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The Mardaites or al-Jarajima (Syriac: ܡܪ̈ܕܝܐ; Arabic: الجراجمة‎ / ALA-LC: al-Jarājimah; Greek: Μαρδαΐται) inhabited the highland regions of the Amanus Mountains. The Mardaites were Christians following either the Miaphysite or the Monothelite.[1] Little is known about their ethnicity, it has been speculated that they might have been Iranian or Armenian.[1][2] Their other Syriac/Arabic name "Gargumaye"/"Jarajima" suggests that some were natives of the town Jurjum in Cilicia. They were apparently joined later by Greek slaves and Aramaean peasants during their insurgency.[3]


According to some historians, after the conquest of the Levant by the Arab Caliphate, the Mardaites gained a semi-independent status around the Amanus Mountains within the Byzantine-Arab border region. They initially agreed to serve as spies for the Arabs and to guard the Amanian Gate, but their loyalty was intermittent and they often sided with the Byzantines instead.[3]

According to Greek and Syriac historians, their territory stretched from the Amanus to the "holy city", the latter often being identified with the holy city of Jerusalem, although more likely to refer to Kyrrhos, also called Hagioupolis, the capital of Cyrrhestica, in upper Syria.[4]

Their numbers were swelled by thousands of runaway slaves, which forced the Umayyad Mu'awiya to pay tribute to the Byzantine emperor Constantine Pogonatus.[4] Emperor Justinian II sent the Mardaites again to raid Syria in 688/9; this time they were joined by native peasants and slaves and were able to advance as far as Lebanon. The Umayyads were compelled to sign another treaty by which they paid the Byzantines half the tribute of Cyprus, Armenia and Iberia; in return Justinian relocated around 12,000 Mardaites to the southern coast of Asia Minor, as well as parts of Greece such as Epirus and the Peloponnese, as part of his measures to restore population and manpower to areas depleted by earlier conflicts.[3][5] There they were conscripted as rowers and marines in the Byzantine navy for several centuries.[6] Others however remained behind and continued raiding Muslim-held territories until their chief stronghold fell to Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik in 708. Maslamah then resettled them throughout Syria, and although he allowed them to retain their faith, he conscripted them into his army.[1]

Modern usage[edit]

Some Maronites such claimed that the modern Maronites are of Mardaite ancestry. Most historians however reject such claims.[7]

This term was adopted by the Marada Brigade during the Lebanese Civil War. Some accuse the Maronite tendency to accept Phoenicianists as a ploy to stress the non-Arab origin of Maronites in order to preserve their separate ethnic identity. This view, however, is disputed by some modern scholars, yet a consensus has not been reached.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kazhdan, Alexander (Ed.) (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 1297, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 
  2. ^ Každan, Aleksandr (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. p. 1297. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6. 
  3. ^ a b c Canard, M. "Djaradjima". In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclpoaedia of Islam 2 (2 ed.). BRILL. p. 457. 
  4. ^ a b Woods, David. "Corruption and Mistranslation: The Common Syriac Source on the Origin of the Mardaites". Retrieved April 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ Ostrogorsky, George; Hussey (trans.), Joan (1957), History of the Byzantine state, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, pp. 116–18, ISBN 0-8135-0599-2 
  6. ^ Treadgold, Warren T. (1998), Byzantium and Its Army, 284–1081, Stanford University Press, p. 72, ISBN 0-8047-3163-2 
  7. ^ Moosa, Matti (2005). The Maronites in history. Gorgias Press LLC. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-59333-182-5. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Moosa, M. (1969), "The Relation of the Maronites of Lebanon to the Mardaites and al-Jarājima", Speculum (44): 597–608 


  • Makrypoulias, Christos G. (2005), "Mardaites in Asia Minor", Encyclopedia of the Hellenic World - Asia Minor 
  • Phares, Walid. Lebanese Christian Nationalism: The Rise and Fall of an Ethnic Resistance. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1995.
  • Salibi, Kamal. A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered, London: I B Tauris, 1988.
  • Salibi, Kamal. Maronite Historians of Medieval Lebanon, Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1959.
  • Salibi, Kamal. The Modern History of Lebanon, Delmar: Caravan Books, 1977.