Algerian History: The Aghlabids

The Aghlabids ruled as emirs Ifriqiyah, an area that encompassed the coastal regions of what is now Tunisia, Libya and eastern Algeria, from 800 CE to 909 CE. Although they nominally served as rulers of the emirate under the Abbasid caliphs, they were essentially independent. The capital city from which the Aghlabids ruled was Tunisia’s Kairouan.

The region of Ifriqiyah was formed following revolt and anarchy that had taken over when the Muhallabid Dynasty fell. Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab of the Arab Tamin tribe displayed great loyalty to the Abbasid’s in Baghdad and was thus named hereditary emir of the new emirate by Harun al-Rashid in 800 CE. The capital, named al-Abbasiyya, was established and border defenses built up in Monastir and Sousse. The dynasty was also responsible for the construction of irrigation systems and other architectural structures.

In 824 CE, under the rule of Ziyadat Allah I, Ifriqiyah faced a revolt of Arab troops, which was finally subdued in 836 CE. In 827 CE, the Aghlabids began an invasion into Byzantine Sicily. It was only in 902 CE that the isle came completely under Ifriqiyah. For many years the Aghlabid’s navy raided mainland Italy. In the meantime the region over which the Aghlabid Dynasty ruled truly flourished, becoming a major economic power through their agricultural trade. It became an important center of trade, as well as one of culture and religion.

The Aghlabid’s were responsible for a number of building projects, developing a unique architectural style that combined Abbasid and Byzantine architecture. Amongst their great construction achievements were the Great Mosque of Kairouan and the restoration of the Uqba mosque. They also built a number of fortified monasteries, known as ribats. Interestingly, it was also through the Aghlabid Dynasty that metallic tinted ceramics became popular.

The Aghlabid Dynasty came under the rule of Ibrahim II ibn Ahmad in 875 CE. During his rule Byzantium took control of Calabria, while a Berber revolt resulted in a large number of deaths. The Shiite Fatimids began a movement amongst the Kutama Berbers in 893 CE. Under the leadership of Ubaydalla Said, the Fatimids ousted the Aghlabid, with the final ruler of the dynasty, Ziyadat Allah III ibn Abdillah fleeing in 909 CE.