Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX WEST MEETS EAST -- THE CRUSADES

THE political unity of Islam, both as a religion and as a state, broke down toward the beginning of the tenth century.1 By the end of the eleventh, when the Crusades were officially launched, Saljūq, Turks and Turkomans, of the Sunnite denomination, were supreme in Asia Minor and North Syria; while Shīʿite Fāṭimids ruled in Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon. Semi-independent local dynasts -- some orthodox Moslems, others heterodox; some Arabs, others non-Arabs -- flourished throughout the area. Their local feuds, fraternal jealousies, petty squabbles and problems of succession engendered a chronic state of political instability and insecurity. The mountains were honeycombed with schismatic Moslems and Christian sectarians: Nusayris near al-Lādhiqīyah -- soon to be seconded with Ismāʿīli Assassins east of them --, Maronites in North Lebanon, Druzes in South Lebanon and Matāwilah (Shīʿites) in between. The situation was further complicated by the steady influx into the cultivable area, or its military Posts, of Arabians from the Desert, Kurds from the mountains in the north-east and Turkomans ready to offer their military services to the highest bidder among the local chieftains.

Subsequent to the battle of Manzikert (Malazkirt) in 1071, in which the Saljūq general Alp Arslān won a decisive victory over the Byzantines and took the emperor himself as prisoner, all Asia Minor and Syria lay open to Turks and Turkomans. For the first time these Central Asians gained a firm foothold in that territory. From Asia Minor Constantinople itself was seriously threatened. To these Saljūqs of al-Rūm2 ( Asia Minor) several governors of Syrian towns were related by blood, though owing allegiance to the Great Saljūqs of Baghdād.

The Byzantine emperor Alexlus Comnenus, whose Asiatic realm had thus been overrun, repeatedly sought papal aid. At

Papal appeal

____________________

-281-

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