Kingdom of Tlemcen

Zayyanid Kingdom of Tlemcen

مملكة تلمسان (ar)
Flag of the Zayyanid Kingdom (1235–1338, 1488–1556)
Flag of the Zayyanid Kingdom (1235–1338, 1488–1556)
Flag of the Zayyanid Kingdom (1338–1488)
The Zayyanid kingdom of Tlemcen in the fifteenth century.
The Zayyanid kingdom of Tlemcen in the fifteenth century.
Common languagesBerber, Maghrebi Arabic
• 1236–1283
Abu Yahya I bin Zayyan
• 1550–1556
Al Hassan ben Abu Muh
• Independence from the Almohad Caliphate
• Annexation by the Ottoman Empire
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Almohad Caliphate
Spanish Empire
Regency of Algiers
Kingdom of Ait Abbas
Kingdom of Kuku
Today part of Algeria
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The Kingdom of Tlemcen or Zayyanid Kingdom of Tlemcen (Berber languages: ⵉⵣⵉⴰⵏⵉⴻⵏ, Arabic: الزيانيون‎) was a Berber[1][2] kingdom in what is now the northwest of Algeria. Its territory stretched from Tlemcen to the Chelif bend and Algiers, and reached at its zenith the Moulouya River to the west, Sijilmasa to the south and the Soummam river to the east.[3][4]

The Tlemcen Kingdom was established after the demise of the Moroccan Almohad Caliphate in 1236, and later fell under Ottoman rule in 1554. It was ruled by sultans of the Zayyanid dynasty. The capital of the Tlemcen kingdom was centered at Tlemcen, which lay on the main east-west route between Morocco and Ifriqiya. The Kingdom of Fez was centered at Fez, to the west of Tlemcen.

Tlemcen was also a hub on the north-south trade route from Oran on the Mediterranean coast to the Western Sudan. As a prosperous trading center, it attracted its more powerful neighbors. At different times the Moroccans from the west,[5] denizens of Ifriqiya from the east, and Aragonese from the north, invaded and occupied the kingdom.


The Bānu ʿabd āl-Wād, also called the Bānu Ziyān or Zayyanids after Yaghmurasen Ibn Zyan, the founder of the dynasty, were leaders of a Berber group who had long been settled in the Central Maghreb. Although contemporary chroniclers asserted that they had a noble origin, little is known for sure.[6] The town of Tlemcen, called Pomaria by the Romans, is about 2,500 feet (760 m) above sea level in fertile, well-watered country.[7]

Tlemcen was an important center under the Almoravid dynasty and its successors the Almohad Caliphate, who began a new wall around the town in 1161.[8]

Yaghmurasen ibn Zayyan (1235–83) of the Bānu ʿabd āl-Wād was governor of Tlemcen under the Almohads.[9] He inherited leadership of the family from his brother in 1235.[10] When the Almohad empire began to fall apart, in 1235, Yaghmurasen declared his independence.[9] The city of Tlemcen became the capital of one of three successor states, ruled for centuries by successive Ziyyanid sultans.[11] Its flag was a white crescent pointing upwards on a blue field.[12] The kingdom covered the less fertile regions of the Tell Atlas. Its people included a minority of settled farmers and villagers, and a majority of nomadic herders.[9]

Yaghmurasen was able to maintain control over the rival Berber groups, and when faced with the outside threat of the Marinid dynasty, he formed an alliance with the Sultan of Granada and the King of Castile, Alfonso X.[13] According to Ibn Khaldun, "he was the bravest, most dreaded and honorable man of the 'Abd-la-Wadid family. No one looked after the interest of his people, maintained the influence of the kingdom and managed the state administration better than he did."[10] Before his death he instructed his son and heir Uthman to remain on the defensive with the Marinid kingdom, but to expand into Hafsid territory if possible.[10] Under Yaghmurasen's leadership, and later under Abu Hammu II (1359–89), the kingdom pursued an expansionary policy, pushing towards Fez in the west and into the Chelif valley and Béjaïa in the east.[9]