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The Fatimids and the Central Mediterranean (10th and 12th centuries)

Annliese Nef et Patrice Cressier
p. 13-28

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1The articles gathered here are the fruit of a ten-year study. Researchers who participated to varying degrees and in various settings in these surveys and debates focused on several issues. Among those, at least three were recurrent : the first was to better integrate the Islamic West with research on the beginnings of Islam, then undergoing a period of renewal ; The second was to take into consideration a relatively long chronology in order to highlight the stages of the construction of a new social world and a new State ; The third was the absolute necessity to match textual sources with archaeological data in the process. While a collective seminar explored various aspects of these issues (Valérian 2011, Nef and Voguet 2011, Gilotte and Voguet, 2015), the resumption of excavations at the archaeological site of Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya under the direction of Patrice Cressier and Mourad Rammah (Cressier and Rammah, to be published) was instrumental in anchoring the questions that were gradually emerging. At the same time, the "Islamicization Process in Sicily and the Central Mediterranean" program of the French School of Rome placed Ifrīqiya, central Maghreb and Sicily at the heart of the issues explored (Ardizzone and Nef, 2014).

  • 1 Now called JIA.

2This research on the Fatimids and the Central Mediterranean was initially conceived as a forum between historians of material culture and historians of texts. In an effort to bring the editorial project to a successful conclusion, and in response to the kind encouragement of the two journals publishing these contributions today, we finally decided to combine them into two homogeneous and complementary groups, one for this REMMM issue, the other for the Journal of Islamic Archaeology1 (2.2, 2015). However, we consider the two to be parts of the project as a whole.

  • 2 Two recent symposia : Africa-Ifriqiya. Cultures of Transition in North Africa between Late Antiquit (...)
  • 3 The role of the IIS in this renewal, particularly through publication (or re-publication according (...)

3Like any collective study, it is part of a wider context marked by the renewed interest of both text-based researchers and archaeologists for the initial period of Islamic history (among them : Sijpesteijn, 2013 ; Hoyland, 2015), for the Islamization processes whatever their chronology, as well as for the Maghreb and Sicily in the High Middle Ages (Fenwick, 2013)2. Based on these three main themes, the Fatimid experience, particularly until 1050, emerges as a field of research that is at once essential, rich in useful comparisons and fast-developing for the past two decades3, a field that also benefits from the renewed investigation of the Cairo Genizah manuscripts (Goldberg, 2012 ; Rustow, 2008). The convergence between these different research undertakings becomes obvious when dynastic or doctrinal approaches are set aside to make room for the questions raised by the experimentation that characterized the Fatimid construction at its beginnings.

  • 4 Including a series of symposia, Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras hosted in L (...)

4Though seminars on the Fatimids (Pellitteri, 2008)4 are organized regularly, they rarely consider texts and archeology, architecture or art history on equal footing (with the exception of Barrucand, 1999). Yet such an approach seems absolutely essential, particularly to measure all the developments brought about by the establishment of a new order in the various regions where it was set up. This inadequacy is particularly obvious in the studies of the first part of Fatimid history, and more generally of its Maghreb years, before and after 909. We have therefore elected to focus on these aspects, and cross sources of different natures.

5Indeed, while the study of the numerous textual sources available to write the history of the Ismaili dynasty is at the heart of the current renewal and while – in spite of questions that remain unanswered – it has been partly reinterpreted for the Maghreb, art history and archeology, on the other hand, must be solicited more closely because, from the point of view of architecture, art and material culture in general, open questions largely exceed possible answers, due essentially to the extreme scarcity of fieldwork.

A history written from textual sources and questions that remain open

6The establishment and expansion of the Fatimids in the central Mediterranean, as well as the history of Fatimid lands after the Imam went to Egypt, as well as the relations between Egypt, Ifrīqiya, Sicily and the Central Maghreb, are not unexplored fields of study. Based on textual sources, they have been largely explored in recent decades. Indeed, the history of the Fatimid Maghreb, which is often referred to as a history of the Fatimids in the Maghreb (a phrasing that is not inconsequential), has been the focus of research for the period prior to 973 and the transfer of the Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya dynasty to Cairo, conducted - in chronological order - by Farhat Dachraoui (1981), Heinz Halm (1996), Michael Brett (2001) and Sumaiya Hamdani (2000) ; These studies have, at least in the case of Ifrīqiya and the Central Maghreb, laid down the chronological framework and highlighted the major evolutions and major stakes of the transition from da'wa to dawla, from a period of propaganda to that of a State, in great details, based on thorough reading of the sources.

7For the period after 973, Allaoua Amara's works on the Hammadids, and more specifically, his thesis soon to be published, shed new light on one aspect of the question (Amara, 2003). On the other hand, the Hamdunids and the Zirids have been relatively neglected since Marius Canard’s works (1957) and Hady Roger Idris’ compendium (1962). The history of the Zirids in particular appears as one of the persistent shortcomings in this ongoing renewed research.

Revolution and new State

8Along these lines, the progress made by the researchers mentioned above is remarkable. More specifically, the reasons for the period of the Ismailis and Mahdī in the Maghreb has been studied in detail and the steps leading to the seizure of power have been basically traced, though, as it were, from the point of view of the latter. However, there remain among the shadow a number of contributing causes and regional upheavals which seem critical to the success of 909 and which remain to be elucidated. A fuller explanation implies better knowledge of the end of the preceding period, a prerequisite for measuring changes induced by the transition to this new order and the domains they affected : indeed, the last two Aghlabid emirs, Ibrāhīm II and Ziyādat III, are often represented as bloodthirsty despondent brutes, but both deserve more consideration than this rather unkind assessment (Nef, 2009 ; 2011). They are also described in various sources as scholars, reformers, and State builders (especially Ibrāhīm II), which makes one wonder about the significance of the Aghlabid heritage (especially in the management and development of the territory, urban planning, etc.) during the Fatimid period. Is the Fatimid order in the Maghreb simply the fruit of the disintegration of an earlier order, or is there a restructuring of elements in order to give these new meaning ? The importance of the Aghlabid period, an issue rarely addressed since Mohamed Talbi (1966), except in the work of Fathi Bahri (2006), was again investigated in London in 2014 (see note 2) which offered researchers the opportunity to realize that the forgotten historical dynasties of the ninth century Maghreb are precisely – along with the Salihids of Nakūr and the Barghawāṭa – the Aghlabids. Moreover, it is necessary to reconsider the choice of Ifrīqiya by the Fatimids, beyond the sketchy account of their invitation by the Kutāma, reminiscent of many others in the history of the Maghreb. It is often thought to have been driven by the shortcomings of the Aghlabid government (State in crisis, Kutāma areas not controlled by the central government). But we must keep in mind that the Aghlabid State was described as a strong autonomous state with a powerful army who fought the Byzantines in Southern Italy, a matter of both legitimation and material enrichment (Nef, to be published).

9A return to the period prior to seizure of power by propagandist (dā'ī) Abū 'Abd Allāh seems necessary to systematically compare and evaluate whether revision of the history of the Fatimids, even partially, would be helpful. A look into possible parallels between their seizure of power (and the narrative that is made of it) and that of the Almoravids, even that of the Almohads (Fierro 2010, Van Staëvel, 2014), may prove useful. Comparisons should also be made between the various caliphates competing between the tenth century and the first third of the eleventh century, when the Umayyad caliphate disappeared, in contrast to the tendency to base research on regional or dynastic dimensions (without denying the remarkable progress made possible by such targeted research). It is critical to avoid confining studies to "fatimidology" and considering as specificities elements that should not be considered as such.

10The question of consistency and the real content of what is referred to as Shiism in the Maghreb and Sicily before the advent of the new dynasty is still open. The practice of taqiyya (concealment) does not make the researcher's task easy, but there are still elements waiting to be exploited. One should also question the real value of adhering to the Ismaili ideology, not only in the motivations of revolutionaries but also in the rallying of the new State.

11While the decades preceding the 909 revolution definitely require further investigation and the characteristics of this pre-revolutionary moment must be better understood, the consequences of the conquest of the Maghreb by the Fatimid armies should not be exaggerated.

A refashioned Maghreb

12Although research on the Maghreb period of the Ismaili dynasty was recently resumed, the approach has been generally one of studying the move eastward, rather than from a North African perspective. It is therefore necessary to explore the profound upheavals that affected the regional political landscape during this period. While policies implemented by movement propagandists and later by the Shiite rulers in the Maghreb, particularly against the Umayyads, have been the subject of occasional studies and more recently of a brief summary (Guichard, 2012), they deserve further analysis. They were indeed the reason for the disappearance of several political entities besides the Aghlabids as well as the emergence of new dynasties.

13First among these were the Idrissids, another Shiite dynasty well established for over a century and a half in the Maghreb al-Aqṣā when the Ismailis arrived ; they rallied the latter only partially, some branches being fiercely opposed to such rallying. Chafik Benchekroun focused his study on the character of Mūsā b. Abī l-'Afiya, a Fatimid agent known for his hatred of the Idrissids, who, in the end joined ranks with the Umayyads.

14Similarly, the Rustamids of Tāhart were among the victims of the Fatimid advance and their disappearance, prior to that of the Idrissids, was not without consequences on the entire ibadi movement in North Africa. Indeed, Ibadism began a new phase in its development and redeployed geographically. Cyrille Aillet’s research based on ibadi sources has shed a new light on this little-known history.

15Even if the new Caliphate’s policies encompassed the entire Maghreb before it was confronted with the strong Umayyad reaction in the west, a region had been the object of Ismaili attention from the late ninth century until the middle of the eleventh century – the area comprising Little Kabylie, the Aures and the Hodna mountains. The cradle of the Ismaili revolution in the Islamic West, described by them as Dār al-hijra, the area where Kutāma, the pillars of the regime, developed and also a strategic location for the protection of successive Fatimid capital cities further east, this space was the site of the foundation of M'sila entrusted to the Hamdunids, followed by the rise of the Zirids, and finally that of the Hammadids. Allaoua Amara’s work retraces the evolution of these central lands over more than a century and a half.

16Finally, Sicily’s location in the Fatimid space is very important both strategically and commercially (Bramoullé, 2014). Beyond the west-east orientation often favored by analysts of the policies developed by the dynasty on the scale of Dār al-islām, we must reflect on the north-south axis which emphasizes the importance of the dynasty’s “Italian” and Byzantine preoccupations. The Sicilian example also has the advantage of combining unfailing loyalty to the dynasty from the middle of the tenth century with autonomy under the aegis of the Kalbids. This experience preceded and, in a way, anticipated that of the Zirids, but, above all, it reversed it successfully by avoiding rupture. It challenges the recurring idea haunting the history of medieval Islam that the political delegation may be a vector for the weakening of the State, a necessary evil which, cyclically, would lead to the fall of Empires.

17More generally, the configuration of the State also needs to be examined in a new light ; indeed, the variety of political constructs ruling the Maghrebian spaces under the new Caliphate authority during the previous period raises the question of its regional structuring from its beginnings. One generally views the State as a structure built around the figure of the Imam and his administration. This idea, which was already questionable when applied to Egypt, seems to have been projected a posteriori on the Maghreb and defeats in a way the originality of the new imperial construction. This point was reflected upon by Annliese Nef with the issue of the regional delegation, constitutive from the beginning of the Ismaili State, and also by David Bramoullé who studied the example of the place reserved for the Emirate of Barqa by the Caliphate.

What scale for the Fatimid project ?

18From the Maghreb, the Fatimids’ ambitions were not fueled by the sole wish of spreading towards the east, as studies sometimes suggest. They also projected themselves into a Mediterranean space, which previous Maghreb dynasties had themselves coveted (Picard, 2015), but they undeniably did so on a different scale. The policies they carried out in the Central Mediterranean have been the focus of work by Michael Brett (1996), and especially, Jessica Goldberg (2012) based on the Genizah archives, but also David Bramoullé (2011) who compared the latter with the Fatimid sources. Finally, Yossef Rapoport and Emilie Savage-Smith (Rapoport and Savage-Smith, 2014) interpreted the contribution of a recently discovered anonymous cosmography, which underscores the full dimension and interest of a space conceived as specific, even for science.

19As part of our reflection, David Bramoullé and Dominique Valérian looked into different chronologies, issues and maritime spaces, all of which are central to the Mediterranean. They reveal very clearly the extent of the Fatimid ambitions and the means they mobilized, precisely within this geographical area, in contrast with their subsequent evolution in the Eastern Mediterranean. These two articles show both a propensity for littoralization of the spaces of power together with the dynasty’s precocious and sustained interest for the Mediterranean (expressed in particular by a significant financial commitment and by the direct involvement of high-ranking officials) and a wide variety of maritime policies developed according to the periods and means.

20Though it was part of the Islamic West and a key area in ​​the Central Mediterranean, due to its proximity to the Ifrīqiyan coast and its centrality (for control over two essential straits between the Eastern and Western basins of the Mediterranean sea), Sicily has not been subject to detailed studies relating to the Fatimid construction, with the exception of Antonino Pellitteri's brief analyses (1994, 1997). The paradox is not insignificant, given the fact that the Kalbids were often considered the pinnacle of Islamic history in the island and that, until just recently they were even thought to represent its actual beginning.

21Therefore it appears necessary to analyze the developments brought about by the Fatimid advent on a rather broad regional scale. In this way, the Central Mediterranean seems to be a relevant framework, which requires going beyond the Maghreb context and taking into account al-Andalus and Egypt, because the importance and impact of the issues related to this region prompted the development of ad hoc policies.

22All these studies must also draw on work done on the basis of material and artistic culture ; such research has been slow compared to textual surveys, in spite of new attempts in recent years.

Where archaeological milestones and artistic production are lacking

23While the subject of the revolution brought on by the collapse of the Aghlabid power and the advent of the Fatimids has been addressed in terms of political and religious history or history of institutions, research works on the material transformations that followed in Ifrīqiya and neighboring regions (territorial organization, urban network, defense systems or exploitation of natural resources) are scarce. Over the past few years, several researchers - including Mohamed Hassen – have patiently endeavored to establish a history of rural areas that includes these parameters over the long term, as well as archaeological information. The absence of archaeological digs and certain methodological limitations make it impossible to establish the detailed chronology that would be necessary to reach reliable conclusions.

24The most striking example is undoubtedly the Kairouan region itself, for which, despite the numerous works completed by Antiquity specialists, no reliable diachronic mapping of the land occupation from late Antiquity to the Aghlabid period has been published. Moreover, the study of major sites such as al-'Abbāsiya, Raqqāda or the so-called Cherichera catchments has not progressed since the 1940s or 1960s with only a few exceptions (Marçais, 1927, Solignac, 1953 ; Chabbi, 1968, Lezine 1971, Mahfoudh, 2003). In the city itself, the archaeological digs conducted at the presumed site of Dār al-Imāra, considered by some sources as viable until the arrival of the Fatimids, remain undocumented. Until now, apart from a few personal initiatives by Tunisian researchers (including S. Gragueb and T. Khechine), no archaeological monitoring of construction sites has been implemented, despite galloping urban development activity extremely destructive of archaeological substrata. The resumption of architectural studies of the great mosque may not be in sight – while the Zaytūna of Tunis has been the subject of a very illuminating work (Daoulatli, 2010) – even so, the epigraphical work of Lotfi Abdeljaouad shed a welcome new light on phases of the history of the building that were still obscure. A recent archaeological program on the site of the Caliphal city of Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya generated, despite the advanced state of degradations, new data contradicting most of the ideas previously introduced about it. The publication of these findings is in progress (Cressier and Rammah, to be published) ; Patrice Cressier and Antonio Vallejo Triano have prepared a synopsis (see JIA, 2.2, 2015) that highlights specificities by comparing them with Madīnat al-Zahrā'.

25Other sites have recently benefited from studies that served to rekindle discussions about the complex links between spatial planning, representations of power and the power’s interaction with local populations. Not far from Mahdiya, excavations conducted by Fathi Bahri at Qaṣr al-'Alīya again raised the question of the role of ribāṭ-s under the Fatimid dynasty (Bahri, 2004a, 2004b). The remains excavated by Adnan Louhichi in Mahdiya provided new lines of thinking on the functioning and symbolism of the Caliphal palace (Louhichi, 2004). Based on documentation that had been neglected for four decades, Umberto Bongianino undertook the analysis of the Ajdābiya palace and offered new hypotheses on its chronology and function that also shed light on the role given to these regions by the authorities before they moved to Cairo (see JIA, 2.2, 2015).

26We would like to be able then, to better evaluate the differences and similarities between the productions linked to the sphere of sovereignty that the Fatimids promoted in the Maghreb and those they commissioned from Egypt. Indeed, they are all too often regarded as a unique and undifferentiated aggregate in studies on luxury crafts, artifacts whose vocation is also propagandist, such as ivory objects. Silvia Armando’s analysis on the subject is quite insightful (see JIA, 2.2, 2015). In terms of material culture, the relations that existed between Cairo and Ifrīqiya, and with Sicily, once the dynasty settled on the banks of the Nile are still not clear. Did Egyptian fashions and patterns spread to Ifrīqiya and Sicily ? Are there clues showing changes in decorative archives, shapes, etc., that can be linked with certainty to an inspiration of this type ? What were the driving force and the stages of this dissemination ? Conversely, did the Maghāriba (the "Westerners" : Walker, 2008) in Egypt contribute to importing fashions and practices in the country ?

27As we attempt to better understand the action of the Fatimids in the Maghreb in general and in the Central Maghreb in particular, we are confronted with yet another challenge : the need to assess the exact weight of the Zirid governors’ dynasty, the evolution of its relations with the seat of the Caliphate in Cairo, and the reasons behind the strength of its foundation. In light of recent excavations in Ṣabra Manṣūriyya, we are indeed discovering with amazement not only the magnitude and magnificence of the work carried out after the departure of the Caliphate to Egypt but also the use by the Zirids of an architectural language as sophisticated if not more so than the language of their predecessors, and the use of a vocabulary rich in elements that are generally interpreted as supports for dynastic identification and legitimation (representations of hunting scenes and/or scenes of paradise in which the main character is probably the Ruler, emblematic animals, etc.). Less surprising but no less interesting, Ifrīqiya seems to have opened up for good to Far East imports and workshops specialized in certain luxury productions were established under the Zirid governors. Here again, the importance of the "Zirid component" in the Fatimid power needs to be studied more thoroughly than it has been until now. Lotfi Abdeljaouad’s exhaustive analysis of the many Ifrīqiya inscriptions attributable to this period highlights, with great accuracy, the erratic relations between the Fatimid caliphs settled in Egypt and their Zirid governors who had remained in Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya.

28It is worth noting that the issue raised about the Hammadids is equally challenging. How did a medium-sized State manage to create a capital city such as Al Qal'a of Beni Hammad, where luxury and innovation equaled, maybe exceeded those of the still theoretical Fatimid capital of Ṣabra Manṣūriyya ?

A little beyond the Maghreb

29We could not possibly leave al-Andalus outside the debate, for two reasons. The first is our hope that the analysis of the phenomena observed for the Umayyad Caliphate will provide us with interpretation grids for the Fatimid Caliphate, at least for the time when it was still physically present in Ifrīqiya. Some paths for exploration were suggested by Maribel Fierro (2011) in her biography of the first Umayyad Caliph of al-Andalus, 'Abd al-Raḥmān III, such as messianism shared by both dynasties.

30Information about al-Andalus, even when heterogeneous, provides a sort of "indirect image" of the Fatimid caliphate’s undertakings. The clashes and contacts that occurred between the two states took place through the south across the central Maghreb and through the north of the central Mediterranean. The Fatimid troops who fought against the Allies of Cordova for control of the Western Maghreb were, for the most part, Kutāma Berbers, and the Zirid governors of Ifrīqiya themselves derived much of their legitimacy from these conquests. As for the Fatimid currencies found in the treasures discovered in Sharq al-Andalus, they came essentially from Sicily and not from Egypt, as equally presumable at first (Domenech, 2002). This is another indication of the direct rise of this "Fatimid" Sicily in the Mediterranean trade.

31But the keys to decipher this are not always accessible. Hence, in the field of artisanal and artistic creation, the identification and progress of fatimido-zirid productions is not as easy as some may think. Attempts at specifying the origin of fabrics – a subject that finally, was not addressed in this brief assessment – or large bronzes (Azuar Ruiz, 2004 and 2012), or even ceramics, generate heated debates especially when, as is too often the case, they do not rely on archaeometry. Yet, even if they do not solve all problems, physico-chemical analyses of pastes or metals provide important arguments for these debates. This is not the case for rock crystal however ; indeed, more often than not, one can only rely on intuition to determine why, how and when certain artifacts of this type, considered (with certainty ?) as Egyptian, found their way to al-Andalus (Casamar and Valdés Fernández, 1999, Rosser-Owen, 2015, Johns and Morero, to be published).

32Concerning ceramics, Soundes Gragueb (see JIA, 2.2, 2015) uses a traditional approach, based on solid knowledge of Ifrīqiya's productions, to address the issue of the origin of the dishes adorning the facades of religious buildings in central and northern Italy (whose chronology, based on western objects, is a source of strong controversy among researchers working on al-Andalus (Azuar Ruiz, 2005, Berti, García Porras, 2006), as well as Sicily (Arcifa, Bagnera and Nef 2012 and Arcifa and Bagnera 2014). For their part, Fabio Ardizzone, Elena Pezzini and Viva Sacco readjusted the dating of the ceramic productions of Fatimid Sicily (See JIA, 2.2, 2015), by tracing them back to the commercial networks of the time. This perspective, which takes into account the development of the port of Palermo, parallels and substantially complements the observations made by Christophe Picard (2015), David Bramoullé (2014) and Dominique Valérian on the maritime policies and activities of the Caliphate.

33We must extend our thinking beyond the sole study of artefacts. Therefore it is essential to address the question of the urban process by confronting two examples of urban foundations, especially when the process is initiated by the Sovereign and the city concerned is intended to be his capital city. Urban planning and architecture then become part of a political program, through a formal vocabulary which contributes to the construction of the regime’s identity. This method of comparison can be applied to Madīnat al-Zahrā 'and Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya, as attempted by Patrice Cressier and Antonio Vallejo (see JIA, 2.2, 2015), but it really makes more sense to include these two cities in a longer chain, together with Mahdiya, Palermo (al-Khāliṣa, Bagnera, 2013) and Cairo of course, the poorly known Aghlabid previous productions in Ifrīqiya. Madīnat al-Zāhra could be associated with al-Andalus if we had an idea of what this final Almarid foundation, which marked the end of a historical cycle, was really like. Understanding the genesis and development of these command cities helps better understand the image the Caliphate wanted to project and the means it used to control its people.

  • 5 Fatimíes y Omeyas: la pugna de los califatos y sus efectos en al-Andalus (dir. E. Manzano, CSIC, Ma (...)

34Neither the religious and political propaganda of the Fatimids in the Iberian peninsula nor the belligerent incursions and commercial contacts with al-Andalus, have a parallel in Ifrīqiya where the al-Andalus imprint is nearly inexistent in terms of material culture prior to the Almohads and their Hafsid relatives. Despite this inherent imbalance, they receive growing attention from Spanish researchers, as evidenced by several ongoing research programs5.

35When it comes to al-Andalus, the scope of research thus extends from the central Mediterranean almost to the Atlantic, yet it should also include the links between the Shi'ite caliphate and Saharan Africa, which links were established largely through the central Maghreb. Indeed, one of the components of the conflict between the Fatimids and the Umayyads in the Western Maghreb was the need to control the final stages of the Western Trans-Saharan routes, where gold and African slaves transited ; the fact that, in this conflict, Sijilmāsa and Nakūr were equally important as Fes is a good indicator. Even if we have proof that all the imported furniture found in the excavations of the caravan city of Awdagust came from Fatimid Ifrīqiya, how should we interpret it ? Was it due to the actual presence of Kairouan merchants or was it the result of long-distance exchanges through intermediaries ? Was this “interest in Africa” continuous ? One may indeed wonder, in light of long-term reproduction, based on physical analyses, of the proportions of African gold and Egyptian gold in the caliphate’s coined monies (Guerra, 2000).

36Fatimid history and policies in the central Mediterranean - meaning the land and sea space between Libya and the Maghreb al-Aqṣā, including the Ionian, Tyrrhenian and Southern Adriatic seas – were essential for the history of the Fatimid Empire. It is not a natural space, but a well-constructed space, the fruit of successive policies, structured by dense relations of various natures. From this point of view the central Mediterranean was not so much the site of the preliminary phase of the great Fatimid ambition as it was the prerequisite to the very existence of the Fatimid empire until the middle of the eleventh century. To better understand this, it is essential to extend research to include the Aghlabid period and the State that was then set up, as well as the role of the Maghreb and Sicily. This period of the 10th-12th centuries should also be interpreted as a defining moment in the history of the Maghreb, and in particular in the history of the State in the Maghreb. This dossier is therefore an invitation to continue research in this direction.

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1 Now called JIA.

2 Two recent symposia : Africa-Ifriqiya. Cultures of Transition in North Africa between Late Antiquity and Early Medieval (Rome, February 28 - March 2 2013) and The Aghlabids, cf. Anderson et al., to be published.

3 The role of the IIS in this renewal, particularly through publication (or re-publication according to scientific criteria) and translation of sources is important but not exclusive: Halm, 1996; Brett, 2001; Walker, 2002.

4 Including a series of symposia, Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras hosted in Louvain and Ghent since 1995 which led to publication of seven volumes.

5 Fatimíes y Omeyas: la pugna de los califatos y sus efectos en al-Andalus (dir. E. Manzano, CSIC, Madrid) ; Al-Andalus, los reinos hispanos y Egipto: arte, poder y conocimiento en el Mediterráneo medieval. Redes de intercambio y cultura visual (dir. S. Calvo Capilla and J. C. Ruiz Sousa, Universidad Complutense, Madrid) ; Califats d’Occident, joint program Casa de Velázquez-CSIC (Madrid) [coord. P. Cressier et M. Fierro].

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Annliese Nef et Patrice Cressier, « The Fatimids and the Central Mediterranean (10th and 12th centuries) », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 139 | juin 2016, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2017, consulté le 24 mars 2018. URL :

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Annliese Nef

Université Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne. UMR 8167 « Orient et Méditerranée »

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Patrice Cressier

Ciham Cnrs UMR 5648

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