Tous les articles par Sébastien Garnier

Tuscan sources and late medieval Libya: an exploration

المصادر التوسكانية وليبيا في أواخر العصر الوسيط: استكشاف

by Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi (English) and Sébastien Garnier (Arabic)

Tuscan sources and late medieval Libya: an exploration

المصادر التوسكانية وليبيا في أواخر العصر الوسيط: استكشاف

Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi (CNRS/Orient&Méditerranée UMR 8167)

Tuscan sources and Late Medieval Libya: an exploration

What do we mean by Late Medieval Tuscany?

Until the Middle Ages, the history of Tuscany as a whole region can be evoked, starting with Etruria of the Etruscans. But in the Middle Ages, the rise of towns dissolved the notion of regionalism. The medieval Commune was the main political organization of the towns in northern and central Italy which, although theoretically part of the Holy Roman Empire, were de facto independent, and controlled the surrounding countryside. The first objective of this Communes was to give themselves autonomous rules by directly exercising the functions of government in a context of a strong economic development from the 11th century on. The most powerful ones could have an army, elect a local government, mint money, and exercise internal and external policies independently. The emperor was willing to concede extensive autonomy in exchange for the support of the communes in his fight against the pope. Some of the Communes expanded and became states. This was the case of Florence.

The marquisate of Tuscany, in which Florence was located, belonged to the kingdom of Italy, itself a constituent part of the Germanic Roman Empire, and the Florentines were under the influence of the emperor’s representatives. They enjoyed the weakness of the empire through the conflicts with the papacy, to emancipate themselves in the twelfth century and, like many other cities in Tuscany such as Siena, Lucca or Pisa citizens, they took their affairs into their own hands. So the history of Tuscany became the history of its city-states, and progressively Florence ensured its domination over its neighbors.

Florence’s territorial expansion increased greatly during the last two thirds of the 14th century. The Florentine Republic changed from a classical city-state to a regional state, controlling a vast territory, which it sought to expand and consolidate further. By 1420, the Florentine state had tripled in size and the new conquests represented more than 60% of its territory.

The most important septs for our purpose were the annexation of Pisa in 1406, and then the acquisition of two ports that gave finally to Florence a direct access to the sea in 1421: the port of Pisa (Porto Pisano) and the port of Leghorn (Livorno). If before Florence relied on Pisan infrastructures to trade in the Mediterranean area, after 1421 it became autonomous and began its own maritime expansion. In 1434, the Medici family became master of the city.

In 1532, Alexander of Medici was appointed first Duke of the Republic of Florence by the Pope. Then his cousin, Cosimo, undertook the development of a powerful navy and increased the territories of the duchy, with the annexation of the Republic of Siena in 1554. Cosimo was elevated to the status of Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569 by the Pope, unofficially ending the duchy of Florence to make way for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which extended progressively its sovereignty over the whole Tuscany, a territory roughly corresponding to the current Italian region of the same name.

What about Tuscany and Libya ?

From the 12th century onwards, despite persistent signs of mutual aggression, the merchant cities of northern Italy and the Maghreb developed their relations in the direction of their economic interests. The rise of those trading cities as Genoa, Pisa, Venice and Florence had brought them to the position of centers of naval, military and economic power, in a position to intervene extensively in the Mediterranean area. The development of shipbuilding and trading fleets offered means of transport to connect more distant coasts. For Florence, it relied mostly on the Pisan fleet. At the same time, commercial techniques were developed through trade associations (that allowed to share the costs and profits of large-scale maritime trade), through insurance systems (to limit the risks of navigation on the most dangerous routes) and through the appearing of large merchant companies, mostly for Florence, which were established through representatives in the major European and Mediterranean trading centers.

The sources we have for Tuscany regarding Libya are thus mainly linked to this commercial boom and expansion in the Mediterranean. They come from the merchant circles that dominated the political structures of the various communes and republics. I will mainly focus on sources concerning the cities of Pisa, Florence and Prato. I will offer you a non-exhaustive overview of the sources we have, presented in a typological manner: first the official documents, then merchant ones and finally more literary sources. I will sometimes go away from Tuscany to compare with documents from other merchant cities of the Italian peninsula.


The peace and trade treaties that were negotiated between Muslim states and merchant cities interrupted the existence of a permanent state of war by declaring a truce limited only to a certain number of years. They provided a legal framework for activities. For Latin merchants, trading within Muslim states was only really possible under the banner of a “nation”, through negotiations, embassies and mutually agreed regulations. 

Treaties allowed relations that remained fragile due to the long distance between the signatories, mutual aggression through warlike expeditions or piracy, or disrespect for local customs. However, maintaining a climate of good understanding was essential for the smooth running of business. Embassies were thus multiplied not only for the purpose of negotiating new agreements, but also in the context of incidents. The embassy initiative, as the commercial initiative, was almost exclusively taken by the Latin powers.

The treaties granted to merchants they covered numerous advantages. A key aspect was the security and protection of goods and people. The guarantees extended to the entire stay on land and during the travel in African waters. Freedom of transaction was granted, with Latin merchants remaining masters of their commercial operations. 

A second aspect dealt more with franchises and exemptions through the setting of customs taxes, jurisdiction over shipwrecks, damage, the property of deceased Christians and general police regulations. Finally, a third aspect concerned the conditions of residence. The granting of a peace and trade treaty implied also the assignment of a fondouk in which Christian merchants could reside, an implicit recognition of the consular institution under whose authority the Christian community was placed. Over these community structures, the Latins exercised full authority, controlling the entries. Treaties were regularly repeated on this basis.

Not all Christian nations enjoyed the same trading conditions, nor the same history of relations with the Maghreb countries. Italians and Catalans formed groups, often rivalling each other. Relations between the Italian states and the Maghreb were the earliest and most regular with Pisa, since they lasted from 1133 to 1397; but the North African sultanates also established lasting relations with the Venetians, Genoese, people from Provence, Catalans and Majorcans.

What about Libya?

Four documents concerning Pisa refer to Tripoli.

1 => In the first one, dated 23rd April 1181, Ubaldo, archbishop of Pisa, the consuls, the councilors and the people of Pisa ask the Almohad caliph Abu Ya`qub Yusuf for the release of the Pisans captured in Tripoli and the return of their ship.  

[Michele Amari, I diplomi arabi del R. Archivio fiorentino, Florence, Le Monnier, 1863, p. 8 and 269]

Hinc est utique, quod magnificentiae vestrae aperimus, quod cum quidam nostri cari cives de Sicilia cum carico frumenti ad Tripolim venirent, tempestate maris et vi ventorum compulsi, ad portum dictum Macri devenerunt; ibique, aqua deficiente, et cum pro ea aurienda irent, Barbarosi non permiserunt eos aquam aurire, neque deportare, nisi prius eis de frumento venderent. Cumque inviti eis de frumento venderent, galea vestra de Tripoli armata nocturno tempore venit: quod nostri cives videntes, et timentes et excogitantes eam esse galeam maelefactorum, in barcam se receperunt, et Tripolim devenerunt. Galea vero, cum navi civium nostrorum capta, ad Tripolim rediit; et predicti cives nostri abubec sceca Tripolis rectore, in carcere missi sunt; ibique, ut audimus, fame et siti et nuditate pereunt.

“We write to you, God help you, and secondly, from the city of Pisa, God preserve you, how a ship of our merchants and people of our territory and jurisdiction, having loaded grain on the island of Sicily and sailed to the city of Tripoli, which God defend, was driven by the winds onto the shores of that city, and (the sailors) being short of water, disembarked to draw some; but the local people would not allow it until after they had sold a little grain. In the midst of this, a corvette, armed by the captain and prefect of the city, came from Tripoli, took and robbed the sailors and seized all the goods that were in the ship. Some of those who survived on the usciara [barge] and reached Tripoli by dint of rowing, presented themselves to the governor, who had them all seized and stole as much grain and money as they had left.”

This document provides information at three different levels:

– first: on maritime dangers. We are at the end of the 12th century and relations between the Latin states and the Maghreb are not yet fully framed by the treaties that will develop massively in the 13th century. So, Acts of piracy were still numerous on both sides.

– second : the naval capacity of the Governor of Tripoli, able to send a ship against the Pisans

– third : the wheat trade from Sicily to Tripoli. Pisan merchants transported indeed wheat and intended to sell it on the Tripoli market.

2 => The second document, dated end of August 1234 is a peace and trade treaty granted to Pisa by the Hafside sultan Abû Zakariyâ Yahyâ. We only have the Latin version, which says that Pisans will have fondouks on different commercial places of the Sultanate, like they have in Tunis. It will in Bugia, Mahdia, Gabes, Sfax and Tripoli.

[Michele Amari, I diplomi arabi del R. Archivio fiorentino, Florence, Le Monnier, 1863, p. 293]

Et debent aptari fonticum eorum de Buzia (Bejaia), et quando volunt facere rationem, sit eis factan et debent habere fonticum unum bonum, et debet fieri eis secundum usum Tunis, similiter in Africa (Mahdia), et Capsi (Gabes), et Farsi (Sfax), et Tripoli.

3 => The third document, dated 9th August 1264, is a peace and trade treaty granted to Pisa by the Hafside sultan Abû `Abd Allah Muhammad al-Mustansir. We only have the Italian version, which says almost the same, as this treaty aims to renew the agreements of the previous one. So Pisans, as in Tunis, will have same privileges in Bona, Mahdia, Gabes, Sfax, Tripoli, and elsewhere. 

[Michele Amari, I diplomi arabi del R. Archivio fiorentino, Florence, Le Monnier, 1863, p. 299]

De lo uso come in Tunithi (Tunis).

Et che a Buona si debbia tenere et fare a voi quello uso che este in Tunithi, et in quello medesmo modo. Et similiantemente si debbia fare ad voi in Affricha (Mahdia), et in Cappisi (Gabes), et in Isfacchixi (Sfax), et in Tripoli, et in tucte l’altre terre, secondo che in Tunithi (Tunis).

4 => The fourth document, still the same kind, dated 14th September 1313, is a peace and trade treaty granted to Pisa by the Hafside sultan Abd al-Wahid Zakariya ibn al-Lihyani. We have the arabic version. The article 20 says that Pisans shall have in Bona, a fondouk specially appointed for their lodging, in which no other Christians shall dwell with them. The same customs shall be in force the same as in Tunis, and likewise in Gabes, Sfax and Tripoli.

[Michele Amari, I diplomi arabi del R. Archivio fiorentino, Florence, Le Monnier, 1863, p. 91]

If we have a quick look on treaties granted to Genoese, Catalans and Venetians, we find more or less the same king of references to Tripoli, as a dynamic trading place inside the Hafside sultanate, where Latin merchants were established and were conducting their businesses, with the same advantages they had in Tunis.

But for Venice, we have more.

On the 9th of June 1356, Venetians concluded special agreements with the emir of Tripoli and Djerba, Ahmed Ibn-Mekki. Preserved in Latin in the Venetian archives. This agreement contains traditional clauses found in most treaties. 

[Louis de Mas Latrie, Traités de paix et de commerce et documents divers concernant les relations des chrétiens avec les Arabes de l’Afrique septentrionale au moyen âge: recueillis par ordre de l’empereur et publiés avec une introduction historique, 1865, p. 222-228]

What else does it tell us?

The major object of the treaty concerns the salt trade and the exploitation of the sebkhas of Rā’s al-Makhbaz. The treaty settled the equivalence of the measures of salt between the two states, the price of the exploitation of the salt lakes and the various operations (transport by camels to the port, load on the ships). The treaty provide also information on the customs tariffs applicable in the ports of Tripoli, Gabes, Sfax and the islands of Djerba and Kerkennah. We were in the middle of the 14th century just after the reauthorization by the papacy of the trade with Mamluk Egypt, which gave Tripoli an important role on the road to Alexandria.

The diplomatic correspondence between Venice and the emir of Tripoli in the following years shows a notable interest in this destination but also difficult relationships. 

In a letter of 1358, we learn that a shipowner from Venice wanted to obtain the return of his goods arbitrarily seized by the emir. He threatened to take reprisals against his subjects, despite the existence of a treaty [Mas Latrie, p. 228-230]

In 1362, the Doge of Venice sent a messenger to the Emir to complain about the repeated denials of justice against the Venetians and to buy back several subjects of the Republic held captives despite the treaty [Mas Latrie, p. 230-231]


I will go on with the official documentation and focus now on another kind: the itineraries of galleys.

As I said in the introduction, Florence had a direct access to the sea in 1421 through the acquisition of the port of Pisa (Porto Pisano) and the port of Leghorn (Livorno). Then the Republic began its own maritime expansion. On the model of the Venetians mude, Florence set up convoys of merchant ships with fixed itineraries. 

The Florentine government was also keen to establish a shipping line to serve the Maghreb ports. Concessions were granted by the Sultan of Tunis as early as the negotiations of 1421, with the aim of making a stop in Tunis on the way to Alexandria. In 1442, the conductors of Florentine galleys frequenting Catalonia and Sicily were allowed to travel to Barbary. However, it was not until 1447 that the Barbary lines were really established.

=> itinerary of the 1447 deliberations

Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Consoli del Mare, 3, f° 78v. to 79v.

Barberia alta. 

Allo andare può fare queste schale :

Parte di Porto Pisano,








Di ritorno può fare le medesime schale excepto Salerno, et più queste : Civitavechia, Talamone.

=> itinerary of the 1467 deliberations 

Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Consoli del Mare, 4, fascicule 5, fol. 2v. & fol. 3r 

Barberia alta. 

All’andare può fare queste schale :

Parte di Porto Pisano,








Di ritorno possino fare le medesime schale excepto Salerno, e più Civitavechia, Thalamone.

Then this system of fixed lines was progressively abandoned at the end of the 15th century.

On the Venetian side, the muda di Barberia was created to increase and stabilise trade relations between Venice and the port cities of the African coast, the Sultanate of Granada and the Crown of Aragon. Departing from Venice, the muda headed for the ports of Aragonese Sicily and once it had stopped at Syracuse it sailed to Tripoli, Gerba, Tunis, Bejaia, Algiers and Oran, then from here it sailed to Malaga in the Sultanate of Grenada and then stopped in Spain in Valencia and Tortosa. Established on 10 December 1436, it was decommissioned in 1533, remaining operational for almost a century.

The Trafego muda also made a stop in Tripoli. It was established in 1460, stopped in Tunis  and skirted Africa as far as Alexandria, arriving in Beirut and Modone.

[V. Baby-Collin, S. Bouffier, S. Mourlane éd., Atlas des migrations en Méditerranée. De l’Antiquité à nos jours, Arles, Actes Sud, 2021, p. 30.]


Merchant manuals

They were called pratica di mercatura and aimed to describe markets. So they are an inexhaustible source of information on the various trading places and their relative goods, measures, weights and currencies, on the distances to be travelled from one to another and on the routes connecting them, on the taxes and duties to be paid, and they were full of advice on navigation and travel. 

The best known is that of the Florentine Francesco Pegolotti, which he wrote in the 1340s. His work is based on his own experience as a merchant and on various local documents (price lists, regulations) that he had at his disposal. No autograph copies of the book have survived. The oldest copy dates from 1472 and was reproduced by another Florentine merchant, Filippo Frescobaldi, which shows how much these books circulated in merchant circles. This type of document is attested for other European commercial places outside Tuscany such as Venice, Barcelona or Ragusa (nowadays Dubrovnik) in the sixteenth century; it was most certainly a document produced and kept within companies engaged in long-distance trade on multiple markets.

Link to Pegolotti’s manual

What kind of information may we find about Libya?

Pegolotti wrote a very small chapter on Tripoli, after the one on Tunis. It also contains information on Djerba.

The Tripoli chapter is linked to the wheat trade. Wheat is in fact the only product mentioned in the paragraphs devoted to the Tripolitan market, which Pegolotti also relates to Sicily and gives the taxes on this cereal. All the evidence points to the fact that this was an export from the south of Italy to supply the Tripolitan market.

We find first references to units of weight in Tripoli, to measure wheat (grano).

Then the taxes on wheat. Diritto di mercantia che si paga a Tripoli

Then equivalences with the measures of different places in Sicily. Come il peso e la misura di Tripoli torna in più terre, e quelle con Tripoli, e prima con Messina, con Palermo e colle piaggie

In the vision of the different writers of manuals, there is unitary conception of the region from Tripoli to Bugia which is also found in the Venetian manuals. A vision that we find in the treaties and that is also present in literary sources. If Pegolotti does not give a lot of measures for that region, a venetian manual, the one of Zibaldone da Canal specifies that the measure of weight of Collo, Jijel, Bugia is the same, and that the cantara of Susa, Mahdia, Kabes, Sfax and Tunis od the same as the one of Tunis. Zibaldone also write that in Tunis and in the whole Barbary, that is to say from Tripoli of Barbary to Bougie are spent and circulate these currencies which are made in Tunis. It thus links the geographical definition of the region to this unitary monetary space, confirming that the monetary system is an important element in the merchant representation of space.

[Alfredo Stussi ed., Zibaldone da Canal. Manoscritto mercantile del sec. XIV, Venice, 1967]

Another manual, written by Florentine merchants later in the 14th century, does not have a chapter on Tripoli, but give interesting equivalences, that are going in the same way. It is again about wheat and the equivalences that are given are between the weight of Tripoli and that of the wheat-sending markets in Sicily and Puglia, in southern Italy. It is the same in Pegolotti’s manual which include also equivalences with Tunis, Bugia and Tripoli in chapters dedicated to Puglia, and to the market of Barletta in Puglia.

[Cesare Ciano ed., La Pratica di mercatura datiniana (secolo XIV), Milan, 1964]

            These various pieces of information suggest that Tripoli was represented as an important hub of the grain trade for the Florentines, a suggestion confirmed by business company sources.

Business company sources

The interest of the Tuscan archives lies in the wealth of private writings, mainly account books and correspondence. These documents, which are very numerous, are scattered in different collections, mainly family collections.

In the 14th century, the three most important Florentine companies were the Bardi, Peruzzi and Acciaioli. All three had a branch in Tunis. The Bardi and the Peruzzi, from Tunis, had expanded their business to Tripoli in the 1330s. 

[Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi]

Davidsohn specifies that the Peruzzi had already a subsidiary in Tunis in 1326, managed by Lamberto Velluti, then then years later by Dato del Neri who began to expand the activities in Tripoli [Robert Davidsohn, Storia di Firenze, Florence, 1977, vol. VI, 781-804]. David Abulafia recalls that the Florentine merchant Giovanni Forzetti represented the Peruzzi company in Tripoli in 1337 [David Abulafia, « Sul commercio del grano siciliano nel tardo Duecento », dans La società mediterranea all’epoca del Vespro, XI Congresso della Corona d’Aragona (Palerme-Trapani-Erice, avril 1982), Palerme, 1983, p. 5-22]

Why going to Tripoli?

Tripoli did not offer different commodities as other ports of this area, mainly hides and skins. The only market specialization was the slave trade, which only really developed from the 15th century onwards. The presence of a representative of the Peruzzi on this market was certainly be linked to the wheat trade. The Florentines were particularly involved in the wheat trade from South Italy. Tripoli represented a market of exportation.

And it seems to go on, as revealed in a document from the Datini collection of Prato.

The archives of Francesco Datini’s business company cover the late 14th and early 15th centuries. They include about 650 account books and 150,000 merchant letters. Only 42 letters were written from North Africa and none from Tripoli. Information on the Maghreb is also found in the correspondence and account books kept in Majorca. The island of Majorca was indeed an essential relay for Latin merchants wishing to trade in the Maghreb. But for Tripoli, I just found two occurrences in letters written from Tunis, showing again that Tripoli was linked to Tunis and a secondary place.

The first one is a letter written in February 1400 in Tunis by a Florentine merchant working with the Consul of Venice, to another Florentine merchant, telling : 

« And there are outside of here in these days 2 galleys and 2 small ones, and they will meet together with 8 armed fuste (ships) between Bona (Annaba) and Bejaia; they say that they intend to go to Tripoli » [E si son fuori di qui questi dì 2 ghalee e 2 ghaleotte, e debonsi trovare insieme con 8 fuste armate tra Buona e Buggea ; dicòsi andrano a Tripoli]

[Archivio di Stato di Prato, Datini, 10172, Tunis-Florence, Giovanni di Bartolo Carocci to Manno d’Albizo degli Agli, 24/02/1400 :

The second one is a letter still writtent in Tunis, but two years later, by a pisan merchant to the director of the Datini company in Majorca telling : « There is nothing new here about merchandises, if not that in Tripoli the cafisso of grain is worth 5 golden dinars » [Altro di nuovo qui non ci è di merchantie, se non che a Tripoli vi vale lo chafisso del formento vi vale dob. 5 d’oro]

[Archivio di Stato di Prato, Datini, 121233, Tunis-Majorca, Antonio Fauglia (Pisan) to the director of the Majorcan Company Cristofano di Bartolo, 26/10/1402 :


For Florence there are many accounts of ambassadors’ travels to Egypt or to the Mediterranean Levant and travels stories of pilgrimages, but no reference concerning Tripoli or the Tripolitan or Cyrenaica area. There are also chronicles which are historical account of events arranged in chronological order. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the chronicler, so in a very subjective way. The author interprets and analyze events, and also excludes events that he does not consider relevant.  

The only one with a real universal purpose, trying to place the history of Florence in a broader chronological and geographical context is the one of Giovanni Villani, from the middle of the 14th century. Giovanni Villani was a Florentine stateman from a merchant family. He served time in prison as a result of the bankruptcy of a trading and banking company. But he is really famous for his Nuova Cronica or New Chronicles. It is 14th-century history of Florence created in a year-by-year linear format. In his Cronica, Villani described in detail the many building projects of the city, statistical information on population, ordinances, trade, education, and religious facilities. He also described several disasters such as famines, floods, fires. He died of the Black Death in 1348. Villani’s work on the Nuova Cronica was continued by his brother Matteo (from April 1348 until July 1363) and his nephew Filippo (until 1364) after his death.

The Nuova Cronica by Villani stands as a milestone achievement in the history of European chronicles.

His work is divided into twelve books. It starts with Biblical times all the way up to 1346.

In his first book, at chapter 4, he describes the second part of the world, said Africa, and of its limits.

What is interesting ?

The second part is named Africa and goes from East, from the Nile to West, to the strait of Seville and Ceuta. Africa is surrounded by what he names Uziano’s sea, which is named the Libian sea, and by the Mediterranean. Africa is divided in different parts and what is particularly interesting is the division of the Maghreb into two parts, more or less the same as described above through the merchants’ manuals : Barberia, Garbo and here, the kingdom of Ceuta.

The second occurrence that is interesting for our purpose is about an event of 1319. Villani tells that the king of Bejaia, which was previously king of Tunis before being chased out, came back to Tunis and became king again, and the one who was king of Tunis, went to Tripoli di Barberia were he made an agreement with Frederic of Sicily to help him in his war against a considerable amount of money. 

Those are the only references to Libya in his cronicle.


The focus of the sources is only on Tripoli, sometimes named Tripoli di Barberia, in order to make the difference with the other Tripoli, on eastern mediterranean coasts, named Tripoli of Syria.

There are very few information and Tripoli appears as a secondary centre

There is a consistency of the information over three centuries, on piracy and onwheat trade.

Tripoli was nevertheless integrated into the Mediterranean networks in two ways:

– for the Florentines in particular, through the wheat trade

– the Tripolitan port was also a base for navigation between Tunis and Alexandria. Tripoli took advantage of its distance from Tunis and its position on the eastern route, which made it possible to reach Egypt without necessarily passing through Tunis.

Tripoli has a common destiny with Tunis and more generally speaking Ifriqiya, of which it is an integral part in the Florentine vision of the time.


ا. توسكانا القروسطية

على منوال مدن متجاورة مثل سيينا ولُكّة أو بيزا في شمال ووسط إيطاليا تطورت فلورنسا كبلدية ذاتية الحكم خلال القرن ال 12 وأضحت شبه مستقلة بفضل دعمها للإمبراطورية [الرومانية المقدسة] في كفاحها ضد البابوية. اعتمدت لذلك على قوتها الاقتصادية التي ازدهرت انطلاقا من القرن السابق فسيطرت على أريافها. هكذا استطاعت هذه المدن أن تتحرر وتبني جيشا وتكوّن حكومة محلية وتصبح دولة في نهاية المطاف 

وهذا كان مصير فلورنسا التي شيئا فشيئا هيمنت على جاراتها. أما توسعها الإقليمي فكان ملحوظا في الثلثين الأخيرين من القرن ال 14 بحيث مساحتها ازدادت بثلاثة أضعاف إلى عام 1420 كما ترون على الخريطة ودامت الفتوحات حتى وفاة لورنزو دي ميديتشي الرائع سنة 1492

من أجل موضوعنا اليوم نذكر أخذ بيزا في 1406 ثم ضم مرسى بيزا ومرسى ليفورنو في 1421. غلب آل ميديتشي على فلورنسا عام 1434.تولى السلطة ألسندرو الأسمر “المورو” سنة 1532 كأول دوق لجمهورية فلورنسا فتابع كوزيمو سياسة الانتشار بأخذ جمهورية سيينا سنة 1554 وتحول فعلا النظام الفلورنسي إلى دوقية توسكانا الكبرى في 1569

ب. توسكانا وليبيا

كما فهمنا فيما سبق صعود تلك المدن – جنوة، بيزا، البندقية وفلورنسا – جعلها مراكز بحرية وعسكرية الأمر الذي سمح لها بالتدخل المكثف في الفضاء المتوسطي. نضيف إلى ذلك منشآت سفن وتوفر مراكب تنقل البضائع لإنماء الاتصالات بين سواحل متباعدة. في نفس الوقت تم تعزيز الأنشطة التجارية من خلال تشاركيات كالقراض وظهور شبكات واسعة وتأمينات لمواجهة الأخطار في السفر

فبالتالي المصادر التوسكانية التي تعني المناطق الليبية هي فعلا متعلقة بهذا الانتعاش. سوف تعرض حسب تقسيم تصنيفي

أولا وثائق رسمية

ثانيا وثائق تجارية

ثالثا مصادر أدبية

الوثائق الرسمية

ا. معاهدات هدنة وتبادل

أتاحت تلك الاتفاقيات فترات صلح لمدة محددة وأيضا إطارا قانونيا للنشاطات وذلك تحت مظلة الأنظمة السياسية وهكذا استطاع التجار النصارى أن يعملوا في الأوطان المسلمة. فبادر البلدان اللاتينية إلى إبرامها لإبقاء علاقات تفاهم في بيئة لا زالت حربية وبعثت هذه البلدان سفارات لتحقيق هذا الغرض.

ما كانت فوائد الاتفاقيات؟ نذكر أهمها مع أنها تختلف وفقا للظروف

تأمين الأنفار والبضائع وحرية التبادل؛

قضية الضرائب وضمان حقوق الملكية؛

شروط الإقامة وتنظيم الفندق وسلطة القنصل الذي يترأسه.

هناك 4 وثائق تخص بيزا وطرابلس 

الوثيقة الأولى مؤرخة بيوم 23 أبريل 1181 وهي عبارة عن طلب رسمي موجه إلى الخليفة الموحدي أبو يعقوب يوسف للإفراج عن بيزانيين قبض عليهم في طرابلس وأيضا لإرجاع سفينتهم 

يستخرج من قراءتها تواجد القرصنة ومقدرة والي طرابلس على إرسال مركب أو أسطول وأخيرا تصدير قمح من صقلية إلى طرابلس

الوثيقة الثانية مؤرخة بنهاية أغسطس 1234 وهي عبارة عن معاهدة بين بيزا والسلطان الحفصي أبو زكرياء يحيى وينص فتح فنادق بيزانية في بجاية، المهدية، قابس، صفاقس وطرابلس

الوثيقة الثالثة مؤرخة بيوم 9 أغسطس 1264 وهي مبدئيا عبارة عن تجديد وتثبيت المعاهدة السابقة تحت حكم المستنصر

الوثيقة الرابعة مؤرخة بيوم 14 سبتمبر 1313 وهي أيضا عبارة عن تجديد المعاهدتين السابقتين في حكم السلطان الحفصي ابن اللحياني ويذكر فيها أن فندق بونة/عنابة مخصص لهم فقط.

تقريبا نفس الملاخظات تنطبق على جنوة، كاتالونيا أو البندقية بحيث طرابلس كانت نشيطة ضمن السلطنة الحفصية

أما بالنسبة إلى البندقية فنجد وثيقة خاصة مؤرخة بيوم 9 يونيو 1356 مع أمير طرابلس وجربة، أحمد بن مكي. فضلا عن المحتوى العادي تؤطّر تجارة الملح وتفاصيل عن سبخة رأس المخبز. تعطي أيضا معلومات عن الضرائب الجارية في طرابلس، قابس، صفاقس، جربة وكركنة. هذا يقع بعد إعادة تصريح التجارة بين البندقية ومصر المملوكية فكانت طرابلس مرحلة هامة إذن وإن ظلت صعوبات بين الطرفين

ب. المسالك البحرية

كما قيل من قبل كان لفلورنسا وصول مباشر إلى البحر منذ 1421 مع السيطرة على بيزا وليفورنو. على غرار البندقية وال”مودى” خططت قوافل سفن تتبع طرقا ثابتة في مواسم محددة ومنتظمة

سنة 1421 أصبحت تونس مرحلة في السفر إلى الإسكندرية ثم سنة 1442 أُذن للمراكب الرسو في إفريقية وأخيرا سنة 1447 فُتح الخط الأول إلى بربرية كما نقرأه في القائمة المعروضة. تلاشى نظام المودى في أواخر القرن ال 15

لدينا وثيقتان: واحدة تصف المودى سنة 1447 والأخرى سنة 1467.أما المودى للبندقية (ترافيقو و بربرية) فبدأت قي ديسمبر 1436 واستمرت حتى 1533. الطريق الترافيقة أُنشئ عام 1460 وكان في مسيرته وقفة في تونس ووقفة في طرابلس

الوثائق التجارية

ا. كتب أدلاء تجار

كانت تسمى براتيكا دي مركاتورا وتوفر أوصافا غنية، دقيقة ومستوعبة للأسواق والطرق. ربما أشهرها هو دليل للفلورنسي فرانشيسكو بيقولوتي الذي ألفه بين 1335 و1343 والنسخة التي بين أيدينا لتاجر فلورنسي آخر فيليبو فريسكوبلدي وتعود إلى عام 1472 فهذا يشير إلى تداول الكتاب وقيمة النوع في المسافات الطويلة.

الباب ال 25 قصير جدا. ينظر بيقولوتي في طرابلس وجربة أيضا وذلك يلي الحديث عن تونس في الباب ال 24. يتعلق أساسا بتجارة القمح كما رأينا آنفا.

في تلك الكتب تُرى وحدة الأراضي بين طرابلس وبجاية عبر منظور النقود المشتركة أي الفضاء في عيون التجار مرسوم على حسب العملات المسكوكة.

ب. مصادر شركات

تتكون تلك الوثائق المبعثرة بين مجموعات عدة، عائلية خاصة، من دفاتر للمحاسبة ومراسلات. في القرن ال 14 أبرز الشركات الفلورنسية كانت باردي،  بيرودزي و أتشيايولي ولها فروع في تونس. فمنها طورت ال باردي وال بيرودزي عملياتها إلى طرابلس في ال 1330s. كانت المدينة سوقا لتصدير القمح من جنوب إيطاليا و وجودهم فيها يُشرح بهذا السبب

في الرسائل المحفوظة داخل مجموعة داتيني في براتو [وعددها 150,000] لا نعثر على طرابلس إلا نادرا أي مرتين وفي تقارير مركزة على تونس الأمر الذي يُري مجددا ارتباط أو تَبَعية الأولى تجاه الثانية

المصادر الأدبية

لفلورنسا كتب رحلات متعددة منها على يد سفراء ذهبوا إلى مصر والشام وحجاج أيضا يسردون مسيرهم ولكن لا يوجد مرجع إلى طرابلس ولا إلى الأراضي الليبية

لا ننسى كتب التواريخ التي ترتّب الأحداث حسب التسلسل الزمني علما بأن المؤلف يختار مادته وفقا لآرائه. من أشملها ال نووفا كرونيكا ل جيوفاني فيلاني فهو يحكي تاريخ فلورنسا على المدى الطويل وفي حيّز أوسع وألّف ال كرونيكا تاجر فلورنسي في منتصف القرن ال 14 على شكل رواية سنة بعد سنة ثم أكملها أخوه وابن أخيه حتى عام 1364

في الكتاب الأول والتاريخ هذا يتضمن 12 كتابا يصف عند الباب الرابع أفريقيا وحدودها من النيل إلى المضيق ويحيطها بحران أما تقسيم المغرب فهو إلى جزئين بربرية و قربو من جهة ومملكة سبتة من جهة أخرى

وفي مقال سنة 1319 يذكر أن ملك بجاية كان سابقا ملك تونس فطُرد منها ثم أخذها من جديد والذي كان يحكم على تونس في غضون ذلك ارتحل إلى طرابلس حيث اتفق مع فريديريكو الثالث ملك صقلية آنذاك طالبا مؤازرته بمقابل أموال طائلة فهذه المعلومة عن السلطان ابن اللحياني

في الختام

ماذا نستخلص من تلك اللمحة العامة؟

لا يوجد في الوثائق المدروسة إلا مدينة طرابلس مع أن المعلومات عنها ضئيلة وربما هذا دليل على أنها ثانوية نسبيا. فلنتذكر ثلاث نقاط قد تشكل نتائج مؤقتة

أولا: تواجد مشكلة القرصنة باستمرار 

ثانيا: دور تجارة القمح

ثالثا: أهمية طرابلس كقاعدة بحرية للسير بين تونس والإسكندرية أي كحلقة في الشبكة متوسطية

A conference by Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi on Wednesday 15 June 2022.

Wednesday 15 June 2022 (18.00 CET and Tripoli Time) is Session 8 of our monthly webinar Revisiting the History of Medieval Libya.

On Zoom, Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi (CNRS-UMR 8167 Orient&Méditerranée, Paris, France) will deliver the following talk (in Arabic and English):

Tuscan sources and medieval Libya:

an exploration

Arabic and English will be available for summaries, chat and Q&A.

Webinar link on demand at :

Feel free to spread the news.

See you there!

A view from the edge: networks of Islamic scholars between Ifrīqiya and Egypt

رؤية من الحافة: شبكات علماء بين إفريقية ومصر

by Aurélien Montel (English) and Sébastien Garnier (Arabic)

A view from the edge: networks of Islamic scholars between Ifrīqiya and Egypt

رؤية من الحافة: شبكات علماء بين إفريقية ومصر

Aurélien Montel (CIHAM UMR 5648 and Orient&Méditerranée UMR 8167)

Islamic biographical literature

بفضل حجم ضخم من نوع كتب الطبقات نعرف جماعات العلماء المسلمين معرفة وافرة وذلك الإنتاج تطور منذ وسط القرن ال 2/8 

Due to an important biographical literature (ṭabaqāt), born in the middle of the 2nd/8th century, the Islamic scholarly communities are well-known.

قالت الباحثة وداد قاضي التي درست كتب الطبقات خلال عدة عقود إنها “نعمة ولعنة” بالنسبة إلى عمل المؤرخ فهذا الأخير يستفيد دون شك من ثراء المصادر إلا أنه يعاني من كثرتها عندما يحاول أن يستخلص عبر تحليلها اتجاهات أو يرسم صورة للفترة المعنية أي يصعب عليه شق الطريق في مثل تلك الغابة. فيما يخص تاريخ ليبيا الوسيط الذي ينتشر من الفتوحات إلى أخذ طرابلس على يد الجيوش العثمانيية سنة 1551 م فلنرَه نعمةً

Working on Islamic biographical literature for decades, Wadad Kadi once said that such a documentation is “both a blessing and a curse” to any historian. Indeed, its richness is a real blessing – it becomes a curse when one tries to draw any conclusion from this amount of data. Regarding medieval Libya – which lasted almost a thousand years, from the Islamic conquest of the 7th century CE to the Ottoman conquest of Tripoli (1551) – let’s see it as a blessing!

ليس استعمال هذه المصادر بجديد فتجدون في قاعدة بيانات التي أنشأها أوريليان مونتال ( أعمال كل من حمزة أبو فارس وهو وزير الأوقاف منذ 2011 أو محمد مسعود جبران وآخرين

Such documents were already used to write the history of medieval Libya. In the Zotero database (, I took care to include the works of Ḥamza Abū Farīs, who is the head of the Ministry of Awqāf since 2011, as well as Muḥammad Masʿūd Ǧabrān and some others as well.

والاطلاع السريع على أبرز التواليف يشير إلى وزن ما يصف أوساط إقليم طرابلس بالمقارنة مع إقليم برقة كأن المنطقة الشرقية تقلّ المعلومات عنها ويصح نفس القول في فزان يعني المنطقة الجنوبية

From this quick review, one can immediately spot that these works are mostly, if not only, dedicated to Tripolitania. Despite having been considered by mediaeval authors as a very prolific district regarding ʿulamāʾ, Cyrenaica remains utterly unknown – in his Ansāb, al-Samʿānī (506/1113-562/1166) said that it was a place from where many ʽulamā’ and transmitters came (ḫaraǧa minhā ǧamāʿa kaṯīra min al-ʿulamāʾ wa-l-muḥaddiṯīn). This is also true regarding Fezzan, whose scholarly communities remains unknown.

انطلاقا من الملاحظات التمهيدية السابقة ينوي أوريليان مونتال أن يجمّع معطيات متعلقة بعلماء المناطق الليبية المذكورة من كل كتب الطبقات التابعة لدار الإسلام من الأندلس إلى خراسان الأمر الذي يؤدي إلى إظهار شخصيات وأنماط جديدة وقد يسهم في إعادة النظر إلى الأراضي الليبية أثناء الحِقَب المدروسة وخاصةً وظائفها الجغرافية بين الشرق والغرب

My point is that compiling data from all of the biographical works written in the medieval Islamic world, from al-Andalus to Ḫurāsān, can bring to light new individualities and new patterns, and contribute to reshape the way we are thinking about « Libya » in those centuries, especially its geographical functions between East and West. 

An imperial literature?

الصعوبة الأولى التي نواجهها هي الطبع السلطاني المركزي الذي يصبُغ المصنفات التاريخية والجغرافية والبيوغرافية وما نسمي “ليبيا” مقسوم آنذاك بين تأثير إفريقية وتأثير مصر فالوضع ينعكس في الكتابة بما أن المؤلفين لا يُعيرون الهوامش أَوْلَوية ولا انتباها وهم يفضلون المدن الكبرى. “أين العلماء الليبيون في التراجم القروسطية؟” هم مهملون 

ربما نلقاهم في النصوص المحلية كما هو الحال عند الإباضيين ونذكر بعضها

سير الوسياني ق 6/12

سير مشايخ نفوسة للبغتوري 599/1203

سير الشماخي ت 928/1522

علماء جربة للحيلاتي ت 1099/1688

بالإضافة إلى المخزون الإباضي هل هناك مدونات محلية أخرى؟ يجب أن نبحث عنها

Biographical literature is lying upon centralized representations of space, which are focused on states, on capital cities, on palaces, on rulers. Here we are meeting a major problem. The space that we are calling now « Libya » was parted between Ifrīqiya (Tripolitania) and Egypt (Cyrenaica), the Fezzan enjoying a real political autonomy. Following this, Libyan cities, from Ṭarābulus to Barqa, are not well represented in the medieval biographical literature : to the authors, they were far peripheries, with only a slight interest compared to the great capital cities. I looked for a long time for Libyan scholars in this medieval biographical literature, wondering where they were: the answer is quite simple, most of them were obliterated, considered too marginal to be included. 

A solution would be to look for local biographical literature: they are biographical dictionaries that were produced in the ǧabal Nafūsa, by Ibadi scholars. Like :

Siyar mašāyiḫ Nafūsa by al-Buġtūrī in 599/1202

Siyar by al-Wisyānī (fl. 6th/12th century)

Siyar by al-Šammāḫī (d. 928/1522)

ʿUlamāʾ Ǧarba by al-Ḥīlātī (d. 1099/1688)

Local biographical literature

في إقليم برقة نقابل محمدا بن عبد الرحيم البرقي وهو صاحب نصوص تاريخية وبيوغرافية. مات في الفسطاط عام 249/863 وقد اشتهر كمحدث وله سمعة جيدة في نقل مغازي الواقدي. إن ضاعت أعماله فهو مصدر من مصادر تاريخ المصريين للصدفي الذي عاش في القرن التالي أي ال 4/10

بصفة عامة تواجد عادة أدبية لجمع وتقييد تراجم محلية أمر متأكد للقاهرة والإسكندرية والصعيد ويدعم الأمل في العثور على بقايا مثيلها لإقليم برقة

في إقليم طرابلس نلتقي بأبي الحسن علي بن عبد الله بن محبوب الطرابلسي (ت 521/1127). يقول السِلَفي (ت 576/1180) في معجم السفر أن له تاريخا وجيزا لمدينة طرابلس ولعله أخذ ترجمة لزاهد طرابلسي اسمه زهرون بن حسون الحمال (ت 356/967) عن رياض النفوس للمالكي

Apart from the Ibadi literature, for now no other local text has been signalled. But to be honest, no one really looked for it. Because, for sure, they were some. About Cyrenaica, it seems that Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm al-Barqī wrote historical and biographical texts. In Tripoli, some centuries later, there lived a chronicler named Abū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī b. ʿAbd Allāh b. Maḥbūb al-Ṭarābulusī, who lived in the second half of the 5th/11th century and the first quarter of the 6th/12th.

الاحتمال كبير أننا في بداية الطريق ولا تزال وثائق متعددة تنتظرنا في مكتبات عامة وخاصة. لذلك هو من واجبنا التعرف عليها بالعيان والإمعان ونرحب بكل مساعدة في هذا الاتجاه

I have the conviction that there are more texts of these kinds, hidden in libraries that never were looked into by any scholar. All we have to do is to look for them, in every manuscript collection. For sure, many can be unearthed. 

Digital Humanities

في القرن الواحد وعشرين نقوم بتوليف المعطيات البروزوبوغرافية باستخدام أدوات تكنولوجية حديثة أي الإنسانيات الرقمية

In the 21st century, from a methodological point of view, the best way to synthesise these prosopographical data and try to draw some conclusion from it to use digital tools – the well-known “Digital Humanities”.

تم بناء قاعدة بيانات لغرض معالجة المعلومات عن علماء ليبيا في العصر الوسيط بفضل برنامج فايلماكر برو يسمح بذكر أنواع مختلفة من المعطيات مثل الأماكن التي زارها العالم أو عناوين أعماله والمصادر التي تذكره. يحتاج مشروع كهذا إلى التعاون ومساهمة الجهود

ثم تم ربط القاعدة بأداة رسم الخرائط على شكل برنامج نظام معلومات جغرافية. أهداف هذا المنهج هي جمع “رؤى من الحافة”: ما كانت وظائف المدن الليبية في منظور شامل؟ كيف كان علماؤها يسافرون ويتعاملون مع شبكات أوسع؟ 

I built it using the Filemaker Pro software.  I also connected this database to a mapping tool, with the QGIS software.

نُشرت السنة السابقة مقالة لأوريليان مونتال في مجلة Libyan Studies مبنية على تراجم أندلسية مخزنة في قاعدة بروزوبوغرافية مفتوحة (أكثر من 13,000 نفر)

Last year, I published in Libyan Studies some reflexions I built from the rich Andalusian biographical literature. Most of its data have been merged in a prosopographical database, the Prosopografía de los Ulemas de al-Andalus, which has been built by various scholars from the Escuela de Estudios Árabes de Granada, south of Spain and do contain more than 13.000 biographies. This is a very detailed database and if you don’t know it you should give it a look – access is absolutely free! 

ومن النتائج الملحوظة نعود بنقطة أساسية أن طرابلس كانت الهدف الثاني بعد القيروان للعلماء الأندلسيين في فترة الدولة الأموية القرطبية الدليل على أهميتها وعلى ضرورة تغيير نظارتنا 

The conclusion was a surprise: during the reign of the Umayyads of Cordoba (8th-11th centuries), Tripoli was the city that scholars from al-Andalus visited the most in all of the Maghrib, excepted al-Qayrawān of course.

من الجهة الشمالية ربما يكمن في الطبقات العثمانية بضعة علماء ليبيين قد سافروا إلى القسطنطينية أو بصفة عامة إلى العالم العثماني

From the North, maybe the Ottoman ṭabaqāt could help us spot some Libyan scholars that would have moved to Constantinopolis or anywhere else in the Ottoman world. A research team from Sabancı University (near Istanbul, Turkey), with Abdurrahman Atçıl, Salih Günaydın, Gürzat Kami, and Abdullah Karaarslan, is about to put online a Biographical Database for the Ottoman Ulema.

من الجهة الجنوبية بالرغم من أهمية فزان وخلفه كاني لا يوجد الكثير من المصادر وأبرزها أعمال أحمد بابا التنبكتي (ت 1027/1632): كفاية المحتاج لمعرفة من ليس في الديباج [= لابن فرحون ت 799/1397] وأيضا نيل الابتهاج بتطريز الديباج

From the South, biographical literature is also scarce before the 19th century, despite the importance of the Fazzan and, beyond, of the Kanem, in the islamization process in the Sahara. An important source would be the works of Aḥmad Bābā al-Tinbuktī (d. 1027/1632),

كان تركز كلام اليوم على المحور بين الغرب والشرق. فالطبقات المصرية لم تُستعمل بدرجة عالية ولا يزال فيها العديد من الدروس

From Ifrīqiya, I used: 

  • The Ṭabaqāt ʿulamāʾ Ifrīqiya, that were written by Abū l-ʿArab (d. 334/945) and later fixed by al-Ḫušanī (d. after 360/971)
  • The Riyāḍ al-nufūs, by al-Mālikī (d. after 460/1069)
  • The Maʿālim al-īmān fī maʿrifat ʿulamāʾ ahl al-Qayrawān, written by al-Dabbāġ (d. 700/1299) and Ibn Nāǧī (d. 839/1436)

These are well-known texts, already used by many scholars before (Hady Roger Idris, Ḥusayn Mu’nis, Nelly Amri, Fathi Bahri – or even Ḥamza Abū Farīs and Muḥammad Masʿūd Ǧabrān, regarding Libya).

From Egypt, I used: 

  • The Ta’rīḫ al-Miṣriyyīn, or Ta’rīḫ Miṣr, written by Ibn Yūnus al-Ṣadafī (d. 347/958)
  • The Muʿǧam al-safar written by Abū Ṭāhir al-Silafī (d. 576/1180), who was born in Isfahan and settled in Alexandria in the late Fatimid era, considered as one of the finest masters of his generation
  • Two continuations of this text, al-Takmila li-Wafāyāt al-naqla by al-Munḏirī (d. 656/1258) and Ṣilat al-Takmila li-Wafayāt al-naqla by al-Ḥusaynī (d. 695/1295)
  • The biographical collection dedicated by the great polygraph Aḥmad al-Maqrīzī, who was flourishing in the 15th century and died in 845/1442, al-Muqaffā l-kabīr

Whereas the texts from Ifrīqiya were already investigated by many historians, this is not the case of these – in a wider perspective, Eastern biographical collections were almost ignored by historians of the Maghrib. Much is to be learned here, as well as in the confrontation with texts from Ifrīqiya.


النقطة الأولى 

تقطبت ليبيا في العصر الوسيط ما بين إفريقية التي يعالج مؤلفوها تريبوليتانيا ومصر التي يهتم علماؤها بسيرينَيكا بينما فزان يختفي من الكتب

First of all, we can notice that Libya seems to have polarized during the Middle Ages, and parted between Ifrīqiya and Egypt.

النقطة الثانية

قد يتطابق هذا الانقسام مع اختلافات المذاهب فالغرب مالكي أساسا والشرق يتميز بالتنوع

To me it also seems that this division is also visible speaking of maḏhab.

النقطة الثالثة 

تم نبش شخصيات ذات دور فعال مثل بني المخيلي الذين كانوا من أعيان الإسكندرية في القرنين ال 6/12 و 7/13 وينحدرون من وادي مخيل في جنوب الجبل الأخضر. هناك قضايا وعيصة كاللُكّي من مرسى لُكّ أو أصول لم يُحدد موقعها حتى الآن

أبو الرضا علي بن زيد بن علي التَسارَسي الخياط وتسارَس قرية من فرى برقة

أبو عطية عطاء الله بن قائد بن الحسن بن عمر بن سعيد التميمي البُلُستي وبُلُست من أعمال برقة

At a more individual level, many interesting characters were unearthed. Among the interesting cases, is the Banū-l-Maḫīlī family. They are documented through Alexandrine literature, for they were notabilities of this city. All of them are known as “Ibn al-Maḫīlī”, from Maḫīl (min bilād Barqa), although they were all born in Alexandria.

Similar cases are documented too, like, Fayyāḍ b. Mūsā b. Ḥasan al-Lukkī, from marsā Lukk (East of Tobruq), the only one scholar known from this place according to al-Munḏīrī.

There are also scholars from unlocated places, like:

  • Abū-l-Riḍā ʽAlī b. Zayd b. ʽAlī al-Tasārasī al-Ḫayyāṭ (560/1165-641/1244), from Tasāras (qariya min qurrā Barqa).


  • Abū ʽAṭiyya ʽAṭā’ Allāh b. Qā’id b. al-Ḥasan b. ʽUmar b. Saʽīd al-Tamīmī al-Bulustī (no date), from Bulust (min aʽmāl Barqa).

النقطة الرابعة

تسمح لنا الأدوات البروزوبوغرافية برسم تطورات الأوساط العلمية في الأرياف بعيدا عن المدن الساحلية. نعتمد أيضا على اكتشاف مصادر محلية أو إقليمية لتجديد وتغيير الآراء في معرفة شبكات هؤلاء العلماء

Among the thousands of people whose life is described, there are some who can document unknown topics, here the development of scholarly communities in rural contexts, far from the coastal cities of Tripoli or Barqa.

Anṭābulus, Barqa and Fazzān in the first two centuries of the hijra: new insights from the Egyptian sources

أنطابلس، برقة وفزان في القرنين الأولين للهجرة: قراءات جديدة من خلال المصادر المصرية

by Sébastien Garnier

أنطابلس، برقة وفزان في القرنين الأولين للهجرة: قراءات جديدة من خلال المصادر المصرية

Anṭābulus, Barqa and Fazzān in the first two centuries of the hijra: new insights from the Egyptian sources

Sobhi Bouderbala (University of Tunis, Tunisia)

Sobhi Bouderbala proposes to apprehend the conquest of the Libyan space through new lenses, especially to reconsider its relations with Fusṭāṭ. The main issues we must confront when studying this period can be summarized as follows. The specialization of historiography puts the narrative under a strong Egyptian perspective, if not influence. Besides, a certain lack of documentation in Cyrenaica has to be addressed.

The seizure of the coastal area dates back to 22/643. Moreover, when we talk about Anṭābulus and Barqa, we should distinguish two different conquests. Besides, the Fazzān was taken later, under the Umayyad rule. These elements put together draw the stable picture of three Libyan provinces in the political sphere of Fusṭāṭ approximatively until the reign of Ibn Ṭulūn. A series of textual clues support this view: political appointments, taxation and military organization.

Then arises the hot debated question of Garamantes and their aftermath. Did the legendary ʿUqba b. Nāfiʿ decide to transfer the southern capital city from Jarma to Zawīla, after ransacking the former, for practical reasons, among them trade routes are not the least? What about the Lawāta (Laguatan) and the Hawwāra? Will they be equated at the end? Were both terms employed to indicate diverging religious orientations (pagan vs muslim, e.g.)?

Sobhi Bouderbala also displays numismatic evidences to tackle the toponymic interrogations. He also resorts to his strong papyrological competences (working at the moment with Khaled Youssef on recently unearthed papyri in Fusṭāṭ) to illustrate the kind of connections that bind Egypt with its occidental territories.

The reader should refer to the following article written by Sobhi Bouderbala: “Al-Ḥabasha in Miṣr and the End of the World. Early Islamic Egyptian Apocalypses related Abyssinia”, NorthEast African Studies 19/1 (2019), p. 125-138. It can be retrieved here:Ḥabasha_in_Miṣr_and_the_End_of_the_World_Early_Islamic_Egyptian_Apocalypse_Narratives_Related_to_Abyssinia

We add two publications directly dealing with the topic of his presentation:

Bouderbala, S., « De l’Égypte à la Cyrénaïque : frontières, toponymies et conquêtes aux premiers siècles de l’Islam », in M-Fr. Boussac et alii (éd.), Western borders and margins of Egypt from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, Ifao, Cairo, p. 39-55 (forthcoming). 

Bouderbala, S., “Fusṭāṭ and its Libyan hinterland in Early Islam: conquests, administration and networks between Egypt, Cyrenaica and Fazzān”, in J. Loiseau (ed.), An African Metropolis. Cairo and itss African Hinterland in the Middle Ages, Ifao, Cairo (forthcoming).

The second part of the session saw dense exchanges between the audience and the speaker.

One concern is the toponymy: what is meant by Anṭābulus and Barqa? Can we infer something from what Hafed Abdouli (who teaches Medieval History, Sfax University) has exposed in December 2021 about Ṭarābulus and Labda? Is this a geographical problem, where Anṭābulus would name the city, but not the area? Is this a historical evolution, when Barqa tends to replace Anṭābulus beginning with the 3rd/9th century?

Another topic is the presumed absence of archeological evidences in Cyrenaica for the post-Byzantine era. The MAFL (Mission Archéologique Française de Libye) has exclusively focused on the Antiquity of Cyrenaica, which proves unfortunate if ones remains with the false impression that nothing has survived from the first Islamic centuries. Our esteemed colleague Enas Bubtana (who teaches Islamic Art and Archeaology, University of Benghazi) mentions for example many inscriptions and also the reuse of buildings (churches, monasteries, fortifications). More to follow…

A conference by Sobhi Bouderbala on Wednesday 13 April 2022.

Wednesday 13 April 2022 (21.00 CET and Tripoli Time) is Session 6 of our monthly webinar Revisiting the History of Medieval Libya.

On Zoom, Sobhi Bouderbala (University of Tunis, Tunisia) will deliver the following talk (in Arabic and English): 

أنطابلس، برقة وفزان في القرنين الأولين للهجرة: قراءات جديدة من خلال المصادر المصرية

Anṭābulus, Barqa and Fazzān in the first two centuries of the hijra:

new insights from the Egyptian sources

Arabic and English will be available for summaries, chat and Q&A.

Webinar link on demand at :

Feel free to spread the news.

See you there!

The manuscripts of Dār al-Kutub al-Waṭaniyya, Benghazi.

مخطوطات دار الكتب الوطنية —بنغازي

by Afaf Kadiki and Sébastien Garnier

The manuscripts of Dār al-Kutub al-Waṭaniyya, Benghazi.

(مخطوطات دار الكتب الوطنية (بنغازي

Afaf Kadiki (Head of the Department of Manuscripts — National Library of Libya)

Sébastien Garnier (Centre Jean Pépin, CNRS, programme PhASIF)

Session V — 16 March 2022

I. The National Library of Libya / دار الكتب الوطنية ـ ليبيا

1. About the creation of the Libyan National Library /  نبذة عن إنشاء دار الكتب الوطنية الليبية

إن المكتبات الوطنية في العالم ، بغض النظر عن اختلاف تسمياتها، تعتبر ضرورة للحفاظ على التراث الفكري للمجتمعات. وقد أوصت منظمة اليونسكوبأهمية إنشائها في كل دولة. لذلك الهدف الرئيسي لدار الكتب الوطنية الليبية هوتجميع وحفظ التراث الليبي. بدأ مشروع إنشاء دار الكتب الوطنية سنة 1972 م، وأصبح المبنى جاهزا عام 1979 م. وبصدور قانون الإيداع رقم (7) لسنة 1984 م أصبحت دار الكتب الوطنية مركزا للإيداع القانوني وأصبحت دار الكتب ممثلة للوكالة الدولية للترقيم الدولي الموحد للكتاب بحصول دار الكتب على شريحة ليبيا للترقيم الدولي الموحد للكتاب من الوكالة في برلين سنة 1997 م

تقع دار الكتب في وسط مدينة بنغازي وتتكون من أربعة أدوار وعلى مساحة قدرها حوالي هكتار ونصف، بجوار ضريح عمر المختار. يحدها من الشرق السوق البلدي ومن الغرب إدارة شركة الخطوط الجوية.أقسام المكتبة: قسم الشؤون الإدارية والمالية، قسم التزويد والإهداء والتبادل، قسم الشؤون الفنية، المركز الببليوغرافي الوطني، قسم الفهارس والمكتبة الإلكترونية، قسم خدمات المستفيدين، قسم الأمم المتحدة والهيئات الدولية، وحدة المكتب الإعلامي، قسم المخطوطات والمجموعات النادرة

المساهمة في حفظ التراث العربي الإسلامي وإحيائه واقتناء مجموعات عربية وإسلامية للإسهام في تحقيق ونشر التراث: جمع كل ما كتب ونشر عن ليبيا بمختلف لغات العالم؛ حفظ الوثائق والمخطوطات الرسمية وغير الرسمية ذات القيمة الوطنية والعربية والدولية؛ إصدار الببليوغرافية الوطنية للتعريف بالإنتاج الفكري الليبي؛ تطبيق شريحة ليبيا في الترقيمات الدولية الموحدة للكتب والدوريات؛ تنفيذ ومتابعة قانون الإيداع؛ إنشاء الفهرس الموحد لمقتنيات المكتبات الليبية والذي يفيد في حصر مواد المعلومات المتوفرة في الدولة، والتعريف بأماكن توفرها في المكتبات ومراكز المعلومات

في ظل الاشتباكات المسلحة التي حدثت في بنغازي ونظرا لأن دار الكتب الوطنية تقع في وسط المدينة أكثر منطقة في بنغازي تعرضا للدمار فقد وقع ضرر كبير في مبنى المكتبة. في الواقع لم يتبقي إلا الحائط الأسمنتي خسرت الزجاج والأبواب والأرفف والأثاث والمنظومات الإلكترونية. وقد تم حفظ المقتنيات في مخازن تعرضت هي أيضا لأعمال تخريب

استنادا إلي ذلك تحتاج دار الكتب إلي انجاز عدة أعمال لكي تتمكن من استئناف العمل نذكر أهمها: إعادة صيانة المبنى؛ إعادة تجهيزه بالأثاث والأجهزة؛ إنشاء معمل ترميم لمعالجة التلف والأضرار التي لحقت بالمجموعات التي تم تخزينها؛ توفير منظومات للفهرسة والتصنيف ليكون نواة لنظام فهرسة موحدة لجميع مقتنيات المكتبات في جميع أنحاء ليبيا؛ إعادة تدريب الموظفين علي المنظومات الفهرسة والتصنيف الترميم وتجميع وحفظ التراث

The national libraries in the world, regardless of their different names, are considered as a necessity to preserve the intellectual heritage of societies. And UNESCO has recommended the importance of establishing it in every country. Therefore, the main objective of the Libyan National Library is to collect and preserve the Libyan heritage. The National Library project began in 1972, and the building became ready in 1979.

The library in the center of Benghazi consists of four levels and an area of about a hectare and a half,  next to the tomb of Omar Mukhtar. It is bordered on the east by the municipal market and on the west by the airline company.The Library departments are: the Department of Administrative and Financial Affairs, the Publications Acquisition Department, the Technical Affairs Department, the National Bibliographical Center, the Department of Catalogs and Electronic Library, the Beneficiary Services Section, the Department of the United Nations and international bodies, the Media office unit, the  Manuscripts and Rare Collections Department.

The Library services are: Preserving the Arabo-Islamic heritage; Collecting everything written and published about Libya in various languages; Preserving official and unofficial national, Arab and international documents and manuscripts; Issuing the Libyan national bibliography; Implementating the International Standard Book Number ISBN; Monitoring the legal deposit; Creating a unified catalog of Libyan libraries.

There was a lot of damage to the library building, because the National Library is located in the center of the city, the most destroyed area in Benghazi. In fact, only the cement wall was left, the rest was destroyed: glass, doors, shelves, furniture and electronic systems. The collectibles were kept in stores that were also vandalized.

Based on this, the National Library needs to complete several operations in order to be able to resume work, the most important of which are: Renovating the building; Re-equipping it with furniture and appliances; Establishing a restoration lab to treat the damage caused to the collections that were stored; Providing indexing and classification systems, to be the nucleus of a unified cataloging system for all library holdings across Libya; (Re-)training employees on cataloging, classification, restoration, collection and preservation systems.

2. Department of Manuscripts / قسم المخطوطات

تم إنشاء قسم المخطوطات والكتب النادرة بقرار من إدارة دار الكتب في عام 2010 م حيث كانت مخطوطات دار الكتب مخزنة في المكتبة المركزية بجامعة بنغازي. وقد تم استلامها ثم كانت مجموعة الكتب النادرة مخزنة في دار الكتب

عند استلام القسم تم تقديم خطة عمل إلى الإدارة تهدف إلى تأسيس قسم يقدم كنموذج لباقي مراكز حفظ المخطوطات والخطة تنقسم إلى ثلاثة محاور

مرحلة التجميع. سيتم التركيز على تجميع نوعين من أوعية المخطوطات. النوع الأول هو امتلاك الأصول. والنوع الثاني هو الحصول على النسخ الإلكترونية والبيانات اللازمة عنها: إجراء حصر وإعداد لقواعد بيانات تحتوي معلومات عن أماكن تواجد المخطوطات؛ تصميم الأدوات المستخدمة لتجميع البيانات؛ تصميم معايير الجودة؛ إعداد فرق العمل وتدريبهم وتطويرهم؛ رصد الميزانية اللازمة للتجميع

مرحلة الترميم والمعالجة الفنية. تجهيز معمل لفحص ومعالجة المخطوطات من مسببات التلف كالبكتيريا ونسب الحموضة وغيرها؛ تجهيز وحدة إدارية لمعالجة التلف وترميمه وإعادة تجليده وفق معايير الجودة المتبعة؛ فهرسة وتصنيف المخطوطات وفق نظم إلكترونية لتسهيل عملية إتاحتها للمتخصصين وعلى الموقع الإلكتروني

الإتاحة. إتاحة المعلومات الخاصة بالمخطوطات والكتب النادرة للمتخصصين: تبادل المعلومات حولها مع الجهات المتخصصة محليا ودوليا؛ إصدار نشرات دورية عن محتويات القسم؛ تنظيم مؤتمرات وندوات وورش عمل حول التراث الوطني من مخطوطات وكتب نادرة 

The Manuscripts Department was established in 2010. Until then the manuscripts were stored at the Library of the University of Benghazi. The modernizing plan divides into three axes.

Collecting manuscripts. The focus is on manuscripts, gathering the originals and obtaining electronic copies. It implies that we: Prepare databases containing information about manuscripts; Design quality standards; Constitute, train and develop work teams; Calculate the necessary budget.

Restoration and treatment. It requires: Equipping a laboratory to examine and treat manuscripts from causes of spoilage, such as bacteria, acidity, and others; Damage treatment, restoration and re-binding in accordance with the established quality standards; Indexing and classification of manuscripts according to electronic systems.

Provision of materials, through: Providing information on manuscripts and rare books for researchers; Exchanging information about it with specialized institutions locally and internationally; Issuing periodic bulletins; Organizing conferences, seminars and workshops on the national heritage, including manuscripts and rare books.

ما تم إنجازه. بعد استلام القسم وتقديم خطة العمل تم تنظيم الدورة التدريبية تحت إشراف قسم الترميم بمتحف المخطوطات ووحدة الفهرسة وتحقيق المخطوطات بمركز المخطوطات بمكتبة الإسكندرية في شهر 11/2012 م. بهدف التعرف على أساسيات حفظ الكتب النادرة والمخطوطات والوثائق. ثم المشاركة بدورة مبادئ ترميم وفهرسة للمخطوطات نظمتها اليونسكو بالتعاون مع جامعة بنغازي في 7/2019. تم فرز المخطوطات وتفريغ بياناتها وتصويرها وإعادة تخزينها

المشاركة بمشروع “أبجد”. خلال 2021 تم البدء في المشاركة بمشروع أبجد لتطوير فهرسة المخطوطات وتكوين قاعدة بيانات من خلال اتفاقية بين مركز “جان بيبين” التابع للمركز الوطني الفرنسي للأبحاث العلمية ودار الكتب الوطنية حيث يهدف المشروع إلى: التدريب على عميلة الإدخال علي موقع أبجد؛ المساعدة على فهرسة ورقمنه المخطوطات بدار الكتب الوطنية؛ العمل على إعداد نموذج لفهرسة ورقمنه وإدخال المخطوطات بحيث يمكن توسيع النموذج ومشاركة مؤسسات أخرى ذات العلاقة بالمخطوطات في ليبيا

الاحتياجات. استنادا إلى ذلك يحتاج قسم المخطوطات إلى إنجاز عدة أعمال لكي يتمكن من استئناف العمل نذكر أهمها: إعادة صيانة وبناء القسم؛ إعادة تجهيزه بالأثاث والأجهزة؛ إنشاء معمل ترميم لمعالجة التلف والأضرار التي لحقت بالمجموعات التي تم تخزينها؛ توفير منظومات للفهرسة والتصنيف؛ إعادة تدريب الموظفين على منظومات الفهرسة والتصنيف والترميم

What has been done. After receiving the manuscripts and preparing an action plan… A training course was organized under the supervision of the “Conservation Department of the Manuscripts Museum in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina” on November 2012. Then Afaf Kadiki participated in a course dedicated to the restoration and cataloging of manuscripts organized by UNESCO in cooperation with the University of Benghazi on July 2019. Last but not least, the manuscripts were sorted, the data unloaded, then photocopied and re-stored.

The Abjad project. In the course of 2021 the National Library started participating in the Abjad project in order to develop the cataloging of manuscripts and create a database through an agreement between the “Jean Pépin” center of the French National Center for Scientific Research and the National Library. The project’s goals are: Training on the entry process on the Abjad website; Cataloging and digitizing manuscripts at the National Library; Preparing a model for indexing, digitizing and entering manuscripts so that the model can be expanded and other institutions related to manuscripts in Libya participate.

The needs. The Manuscripts Department has several needs, the most important of which are: Renovation and rebuilding of the department; Re-equipment of furniture and appliances; A restoration lab to treat the damage caused to the collections that were stored; Providing indexing and classification systems; Re-training staff on cataloging, classification and restoration systems.

3. The manuscripts in Libya / المخطوطات في ليبيا

The major references (catalogs and syntheses) were given during the talk and circulated in the chat (feel free to consult our Zotero database). See for example F. M. Shambesh, “Libya”, in Geoffrey Roper, World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts, London, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation 1992 p. 263-78.


مراكز المخطوطات في ليبيا. نذكر بعض المؤسسات التي قامت بتجميع المخطوطات وحفظها علي سبيل المثال المركز الليبي للمحفوظات والدراسات التاريخية (سابقا مركز جهاد الليبيين للدراسات التاريخية) هو مركز متخصص في الشؤون التاريخية في ليبيا. تمَّ إنشاءه في عام 1977 تحت اسم مركز بحوث ودراسات الجهاد الليبي ومقره مدينة طرابلس. لاحقا عدل اسمه إلى مركز جهاد الليبيين للدراسات التاريخية عام 1980 ويهدف الى دراسة التطور التاريخي للتراث الليبي عبر العصور. أماكن أخرى في ليبيا تحتوي مخطوطات: المكتبة المركزية بجامعة قاريونس (بنغازي) والتي تأسست في 1955 م؛ مكاتب بعض الكليات وأهمها كلية الدعوة الإسلامية؛ مكتبات الكتاتيب والزوايا والمساجد؛ المكتبات الخاصة

وصف الحالة بعد الحرب. تعرضت المخطوطات للكثير من المخاطر أثناء النزاع المسلح في ليبيا. أهمها السرقات التي تمت من قبل تجار الآثار والتخريب والحرق من قبل الجماعات المتطرفة. الاحتياجات هي: إنشاء معامل ترميم؛ تحديث منظومات الفهرسة والتصنيف؛ تدريب العاملين في مجال ترميم وفهرسة المخطوطات

Manuscript centers in Libya. We mention some of the institutions that collected and preserved manuscripts, as an example the Libyan Center for Archives and Historical Studies, which was founded in 1977. Other places in Libya that keep manuscripts: Garyounis University Library (Benghazi), which was founded in 1955; Libraries of some colleges, the most important of which is the Islamic Call College; zawiya Libraries and mosque Libraries; private libraries.

The situation after the war. The manuscripts were subjected to a lot of damage during the armed conflict in Libya. The most important of them are stealing from antiquities dealers and burning from extremist groups. The needs are: Restoration laboratories; Updating the indexing and classification systems; Training workers in the field of restoration and indexing of manuscripts.

II. Some elements on the collection / لمحة عن المحفوظات

1. General data /  معطيات عامة 

DKW keeps 121 manuscripts: Arabic = 85 (70%); Persian = 21 (17%); Pashto = 1; Turkish = 14 (11,5%); unidentified (i.e. title missing) = 33 (27%); maǧmūʿas = 13; undated = 56 (46%). Most mss — 60 items — belong (as copies!) to the Ottoman era (ca 6th-19th c.).

no date56
distribution of mss at DKW

We strive to implement a know-how that can be transmitted as a tool of empowering. Three goals have been assigned: Inventory / حصر; Reporting / إخبار; Digitizing / رقمنة.

2. Samples… /عيّنات 

To illustrate the interest of the collection for the researchers, we gave some examples linked to different approaches.

A. Intellectual history: the production of a genre /التاريخ الفكري: إنتاج نوع . ms. DKW 00120 Benghazi (1119/1707-8), Aʿraǧ Muḥammad Afandī, a manual of mawāʿiẓ (unpublished). We hereafter copy an excerpt of his project as explained in the Introduction: (and he goes on quoting a long list of materials)

اما بعد فيقول العبد الفقير اعرج الى رحمة ربه على شيء قدير لما كنت واعظا في جامع مسح باشاي عتيق [= مسيح محمد باشا] بعد صلوة الجمعة في سنة تسع عشرة ومائة الف [1119/1707-8] التمس عن بعض الخلان المجالس والوعظية يجتمع عندي قريباً من العشرة وانا انظر كلها فوجدت بعضها طويلا غاية الطول وبعضها قصيرا غاية القصر والهمني حين المطالعة ان والف [كذا] مجلساً لطيفا لا طويلا ولا قصيرا بل مختصرا مفيدا اجتمعت من التفاسير وكتب الاحاديث والموعظة كثيرا كثيرا من غير ما وجد عندي وما اجمعته من التفاسير […] وجعلت مجمع هذا التاليف اثنى عشر مجالساً [كذا] لكل شهر من شهور اثنى عشر مجلساً مشتملا على خمسة مواعظ

B. Intellectual history: the reception of a circulated text / التاريخ الفكري: تلقي نص منتشر . ms. DKW 00061 Benghazi (1001/1592-3), al-Tibrīzī (d. 741/1340-1), Miškāt al-maṣābīḥ. Rich margins:

C. Formal aspects and paratext / قضية الشكل وما حول النص . ms. DKW 00086 Benghazi (1137/1724-5), Ibn al-Qayyim al-Ǧawziyya (d. 751/1350), Zād al-maʿād fī hady ḫayr al-ʿibād.

III. Abjad and the cataloguing process / أبجد وعملية الفهرسة 

1. Abjad: a professional database for manuscripts /  أبجد: قاعدة بيانات حرفية للمخطوطات

Different options, different horizons…: the evolution of the procedure: 1) Printed catalog / الفهرس المطبوع (finding a manuscript in a collection); 2) Digitized catalog / الدليل الإلكتروني (finding matches in a general corpus); 3) Professional database / قاعدة بيانات حرفية (allowing a scientific collaborative description = تعاون + enriching the search tools (structure, codicology, inscriptions, history, etc.) = تنوع)…

Abjad in English
Abjad in Arabic

2. Cataloguing the manuscripts of DKW / فهرسة مخطوطات دار الكتب الوطنية

We work on a weekly basis and this is the list of what has been studied so far:

20/11/21: DKW 00001 (1290/1873-4), nasḫī           

al-Šabraḫītī (d. 1106/1694-5), al-Futūḥāt al-wahabiyya fī šarḥ al-Arbaʿīn al-nawawiyya (printed)

27/11/21: DKW 00079 (1147/1734-5), nasḫī

Anonymous [al-Marġīnānī (d. 593/1197)], Hidāyat šarḥ ʿalā l-Bidāya (sic) [al-Hidāya fī šarḥ al-Bidāya] (printed)

04/12/21: DKW 00061 (1001/1592-3), nasḫīdisplayed as a study case

al-Tibrīzī (d. 741/1340-1), Miškāt al-maṣābīḥ (printed)

11/12/21: DKW 00086 (1137/1724-5), nasḫīdisplayed as a study case

Ibn Qayyim al-Ǧawziyya (d. 751/1350), Zād al-mīʿād fī hady ḫayr al-ʿibād (printed)

15/01/22: DKW 00120 (1119/1707-8), nasḫīdisplayed as a study case

Aʿraǧ Muḥammad Afandī (?), no title; a sum of mawāʿiẓ for maǧālis

22/01/22: DKW 00014 (no date), nastaʿlīq

al-Balḫī (?), Dīwān [Persian]

29/01/22: DKW 00016 (1335/1916-7), maġribī                  

Abū Zakariyyāʾ Yaḥyā b. Šaraf [al-Nawawī] (d. 676/1277), al-Ḥizb al-nawawī (printed)

05/02/22: DKW 00007 (1286/1869-70; autograph), maġribī

Aḥmad b. al-Ḥāǧǧ, no title; Ḥadīṯ

19/02/22: DKW 00069 (1713), nasḫī

Diego de Estella [Ar. transl. Raphael Ventayol O.F.M. 1696], al-Zuhd fī abāṭīl al-ʿālamīn (printed)

26/02/22: DKW 00053 (991/1583-4), nasḫī

 Abū l-Ḥasan Ismāʿīl [= Candaroğlu İsmail Bey (d. 1479)], no title [Hulviyât-ı Sultanî (/Şahî)], (printed)

05/03/22: DKW 00048 (1085?/1674-5?), nasḫī

Ibrāhīm b. Šams (?), no title; folk stories in Middle Arabic 

12/03/22: DKW 00023 (1301?/1884?), nasḫī

al-Ǧazūlī (d. 870/1465?), Dalāʾil al-ḫayrāt, (printed)

مكتبات نفوسة. مشروع ريادي لتوثيق ورقمنة التراث المادي في جبل نفوسة ، ليبيا

مكتبات نفوسة

مشروع ريادي لتوثيق ورقمنة التراث المادي في جبل نفوسة ، ليبيا

Paul Love جامعة الأخوين في إفران

الحلقة الرابعة — 16 فبراير 2022


Libraries of the Nafusa. A pilot project to document and digitize material heritage in the Jebel Nafusa, Libya.

by Paul Love, Al Akhawayn University

Libraries of the Nafusa.

A pilot project to document and digitize material heritage in the Jebel Nafusa, Libya

Paul Love (Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco)

Session IV — 16 February 2022

Part I: Project Formation & Aims

The Libraries of Nafusa is a pilot project to document and to digitize written material culture in the Jebel Nafusa region of Libya. It is led by the Ibadica Centre for Research and Studies on Ibadism in France and the Fassato Foundation in Libya, with financial support from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung’s “Patrimonies” funding program in Germany. The administrative team reflects the international nature of the project, with members in Morocco, Algeria, France, and the United States. 

Ibadica is a Research center created in Paris in 2013. Our approach aims to report on works and projects that touch on the Ibadiyya, i.e. the history, religious, philosophical and political thought of the Ibadi communities and their evolution. From a practical point of view, Ibadica works to bring together different academic fields and researchers to create points of convergence.

Concretely, our approach can be described as follows:

  • We try to list and to follow all the current research and all the productions and works in Latin and Arabic languages. We’ve built a specialized library and a bibliographic database covering all the disciplines of Ibadism
  • The difficulty of accessing manuscript and archival sources in private libraries is often mentioned by researchers. Ibadica seeks to associate all researchers from different backgrounds with local cultural centers in the access to manuscript sources through several projects and partnerships.

By Soufien Mestaoui

Since the project has really just begun, I want to share with you a bit about how the project formed, how the initial stages have unfolded, and what our plans for this year are.

The LoN builds on our experience working with private and public libraries in the nearby island of Djerba, Tunisia. From 2018-2021, there was a documentation and digitization initiative called the “Jerba Libraries Project” that was supported by the Endangered Archives Programme (funded by Arcadia and administered by the British Library). For that project, I and my colleague Ali Boujdidi trained a group of young Tunisians in the basics of manuscript studies and the use of the camera and lighting equipment they would then need to carry out the project. Over the next two and half years, the team successfully documented and digitized four private and public library collections (five including our pilot) of manuscripts and early Arabic print materials.

As we approached the final stages of the Jerba Libraries Project, we began formulating a similar project plan for the nearby Jebel Nafusa region, which has for centuries had a regular exchange of people and books with Jerba. This is large part due to the shared religious affiliation of the two areas, which are both home to Ibadi Muslim communities. Like Jerba, Nafusa also has a centuries-old tradition of manuscript culture, but the political circumstances in Libya over the past century or so have meant that far less is known about written culture in the region than in neighboring Tunisia. 

The LoN was conceived to document and to protect this important written heritage by engaging and empowering local actors through mobilizing international support networks in the Mediterranean region. The pilot aimed to recruit and to train a team of Libyans to carry out an initial, short-term project in 2021-22 focusing on one or two private collections. The team would document and digitize the collections, as well as provide archival-grade storage containers for any objects they documented. 

Part II: Initial Stages

The first step was to assemble the team.

On the ground in Libya, Ustadh Ali Mazawi (Fassato Foundation) recruited a cohort of Libyans for the documentation and digitization team. The Ibadica team in France sought out instructors from the Mzab Valley in Algeria, where similar efforts to document Ibadi manuscript and print collections have been underway for some three decades. We decided to hold the training of the team in Jerba, given both its proximity to the Jebel Nafusa and the historical and cultural ties linking it to both the Jebel and the Mzab Valley. We also sought help from the National Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration of Parchment and Manuscripts in Raqqada, Tunisia, who provided us with a specialist in conservation to train the team in the construction of archival storage boxes. With the basic framework in mind, we began work in early summer 2021 to launch the project at the end of the summer.

Since we knew a 10-day training session was not sufficient to introduce the team to all aspects of how to handle and to document manuscripts, we developed an online course to introduce them to the basics of manuscript studies. The short course, run on Google Classroom, aimed to provide the team with a foundational understanding of manuscript book structures, the history of paper production, and strategies used for dating manuscripts. It also introduced them to the different between manuscript books and lithograph books, as well as some more technical aspects of manuscript studies like watermarks. We also met for a few different sessions online, so that everyone had the opportunity to speak and interact with each other prior to our meeting in person.

Part III: Training in Djerba 

Various delays prevented us from starting in August 2021 as planned but we eventually held the training in Jerba for 10 days in late December and early January. Border closures and vaccination requirements demanded a last-minute shifting of roles and responsibilities—including my absence since the Moroccan borders were closed for several months. But we ultimately brought together a talented team of trainers from Algeria, the United States, and Tunisia to offer targeted training sessions in manuscript documentation, conservation and archival box construction, and digitization methods. The training took place in an educational complex in Jerba, where trainers and students stayed together. 

The setting also provided the team with unique opportunities to take short trips off-site, where they met with owners and curators of manuscript collections and projects in Jerba. Our trainers used these visits as learning opportunities by asking team members to put their new skills to use in examining manuscripts on site. The visits were instructive for other reasons, as well, since they gave the team a sense of the delicate nature of interacting with the owners of manuscript collections. 

Alongside the goal of practical training in manuscript documentation, the training also had an equally important, less tangible purpose. Based on our experience, the success of these types of initiatives rests not on technical expertise or equipment but on human relationships. The training aimed to bring the team together in a shared space where they could get to know one another, build friendships and partnerships, and a sense of shared trust. We knew it would not be possible throughout most of the project for our instructors, administrative team, and our documentation team to interact in person. They would instead have to rely on communication via Google and WhatsApp. The training in Jerba thus offered us the chance for team members to establish personal connections, which would be the foundation upon which future collaborations would rely.

The team returned to Libya in early January with the equipment needed to begin the project. Since that time, they have met regularly on Fridays and Saturdays to work on the pilot collection of manuscript books, lithograph books, and miscellaneous documents. The collection offers an excellent representative sample of the type of private libraries they can expect to encounter in the future. Currently, the team is in the process of sorting and documenting all items in the collection, with plans to begin photographing it in the future. 

The presentation was followed by a long exchange with the audience. Among the various topics evoked on this occasion, we would like to recall three promising paths that appear in the Jerbian corpus. Primo, the study of the margins in order to reconstruct an intellectual milieu. Secundo, the analysis of private letters, not only for their historical value, but also for their linguistic specificities (wusṭā and dialectal registers). Tertio, the redaction of a monograph on an educated Ibāḍī woman whose correspondence has been found during the campaign.

Archeology of Islamic Libya. The fortified settlements in the hinterland of Leptis Magna as an example

Archeology of Islamic Libya.

The fortified settlements in the hinterland of Leptis Magna as an example

Enrico Cirelli (University of Bologna)

Session III — 19 January 2021

Enrico Cirelli gave a rich talk about the phenomenon of fortified buildings on the long term in the area of Leptis Magna. He elaborates on a number of field datas, among them a lot being linked to the presence of a wādī(e.g. Taraglat or Silin).

His study comprises the centuries stretching from the late Antiquity to the Islamic period. This allows him to compare the centenarium with the qaṣr, but also the evolutions of the settlements from the coast to the predesertic hinterland. 

The issue of a progressive abandonment of the harbor — but the concept of contraction could be more exact — has been raised and discussed with the audience, noting for example the mention of Leptis Magna on a medieval portulan. It could reflect a deep shift of roads and settlements, from the coast to the south. A decrease of sea activity (Tripoli had taken over the main flux) was paralleled by an increase of land traffic. In this perspective, the quṣūr might have developped to provide shelters in order to secure the access to the Saharan routes.

We also refer to: Enrico Cirelli, Fabrizio Felici and Massimiliano Munzi, “Insediamenti fortificati nel territorio di Leptis Magna tra III e XI secolo”, in Paola Galetti (ed.), Paesaggi, comunità, villaggi medievali, Spoleto, Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 2012, p. 763-77.

In Introduction, we presented a short summary in Arabic of what the sources (written and archeological) tell us about Labda in the Middle Ages. This relied on the following article: Enrico Cirelli, “Leptis Magna in età islamica: fonti scritte e archeologiche”, Archeologia Medievale, 28 (2001), p. 423-40. We added excerpts from some major Arabic texts (special thanks to Aurélien Montel for his help on this).

الأوضاع في وقت الفتوحات

تخلي موضع لبدة ظاهرة استغرقت قرونا إذن النقطة الابتدائية أو المبدئية تتطلب أن ننسى صورة الفتوحات المدمّرة لعدة أسباب نلمحها عبر دراسة النصوص والآثار. إذا بحثنا عن أزمة أو انقطاع وجدنا دواما واستمرارا. وبالفعل ما نسمي تغيرات النسيج المدني (وربما تفكك ذلك النسيج) يعود إلى أواخر العصر القديم في الحقيقة. لن يطول الكلام عن فتح تريبوليتينيا بذاته بما أن زميلنا خافظ العبدولي حلله بتفاصيل عند الحلقة السابقة ويكفي أن تُذكر حملة عقبة بن نافع سنة 46/665 كنقطة أول استقرار الحكم العربي الإسلامي في المنطقة. عقبة كان ابن خاله عمرو بن العاص صاحب مصر الشهير وهذا الأخير قيل إنه قاد الحملة الأولى سنة 22/643 ثم أعاد أخذها عبد الله بن سعد سنة 27/648

حِقبة الأغالبة

ما كانت أحوال لبدة في القرن 3/9؟ في المصادر نقرأ أنها كانت أبعد قاعدة دولة بني الأغلب في الطريق إلى مصر ونضيف أن أهم المعلومات المتاحة تأتي أساسا من البكري وابن الأثير. سنة 196/812 وقع اتفاق بين الأمير الأغلبي عبد الله والإمارة الرستمية وينص هذا الاتفاق سيطرة الأغلبي على طرابلس والرستمي على الأراضي داخل البلد. أما لبدة فدارت منازعة مع بني لُهان من هوارة حول رفضهم لدفع ضريبة وانهزم حاكم طرابلس في معركة سنة 245/859 والتجأ إلى لبدة حيث قام بترميم السور. يصعب علينا التأكد من ذلك الخبر فلم نعد نستطيع أن نعاين البِنى الأصلي. ربما نقارن العملية مع المعطيات المتواجدة بخصوص سور طرابلس. الراجح أن لبدة كانت تحتل في القرن ال 3/9 نفس المساحة التي كانت تحتلها في الفترة البيزنطية أي حي المرسى il porto والسوق القديم Foro Vecchio وسوق سيفيروس Foro Severiano وطريق الأعمدة Via colonnata لتصل إلى 44 هكتارا. آنذاك كانت أعمال البناء تعيد توظيف مواد عمارات قديمة على شكل “سبوليا” أو استخدام ثانوي. قد يضاف إلى هذا القول مثلان: أولا بقايا معصرة لإنتاج زيت الزيتون في الجانب الشرقي للبازيليكا؛ ثانيا فرن فخار  يؤكد تلك الصناعة في القرن ال 3/9

معركة لبدة

في الربع الأخير للقرن ال 3/9 رأى العباس ابن أحمد ابن طولون أن ضعف الإمارة الإفريقية تتيح له الفرصة ليكوّن مملكة له فهاجم المنطقة على رأس 800 فارس و10.000 راجل سنة 267/880. أخذ لبدة ثم حاصر طرابلس وفي نهاية المطاف أنقذها الشيخ الإباضي إلياس بن منصور النفوسي

الحقبة الفاطمية

نستند على البكري لوصف أحوال لبدة في القرن ال 4/10

يُعتبر عادة القرن 5/11 كفترة تشهد أزمة اقتصادية عميقة وفي تفسيرها آراء مختلفة منها أولا أن تغريبة بني هلال وبني سليم انطلافا من منتصف القرن سببت اضطرابات عظيمة وثانيا أن تبدلات الطرق التجارية خاصة إلى مصر الفاطمية أفقرت إفريقية ثروات طائلة. وفي القرن التالي يصفها الإدريسي وهو يقول

تخلي لبدة 

نترك الكلام للعبدري الذي مر بها و بقربها في نهاية القرن 7/13، بالتحديد سنة 689/1290 وقال في رحلته

فسبب ذلك الخراب قد يكون زلزلة بطيئة وتلك اللمحة البسيطة تظهر أهمية التفكير في المدى الطويل والديناميكيات التي تحكم على مصير التمدن

The sources for the study of medieval Libya: the corpus diversity and the problematics linked to its exploitation

The sources for the study of medieval Libya:

the corpus diversity and the problematics linked to its exploitation

Hafed Abdouli (Sfax University)

Session II — 15 December 2021

Our colleague Hafed Abdouli (Sfax University, Tunisia) gave a talk in Arabic — المدونة المصدرية لتاريخ ليبيا خلال العصر الوسيط: تنوع المخزون وإشكاليات/محاذير الاستعمال — in two parts. Firstly, he reviewed in details the richness and variety of the corpus available to work on medieval Libya. Secondly, he deeply and critically revised the Islamic conquest of Tripolitania as a case-study. This innovative approach opens the way to a fruitful rereading of the accepted traditional narrative.

I. The diversity of the corpus for Tripolitania 

The written sources, i.e. the discourses, could be gathered under three questions: When? Who? Where? Respectively for historiographies, biographies and geographies.

Historiographies are mainly centered on events basically organized chronologically. They comprise subgenres like the conquests (futūḥ), histories (aḫbār and tawārīḫ), chronicles (ḥawliyyāt). For the present purpose, we could distinguish between different areas. They are listed in the LibMed Zotero database ( Primo, Eastern texts, among them Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam’s Futuḥ Miṣr will be extensively discussed. Secundo, Western texts (Ifrīqiya and the Maghreb), where we will refer to al-Raqīq’s lost TaʾrīḫTertio, Shia writings, e.g. al-Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān. Quarto, the genealogies (ansāb).

Biographical dictionaries (tabaqāt and tarāǧim) are chiefly centered on actors. We could divide them between Western ṭabaqāt — ʿulamāʾ Ifrīqiya and ibāḍiyya, e.g. Abū l-ʿArab, al-Mālikī and al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ or al-Darǧīnī and al-Šammāḫī — and Eastern tarāǧim.

Geographical works are finally centered on places. They encompass different shapes, be they itineraries (masālik wa-mamālik) — see the editions by de Goeje and their subsequent revisions, adding that al-Bakrī and al-Idrīsī play a part in our reflections —, encyclopaedias (maʿāǧim ǧuġrāfiyya) — Yāqūt being a major one — and the numerous travelogues (raḥalāt): al-ʿAbdarī, al-Tiǧānī/al-Tuǧǧānī (see A. El Bahi’s convincing recent article on this orthography), al-ʿAyyāšī, etc.

The archeological sources, i.e. the field or material evidences, allow a decisive “cross-checking” with the texts. As will be noticed, LibMed has strongly invested in the discipline with conferences planned this year and next year.

The extant reports and studies started under the Italian colonization, to be developped by other surveys and explorations after WWII. The moutains of Tripolitania received attention at the end of the 40s, to be lately updated by Muftāḥ al-Ḥaddād (Tarhuna University, Libya). The predesertic zone was searched via British cooperation. As for the coastal area, mainly in the vicinity of Leptis Magna, joint missions with Italian archeologists began at the end of the 20th century and stopped with the war.

Given the nature of the corpus considered above, some problem(atic)s arise and result from the following aspects. These points will be illustrated in the subsequent case-study.

There is a huge temporal gap that separates the events of the first centuries from their documentation. Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam (ca 182-257/798 or 9-891) exemplifies this issue, especially as we will see for the referential question. The meaning of words (technical expressions, toponyms or patronyms) can be understood in a way that misses the original context. The same would apply for relations between groups and authorities.

The selection of the first sites to be excavated and the methodology employed during these early phases is not devoid of biases and their reports have to be reassessed.

The elitist approach of the men who wrote down the texts we are relying on, focusing mainly on the active groups, politically and ideologically speaking, tend to leave aside the rest of the population. The Riḥla of al-Tiǧānī/al-Tuǧǧānī betrays this aspect blatantly.

The contradictions found in the narratives should make us aware of the urgent need to handle the texts we use with care and try to examine the lemmata and decide for the most reliable.

The mistakes made by the authors who tried to localize some toponyms is more frequent than thought, even when it touches well-known sites (cf. Leptis Magna in al-Bakrī’s Masālik).

II. A case-study: the transition from Antique Tripolitania to medieval Tripoli/Ṭarābulus

The book of Isabella Sjöström, Tripolitania in Transition: Late Roman to Early Islamic Settlement (1993) was a milestone to study the evolution of the region of Tripoli from Antiquity to the early Islamic period, and more generally the issue of how the cities were tranformed in the course of this passage.

Interrogations remain, chiefly the transfer of the capital from Leptis Magna to Oea/Tripoli. Was there a break (qaṭīʿa) as is commonly accepted? This would be explained by the decline of Leptis Magna and the rise of Oea at the end of Antiquity, or was even simply caused by the Islamic expansion. The first step requires returning to the sources. 

ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ conquered Tripoli for the caliph ʿUmar between 21 and 23 AH/642 and 644 CE. Four sources have to considered: Ibn al-Ḫayyāṭ who quotes Ibn Lahīʿa (d. 194); Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam who quotes al-Layṯ b. Saʿd (d. 179); al-Balāḏurī who quotes Bakr b. Ḥayṯam; Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam who quotes ʿUṯmān b. Ṣāliḥ quoting Ibn Lahīʿa, the most detailed version so far.

But Tripoli returned to the Byzantine domination until a new and final conquest. The consultation of an Armenian Geography by Ananias of Shirak corroborates this situation. In the meantime, Barqa (and Cyrenaica) had remained controlled by the Muslims led locally by ʿUqba b. Nāfiʿ.

ʿAbd Allāh b. Abī Sarḥ is credited for the capture of Tripoli. The mention of the city walls (sūr pl. aswār) on the landside is a key to understand the problem of toponyms. Leptis or Sabrata had such fortifications. What about Tripoli/Oea? Nothing has been found — whether in Procopius or through excavations — to sustain any. Does it mean that we have to look for another Tripoli? Yes. A hint to this could be that Leo Africanus, drawing on a lost part of al-Raqīq, mentionned an “old Tripoli”.

It must have been Leptis Magna. It was called Tripoli at the time of the conquest. It had a wall on the landside, as was shown on the map. Leptis was the only city to be taken twice in the Arabic sources, in 22 AH/642 (under ʿUmar) and in 43 AH/663 CE (under Muʿāwiya), to expel once for all the Byzantines from Tripolitania. 

The toponymic confusion is explained by the discrepancy between the events and their written relation. Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam was not aware that Ṭarābulus meant in illo tempore Leptis Magna. How did Oea become Tripoli then?

It was known as Nubāra, even if Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam and his editor, Charles Torrey, had a problem with that. The latter had to changed the text and equate Nubāra with Sabrata. His manuscripts — see mss 1686 and 1687 kept at the BnF in Paris — are however clear: after reading Tripoli, you have the parenthetical phrase “and its name was Nubāra”, where the Lisān al-ʿarab defines al-Anbār as a seaboard. The local memory can also be helpful: al-Mālikī (5th/11th c.) calls Leptis the old sūq, understanding that it had been the main place before the capital was transferred to Oea.

This must have happened under the rule of the governor ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Ḥabīb around 131-2 AH/749-50 CE, after the repression of an Ibāḍī Berber revolt. Only then did Oea become the regional capital and was called Tripoli.