Post-classical history


Banyas (mod. Bāniyās, Syria), also known as Belinas or Paneas (the ancient Caesarea Philippi), was a town situated on the main road between Damascus and Tyre.

At the time of the Frankish conquest of Palestine Banyas formed part of the domains of Damascus, but in 1126 it was given by the atabeg Tughtigin to the Ismā‘ili Assassin sect, who fortified it with a citadel and walls. After an Ismā‘ili conspiracy against Tughtigin’s son, Tāj al-Mulûk Bûri, was bloodily suppressed, the Assassins handed over the town to King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, who granted it to the nobleman Rainier Brus (1129). As a strategically placed, well-fortified town with plentiful water supplies, Banyas was now the most forward stronghold of the Franks against Damascene territory, and its possession was a factor in Baldwin’s attempt to capture Damascus later that year. In 1132, however, it was retaken by the atabeg Ismā‘īl ibn Bûrï, passing into the control of Zangī, amir of Mosul, in 1137.

In 1140 King Fulk of Jerusalem was able to capture the town with Damascene assistance, and it remained under Frankish control until 1168. During this period a Latin bishopric was established, and the town passed to Humphrey II of Toron, who undertook a major reconstruction of its fortifications after a lengthy siege by Nûr al-Dīn, which almost captured the town (1157). In 1168 Nûr al-Dīn exploited the absence of Humphrey and much of his retinue on King Amalric’s invasion of Egypt to attack again, and the town’s reduced garrison surrendered to him on 18 October 1168. The capture of Banyas was regarded as a major loss by the Franks, who were obliged to embark on a new program of castle building further west to ensure the security of Galilee.

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