Post-classical history



(i) Ibn al-Qalanisi

Hamza ibn Asad ibn al-Qalanisi (d. 1160) was born into an important family in Damascus and occasionally held prominent positions in the city’s administration. His best-known work, Dhayl Ta’rikh Dimashq (The Continuation of the History of Damascus), is a continuation of an older chronicle and focuses on the history of Damascus, covering the years 1056–1160; as such it forms part of the genre of so-called ‘city chronicles’. Ibn al-Qalanisi’s work was a major source for other historians who came after him, including Ibn al-Athir, below.

The Franks went to Jerusalem and fought its people and besieged them. They set up a siege tower and leaned it against the city wall. The news reached them that al-Afdal had set out from Egypt with an overwhelming army to pursue the jihad against them, engage them in combat, aid the city against them and protect it from them, so they pressed their attack, persevering until the end of that day. Then they withdrew from the city, promising to renew their attack the next day, and the people descended from the walls at the time of the sunset prayer. Then the Franks returned to the attack, going up the tower and climbing onto the city wall. The people were put to flight, and they stormed the city and took control of it. Some of the people fled to the Tower of David, and many people were killed. The Jews gathered in the synagogue, and the Franks burned it down on their heads. The people in the Tower of David surrendered it in return for safe-conduct on 22 Sha‘ban of that year [492, 14 July 1099]. Then the Franks destroyed the shrines and tomb of Abraham, may peace be upon him.

Source: Hamza ibn Asad ibn al-Qalanisi. (1983) Ta’rikh Dimashq. Ed. Suhayl Zakkar. Damascus: Dar Hassan li-l-Tiba‘a wa-l-Nashr, p. 222.

(ii) Ibn al-Athir

‘Izz al-Din ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Athir (1160–1233) spent most of his life in Mosul working as a historian, though he also sometimes served as a diplomatic envoy of the rulers of the city. He is best known for his universal history, al-Kamil fi’l-Ta’rich(The Complete History), from which the following extract is drawn. Ibn al-Athir’s work is regarded by historians as being fairly reliable, though it is permeated with a bias towards the family of Zangi. This is more evident in another of his works, as we will see later.

The Egyptians appointed as deputy in Jerusalem a man called Iftikhar al-Dawla, who remained there until this present time, when the Franks attacked after they had besieged Acre but with no success. After their arrival they erected forty trebuchets or more and they constructed two towers, one on Mount Zion side but the Muslims burnt that one and killed all inside. After they had completely destroyed it by fire, their help was then called for, as the city defences had been overwhelmed on the other side. The Franks did indeed take the city from the north in the forenoon of Friday, seven days remaining of Sha‘ban [492, 15 July 1099]. The inhabitants became prey for the sword. For a week the Franks continued to slaughter the Muslims. A group of Muslims took refuge in the Tower of David and defended themselves there. They resisted for three days and then the Franks offered them safe-conduct, so they surrendered the place. The Franks kept faith with them and they departed at night for Ascalon, where they remained.

In the Aqsa Mosque the Franks killed more than 70,000, a large number of them being imams, ulema, righteous men and ascetics, Muslims who had left their native lands and come to live a holy life in this august spot. The Franks took forty or more silver candlesticks from the Dome of the Rock, each of which weighed 3,600 dirhams, and also a silver candelabrum weighing forty Syrian rotls. They removed 150 small candlesticks of silver and twenty or so of gold. The booty they took was beyond counting.

Source: ‘Izz al-Din ibn al-Athir. (2006) The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period from al-Kamil fi’l-Ta’rikh: Part 1: The Years 491–541/1097–1146: The Coming of the Franks and the Muslim Response. Trans. D.S. Richards. Crusade Texts in Translation 13. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 21–2.

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