III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > B. The Middle East and North Africa, 500–1500 > 2. The Muslim Middle East and North Africa, c. 945–1500 > e. Egypt and Syria > 1064
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
Entry into Syria of the first Turkoman tribes. One of their chiefs, named Atsiz, conquered Palestine (1071) and then southern Syria, including Damascus (1076).  1
The migration of the Turkomans during the late 11th century upset the tribal balance within the Syrian Desert and reduced the traditionally extensive role of Arab tribes in Syrian politics and commerce. For the next two centuries, the Turkomans operated as the paramount tribal power in Syria.  2
c. 1065
Establishment of the office of ra'is al-yahud, an officially recognized Jewish leader for all of Egypt. From the late 12th to the early 15th century, the position was in the hands of Maimonides' descendants.  3
Reign of the Seljuk chieftain Tutush, whose kingdom eventually covered most of Syria. He conquered southern Syria (1079) from the Turkoman chieftan Atsiz and reduced the Fatimid presence to a thin strip of coastline in Palestine. After Tutush's death, his state fell apart while his sons contested the succession. The resulting political disorganization of Syria coincided with the arrival of the Crusaders (See The Crusades), rendering unified Muslim resistance impossible.  4
Seljuk rule over the Syrian interior. Even after the arrival of the Crusaders (1099), a succession of petty dynasties, related to the Seljuk house, retained control of the major towns east of the Frankish states. Muslim political authority remained fragmented until the rise of the Ayyubids in the mid-12th century.  5
The CRUSADER STATES in coastal Syria. The First Crusade (See 1096–99), a response to Byzantine pleas for assistance, took Jerusalem (1099) and established a loose feudal federation known as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Even at their peak, the petty states constituting the Latin Kingdom—based on the cities of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Tripoli—covered only a sliver of territory along the Syrian coastline. The exception was the County of Edessa, which survived for a time (1098–1144) in southeastern Anatolia. The other Frankish states, their territory gradually diminishing, held out longer: Jerusalem fell in 1187, Antioch in 1268, and Tripoli in 1289 (the last Crusader fortress, Acre, was overrun in 1291).  6
During their fitful lifetimes, the Crusader kingdoms became fully integrated into the local political system, concluding alliances with Muslim states and engaging in intrigues among themselves. As an alien ruling elite, the Latin governments depended on later Crusades—in 1148, 1188, 1202, 1217, 1228, and 1249—for fresh infusions of reinforcements to prolong their occupation. Viewed over the long term, their impact on the Middle East was negligible. Their modest successes owed more to the temporary fragmentation of Muslim power than to their own military and political capacities. The Crusaders figured much less prominently in Middle Eastern literature than in European annals.  7
The founding of specialized Sunni Muslim religious schools (madrasas) in the cities of Egypt and Syria, partly in response to Shi’ite propaganda emanating from Fatimid Egypt. Sunni political figures took a leading role in encouraging and underwriting these establishments.  8
The NIZARI ISMA’ILIS (ASSASSINS) in Syria. They were an extreme Shi’ite sect renowned for their hostility to the Sunni political establishment. Their agents conducted assassinations of prominent political figures throughout the Muslim world. The sect operated briefly out of Aleppo, until 1113, before its expulsion to Damascus, where it settled under official protection. In 1128 its members fled to northern coastal Syria and established forts in the rugged highlands.  9
Capture of Aleppo by the ruler of Mosul, IMAD AL-DIN ZANGI. He constructed a powerful state arching from northern Mesopotamia into northern Syria (as far south as Homs). In the north, he conquered the Frankish kingdom of Edessa (1144), the first Crusader state to be eliminated.  10
The BURID DYNASTY in Damascus. The Burids were the last of the petty Turkoman rulers in Syria. By the middle of the 12th century their position had weakened irretrievably. Particularly after the Second Crusade's rash and unsuccessful siege of Damascus (1148), their capital became the focal point of the military struggle involving Nur al-Din and the Frankish states.  11
Reign of NUR AL-DIN, one of the two sons of Zangi. He became the principal Muslim political figure in Syria and a fervent enemy of the Frankish kingdoms. He originally inherited the western portion of Zangi's kingdom, based in Aleppo. In 1154 he unified the Syrian interior by seizing Damascus. He later rounded out his empire by acquiring Egypt under Abbasid suzerainty (1171).  12
Syrian struggle over Egypt. The forces of Nur al-Din came to the defense of the Fatimids, repelling successive Frankish raids and taking over the Egyptian administration. After the death of Nur al-Din's lieutenant, Shirkuh, SALAH AL-DIN AL-AYYUBI (SALADIN) became chief minister of the Fatimid government (1169).  13
Death of the last Fatimid caliph, ending Shi’ite rule of Egypt. Formal sovereignty over Egypt reverted to the Abbasids in Baghdad, but Nur al-Din received the right to administer the territory. In reality, Egypt quickly became an independent base of power for Saladin.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.