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Prophesies of “end of time”: In “Rainbow over the Levant”

Note:  This article is a section of chapter 17 of  the fiction novel “Rainbow over the Levant”: The Exile

In 1400, Timorlank was closing in with his Tatar hordes toward Northern Syria. The Viceroy of Aleppo was frantic and sent messengers after messengers for directions from his master the Mameluk Sultan of Egypt.  He requested reinforcements and financial support but Cairo did not stir.

The Viceroys of Damascus and Hama were of no help either, and as completely in the dark as to the policies of the Sultan of Egypt.  The agents of the First Emir of Lebanon reported that Egypt’s position was not to intervene at this stage either financially or militarily and to concentrate its resources in Egypt for the time being.

It seems that the advisers to the Sultan reminded his Majesty that these hordes, like the Moguls before them, never ventured into Egypt, and most of the time they retreat after capturing Damascus. They also reminded the Sultan that when Holago the Mogul decided to advance to Palestine a century and a half ago the Mameluks defeated him easily in 1260 at two major battles.

These counselors assured the Sultan that the Mameluks would repeat the previous military feats if Timorlank dared advance toward Palestine with his already exhausted forces and stressed on the facts that the previous Fatimide and Ayubid dynasties had deteriorated and their hold on power had begun to decline when they had tried to stretch their dominions into Iraq.

The Mameluk’s Viceroys in Damascus and Hama decided not to put up a fight against the Tatars and invested their time in hoarding as much money and riches as they could gather and flee in due time.  Aleppo was destroyed and Timorlank entered Damascus in 1401 without a fight and transferred all its remaining artisans to Samarqand, his Capital, within a year.

Prophesies of the end of time

There were other factors accounting to this social uneasiness, apathy and helplessness.  Any society facing changes in its structural order is usually ripe to the cyclical apocalyptic prophesies of the ultimate end of the World.  The Levant (people living in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine) had already experienced one such depressing mood during the lifetime of the First Emir and twice in the previous century, with a slight delay of such rumors since they were emanating from Europe.

The Fatimide dynasty in the 11th century reigned in Egypt and claimed its right to the Caliphate of the Moslems by proclaiming the imminent coming of a disappeared Imam. The decline of the Crusaders’ hold on the Levant, and lack of subsequent infusions of men and financial support, combined with the occurrence of pests or plagues prompted one of these cataclysmic beliefs within the Levant Crusaders.

The other period happened when news of the Mogul invasion were imminent and the fact that indeed Holago erased the Capital Baghdad in 1258.

In the mid 14th century, society remembered the plague that devastated Aleppo half a century before, a catastroph which added to the fear of an imminent recurrence of a Tatar invasion led by Timorlank toward Syria.  These apocalyptic prophesies were shared by both Christians and Moslems.   the Shiaa Moslems would preach the coming of either the 6th disappeared Imam or the 12th Imam to unite the Moslems to some kind of victory and the Christians would rely on the eschatology of Christ returning and reigning for one thousand years over a peaceful and happy World before the end of time would take place.

Antichrist finger pointing, or which power was represented by Satan, was convenient and successful in fomenting pockets of extremist sects within each religion.  Actually, a century later, with the Renaissance upheaval in Europe, Luther was able to establish his religious Reforms by capitalizing on the fears spreading in Europe of the coming of the end and using the advancing Ottoman armies toward Vienna as the sign of an angry God punishing the Christians for following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church who forgot the Word of God.

After the devastation of Aleppo, the First Emir realized that his stay might induce Timorlank into driving a hard bargain over the Levant; he determined that his high profile in the region was a liability to the Levant.  He nevertheless ordered Gergis to join Ibn Khaldoun’s mission waiting to meet with Timorlank encamping around Damascus and to try reaching an agreement that would spare the Levant from further distresses.

Ibn Khaldoun was the famous 14th century Arabic North African author of “History of Civilizations” and he met with Timorlank camping outside Damascus and made him promise not to exact his vengeance on the population; a promise that Timorlank never kept.  Most of the craftsmen and merchants had evacuated Damascus and fled to Lebanon and Egypt while the remaining craftsmen were denied exiting this city after the hordes of Timorlank sacked it and would be transferred to Samarqand the Capital of the Tatar.  In disgust at his helplessness and the inaction of Cairo the First Emir decided to travel overseas for an extended period until the political situation was stabilized.

Although the societies in Syria, Lebanon and part of Palestine suffered economically and organizationally, the Mameluks in Egypt retained their cohesion and managed to survive another century before they were defeated militarily by the ascending Ottoman Empire in 1516.

Rainbow over the Levant

Expansion toward Palestine (continue 17)

The Viceroy of Safad in Palestine was feeling the heat and the approaching demise of his reign: he could no longer expect any fresh reinforcement from the Sultan of Egypt or any financial support because he was by tradition next to be replaced when a new Sultan would come to power.

Thus, the Viceroy of Safad engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the Levant government for a trade-off,  an infusion of direct financial aid to him personally in return for the right of the Levant government to collect taxes in the coastal region extending from Beirut south to Acre.

The Viceroy of Safad expected the same deal as ratified with the Viceroy of Tripoli five years ago but finally had to settle for 15% of the previous year’s collection.  The Sultan of Egypt recognized that peace and stability to his reign would best be served by a strong and honest leader in the Levant who never shirked on his deals and paid the tribute on time.

The Sultan figured that consecrating Antoun as the official Viceroy of Safad would strengthen his hold on the Levant by direct communications and obedience.

It would have been more natural for the First Emir Antoun to obtain the Viceroy-ship of Tripoli because Mount Lebanon was within the jurisdiction of Tripoli, but high politics was never the art of creating manageable responsibilities. Consequently, in addition of the Viceroy ship of Safad of Northern Palestine the Levant was also unofficially enjoying an implicit hegemony on the domains of both the Viceroys of Damascus and Tripoli.

Chapter 12

Administration of an intricate Nation

In the ten years since the success of the insurgency movement, the new nation of the Levant expanded from Homs and Tartus (North West part of current Syria) down to Galilee and Acre (North of Palestine) in the coastal southwestern shore.

The Eastern mountain range of the Bekaa Valley formed the eastern border of the new nation. The Bekaa Valley was the fertile land and the bread basket for the whole region.  The nation had about 400 kilometers of coastal shoreline with an average depth of 100 kilometers.  The area of the nation expanded more than 50 times immediately after the insurrection,to about 40,000 square kilometers. The mountainous eastern borders were defensible and the northern borders could be defended in many areas where the mountains were very close to the main seashore highway.

The only moot borders were in the south and the government exercised policies of the most favored kingdoms with in the southern kingdoms and Egypt. In order to alley any sense of fear from the Egyptian Monarch, policies of commercial and economic cooperation and steady diplomatic relations were established.

Actually, the populations under the formal authority of the government of the Levant were enjoying complete self determination and extended from Betroun to Tyr, and to the Eastern mountain chain for just a total superficies of 7,000 square miles.  The rest of the territory required the rubber stamp of the Viceroys in either Damascus or Tripoli for official documents and the indirect payment of the tributes to Cairo after being collected by the Levant government.

The Viceroy of Tripoli was still officially attached to and appointed by Cairo, but his authority was restricted to the city limit proper of Tripoli and could not raise an army or dispatch his guards outside the city limits.  Any Viceroy would have been glad to rule over a well delimited territory, but Mount Lebanon was like a magnate pulling over the population from the three neighboring Viceroys’ territories.

The government of the Levant had to respond accordingly and assume very intricate internal policies and continual time consuming negotiations with the official sovereigns.

In order to administer this Swiss cheese like amalgam of territories the Levant had to set up four administrative divisions in the finance ministry where tax collected would be disbursed either directly to Cairo or indirectly through the other two Viceroys in Tripoli and Damascus.  These endeavors were much trouble and sometimes intractable, but controlling the collection and disbursement of money was the critical mean against raising substantial armies by the neighboring Viceroys without the direct funding from the Sultans of Egypt or Turkey.

Since the Sultan of Egypt required a certain amount of tribute according to the traditional system, the remaining tax collected from the newer tax system reverted to the Levant Treasury.

First Emir Antoun learned quickly that in order to enhance the economy in one of his provinces he would have to lower the tax break in that province so that capital and investment would flock to it at the detriment of the higher tax break provinces.  He learned that the changing of tax breaks had to be done slowly, allowing long periods of stability and assimilation and also that this financial tool had to be adopted moderately and judiciously so that no suspicion of punishment might be conjectured.

 The internal security had three administrative divisions, one for the coastal cities, one for Mount Lebanon and the third for the territories not directly under the jurisprudence of Mount Lebanon proper.  Even the department of defense had two separate divisions, one for Mount Lebanon with a standing army not to interfere outside its borders and the other division for the auxiliary army in the territory not formally part of Mount Lebanon; the auxiliary army was responsible in assisting the internal security outside Mount Lebanon.

First, the First Emir decided that no visible army concentrations would be placed within 10 kilometers of the city limit proper of Tripoli, Damascus or Safad.

The soldiers of the auxiliary army would wear the same attire as the internal security forces outside Mount Lebanon as a face saving scheme to the respective Viceroys; the smaller but numerous army centers in the auxiliary territories were a mixture of army and internal security forces with the implicit main task of gathering intelligence and pacifying the populace with prompt interventions in securing security and justice.

For the southern region neighboring Egypt a unified center for coordinating intelligence services between the army and the internal security forces was decreed, firmly consolidated and established in Tyr.

Basically, every ministry had separate budgets for Mount Lebanon and the auxiliary territories which were self administered but centrally controlled.




November 2022

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