Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII LIFE IN THE FOURTEENTH AND FIFTEENTH CENTURIES

THE opening of the fourteenth century found the Mamlūk sultans at the peak of their power, unequalled by any other Arab potentates in the East or West, and probably unsurpassed by any other Moslem rulers. They had expelled the last of the Crusaders, checked the advance of Tartar-Mongol hordes, crushed the dissidents in Lebanon and Syria and established the supremacy of Sunnite Islam. Secure in their vast domain, which covered Egypt, Syria-Lebanon-Palestine and al-Ḥijāz, they were now free to embark upon their own policies and pursue the lines of action dictated by the changed situation.

In administering their Syrian territory they divided the area into six provinces (sing. niyābah, viceroyalty, or mamlakah, kingdom), and parcelled Lebanon among three of them.1 The division was intended to discourage attempts at independence. The province of Tripoli ( Ṭarābulus) comprised North Lebanon and the coastal region from north of al-Lādhiqīyah to near Jubayl. The province of Ṣafad included southern Lebanon and Tyre. That of Damascus ( Dimashq) took in the rest: sidon, Beirut, Baʿlabakk and al-Biqāʿ. Al-Biqāʿ was then divided into two administrative districts: the northern or Baʿlabakki, and the southern or 'Azīzi.2 Originally slaves of some sultan, the governors (sing. nāʾib) were generally recruited from among the "lords of the sword" (arbāb al-suyūf), as opposed to the learned class (arbāb al-aqlām, lords of the pen). As a rule the governors acted independently one of the other, each maintaining a court reproducing on a small scale that of the sultan in Cairo. Short tenure and jealousies among them militated against the chances of self-aggrandizement and the possibility of a coalition against the central authority. Hardly a high

Lebanon divided

____________________
1
Al-Qalqashandi, Ṣubḥ al-A'sha, vol. iv ( Cairo, 1914), pp. 163 seq.

-327-

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