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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 467

Ch. XIII MOSLEM NORTH AFRICA, 1049—1394 467 
brief foray, eight years before Urban's promulgation of the idea at Clermont,
was the first crusading effort by Christians in North Africa, but its success
failed to halt the organized and highly profit able Zirid piracy, which was
seconded by Hammadid corsairs based on Bugia. A second Italian assault, in
1104, was unsuccessful. 
 The real threat was to come from Norman Sicily, in retaliation for the 1122
sacking of Nicotera in Calabria by Moroccans transported on Zirid ships.
An attack on Mahdia in 1123 failed, as did a Hammadid combined land and sea
operation in 1135. The Normans took the island of Jerba in 1135; in 1143
they took Sfax after unsuccessfully attacking Tripoli. Consecutive years
witnessed puni tive raids on other pirate lairs, culminating in the pillage
of Tripoli in 1146. Finally, in 1148, Mahdia itself was stormed, and al-Uasan
fled to the Arabs and then to his Hammädid relative and rival, who imprisoned
him. He persuaded ' Abd-al-Mu'min that the honor of Islam, of which the Muwahhid
claimed to be amir al-mu'minin ("commander of the faithful"), required that
the accursed "infidel" be expelled from his North African footholds. ' Abd-al-Mu'min
de layed action for several years in order to consolidate his administra
tion, appointing his many sons governors of the far-flung cities and provinces
of Andalusia and Morocco, as well as the newly-won Numidia, always with experienced
Muwahhid counselors to assist them. In 1159 the army moved eastward, and
within two years conquered all Tunisia and Tripolitania. The local chieftains
were besieged if they hesitated to accept the inevitable incorporation into
the Muwahhid domain. The Christians too underwent siege, but were finally,
in return for concessions and promises of friendship, per mitted to sail
to Sicily in January 1160. Their brief tenure of the African coast, marked
by tolerance and an attempt by Roger II of Sicily to restore prosperity,
was not only the lone extended occupa tion of North African soil by European
Christians between 1049 and 1394 but the sole such occupation between 700
and 1400.8 
 By the time of ' Abd-al-Mu'min's death in 1163, his realm reached from Barca
in Cyrenaica to the Atlantic, including all North Africa and half Spain.
This was no loosely held aggregation of regions paying nominal allegiance
to a titular overlord, but a cohesive, pacified, centrally controlled empire
which professed adherence to the doctrines of Ibn-Tumart and demonstrated
its loyal submission to ' Abd-al-Mu'min and his sons by paying regular tribute
to his representatives, who in turn forwarded the immense sums to Marra 
8. On the Normans in North Africa to 1160 see volume II of this work, pp.

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