Sunday 29 October 2017

Balhae Empire of Korean Peninsula

Balhae (698–926) was a kingdom in present-day Manchuria and northern Korean peninsula. Balhae was established by former Goguryeo(a kingdom of Korea) general Dae Jo-yeong in 698 after his defeat of the Tang Chinese at Tianmenling. Balhae's original capital was at Dongmo Mountain in modern Dunhua, Jilin Province.

Bridge of Tumen City, Jilin Province, China

Dae Joyeong, also known as King Go, established the state of Balhae, reigning from 699 to 719. He was the was the first son of general Dae Jung-sang of Goguryeo. He claimed himself the King of Jin in 698. He established his capital at Dongmo Mountain in the south of today's Jilin province, and built Dongmo mountain fortress, which was to become Jin's capital. Dae Jo-yeong died in 719, and his son Dae Muye assumed the throne. Dae Jo-yeong was given the posthumous name "King Go."

Lake Dongmo

Dae Mu-ye, also known as King Mu (r. 718–737), was the second king of the Balhae in Korean peninsula. Balhae's aggressive expansion triggered frictions with Tang China, Silla of southern Korea, the Khitans, the Xi, the Göktürks, and several Mohe tribes. In 727, Balhae began to dispatch embassies to Japan to avoid international isolation. Japan, whose relationship with Silla was strained, welcomed them as a revival of Goguryeo. Dae Muye was succeeded by his son Dae Heummu in 737.

A temple in Japan

King Mun of Balhae (r. 737–793),was the third and longest-reigning ruler of the Balhae in Korean peninsula, the successor state to Goguryeo. During King Mun's reign, diplomatic ties with Tang Dynasty China were established.  He also strengthened relations with Silla, which unified the Korean peninsula to the south of Balhae. Balhae also increased diplomacy and trade with Japan.

Tang China Painting

Dae Won-ui (died 793) (r. 793) became the 4th ruler of the kingdom of Balhae. However, upon ascending the throne the king showed a jealous and violent temper. In 793, he was slain by his ministers. The son of Goeng-rim was chosen to replace him, becoming King Seong. The most notable accomplishment that was done during his reign was the moving of the capital to Sanggyeong. Gang of Balhae (died 809) (r. 794–809) was the sixth to rule the king of Balhae.

Within 10 years of death of King Gang of Balhae (died 809), the state was ruled by three kings who were Jeong of Balhae(r. 809 - 812 CE) , Hui of Balhae(r. 812 - 817 CE) and Gan of Balhae(r. 817 - 818 CE) who ruled as the 7th, 8th and 9th king of Balhae. The tenth King Seon reign (r. 818–830), Balhae controlled northern Korea, Northeastern Manchuria and now Primorsky Krai of Russia.

Primorsky Krai

During King Seon's 12-year reign, he dispatched embassies five times to Japan, which was aimed at establishing diplomatic relations as well as increasing trade between the two kingdoms. The trade routes established across the Sea of Japan (East Sea) led to Balhae becoming one of Japan's most important trading partners. He died in 830 and his grandson Dae Ijin succeeded to the throne.

Sea of Japan(East Japan)

Dae Ijin (r. 830–857) was the 11th king of Balhae, a Korean kingdom from AD 698 to 926, occupying parts of Manchuria and northern Korea. The king made efforts for the consolidation of a centralized administrative system and organized a standing army. He was succeeded by Geonhwang of Balhae (r. 857-871) who sent a few missions to Japan and Tang China.

Dae Hyeonseok, was the 13th king of Balhae who reigned from 871 to 894. He was succeeded by Dae Wihae (r. 894–906 CE) who was succeeded by Dae Inseon  (r. 906–926 CE). This was a time of momentous change for Balhae and its neighbors. In China, the Tang faced serious crises caused by the An Lushan Rebellion and many other uprisings. Finally, Zhu Wen established the Later Liang, marking the end of the Tang dynasty in 907.

King Dae concentrated on increasing defense capabilities against the threat of new powers and was in favor of allying with the Goryeo Dynasty. However, the interference of the nobility did not allow that to happen. The Khitans' growing power in Manchuria was the most threatening to Balhae. Eventually, they invaded Balhae in 925 and the capital Sanggyeong (also known as Holhan fortress) fell after ten days. In 926, Balhae came to an end, while many of the nobility fled to Goryeo.

After the fall of Balhae and its last king in 926, it was renamed Dongdan by its new Khitan rulers. Restoration movements by displaced Balhae people established Later Balhae, which was later renamed to Jeongan. Dae Gwang-hyeon, the last crown prince, and much of the ruling class of Balhae sought refuge in Goryeo, where they were granted land and the crown prince included in the royal household by Wang Geon, thus unifying the two successor nations of Goguryeo.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Caliphate of Cordoba

The Caliphate of Córdoba was a state in Islamic Iberia along with a part of North Africa ruled by the Umayyad dynasty. The state, with the capital in Córdoba, existed from 929 to 1031. The region was formerly dominated by the Umayyad Emirate of Córdoba (756–929).

Mezquita of Cordoba, Spain

Abd-ar-Rahman I became Emir of Córdoba in 756 after six years in exile after the Umayyads lost the position of Caliph in Damascus to the Abbasids in 750. Intent on regaining power, he defeated the area's existing Islamic rulers and united various local fiefdoms into an emirate. Raids then increased the emirate's size; the first to go as far as Corsica occurred in 806.

Abd-ar-Rahman I

Abd al-Rahman I was succeeded by Hisham I as second ruler of Cordoba who ruled from 788 to 796 CE. al - Rahman was succeeded by Al-Hakam I who ruled from 796 until 822 CE. Al-Hakam spent much of his reign suppressing rebellions in Toledo, Saragossa and Mérida. The uprisings twice reached Cordoba. In 818 he crushed a rebellion led by clerics in the suburb of al-Ribad on the south bank of the Guadalquivir river.

Roman Bridge of Cordoba

Abd ar-Rahman II  was the fourth Umayyad Emir of Córdoba from 822 until his death in 852 CE. He engaged in nearly continuous warfare against Alfonso II of Asturias, whose southward advance he halted (822–842). In 837, he suppressed a revolt of Christians and Jews in Toledo. He issued a decree by which the Christians were forbidden to seek martyrdom, and he had a Christian synod held to forbid martyrdom.

Statue of Alfonso II of Asturias

Abd ar-Rahman II was succeeded by Muhammad I of Córdoba who ruled as Umayyad emir of Córdoba from 852 to 886 CE. He was succeeded by his son al-Mundhir ibn Muhammad I in 886 CE. He died in 888 at Bobastro, possibly murdered by his brother Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Umawi, who succeeded him.

Ruins of Bobastro

In 911, Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Umawi, seventh emir of Cordoba signed a peace agreement with Ibn Hafsun. However, the war broke out again the following year, only to be halted by the death of Abdullah at Córdoba. The son he had designated as successor was killed by one of Abdullah's brothers. The latter was in turn executed by Abdullah's father, who named as successor Abd ar-Rahman III, son of the killed son of Abdullah.

Abd-ar-Rahman III and his court in Medina Azahara, by Dionisio Baixeras Verdaguer

The caliphate enjoyed increased prosperity during the 10th century. Abd-ar-Rahman III united al-Andalus and brought the Christian kingdoms of the north under control by force and through diplomacy. Abd-ar-Rahman stopped the Fatimid advance into caliphate land in Morocco and al-Andalus. This period of prosperity was marked by increasing diplomatic relations with Berber tribes in North Africa, Christian kings from the north, and with France, Germany and Constantinople.

Interior of Mosque of Cordoba

Abd ar-Rahman III considered himself powerful enough to declare himself Caliph of Córdoba (16 January 929), effectively breaking his allegiance to, and ties with, the Fatimid and Abbasid caliphs. His death led to the rise of his 46-year-old son, Al-Hakam II as the second Caliph of Cordoba in 961. He secured peace with the Catholic kingdoms of northern Iberia, and made use of the stability to develop agriculture through the construction of irrigation works.

Al - Hakam II

Al-Hakam II suffered a stroke near the end of his life in October 976 that curtailed his activities and may explain why he was unable to properly prepare his son for leadership. He was succeeded by his son, Hisham II al-Mu'ayad, who was 11 years old at the time and was a nominal ruler under Almanzor. The death of al-Hakam II in 976 marked the beginning of the end of the caliphate.

Medina Azahara, completed by Al-Hakam II.

The decision to name Hisham II as the 3rd caliph shifted power from an individual to his advisers. The title of caliph became symbolic, without power or influence. Hisham II was a minor at the time of his accession and therefore was unfit to rule. The Caliphate would be rocked by violence, with rivals claiming to be the new caliph. The last Córdoban Caliph was Hisham III (1027–1031). Beset by factionalism, the caliphate crumbled in 1031 into a number of independent taifas.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Republic of Genoa

The Republic of Genoa was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in north west Italy, including Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean. It began when Genoa became a self-governing commune within the Kingdom of Italy and ended when it was conquered by the French First Republic under Napoleon and replaced with the Ligurian Republic.

Modern Day Genoa

Before 1100, Genoa emerged as an independent city-state, one of a number of Italian city-states during this period. Nominally, the Holy Roman Emperor was overlord and the Bishop of Genoa was president of the city; however, actual power was wielded by a number of "consuls" annually elected by popular assembly.

Antonmaria Sauli, Bishop of Genoa

Genoa in the 12th century was one of the so-called "Maritime Republics", along with Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi and trade, shipbuilding and banking helped support one of the largest and most powerful navies in the Mediterranean. The Republic of Genoa extended over modern Liguria and Piedmont, Sardinia, Corsica, Nice and had practically complete control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Through Genoese participation on the Crusades, Genoese colonies were established in the Middle East, in the Aegean, in Sicily and Northern Africa.


Genoa's political zenith came with its victory over the Republic of Pisa at the naval Battle of Meloria in 1284, and with a temporary victory over its rival, Venice, at the naval Battle of Curzola in 1298. 

Battle of Curzola

The Black Death was imported into Europe in 1347 from the Genoese trading post at Caffa (Theodosia) in Crimea, on the Black Sea. In 1390 Genoa initiated a crusade against the Barbary pirates with help from the French and laid siege to Mahdia. After a period of French domination from 1394–1409, Genoa came under rule by the Visconti of Milan. Genoa lost Sardinia to Aragon, Corsica to internal revolt and its Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Asia Minor colonies to the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Plague Doctor

Genoa was able to stabilize its position as it moved into the sixteenth century, particularly thanks to the efforts of Andrea Doria, who established a new constitution in 1528, making Genoa a satellite of the Spanish Empire.  Christopher Columbus, was a native of Genoa and donated one-tenth of his income from the discovery of the Americas for Spain to the Bank of Saint George in Genoa for the relief of taxation on foods.

Bank of Saint George, Genoa

At the time of Genoa’s peak in the 16th century, the city attracted many artists, including Peter Paul Rubens, Caravaggio and Van Dyck. The architect Galeazzo Alessi (1512–1572) designed many of the city’s splendid palazzi, as did in the decades that followed by fifty years Bartolomeo Bianco (1590–1657), designer of centrepieces of University of Genoa.

Peter Paul Rubens

The plague killed as many as half of the inhabitants of Genoa in 1656–57. In May 1625 the French-Savoian army that invaded the Republic was successfully driven out by the combined Spanish and Genoese armies. In May 1684, as a punishment for Genoese support for Spain, the city was subjected to a French naval bombardment, with some 13,000 cannonballs aimed at the city.

Naval Bombardment

Saturday 7 October 2017

Tahirid Dynasty of Iran

The Tahirid dynasty was a dynasty, of Persian origin, that governed the Abbasid province of Khorasan from 821 to 873 and the city of Baghdad from 820 until 891. The dynasty was founded by Tahir ibn Husayn, a leading general in the service of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun. Their capital in Khorasan was initially located at Merv but was later moved to Nishapur.

Archaeology Site in Merv

In 810, Abbasid the caliph al-Amin, and his brother, Al-Ma'mun, came in conflict which each others, which later led to a civil war; in January 811, al-Amin formally began the Great Abbasid Civil War. al-Ma'mun had a small army under Tahir ibn Husayn of 4,000 - 5,000 men. Tahir was sent to confront Ali's advance. The two armies met at Rayy, on the western borders of Khurasan, and the ensuing battle (3 July 811) resulted in a crushing victory for the Khurasanis, in which Ali was killed and his army disintegrated on its flight west.

Rayy Citadel

Tahir ibn Husayn was afterwards transferred out of the public eye to an unimportant post in Raqqa. However, he was later recalled from the post, and was rewarded with the governorship of Khorasan. Tahir then began consolidating his authority over the region, appointing several officials to certain offices, including Muhammad ibn Husayn Qusi, who was appointed as the governor of Sistan.

Modern city of Raqqa 

After Tahir left for Khorasan, the governorship of Baghdad was given to a member of a collateral branch of the family, Ishaq ibn Ibrahim, who controlled the city for over twenty-five years. During Ishaq's term as governor, he was responsible for implementing the Mihna (inquisition) in Baghdad. His administration also witnessed the departure of the caliphs from Baghdad, as they made the recently constructed city of Samarra their new capital.


Tahir later declared independence from the Abbasid empire in 822 by omitting any mention of al-Ma'mun during a Friday sermon. However, he died the same night. Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun appointed Tahir's son Talha ibn Tahir to continue at his father's post. Talha's rule is mostly known for his campaigns in Sistan, another province under his rule, against the local Kharijites, who were led by a Hamza ibn Adharak. Fighting between the two continued until 828, when both Hamza and Talha died.

A fort in Sistan Province

Tahir's other son, Abdullah, was instated as the wali of Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula, and when Talha died in 828 he was given the governorship of Khorasan. Abdullah is considered one of the greatest of the Tahirid rulers, as his reign witnessed a flourishing of agriculture in his native land of Khorasan, popularity among the populations of the eastern lands of the Abbasid caliphate and extending influence due to his experience with the western parts of the caliphate.


Abdullah died in 845 and was succeeded by his son Tahir II. Tahir died in 862; his will stated that his young son Muhammad should succeed him as governor, and this was honored by the caliph. Not much is known of Tahir's rule, but the administrative dependency of Sistan was lost to rebels during his governorship. Tahirid rule began to seriously deteriorate after Tahir's son Muhammad ibn Tahir became governor, due to his carelessness with the affairs of the state and lack of experience with politic. He was governor from 862 to 873.

Ruined gates of Haozdar, Sistan

When Ishaq died in 849 he was succeeded first by two of his sons, and then in 851 by Tahir's grandson Muhammad ibn Abdallah. Abdallah played a major role in the events of the "Anarchy at Samarra" in the 860s, giving refuge to the caliph al-Musta'in and commanding the defense of Baghdad when it was besieged by the forces of the rival caliph al-Mu'tazz in 865. The following year, he forced al-Musta'in to abdicate and recognized al-Mu'tazz as caliph, and in exchange was allowed to retain his control over Baghdad.

Mosque in Baghdad

Oppressive policies in Tabaristan, another dependency of Khorasan, resulted in the people of that province revolting and declaring their allegiance to the independent Zaydi ruler Hasan ibn Zayd in 864. In Khorasan itself, Muhammad's rule continued to grow increasingly weak, and in 873 he was finally overthrown by the Saffarid dynasty, who annexed Khorasan to their own empire in eastern Persia.

Violent riots plagued Baghdad during the last years of Abdallah's life, and conditions in the city remained tumultuous after he died and was succeeded by his brothers, first Ubaydallah and then Sulayman. Eventually order was restored in Baghdad, and the Tahirids continued to serve as governors of the city for another two decades. In 891, however, Badr al-Mu'tadidi was put in charge of the security of Baghdad in place of the Tahirids, and the family soon lost their prominence within the caliphate after that.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Almoravid Dynasty of Morocco

The Almoravid dynasty was an imperial Berber Muslim dynasty centered in Morocco in North Africa.The dynasty was established around 1040 CE and was founded by Abdallah ibn Yasin. The empire was spread across parts of modern day Algeria. Western Sahara, Mauritania, Portugal and Spain.

Morocco Pavilion at Epcot

In the early 1050s, the a tribe called Lamtuna, under the joint leadership of Yahya ibn Umar and Abdallah ibn Yasin—soon calling themselves the al-Murabitin (Almoravids)—set out on a campaign to bring their neighbors over to their cause. From the year 1053, the Almoravids began to spread their religious way to the Berber areas of the Sahara, and to the regions south of the desert. After winning over the Sanhaja Berber tribe, they quickly took control of the entire desert trade route, seizing Sijilmasa at the northern end in 1054, and Aoudaghost at the southern end in 1055.

Yahya ibn Umar was killed in a battle in 1057, but Abdullah ibn Yasin, whose influence as a religious teacher was paramount, named his brother Abu Bakr ibn Umar as chief. Under him, the Almoravids soon began to spread their power beyond the desert, and conquered the tribes of the Atlas Mountains. The Berghouata resisted,a Berber tribal confederation. Abdullah ibn Yasin was killed in battle with them in 1059, in Krifla, a village near Rommani, Morocco.

Atlas Mountains

Abu Bakr married a noble and wealthy Berber woman, Zaynab an-Nafzawiyyat, who would become very influential in the development of the dynasty. In 1061, Abu Bakr ibn Umar made a division of the power he had established, handing over the more-settled parts to his cousin Yusuf ibn Tashfin as viceroy. Ibn Umar kept the task of suppressing the revolts that had broken out in the desert.

Yusuf ibn Tashfin had in the meantime brought the large area of what is now known as Morocco, Western Sahara, and Mauritania into complete subjection. In 1062 he founded the city of Marrakech. In 1080, he conquered the kingdom of Tlemcen (in modern-day Algeria) and founded the present city of that name, his rule extending as far east as Oran.

One of the gates of Marrakech

According to Arab tradition, the Almoravids conquered the Ghana Empire sometime around 1076 CE. In 1086 Yusuf ibn Tashfin was invited by the Muslim taifa princes of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula to defend their territories from the encroachment of Alfonso VI, King of León and Castile. In that year, Yusuf ibn Tashfin crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to Algeciras, and defeated Castile at the Battle of az-Zallaqah (Battle of Sagrajas).

Strait of Gibraltar

After friendly correspondence with the caliph at Baghdad, whom he acknowledged as Amir al-Mu'minin ("Commander of the Faithful"), Yusuf ibn Tashfin in 1097 assumed the title of Amir al Muslimin ("Commander of the Muslims"). He died in 1106, when he was reputed to have reached the age of 100. The Almoravid power was at its height at Yusuf's death including Balearic Islands.

Balearic Islands

In 1108 Tamim Al Yusuf defeated the Kingdom of Castile at the Battle of Uclés. Yusuf did not reconquer much territory from the Christian kingdoms, except that of Valencia; but he did hinder the progress of the Christian Reconquista by uniting al-Andalus. In 1134 at the Battle of Fraga the Almoravids dynasty was victorious and even succeeded in slaying Alfonso I of Aragon in the battle.

Alfonso I of Aragon

Three years afterwards, under Yusuf's son and successor, Ali ibn Yusuf, Sintra and Santarém were added, and he invaded Iberia again in 1119 and 1121, but the tide had turned, as the French had assisted the Aragonese to recover Zaragoza. In 1138, Ali ibn Yusuf was defeated by Alfonso VII of León, and in the Battle of Ourique (1139), by Afonso I of Portugal, who thereby won his crown. Lisbon was conquered by the Portuguese in 1147.

Zaragoza, Spain

Ali ibn Yusuf was defeated by the combined action of his Christian foes in Iberia and the agitation of Almohads (the Muwahhids) in Morocco. After Ali ibn Yusuf's death in 1143, his son Tashfin ibn Ali lost ground rapidly before the Almohads. In 1146 he was killed in a fall from a precipice while attempting to escape after a defeat near Oran.

Tashfin ibn Ali's two successors were Ibrahim ibn Tashfin and Ishaq ibn Ali, but their reigns were short. The conquest of the city of Marrakech by the Almohads in 1147 marked the fall of the dynasty, though fragments of the Almoravids, continued to struggle in the Balearic Islands, and finally in Tunisia.

Sahel, Tunisia
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