Sites & cities that bear the name of Tlemcen


Today in : Algeria
First trace of activity : ca. 2nd century C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Pomaria, تلمسان‎, Tilimsān, Tlemsen, Tlemsan, Tilimsen

Description : Tlemcen (Arabic: تلمسان‎ Tilimsān) is the second largest city in north-western Algeria after Oran, and capital of the Tlemcen Province. Tlemcen became a military outpost of Ancient Rome in the 2nd century CE under the name of Pomaria. It was then an important city in the North Africa see of the Roman Catholic Church, where it was the center of a diocese. Its bishop, Victor, was a prominent representative at the Council of Carthage (411), and its bishop Honoratus was exiled in 484 by the Vandal king Huneric for denying Arianism. It was a center of a large Christian population for many centuries after the city's Arab conquest in 708 AD. In the later eighth century and the ninth century, the city became a Kingdom of Banu Ifran of the Kharijite sufri. These same Berber Kharijis also began to develop various small Saharan oases and to link them into regular trans-Saharan caravan routes terminating at Tlemcen—beginning a process that would determine Tlemcen's historical role for almost all of the next millennium. In 1082 the Almoravid leader Yusuf ibn Tashfin founded the city of Tagrart ("Encampment" in Berber language), which merged with the existing settlement, now called Agadir, and known since as Tlemcen (Tilimsan). Control of Tlemcen probably passed from the Almoravids to the Almohad Caliphate in the mid-twelfth century. However, in the early thirteenth century, 'Abdallah ibn Ghaniya attempted to restore Almoravid control of the Maghreb. In about 1209, the region around Tlemcen was devastated by retreating Almoravid forces, not long before their final defeat by the Almohads at the Battle of Jebel Nafusa in 1210. Despite the destruction of Tlemcen's already-feeble agricultural base, Tlemcen rose to prominence as a major trading and administrative center in the region under the ensuing reign of the Almohads. After the end of Almohad rule in the 1230s, Tlemcen became the capital of one of the three successor states, the Zayyanid Kingdom of Tlemcen (1236–1554). It was thereafter ruled for centuries by successive Zayyanid sultans. Its flag was a white crescent pointing upwards on a blue field. During the Middle Ages, Tlemcen not only served as a trading city connecting the "coastal" route across the Maghreb with the trans-Saharan caravan routes, but also housed a European trading center, or funduk which connected African and European merchants. African gold arrived in Tlemcen from south of the Sahara through Sijilmasa or Taghaza and entered European hands. Consequently, Tlemcen was partially integrated into the European financial system. For example, Genoese bills of exchange circulated there, at least among merchants not subject to (or not deterred by) religious prohibitions. At the peak of its success in the first half of the fourteenth century, Tlemcen was a city of perhaps 40,000 inhabitants. It housed several well-known madrasas and numerous wealthy religious foundations, and become the principal intellectual center of the central Maghreb. At the souq around the Great Mosque, merchants sold woolen fabrics and rugs from the East, slaves and gold from across the Sahara, local earthenware and leather goods, and a variety of Mediterranean maritime goods "redirected" to Tlemcen by corsairs—in addition to the intentional European imports available at the funduk. Merchant houses based in Tlemcen, such as the al-Makkari, maintained regular branch offices in Mali and the Sudan. Later in the fourteenth century, the city twice fell under the rule of the Marinid sultan, Abu al-Hasan Ali (1337–48) and his son Abu 'Inan. Both times the Marinids found that they were unable to hold the region against local resistance. Nevertheless, these episodes appear to have marked the beginning of the end. Over the following two centuries, Zayyanid Tlemcen was intermittently a vassal of Ifriqiya (then governed by the Hafsid dynasty), Maghrib al-Aksa (then governed by the Marinid dynasty), or the Aragon. When the Spanish took the city of Oran from the kingdom in 1509, continuous pressure from the Berbers prompted the Spanish to attempt a counterattack against the city of Tlemcen (1543), which the papacy deemed a crusade. The Spanish failed to take the city in the first attack, although the strategic vulnerability of Tlemcen caused the kingdom's weight to shift toward the safer and more heavily fortified corsair base at Algiers. The ruler of Tlemcen is reported to have been advised by a Jewish viceroy named Abraham, who, in the time of the Inquisition of Torquemada, opened the gates of Tlemcen to Jewish and Muslim refugees fleeing Spain. Abraham is said to have supported them with his own money and with the tolerance of the king of Tlemcen.

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