The Almohads at the Conquest of Constantinople

No items found.

s early as 1190CE, the Almohad Sultan Yaqub al-Mansur would try to take Constantinople, almost 300 years before the Ottoman Empire. It is a little-known (and especially forgotten) fact of history, which the Moroccan historian Abdelhadi Tazi will bring up to date in his book Intermediary in Morocco's International History published in 2001. This article is based on an excerpt from the original Turkish-Ottoman book Kitab Al Bahriye, (Navigation book) by the Ottoman historian Piri Reis, dating from the era of Suleiman the Magnificent (16th century).

At its source: A strategic alliance

In the 12th century, war raged between Muslims and Christians. Faced with the various crusades carried out in the Near East and Spain, two major Muslim powers will conclude a strategic alliance. The Almohad Caliphate, under the reign of Yaqub al-Mansur, established a partnership with Sultan Saladin's Ayyubid Egypt. The Ayyubid ambassador Abderrahman Ibn Moukid was sent to negotiate the treaty, which would lead to the recognition of the caliphal authority of the Almohad dynasty and the sending of Almohad soldiers and boats in support of the Sultan. Very quickly, several Almohad battalions were sent to support Egyptian positions in the Near and Middle East:

  • Attacks on crusader positions in the Middle East
  • Thwarting the expedition against Mecca in 1182
  • Protecting Rābigh from cross attacks
  • Capture of Jerusalem in 1187

This last event will be followed by a repopulation of the city by several Moroccan and Maghrebi populations in what is now called the Moroccan district.

Moroccan district of Jerusalem between 1898 and 1946.

The Almohads on their way to Constantinople

According to Piri Reis, an Almohad battalion also participated in other attacks against Christians in the North of the Near East in order to take Constantinople. With a fleet of more than 1000 boats, the soldiers met from Marrakech and decided to leave for the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

These boats sketched the Mediterranean periphery, strolling from city to city trying to approach Constantinople. The Ottoman historian tells us the Almohad army razed several Greek islands such as the island of Ios (southern Greece) whose traces of plunder were still visible in 1528, 400 years later.

Island of Lesbos (or Moria).

The Almohad troops succeeded in reaching the island of Moria (Lesbos) near the Turkish coast and decided to spend the winter there. However, Piri Reis' explanations stop here; we can extrapolate to the fact that the Almohads did indeed try to besiege Constantinople without succeeding, and would have descended to the south to attack the Christian fortresses of present-day Lebanon.

No items found.

Why Constantinople?

The Almohad authority, ambitioning to become the Caliphate of the Muslim world, undertook several military and political actions to hold this title. One of the clauses of the Almohad-Ayyubid partnership treaty imposed by the former was the recognition of the Sultan as Caliph. Once this clause was accepted, Yaqub al-Mansur sought greater legitimacy by protecting Mecca and by massively supporting the recovery of holy sites such as Jerusalem. The size of the fleet that left for Constantinople clearly shows the Sultan's desire to obtain sufficient legitimacy to be recognized in the Muslim world.

The taking of Constantinople is also of a religious nature in view of the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him):

Certainly, the city of Constantinople will be conquered. What an excellent commander was the one who would conquer it, and what an excellent army was his.

As such, many other Muslim rulers tried to take the Byzantine capital such as Umar Ibn Abd al Aziz, Ishām Ibn Abd al-Malik, Mahdi Abbāsi, and Harun Al-Rashid.

It also shows the strong link that united the Almohad and Ayyubid dynasty after the call of Saladin, a link that made it possible to repel the various Christian crusades, offering the first Ayyubid Sultan the title of “Knight of Islam” and to the third Caliph Almohad the title “Al Mansour” (The Victorious), a link that could have changed the face of the Mediterranean.

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
Références :