The Banū Munqidh, also referred to as the Munqidhites, were an Arab family that ruled an emirate in the Orontes Valley in northern Syria from the mid-11th century until the family's demise in an earthquake in 1157. The emirate was initially based in Kafartab before the Banu Munqidh took over the fortress of Shayzar in 1081 and made it their headquarters for the remainder of their rule. The capture of Shayzar was the culmination of a long, drawn out process beginning with the Banu Munqidh's nominal assignment to the land by the Mirdasid emir of Aleppo in 1025, and accelerating with the weakened grip of Byzantine rule in northern Syria in the 1070s.
|Country||Mirdasid Emirate (1025–1080)|
Seljuk Sultanate (1080–1127)
Zengid Emirate (1127–1157)
|Founder||Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh al-Kinani|
|Final ruler||Muhammad ibn Sultan|
Under the reign of Emir Ali ibn Muqallad (r. 1059–1082), the Banu Munqidh reached their territorial peak with the emirate extending from the Mediterranean port of Latakia to Apamea. The Seljuk conquest of Syria in 1085 and subsequent struggles with local Muslim lords reduced the Munqidh emirate to Shayzar and its environs. Under Emir Sultan ibn Ali (r. 1098–1154), the Banu Munqidh alternated between combating the Crusaders who landed in Syria in 1099 and paying tribute to them. During this period, the family also had to contend with Ismai'li newcomers encroaching on their domains. To firmly protect the emirate, Sultan ultimately put the Banu Munqidh under Zengid suzerainty. After the death of Emir Muhammad ibn Sultan (r. 1154–1157) and his family, the emirate passed to the Zengid emir Nur ad-Din, who granted it to the Banu al-Daya family.
Through a combination of wealth, diplomatic acumen and military skills, the Banu Munqidh survived as a local power and successfully resisted attempts by the Crusaders and stronger Syrian Muslim dynasties to seize their strategic fortress in Shayzar. Among their allies and enemies alike, the Banu Munqidh gained a reputation for "martial valor, honor, piety and courtly refinement" in the words of historian Adnan Husain. Their rural lands, which were largely populated by Greek Orthodox Christians, were distinguished for their well-kept and prosperous state. From early on, the family was also known to provide refuge for a wide array of people, ranging from Muslim refugees fleeing Crusader assaults or exiled Muslim generals, officials and other dignitaries. The most well-known member of the family, Usama ibn Munqidh (1095–1188), went on to have to have a proficient career in literature and diplomacy serving the courts of the Zengids, Fatimids and Ayyubids.
The Banu Munqidh were an Arab family belonging to the Kinana branch of the Banu Kalb tribe. Though the Banu Kalb were largely concentrated around Damascus in the late 10th century, the Kinana inhabited the eastern environs of the Orontes River in northern Syria. A member of the family, Ali ibn Munqidh ibn Nasr al-Kinani, is first mentioned in 960 when he was taken captive by the Byzantines during a major Hamdanid defeat; also taken prisoner was the poet and governor Abu Firas al-Hamdani.
It was not until the 11th century that the Banu Munqidh emerged in regional politics. At that time, the family entered the service of Salih ibn Mirdas, founder of the Aleppo-based Mirdasid dynasty. According to historian Suhayl Zakkar, the Banu Munqidh were numerous and strong enough at the time to "play an influential role in the life of the Mirdasid dynasty". Upon capturing Aleppo in 1025, Salih granted the Munqhidi chieftain, Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh, the lands around Shayzar as an iqṭāʿ (fief); the town of Shayzar itself was in Byzantine hands, however. With their assignment to Shayzar being in name only, the Banu Munqidh instead used Kafartab as their headquarters.
Reign of AliEdit
Muqallad died in 1059, after which his son Ali inherited his iqtaʿ. Under Ali, the Banu Munqidh played a dominant role in the affairs of their nominal Mirdasid suzerains. Tensions with the Mirdasid emir of Aleppo, Mahmud ibn Nasr, led Ali to depart Aleppo for Tripoli where he was able to gain further recognition of the Banu Munqidh's budding principality in the middle Orontes valley. During the chaotic succession process following Mahmud's death, Ali was instrumental in installing Mahmud's son Sabiq as Aleppo's emir. However, Sabiq's succession was opposed by the other members of the Mirdasid house and the Banu Kilab tribe to whom they belonged who favored Sabiq's brother Waththab. After a number of major battles between the opposing sides and amid severe famine in Aleppo, Muslim ibn Quraysh, the Uqaylid emir of Mosul saw an opportunity to take the city. In the aftermath of his entry into Aleppo in 1080 and the refusal of the Mirdasids to surrender the citadel, Ali intervened to mediate between the two sides. Ultimately, Ali facilitated the city's surrender to Muslim in return for the allotment of iqṭāʿat to the Mirdasids in Aleppo's hinterland.
Struggle for ShayzarEdit
Meanwhile, the Banu Munqidh led renewed efforts to capture the Shayzar fortress in what historian Hugh N. Kennedy described as a “long, drawn out process”. The catalyst of these efforts was the weakening grip of the Byzantines in northern Syria following their defeat by the Seljuk Sultanate at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. In 1076, Ali began construction of the Hisn al-Jisr fortress, which would limit Shayzar’s access to the Orontes River. Hisn al-Jisr was used to hamper the flow of supplies into Shayzar from the Byzantine mainland. At the time, it was also utilized by Ali for diplomatic efforts amid the struggle for Syria between the ascendant Seljuks and their opponents. In 1078/79, he sheltered the families of the Seljuks’ Turkish opponents from Aleppo and he hosted the Seljuk general Afshin, persuading him to spare both Kafartab and Byzantine Shayzar from his pillaging. These were early demonstrations of how “diplomatic skills, more than military power, enabled the Banu Munqidh to maintain their precarious independence”, according to Kennedy.
The Banu Munqidh’s pressure on Shayzar compelled its Byzantine rulers to surrender the fortress to Ali in December 1081 in exchange for a certain sum and guarantees of upkeep of the town bishop’s home. Shayzar became the center of the Munqidh emirate (principality). The family under Ali soon after faced a siege by the Uqaylids but leveraged their significant wealth to settle with Muslim ibn Quraysh. By the time of Ali's death in 1082, the Banu Munqidh's emirate, now under Ali's son Sadid al-Mulk, extended to the Mediterranean port town of Latakia and included Apamea and a few smaller places, in addition to Shayzar and Kafartab.
Reign of NasrEdit
Sadid al-Mulk was succeeded by his son Nasr. The principal challenge the Banu Munqidh faced during Nasr's reign was the expansion of Seljuk rule into Syria. Like their previous encounter with the Uqaylids, the family employed the same strategy to stave off an attack by the Seljuk ruler Sulayman ibn Qutulmush in 1085. Moreover, Nasr's conviction that the Seljuks could not be defeated led him to cede his family's territories in Latakia, Apamea and Kafartab to the sultanate in exchange for their firm recognition of the Banu Munqidh's possession of Shayzar in 1086/87. Through his good offices with the Seljuk ruler of Aleppo, he was able to return the ceded towns to the Banu Munqidh in 1091. However, in 1096 Apamea and Kafartab were lost to the family's Arab rival, Khalaf ibn Mula'ib, the formerly semi-independent lord of Homs. Ibn Mula'ib was a former subordinate of Nasr who he gradually had to contend with as a frequently hostile neighbor of the Banu Munqidh. In one encounter, Nasr was badly defeated in an ambush by Ibn Mula'ib during an attack outside Shayzar.
Reign of SultanEdit
In 1098, Nasr ibn Ali died and the lordship of Shayzar passed to his sons. For unknown reasons, Nasr's brother and chosen successor, Murshid, withdrew himself from the line of succession in favor of his younger brother Sultan, who had served as the Banu Munqidh's governor in Latakia. Murshid maintained a prominent leadership role as his then-childless brother's deputy. At the turn of the 11th century, the Banu Munqidh’s possessions were under threat not only by their Turkish suzerains, but also the encroachments of the Banu Kilab, the growing presence of the Nizari Ismailis in the coastal mountains of northern Syria and the newly arrived Crusaders.
During Sultan’s reign, the Banu Munqidh had become more numerous and Sultan chiefly depended on his own kinsmen in confrontations with the constellation of powers, local and regional, that controlled northern Syria. He could also rely on his Kinana tribesmen to an extent and the militiamen of Shayzar. To a much lesser extent the family recruited Kurdish mercenaries and Turkish mamluks (slave soldiers). Meanwhile, a tentative alliance was formed with Ibn Mula'ib despite the wounding of Sultan and Murshid in a battle with him in 1104. Together, the Banu Munqidh and Ibn Mula'ib attacked a small Crusader-held fort in their region in 1106, but Ibn Mula'ib betrayed the Banu Munqidh by deserting and stealing their horses. Before the family could retaliate, Ibn Mula'ib was killed by an Ismai'il assassin. At this time, friendly relations were also established with the family's other erstwhile rivals, the Turkish Ibn Qaraja emirs of Hama and Homs.
The principal Crusader threat to the Banu Munqidh was posed by the neighboring Principality of Antioch. The prince of Antioch, Tancred, attacked and plundered the Banu Munqidh's emirate in 1110 and imposed a heavy tribute on Shayzar, a testament to its wealth at the time. The following year, Tancred built the Tell Ibn Ma'shar fortress along the west bank of the Orontes, across from Shayzar, to prepare an assault against the city. Sultan reached out to Mawdud of Mosul to prevent this, while Tancred gathered a larger Crusader coalition including the rulers of Jerusalem and Tripoli. In the ensuing Battle of Shayzar, which was according to Kennedy was more of "a prolonged confrontation" than a battle, the Crusader armies retreated in October 1111. However, the Banu Munqidh continued paying the annual tribute to Antioch.
Shayzar also became a target of the Isma'ili sect subsequent to their exodus from Syria's major cities to the coastal mountains. They attempted to seize Shayzar in 1114 while the Banu Munqidh family were away participating in the Easter celebrations of their Orthodox Christian subjects. The attack was coordinated with the town's Isma'ili residents, who had been generally well-treated by the Banu Munqidh. About one hundred Isma'ilis seized the citadel, expelling its residents. A bloody struggle ensued upon the Banu Munqidh's return to Shayzar, and involved the participation of the family's women. It ended with the slaying of all the Ismai'ili attackers and the enactment of certain measures to prevent a recurrence. The following year, a Muslim–Crusader coalition composed of Roger of Antioch, Toghtekin of Damascus and Ilghazi of Mardin besieged Shayzar in response to the plans of the Banu Munqidh's ally Mawdud of Mosul to conquer Syria.
Suzerainty of the ZengidsEdit
In 1127 Sultan put the Banu Munqidh under the suzerainty of the ascendant Muslim ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, Imad ad-Din Zengi, which allowed for a greater level of security for the family's domains. This was interrupted by a short siege of Shayzar by the Burid ruler of Damascus, Shams al-Mulk Isma'il, in 1133 and a greater crisis by the Byzantine–Crusader siege of Shayzar in 1138 led by John II Komnenos. The Byzantine-led army initially attacked the Banu Munqidh-held forts of Kafartab and Hisn al-Jisr, causing their inhabitants to flee, before proceeding in their assault against Shayzar. Arabic and Greek sources both indicate that the Banu Munqidh and the people of Shayzar resisted the siege and the Byzantines' catapults for several days before John II's army withdrew. However, the Arabic sources claim the Byzantines left after hearing of the arrival of Zengid reinforcements while the Greek sources claim the withdrawal was precipitated by a Zengid attack on Byzantine-held Edessa and Sultan's offer to pay off John II.
The domain of the Banu Munqidh entered a long period of stability and prosperity beginning in 1138. Shayzar and it’s dependencies remained under the control of Sultan who ruled under the authority of the Zengid dynasty. However, in 1140/41 the Ismai'ils captured the fortress of Masyaf from the Banu Munqidh, who had purchased it in 1127/28. It thereafter became the Isma'ilis' main stronghold in Syria. This generally peaceful period also coincided with tensions between Sultan and his nephews. Murshid's position as the Banu Munqidh's second highest-ranking leader enabled the latter's sons, including Usama, to rise politically within the emirate. They gained a reputation for their martial and diplomatic skills and Sultan viewed their prominence as a threat to his leadership. These tensions culminated after Murshid's death in 1136/37 and the birth of Sultan's son Taj al-Mulk Muhammad in the following year. As a consequence, Usama and his brothers were exiled from Shayzar, finding asylum with Nur ad-Din, the Zengid emir of Aleppo. After Sultan's death in 1154, Taj al-Mulk Muhammad succeeded him without incident.
Most of the Banu Munqidh, including Taj al-Mulk and his children, died in the collapse of the Shayzar citadel during the August 1157 earthquake, which devastated a number of other towns in the area. This brought an end to their rule of the Shayzar principality, which was soon after seized by Nur ad-Din to prevent its capture by the Crusaders. Nur ad-Din did not seek to find any surviving members of the Banu Munqidh to resume their lordship of Shayzar, whose fortifications he had promptly restored. Instead, he handed the town over to a certain Sabiq al-Din Uthman ibn al-Daya. The latter's family, the Banu al-Daya, remained the lords of Shayzar through Ayyubid rule until 1233.
Relations with the CrusadersEdit
The Banu Munqidh initially reacted to the Crusader invasion of coastal Syria by offering the Crusader king of Jerusalem, Baldwin I, a tributary arrangement, provisioning of food supplies and protection for Christian pilgrims passing through the family's territory. Though the Kingdom of Jerusalem did not border the Banu Munqidh's domains, the neighboring Frankish principality of Antioch was under Jerusalem's overall authority. This accord with the newly arrived Crusaders in Ma'arrat al-Nu'man spared Shayzar the latter's devastating raids. Intermittent warfare in the form of raids and clashes partly characterized the contact between the Banu Munqidh and the Crusader states, but they largely maintained practical ties. In 1108, a large annual tribute was imposed by the Crusaders on the Banu Munqidh.
In addition to the financial sums, they also had to provide guides for the emissaries of the neighboring Principality of Antioch on their way to Jerusalem. The family was particularly close to King Baldwin II of Jerusalem (r. 1118–1131) and hosted him in Shayzar in 1124 at the request of his Muslim captor and ruler of Aleppo, Timurtash ibn Ilghazi, during negotiations for Baldwin's release. The Munqidhi emirs Sultan and Murshid successfully mediated the ransom for Baldwin's freedom. Subsequent to his release, Baldwin relieved the Banu Munqidh of their tribute and services in appreciation of their generosity. The bonds forged between the Banu Munqidh and King Baldwin II enabled Usama ibn Munqidh to play a mediating role in the diplomatic negotiations of the early 1130s between Baldwin and Taj al-Muluk Buri, the Burid ruler of Damascus in whose court Usama served.
Relations with Muslim states and lordshipsEdit
Despite generally peaceful relations with the Franks, the Banu Munqidh remained loyal to their Muslim suzerains, fighting alongside the Muslim rulers of Aleppo and Damasucs in their battles and campaigns against the Crusaders in 1111, 1115 and 1119. The family also fended off Crusader attacks against their domains between 1122 and 1124. The family maintained friendly ties with a number of the semi-independent Muslim lords of other fortress towns who shared their social standing, the Fatimid lord Iftikhar al-Dawla of Abu Qubays and the Banu Salim ibn Malik of Qal'at Ja'bar; the former's sister was married to Sultan and the emirs of Qal'at Ja'bar shared similar Arab tribal origins as the Banu Munqidh. The Banu Munqidh's emirs paid social visits to Iftikhar al-Dawla, while keeping frequent contact with Shihab al-Din Salim ibn Malik via letters, couriers and the exchange of gifts. The emirs of Qal'at Ja'bar played a similar diplomatic role as the Banu Munqidh and both families were described in the Syrian Chronicon, A.C. 1234 as "a good sort of people, friendly to all and good mediators at any time".
Provision of asylumEdit
The Banu Munqidh often provided asylum for refugees and exiles. In 1041, they gave temporary refuge in Kafartab to the Fatimid governor of Syria, Anushtakin al-Dizbari, when he was ousted from Damascus and then escorted him safely to the Citadel of Aleppo. Later, in the Crusader era, the Banu Munqidh gave refuge to Muslim families fleeing the Crusader assault on Ma'arrat al-Nu'man in 1098; the son of their erstwhile rival Khalaf ibn Mula'ib of Apamea in 1106; the ousted Muslim ruler of Tripoli, Qadi Fakhr al-Mulk ibn Ammar, in 1109; and the Isma'ili da'i (missionary) of Aleppo, Ibrahim, when he fled Seljuk persecution in 1113.
Based on the accounts of Usama ibn Munqidh, the family were avid hunters and went on expeditions in the wetlands of Orontes valley west of Shayzar and in the hills south of the city. The expeditions were led by the family's emirs who led retinues containing tens of horsemen, including relatives and mamluks. Equipped with various birds of prey, dogs and cheetahs, they hunted francolin, waterfowl, hares, wild boars and partridges. However, the ultimate prey of the Munqidhi emirs were lions and leopards, the slaying of which were an apparent symbol and function of the emir's authority. According to Kennedy, "killing lions and leopards" was "one of the ways" an emir "demonstrated his protection of and care for the people who lived on his lands".
The Banu Munqidh were described as an "elite, patrician family of well-known warriors who enjoyed a wide reputation for martial valor, honor, piety, and courtly refinement" by historian Adnan Husain. From the citadel of Shayzar, wperched on a rocky hilly enveloped by the Orontes River, the Banu Munqidh ruled a relatively a small emirate largely inhabited by Greek Orthodox Christians. Throughout their rule, the emirate was surrounded by frequently hostile powers, whether local or regional Muslim lords, Crusader principalities or Bedouin tribes. In addition to their military abilities, the family often pursued diplomacy and alliances with their larger neighbors. Their martial skills and diplomatic maneuvers enabled their survival. According to an account of a conversation between an emissary of Roger of Antioch and Sultan in 1116, the lands of the Banu Munqidh were developed and prosperous, distinguishing them from the ruinous state of the surrounding region. This was an apparent testament to the Banu Munqidh’s wealth.
List of Banu Munqidh emirsEdit
|Royal title||Kunya||Name||Reign start||Reign end||Notes|
|Abu'l Mutawwaj||Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh||1025||1059||*Granted the iqta of Shayzar by the Mirdasid emir of Aleppo Salih ibn Mirdas in 1025, but rule was confined to Kafartab.|
|Sadid al-Mulk||Abu'l Hasan||Ali ibn Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh||1059||1082||*First Banu Munqidh emir of Shayzar.|
|Izz al-Dawla||Abu'l Murhaf||Nasr ibn Ali ibn Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh||1082||1098||*Son of Ali.|
|Taj al-Dawla||Abu'l Asakir||Sultan ibn Ali ibn Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh||1098||1154||*Brother of Nasr.|
|Taj al-Mulk||Muhammad ibn Sultan ibn Ali ibn Muqallad ibn Nasr ibn Munqidh||1154||August 1157||*Son of Sultan.|
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