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Hafsid Caliphate

In 1228, after the Almohad caliph al-Ma'mun had renounced the cult of the Mahdi ibn Tumart and then massacred numerous Almohad notables of high rank, Abu Zakariya Yahya, the founder of the new dynasty, split from the sovereign of Marrakech. Without proclaiming himself caliph, the first Hafsid set up an effective autonomy with regard to the Almohad power. His son and successor, Muhammad (1249-1277), reaffirmed his independence from the caliphate in Marrakech, then in sharp decline, and claimed the title of caliph.

The Almohad legacy is strongly present in Hafsid life: the political regime drew principally on an aristocracy made up of the dignitaries of the Almohad tribes, who also provided the great military leaders. The Hafsids were at first lieutenants of the Almohades in their province of Tunis. The government passed from father to son, and the dynasty became independent. For three centuries the Hafsids governed Tunis with justice and mildness, and cultivated friendly commercial relations with the trading republics of Italy.

As of the end of the thirteenth century, the Hafsid power in Tunis fell prey to a long phase of political weakening. In 1270, girt with many a baron bold, and accompanied by his brother, Charles of Anjou, and the gay Prince Edward of England, Louis fixed the red cross upon his shoulder and led his army to the sea-shore. The ships were all ready, but the destination of the war was changed. A new power had established itself at Tunis, more hostile to Christianity than the Moslem of Egypt, and nearer at hand. In an evil hour the King was persuaded to attack the Tunisian Caliph. He landed at Carthage, and besieged the capital of the new dominion. But Tunis witnessed the death of its besieger, for Louis, worn out with fatigue and broken with disappointment, was stricken by a contagious malady, and expired with the courage of a hero and the pious resignation of a Christian. With him the crusading spirit vanished from every heart. All the Christian armies were withdrawn. The Knights-Hospitallers, the Templars, the Teutonic Order, passed over to Cyprus, and left the hallowed spots of sacred story to be profaned by the footsteps of the Infidel. Asia and Europe henceforth pursued their separate courses.

The Corsair Khayr-ed-Din Barbarossa conquered Tunis in the name of the Ottoman Sultan in 1534, and though the Emperor Charles v. restored the Hafsid king in 1535 and placed a Spanish garrison at the Goletta of Tunis, the province remained chiefly in the hands of the Corsairs, who re-took Tunis itself in 1568 and the Goletta in 1574;* since when, it has been a province of the Ottoman Empire, but in 1881 became practically a possession of France. Tripoli, which had been taken from the kingdom of Tunis by the Spaniards in 1510, was added to the Ottoman Empire by the Corsairs in 1551. Hafsid history was brought to an end by the Ottoman conquest of Tunis, which became in 1574 the administrative center of a new Ottoman province. In that year the Ottoman Sultan Murad III. fitted out an expedition under Sinan Pasha, who took the place by assault. Muhammad was taken prisoner, and the Hafsid dynasty came to an end.

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