ARSENAL OF TUNIS
Soon after Hasan ibn Nu‘man, the Umayyad governor of Ifriqiyyah (modern Tunisia), captured Carthage (A.D. 698), he began to build a city at the head of Lake Tunis in what was an ideal location for a marine arsenal. By approximately 700 the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan had ordered Hasan to build an Arab arsenal at Tunis.
At the same time ‘Abd al-Malik ordered his brother, who was the governor of Egypt, to send one thousand Copts and their families to Tunis in order to participate in the construction of a fleet. Instructions specified that ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, the governor, should supply all necessary provisions (al-Bakri, 1965, pp. 83-84), that the Berbers should supply the lumber, and that the Copts should construct and outfit the ships.
Existing studies indicate that Coptic artisans inhabited other ports in North Africa (al-Tijani, 1958, pp. 6-7). Al-Bakri reports that Copts inhabited the suburbs of Tripoli and that they composed most of the population of Ajdabiyyah (pp. 17, 20).
- Bakri, al-. Description de l‘Afrique septentrionale. Arabic text and trans. Mac Guckin de Slane. Rev. ed., Paris, 1965.
- Ibn Abi Dinar. Al-Mu’nis fi Akhbar Ifriqiyah wa Tunis, ed. M. Shamam. Tunis, 1967.
- Sebag, P. “Les Travaux maritimes de Hasan Ibn Nu‘man.” Revue de l‘Institut des Belles Lettres arabes 33 (1970):41-56.
- Tijani, al-. Rihlat al-Tijani, ed. H. H. ‘Abd al-Wahhab. Tunis, 1958.
LEONARD C. CHIARELLI