Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login


Ask a question about 'Shaizar'
Start a new discussion about 'Shaizar'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Shaizar, Shayzar or Saijar was a medieval town and fortress in Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, ruled by the Banu Munqidh dynasty, which played an important part in the Christian
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Muslim
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 politics of the crusades.

Early history

Located on the Orontes to the northwest of Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

, Shaizar was an ancient town, known as Senzar or Sezar in the Amarna letters
Amarna letters
The Amarna letters are an archive of correspondence on clay tablets, mostly diplomatic, between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom...

. To the Greeks
Hellenistic Greece
In the context of Ancient Greek art, architecture, and culture, Hellenistic Greece corresponds to the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the annexation of the classical Greek heartlands by Rome in 146 BC...

 it was known as Sidzara, but the Seleucid dynasty
Seleucid dynasty
The Seleucid dynasty or the Seleucidae was a Greek Macedonian royal family, founded by Seleucus I Nicator , which ruled the Seleucid Kingdom centered in the Near East and regions of the Asian part of the earlier Achaemenid Persian Empire during the Hellenistic period.-History:Seleucus was an...

 renamed it Larissa, after the town of the same name
Larissa is the capital and biggest city of the Thessaly region of Greece and capital of the Larissa regional unit. It is a principal agricultural centre and a national transportation hub, linked by road and rail with the port of Volos, the city of Thessaloniki and Athens...

 in Thessaly
Thessaly is a traditional geographical region and an administrative region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey....

 from which many colonists came.

It reverted to its earlier name under the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and was known as Sezer under the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...


Shaizar fell to the Arabs in 638 and frequently passed from Arab to Byzantine control. It was sacked in 969 by Byzantine emperor Nicephorus II, and was captured by Basil II
Basil II
Basil II , known in his time as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from his ancestor Basil I the Macedonian, was a Byzantine emperor from the Macedonian dynasty who reigned from 10 January 976 to 15 December 1025.The first part of his long reign was dominated...

 in 999, after which it became the southern border of the Byzantine Empire and was administered by the Bishop of Shaizar.

It was lost to the Banu Munqidh in 1081 when 'Ali ibn Munqidh bought it from the bishop. The Byzantines besieged it numerous times after this but failed to recover it.

The Crusader
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

s, on their arrival in this area, rendered the city's name in Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 as Caesarea. This name had not been used in any earlier period, and was derived from the Crusaders mistakenly identifying this city as being Caesarea Mazaca, a place renowned in Christian history as the home of Saint Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor . He was an influential 4th century Christian theologian...


It is no longer inhabited today, but the ruins are known as Saijar in modern Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...


Munqidhite Shaizar

The Munqidhites controlled territory east of Shaizar, across the al-Ansariyah mountains
Al-Ansariyah mountains
An-Nusayriyah Mountains also known as al-Alawiyeen Mountains , both names refer to the Alawi sect which has traditionally lived there, and the Syrian official name, Coastal Mountain Range ; are a mountain range in northwestern Syria running north-south, parallel to the coastal plain...

 to the Mediterranean coast, from the coastal cities of Latakia
Latakia, or Latakiyah , is the principal port city of Syria, as well as the capital of the Latakia Governorate. In addition to serving as a port, the city is a manufacturing center for surrounding agricultural towns and villages...

 in the north to Tortosa
-External links:* *** * * *...

 in the south. During the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

, the emir assisted the crusaders passing through his land, giving them horses and food and other provisions. After the crusade it was bordered by the crusader Principality of Antioch
Principality of Antioch
The Principality of Antioch, including parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria, was one of the crusader states created during the First Crusade.-Foundation:...

 and was subject to raids from both Antioch and the County of Tripoli
County of Tripoli
The County of Tripoli was the last Crusader state founded in the Levant, located in what today are parts of western Syria and northern Lebanon, where exists the modern city of Tripoli. The Crusader state was captured and created by Christian forces in 1109, originally held by Bertrand of Toulouse...

; in 1106 the emirs Murshid and Sultan defeated William-Jordan
William II Jordan was the Count of Berga beginning in 1094, the Count of Cerdanya beginning in 1095, and Regent of the County of Tripoli beginning in 1105....

 of Tripoli, and in 1108 and 1110 they had to bribe Tancred
Tancred, Prince of Galilee
Tancred was a Norman leader of the First Crusade who later became Prince of Galilee and regent of the Principality of Antioch...

 of Antioch to leave. In 1111, Tancred, Baldwin I of Jerusalem
Baldwin I of Jerusalem
Baldwin I of Jerusalem, formerly Baldwin I of Edessa, born Baldwin of Boulogne , 1058? – 2 April 1118, was one of the leaders of the First Crusade, who became the first Count of Edessa and then the second ruler and first titled King of Jerusalem...

, and Bertrand of Tripoli besieged Shaizar
Battle of Shaizar (1111)
In the Battle of Shaizar in 1111, a Crusader army commanded by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem and a Seljuk army led by Mawdud ibn Altuntash of Mosul fought to tactical draw but a withdrawal of Crusader forces.-Background:...

 for two weeks, but returned home when the army of Mawdud of Mosul cut off their access to food and water. Tancred nevertheless built a castle nearby, Tell ibn Ma'shar, in order to keep Shaizar under close watch.

When Ridwan of Aleppo died in 1113, Shaizar was attacked by his Hashshashin
The Assassins were an order of Nizari Ismailis, particularly those of Persia that existed from around 1092 to 1265...

 supporters. Shaizar participated in Ilghazi
Najm ad-Din Ilghazi ibn Artuq was the Turkish Artukid ruler of Mardin from 1107 to 1122.- Biography :His father Artuk was the founder of the Artukid dynasty, and had been appointed governor of Jerusalem by the Seljuq emir Tutush. When Artuk died, Ilghazi and his brother Sökmen succeeded him as...

's campaign against Antioch in 1119. When Baldwin II of Jerusalem
Baldwin II of Jerusalem
Baldwin II of Jerusalem , formerly Baldwin II of Edessa, also called Baldwin of Bourcq, born Baldwin of Rethel was the second count of Edessa from 1100 to 1118, and the third king of Jerusalem from 1118 until his death.-Ancestry:Baldwin was the son of Hugh, count of Rethel, and his wife Melisende,...

 was taken captive by the Ortoqids outside Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 in 1123, he was held at Shaizar until his release the next year; as part of his ransom he was forced to give up his daughter Ioveta
Ioveta of Bethany
Ioveta was the fourth and youngest daughter of King Baldwin II and Morphia of Melitene. She was the princess of Jerusalem.- Names :...

 as a hostage, who was also held at Shaizar until her own ransom in 1125. As Shaizar was a friendly state, Baldwin was allowed to visit his daughter there, but Shaizar was also friendly to its Muslim neighbours, and in 1125 was incorporated into the territory of Bursuq of Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

. When Zengi
Imad ad-Din Zengi was the atabeg of Mosul, Aleppo, Hama and Edessa and founder of the Zengid dynasty, to which he gave his name.-Early life:...

 succeeded in Mosul in 1127 and claimed Aleppo as well, Shaizar recognized his suzerainty.

In 1137, Byzantine emperor John II Comnenus arrived to impose Byzantine authority on Antioch, and promised Raymond of Antioch
Raymond of Antioch
Raymond of Poitiers was Prince of Antioch 1136–1149. He was the younger son of William IX, Duke of Aquitaine and his wife Philippa, Countess of Toulouse, born in the very year that his father the Duke began his infamous liaison with Dangereuse de Chatelherault.-Assumes control:Following the...

 a principality consisting of Shaizar, Aleppo, Homs
Homs , previously known as Emesa , is a city in western Syria and the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is above sea level and is located north of Damascus...

, and Hama
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria north of Damascus. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria—behind Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs—with a population of 696,863...

 if Antioch was returned to the Empire. In April the Byzantine army besieged Shaizar, but Raymond and Joscelin II of Edessa did not assist the emperor, and Zengi soon arrived to relieve the fortress in May. The emir preferred Byzantine control to Zengid, and offered to recognize John as his overlord. Neither John or Zengi ever really enforced their authority there and Shaizar remained independent.

The emirate lasted until the enormous earthquake of 1157, during which the citadel collapsed, killing almost the entire family, who had assembled there to celebrate a circumcision
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

. The only survivors out of the whole family were the wife of emir, and the emir's nephew Usamah
Usamah ibn Munqidh
Majd ad-Dīn Usāma ibn Murshid ibn ʿAlī ibn Munqidh al-Kināni was a medieval Muslim poet, author, faris , and diplomat from the Banu Munqidh dynasty of Shaizar in northern Syria...

, who was on a diplomatic mission to Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. The Hashshashin then took control of the ruins, and they were defeated by the crusaders in 1158, but disputes forced the crusaders to abandon the siege. Nur ad-Din Zangi then incorporated the remains into his territory and rebuilt the city. Shaizar was destroyed again by an earthquake in 1170 and the remnants were taken by Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 in 1174. They were rebuilt again, but in 1241 the city was sacked by the Khwarezmians. The Mameluk sultan Baibars
Baibars or Baybars , nicknamed Abu l-Futuh , was a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt. He was one of the commanders of the forces which inflicted a devastating defeat on the Seventh Crusade of King Louis IX of France and he led the vanguard of the Egyptian army at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, which marked...

 captured and rebuilt it in 1260.

Description of the city

Referring to the crusader siege of Shaizar in 1157, William of Tyre
William of Tyre
William of Tyre was a medieval prelate and chronicler. As archbishop of Tyre, he is sometimes known as William II to distinguish him from a predecessor, William of Malines...

"The city of Shayzar lies upon the same Orontes river which flows by Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

. It is called by some Caesarea, and by them is believed to be the famous metropolis of Cappadocia
Kayseri is a large and industrialized city in Central Anatolia, Turkey. It is the seat of Kayseri Province. The city of Kayseri, as defined by the boundaries of Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality, is structurally composed of five metropolitan districts, the two core districts of Kocasinan and...

 over which the distinguished teacher St. Basil
Basil of Caesarea
Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor . He was an influential 4th century Christian theologian...

 once presided; but those who hold this view are in grave error. For that Caesarea is a fifteen days journey or more from Antioch. This city is in Coelesyria
Coele-Syria , or Cœle-Syria or Celesyria, traditionally given the meaning 'hollow' Syria, was the region of southern Syria disputed between the Seleucid dynasty and the Ptolemaic dynasty. Rather than limiting the Greek term to the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, it is often used to cover the entire area...

, a province which is separated from Cappadocia by many intervening provinces. Nor is the name Caesarea, but rather Caesara. It is one of the suffragan cities belonging to the patriarchate of Antioch
Latin Patriarch of Antioch
The Latin Patriarch of Antioch was an office created in 1098 by Bohemund, founder of the Principality of Antioch, one of the crusader states....

. It is very conveniently situated. The lower part extends along the plain, while upon the heights of the upper part is the citadel, fairly long in extent but rather narrow. It is well fortified, for in addition to its natural defenses, the river protects it on one side and the city on the other, so that it is entirely inaccessible."

Fulcher of Chartres
Fulcher of Chartres
Fulcher of Chartres was a chronicler of the First Crusade. He wrote in Latin.- Life :His appointment as chaplain of Baldwin of Boulogne in 1097 suggests that he had been trained as a priest, most likely at the school in Chartres...

, an eyewitness to the siege in 1111, did not know the classical Roman or Greek name for the site, and noted that the Turks called it "Sisara", "but the inhabitants of the country commonly call it 'Chezar'."

Life in the city

Regarding the citizens, William says they "had but little knowledge of arms; their attention was devoted almost entirely to trading." Many of them were Christians, whom William considered to be suffering as slaves under their Muslim rulers, but the Munqidhites seem to have been tolerant lords and both Christians and Muslims of various sects lived there peacefully.

A very lively account of life in Shaizar, and various other places in the Muslim world, was written by the prince Usamah, titled Kitab al-I'tibar
Kitab al-I'tibar
Kitab al-I'tibar is the autobiography of Usāmah ibn-Munqidh, an Arab Syrian diplomat and soldier of the 12th century.Usāmah's autobiography is part of the literary genre known as adab which aims at "pleasing, diverting and titilating" its readers, as well as instructing them. Philip K...

, and gives great insight in Muslim life in the 12th century.

The Munqidhite emirs are shown as patrons of literature, who delight in hunting and other sports, as well as delighting in making war on and negotiating peace with their Christian and Muslim neighbours.

Emirs of Shaizar

  • Sultan ibn 'Ali ibn al-Muqallad ibn Munqidh al-Kinani (1081)
  • 'Izz ad-Dawla Sadid al-Mulk ibn Munqidh (1081-1082)
  • 'Izz ad-Dawla abu-l-Murhaf Nasr ibn Munqidh (1082-1098)
  • Majd ad-Din abu Salamah Murshid ibn 'Izz ad-Dawla ibn Munqidh (1098-1137; the Latin Machedolus, father of Usamah)
  • 'Izz ad-Din abu-l-'Asakir Sultan ibn 'Izz ad-Dawla ibn Munqidh (1098-1154, uncle of Usamah)
  • Taj ad-Dawla Nasr ad-Din Muhammad ibn abu-l-Asakir ibn Munqidh (1154-1157)


  • Steven Runciman
    Steven Runciman
    The Hon. Sir James Cochran Stevenson Runciman CH — known as Steven Runciman — was a British historian known for his work on the Middle Ages...

    , A History of the Crusades, vol. II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 1952
  • The Damascus Chronicle of the Crusades, Extracted and Translated from the Chronicle of Ibn al-Qalanisi
    Ibn al-Qalanisi
    Hamza ibn Asad abu Ya'la ibn al-Qalanisi was an Arab politician and chronicler in Damascus in the 12th century.He descended from the Banu Tamim tribe, and was among the well-educated nobility of the city of Damascus...

    . H.A.R. Gibb, 1932 (reprint, Dover Publications, 2002)
  • William of Tyre
    William of Tyre
    William of Tyre was a medieval prelate and chronicler. As archbishop of Tyre, he is sometimes known as William II to distinguish him from a predecessor, William of Malines...

    , A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, trans. E.A. Babcock and A.C. Krey. Columbia University Press
    Columbia University Press
    Columbia University Press is a university press based in New York City, and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by James D. Jordan and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the fields of literary and cultural studies, history, social work, sociology,...

    , 1943
  • Philip K. Hitti, trans., An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades; Memoirs of Usamah ibn-Munqidh (Kitab al i'tibar). New York, 1929
  • Fulcher of Chartres
    Fulcher of Chartres
    Fulcher of Chartres was a chronicler of the First Crusade. He wrote in Latin.- Life :His appointment as chaplain of Baldwin of Boulogne in 1097 suggests that he had been trained as a priest, most likely at the school in Chartres...

    , A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, trans. Frances Rita Ryan. University of Tennessee Press, 1969

External links