Fatimid Empire (Dynasty , Sultanate)

Fatimid Empire Dynasty , Sultanate ,(c. 969-1171 ), was a North African empire that included parts of the Maghrib, Egypt, and Syria, at its greatest extent. Initially centered in Tunisia, but later Egypt.


The Fatimid Empire had its beginning with Shia Muslims fleeing Syria, settling in the Maghrib-- Algeria and Tunisia. They claim descent from Fatima, Muhammad's only daughter. They viewed the Abassid Dynasty as illegitimate rulers. Shias were bent on overthrowing the dynasty. By 1150, they had conquered parts of the Maghrib. In 1169, they conquered Egypt and declared Egypt independent of the Abassid Empire.


Initially, the Fatimid Empire was very prosperous. It taxed heavily all imported and exported goods.  It profited from trade with Arabia, India, Syria, Europe, and West Africa. The empire printed gold coins, dinars which became the standard for international trade at that time. Berber landlords were used to collect taxes. They were encourage to tax the farms excessively, which they did.  Taxation revenues eventually decline due to corrupt practices of influential landlords, paying very little taxes.


The empire's military was comprised of Berber battalions, Mameluke cavalry, and Sudanese infantrymen. Ahmad b. Tulun introduced black slave army in Egypt in 870. Black battalions were raised as counterweight to Berber and Mameluke battalions. Between 1046-1049, about 30,000 black soldiers comprised the army of 100,000.  In the later phase of the empire, soldiers would prove disruptive and eventually usurp the authority of the caliphate. Due to decrease tax revenues from corrupt landlords, soldiers were not paid. They proceeded to loot the countryside, disrupting trade and tax collection. 


By the 1160s, the empire was faced with threats of invasion by Christian Crusaders. We then saw the rise of Saladin, who took over the military and re-organized it. Saladin expelled the Christian Crusaders at Egypt's borders and captured Jerusalem in 1187. This instigated the Third Crusade. Saladin took power in 1171, after executing the last Fatimid Caliph and establishing the Ayyubid Dynasty.

Works Cited

tags: egypt fatimid sultanate