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Near East Kingdoms

Arabic States


Islamic Aleppo

Ancient Syria in general was a patchwork of city states that were all eventually subsumed within various great empires or their declining remnants. The region was conquered from the Eastern Roman empire 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 Islamic Syria the centre of Islamic power.

Ancient Aleppo began as one of the world's oldest inhabited settlements in the eleventh century BC, It has been continuously inhabited since around 5000 BC. Strategically located on the trade route from the Euphrates Valley to the Mediterranean, it prospered as one of the northern Syrian city states from around the middle of the third millennium BC.


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.


Al-Fadl ibn Saleh ibn Ali al-Abbassi, wali of Damascus, gains the Jund Qinnasrin and its capital at Aleppo.

769 - 775

Al-Fadl ibn Saleh ibn Ali al-Abbassi

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


Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi commands Al-Fadl ibn Saleh ibn Ali al-Abbassi 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).

868 - 874

Hamdan ibn Hamdun

Hamdanid dynasty founder.

874 - 916

al-Husayn ibn Hamdan

Son. Wali of Mardin in south-west Anatolia (890).


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

916 - 929

Abdullah ibn Hamdan

Son. Emir of Mosul (906) & Baghdad (914).

929 - 967

al-Hasan ibn Hamdan 'Nasir ad-Daula'

Brother. Wali of Mosul. Tyrant. Deposed by his own family.


Ali I Sayfud Dawla / 'Saif al-Duala'

Brother. Became wali of Aleppo in 944.

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, Egypt also gains control of Palestine and Syria, and Damascus is ruled directly until 943. Then it is governed by the Hamdanids briefly before they seize control in 946 under Ali I Sayfud Dawla from his base at Aleppo.


The tyrannical Nasir ad-Duala is deposed by his own family, but his descendants continue to rule on Mosul until 990. Mosul is subsequently divided by the Marwanids and Uqailids.

967 - 980

Adid ad-Daula

989 - 997

Abul Tahir Ibrahim ibn al-Hasan

989 - 997

Abu Abdillah al-Husayn ibn al-Hasan


Hamdanid Emirs of Aleppo
AD 944 - 1015

The Hamdanids were a dynasty of Shia Muslims who emerged in the Al-Jazirah region in the late ninth century under Hamdan ibn Hamdun. In 943 they seized control of Syria.

Northern Syria was taken from the Ikhshidids of Egypt. Emir Sayfud Dawla became a celebrated foe of the Eastern Romans, 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, though they were retained by the payment of tribute. Aleppo had been under the dominion of various empires since the ninth century BC, having previously been the regionally powerful kingdom of Yamkhad, while the Hamdanids also extended their authority to Mosul in northern Iraq.

(Additional information from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev.)

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, Egypt also gains control of Palestine and Syria, and Damascus is ruled directly until 943. Then it is governed by the Hamdanids under Ali I Sayfud Dawla.

944 - 967

Ali I Sayfud Dawla / 'Saif al-Duala'

Son of Hamdan. Ruled northern Syria from 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 supplied Ali I with a powerful defensive position from which he hoped to expand his domains, although his seizure of Damascus proved to be short-lived


In conflict against the Eastern Roman empire in almost every year between 950 and his death, Sayfud Dawla now wins a notable victory near Germanikeia in the Taurus Mountains (modern Kahramanmaraş in Turkey). The patrikios, Leo Maleinos, is killed, while General Bardas Phocas the Elder is badly wounded.


The Eastern Romans under Leo Phocas, brother of Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas, end a run of victories by Sayfud Dawla after he is ambushed and heavily defeated at Raban. Sayfud Dawla does not regain the initiative and in 962 his palace outside Aleppo is even sacked.


It is likely that Rus units take part in the Eastern Roman expedition to Cilicia which resumes in early 962 as part of the campaign to reconquer Syria. That year, fifty-four forts belonging to the amir of Tarsus are captured along with Anazarbus. Later in the same year, the Byzantines capture and raid Sayfud Dawla's capital of Aleppo (apart from its citadel). Germanikeia is taken towards the year's end.

967 - 991

Sharif I Sa'dud Dawla

Reduced to Roman vassal (969).


Antioch is lost to the Eastern Roman 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. Aleppo itself is reduced to tributary status.

991 - 1002

Said Saidud Dawla

1002 - 1004

Ali II

1002 - 1004

Sharif II

1004 - 1009


Regent 1002-1004.

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 depose the Hamdanids.

1009 - 1015

Mansur Murtadad Dawla

Fled to Romans.

1015 - 1076

Aleppo is controlled by the Fatamid dynasty.

1076 - 1085

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. Syria itself remains under the control of the great sultan.

1076 - 1085

Malik-Shāh I

Seljuq 'Great Sultan'.

1085 - 1086

Tutush I of Damascus 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.

1085 - 1086

Tutush I

Emir of Damascus.

1086 - 1092

Malik-Shāh I

Seljuq 'Great Sultan'. Managed to restore Syria to his control.

1092 - 1094

Mahmud I

Infant son and Seljuq 'Great Sultan'. Defeated and murdered.

1092 - 1094

Now aged six, the infant Mahmud's claim as Seljuq 'Great Sultan' has been pushed forwards by his mother, Terken Khatun. His claim on the title had been proclaimed in Baghdad, but the claim by his elder brother, Barkiyaruq, had been proclaimed at the same time. Now the forces of the two claimants meet in battle and those of Barkiyaruq are victorious. Mahmud and his mother are soon assassinated by the vizier at Estfahan, but the empire of Malik-Shāh has already begun to break up. Kilij Arslan I has taken control of Rum, while Tutush reclaims a now-independent Aleppo and maintains a son in command of Damascus.

1094 - 1095

Tutush I

Seized Syria again, and secured it. Killed.


Duqaq, son of Tutush, 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. Tutush himself is killed this year near the city of Ray by the forces of Seljuq 'Great Sultan', Barkiyaruq.

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



Son. Emir of Damascus.

1095 - 1113

Radwan ibn Tausch

Elder brother. Rebelled and seized Aleppo.

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.

1099 - 1287

Syria is conquered by Crusaders. Sections of it are re-conquered by the Mameluke Sultan Baybars in 1268, while the remainder falls in 1287.

? - 1128

Zahir ad-Din Toghtekin

Emir of Damascus.


Following the death of Toghtekin, Zangi takes Aleppo from the squabbling Ortoqid emirs, greatly increasing the territory under his control and preventing Syria from being opened up to the Crusaders.

Zangid Atabegs of Aleppo
AD 1127/28 - 1181

The Zangid Atabegs (or Atabeks) were Turkic governors (atabegs) in northern Syria, administering the region on behalf of the Seljuq sultan, Mahmud II. Once the territory of Crusader Edessa to the east of the Euphrates had been re-conquered, the atabegs under Zangi I were appointed to govern Syria from Aleppo. One of the more notable men to enter Zangi's service was Najm ad-Din Ayyub, a prominent Kurdish noble who had just become a father to Salah al-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub, more popularly known as Saladin. Najim moved his family to Aleppo around the time of Saladin's birth, and it was there that the future founder of the Ayyubid dynasty served under Zagi's successor, Ismail Nur al-Din.

Following the death of Zangi, Aleppo and Damascus were controlled by his successor and son, 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.

(Additional information from Histoire, opposition, politique et piétisme traditionaliste dans le Ḥusn al Muḥādarat de Suyûti, Jean-Claude Garcin, Annales Islamologiques (in French, 1967), from Some Observations on the 'Abbāsid Caliphate of Cairo, Peter Malcolm Holt, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London, 1984), from The History of Islam (Vol 2), Akbar Shah Najeebabadi (Revised Edition), from The Political and Dynastic History of the Iranian World (AD 1000-1217), C E Bosworth (The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 5, William Bayne Fisher, John Andrew Boyle, & Richard Nelson Frye (Eds), Cambridge University Press, 1968), and from External Links: Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and the Turkish Cultural Foundation.)

1127 - 1146

Zangi I (Imad ad Din) / Zengi

Atabeg of Mosul, appointed by Seljuq Sultan Mahmud II.


Following the death of Toghtekin, Zangi takes Aleppo from the squabbling Ortoqid emirs, greatly increasing the territory under his control and preventing Syria from being opened up to the Crusaders.

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


Zangi becomes a hero to the Muslim world when he captures the county of Edessa from the Crusaders.


Upon Zangid's assassination 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.

1146 - 1174

Mahmud Nur ad-Din

Son. Gained Damascus (1154).


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

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.


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.


The Abbasid caliph is supporting Suleiman-Shah, a rival for the Seljuq throne. The current incumbent, Muhammad II, marches on Baghdad with an army of 30,000 to meet up with the forces of Zangid Qutb ad-Din Mawdud of Mosul & Jazira. A storming of the city sees Muhammad capture the western side, but the eastern side across the Tigris remains unassailable. With a stalemate the outcome, and Mahmud Nur ad-Din of Aleppo, castigating his brother, Qutb ad-Din, for attacking the caliph and destroying the previously-staunch Zangid-Seljuq alliance, the attackers give up and return home.

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 Mahmud'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.


Following a siege, Aleppo is captured and destroyed by the Mongols while the sultan of Egypt, al-Muazzam, is commanding there. Unusually, the defeated defenders are allowed to live.


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 Sultan Yusuf has already fled to Gaza. He 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.


Burji Sultan Nasir-ad-Din Faraj is accompanied by Abbasid Caliph al Mustain Billah on his campaign against the rebellious amirs (governors) of Aleppo and Tripoli. Faraj is defeated, perhaps unexpectedly, at Lajjun on 25 April 1412 and the sultanate is plunged into a leadership crisis. Caliph al Mustain is captured by the rebels and, after a great deal of discussion about who should be proclaimed sultan in Faraj's place, they chose Caliph al Mustain himself. Faraj is formally deposed, and al Mustain takes his place on the understanding that he remains caliph if he is deposed as sultan.

Burji coins
The coins pictured here are typical of those that were issued by the Mameluke Burjis in Egypt during a little over a century of rule

Nawruz al-Hafizi receives the Syrian provinces and al Mustain returns to Egypt with two prominent nobles, Shaykh al-Mahmudi and Baktamur Djillik. Shaykh puts into action his plan to usurp the sultanate, which he does on 6 November 1412. Now as Sultan al-Mu'ayyad Sayf-ad-Din Tatar I, he also removes al Mustain from his position as caliph. Nawruz al-Hafizi's decision to declare war against Tatar for this unlawful act seems to produce no concrete result.

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