As'ad Pasha al-Azm
As'ad Pasha al-Azem (Arabic: أسعد باشا العظم‎‎, c. 1706 – March 1758) was the governor of Damascus under Ottoman rule from 1742 to his deposition in 1757. He was responsible for the construction of several architectural works in the city and other places in Syria.[1]
As'ad Pasha al-Azem
أسعد باشا العظم
Wali of Damascus
In office
MonarchMahmud I
Osman III
Preceded bySulayman Pasha al-Azm
Succeeded byHusayn Pasha ibn Makki
Personal details
Bornc. 1706
Maarrat al-Nu'man, Ottoman Syria
DiedMarch 1758
Mediterranean Sea
RelationsAl-Azm family
ChildrenMuhammad Pasha al-Azm
ParentsIsmail Pasha al-Azm (father)
Born in 1706 in Maarrat al-Nu'man, Ottoman Syria,[2] Asad was the grandson of Ibrahim al-'Azm, "a rural notable possibly of Turkish stock",[3] who was sent to Ma'arrat al-Nu'man to restore order in the mid-seventeenth century;[3] upon his grandfather's death, Asad's father, Ismail Pasha al-Azm, and uncle, Sulayman Pasha al-Azm, completed their father's task and were rewarded by the Ottoman administration with hereditary tax farms in Homs, Hama and Ma'arrat al-Nu'man.[3] Hence, the Al-Azm family came to control much of the provinces of Ottoman Syria in 1725.[1] One of his brothers was Sa'deddin Pasha al-Azm. As'ad governed Hama as a tax collector for a number of years,[4] until his uncle, Sulayman Pasha al-Azm, governor of Damascus, died in 1743.[1] In Hama, he built the Azem Palace where he resided.[4]
Governor of Damascus
As'ad Pasha succeeded his father as governor of Damascus in 1743. Throughout the first half of the 18th century, the Janissary corps in Damascus challenged the al-Azem family rule in Damascus, but in 1746, As'ad Pasha crushed the local Janissaries. This enabled him to secure his authority in the city.[5]
He was favored by the Ottoman authorities in Istanbul because of his successes in the protection of the Syrian pilgrim caravan that annually left for Mecca and Medina during the Hajj. In his dealings with the Bedouin tribes along the caravan route in the Syrian Desert and the Hejaz, As'ad Pasha either utilized force to subdue them or bought them off. The security of the pilgrim caravan was of prime importance to the Ottoman sultan in his capacity as "Protector of the Two Holy Sanctuaries," especially after the consistent failure of the Janissaries to protect the caravan.[5]
Architecture of the Azem Palace built in 1751 under the patronage of As'ad Pasha al-Azem
When locust swarms devastated the harvests of interior Syria, As'ad Pasha used it as a pretext to launch raids against Druze communities in the Bekaa Valley, plundering their crops which he placed on the market in Damascus.[6] During his governorship, As'ad Pasha relaxed restraints on Christians; for instance, he allowed them to drink alcohol in public. He used his family's great wealth to construct the Azem Palace in Damascus in 1750. Serving as a joint residence and guesthouse, the palace was a monument to 18th-century Arab architecture.[1] The famed Khan As'ad Pasha was also built under As'ad Pasha's patronage in 1752.[7] His rule represented the apex of al-Azem influence in the Levant as at that time, the members of the family administered Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Tripoli, Sidon, and for a short period, Mosul.[1]
Despite As'ad Pasha's ability to secure the pilgrim caravan, the new Ottoman authorities in Istanbul deposed him in 1757 after fourteen years of governance. The Grand Vizier at the time, Raghib Pasha, denounced him as a "peasant son of a peasant" after a deal between the two of them faltered. In addition, the Kizlar Agha of Istanbul, Aboukouf, was disdainful toward As'ad Pasha for apparently not catering to him properly when he passed through Damascus as part of the Hajj caravan. The Ottoman state was also interested in confiscating the great wealth As'ad Pasha accumulated during his tenure in office. The large amounts of money collected made the state revalue its currency.[5] As'ad Pasha was initially replaced by Husayn Pasha ibn Makki, a protégé of Aboukouf.[8]
After being deposed, As'ad Pasha was assigned to Aleppo Eyalet and a month after, was appointed Governor of Egypt.[9] In late 1757, the Hajj pilgrim caravan was annihilated. The Ottomans accused As'ad Pasha of inciting the Bedouin to attack the caravan in response to his deposition earlier that year.[5] Consequently, Grand Vizier Raghib Pasha ordered As'ad Pasha's execution.[10] As'ad Pasha was executed in March 1758 aboard a ship ostensibly transporting him to Crete where would live in exile.[9] A Georgian mamluk (slave soldier) of As'ad Pasha, Uthman Pasha al-Kurji, then led Ottoman authorities to the whereabouts of his master's treasures and was rewarded with the governorship of Damascus in 1760.[10]
  1. ^ a b c d e Commins 2004, p. 58.
  2. ^ محمد راغب الطباخ الحلبي (1988). إعلام النبلاء بتاريخ حلب الشهباء - ج3 (in Arabic). محمد كمال دار القلم العربي. p. 270.
  3. ^ a b c Khoury, Philip S. (2003), Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism: The Politics of Damascus 1860-1920, Cambridge University Press, p. 50, ISBN 0521533236, The most prominent family to secure significant independent political power in Damascus was the 'Azm family. Ibrahim al-'Azm, a rural notable possibly of Turkish stock, went to Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, a trading center between Aleppo and Hama catering to beduin, to restore order in the mid-seventeenth century. Although he was killed, his sons, Isma'il and Sulayman, completed their father's task and were rewarded with hereditary tax farms in Homs, Hama and Ma'arrat al-Nu'man.
  4. ^ a b Ring, Berney, Salkin 1996, p. 318.
  5. ^ a b c d Choueiri 2005, p. 232.
  6. ^ Grehan 2007, p. 69.
  7. ^ Carter, Dunston, Humphreys, and Simonis 2004, p. 90.
  8. ^ Joudah 1987, p. 42.
  9. ^ a b Joudah 1987, p. 43.
  10. ^ a b Salzmann 2004, p. 95.
Further reading
Volney, Constantin-François (1788). Travels Through Syria and Egypt, in the Years 1783, 1784, and 1785: containing the Present Natural and Political State of Those Countries, Their Productions, Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce : with Observations on the Manners, Customs, and Government of the Turks and Arabs : Illustrated. 2. (pp. 253 ff, about As'ad Pasha al-Azm )
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sulayman Pasha al-Azm
Wali of Damascus
Succeeded by
Husayn Pasha ibn Makki
Last edited on 27 January 2021, at 22:28
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