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Middle East Kingdoms

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Islamic Syria

A region with a history of settlements which stretches back to the earliest days of civilisation, ancient Syria was a patchwork of city states. Many, or even most, of these were subsumed at one point or another within larger empires, such as the kingdom of Upper Mesopotamia, the Hittites, the Mitanni, Egypt, Assyria, neo-Babylonia, the Persians, the Greek empire and its descended forms, and then the Roman empire, which held onto it until the seventh century AD. Then the entire region was conquered by the Islamic empire, between 638 and 640 under Khaled ibn al-Walid. Later in the same century, the Umayyads moved the capital of the empire to the ancient city of Damascus, making it the centre of Islamic power.

634

The Islamic invasion of the Eastern Roman region of Syria begins in 634, with Arab troops emerging into the Levant from the southern deserts, surprising the Byzantine forces which are stationed along the regular line of defence facing the Persians. Between then and 638, several battles are fought across the region until the Byzantines have been forced northwards. Syria quickly becomes the centre of the growing empire.

Islamic Governors of Syria
AD 635 - 750

Khalid ibn al-Walid was one of Muhammad's most able companions and generals. He led the conquest of Arabia in 632-634, making it the heart of the growing Islamic empire. This was followed by the invasion of the Persian empire in 633, and the invasion of Eastern Roman Syria from June 634. Avoiding Roman forts in eastern Syria, he took his force through the northern edge of the Syrian Desert, traditionally taking two days to complete the march without a drop of water. Then he attacked the Romans, capturing several border forts, at Arak, Palmyra, al-Sukhnah and Sawa.

Next to fall was Bosra, the capital of the vassal Ghassanid kingdom, although not without a good deal of fighting. On 30 July 634, the Romans fought the Arabs at the Battle of Ajnadayn, and defeat for the defenders left Syria in a precarious position. The Syrian capital of Damascus was Khalid's next target, and despite the Roman defences, it fell on 18 September 634 after a siege lasting about thirty days, although some sources state it was much longer. Caliph Abu Bakr died during the siege, but central Syria had been taken, and the south would soon fall.

635 - 636

Khalid ibn al-Walid

First Islamic emir of Syria. A companion of Muhammad.

635 - 636

Khalid ibn al-Walid remains in command of the conquered areas of Syria while the fighting against the Eastern Roman empire is ongoing and the Levant is also being conquered. The Battle of Yarmouk in 636 seals the fate of the Romans in the Levant, as they suffer a defeat that is so tremendous that it leaves them unable to recover for some considerable time.

Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus
The Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus was built between 706-715 on the site of the Basilica of St John, which itself had been converted from the Temple of Jupiter

636 - 637

Abu Ubaidah ibn al Jarrah

A companion of Muhammad. Died of plague.

637 - 640

Amr ibn al-Aas

Led the conquest of Egypt in 640.

640

Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan

One of the leaders of the invasion of Syria. Died of plague.

640 - 661

Muawiyah ibn Abu Sufyan

Brother. Later Umayyad caliph (661-680).

658

Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, the adopted son of Rashidun Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, had been appointed governor of Egypt. However, Muawiyah I (soon to be the first Umayyad caliph), sends his general, Amr ibn al-As and six thousand troops to take control. Ibn Abi Bakr is easily defeated, and is captured and killed.

661 - 680

Muawiyah I ibn Abu Sufyan

Simultaneously Umayyad caliph and governor of Syria.

674 - 677

The capital of the Islamic empire moves to Damascus and an Arab aristocratic government is established there. Syria is divided into four districts: Damascus, Homs, Jordan, and Palestine. From this point forwards, the caliph retains the title of governor of Syria, controlling it directly.

680 - 683

Yazid I ibn Muawiyah

Son. Umayyad caliph.

683 - 684

Upon the death of Yazid, his son becomes Caliph Mu'awiya II, but he seems not to be accepted outside Syria. Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr renews his own claim, gathering supporters from the many who are dissatisfied with Umayyad rule. Civil war breaks out, but a rival faction under Marwan quickly proves to be superior, conquering Egypt and the renegade areas of Syria that have sided with the opposition. Ibn Zubayr is finally killed in 692 in battle against Abd al Malik.

683 - 684

Muawiya II ibn Yazid

Son. Umayyad caliph.

684 - 685

Marwan I ibn Hakam

Umayyad caliph.

685 - 705

Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan

Son. Umayyad caliph.

705 - 715

al-Walid I ibn Abd al-Malik

Son. Umayyad caliph.

715 - 717

Suleiman ibn Abd al-Malik

Brother. Umayyad caliph.

717 - 720

Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz

Cousin. Umayyad caliph.

720 - 724

Yazid II ibn Abd al-Malik

Son of Abd al Malik. Umayyad caliph.

724 - 743

Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik

Brother. Umayyad caliph.

743 - 744

al-Walid II ibn Yazid II

Son of Yazid II. Killed. Umayyad caliph.

744

Yazid III is a son of al-Walid I. He is proclaimed caliph in Damascus, and his army closes in on al-Walid II and kills him, securing the Umayyad caliphate for Yazid III. Unfortunately, Yazid III himself dies after just six months as caliph.

744

Yazid III ibn al-Walid

Son of al-Walid I. Umayyad caliph.

744

Ibrahim ibn al-Walid

Brother. Umayyad caliph.

744 - 746

Ibrahim is Yazid III's nominated successor, but Marwan marches an army to Damascus where he is proclaimed Umayyad caliph in December. He immediately moves the capital to the ancient town of Harran, and when a rebellion breaks out in Syria in 746, he burns down the walls of Hims and Damascus.

744 - 750

Marwan II ibn Muhammad

In Harran. Grandson of Marwan I. Last Umayyad governor.

747 - 749

The Abbasids under Abu Muslim begin an open revolt in the Islamic Emirate of Khorasan against Umayyad rule. Khorasan quickly falls and an army is sent westwards. Kufa falls in 749 and in November the same year Abu al-Abbas is recognised as caliph. The Umayyads are overthrown and massacred in the revolution, with the survivors fleeing to Spain where they rule independently. Caliph Marwan flees to Egypt, where he is captured and killed. This signals the end of the Arab empire.

Abbasid Governors of Syria
AD 750 - 935

Abdallah ibn Ali and his brother, Saleh, were at the forefront of the Abbasid overthrow and massacre of the Umayyad caliphs in 750. The uprising against Umayyad authority began in Khorasan, and quickly spread westwards, with Abu al-Abbas being recognised as the first Abbasid caliph in 749 while his rivals were massacred. Abdallah briefly became Syria's first Abbasid wali (governor) but was quickly succeeded by his brother, who also exercised authority in Egypt in two periods.

The capital of the Abbasid caliphate was in Baghdad rather than Damascus, so Syria's governors had more independence than previously, and more scope for overthrowing rival governors and ruling their provinces. Records of governors for this period are relatively poor, with frequent gaps.

750 - 753

Abdallah ibn Ali ibn Abdullah

First Abbasid wali of Syria.

753

Saleh ibn Ali ibn Abdullah / Salih

Brother. Wali of Egypt (750, 753-755) & Palestine (751-753).

754 - 755

Saleh ibn Ali ibn Abdullah, wali of Egypt and then Palestine, is the uncle of Abbasid Caliph Abdullah as Saffah, but the caliph dies in 754. Saleh's brother, Abdallah, launches a revolt in Syria against the new caliph, claiming that he himself is the rightful successor. Saleh refuses to join his brother's revolt. Instead he enters Syria to help suppress it, defeating Abdallah's governor of Palestine, al-Hakam ibn Da'ban. Abdallah is also defeated and is forced to submit to the new caliph. Saleh's family are firmly entrenched as governors, with three of his sons controlling Syria over the next half a century, starting with Al-Fadl ibn Saleh in 766.

Samarkand coin
Two sides of a typical Abbasid-era coin, with this one being nineteen millimetres in diameter issued in Samarkand

754 - 764

Abd al-Bahhab ibn Ibrahim al-Abbasi

?

Name unknown.

766 - 775

Al-Fadl ibn Saleh ibn Ali al-Abbassi

Gained Aleppo (769). Wali of al-Jazira (775-780), & Egypt (785).

769 - 775

Al-Fadl ibn Saleh gains the Jund Qinnasrin and its capital at Aleppo in 769, adding it to his domains. In 775, Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi commands him to take the post of wali of al-Jazira, which lies to the north of Damascus (he is deposed around 780, and is sent to quell a rebellion in Egypt in 785).

?

Name unknown.

783 - 786

Abu Ja'far Harun al-Rashid

Became Abbasid Caliph (786-809).

?

Name unknown.

791 - 793

Ibrahim as-Salih

Brother of Al-Fadl. Wali of Egypt (781-784).

793 - 794

Musa ibn Yahya al-Barmaki

794 - 795

Abd al-Malik ibn Salih

Brother of Ibrahim as-Salih. Became wali of Egypt (795).

794 - 795

Abd al-Malik ibn Salih had been governor of the strategically critical jund Qinnasrin (c.789-793) and then of the newly-formed jund of al-'Awasim, which comprises the caliphate's border with the Byzantine empire. Following his appointment as governor of Damascus, he also serves briefly in Medina and Egypt, before returning to the Byzantine frontier.

795 - 797

?

Name unknown. Some records show Abd al-Malik still in office.

797 - 803

Ja'far ibn Yahya

Brother of Musa ibn Yahya al-Barmaki (793). Beheaded.

803 - 804

Shuyat ibn Hadim

?

Name unknown.

808 - 810

Yahya ibn Muad

810 - 811

Abd al-Malik ibn Salih

811 - 815

Sulayman ibn al-Mansur

815 - 821

Tahir ibn al-Hussein

Became emir of Khorasan (821-822).

821

The eastern province that includes Persia and Khorasan has lost Transoxiana to the Samanids, so Abbasid Caliph al-Mamun appoints Tahir ibn al-Hussein, the successful commander of the campaign that had defeated the caliph's main rival, as the new governor, beginning the Tahrid period of rule in the east. Tahir effectively declares independence in his new domains by failing to mention the caliph during a sermon at Friday prayers in 822.

821 - 822

Abdullah ibn Tahir

Son. Wali of Egypt (826-827) & emir of Khorasan (828-845).

?

Name unknown.

828 - 829

Abu Ishaq Muhammad al-Mu'tasim

Became Abbasid Caliph (833-842).

829 - 833

al-Abbas ibn al-Ma'mun

Son of Abbasid Caliph Abdullah al Ma'mun. Died 838.

832 - 833

Abbasid Caliph Ma'mun follows up on a recent minor success against the Byzantine empire by capturing the strategically important fortress of Loulon. A large army is collected together with the intent of conquering Anatolia piecemeal. The caliph's general, al-Abbas ibn al-Ma'mun, wali of Syria, marches into Byzantine territory on 25 May 833, creating a military base at Tyana. The caliph's main force follows in July, just as the caliph himself becomes ill and dies unexpectedly. The invasion is abandoned and al-Abbas is soon arrested for potential involvement in a coup to remove the new caliph. He dies in prison.

833 - 841

'Ali ibn Ishaq

841 - 847

Rija ibn Ayyub al-Hadari

847 - 850

Malik ibn Sauq al-Taglibi

850 - 855

Ibrahim al-Muyad ibn Mutawakkil

856 - 861

al-Fath ibn Hakan al-Turki

861 - 864

'Isa ibn Muhammad ibn al-Shayh

?

Name unknown.

871 - 872

Amajur

872 - 877

Abu Ahmad Talha al-Muwaffak

877 - 896

Abbasid troops are sent against Ahmed ibn-Tuluh, wali of Egypt, because he has failed to send enough tribute to Baghdad. Defeating them, the following year he invades and captures Palestine and Syria, ruling them directly.

Tomb of Ahmed ibn-Tuluh in Cairo
The tomb in Cairo of Ahmed ibn-Tuluh, one of only two strong rulers in the Tulunid period

896

Tughj ibn Jauf

896 - 933

Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Tughj al-Ikhshid

Son. Took control of Egypt in 935.

905

The Tulunids in Egypt are weakened by this stage following years of mismanagement of the country. Egypt is invaded and Wali Shayban retreats to Fustat where he surrenders on 10 January 905. The Tulunid dynasty of governors and semi-independent rulers is ended and loyal and obedient Abbasid governors are installed.

909

Islamic rule over Syria fragments, with independent rulers emerging in several areas. In Africa, the Aghlabids have by now lost all prestige in the eyes of their people, so Ifriqiyya is conquered by the Fatimids, who quickly also conquer Morocco, Algeria, and later even Arabia.

933 - 935

Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Kaigaliq

Last Abbasid governor of Syria.

935 - 943

Abbasid control of Egypt proves to be short-lived when the country falls under the control of the Mameluke dynasty of Turkic governors who are allowed to rule in a semi-independent manner. From 935, under the Turkic slave soldier, Muhammad ibn Tughj al Ikhshid (former wali of Syria in 896-933), Egypt also gains control of Palestine and Syria, and Damascus is ruled directly until 943. Then it is governed by the Hamdanids of Aleppo under Ali I Sayfud Dawla.

Hamdanid Emirs of Damascus
AD 943 - 946

The Hamdanids were a dynasty of Shia Muslims who emerged in the Al-Jazirah region in the late ninth century under Hamdan ibn Hamdun. They expanded from an initial governorship in Mardin to become emirs of Aleppo, Mosul and Baghdad by 914. Dominating regions of northern Mesopotamia and Syria, they briefly gained southern Syria from the Ikhshidids of Egypt. Emir Sayfud Dawla became a celebrated foe of the Byzantines, but he was largely unsuccessful against the revival of Eastern Roman power, and his son experienced devastating defeats, at one point with Aleppo and Homs themselves falling.

943 - 945

Muhammad ibn Yazdad al-Shahrzuri

945

Ali I Sayfud Dawla / 'Saif al-Duala'

Emir of Aleppo.

945 - 946

Muhammad ibn Raik

946

Ali I Sayfud Dawla / 'Saif al-Duala'

Emir of Aleppo.

946 - 947

Sayfud Dawla eyes a much bigger prize than Aleppo. He wins the support of the local tribe of the Banu Kilab and seizes Aleppo, presumably as a domain of his own rather than a governorship. The following year he attacks and seizes Damascus, despite being rebuffed twice by the Ikhshidids. He also manages to advance as far as Ramla in Syria (now in Israel), but thereafter is forced to agree peace terms with the Ikhshidids.

Aleppo citadel
The citadel at Aleppo made it a powerful fortress that the Ikhshidids could not take

947 - 969

Damascus is ruled directly by the Ikhshidites of Egypt, although the region is undergoing a period of instability. A Qarmatian raid takes place in 968, although the level of damage to Damascus is not known, and there is increasing pressure from the Fatamids in Tunisia and the Hamdanids in Aleppo.

In 969, Antioch is lost to the Byzantine empire, taken by Michael Bourtzes and Peter the Eunuch on behalf of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas. The city becomes the seat of a doux who commands the forces of the local themes which are vital for holding onto this eastern border region. In the same year the Fatamids occupy Egypt and gain much of Syria along with it.

Fatamid Emirs of Damascus
AD 969 - 1076

The Fatamids rose to power in Tunisia in 909, overthrowing the discredited Aghlabids and conquering Ifriqiyya. They first invaded Abbasid Egypt in 914, and were only forced back out by several waves of reinforcements sent from Baghdad. By 969 they were strong enough to re-invade Egypt and this time they were not to be stopped. The caliphate was removed to alQahirah (Cairo), and areas of Syria were taken at the same time, notably the city of Damascus. This received its own Fatamid governors from 969, and they opposed the Hamdanids at Aleppo to the north. The Shia Fatamids also managed to inflame the predominant Sunni Arabs of Syria, resulting in frequent uprisings.

969 - 971

Abu Ali Jafar ibn Fallah al-Katami

971 - 973

?

Unknown emir(s).

972 - 977

A Sunni Turk named Alp Takin (Alp Tegin) drives the Fatamids out of Damascus and holds it for five years, negotiating with the Byzantines to prevent them from sweeping in to take over.

Fatamid dinar
A Fatamid dinar, minted in Egypt in 970, which expresses the dynasty's Shi'ite beliefs in opposition to the Sunni Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad

973 - 974

Zalim inbn Mauhab al-Ukayli

Fought Alp Tegin to retain Damascus?

974

Jaysh ibn Muhammad

Fought Alp Tegin to retain Damascus?

974

Rayn al-Muizzi

Fought Alp Tegin to retain Damascus?

974 - 977

Alp Tegin al-Muizzi

Sunni Turk who seized Damascus.

977

Fatamid Caliph al Aziz manages to regain control of Damascus and tame the dissident Sunnis. A new governor is installed and the city settles down to a relatively peaceful period.

977 - 983

Qassam al-Turab

Fatamid governor restored to Damascus.

983

Bal Tegin al-Turki

983 - 991

Bakjur

985

The Arab geographer, al-Muqaddasi, visits Damascus. According to his notes about the city, its architecture is still magnificent and the infrastructure is still in good order, but the living conditions for the majority of the ordinary citizens are fairly poor. The records are also poor, with there seeming to be a break in the governorship between 991-993.

991

Munir al-Hadim

993 - 996

Magu Tegin / Mangutakin

Defeated while attempting to take Egypt in support of Barjawan.

996 - 998

The period of relative stability enjoyed by Damascus since the city's recapture in 977 now comes to an end with the death of Fatamid Caliph al Aziz and the succession of al Hakim. Magu Tegin is abandoned by his own ally while attempting to enter Egypt in support of Barjawan and his seizure of the post of vizier. Just two years later, hundreds of senior figures in Damascus are rounded up and executed for incitement.

996

Sulayman ibn Fallah

A Berber.

997 - 998

Bishara al-Ikhshidi

998 - 1000

Jaysh ibn Muhammad

1000 - 1002

Sulayman ibn Fallah

Restored to office.

1002 - 1004

Abu'l-Hasan Ali ibn Jafar

1003 - 1004

To help prevent the Byzantine conquest of a weakened Aleppo, the Hamdanids place it under the suzerainty of the Fatamids of Tunisia and Egypt. The Fatamids subsequently depose the Hamdanids for their efforts.

1004 - 1009

Abu Salih Muflih al-Lihyani

1009

Hamid ibn Mulham

1010 - 1011

Wajik ad-Dawlah Abu al-Muta

1011 - 1012

Badr al-Attar

1012 - 1014

Abu Abdallah al-Muzahhir

1015 - 1021

Abd ar-Rahman ibn Ilyas

1015

Aleppo is fully controlled by the Fatamid dynasty until 1076. The last of the Hamdanids flees to Byzantium.

Damascus wall
A colour photochrome print of a wall in Damascus' defences, rumoured to be the one over which St Paul escaped in the first century AD

1017 - 1020

One of Fatamid Caliph al Hakim's viziers, a certain Darazi, claims that the caliph is an incarnation of God. To the caliph's Egyptian subjects, this is the last straw. They are shocked by the vizier's announcement and begin to make fun of their slightly bonkers caliph. The growing dispute between al Hakim and the populace results in the breakout of a rebellion in 1020. As a result, al Hakim sends troops to put down the unrest and even burns the city of al Fustat. Just a year later, al Hakim disappears while on one of his lone donkey rides in the Muqattam Hills, possibly murdered on the orders of his sister, Set El-Molk. The subsequent change of leadership probably results in a change of governorship in Damascus.

1021 - 1023

Wajik ad-Dawlah Abu al-Muta

Restored to office.

1023 - 1024

Shihab ad-Dawlah Shah Tegin

1024

The various Arab tribes of southern Syria form an alliance and rebel against Fatamid control of the region. The rebellion sweeps the emir, Shihab ad-Dawlah Shah Tegin, out of Damascus.

1024 - 1028

Wajik ad-Dawlah Abu al-Muta

Restored to office for a second time.

1028 - 1041

Anushtegin ad-Dizbari

Also Anushtakin al-Duzbari. Governor of Palestine. Exiled.

1028 - 1029

The Arab rebellion in Syria is crushed by the newly-appointed Fatamid Turkish governor of Syria and Palestine, Anushtegin ad-Dizbari, with victory coming in 1029. The success gives the new governor control of Syria, which is not something that pleases his Fatamid masters. However, his authority and leadership is welcomed by the people of Damascus itself, who are probably relieved to find some stability after several years of uncertainty.

1041

Anushtegin ad-Dizbari is exiled to Aleppo where he dies, giving his Fatamid masters revenge for his success of 1029. From this point until 1063, events relating to Damascus remain apparently unrecorded. The city is in a poor condition, with a feeble economy and a depleted population, and a rapid turnover of emirs.

1041 - 1048

Nasir ad-Dawlah Abu Ali al-Husein

1048 - 1049

Baha ad-Dawlah Takiq al-Saklabi

1049

Uddat ad-Dawlah Rifq al-Mustansiri

A relative of the Fatamid caliph al Mustansir (1035-1094).

1049 - 1058

Mu'in ad-Dawlah Haydar

Son of Adud ad-Dawlah.

1058

Makin ad-Dawlah

Son of Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn 'Ali.

1058 - 1060

Nasir ad-Dawlah

Son of Abu Ali al-Husein al-Hamdani.

1060

Sebuq Tegin

1060 - 1072

Tension in Fatamid Cairo has been slowly growing over the course of the century due to the caliphate's policy of organising military units based on ethnic background. While this policy has generally been effective in military terms, its effect on the political sphere has been more disruptive, pitching Berber factions against Turkic factions. In the 1060s, Egypt suffers a series of droughts and famines, and the delicate political balance breaks down completely. Turkic and Nubian troops fight openly while the Berbers chop-and-change according to circumstance. Eventually, the Turks seize most of Cairo and hold the caliph to ransom while the Berbers and Nubians are loose in the countryside.

Tell Minis Fatamid pottery
Clear-glazed conical bowls from Tell Minis, within Fatamid Syria in the eleventh century

1060 - 1061

Muwaffaq ad-Dawlah Jauhar al-Mustansiri

1061

Hasam ad-Dawlah ibn al-Bachinaki

1061

Uddat ad-Dawlah ibn al-Husein

1061 - 1063

Mu'in ad-Dawlah Haydar

Restored to office.

1063

Badr al-Jamali

Later governor of Acre & Palestine. First Fatamid military vizier.

1063 - 1067

Hisn ad-Dawlah Haydar ibn Mansur

1068 - 1069

Qutb ad-Din Baris Tegin

1069 - 1071

Hisn ad-Dawlah Mualla al-Kitami

?

Unknown emir(s).

1072

Desperate to resolve the ongoing situation in Cairo, Fatamid Caliph al Mustansir recalls General Badr al-Jamali, governor of Acre and Palestine (and former of governor of Damascus in 1063). He successfully puts down the various rebel factions, clearing out much of the Turkic presence at the same time. However, the caliphate has been seriously weakened by the revolt. Badr al-Jamali becomes the first military vizier of the caliphate (along much the same lines as the magistri militum of the late Western Roman empire, and they dominate the caliphate in much the same way as the late Roman emperors had been dominated). The military viziers become the heads of state in Egypt in all but name, with the the caliph reduced to the role of figurehead.

1075 - 1076

Zain ad-Dawlah Intisar

Son of Yahya al-Masmudi.

1076 - 1078

Turkic invasions see Syria conquered fairly rapidly. Abaaq al-Khwarazmi is a general under the command of Malik Shah I, the Seljuq great sultan, but Damascus quickly becomes the capital of a newly independent state (either an emirate or the more grand sultanate) under the general, making him the first Seljuq to gain independence from his overlord.

Seljuq Emirs of Damascus
AD 1077 - 1104

The Turkic invasions into Abbasid territories managed to carve out a swathe of occupied territory. The caliphate itself had fallen under the dominance of the Turkic Seljuqs in Persia in 1055, while the Fatamids who were the overlords of Syria were gravely weakened by rebellion between 1060-1072. The rebellion had been stoked over the course of a century by the caliphate's policy of organising military units based on ethnic background, and this was exacerbated by drought and famine in Fatamid Egypt. For a time the Turks in the army had seized most of Cairo and held the caliph to ransom, until General Badr al-Jamali, governor of Acre and Palestine, was called upon to put down all the rebellious factions and clear out much of the Turkic element.

The damage had been done, however. The caliph's hold on Syria had been weakened and the Seljuqs were able to seize it. The Seljuq commander secured Damascus for himself, although he paid lip service to the Seljuq Great Sultan who still commanded Syria in general, but in all true respects Damascus became an independent emirate, or perhaps a sultanate (precisely which is unclear).

1077 - 1079

Abaaq al-Khwarazmi

First Seljuq to gain independence from Seljuq sultans. Died.

1079 - 1095

Tutush I

Brother of Seljuq Great Sultan Malik Shah. Sultan of Aleppo.

1085 - 1086

Tutush is able to take control of Syria as a whole, securing it from his brother, Seljuq Great Sultan Malik Shah. His control is temporary, and he is restricted back in Damascus the following year, It takes until 1094 before he can reclaim Syria and secure his title as sultan of Aleppo.

Seljuq cavalry
A stone relief of Seljuq cavalry, which swept through Persia, northern Mesopotamia, Syria, and Anatolia in the eleventh century

1095 - 1104

Duqaq

Son. Lost Aleppo and confined largely to Damascus.

1095

Duqaq inherits Damascus, but he is the younger of Tutush's sons. His older brother, Radwan, rebels at the idea of vassal status and instead seizes Aleppo, splitting the recently reunited Syrian domains of Tutush. Confusingly, another version of the story has Duqaq inheriting only the Jezirah and living with Radwan in Aleppo until it is he who revolts and seizes Damascus for himself. Given that Duqaq is the younger of the two, the latter version is probably more likely.

1098 - 1099

The First Crusade finds a divided Islamic empire governed by the Seljuq Turks, and quickly and forcefully carves a large swathe of territory out of it. Rather than unite, the various local rulers all end their internecine squabbles and return home to defend their own domains. Coastal Syria is conquered by the Crusaders of Outremer, with the states of Edessa, Antioch, and Tripoli being created.

1100

Duqaq manages to ambush Baldwin I of Edessa and his bodyguard at Nahr al-Kalb (just outside Beirut). Baldwin is travelling to Jerusalem to succeed his brother, Godfrey de Bouillon, as king. The Crusaders are caught in a narrow pass which they hold successfully, and Baldwin is soon able to continue his journey.

1103 - 1104

In Homs, Janah ad-Dawla is assassinated (the former atabeg to Radwan of Aleppo). Duqaq is able to capture the now-leaderless city, but the following year he falls gravely ill. Shortly before his death, he heeds his mother's advice and appoints Atabeg Toghtekin to provide the same service to his young son, Tutush II.

1104

Tutush II

Son. Under the guidance of Atabeg Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin.

1104

Muhi ad-Din Baqtash

1104

Not content with providing support to the Seljuqs, Atabeg Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin overthrows the short-lived Seljuq dynasty of Tutush I, and in its place he establishes his own Burid dynasty in Damascus.

Burid Emirs of Damascus
AD 1104 - 1154

In 1104 the Atabeg, Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin, overthrew the short-lived Seljuq dynasty of Tutush I, and replaced it with his own Burid dynasty in Damascus. He had been the mentor of the last powerful Seljuq emir, Duqaq, but with that ruler's death, Toghtekin quickly took control of Damascus. However, his Turk dynasty turned out to be almost as equally short-lived as the Seljuqs, despite lavishing regular gifts upon the Abbasid caliph in return for official recognition. Damascus held what was in effect a frontier against the Crusader states to the west, and in the end this constant source of instability was part of their undoing.

1104 - 1128

Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin

Founder of the dynasty and anti-Crusader leader. Ruled Aleppo.

1109 - 1110

Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin has managed to end raids by Crusaders into the Golan Heights and Hauran, aided by Sharaf al-Din Mawdud of Mosul. But Mawdud's assassination in 1109 ends the involvement of the north in Syria's defence, so Toghtekin is forced to to agree a truce with the Crusaders in 1110.

1127 - 1128

Syria falls out of the nominal control of the Seljuq Great Sultans when the Zangid atabegs are appointed to control a semi-independent Aleppo. They take command in 1128, following the death of Toghtekin, while the rule of Damascus becomes unsettled.

Baldwin III of Jerusalem
Baldwin III was one of the key Christian leaders who were involved in the Second Crusade, although one of its first acts was a failure in front of the walls of Damascus in 1154

1128 - 1132

Taj al-Muluk Buri

Son. Assassinated by a rival Muslim group.

1132 - 1135

Shams al-Mulk Ismail

Son. A tyrant, murdered on the order of his mother.

1135 - 1139

Shihab ad-Din Mahmud

Brother. Killed by members of his own family.

1139 - 1140

Jamal ad-Din Muhammad

Emir of Baalbek, selected as the new emir of Damascus.

1139 - 1140

With the selection of Jamal ad-Din Muhammad as the new emir of Damascus, the Mameluke soldier, Mu'in ad-Din Unur, is appointed to govern Baalbek in his name. When Baalbek is besieged by Zangi of Aleppo and surrenders to him, Mu'in ad-Din Unur returns to Damascus and is in the right place to assume complete control when the emir's son is appointed as the new emir following his father's death in 1140.

1140 - 1154

Mujir ad-Din Abaq

Son. A weak ruler, even after his regent's death.

1140 - 1149

Mu'in ad-Din Unur

Regent and effective ruler. A Mameluke slave soldier. Died.

1146

Upon the assassination of Zangi of Aleppo at the hands of a slave, his sons divide the state between them, with Nur ad-Din gaining Aleppo and the elder Ghazi gaining Mosul & Jazira. Breaking up the state into small rival principalities means that the Crusaders are able to recapture Edessa for two months in the immediate aftermath of the division.

1149

Prince Raymond of Antioch is killed by Asad ad-Din Shirkuh, an important Kurdish military commander who serves under Nur ad-Din of Aleppo.

1150 - 1159

Count Joscelin of Edessa is captured and imprisoned in Aleppo until his death in 1159 when Nur ad-Din conquers the remnants of the Christian county.

1154

The Second Crusade besieges Damascus with support from Christian Jerusalem. With the city apparently ready to capitulate, the Crusaders switch their main attack against a fresh section of the city walls and are driven back by the combined forces of Damascus and Aleppo. The Muslim victory does not benefit the Burids at all, as Nur ad-Din assumes control, adding it to his Aleppo territory.

Zangid Atabegs of Damascus
AD 1154 - 1181

Following the death of Zangid I, first Aleppo and then Damascus were controlled by his successor and son, Mahmud Nur ad-Din, while Nur ad-Din's brother gained Mosul & Jazira. Nur ad-Din was a very capable leader, aided by his Kurdish military commander, Asad ad-Din Shirkuh. Together they presented a strong front against the Crusaders, taking Edessa and carving chunks out of the principality of Antioch. They also secured Egypt from the Crusaders, although this led to the creation of an independent sultanate there which ultimately gobbled up Aleppo and Damascus.

1154 - 1174

Mahmud Nur ad-Din

Son of Zangid of Mosul. Ruler of Aleppo.

1160

The formal career of Salah al-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub (or Saladin), begins when he serves on the staff of his uncle, Asad ad-Din Shirkuh who himself serves Mahmud Nur ad-Din. He kills Reynald de Châtillon, prince of Antioch. Antioch's territories are greatly reduced by the defeat.

Citadel in Aleppo
The citadel in Aleppo rose to the height of its importance under the Zangids, and was prison to many titled Crusaders

1169

Asad ad-Din Shirkuh and Saladin are involved in a race with the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem to conquer Fatamid Egypt. On 2 January 1169, the Crusaders retreat from their siege of the walls of Cairo and evacuate the region, allowing Shirkuh to take control as vizier (prime minister).

1171 - 1174

The caliph dies, ending Fatamid rule of Egypt and leaving the country in the control of Saladin, under the suzerainty of Nur ad-Din. The latter's death in 1174 allows Saladin to assert his full control over Egypt, becoming the first Ayyubid sultan. He also takes overall control of Damascus, forcing Nur ad-Din's eleven year-old son and successor to flee to Aleppo.

1174 - 1181

Ismail Nur al-Din

Son. Lost Damascus in 1174. In Aleppo. Murdered.

1181 - 1183

Ismail is murdered by his relation, Masud I of Mosul, and Aleppo is ruled by Sinjar. In 1183, Saladin conquers Aleppo, taking it out of Sinjar's control with the creation of an Ayyubid subsidiary dynasty in Damascus.

Ayyubid Sultanate of Damascus
AD 1183 - 1260

The Ayyubids were originally from a Kurdish tribe that had been formed by settlers of the Azd tribe of Arabs after they arrived in Kurdistan in 758. In a period in which the Islamic world was badly fractured, they rose to become the most powerful force throughout the region. The former Fatimid vizier was Salah al-Din (pronounced S.alâh.udDîn, better known in the West as Saladin). Under him, the Ayyubids became the rulers of Egypt following the death of Nur ad-Din of Aleppo and Damascus. The Ayyubids then defeated and drove the Crusaders from Jerusalem. and spent the next decade making further conquests in Islamic territory.

Saladin became overlord of Damascus in 1169, and gained direct control as sultan in 1183 by conquering the region. He subsequently set up his sons and relatives in several subsidiary lines, in Aleppo and Damascus, Diyar Bakr, Hamat, Hims, and Yemen, as well as ruling Egypt itself. Each ruler of Damascus had a given name and an honorific title (shown in parenthesis).

1183 - 1186

Salah al-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub (Saladin)

Overlord 1169. Ruler 1183. His later base was Ayyubid Egypt.

1186 - 1192

Damascus is ruled by one of Saladin's sons as a subsidiary state from 1187. The Battle of the Horns of Hattin and the capture of Guy of Jerusalem leads to the fall of Jerusalem in 1187, but more fighting occurs with the Third Crusade, led by Richard I of England in 1189-1192.

Saladin accepts the surrender of Guy de Lusignan
Saladin accepts the surrender of Guy de Lusignan and the Christian armies following the Battle of Hattin

1187 - 1196

al Afdal (Nur ad Din)

Son. Inherited Damascus, but not Aleppo. Exiled to Salkhad.

1196

After several raids against the inept al Afdal, his brother and sultan of Egypt, al Aziz Uthman, loses patience and allies himself with another brother, az-Zahir. Together they attack Damascus and end al Afdal's reign. Their popular uncle, al Adil, gains Damascus in his place.

1196 - 1201

al Adil I (Sayf ad Din / Safadin) / Abu Bakr

Brother of Saladin. Also ruled Egypt and perhaps Sinjar.

1200

Al-Malik al-Adil I manages to acquire territory between his sultanate and Mesopotamia, before he also overthrows al Mansur and rules in Egypt too, handing over the day-to-day running of Damascus to one of his sons as governor. When al Adil dies in 1218, the governor, al Muazzam, succeeds him as sultan.

1201 - 1218

al Muazzam (Sharaf ad Din)

Son and governor. Became sultan in 1218.

1218 - 1227

al Muazzam (Sharaf ad Din)

Former governor.

1220

Sinjar is fully conquered by the Ayyubids, ending whatever independence it might have enjoyed up to this date.

1227 - 1229

al Nasir II (Salah ad Din)

Son. Dispossessed and became emir of Kerak (1229-1248).

1228 - 1229

The Fifth Crusade hits the region and Jerusalem is ceded to the Christians at Acre while the Ayyubids squabble amongst themselves. From the moment of his accession in1227, al Nasir II has faced opposition from his uncle, al Kamil I of Egypt. The latter attacks him, taking Jerusalem (before handing it over to the Christians) and Nablus. Appealing to another uncle, al Ashraf, the ruler of Harran, al Nasir is betrayed when both uncles team up. Damascus is besieged between late 1228 and June 1229, when it falls.

As agreed, al Kamil takes Palestine and al Ashraf gains Damascus and the north, acknowledging his brother as overlord. Al Nasir is compensated with the emirate of Kerak in the Transjordan area.

1229 - 1237

al Ashraf I (Muzaffar ad Din)

Uncle. Also ruled Harran.

1234 - 1237

From Egypt, Sultan al Kamil sends his son, the future as Salih II Ayyub, to Damascus, removing him from the succession in Egypt after suspecting him of conspiracy with the Mamelukes. His uncle, as Salih Ismail, soon expels him from Damascus, and he flees to the Jazirah, where he becomes allied to forces from the former emirate of Khwarazm. He returns in 1239.

1237

Al Ashraf has been growing more and more discontented with the overlordship of his brother, al Kamil I of Egypt. He forms an alliance with Sultan Kaikubad I of Rum and minor Ayyubid rulers with the intention of breaking al Kamil's hold on the region. However, both Kaikubad and al Ashraf die of natural causes in the same year, ending the alliance. As Salih I succeeds to the sultanate, but against the wishes of al Kamil.

1237 - 1238

as Salih I Ismail (Imad ad Din)

Son of al-Adil I. Governor of Baalbek & Bosra.

1237 - 1238

Just months after as Salih's accession, al Kamil of Egypt sends a force to besiege Damascus. The city falls in 1238 and as Salih I is removed from power. Al Kamil governs the district personally before his sudden death.

1238

al Kamil I (Nasir ad Din)

Brother. Also ruled Ayyubid Egypt (1218-1238).

1238

Following the death of his father, al Adil II seizes Damascus, but his reign is immediately threatened by his brother, as Salih II, as the Ayyubids continue to tear themselves apart from within.

1238 - 1239

al Adil II (Sayf ad Din)

Son. Also ruled Ayyubid Egypt (1238-1240). Overthrown.

1239

Soon after gaining possession of Damascus, al Adil II is overthrown by as Salih II when the latter is invited to rule Damascus by Syria's regional governors. Al Adil continues to rule Egypt.

1239

as Salih II Ayyub (Najm ad Din)

Brother. Also ruled Ayyubid Egypt (1240-1249).

1239

Ismail, the former as Salih I of Damascus, initially supports as Salih II Ayyub. The latter begins to strongly encourage Ismail to join him at Nablus so that they can embark on a campaign to snatch Egypt from al Adil II. Instead, Ismail gains support from the Ayyubid princes of Hama, Homs, and Kerak, and captures Damascus in September. Ayyub is abandoned by his troops, captured, and handed over to an Nasir Dawud. The pair quickly decide to attack Egypt themselves, gaining it in 1240, so that Ayyub becomes sultan.

1239 - 1244

as Salih I Ismail (Imad ad Din)

Restored.

1240

Ismail is quickly reconciled with an Nasir Dawud after the latter has fallen out with Ayyub. Together they decide to curtail Ayyub's ambition to conquer further Ayyubid territories. In July, Ismail reaches an agreement with Jerusalem so that the Crusaders will protect southern Palestine from Ayyub's possible attacks from Egypt. The price is high, though, as he is forced to cede all of the land west of the Jordan (won by Saladin in 1187), including Gaza, Jerusalem, and Nablus, along with his own fortresses at Hunin, Safad, and Tiberias. He is denounced throughout the Arab world for his actions.

1244 - 1245

From Egypt, as Salih II Ayyub allies himself with the former emirate of Khwarazm against Ismail. At the Battle of La Forbie, they defeat Ismail and Ayyub is able to reclaim the sultanate for himself. The following year, Ayyub defeats Khwarazm itself for failing to recognise him as its overlord.

1245 - 1249

as Salih II Ayyub (Najm ad Din)

Restored and murdered.

1249

The Ayyubid emirate of Kerak is annexed by Egypt, but by this time the Ayyubids have already lost the Hejaz and Yemen, and parts of Mesopotamia.

Great Citadel of Damascus
The Great Citadel of Damascus was built between 1076-1078 and 1203-1216, but the Mongols captured it in 1260 and razed it. Today the ruins remain in place

1249 - 1250

al Muazzam (Turan-Shah Ghiyat ad Din)

Son. Also ruled Ayyubid Egypt (1249-1250). Killed.

1250

Following a siege, Aleppo is captured and destroyed by the Mongols while al-Muazzam is commanding there. Although the defenders are allowed to live, the sultan does not rule again. Instead, he is overthrown in Egypt following the occupation of Damietta by St Louis IX of France. This act, and the seizure of the sultanate by the former Mameluke slaves, effectively destroys Ayyubid control there. Despite aiding the Mamelukes in cutting short Louis IX's crusade, al Muazzam quickly falls out with his new allies. In turn they revolt against his nominal overlordship and kill him in April 1250. Another Ayyubid prince, an Nasir II Yusuf, quickly retakes Damascus.

1250 - 1260

an Nasir II Yusuf (Salah ad Din)

In Aleppo & Damascus. Captured and killed.

1250

Sultan an Nasir II Yusuf attacks Egypt with a superior army, made up of units from Aleppo, Hama, and Homs, and elements of the personal forces of Saladin's two surviving sons. Despite numerical superiority, the Syrian force suffers a shock defeat at the hands of the Mameluke Bahris, and Yusuf is forced to return to Damascus to retain control of Syria. So begins a decade of warfare and political manoeuvring which achieves no advantage for either side.

1254

Mongol dominion is established over Mosul. Emir Badr ad Din Lu'lu is allowed to retain governance of the city as he aids the Mongols in other campaigns in Syria.

1258

Despite being nominally dominated by the Mongols under the Great Khan Mongke, Yusuf's independent actions in Syria and against Egypt force a Mongol invasion. Mongke decides to conquer the region as far as the Nile and sends a vast Il-Khan Mongol force against Baghdad in 1258. The Abbasid caliph and his family are massacred when Yusuf fails to produce an army to defend him.

1260

The Mongol army marches on Aleppo and it quickly falls (within a week). This time, most of the inhabitants are killed or sold into slavery and the Great Mosque and the defensive Citadel are razed. When the army arrives at Damascus the city surrenders immediately as Yusuf has already fled to Gaza. Samaria is captured, with the garrison of Nablus being put to the sword, and Gaza is taken. Yusuf is captured and killed while a prisoner, but Baybars of Egypt sends a Mameluke army which inflicts a defeat on the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut. Damascus is freed five days later and within a month most of Syria is in Baybars' hands. Only the principality of Hamat remains in Ayyubid hands (until 1341).

Mameluke Bahrid Emirs of Damascus
AD 1260 - 1517

The Mongols swept away the last remnants of Ayyubid control in Syria with their invasion of 1260. A counter-invasion by Baybars from his base in Egypt restored Arabic control, and Bahrid (or Bahriyya) emirs (princes) were installed to govern Damascus as part of a new Egyptian empire. The emirs were Kipchak Turks, part of the same dynasty that ruled Egypt itself at this time. The list of emirs is partially obscure, especially following the invasion of Syria by Timur from his newly-created Persian empire.

1260 - 1275

?

Name or names of the first emir(s) unknown.

1275 - 1280

Sunkur al-Ashkar

Rebelled against Egypt and defeated.

1280 - 1281

Sunkur al-Ashkar leads a rebellion against Sultan Qalawun al Alfi in Egypt. The sultan defeats it but the following year is faced with a Mongol invasion of the region through Homs under the leadership of Abaqa Khan of the Il-Khan dynasty in Persia. Fortunately the threat is overcome after the bloody Second Battle of Homs produces no clear outcome.

Crac Des Chevaliers at Homs
The Crac Des Chevaliers in Homs was originally a Crusader castle, but it is through this area that the Mongol invasion of 1281 took place

1280 - ?

Lachin / Lajin al Ashqar / Lajin al-Askhar

Sultan of Egypt (1296-1299).

fl 1290s

Akush Beg

? - 1296

Izz ad-Din Ayback

1296 - 1297

Shuja ad-Din Adirlu

1297 - 1312

Sayf ad-Din Kipchak

1299 - 1303

The Il-Khan ruler, Mahmud Ghazan, marches on Syria, taking Aleppo. He is joined there by his vassal, King Hethoum II of the kingdom of Lesser Armenia. Together they defeat the Mameluke Bahrids of Egypt and Damascus at the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar on 23 or 24 December. The Bahrids are pushed back into Egypt and Damascus quickly falls to the invaders. The Il-Khans then withdraw, perhaps due to a lack of supplies. The attack is renewed in 1301, but it degenerates into a scattering of inconclusive battles and politicking. In the end, Ghazan's forces are defeated by the Mamelukes of Egypt at the Battle of Marj al-Saffar in April 1303 and withdraw, never to return.

1312 - 1340

Sayf ad-Din Tanqiz as-Nasiri

1340 - 1350

Yilbugha al-Nasiri

1349

The Black Death comes to Egypt and the Levant causing great loss of life and further weakening Egypt's empire.

1350

Sayf ad-Din Manjak

fl c.1380

Tash Timur

? - 1393

Yilbugha al-Nasiri

Restored.

1393 - 1399

Sayf ad-Din Tanibak

1389

Two Mameluke governors rebel in Egypt's empire: Mintash, governor of Malatya, and Yalbogha al-Nasiri, governor of Aleppo. They secure Syria and march on Cairo. The usurper sultan, Barquq, attempts to escape, but he is captured and sent to al-Karak. The successful governors restore Hajji to the throne, who now assumes the reignal name of al-Mansur.

1399 - 1400

Sudun

1400 - 1401

Jalayirid Iraq becomes a province of Timur's Persia when he conquers Baghdad, defeats the Black Sheep emirate in eastern Anatolia, and captures Damascus. The following year Timur also defeats, captures and imprisons the Ottoman ruler Bayezid I at the Battle of Ankara, making Anatolia another province.

1401 - ?

Taghribirdi al-Zahiri

?

Name or names unknown.

fl c.1470s

Kijmas

fl c.1500

Ghazali Arab

1516 - 1517

Shihab ad-Din Ahmad

Last Bahrid emir. Killed in battle.

1515 - 1517

The Ottoman sultan begins a war against Egypt which ultimately sees the latter conquered. Sultan Qansawh II al Ghawri is killed on 24 August 1516 at the Battle of Merj Dabik. Syria is immediately captured. Dhanbirdi al-Ghazali, the Mameluke viceroy of Hama, fights alongside the Ottomans and is rewarded with the governorship of Damascus.

Ottoman Governors of Damascus
AD 1517 - 1918

The Ottoman sultan conquered Egypt to take it out of the hands of the Mameluke Burjis, fearing a union between them and the Persian Safavids. He did the same to the Mamelukes of Damascus, with Sultan Qansawh II al Ghawri being killed on 24 August 1516 at the Battle of Merj Dabik. On 21 September 1516 the Mameluke governor of Damascus fled the city and on 2 October Sultan Selim I was proclaimed victor. He remained at Damascus for three months, leaving on 15 December 1516. With Syria now in Ottoman hands, their ally in the region, Djanbirdi al-Ghazali, the Mameluke viceroy of Hama, was rewarded with the governorship of Damascus. The city retained its prestige during Ottoman rule but declined materially, despite being an important location for the pilgrimage to Mecca.

1516

Yunus Pasha

Ottoman military commander. Died 1517.

1516 - 1518

Shihab ad-Din Ahma ibn Yahya

First Ottoman governor/wali of Damascus province.

1517 - 1518

Nuh Celebi

Acting governor.

1518

Ottoman Sultan Selim I is impressed with Djanbirdi al-Ghazali and his loyalty to his former Mameluke masters until they bore no true authority during the Ottoman invasion. The former viceroy of Hama is made governor of the province of Damascus which includes a great deal of the Levant between central Syria and Palestine and Transjordan. His first act is to subdue the Turkmen nomads in the region so that the pilgrim caravan can travel safely to Mecca.

Damascus steel
The legendary strength of ancient Damascus steel was used by sword-makers in the Middle East from about AD 900 until the middle of the eighteenth century

1518 - 1521

Djanbirdi al-Ghazali

Former Mameluke viceroy of Hama. Rebelled and executed.

1520 - 1521

Following the death of Ottoman Sultan Selim I and the accession of his successor, Suleyman I the Magnificent, Djanbirdi rebels. He seeks to restore Mameluke suzerainty over Syria and goes so far as to declare himself sultan. Hama, Hims, and Tripoli join his rebellion, but both Khair Bey of Egypt and Shah Esmail of Iran refuse to support him. He raises an army and strikes out towards Aleppo, which remains loyal to the Ottomans, and a siege of the city fails. An Ottoman army arrives outside Damascus in February 1521 and in the resultant battle, Djanbirdi's army is destroyed and he is captured and executed. Damascus is sacked, and about 3,000 of its residents are killed.

1521 - 1522

Aiyaz / Ayas Mehmet Pasha

1522 - 1523

Ferhad Pasha

1523 - 1525

Hurram Pasha

1525 - 1526

Sulayman Pasha al-Tawashi

1526 - 1528

Lutf / Lufti Pasha

1528 - 1531

Isa Bey Pasha Chenderli / Cenderli

1531 - 1534

Mustafa Ablaq Pasha

1534 - 1535

Lutf / Lufti Pasha

Second term of office.

1535

Isa Bey Pasha Chenderli / Cenderli

Second term of office. Died 1535.

1536 - 1537

Mohammad / Mehmed Kuzal Pasha

1537 - 1538

Topal Sulayman Pasha

1538 - 1539

Ahmed Pasha (I)

1539 - 1541

Qese / Köse Husrau Pasha

1541 - 1543

Candarli Isa Pasha

Third term of office?

1543 - 1545

Piri Pasha

1545 - 1550

Hadim Sinan Pasha

1550 - 1551

Piri Pasha

Second term of office.

1551 - 1552

Mohammad Pasha Bartaki

Or Tekeoglu Mehmed Pasha.

1552 - 1555

Shamsi Ahmed Pasha

1555 - 1561

Hizr Pasha

1561 - 1563

Ali Pasha Lankun

1563

Khusrau Pasha (I)

1563 - 1569

Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha

Beylerbey of Damascus (governor-general). Died 1580.

1565

Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha commands the Ottoman land forces during the (Great) Siege of Malta. The island's defenders are the Knights Hospitaller, together with up to 5,000 Maltese troops. The siege is one of the bloodiest on record, and the island loses about a third of its manpower, in knights and civilians. But the Ottomans are defeated with very heavy losses of their own, and they never again threaten Malta. The defeat also denies them control of the western Mediterranean and the chance to strike deeper at southern European states.

1569

Murad Pasha Shaitan

Died 1569/1570.

1569 - 1570

Ali Pasha Lankun

Second term of office.

1570 - 1571

Haji Ahmed Pasha

1571 - 1574/5

Dervis Pasha

Died 1574/1575.

1574 - 1575

Lala Jafar Pasha

1575 - 1577

Murad Pasha

1577 - 1581

Hasan Pasha (I)

1581 - 1582?

Bahram Pasha

1582

Bahram Pasha

1582 - 1583

Bodur Husein Pasha (I)

Died 1594/1595.

1583

Hasan Pasha (I)

1584

Qubad Sulayman Pasha

1585 - 1586

Hasan Pasha (I)

Second term of office.

1586 - 1587

Uways / Oweis Pasha

1586

Koca Sinan Pasha

Died 1596.

1587 - 1588

Mohammad Pasha Farhad

1588 - 1589

Uways / Oweis Pasha

Second term of office.

1589 - 1590

Elwanzade Ali Pasha

1590

Hasan Pasha (I)

Third term of office.

1590

Kocha Sinan Pasha

1590

Sinanzade Mehmed Pasha

1591

Mustafa Pasha (I)

1591/2 - 1593/4

Hadim Khusrev Pasha

1592

Khalil / Halil Pasha

1593 - 1594

Qachirji Mohammad Pasha

1594

Hasan Pasha (I)

Fourth term of office.

1594

Ali Pasha Bostanci

1594 - 1595

Murad Pasha

Second term of office.

1595 - 1596

Khusrau Pasha (II)

1596 - 1597

Razia Hutunzade Mustafa Pasha

1597 - 1598

Yusuf Sinan Pasha

1598

Ahmed Pasha (II)

1598

Ahmed Pasha (III)

1599

Khusrau Pasha (II)

Second term of office.

1599 - 1600

Seyyed / Seid / Emin Mehmed Pasha

1600

Cigalezade Mahmud Pasha

1600/1601

Osman Pasha

1601/1602

Hasan Pasha

1602/1603

Farhad Pasha Bustanji

1603/1604

Osman Pasha

Second term of office.

1604

Canbalatzade Mehmed Pasha

1604 - 1605?

Mustafa Pasha (II)

Either a different Mustafa from 1591, or a second term of office.

1605 - 1606?

Koca Faragi Osman Pasha

1607

Cigalezade Mahmud Pasha

Second term of office.

1607 - 1608

Mahmud Pasha

1608 - 1609

Sufi Sinan Pasha

1609 - 1615

Ahmad al-Hafiz

1615 - 1617

Silihdar Mehmed Pasha

1617 - 1618

Damad Ahmed Pasha

1618

Mehmed Pasha al-Djuqadar

1618 - 1619

Ahmad al-Hafiz

Second term of office.

1619 - 1620

Mustafa Pasha (III)

1620 - 1621

Sulayman Pasha (I)

1621 - 1622

Murtaza Pasha Bustanji

1622 - 1623

Mehmed Pasha Rushand

1623 - 1624

Mustafa Pasha al-Hannaq

1624 - 1625

Nigdeli Mustafa Pasha

1625 - 1626

Gurju Mehmed Pasha (I)

1626 - 1628

Tayar Oglu Mehmed Pasha

1628 - 1629

Küçük Ahmed Pasha

1629 - 1630

Mustafa Pasha (IV)

1630 - 1631

Nawaya Mehmed Pasha

1631?

Cevzak Süleyman Pasha

1632 - 1633

Ilyas Pasha

1632/1633

Debbag Mehmed Pasha

1633 - 1635

Deli Yusuf Pasha

Held office for three days.

1635 - 1636

Küçük Ahmed Pasha

Second term of office.

1636 - 1636/7

Biykli Mustafa Pasha

1636 - 1638

Dervish Mehmed Pasha (I)

1638 - 1639

Tüccarzâde or Mustafa Pasha (IV)

Second term of office.

1639 - 1640

Chifteli Othman Pasha

1640 - 1641

Mehmed Pasha (I)

1641

Serji Ahmed Pasha

1641 - 1642

Celep Ahmed Pasha

1642

Melik Ahmed Pasha

1642 - 1643

Celep Ahmed Pasha

Second term of office.

1643

Sultanzade Mehmed Pasha

1643

Silihdar Yusuf Pasha

1643 - 1644

Boynuegri Durak Mehmed Pasha

1644 - 1645

Gürcê / Gurju Mehmed Pasha (II)

1645

Ibrahim Pasha (I)

1645 - 1646

Mehmed Pasha Salami

Held office for three days.

1646

Gürcê / Gurju Mehmed Pasha (II)

Second term of office.

1646 - 1647

Silihadar Yusuf Pasha

Second term of office.

1647

Sufi Murteza Pasha

1648

Sofu Mehmed Pasha

Ottoman Grand Vizier (1648-1649).

1648 - 1649

The former chamberlain and then chief of the treasury, Sofu Mehmed Pasha is dismissed during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Ibrahim. He briefly manages to become governor of Damascus before being forced by the janissary leaders to become grand vizier during a period of disturbance. Ibrahim is dethroned five days later and killed ten days after that, and Sofu is suspected of being present at his execution. Less than a year after gaining the post, he is replaced and exiled. Kara Murad Pasha, commander of the janissary, has him executed in August 1649.

Damascus Room
This Damascus Room was built as part of a growing fashion for richly decorated interiors in Ottoman Damascus in the eighteenth century

1649

Damad Ibshir Mustafa Pasha

1649

Haseki Mehmed Pasha

1649 - 1650

Mehmed Pasha (II)

1650

Silihdar Murtaza Pasha

1650 - 1651

Siwasli Mustafa Pasha

1651 - 1652

Ag Ahmed Pasha

1651 - 1652

Gürcê / Gurju Mehmed Pasha (II)

Third term of office.

1652/1653

Deftarzade Mehmed Pasha

1653 - 1654

Halicizade Mehmed Pasha

1655

Gazi Pasha Shahsuvar-odjlu

1655

Qara Murad Pasha

1655 - 1656

Qeprulu Fazil Ahmed Pasha

1656

Boynuegri Durak Mehmed Pasha

1656

Siyavush Pasha

In office from Aug/Sep to Dec.

1656

Mustafa Pasha

1657/1658

Silihdar Murtaza Pasha

Second term of office.

1658

Tayyardzade Mehmed Pasha

1658/9- 1659/60

Nuri Mehmed Pasha

1659/60 - 1660

Gürcü Mustafa Pasha

1659? - 1661

Köprülü Fazil Ahmed Pasha

1661 - 1662?

Haci Eyvad Sulayman Pasha (II)

1662 - 1663

Kanbur Mustafa Pasha

1663 - 1665

Filibeli / Ribleli Mustafa Pasha

1665 - 1666

Salih Pasha (I)

1665/6 - 1666/7

Çavuszade Mehmed Pasha

1666 - 1667

Qara Mustafa Pasha

1667 - 1669

Mehmed Pasha Chewish Oglu

1669 - 1671

Ibrahim Pasha Shaytan

1671 - 1672

Abazekh Husein Pasha

1672 - 1673

Qara Mehmed Pasha

1673 - 1674

Ibrahim Pasha Shushman

1674 - 1675

Qer Husein Pasha

1675 - 1676

Ibrahim Pasha (II)

1676 - 1679

Osman Pasha Bustarji

1679 - 1683

Abazekh Husein Pasha

Second term of office.

1684

Hamza Pasha

In office for an unspecified period from March.

1684

Ibrahim Pasha (III)

1684 - 1685

Osman Pasha Bustarji

Second term of office.

1686 - 1687

Kaplan Pasha

1687 - 1688

Arab Salih Pasha

1688 - 1689

Hamza Pasha

Second term of office.

1689 - 1690

Silihdar Mustafa Pasha

1690 - 1691

Murtaza Pasha

1691 - 1692

Gurju Mehmed Pasha (III)

1693 - 1694

Ibshir Mustafa Pasha

1693/4 - 1694

Shahin Mehmed Pasha

1695 - 1696

Silihdar Osman Pasha

1696 - 1697

Silihdar Buuqli Mustafa Pasha

1697 - 1698

Ahmad Pasha Hacigirai

1698/9 - 1699

Biykli Mehmed Pasha

1700/1701

Silihdar Husein Pasha

1700

Silihdar Hasan Pasha

1701

Biykli Mehmed Pasha

Second term of office.

1701

Arslan Mehmed Pasha Matracyoghlu

1702

Salih Agha

Acting governor.

1702 - 1703

Mehmed Pasha Kurd Bajram Pasha-ojlu

1703

Kücük Osman Pasha Arnavud

1703 - 1704

Arslan Mehmed Pasha Matracyoghlu

Second term of office.

1704

Mustafa Pasha (V)

1704 - 1705

Firari Hüseyin Pasha

1705 - 1706

Mehmed Pasha Kurd Bajram Pasha-ojlu

Second term of office.

1706 - 1707

Baltaci Süleyman Pasha

1707

Yusuf Pasha Qubtan Helvaci

1707

Halebli Hüseyin Pasha

1708 - 1714

Osmanzade Nasuh Pasha al-Aydini

1714

Cerkes Mehmed Pasha the Circassian

1714

Mehmed Pasha (III)

1715

Topal Yusuf Pasha

1716

Arnavut Recep Pasha

1716 - 1717

Nevsehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha

Died 1730, aged 60.

1717 - 1718

Köprülüzade Abd Allah Pasha

1718

Reçeb Pasha

1718

Abu Tawq Matuqzade Osman Pasha

1719 - 1720

Küçük Osman Pasha

1720 - 1723

Ali Pasha Maqtulojlu

1723 - 1725

Abu Tawq Matuqzade Osman Pasha

Second term of office.

1725 - 1730

Azamzade Ismail Pasha

1730

Osman Aça

Acting governor.

1730

Qara Süleyman Aça

Acting governor.

1730 - 1731/2

Aidinli Abdallah Pasha

1731/2 - 1733

The position of governor of Damascus is vacant.

1733 - 1738

Azamzade Süleyman Pasha

Former governor of Tripoli.

1734

The winter of 1734 is a harsh one, and a bread riot erupts in Damascus. The new governor is perceived to be inactive during the riot so the mob target his own personal stores. In return he hangs four of them and relations after that take some time to improve between governor and the people.

Ottoman janissaries
The janissaries were infantry units that formed the Ottoman sultan's bodyguard and household troops, but they also sometimes played a role in deciding who sat on the throne

1738

Hüsein Pasha II

1739

Abu Tawq Matuqzade Osman Pasha

Third term of office.

1740

Abdi Pashazade Ali Pasha

1741 - 1743

Azamzade Süleyman Pasha

Second term of office. Died 1743.

1743

In office again during a second bread riot in Damascus, Azamzade threatens the cause - the traders and suppliers in charge of the grain supply - and the problem is immediately resolved. Azamzade ends his term of office as a very popular governor.

1743 - 1757

As'ad / Azamzade Esad Pasha

Nephew. Deposed.

1750 - 1757

As'ad uses the great wealth amassed by his family to build the Azm Palace in Damascus in 1750. However, even though he ensures the stability of the region and the safety of the pilgrimage caravans, this does not save him from being deposed by the new Ottoman authorities in Constantinople on a flimsy excuse.

1757

Mekkizade Hüseyin Pasha

1758/9 - 1760

Ceteci Abd Allah Pasha

1760

Ishalyq Mehmed Pasha

1760

The former slave of the former governor, As'ad who had been deposed in 1757, is a Georgian named Uthman. He leads the Ottoman authorities to uncover his master's treasures and is elevated to governor of Damascus as a reward.

1760 - 1771

Uthman Pasha al-Kurzi / Osman Sadik

Georgian. Former slave of As'ad.

1768 - 1771

The Mameluke bey of Egypt, Ali Bey al-Kabir, deposes the Ottoman governor there and assumes full control of Egypt. The payment of annual tribute is stopped and in 1769, Ali Bey has his name struck on coins. The following year he gains control of the Hijaz and in 1771 briefly occupies Syria, effectively recreating the Mameluke state.

1771 - 1772

Azamzade Mehmed Pasha

1771 - 1772

In June 1771, Abu al-Dhahab, the commander of Ali Bey's troops in Syria, refuses to fight against the Ottomans. When he turns on Ali Bey in 1772, the latter loses power in Egypt. He is killed in Cairo in 1773.

1772 - 1773

Hafiz Mustafa Pasha Bustanci

1773 - 1783

Azamzade Mehmed Pasha

Second term of office.

1783

Osmanzade Mehmed Pasha

In office in May-June only.

1783 - 1784

Osmanzade Dervish Pasha

1784 - 1786

Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar

Governor of Acre & Galilee (1775-1804).

1786 - 1787

Hüseyin Pasha Battal

Died 1801.

1787 - 1788

Abdi Pasha

1788 - 1790

Ibrahim Pasha al-Halabi

1790 - 1795

Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar

Second term of office.

1795 - 1798

Azamzade Abdallah Pasha

1798 - 1799

Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar

Third term of office.

1799

Following their conquest of Egypt, the Revolutionary French under Napoleon Bonaparte occupy parts of coastal Syria between February and June as part of their bold plans of expansion into the region. In his role as governor of Acre & Galilee, as well as of Damascus, Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar leads the fight against them. The Ottomans are routinely defeated in field battles, and lose Al-Arish and Jaffa, but they hold firm in the siege of Acre. Eventually Napoleon is forced to withdraw, abandoning his attempt to break through to Britain's possessions in India.

Napoleon at Jaffa
Napoleon Bonaparte is shown here visiting those of his troops who were stricken by plague at Jaffa after taking the fortress there by storm

1799 - 1803

Azamzade Abdallah Pasha

Second term of office.

1803/1804

Kataragasi Ibrahim Pasha

1803 - 1804

Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar

Fourth term of office. Died 1804.

1804 - 1807

Azamzade Abdallah Pasha

Third term of office.

1807 - 1810

Kunj Yusuf Pasha

1810 - 1811

Süleyman Pasha Silahdar

1812 - 1816

Silahdar Süleyman Pasha

1816 - 1817

Hafiz Amasyali Ali Pasha

1817

Salih Pasha (III)

Feb-Mar only.

1817 - 1819

Süleyman Pasha Silahdar

Second term of office.

1819 - 1821

Abdallah Pasha (II)

1821 - 1822

Dervish Mehmd Pasha (II)

1822 - 1823

Mustafa Pasha (IV)

1823 - 1824?

Salih Pasha (III)

Second term of office.

1824

Müftizade Ahmed Pasha

1825/6 - 1826/7

Haci Veliyeddin Pasha

1826 - 1826/7

Hakki Ismail Pasha

1826/7 - 1828

Izmirli Haci Salih Pasha

1828 - 1831

Mehmed Emin Rauf Pasha

Former Ottoman Grand Vizier (5 times).

1831

Benderli Mehmed Selim Sırrı Paşa

Former Ottoman Grand Vizier (1824-1828). Murdered.

1831

The citizens of Damascus rise in revolt against Benderli, and the local garrison of janissaries join in. Benderli seeks refuge into the Citadel of Damascus and is besieged for forty days. Ultimately, he is promised safe passage but is murdered before he is able to leave the city.

1831 - 1832

Haci Ali Pasha

Until May/Jun 1832.

1832

Damascus is annexed by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt between May and June on behalf of Muhammad Ali Pasha, and subsequently operates on an autonomous basis. The Ottomans retain only nominal suzerainty. Egyptian governors are shown in red.

1832

Ibrahim Pasha (IV)

Egyptian commander from 27 May 1832.

1831 - 1832

Ahmed Bey

Military and civil governor.

1832 - 1838

Muhammad Sharif Pasha

Egyptian governor.

1838 - 1840

The position of governor of Damascus falls vacant again, and on 10 October 1840 the Ottoman empire regains direct authority over the city.

1840

Haci Ali Pasha

Second term of office.

1840 - 1841

Izzet / Necib Mehmed Pasha

1841 - 1844

Mehmed Reshid Pasha

Ottoman military governor.

1841 - 1846

Riza / Mirza Pasha

Wali / governor.

1841 - 1842

Gürcü Mehmed Necib Pasha

Wali / governor.

1842 - 1845

Laz Ali Riza Pasha

Wali / governor.

1845 - 1846

Damad Mehmed Namiq Pasha

Ottoman military governor.

1846 - 1848

Musa Sefveti Pasha

Wali without a military governor overseeing the region.

1848

Halil Kamili Pasha

1848 - 1849

Osman Nuri Pasha

1849 - 1851

Damad Mehmed Namiq Pasha

Second term of office.

1852

Osman Pasha Said Pasha

1852

Ahmed Izzet Mehmed Pasha

1852

Açaf / Agha Pasha

1852 - 1854

Ali Askar Pasha

1854 - 1855

Arif Mehmed Pasha

1855

Damad Mehmed Namiq Pasha

Third term of office.

1855

Serhalifezade Namik Salih Pasha

1855 - 1856

Mahmud Nedim Pasha

1856

Arnavud Süleyman Refet Pasha

1856 - 1857

Ahmed Izzet Mehmed Pasha

Second term of office.

1857 - 1858

Kutuhyali Haci Ali Pasha

1858 - 1859

Halil Kamili / Ali Pasha (II)

1859 - 1860

Ahmed Pasha (IV)

1860

Mehmed Mu'amer Pasha

1860 - 1862

Muftizade Emin Muhlis Pasha

1862 - 1863

Pepe Mehmed Emin Pasha

1863 - 1865

Müterçim Mehmed Rüstü Pasha

1865 - 1866

Sakizli Esad uhlis Pasha

Died 1867.

1866 - 1871

Mehmed Reshid Pasha

Second term of office.

1871 - 1872

Adullatif Subhi Pasha

1872 - 1873

Selanikli Mustafa Necib Pasha

Died 1883.

1873 - 1874

Sherif Mehmed Re'uf / Rauf Pasha

1874 - 1875

Esad Pasha

1875 - 1876

Ahmed Hamdi Pasha

1876

Ahmed Pasha (V)

1876

Rashid Nashid Pasha

1877

Abdulhamid Ziyaeddin Pasha

1877 - 1878

Küçük Ömer Fevzi Pasha

1878

Ahmed Cevdet Pasha

1878 - 1879

Ali Haydar Midhat Pasha

1879

Bostancibashizade Reshid M Pasha

1879 - 1880

?

Name unknown.

1880 - 1885

Ahmed Hamdi Pasha

Second term of office.

1881

The first modern-era wave of Jewish migrations back to the Holy Land begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe, most notably in the territories of the Russian empire.

1885 - 1888

Rashid Nashid Pasha

Second term of office.

1888 - 1889

Manastirli Mehmed Nazif Pasha

Died 1889.

1889 - 1891

Mustafa Asim Pasha

Died 1891.

1891 - 1892

Topal Osman Nuri Pasha

1892 - 1894

Sherif Mehmed Re'uf / Rauf Pasha

Second term of office.

1894 - 1896

Topal Osman Nuri Pasha

Second term of office.

1894

The attempted extermination of the Armenians is put into action under Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid II. It is sporadically resumed, notably in 1915.

1896 - 1897

Hasan Pasha II

1897

The question of a Jewish homeland is gaining international recognition, helped on by the founding of a political form of Zionism and the first meeting of the World Zionist Congress in this year, held in Basel in Switzerland.

1897 - 1906

Nazim Pasha

1904 - 1914

The Second Aliyah to Palestine is triggered in 1903 by an anti-Jewish riot in the city of Kishinev (modern Chişinău), the capital of the province of Bessarabia (modern Moldova), part of the Russian empire. Something like 40,000 Jews settle in Palestine, although only half remain permanently.

1906 - 1909

Shukri Pasha

1909 - 1911

Ismail Fazil Bey

1911 - 1912

Ismail Ghalib Bey

1912 - 1913

Kiazim Pasha

1913

Arif Bey

1914

Mehmed Arif Bey Mardin

1915

Jamal Pasha

1915

The Armenians are accused by the Ottomans of aiding the Russian invaders during the First World War. From 24 April 1915, over 600,000 Armenians are killed by Turkish soldiers or die of starvation during their forced deportation to Syria and Iraq. The Armenians rise in revolt at Van (traditional location at which the Armenian state had been founded), which they hold until relieved by Russian troops.

In the same year, the hanging of a number of patriotic intellectuals by Jamal Pasha is intended to put an end to local opposition to the 1908 Ottoman programme of Turkicisation in the region. Instead it has the opposite effect, raising tensions and nationalistic feeling against the Turks.

Arab Revolt
With the Ottoman empire fading in power and prestige, the time was ripe for the Arab Revolt, led by the Hashemites and TE Lawrence

1915 - 1916

Azmi Pasha

1916 - 1918

Tahsin Bey

1916 - 1918

The British-backed Arab Revolt is proclaimed with an attack on Medina (where the Prophet Mohammed died in AD 632). The revolt liberates much of the Middle East from Ottoman control, with Britain and the Hashemite Arabs taking control of Iraq and Kuwait, Palestine, and the Transjordan, and France controlling Lebanon and Syria. On 30 October 1918, Turkey signs an armistice at Mudros, on the Aegean island of Lemnos.

1918

Mehmed Gabriel Pasha

1918

The British Light Brigade and then TE Lawrence both arrive in Damascus on 1 October. The Arab forces arrive two days later under Prince Faysal, son of the sharif of Mecca. A military government is subsequently set up in the city under Shukri Pasha and Faysal is proclaimed king of Syria.

1918

Shukri Pasha

Military governor. Second term of office, 1-2 October only.

1918 - 1920

Under the protection of the British empire, Syria is promised to France. For these two years it forms the 'State of Damascus' under Hashemite and British control.

Hashemite Greater Syria
AD 1918 - 1920

Between 1916-1918, the Arab Revolt, led by Faysal, son of the sharif of Mecca, and British Army officer T E Lawrence, freed the entire region of Ottoman control. The Arabs captured Damascus and secured a semblance of power, and in the subsequent bargaining with the British who now controlled the region, Faysal was given the throne Greater Syria in 1920. Damascus was made his capital.

This use of the term 'Greater Syria' should not be confused with the more recent Syrian Social Nationalist Party's definition of a Greater Syria. This includes the entire Levant down to and including Sinai, as well as Jordan, and all of Iraq and Kuwait, encompassing the Assyrian empire's holdings at its greatest extent, with the exception of Egypt.

1918 - 1920

Faysal / Faisal

Son of Husayn, sharif of Mecca. Overthrown by France.

1920 - 1921

Faysal is offered the Syrian throne on 7 March 1920. The following day he becomes ruler of the United Kingdom of Syria. However, the San Remo conference of April gives the mandate for Syria to France. The French immediately move to end Faysal's Arabic government, which refuses to recognise the League of Nations-agreed mandate.

King Faysal
King Faysal was photographed at Homs in 1919, standing third from the left

Faysal also refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the newly created sate of Lebanon, which takes a large slice of Greater Syria's coastal territory. Against his orders, his defence minister, General Yusuf al-Azmah, leads a small army into a hopeless fight at the Battle of Maysalun (Pass). It is defeated, the French take control of Syria, and Faysal is exiled. The following year, he is compensated by the British with the throne of Iraq.

Modern Syria
AD 1920 - Present Day

The modern Syrian Arabic Republic borders Lebanon to the west, Iraq to the east, Turkey to the north, and Jordan and Israel to the south and south-west respectively. The capital is the ancient city of Damascus, but while the country has cultural roots that go back at least four thousand years, it has no political roots before 1918, having been submerged within the Ottoman empire for several centuries.

Following the defeat of the Ottomans at the end of the First World War, Syria was administered for two years as the 'State of Damascus' under Hashemite and British control. The Hashemite Prince Faysal was offered the Syrian throne on 7 March 1920 but the San Remo conference of April that year gave the mandate for Syria to France. The French immediately ended Faysal's Arabic government and arranged elections that saw Faysal's former prime minister brought to power as the country's first president. Modern Syria gained independence from France in 1946.

In the twenty-first century, Syria is a country of fertile plains, high mountains and deserts. It is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Armenians, Assyrians, Christians, Druze, Kurds, Alawite Shia and Arab Sunnis, the last of whom make up a majority of the Muslim population whilst the Christians are amongst the earliest practitioners of that religion. Its hardline, authoritarian government has often looked to Russia as an ally and supporter, alienating it from Western governments, whilst a civil war has wracked the country since 2011, and shows no signs of abating. The rise in 2014 of Isis made the official regime in Damascus seem extremely moderate by comparison, but Western governments still refuse to support it against the far more serious threat.

(Additional information from External Link: BBC Country Profiles.)

1922 - 1924

The 'State of Syria' is established under the French mandate, replacing the Syrian Federation which had been formed in 1922. This new organisational body is created from a unification of the states of Aleppo and Damascus, both formed around ancient cities. The 'State of Alawites' remains outside this new formation despite having been part of the former federation, while Jabal Druze and Greater Lebanon had not been part of the federation at all.

The autonomous sanjak (governate) of Alexandretta in the north-west of the country is attached to the 'State of Aleppo' in 1923, despite the Ottomans continuing to claim it as a Turkish province. In 1925 it is attached directly to Syria while retaining special administrative status.

1925

Syrian resentment at French control finally erupts in the form of the Great Syrian Revolt (otherwise known as the Great Druze Revolt because it first breaks out in Jabal Druze). It quickly spreads across all of Syria and Lebanon with the aim of kicking out the French. Sultan al-Atrash quickly becomes the revolt's senior commander and figurehead, although he does not control all factions involved.

Damascus 1925
Damascus was attacked during the first year of the revolt in which notable victories were won against the poorly-equipped French forces

1925 - 1927

Sultan Pasha al-Atrash

Arab Druze leader who was senior commander during revolt.

1925 - 1927

Despite the best efforts of al-Atrash, and much like the civil war of 2011, the Syrian revolt is not centrally organised with the result that its efforts are piecemeal. However, the revolt wins early battles at al-Kafr (on 21 July 1925, the revolt's first battle), al-Mazraa (on 2-3 August 1925), and Salkhad, al-Musayfirah, and Suwayda. Ultimately, despite a rather shaky, ill-equipped start, the French use hardline and often brutal tactics to crush the revolt. Sultan al-Atrash survives the conflict (by escaping with fellow rebels to Transjordan where he is eventually pardoned), and lives out his life in relative obscurity, dying at the age of ninety-one in 1982.

1936

France unities all its separate Syrian mandates, the states of Jabal Druze, Alawites, and Syria, into a single unified territory called the republic of Syria.

1940 - 1941

Syria falls under the control of the Vichy government in occupied France, until it is liberated by the British together with Free French forces. The Syrians proclaim their independence, but it takes until 1944 before this proclamation is officially recognised. Alexandretta has already been lost to Turkey (in 1939) with French agreement.

1946 - 1949

Syria gains full independence from France with the withdrawal of the last of the colonial troops, five years after proclaiming their country independent, and two years after that independence is recognised. Syria progresses rapidly but continual changes of government and constitution makes it unstable. in 1948, Syria joins with the other Arab nations to fight the Arab-Israeli War and, with the Israelis generally proving to be victorious, Syria barely manages to hold onto its own border, losing areas of the Golan Heights by degrees over subsequent years. The defeat is a trigger (among others) for a series of military coups.

Colonel Sami al-Hinnaw
Colonel Sami al-Hinnaw was the second military ruler of the newly independent Syria in 1949, which was the first Arab country to suffer a coup following the war

1949

Husni al-Za'im

Army colonel. Quickly overthrown.

1949

Sami al-Hinnaw

Army colonel. Quickly overthrown.

1949 - 1954

Adib Shishakli

Army colonel. Overthrown.

1951 - 1954

Adib Shishakli launches a second coup in 1951 order to solidify his total control over the country. He is overthrown in a further coup just three years later. This time the parliamentary system is restored.

1956 - 1958

During the Suez Crisis, Syria imposes martial law. In November of the same year it launches attacks on Iraq's oil pipelines and signs a pact with Soviet Russia for military equipment and cooperation with the communist state. On 1 February 1958, Syria and Egypt agree the United Arab Republic, whereby the two countries merge.

1961 - 1962

A military coup headed by Abd al-Karim al-Nahlawi on 28 September 1961 causes the United Arab Republic to be terminated. Syria is controlled by a group of officers until the leader of the coup launches a second coup in 1962 to seize power personally.

1962

Abd al-Karim al-Nahlawi

Former military officer. Quickly overthrown.

1963 - 1966

Following various further coups, emergency rule is instigated under a Baath Party takeover of the government. The implementation of emergency law is not rescinded and Syria is again governed by a group of military officers.

1966 - 1967

The Baath (or Ba'ath) Party stages a coup and clears out all political opposition in the country. The following year, amid ever-increasing tensions and acrimonious relations with Israel, Egypt expels the UN peacekeepers from the Sinai and announces a partial blockade of Israel's access to the Red Sea. Expecting further military action, several Arab states begin to mobilise their troops. Israel sees this as reason enough to launch a pre-emptive attack against Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, triggering the Yom Kippur War. Jordan loses the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a third of the kingdom, while Israel also gains the Golan Heights and the ancient region of Bashan from Syria, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and also temporarily occupies the Sinai peninsula for a second time.

1966 - 1970

Nureddin al-Atassi

'President'. Jailed.

1970

The Assad family comes to power in Syria after former defence minister Hafez al-Assad launches a bloodless coup known as the Corrective Revolution. Al-Assad claims the title of president but effectively rules as an authoritarian dictator over a police state. His family members gain several prominent positions in authority.

Hafez al-Assad
Hafez al-Assad, around the time of his sudden rise to power in Syria as part of the 'Corrective Revolution'

1970 - 2000

Hafez al-Assad

Dictator.

1975 - 1990

The Lebanese Civil War breaks out, pitching Christian, Moslem, and Palestinian groups against each other as they vie for control, with involvement from Syria and Israel further confusing an often violent situation with continually shifting loyalties.

1983 - 1984

A heart attack places al-Assad in hospital, so he creates a six-man governing council to take charge, with his younger brother, Rifaat al-Assad, a member. In 1984. with rumours that Hafez is dead, or nearly so, Rifaat attempts to seize power. Hafez is forced to rise from his sick bed to take charge again, and Rifaat is exiled to France.

1991

Syria joins the US-led First Gulf War to oust Iraq from its occupation of Kuwait.

Basil al-Assad

Son. Groomed for succession but killed in car crash in 1994.

2000 - Present

Bashar al-Assad

Brother. Dictator.

2000

The accession of Basher al-Assad signals a very gradual shift towards political reform and an increase in civil liberties, but progress is painfully slow at first and eventually appears to stall completely.

2011 - Present

A wave of popular protests against a deeply unpopular and dictatorial government in Tunisia forces the president to flee the country, paving the way for fresh elections and a new start. The protests strike a chord in Arabs across North Africa and the Middle East, and similar protests are triggered in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Yemen. Little information about Syria's protests leaks out of the secretive state, but there are certainly calls for reform, some of which Bashar al-Assad appears to agree to introduce. The call for reform intensifies, and breaks out into open civil war which, after an initial onslaught and loss of territory, Bashar al-Assad survives. He is able to secure his key territory and begin a slow fight-back, edging the mixed bag of opposition groups back over successive years.

Isis militia
Isis militia carrying their black flag suddenly launched the sweeping conquest of large areas of northern Iraq in 2014, proclaiming the caliphate in June 2014

 

Many of the opposition groups include an increasing number of hardline Muslims, some of which have links to the self-proclaimed freedom fighter group al-Qaeda (prescribed as terrorists by much of the civilised world), while others support the recreation of the Islamic caliphate. The position of caliph descends directly from the Prophet Muhammad himself, and had last been held by the Abbasids before being destroyed in 1258. The Abbasid puppets were proclaimed in Mameluke Egypt until 1517, after which the Ottoman empire held the title until it was formally abolished on 1 March 1924. Two days later the title had been claimed by the Hashemite king of Hijaz, Husayn, who was the last to do so and did not have universal support. The notion of reviving it seems initially to be a pipedream, but sudden massive gains of Iraqi territory in early 2014 makes it a reality, and the Islamic State is proclaimed on 30 June 2014.