From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Na'ib al-Saltana ("Viceroy") of Syria
Reign 1312-1340
Coronation 1312
Predecessor Sayf al-Din Kipchak
Successor Yilbugha al-Nasiri
Spouse Khawand Sutaytah
Issue Ali
Full name
Sayf al-Din Tankiz al-Husami al-Nasiri
Dynasty Bahri
Died May 1340
Alexandria, Egypt
Religion Islam

Sayf al-Din Tankiz al-Husami al-Nasiri better known simply as Tankiz (Arabic: تنكيز‎) (died May 1340) was the Governor of Damascus and the Viceroy (Na'ib al-Saltana) of Syria from 1312 to 1340 during the reign of Bahri Mamluk sultan al-Nasir Muhammad.[1]

Early career[edit]

Tankiz was purchased during his youth by a man named al-Khwajah Alaa al-Din al-Siwasi and later bought by Sultan Husam al-Din al-Lajin in 1296, and became a mamluk in his service until 1299, when Lajin was killed.[2] The name Tankiz was the Arabic version of the Turkish word teniz, meaning "sea." Following Lajin's death, Tankiz became a bodyguard (khasak) of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad in 1299.[3]

Because of his initial tenure with Lajin, Tankiz was a relative outsider when he became part of al-Nasir's circle of mamluks.[2] Nonetheless, Tankiz grew to become one of the sultan's closest friends.[4][5] In 1309, when al-Nasir went into voluntary exile at al-Karak in Transjordan after his second term as sultan was cut short, Tankiz remained with him until al-Nasir left in 1310.[6] When al-Nasir regained the sultanate later that year, Tankiz was given the rank of "Emir Tabalkhanah." He was then trained in the role of governance by Arghun al-Nasiri, the Viceroy of Egypt.[7]

Viceroy of Syria[edit]

Tankiz was appointed Viceroy of Syria (Na'ib al-Saltana al-Sham) by al-Nasir Muhammad, the Mamluk sultan of Cairo, in 1312. His quick ascent to this post was a rare occurrence since he did not complete the traditional preceding stages.[7] He also held the additional title Al-Kafil al-Mamalik al-Shamiyya ("Supreme Governor of the Noble Provinces of Damascus." Tankiz had been very close with the sultan and his appointment was in line with other provincial and sub-provincial appointments of umara ("princes") who were close to al-Nasir Muhammad.[5] By 1314 Tankiz had gained unprecedented rule over the Levant.[8][9] The governors of its sub-provinces (nuwabba),[8] including Homs, Hama,[10] Tripoli, Aleppo and Safad,[8] were officially under his authority, to the extent that any letter the lower-level governors sent to the sultan would have to be inspected first by Tankiz himself; if the missives were in disagreement with his views, he would have them returned to their senders.[9]

In 1315 Tankiz was dispatched by Sultan al-Nasir as the supreme commander of Egyptian and Syrian mamluk regiments in an offensive to capture the Mongol-allied fortress of Malatya in Anatolia. Notably, he led his army dressed in the clothes of a king and "on his horse, all was gold, even his hunting drum," according to Mamluk-era chronicler Ibn Sasra.[11] Tankiz managed to conquer Malatya and successfully embarked on a number of raids against nearby Lesser Armenia, also aligned with the Mongols.[3]

Tankiz went on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in 1321, after gaining permission from Sultan al-Nasir.[6] In 1327 Tankiz oversaw the management of awqaf ("Islamic endowments") in Damascus. He ordered the needed repairs, reduced salaries and removed superfluous stipends in order that the awqaf conformed with their original intentions. In particular, 130 teachers were dismissed from the al-Shamiyya al-Juwaniyya Madrasa whose waqf only entitled the institution to 20 teachers. Tankiz compromised with the leaders of the ulema ("Islamic scholars") and agreed that 60 jurists would remain employed by the madrasa. Tankiz also ordered the eviction citizens living illegally on the grounds of the Umayyad Mosque and ordered them to pay rent for the time they had lodged there which enabled the mosque to fund repairs and redecoration. By 1329 the Umayyad Mosque had a surplus of 70,000 dirhams which Tankiz ordered to be used for further repairs and marble work. Similar action was undertaken in Hama.[12] From the 1331 onward, he would take annual trips to meet an-Nasir in Egypt (1331–32, 1333, 1334, 1338, 1340). In his 1339 trip, he also visited Upper Egypt.[13]

In 1334 he ordered the Druze ruler of Beirut, Nasir al-Din al-Husayn, to relocate to the city from the Chouf mountain following a Genoese attack against the city and its Catalan traders.[8] In March 1337 Tankiz had negotiated the release of two emirs of the Cairo Citadel, Tashtamur Akhdar and Qutlubugha al-Fakhri, who had been imprisoned by an-Nasir as a result of an alleged assassination plot. Their imprisonment led to a mass hunger strike by their mamluks and an-Nasir was compelled to have them released to avoid a mutiny. Tashtamur remained in his post while Qutlubugha was transferred to Tankiz's supervision in Syria.[14]

Infrastructural works[edit]

Throughout his reign, Tankiz engaged in several building works, "changing [sic] the face" of Damascus with the new public structures.[15] Before engaging in architectural work, the viceroy had the city's infrastructure revamped. These projects included the repairing, overhauling and cleaning of the canal systems which supplied water throughout Damascus.[16] The canal system was characterized by two separate underground canal systems, one of which distributed water from the rivers Barada, Banias and Qanawat, to the city's houses, mosques, schools, hamaams ("public baths") and fountains and another whose purpose was drainage. The work cost 300,000 dirhams.[17]

Other projects included various civil planning pursuits that controlled unorganized expansion, particularly in the northern and western parts of the city and the establishment of important streets, bridges and spaces to ease transportation and communication in the district.[16] Although several shops and benches were demolished in the newer outer neighborhoods of the city in order to widen the road networks, the buildings of the old inner city were not affected.[18] These works were spread roughly over a decade.[16]


From the 1330s, Sultan an-Nasir began to assert his authority over many of his most powerful emirs. Following the execution of a leading emir Baktamur Saqi in 1332, Tankiz, wary of sharing Baktamur's fate paid a visit to an-Nasir who seemed content at the time that Tankiz was fearful of him. According to medieval Mamluk sources, tensions between Tankiz and an-Nasir in the form of relatively minor quarrels and incidents in the late 1330s led to the eventual downfall of Tankiz in 1340. According to Amalia Levanoni, an author specializing in Mamluk affairs, an-Nasir bore "a silent grudge" towards Tankiz when the latter refused three of his requests to release mamluk Juban from imprisonment in Shaubak, in Transjordan.[9]

Tensions grew further when in 1339, Tankiz levied a punitive tax on the Christians of Damascus to fund repairs for property damage resulting from a series of arson attacks that the Christians were alleged to have committed. An-Nasir had discouraged Tankiz from imposing the tax to avoid deteriorating already sour relations with the Byzantine Empire, but then ordered the tax revenue to be transferred to the treasury in Egypt, a request Tankiz refused.[19]

Simmering conflict between the two reached its apex in 1339 after Tankiz's request to hunt in Qal'at Ja'bar in northern Syria was rejected by an-Nasir. An-Nasir feared that Tankiz would use the hunting trip as a cover to seek asylum with Dhu al-Qadir, chief of the Turkoman tribes of northern Syria who recognized the authority of Tankiz, but not of an-Nasir. Tankiz retorted that an-Nasir had "lost his mind" and listened only to his young entourage and had an-Nasir followed the advice of Tankiz, the latter "would have advised him to seat one of his sons [on the throne]" and Tankiz "would run the affairs of the state in his name." With Tankiz in a strong position to launch a decisive revolt in Syria, an-Nasir interpreted his words as a threat to take over the sultanate.[19] In an-Nasir's view, Tankiz had become too independent of his authority.[2]

An-Nasir dispatched the emir Bashtak an-Nasiri and 350 of Bashtak's mamluks to Syria to arrest Tankiz in 1340.[20] Following his capture, Tankiz was brought to Cairo and then imprisoned in Alexandria. He was subsequently executed in May.[21] When his assets were confiscated, they consisted of 36,000 dinars, 1,500,000 dirhams, clothing worth 640,000 dinars, palaces, khans, baths and markets in Damascus valued at 2,600,000 dirhams, and other properties in Homs, Beirut, and smaller towns valued at 900,000 dirhams and 4,200 animals.[22]

Architectural legacy[edit]

Throughout his rule, Tankiz embarked on several architectural projects. In Damascus alone nearly 40 public institutions, including mosques and schools, were constructed or restored either under the direct orders of Tankis or by various princes, judges and wealthy merchants.[16]

Between 1318-19 he commissioned a restoration of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. In 1328 he ordered the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to be renovated. The latter project was completed in 1331. A few months after, in 1332, Tankiz had the mihrab of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron restored. Glass mosaics that previously existed in those structures (most dated from the Umayyad period) and had since worn down were given specific attention by Tankiz. Additionally, new mosaic decorations were added to the prayer niches of the mosques. Most surviving examples of glass mosaics from the Mamluk era could be traced back to Tankiz's architectural activities.[1]

Tankiz also ordered the building of the Tankiziyya, a madrasa (Islamic religious school) named after him, in Jerusalem during his rule.[1] The Tankiziyya served three purposes: an Islamic law school, a school for the muhadditun (experts in hadith,) and as a home for a community of Sufis. There were a set of rules regulating when and where each of the three separate groups would meet for daily recitations of the Qur'an and prayers for the founder of the madrasa, Tankiz, and his descendants as well as the ruling sultan.[23]

In honor of his wife Khawand Sutayta bint Kawkabay al-Mansuri, Tankiz built a twin-domed mausoleum for her in Damascus called al-Turba al-Kawkab'iyya which was completed five months after her death in 1330.[24] As a fulfillment of her will, a mosque and a hospice for women were added alongside her tomb. That same year Tankiz endowed a charitable foundation and madrasa at Bab al-Silsila (neighborhood adjacent to the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem which also contained a women's hospice.[25] The concept of the "hanging madrasa"—which entailed that part or all of the interior be built atop a portico or a series of arches—was first applied by Tankiz for the madrasa at Bab al-Silsila.[26]


Tankiz was married to a Khawand Sutayta bint Sayf al-Din Kawkabay al-Mansuri.[27] She died in Tankiz's Damascus home in mid-1330 and five months later a domed mausoleum was built over her tomb by Tankiz. Khawand Sutayta had also ordered that a mosque and women's hospice be constructed adjacent to her mausoleum.[28] The closeness between Tankiz and Sultan al-Nasir was highlighted between the intermarriage of their offspring. Tankiz had his daughter Qutlughmalik marry the sultan and she later gave birth to al-Salih in 1338. Al-Salih who would later rule as sultan between 1342-45.[6] Also, in 1338 two of Tankiz's sons married two of the sultan's daughters, from another one of the latter's wives.[4][9] Of some of Tankiz's sons, Ali was granted an emirate in 1331 and Muhammad and Ahmad became emirs, all during Tankiz's reign and with an-Nasir's support.[29]


  1. ^ a b c Necipoglu, p.68.
  2. ^ a b c Vermeulen, p. 459.
  3. ^ a b Middle East Documentation Center. (2008). Mamluk Studies Review. 12: 2. University of Chicago. Pages 5-6.
  4. ^ a b Sharon, p. 98.
  5. ^ a b Levanoni, p. 29.
  6. ^ a b c Necipoglu, 1994, p. 61.
  7. ^ a b Kenney, p. 10.
  8. ^ a b c d Harris, p. 75.
  9. ^ a b c d Levanoni, p. 70.
  10. ^ Kenney, p. 21.
  11. ^ Kenney, p. 11.
  12. ^ Lapidus, p. 75.
  13. ^ Berkes, p. 208.
  14. ^ Levanoni, p. 64.
  15. ^ Sharon, p. 99.
  16. ^ a b c d Lapidus, p. 22.
  17. ^ Lapidus, p. 70.
  18. ^ Lapidus, p. 72.
  19. ^ a b Levanoni, p. 71.
  20. ^ Levanoni, p. 67.
  21. ^ Sharon, 2005, p. 89.
  22. ^ Lapidus, p. 50.
  23. ^ Vermeulen, pp. 340-341.
  24. ^ Necipoglu, p.89.
  25. ^ Necipoglu, p. 91.
  26. ^ Necipoglu, p. 95.
  27. ^ Necipoglu, 1998, p. 89.
  28. ^ Necipoglu, 1998, p. 91.
  29. ^ Levanoni, p. 48.