Post-classical history


A North African dynasty (1229-1574) whose power base was Tunisia (Arab. Ifrîqiya), characterized by strong ties with Christian powers and domestic infighting. The founder, Abû Zakariyyâ’, had trade agreements with French and Italian principalities, and by the 1270s the major partner was the Crown of Aragon. Frequent struggles with the towns of Constantine and Bougie (mod. Bejaïa,Algeria) undermined Tunis’s power, allowing Aragonese influence to increase after King Peter III sent an expeditionary force to support his candidate in 1279. As relations declined, Aragon took the island of Jerba and allied with the rival Marīnids.

Internal disarray and invasion (by Bedouins and Marīnids) characterized the fourteenth century. Stability returned with the rule of Abu’l-‘Abbās, who reunited the Hafsid realms and resisted the French-Genoese invasion of Mahdia in 1390. In 1432 Abû Fāris reestablished control over Jerba (initially retaken in 1335), after defending the inhabitants from Aragonese invasion, and conquered Tlemcen and Ceuta.

Under ‘Uthmān the situation deteriorated: the succession faltered and Muslim neighbors encroached. The coast became a lair for pirates, who raided the northern shore and attacked the Hafsids. Bougie and Tripoli were lost to the Spanish in 1510; Tunis fell to Turkish-led Algerian forces in 1534. Restored by the French, the dynasty persevered with Spanish assistance until 1569 against the Turks, who had taken Mahdia in 1554.

The Hafsids readily engaged Christians as diplomatic partners, playing them off against each other and against Muslim rivals. In 1254 Pope Alexander IV disauthorized a crusade proposed by the bishop of Tarragona against Tunis. In the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, diplomacy and exchanges of soldiers continued with Aragon. The Mal- lorcan missionary Ramon Llull was expelled for preaching in Bougie in 1307; he returned in 1314 and was rumored to have been stoned to death. Another Mallorcan, the Franciscan Anselm Turmeda, converted to Islam and wrote anti-Christian polemics from Tunis. In the end, the Hafsids depended on Christian allies to save them from the Muslim Ottomans.

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