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Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume II: The later Crusades, 1189-1311

I: The Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the Crusades,   pp. 2-43 PDF (56.8 KB)

Page 24

"This accursed one," he writes, "knew the weak points in the
situation of Mahdia." 
 Among the African chiefs who saw in Roger of Sicily the future master of
Tunisia was a certain Yüsuf, a former slave who governed the city of
Gabes in the name of Muhammad, the youngest son of the late Rãfi',
the same who had called upon Roger to interfere in African affairs some thirty
years previously. Yüsuf offered Gabes to Roger, and received from him
the diploma and insignia of a governor, to rule Gabes thenceforth as a Sicilian
protectorate. But al-Hasan, as suzerain of Gabes and protector of the eldest
son and rightful heir of Rãfi', occupied Gabes with the help of the
local inhabitants, who executed Yüsuf in an obscene lynching. Since
at the time, in the late fall of 1 the bulk of Roger's navy was engaged in
large-scale operations in Greek waters, Roger could send only a few ships,
which were unable to take Gabes. This setback hastened his decision to end
the diplomatic game and to destroy the Zirids with an all-out military attack.
Probably the relatives of Yüsuf, who took refuge at his court, urged
him to punish al-Hasan, and gave information valuable for an invasion. As
soon as the Sicilian navy had completed its assignment on the Greek coast,
by strengthening and fortifying Corfu, and Roger had made sure that the Byzantines
were engaged in a war in the north of Greece, he began to prepare this expedition
to Mahdia for the early summer of 1148. 
 Tunisia was by now so exhausted and impoverished that strong resistance
was no longer to be expected. Nevertheless, Roger lulled al-Hasan into thinking
that he was still honoring the twoyear treaty concluded in 1146. Even after
the incident of Gabes he received al-Hasan's ambassador in Palermo. When
all was ready, George of Antioch assembled at Pantelleria the fleet of 250
ships which were to carry a strong army and siege machines, and then sent
a fake message by carrier pigeon to al-Hasan to deceive him into the belief
that the fleet was headed for Constantinople. In the early morning of June
22, the inhabitants of Mahdia saw a dark cloud of Sicilian ships coming over
the horizon, their oarsmen making for the harbor against adverse winds. The
emir realized that their arrival meant the end of his dynasty. Before the
Sicilian fleet could land, al-Hasan, accompanied by his family and court
and followed by many citizens, left the royal palace, which had served the
Zirids as a residence for nearly a hundred years. In the late afternoon of
June 22, George of Antioch and his army entered the fortress without the
loss of a single man. 
 Once order had been restored in the capital, George sent de 

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