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Transcultural Approaches to the Concept of Imperial Rule in the Middle Ages

Christian Scholl, Torben R. Gebhardt and Jan Clauß

During the Middle Ages, rulers from different regions aspired to an idea of imperial hegemony. On the other hand, there were rulers who deliberately refused to be «emperors», although their reign showed characteristics of imperial rule. The contributions in this volume ask for the reasons why some rulers such as Charlemagne strove for imperial titles, whereas others voluntarily shrank from them. They also look at the characteristics of and rituals connected to imperial rule as well as to the way Medieval empires saw themselves. Thus, the authors in this volume adopt a transcultural perspective, covering Western, Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe, Byzantium and the Middle East. Furthermore, they go beyond the borders of Christianity by including various caliphates and Islamic «hegemonic» rulers like Saladin.

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The Caliphates between Imperial Rule and Imagined Suzerainty – A Case Study on Imperial Rituals during Saladin’s Rise to Power (Nadeem Khan)


Nadeem Khan (Münster)

The Caliphates between Imperial Rule and Imagined Suzerainty – A Case Study on Imperial Rituals during Saladin’s Rise to Power

1. Introduction

This article deals with power relations during the Islamic classic. The main question is whether the medieval Islamic caliphates of the Umayyāds, ʿAbbāsids and Fāṭimids can be described as empires. The recent milestone in the research of empires – Imperien des Altertums, Mittelalterliche und Frühneuzeitliche Imperien, being the first volume of Imperien und Reiche in der Weltgeschichte. Epochenübergreifende und Globalhistorische Vergleiche – has already been able to shed light on this question.1 Hämeen-Antilla argues that while “[t]he Umayyād dynasty ended in 750”, their “Empire [emphasis N.K.] […] outlived the dynasty and even though the change from the Umayyāds to the ʿAbbāsids was abrupt in dynastic terms, the change of the Empire was slow and gradual”2, thereby considering both the Umayyād and ʿAbbāsid dynasties as part of a caliphal empire. In the same volume Heinz Halm describes the Fāṭimid polity as empire as it fulfilled any criteria of empire during the height of its power in late 10th and early 11th centuries.3 The definition of empire used in their studies was based on a global comparative approach, theoretically based on the ideas of Herfried Münkler, Hans-Heinrich Nolte and Ulrich Menzel. This study aims to narrowly use the definition brought forward by Herfried Münkler. His disregard for medi...

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