Yemeni ‘Oceanic Policy’ at the end of the 13 Century


In 1278, Yemeni troops conquered the city of øafār (Fig. 1). They were sent by the Rasūlid sultan al-Muúaffar, son of the founder of the Rasūlid dynasty which dominated South-West Arabia until the middle of the fifteenth century.(1) The Rasūlid court historian al-¿azrajī describes the victory: “And when the sultan, may God have mercy on him, conquered the city of øafār (...) and Sālim son of Idrīs [its previous ruler] was killed, the whole of the qa×iyya countries [= distant countries] trembled through awe of the sultan, while the hearts of the Princes of Persia, as of the Lords of India and China, were filled with fear of him, from what they witnessed of his soaring ambition and his great power of retaliation.” (al-¿azrajī 1906, i: 198) This event certainly represents the peak of Rasūlid power, even if al-¿azrajī, who is writing more than hundred years after alMuúaffar’s reign, no doubt exaggerated the implications of this annexation.(2) However, we should note that while al-¿azrajī includes the far China’s Mongol Khān among the rulers he mentions, he seems to forget one of the most powerful sultanates of that time: the Mamluk sultanate, which was very close by, and a permanent rival of Rasūlid Yemen. Indeed, with the conquest of øafār, the Rasūlid sultan competed not with the Mamluks but with the rulers of Oman, Persia or India, all active in some way in the Indian Ocean area. ¿azrajī’s report, while it does not reveal the exact balance of power, underlines al-Muúaffar’s real ambition to assert his Sultanate as a great power in the Indian Ocean.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Vallet2008YemeniP, title={Yemeni ‘Oceanic Policy’ at the end of the 13 Century}, author={E. M. Vallet}, year={2008} }