Post-classical history

Ibn al-Qalānisī (d. 1160)

Abū Ya‘lā Hamza ibn Asad ibn al-Qalānisī al-Tamīmī was a member of an important family in Damascus, born around the year 1073. He twice occupied the position of raTs of Damascus (leader of the townspeople and controller of the urban militia). He is best known for his Dhayl Ta’rikh Dimashq (Continuation of the History ofDamascus), a two-part chronicle continuing a (now lost) annal by the historian Hilāl ibn al-Muhassin al-Sābi’ (d. 1056).

Ibn al-Qalānisī’s chronicle begins in 1056 and recounts events up to the year of his own death in 1160. Unlike the work of al-Sābi’, which was a universal history, Ibn al- Qalānisī’s history, which includes relevant extracts of his predecessor’s chronicle as a preface, is concerned above all with Damascus and its surroundings, dealing with events in other regions in a much more incidental fashion. It is one of the few Arabic histories contemporary with the First (1096-1099) and Second Crusades (1147-1149), and it served as a major source for later writers, including Ibnal-Athīr (d. 1233), Sibt Ibn al-Jawzī (d. 1256), and Abū Shāma (d. 1268).

In writing his history, Ibn al-Qalānisī used a mixture of material drawn from Syro-Egyptian archives and chronicles and accounts of events witnessed by both himself and his contemporaries. His work is an essentially straightforward account of the history of Damascus, but unfortunately it is rather lacking in detail, and its concentration on the city and its territories makes it of relatively little value for details of events taking place outside the region. In addition, the author rarely cites the sources of his information, making it difficult to assess his reliability, particularly in the case of oral reports. He also shows an understandable partiality toward Damascus and its rulers, although this does not seriously compromise the narrative.

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