Even if exceptional, still more revealing of the climate of suspicion created by the crusades were the reprisals against Christians. When Jocelyn of Courtenay, prince of Edessa, laid siege to Aleppo in 1123 and pillaged the surrounding region, the kadi and the ra'is - the leaders of the community - insisted that the Christians of the city repair at their own expense the Muslim cemeteries and places of worship desecrated by the Franks. The two bishops of the city, one a Melkite, the other a Jacobite, reluctant to be lumped together with the Franks, refused to make good the damage done. The kadi responded by transforming four of the city's six churches into mosques and by driving out the bishops.

The crusades of the thirteenth century were primarily directed against Egypt, with particularly severe consequences for the Copts. During the 121819 siege of Damietta by the armies of the Fifth Crusade the Muslim authorities imposed heavy additional taxation on the Copts of Egypt, who were also the objects of mob violence. They became the scapegoats of collective fears. At Alexandria the church of St Mark was destroyed on the pretext that it might serve as a landmark for the enemy In the 1240s the kadi 'Uthman al-Nabulusî found the numbers of Copts in the administration offensive and composed a violent denunciation of their misdeeds.32 But the appearance of the Mongols in the mid-thirteenth century was to aggravate still more this climate of suspicion, which the crusades had helped to create.

The consequences of the Mongol conquest

Following the kuriltay of 1206, where the Mongol chiefs recognised Genghis Khan as Great Khan or supreme leader, the Mongols embarked upon a series of conquests which made them masters of an immense empire extending from China to the gates of Europe. In the Near East their conquest of Iraq, the fall of Baghdad and the execution of the last Abbasid caliph in 1258, the invasion of Syria in 1260, and the creation of the Ilkhanate of Iran by Hülegü, one of Ghengis's grandsons, profoundly altered the religious and political situation. Eastern Christians were happy to ally with the invaders, who for their part favoured the Christians. A ruling of Genghis Khan insisted on the equal standing of all religions and established the principle of honouring all religious leaders. In addition, Nestorian Christianity had had a presence in inner Asia for centuries, notably among the Kereit, and its influence penetrated the Mongol court through the agency both of the Christian wives of the Great Khans and of

32 C. Cahen, 'Histoires coptes d'un cadi médiéval', Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale 59 (1960), 133-50.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment