Zāhir al-Dīn Tughtigin was atabeg and regent for Duqāq, king of Damascus (1093-1104), and thereafter effectively independent lord of Damascus and its dominions (11051128).
In his youth, Tughtigin was in the service of Alp Arslān, the Great Saljûq sultan (d. 1072), and later joined the admin- stration of Alp Arslān’s son Tutush I, the ruler of the Saljûq kingdom of Syria. In 1093 Tutush appointed Tughtigin as atabeg for his heir, Duqāq, and married him to Duqāq’s mother, Safwat, after divorcing her. After the death of Tutush (1095), Tughtigin was de facto ruler of Damascus and southern Syria in his capacities of atabeg and commander of the army, under the nominal rule of Duqāq, who died in June 1104 at a relatively young age. Tughtigin then recognized Duqāq’s son, Tutush II, as ruler. After three months he replaced him with Duqāq’s brother Artāsh, who, however, soon fled to Frankish territory.
Tughtigin was now the unchallenged ruler of the realm. He continued to rule Damascus until 1115 without any change of title, declaring loyalty to the Saljûq sultan Muhammad in Persia. The sultan did not recognize him as ruler, but was too preoccupied with civil wars to intervene. The Saljûqid king of Aleppo, Ridwān, was unable to claim Damascus, as he was occupied in warfare with the Franks of Antioch. Throughout his long career, Tughtigin was acutely pragmatic, aiming only to secure power for himself and for his son Būrī, who was a well-trained candidate married to Zumurrud, the sister of Duqāq. Tughtigin repeatedly shifted his alliances between the Turcoman lords of Iraq, the sultan, the Franks, and even the Fātimids in order to survive.
Between 1095 and the fall of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey) to the crusaders in 1099, Tughtigin fought alongside his lord Duqāq against the latter’s brother Ridwān of Aleppo. Until the death ofDuqāq, Tughtigin did not show serious hostility toward the new Frankish states in Jerusalem or Edessa. He participated with a limited force in the ill-fated campaign of Karbughā at Antioch in 1098 and failed to defend the Damascene city of Haifa (mod. Hefa, Israel), which fell to the Franks in 1100. Tughtigin focused instead on consolidating his grip on Upper Mesopotamia, the lifeline for new Turcoman recruits. He turned down an Egyptian request to cooperate against the Franks in 1103, as he feared the large Egyptian army and the consequences for Damascus if it was successful.
From 1105 to 1108, the Frankish lords of Tiberias tried to build forts on the Jaulan heights, threatening the vital trade route between Damascus and the port of Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon). After much fighting in which two lords, Hugh of Fauquembergues and Gervase of Bazoches, were killed, Tughtigin and King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1108 agreed on a truce and a division of the revenues from the border area of al-Sāwad (Terre de Suète). The capture of the Fātimid port of Sidon (mod. Saïda, Lebanon) by Baldwin I (1110) put more economic pressure on Damascus. In consequence Tughtigin made an alliance with Mawdûd, lord of Mosul, and also responded to a Fātimid appeal to save Tyre from the Franks of Jerusalem. In 1112 Tughtigin sent troops under his capable son Būrī,who relieved the city, thus securing the last coastal outlet for Damascene trade, and improving relations with Fātimid Egypt.
The high point of Tughtigin’s political career occurred in 1113, when Baldwin I invaded Damascene territory and Mawdûd of Mosul responded to Tughtigin’s request for help. On 28 June 1113 the armies of Tughtigin and Mawdûd defeated the Franks at al-Sinnabrāh in Galilee and plundered northern Palestine as far as the coast for months. However, Tughtigin feared that Mawdûd’s success might endanger his own position and ended the campaign. After they returned to Damascus, Mawdûd was murdered by Assassins hired by Tughtigin (September 1113). Tughtigin then concluded a truce with King Baldwin, and proceeded to form a great alliance that included his son-in-law īlghāzī and Roger, prince of Antioch. Deterred by this alliance and in order to secure nominal authority over southern Syria, Sultan Muhammad confirmed Tughtigin’s political status in Damascus in November 1115, granting him the title amir (prince, emir) and giving his family the right of inheritance.
In 1116 Tughtigin allied with Aq-Sunqûr al-Bursuqī, the new lord of Mosul, and both rulers defeated an invading army led by Pons, count of Tripoli. The last major victory for Tughtigin came about in alliance with īlghāzī, now lord of Aleppo, in defending their lands against the Franks of Antioch. In June 1119 the allies inflicted a major defeat on the Antiochenes, known as the Ager Sanguinis, in which Prince Roger was killed and his army largely destroyed. Yet Tughtigin never capitalized on the victory, as he feared the revenge of Baldwin II of Jerusalem and could not keep his army of seasonally mustered Turcomans together. When the Franks of Jerusalem finally captured Tyre in 1124, Damascus was weakened and came under renewed attacks from Jerusalem for the rest of Tughtigin’s rule. In 1128 Tughtigin died after two years of illness, appointing his son Bûrï as sucessor.