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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XIII: Moslem North Africa, 1049-1394,   pp. 457-485 PDF (25.3 MB)

Page 462

strong, shrewd, popular man of Sunnite leanings and confident temperament.
He had ruled ably since 1016, and the mob killing of some Shi'ite soldiers
soon after his accession to power had not precipitated any open break with
 His father's cousin, al-Qa'id ibn-Uammäd, maintained a similar regime
in eastern Algeria, with his capital at the fortified mountain town called
Qal'at Bani-Hammãd. His reign, commencing in 1028, had been marked
by skillful diplomacy, including the buying off of Zanãtah raiders
in 103 8/9 and the negotiating of the treaty with al-Mu'izz to terminate
a two-year siege. His realm, which his father Hammad ibn-Bulukkin had detached
from the Zirid holdings in 1014 and in which the Fatimid suzerainty and the
Shi'ite theology had been simultaneously renounced, was in most respects
a less brilliant counterpart of Tunisia. Eastern Algeria in 1049 was prosperous,
its capital was a fine city, its culture and scholarship and manufactures
and commerce were adequate, its Berber citizens were content, yet in none
of these did it succeed in rivaling its eastern neighbor. 
 By comparison with Tunisia and eastern Algeria under their Sanha jah Berber
rulers, Morocco and western Algeria were turbulent and disorganized in 1049,
but the contenders for power were all local chieftains. The situation during
the tenth century, when the Spanish Umaiyads, the Tunisian Fãtimids,
and the Moroccan Idrisids had intrigued for Berber support, had been resolved
by the Fätimids' move eastward and the extinction of both the other
contending dynasties. Even the successors of the Umaiyads, the UammUdids
of Malaga and Ceuta, held only the one toehold in Africa, and were too occupied
with intradynastic warfare to think of expanding their holdings. Relieved
of external pressure, the Berbers followed their ancient pattern of pastoral
nomadism, small-scale cultivation of grains, and urban commerce. Petty warfare
between tribes and strug gles for tribal leadership occupied their attentions
as in pre-Islamic days, and the whole region formed a cultural backwater
and, to change the metaphor, a power vacuum susceptible to conquest from
within or without. Like Morocco in the west, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica in
the east were in fact held by local chieftains, some of whom governed the
few towns, like Tripoli, while others led nomads who combined a pastoral
life with sporadic raiding. 
 The first breach in this peaceful picture resulted from al-Mu'izz's Sunnite
proclivities. He had gradually, for nearly a decade, abated his recognition
of Fãtimid suzerainty by denying the Shi'ite caliph in various implicit
ways, becoming increasingly bolder as his defiant gestures went unpunished.
Finally, relying on the leagues of desert 

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