Post-classical history


The waterless island of Ruad (mod. Arwād, Syria), situated off the Syrian coast near Tortosa (mod. Tartûs, Syria), was fortified by the Franks in the period of the crusades.

Ruad appears to have been held by the Byzantines after their loss of the coast to the Arabs until its capture by Caliph Mu‘āwiya (d. 680). The Arab geographer al-Idrīsī in the midtwelfth century describes a strongly built church on the island, which at that time must have belonged to the county of Tripoli. The capture of Ruad was the main success of Saladin’s naval campaign of 1179-1180, demonstrating his revival of the Egyptian fleet.

The island was again in the hands of the Franks in the thirteenth century and has achieved fame as their last stronghold in Outremer: it held out after the fall of Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) in 1291 and was captured by the Mamlûks only in 1302. However, there is confusion over the exact chronology of events. It is unlikely that the island had been continuously occupied by the Franks; rather, it was probably reoccupied and refortified by Cypriot, Templar, and Hospitaller forces attempting to link up with an aborted Mongol invasion of Syria in late 1300. A Templar garrison was left, which launched raids against the coast, until in 1302 the Mamlûks dispatched a force, including 20 galleys sent from Egypt, to retake the island. Many Templars were killed, and some were taken prisoner (according to one source, more than 2,000). Its fortifications destroyed, the island was left abandoned.

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