next fifty years the Fatimid Caliphs had little leisure to pursue their scheme of annexing Egypt. They made one slight attempt in 935-936. In 935 the Emir of Damascus, Muhammad ibn Tughj al-Ikhshid, obtained the governorship of Egypt. He lost his Syrian possessions for a time to Muhammad ibn Raiq of Aleppo. But after the death of this rival (942) he reoccupied Syria and obtained the governorship of Mecca and Medina on the nomination of the Abbasid Caliph.

Saif-ad-Daulah of Aleppo        

About this time the most powerful emirs in Upper Mesopotamia were two rulers of the Arab house of Hamdan, Nasir-ad-Daulah Hasan of Mosul (936-967) and Saif-ad-Daulah Alo of Diyarbakr (935-944). This house now began to play an important part in the history of Syria. In 944 Saif-ad-Daulah seized Aleppo and became master of northern Syria. An attempt to occupy Damascus was not permanently successful (spring of 945) and a battle fought with the army of Ikhshid, near Qinnasrin, was indecisive. In the autumn of 945 peace was made between Saif-ad-Daulah and Ikhshid, on the terms that the former should hold northern Syria as far as Hims and the latter Damascus and southern Syria. The line thus drawn is the usual line of division in the tenth and eleventh centuries between the territory of Aleppo and the territory ruled by the sovereigns of Egypt. Antioch and a large part of Cilicia were also dependencies of Aleppo when the peace of 945 was made.

When Ikhshid died (July 946), he was nominally succeeded first by one son and then, after an interval, by another. But the real ruler of Egypt in these two reigns was a native African, Abul-mish Kafur (946-968). He defeated a second attempt of Saif-ad-Daulah to seize Damascus (946), and then renewed with him the previously existing agreement, modified somewhat to his own advantage (947).  Henceforward Kafur's rule was undisturbed by foreign attack. He successfully promoted the internal development of his own dominions, and made no attempt to encroach on the territory of his neighbors.

In northern Syria during the period of Kafur’s reign Saif-ad-Daulah waged a desperate and continuous warfare with the Greek Empire (944-967). First the Muslims, and then after some years the Greeks, were the chief aggressors. But for nearly twenty years the character of the warfare was substantially the same. Each year some raid or expedition was launched far over the enemy's borders by one or both of the combatants, and yet no decisive success was secured by either side. A notable victory is sometimes ascribed to Saif-ad-Daulah (e.g. in the year 953), but more often he seems to have suffered serious defeat (e.g. in November 950 and November 960).

During these years Aleppo was the seat of a court which attracted to it poets and men of learning from all the lands of Islam. Saif-ad-Daulah was himself a poet and a man of letters, and also, literally, the hero of a hundred fights. His character and his court are illuminated for us by the poems of one of the most famous of Arabic writers, Ahmad ibn Husain, al-Mutanabbi.

The first campaign of Nicephorus Phocas in 962 marks the commence­ment of a change in the scene and character of Greek operations. The most striking feature of the campaign was the sack of Aleppo and the occupation of the city by a Greek army for six or eight days (December 962). But the most important and significant operations were those which aimed at the conquest of Cilicia. Three years were needed to bring them to a conclusion. In 965 Mamistra and Tarsus were both captured, and the annexation of the province was virtually complete.

During 965 and 966 Saif-ad-Daulah was engrossed by the distractions of civil strife and Muslim war. His death, early in 967 (in January or February), was a prelude to further dissensions in Aleppo. Rival princes of the house of Hamdan and other emirs waged war with one another. Nicephorus, now Emperor (963-969), seized his opportunity. In the autumn of 968 he made a terrifying raid through the greater part of northern Syria, burning and destroying and taking many prisoners from the towns he passed. He marched up the valley of the Orontes, passed Hamah and Hims, and then turned through Al-Buqaiah to the sea. He returned northwards along the coast by Jabalah and Latiqiyah to Antioch. No territory was gained by this invasion, unless possibly the sea-coast town of Latiqiyah. But the display of the Emperor’s power contributed to the success of his representative in the following year. Nicephorus, as he withdrew to Cilicia, left a strong garrison in the castle of Baghras, at the Syrian gates. It was commanded by Michael Burtzes, who soon learned that the people of Antioch, having declared their independence of Aleppo, had no settled government. He secured an entrance into the city by the help of traitors, and took possession on 28 October 969. Two months later he imposed humiliating terms of peace on Aleppo, which was again occupied by Greek troops, as it had been in 962. The boundaries between the dukedom of Antioch and the emirate of Aleppo were minutely defined and remained practically the same for the next hundred years. Harim was the farthest castle of the Greeks on the east and Atharib the corresponding fortress of Aleppo on the west. On the north the territory of Aleppo extended to the river Sajur and included Mambij. It was a condition of peace that the emirs of Aleppo should pay an annual tribute to the Greeks1.

The Fatimites conquer Egypt 

The fourth Fatimid Caliph, Abu Tamim Ma’add al-Muizz (953-975), added much to the fame and power of the dynasty. His success was due to his own qualities of statesmanship and to the talents of his most trusted general, Jauhar ar-Rumi, originally a Greek slave (ob. 992). When Abul-mish Kafur died (April 968), Muizz, having established his supremacy in Tunis and Morocco, had already commenced to prepare for the invasion of Egypt. Kafur’s death was followed by civil strife in Egypt and by circumstances which caused wide-spread distress. A strong party was ready to welcome the Fatimid ruler. No one was much opposed to his taking possession of the country. In the summer of 969 Jauhar's in­vasion met with only slight opposition. Cairo was occupied on 6 July, and the name of the Fatimid Caliph quietly supplanted that of his Abbasid rival in the public prayers of the following Friday (9 July). Jauhar’s conciliatory policy and the practical benefits of his government secured general acquiescence in the new regime. Muizz did not transfer his residence to Egypt until the early summer of 973, but Jauhar’s conquest marks the beginning of a new period in the history of Egypt and of the Caliphate (969). For two centuries the governors of Egypt contested the claim of the Abbasids to the obedience of all Islam. The prestige of its rulers was equal and even superior to that of the Caliphs of Baghdad. The emirs of Syria and Arabia had an alternative Caliph to whom they might transfer their allegiance at choice. During the next hundred years the rulers of Lower Mesopotamia were either too weak or too much engaged elsewhere to exercise any effective control in Syria. The histories of Syria and Egypt thus run, for the most part, in one channel. In the extreme north the emirs of Aleppo maintain a precarious independence. But southern and central Syria, which had been subject to the Ikhshids and to Abul-mish Kafur, remained normally subject to Egypt until the coming of the Turks.

The disaffection or rivalry of the Qarmatians was the chief obstacle to the occupation of Damascus and southern Syria by the Fatimites. It seems probable that the Qarmatians of Bahrain had been up to this point secret supporters and allies of the Fatimites. It is therefore possible that their invasions of Syria in 964 and 968 were instigated by the Caliph Muizz as a step towards his conquest of Egypt and Syria. But now a party held power in Bahrain whose policy was to oppose the Fatimites and to acknowledge the Abbasid Caliphs. Such a complete reversal of the principles of the sect could not fail to shake the confidence of its adherents, and it may be that the rapid decline of the Qarmatians from this date onwards is due to the internal schism so introduced. The new policy had only a brief prospect of success. Syria was invaded by one of Jauhar’s lieutenants, Jafar ibn Fallah. He defeated the Ikhshid governor, Husain ibn Ubaidallah, at Ramlah in the autumn of 969 and entered Damascus in the third week of November. The population of Damascus was not disposed to acknowledge a Shiite Caliph, and Jafar's position as governor during two years was precarious and uneasy. On the other hand Acre, Sidon, Beyrout, and Tripolis seem to have transferred their allegiance to the Fatimites without resistance. The decisive factor in their case was the command which the Egyptian fleet held of the sea. In 971 the Qarmatian leader, Hasan al-asam (Hasan al-asham), in agreement with the Emir of Aleppo and the Caliph of Baghdad, invaded Syria. Jafar was defeated and Damascus occupied (autumn 971), and the Qarmatians became masters of the interior of southern Syria. During the three years of their occupation they twice invaded Egypt without success (October 971 and May 974). After their second repulse Damascus was reoccupied by Fatimid troops for a few months (June 974). But the inhabitants were still opposed to the Fatimites, and chose a Turkish emir, Al-aftakin, to be their governor (spring 975). Al-aftakin, after an unsuccessful attack on the Syrian coast-towns in 976, was besieged in Damascus for six months by Jauhar (July-December). A Qarmatian army came to his rescue, and the allies reoccupied southern Palestine with the exception of Ascalon, which Jauhar held against them for fifteen months. The loss of this city in the spring of 978 was counterbalanced by an Egyptian victory near Ramlah (15 August 978). Al-aftakin’s career was ended by his capture after the battle, but the Egyptians judged it expedient to buy off the Qarmatians by promising payment to them of an annual sum of money. Damascus also maintained its independence.

A Syrian emir named Qassam was chosen governor by the citizens, and remained in power until July 988. During most of his emirate a large part of southern Syria was ruled independently by the Arab chief, Mufarrij ibn Daghfal ibn Jarrah. In 9821 this chief was driven out of the country, and thus, finally, Palestine was reduced to obedience. In the following year Qassam himself surrendered to an Egyptian army. The Caliph, Abu mansur Nizar al-Aziz (975-996), then secured control of Damascus by appointing as its governor Bakjur, recently Emir of Hims, who was a persona grata to the inhabitants (December 983). He ruled five years and was then deposed for disloyalty (October 988). But the series of governors who succeeded him, until the Turkish occupation, were nearly all nominees of the Fatimid Caliphs.

By the Fatimid conquest of Egypt and the Greek occupation of Aleppo in the same year (969), the way was opened for the clash of two distant powers in Syria. The Syrian coast-towns as far as Tripoli quickly became a portion of the Fatimid dominions. In the early part of the year 971 an army sent by Jafar ibn Fallah unsuccessfully besieged Antioch for some months. The attempt was not followed up because of the resistance that the Fatimites met with in Palestine. It was also the condition of Palestine during the Fatimid conquest and the Qarmatian occupation that induced the Emperor John (969-976) to invade Syria in 975. Aleppo was already a humble tributary, and probably the Emperor expected to reduce a large part of the country to the same condition. The fullest description of his campaign is contained in a letter that he wrote to an Armenian prince. The expedition lasted from April to October. The farthest point reached by the main army was the plain of Esdraelon (Marj ibn Amir). From Antioch the Greeks marched past Hamah and Hims, then through the Biqa and the valley of the Jordan as far as Baisan. From Baisan they turned westward to Acre, and from there along the coast back again to Antioch. No hostile army attempted to stop their progress. Most of the Syrian emirs professed submission in order to save themselves from attack. Al-aftakin of Damascus and others purchased immunity by paying considerable sums of money. Baalbek was besieged and captured, and Beirut was successfully stormed. Tripoli was besieged for forty days without success. The real gains of the expedition were made on the coast just to the south of Antioch and in the hills facing Jabalah and Latiqiyah. From now onwards Jabalah was an advanced post of the Greek Empire, facing Tripoli and the territory of the Fatimites. In the hills Sahyun and Barzuyah became Greek strong­holds. Beyond these limits nothing was gained. The southern emirs, who promised to pay an annual tribute, and even signed treaties to this effect, were beyond the reach of the Emperor's troops in ordinary times and never fulfilled their promises.

History of Aleppo

In Aleppo after the death of Saif-ad-Daulah (967) the authority of government was usurped by Turkish slaves, of whom Farghuyah (Qarghuyah) was the chief. In the following year Saif-ad-Daulah’s son, Sadad-Daulah Abul-maali, was expelled from the city (968). When Farghuyah submitted to the Greeks (970), as previously described, Sadad-Daulah was allowed to retain Hims. In 975 Farghuyah was thrown into prison by an associate, the emir Bakjur, part of whose later history has already been narrated. This encouraged Sadad-Daulah to attempt the recovery of his father's capital (976). Bakjur was compelled to come to terms, and received Hims in compensation for the surrender of Aleppo (977).

The chief feature of the remainder of Sadad-Daulah’s emirate is the oscillation of Aleppo between dependence upon the Greeks and alliance with the Egyptians. Sadad-Daulah wished to be quit of the burden of tribute due to the Emperor, and was willing to make concessions to the Caliph in return for his help. But Aziz hoped to reduce northern Syria to the same state of obedience as Palestine, and for this and other reasons Sadad-Daulah was compelled at times to ask protection from the Greeks. His first revolt, in 981, quickly collapsed owing to lack of support from Egypt. In 983 Bakjur of Hims, having quarreled with Sadad-Daulah, attacked Aleppo with the support of Fatimid troops (September). The siege was raised by a relief force from Antioch under Bardas Phocas. Bakjur fled to Damascus, and Hims was sacked by Greek soldiers (October). Even in these circumstances there was friction between Sadad-Daulah and his protectors. The dispute was settled by the payment in one year of two years’ tribute. During 985 and 986 Sadad-Daulah was again in revolt. The principal events were the capture of Killiz by the Greeks (985) and their siege of Famiyah (986). Fatimid troops captured and held for a short time the castle of Bulunyas. Most likely it was the determination of Aziz to make peace with the Greeks that led to Sadad-Daulah’s submission to the Emperor on the same terms as before. The amount of the annual tribute was 20,000 dinars (400,000 dirhems).

The career of Bakjur, which is characteristic of the period, may here be followed to its close. After ruling Damascus for five years in dependence on Aziz (983-988), he was deposed by his order. He fled to Raqqah, on the Euphrates, and from there once more plotted against Sad-ad-Daulah. In April 991 he was defeated, captured, and executed by his former master and rival. In this battle Greek troops from Antioch again assisted the Emir of Aleppo.

In 987 or 988 (AH 377) the first of a series of treaties between the Greek Emperors and the Egyptian Caliphs was made. The scanty details which are preserved suggest that it followed the lines of the better-known treaties of later date. If so, the outstanding feature is that the Emperor exercises his influence on behalf of the Christian subjects of the Caliph, and that the Caliph similarly acts as protector of the Muslims of the Empire. It is significant that under this arrangement the Fatimid Caliph is recognized to the exclusion of his Abbasid rival. Under the treaty there was an exchange of prisoners and the duration of peace was fixed at seven years.

The Emperor Basil II

Sadad-Daulah was succeeded nominally by his son Abul-fadail Saidad-Daulah (December 991). But the effective ruler throughout his reign was the wazir Abu Muhammad Lulu al-kabir (Lulu the elder). It was presumably hostility to him that drove a number of the mamluks of Aleppo about this time to seek refuge in Egypt. Their support encouraged Aziz to attempt again the conquest of Aleppo. This led to a renewal of war with the Greek Empire also. The governor of Damascus, Manjutakin (Banjutakin). commanded the Egyptian army. He invaded the territory of Aleppo and conducted operations there for thirteen months (992-993). A Greek force from Antioch under Michael Burtzes was repulsed (June 992). But Manjutakin’s operations were not energetic, and in the spring of 993 he returned to Damascus owing to lack of provisions. Next spring (994) Aziz sent reinforcements and supplies to Syria, and with these at his service Manjutakin attacked Aleppo early in June. A relief force from Antioch was severely defeated on the banks of the Orontes (14 September 994). Scarcity of food, caused by the closeness of the blockade, now reduced the defenders of Aleppo to desperate straits. In their extremity they were saved by the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Emperor Basil (976-1025). He rode through Asia Minor in sixteen days at the head of 3000 horsemen. The alarm caused by his arrival was so great, the numbers of his army probably so exaggerated, that Manjutakin burned his tents and equipment and made off in panic, without risking a battle (end of April 995). Basil followed southwards as far as Al-Buqaiah, and then turning down to the coast marched northwards by the Mediterranean to Antioch. Prisoners were taken from Rafaniyah and Hims, but as dependencies of Aleppo they were presumably not seriously injured. Tripoli was besieged without success for more than forty days. Taratus was occupied, and garrisoned by Armenian auxiliaries.

Aziz now began to prepare extensively for war with the Emperor. He made terms with Lulu, who formally acknowledged his Caliphate (995). But the only fruit of these preparations was an expedition to recover Taratus. Aziz died on 13 October 996, and revolts in southern Syria against the authority of Hasan ibn Ammar, who ruled in the name of the new Caliph, made foreign wars impossible. For three years the governor of Antioch carried on an active border warfare and somewhat strengthened his position in the direction of Tripoli. In 998 he besieged Famiyah which was held by a Fatimid garrison. The Egyptians sent a relief force and the besiegers were severely defeated (19 July 998). This defeat brought the Emperor Basil once more to Syria (October 999).

Basil's second Syrian campaign lasted almost exactly three months. Two months were spent in raiding the province of Hims as far as Baalbek. Shaizar was occupied and garrisoned. Several castles were burned and ruined (Abu-qubais, Masyath, Arqah, and the town of Rafaniyah). It is not likely that Hims itself was much injured. A large amount of plunder and many captives were secured. From 5 December to 6 January Tripoli was invested, without success. The Emperor spent the rest of the winter in Cilicia. Affairs in Armenia now claimed his attention, but even apart from this Basil probably desired to make peace with the Caliph of Egypt. It may be that the ten years’ truce concluded about this time was ratified before the Emperor left Cilicia in the summer of 1000.

In the second half of the tenth century Egypt enjoyed a period of much prosperity and internal peace. This was principally the merit of the Caliphs Maadd al-Muizz (953-975) and Nizar al-Aziz (975-996). They were just and tolerant rulers and fortunate in the generals and officers of state who served them. Art, learning, and manufactures were fostered and flourished. Numerous public buildings and other works of public utility date from this period. The burdens of taxation were somewhat lightened and more equally distributed. Much of the kaleidoscopic life of the Thousand and One Nights was actually realized in the Cairo of those days.

Caliphate of Hakim       

The instability of fortune and the caprice of rulers never found more striking illustrations than in the reign of the sixth Caliph, Abu All al-Mansur al-Hakim (996-1021). His minority was a time of chaos, when the chiefs of the Berber and Turkish guards fought and schemed for supremacy. The native historians relate strange and incredible stories of his personal government, out of which it is nearly impossible to make a coherent picture. He is represented as arbitrary and cruel beyond measure and as the persecutor of every class in turn. He kept his position only by unscrupulous assassination and by playing off against one another the Arab, Turkish, Berber, and Negro factions which mingled in his court. On the other hand, measures are attributed to him which have been interpreted as the conceptions of a would-be reformer and unpractical idealist. In part of his reign he seems to be a rigid Muslim, persecuting Jews and Christians against all tradition and in spite of the fact that his mother was a Christian and his uncle at one time Patriarch of Jerusalem. At another period his conduct suggests that he was influenced by the esoteric doctrine of the Ismailian sect to which his ancestors belonged. Towards the end of his life he seems to have countenanced sectaries who proclaimed him to be an incarnation of deity. The mystery of his death was a fitting close to a mysterious life. He left his palace one dark night (13 February 1021) never to return; the presumption is that he was assassinated. But some declared that he would yet return in triumph as the divine vicegerent, and the Druses of Lebanon are said to maintain this belief to the present day.

The revolts in southern Syria at the beginning of Hakim's reign reflect the strife of parties in Egypt and did not threaten the authority of the Caliphate itself. This distinction helps to make intelligible the maze of revolts and depositions and revolutions in which the governorship of Damascus was now involved. In twenty-four years and a half there were at least twenty changes in the occupancy of the post. Two governors between them held office for nine years, so that the average term of the remainder was less than ten months each. More than one was deposed within two months of his appointment. Generally the only cause of change was the arbitrary disposition of the Caliph or an alteration in the balance of power amongst the emirs of his court. Sometimes the new governor had to establish his authority by force of arms.

On one occasion in these years there was a revolt of a more serious character. Early in 1011 the Arab chief Mufarrij ibn Daghfal ibn Jarrah, having defeated the Caliph's representative, became ruler of inland Palestine for the second time. He failed to occupy any of the coast-towns but held possession of the interior for two years and five months, until his death (1013). A peculiar feature of this revolt was the acknowledgment by Ibn Daghfal of the sharif of Mecca, Hasan ibn Jafar, as “commander of the faithful”. This personage was a descendant of the Prophet and so possessed one outstanding qualification for the Caliphate. But his only supporter was Ibn Daghfal, and his phantom authority lasted less than two years.  Ibn  Daghfal’s sons  were defeated by  Hakim's troops immediately after their father's death, and the control of Palestine passed again to the governor of Damascus.

Ruin of the Holy Sepulchre

An event of special interest to Christendom occurred in Jerusalem during Hakim's Caliphate, namely, the profanation and ruin of the church of the Holy Sepulchre (commencing 27 September 1009). It is unlikely that the fabric of the church was seriously injured. Hakim ordered its relics to be taken away and its monuments, including the Holy Sepulchre, to be destroyed. The portable furnishings of the church and its treasures were carried into safety before the Caliph's agents arrived. But the Holy Sepulchre and other venerated shrines were destroyed as completely as possible. The interior must have been left in a very mutilated condition. Mufarrij ibn Daghfal began the work of restoration when he was ruler of southern Palestine (i.e. between 1011 and 1013).

Said-ad-Daulah of Aleppo having died early in January 1002, Lulu banished the surviving members of the Hamdan family to Egypt and assumed the emirate. He acknowledged the Fatimid Caliph, Hakim, and also continued to pay tribute to the Greek Emperor. His rule is praised as having been wise and just.  After his death (August 1009) Mansur his son, although unpopular, held the emirate for some years against the Hamdan family and the attacks of the Bani Kilab under Salih ibn Mirdas.   Finally he was expelled from Aleppo by an insurrection (6 January 1016), headed by the governor of the castle, Mubarak-ad-Daulah Fatah, and, having escaped to Antioch, became a pensioner of the Greeks. These events increased the authority of the Egyptians in northern Syria. About a year later, Mubarak-ad-Daulah was made governor of Tyre, Sidon, and Beyrout by Hakim, and Aziz-ad-Daulah Fatik, an Armenian, was installed as governor of Aleppo (3 February 1017).  As so often happened in such cases, the new governor began to act as an independent emir, and  his  assassination  (13 June   1022) was probably instigated  by Sitt-al-mulk,  Hakim's sister, now regent. During the next two years and a half an Egyptian garrison held the citadel of Aleppo, and a series of Egyptian governors controlled the city. The seventh Fatimid Caliph was Abul-hasan Ali az-Zahir.  He was a boy when he succeeded his father and he never exercised much influence in the government of his dominions (1021-1036).  For the first three years of his reign Hakim's sister, Sitt-al-mulk, was regent. Soon after her death the Arab tribes on the borders of Syria made a league against the Caliph, hoping to conquer and rule the country (1024). The leaders of the revolt were Salih ibn Mirdas, chief of the Bani Kilab, who lived in the neighborhood of Aleppo, Sinan ibn Ulyan, chief of the Bani Kalb, near Damascus, and Hassan, a son of Mufarrij ibn Daghfal, whose home was in southern Palestine. The con­federates were at first successful both in Palestine and northern Syria. Aleppo was captured by Salih ibn Mirdas (January 1025), and Hims, Baalbek, and Sidon soon acknowledged his authority.  Thus a new dynasty, that of the Mirdasites, was established in Aleppo (1025-1080). In Palestine the Caliph's representative, Anushtakin ad-dizbiri, was more than once defeated and was driven out of Syria.   The least successful of the allies was Sinan ibn Ulyan. After his death in July 1028, his successor deserted the alliance and submitted to the Caliph. In the following year a decisive battle was fought at Uqhuwanah, south of Lake Tiberias, between Salih and Hassan on the one side, and the Egyptians and their allies on the other (14 Mav 1029). Salih was killed and Hassan’s power was completely broken. From now onwards Anushtakin was governor of Damascus and the most powerful emir in Syria (1029-1041).

 The Greeks in Syria

During the period of this rebellion, in 1027 (AH 418), an interesting treaty of peace was made between the Fatimid Caliph and the Emperor Constantine VIII. It was provided that the Caliph's name should be mentioned in the public prayers of the mosques throughout the Empire, to the exclusion of his Abbasid rival. This arrangement was continued until the year 1056, when it was reversed at the instance of the Turkish Sultan Tughril Beg. A further recognition of the representative character of the Fatimid Caliph, and another concession to Islam, was contained in the provision that the Caliph might restore the mosque in Constantinople and appoint a muezzin to officiate there. The counterpart of these provisions gave the Emperor the right to restore the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is not to be assumed that the church had lain in ruins since its profanation by Hakim's orders in 1009, nor, perhaps, that much was actually done at this time in the way of restoration. Another concession made by the Caliph was that those Christians who had become Muslims by compulsion in the time of Hakim might again profess Christianity without penalty. It may be assumed that the treaty of peace, as usual, was valid for a limited period only; but the term is not specified by the only source that mentions the treaty.

Nasr Shibl-ad-Daulah, son of Salih ibn Mirdas, was permitted to succeed his father as ruler of Aleppo on the condition that he acknowledged the Fatimid Caliph in the customary manner, on his coinage and in the public prayers of Friday. His emirate did not include Hims or Hainan, but extended north-eastward to the Euphrates. The Greeks, who had recently been losing ground in Syria, now seized what seemed to them an opportunity of improving their position. The territory of Aleppo was twice invaded (1029 and 1030), both times unsuccessfully. The Emperor Romanus shared in the second invasion, a very ill-judged attempt. The Greek army suffered so much in the neighborhood of Azaz from the hot season, lack of water, and fever that it was compelled to retreat in a few days and lost heavily as it retired (August 1030). The Emir of Aleppo, reckoning his triumph an occasion of conciliation and not of defiance, at once opened negotiations for peace. A treaty was signed on terms that were distinctly unfavorable to the Muslim city. Aleppo again became tributary to the Empire, and a Greek deputy was allowed to reside in the city and watch over the due per­formance of the conditions of peace (April 1031).

At this date the territory of the Greeks in Syria extended eastward from Antioch to Harim and southwards along the coast as far as Maraqiyah. The hillmen of the Jabal Ansariyah, who adjoined this territory, were partially held in check by strong castles such as Bikisrayil, but still maintained their independence. After the defeat of Romanus, one of the chiefs of the hill tribes, Nasr ibn Mushraf, captured Bikisrayil and a general rising took place. Maraqiyah was besieged by Ibn Mushraf and the Emir of Tripoli. Nicetas, the new governor of Antioch, took prompt action against a very dangerous situation. He raised the siege of Maraqiyah (December 1030), and during the next two years syste­matically besieged and reduced the castles of the hillmen (1031-1032). Balatunus, Bikisrayil, and Safitha were among the fortresses now garri­soned and held by the Greeks.

These events brought about a resumption of hostilities between the Empire and the Egyptian Caliph. Anushtakin of Damascus and the Emir of Tyre had given a timorous support to the mountaineers in their struggle with Nicetas. Rafaniyah was therefore attacked and captured by Greek troops. A Byzantine fleet threatened Alexandria and the mouths of the Nile. Both parties desired a stable peace, but the task of settling the matters in dispute proved to be long and difficult. The chief obstacle to a settlement was the demand of the Emperor that Aleppo should be treated as a Greek dependency. The negotiations were continued, or resumed, after the death of Romanus (April 1034), and peace was signed, perhaps in the autumn of 1037. Each party pledged itself not to assist the enemies of the other, and their respective spheres of influence in northern Syria were defined. The Greek deputy whom Romanus had stationed in Aleppo had been driven out soon after that Emperor's death, so that Aleppo probably secured its independence. The right of the Emperor to renovate the church of the Holy Sepulchre was acknowledged, and possibly the privilege of appointing the Bishop of Jerusalem. In return Michael IV set free 5000 Muslim prisoners. The duration of the peace was fixed at thirty years. The Emperor sent builders and money to Jerusalem, but the repairs to the church were not completed until the reign of his successor Constantine IX.

Caliphate of Mustansir

The eighth Fatimid Caliph, Abu tamim Maadd al-Mustansir, was only seven years old when his father died (June 1036), so that his reign began with a succession of regencies. The Caliph's mother, an African woman, exercised a considerable amount of influence. The con­temporary Persian traveler Nasir-i-Khusrau records very favorable impressions of the prosperity and tranquility of the country while the Caliph was a minor.

Early in this reign peaceful relations between Aleppo and Egypt were broken off. Nasr ibn Salih was defeated and slain in battle with Anushtakin (May 1038), and Aleppo was captured and garrisoned by Egyptian troops for a few years (1038-1042). The disgrace of Anushtakin, followed immediately by his death (January-February 1042), weakened the Fatimid dominion all over Syria. Aleppo was recovered by Nasr's brother, Muizz-ad-Daulah Thumal (March 1042). He resumed payment of tribute to the Greeks and so secured himself in that direction. The terms of the rulers of Egypt were not so easily satisfied. Envoys came and went between the parties. Attacks were launched against Thumal by the Emirs of Hims and Damascus, acting in the name of the Caliph (1048-1050). At length, in 1050, an agreement satisfactory to both sides was arrived at.

Two isolated events, which are a part of the history of the Fatimid Caliphs, deserve mention here. In 1049 Muizz ibn Badis, the Zairite Emir of Tunis, ceased to pay tribute to Mustansir and transferred his allegiance to the Abbasid Caliph. His family had ruled in Qairawan, in practical independence, since 973, when the Fatimid Caliph of the day made Cairo his residence and capital. But the formal separation, signalized by the acknowledgment of the Caliph of Baghdad, took place only now. On the other hand, for the greater part of the year 1059 the Caliphate of Mustansir was acknowledged in Baghdad itself. Such acknowledgments were now symbols of the triumph of political parties and alliances. The Turkish Sultan Tughril Beg identified his cause with that of the Abbasid Caliphs,  with  the  result that his enemies  in Mesopotamia were disposed to favor recognition of the Fatimid Caliphs in those districts and cities where they triumphed. In 1059 Baghdad was occupied by a Turkish emir, Arsian al-Basasiri, who, being an enemy of the sultan, acted in the manner just described. The occasion was hailed in Egypt as an extraordinary triumph, and in fact probably marked the highest point of superiority to the Abbasids ever reached by the Fatimid Caliphs.

When Mustansir came of age he showed such feebleness and incapacity that he was treated by all parties as a cypher in the government. The ministry of Hasan al-yazuri (1050-1058) was still, on the whole, prosperous and considerate of the general welfare. But after his death there recommenced a bitter struggle for power between the leaders of the Turkish and those of the negro troops. The country was devastated and impoverished by civil war, and finally lay at the mercy of the unscrupulous and cruel Turkish leader Nasir-ad-Daulah ibn Hamdan (1062-1073). Prolonged drought and famine increased the miseries of the unhappy people. The influence of Egypt upon foreign affairs fell to its lowest ebb. It was in no way able to share in the defence of Syria against the Seljuk Turks.

The rule of Muizz-ad-Daulah Thumal in Aleppo was mild and generous, and therefore popular. His greatest troubles were caused by the unruly Arabs of the district, the Bani Kilab, and latterly by the Seljuq Turks, already planted at Rahabah on the Euphrates. In January 1058, feeling no longer equal to the tasks of his position, he abdicated and left an Egyptian governor and garrison once more in power. These were soon expelled by the citizens assisted by the Bani Kilab (September 1060), and shortly afterwards Muizz-ad-Daulah was persuaded to return to his former post (April 1061). During his second brief emirate the Greeks provoked hostilities by repairing some border castles, and Artah was taken from them. Peace with them was renewed during: the civil war that followed Muizz-ad-Daulah’s death (November 1062). Artah appears to have returned to its former owners.

Thumal’s brother, Asad-ad-Daulah Atiyah ibn Salih, was his successor. His title to succeed was challenged by a nephew, Mahmud ibn Nasr, and the brief period of his emirate was one of civil war (1062-1065). It was at this date, just before the Norman conquest of England, that the Seljuk Turks entered Syria.

From the ninth century onwards, Turkish governors and Turkish generals and Turkish mercenaries play an important part in the history of Syria and especially of Egypt. The Tulunites were a Turkish family and were served by Turkish officers and soldiers. So also were the Ikhshids. In Mesopotamia, from which these viceroys came, Turkish slaves held the highest place, subject only to the nominal authority of the Caliphs. In Egypt the Fatimid dynasty retained and added to the Turkish household troops of their predecessors. Turkish, Berber, and Negro factions struggled for supremacy, and the Fatimid governors of Syrian towns in the tenth and eleventh centuries were often Turkish Mamluks.

Turkish conquest of Syria

Before the middle of the eleventh century, a new wave of Turkish migration, under the great Sultan Tughril Beg (1037-1063), swept into Lower Mesopotamia from the north and threatened Armenia and Upper Mesopotamia. It was the precursor of the conquest of Syria by the Seljuk Turks. The manner of their conquest is representative of many other periods in Syrian history. Bands of horsemen, a few hundred strong—seldom as many as a thousand—rode under adventurous leaders who sought their fortune and lived by their swords. They took service with any ruler for money or for lands, and gained their chief advantage where local feuds were being waged. Some novelty in their arms or in their way of fighting might give them an advantage in battle. In any case they were always on the war-path, and so could finally wear down the resistance of cities which depended upon the cultivation of the land or upon peaceful industry. The inland towns of Syria—Aleppo, Hims, Baalbek, Damascus, Jerusalem—yielded first and most completely to the Turks. Once established, the way of the conquerors was smoothed by their being Muslims. Their introduction of the nominal authority of the Caliphs of Baghdad was almost a matter of indifference to their subjects. The rule of Turkish emirs was already familiar in Syria. The invaders were backed by the prestige of the Seljuk sultans, but only to a slight extent occasionally by their armies.

A conquest of the character just described implies, of course, that Syria was in its normal state of political disintegration. It was, in fact, even less united than it had been for some time past. Aleppo was an independent territory and was rent by civil war. The Arabs hung loosely on the borders. The hillmen of the Jabal Ansariyah took no interest in the fate of the neighboring plains. Antioch and its dependencies were under the rule of foreigners. Damascus and the coast towns from Tripoli southwards had cut themselves adrift from Egypt, which was in the throes of revolution. They were governed by independent emirs, anta­gonistic to one another. Only the south-west of Palestine was still closely attached to Egypt. After the great defeat of the Greeks at Manzikert (1071), Antioch was almost left to its own resources. Even the Armenians, who had long given soldiers to the Greeks on the eastern borders of the Empire and in Syria, now preferred to make terms with the Turks.

Harun ibn Khan was the first of the Seljuk Turks to gain a footing in Syria. About the end of 1064 he and his thousand followers turned the scale in favor of' Atiyah ibn Salih against his rival Mahmud. When, however, Atiyah and the citizens of Aleppo rose against their deliverer and massacred his followers, he made off with the survivors to Mahmud and helped him to victory at the battle of Dabiq (16 June 1065). After the surrender of Aleppo to Mahmud (13 August 1065), Harun was given the little township of Maarrat-an-Numan in fief, and settled there with a mixed following of Turks, Kurds, and Dailemites.

In the summer of 1067 another Turkish leader, Afshin by name, raided the territory of Antioch and carried off great booty. His prisoners were so many that “a girl was sold for two dinars and a boy for a set of horseshoes”. In the following year Afshin besieged Antioch and was bought off by the payment of a large sum of money (1068). At the same time there was war between Aleppo and Antioch, and Artah was captured by Harun ibn Khan after a five months’ siege (1068). In the following year a Greek army, under the Emperor himself (Romanus Diogenes), recovered Artah and captured Mambij. Before the close of the year the Armenian governor of Antioch (Kachatur) made peace with Mahmud on terms that were favorable to the latter.

In 1070 a Turkish leader, known as Zandiq, entered Syria at the head of large forces and ravaged the territories of Aleppo, Hamah, Hims, and Rafaniyah. This was the first devastation of Muslim Syria by the Turks. It decided Mahmud to seek the protection of the Sultan Alp Arslan (1063-1072), and at the same time, in consequence, to transfer his allegiance from the Fatimid to the Abbasid Caliph. Prayers were said in the mosques of Aleppo for the new Caliph and for the sultan on Friday 30 July 10702.

Alp Arslan now demanded that Mahmud should engage in war with Antioch and with the Fatimid emirs. Mahmud having at first refused, the sultan invaded Syria (spring of 1071). Two months were spent in negotiations, and during another month Aleppo was blockaded. Then Mahmud submitted and became the sultan’s vassal. The historian of these events comments especially upon the discipline of Alp Arslan's army. The persons and the property of the country people were respected. Even the forage that the soldiers used was often paid for. Aleppo was neither ruined nor pillaged. Fasdiq, where Alp Arslan pitched his tent during the expedition, was henceforth known as the Sultan's Hill (Tell-as-sultan).

Mahmud does not seem to have shown much zeal in the fulfillment of his pledge to the sultan during the remainder of his emirate (ob. 10 January 1074). His sons Nasr (1074-1076) and Sabiq (1076-1080) were the last of the Mirdasites to rule Aleppo. Fresh bands of Turks were pouring into Syria. Rafaniyah was occupied by Jawali ibn Abaq (1075), who raided the territory of Aleppo until he was severely defeated by Ahmad Shah, another Turkish leader, in the service of Nasr ibn Mahmud and after­wards of his brother Sabiq. The assassination of Nasr and the acces­sion of Sabiq illustrate the influence now exercised by the Turks over the internal affairs of Aleppo. Sabiq was opposed by two of his brothers and by the Bani Kilab, but defeated his enemies with the help of Ahmad Shah and other Turks (July 1076). Nasr and Sabiq both waged war intermittently with the Greeks. In 1075 Mambij was recovered by the former.

The principal Seljuk emirs of the north of Syria were Afshin, Zandiq, and Muhammad ibn Dimlaj. In the summer of 1077 they were ordered by Alp Arslan's successor, Malik Shah (1072-1092), to unite under the command of his brother Tajad-Daulah Tutush. In the spring of 1078 Tutush attacked Aleppo at the head of a large force, which included the Bani Kilab and the soldiers of Sharaf-ad-Daulah Muslim of Mosul (1061-1085). The siege lasted four months and its failure was attributed to the action of Sharaf-ad-Daulah, an old ally of the Turks, who was now turning against them. Next year (1079) Tutush resumed his operations in Syria, with some success. Mambij, Buzaah, and other places sur­rendered or were captured. Then an invitation from the Turkish Emir of Damascus, Atsiz ibn Abaq, drew his attention southwards.

The Turks in Palestine

The first mention of the presence of Seljuk Turks in Palestine belongs to the year 1070. The authority of Nasir-ad-Daulah, governor of Egypt, did not extend at that time beyond the south of Palestine. Acre and Sidon were governed by an Armenian, Badral-jamali, who had played a prominent part in Syrian affairs since 1063. Damascus, Tyre, and Tripoli were in the hands of other independent emirs. The Arab tribes on the southern and eastern borders were their own masters. After the assassination of Nasir-ad-Daulah (10 May 1073), Mustansir appealed to Badral-jamali to end the regime of the Turkish slaves in Egypt. At the head of his Syrian troops he occupied Cairo (February 1074), and in a few years restored unwonted peace and order to the country. He was the all-powerful ruler of Egypt for twenty years (1074-1094).

Several Turkish leaders shared in the conquest of southern Syria, but they all, in a measure, seem to have obeyed Atsiz ibn Abaq. His first acquisition was Amman, an Arab stronghold in the Balqa, (1071?). From there he became master of the south of Palestine, including Jerusalem and Ramlah. Jerusalem capitulated on terms, and suffered nothing from its change of rulers. For several years Atsiz, having marked Damascus as his prey, ravaged its territory, especially at harvest time, and levied contributions from the coast-towns as the price of their immunity. In 1075 he captured Rafaniyah and gave it over into the charge of his brother Jawali. In the summer of 1076 Damascus at last surrendered to him. After this he ventured to invade Egypt and was severely defeated in the neighborhood of Cairo (January 1077).  His bold challenge prompted Badral-jamali to seek the recovery of Palestine and Damascus, Atsiz, fearing the issue of the conflict he had provoked, invited Tajad-Daulah Tutush to his aid. The result might have been expected. Tutush took possession of Damascus and put Atsiz to death (September 1079). Badral-jamali withdrew his forces from Palestine. The emirs of the coast-towns, for the most part, paid tribute to Tutush rather than submit to their ancient rival, the governor of Egypt.

Finding himself secure in Damascus, Tutush at once sent most of his army back into northern Syria. Afshin, his general, laid waste the country from Baalbek to Aleppo and ravaged the territory of Antioch. In consequence of this attack Sabiq and the citizens of Aleppo surrendered the town to Sharaf-ad-Daulah Muslim of Mosul (June 1080). Sabiq retired to Rahabah, and Muslim and Tutush stood opposed as well-matched antagonists.

As matters turned out, there was little actual fighting between the rivals. For two or three years Muslim strengthened his position in northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia, held communications with Badral-jamali, and sought to divert the tribute of Antioch from the sultan to himself. During part of this time Tutush was absent from Syria, engaged in war with his brother Malik Shah. After his return he captured Taratus and some neighboring castles from the Greeks (1083). Muslim's one attempt on Damascus (1083) was broken off because Badral-jamali failed to cooperate as he had promised, and a revolt in Harran called for attention. Next year was occupied by war in Mesopotamia with Malik Shah. Towards the end of that year Sulaiman ibn Qutulmish, a Turkish emir who ruled a large part of Asia Minor, intervened in Syrian affairs. Antioch was surrendered to him by traitors (December 1084)2, and Muslim fell fighting against him in the following year (21 June 1085). These events altered the whole situation. Badral-jamali again retired from Syria, which he had invaded. Sulaiman and Tutush became rivals for the possession of Aleppo. The former was defeated and slain in June 1086. Soon afterwards Malik Shah intervened to settle the division of the Syrian conquests. Tutush was left in possession of Damascus and southern Syria.

Eve of the First Crusade

Qasim-ad-Daulah Aqsonqor, father of the famous atabeg Imad-ad-Din Zangi, received Aleppo. Antioch was given to Yaghi Bassan. Khalaf ibn Mulaib of Hims and Ali ibn Ammar of Tripolis remained attached to the Egyptian alliance which Muslim had formed. In 1089 (AH 482) Acre, Tyre, Sidon, and Jubail (Byblus) submitted to Badral-jamali for the sake of protection against the Turks. In the following year Khalaf was overpowered by a combination of the Turkish emirs. Thus all northern Syria, as far as Tripoli, was now securely in the hands of the Seljuk Turks.

The assassination of Nizam-al-mulk (October 1092), Malik Shah’s great vizier, followed soon by the sultan's own death (November 1092), opened a period of civil war and political decay in the history of the Seljuk dominions. The rival claims of the sultan’s children served as a welcome shelter to the ambitions of the powerful emirs who supported them. Tutush of Damascus was a candidate for the sultanate. He defeated, captured, and put to death Aqsonqor of Aleppo (summer of 1094). Then he marched into Mesopotamia, where he met his own fate (February 1095). After this Aleppo was ruled by Fakhr-al-muluk Ridwan, son of Tutush, and Damascus nominally by another son, Shams-al-muluk Duqaq, under the guardianship of the emir Tughtigln. Antioch remained in possession of Yaghi Bassan. In the summer of 1097 Hims again became independent, under Janah-ad-Daulah Husain. The coast-towns from Tripoli southwards were still dependencies of Egypt. The scene was now set for the entrance of the crusaders into Syria (autumn of 1097).

In December 1094 the long reign of the Caliph Mustansir (1036-1094), one of the longest reigns in Muslim history, came to an end. He was succeeded by his son, Abul-qasim Ahmad al-Mustali (1094-1101), the ninth Fatimid Caliph. Earlier in the same year Shah-an-shah al-Afdal, son of Badral-jamali, succeeded his father as amir al-juyush, and so as the actual ruler of Egypt (1094-1121). In the summer of 1098 he seized Jerusalem from its Turkish governor and regained the whole of the south of Palestine from the Turks. Thus two groups of foreigners governed Syria just before the advent of the First Crusade—Turkish emirs whose power lay mostly in the north and the east, and Egyptian garrisons who occupied the central and southern coast-towns and a part of Palestine. Neither of these groups could depend upon the loyalty of the Syrian people, and neither of them was disposed to unite with the other in joint opposition to the invaders from the west.