Prester John was a legendary Christian patriarch and king, popular in European chronicles and tradition from the 7th through the 19th centuries. He was said to rule over a Nestorian Christian nation lost amid the Muslims and pagans of the Orient, in which the Patriarch of the Saint Thomas Christians resided; the accounts are varied collections of medieval popular fantasy, depicting Prester John as a descendant of the Three Magi, ruling a kingdom full of riches and strange creatures. At first, Prester John was imagined to reside in India. After the coming of the Mongols to the Western world, accounts placed the king in Central Asia, Portuguese explorers convinced themselves that they had found him in Ethiopia. Though its immediate genesis is unclear, the legend of Prester John drew from earlier accounts of the Orient and of Westerners' travels there. Influential were the stories of Saint Thomas the Apostle's proselytizing in India, recorded in the 3rd-century work known as the Acts of Thomas.
This text inculcated in Westerners an image of "India" as a place of exotic wonders and offered the earliest description of Saint Thomas establishing a Christian sect there, motifs that loomed large over accounts of Prester John. Distorted reports of the Church of the East's movements in Asia informed the legend as well; this church called the Nestorian church and centered in Persia, had gained a wide following in the Eastern nations and engaged the Western imagination as an assemblage both exotic and familiarly Christian. Inspiring were the Nestorians' missionary successes among the Mongols and Turks of Central Asia. By the 12th century, the Kerait rulers were still following a custom of bearing Christian names, which may have fueled the legend. Additionally, the tradition may have drawn from the shadowy early Christian figure John the Presbyter of Syria, whose existence is first inferred by the ecclesiastical historian and bishop Eusebius of Caesarea based on his reading of earlier church fathers.
This man, said in one document to be the author of two of the Epistles of John, was supposed to have been the teacher of the martyr bishop Papias, who had in turn taught Eusebius' own teacher Irenaeus. However, little links this figure active in the late 1st century, to the Prester John legend beyond the name; the title "Prester" is an adaptation of the Late Latin word "presbyter" meaning "elder" and used as a title of priests holding a high office. The accounts of Prester John borrowed from literary texts concerning the East, including the great body of ancient and medieval geographical and travel literature. Details were lifted from literary and pseudohistorical accounts, such as the tale of Sinbad the Sailor; the Alexander romance, a fabulous account of Alexander the Great's conquests, was influential in this regard. The Prester John legend as such began in the early 12th century with reports of visits of an Archbishop of India to Constantinople, of a Patriarch of India to Rome at the time of Pope Callixtus II.
These visits from the Saint Thomas Christians of India, cannot be confirmed, evidence of both being secondhand reports. What is certain is that German chronicler Otto of Freising reported in his Chronicon of 1145 that the previous year he had met Hugh, bishop of Jabala in Syria, at the court of Pope Eugene III in Viterbo. Hugh was an emissary of Prince Raymond of Antioch, sent to seek Western aid against the Saracens after the Siege of Edessa. Hugh told Otto, in the presence of the pope, that Prester John, a Nestorian Christian who served in the dual position of priest and king, had regained the city of Ecbatana from the brother monarchs of Medes and Persia, the Samiardi, in a great battle "not many years ago". Afterwards Prester John set out for Jerusalem to rescue the Holy Land, but the swollen waters of the Tigris compelled him to return to his own country, his fabulous wealth was demonstrated by his emerald scepter. Robert Silverberg connects this account with historical events of 1141, when the Kara-Khitan Khanate under Yelü Dashi defeated the Seljuk Turks near Samarkand.
The Seljuks were the most powerful force in the Muslim world. The Kara-Khitan at the time were Buddhists – not Christian – and there is no reason to suppose Yelü Dashi was called Prester John, but several vassals of the Kara-Khitan practiced Nestorian Christianity, which may have contributed to the legend. It is possible that the Europeans, who were unfamiliar with Buddhism, assumed that if the leader was not Muslim, he must be Christian; the defeat inspired a notion of deliverance from the East. It is possible Otto recorded Hugh's confused report to prevent complacency in the Crusade's European backers – according to his account, no help could be expected from a powerful Eastern king. No more of the tale is recorded until about 1165 when copies of what was a forged Letter of Prester John started spreading throughout Europe. An epistolary wonder tale with parallels sugge
Baniyas is a city in Tartous Governorate, northwestern Syria, located 55 km south of Latakia and 35 km north of Tartous. It is known for its export of wood. North of the city is an oil refinery, one of the largest in Syria, a power station; the oil refinery is connected with Iraq with Kirkuk–Baniyas pipeline. On a nearby hill stands the Crusader castle of Margat, a huge Knights Hospitaller fortress built with black basalt stone. In Phoenician and Hellenistic times, it was an important seaport; some have identified it with the Hellenistic city of Leucas, in Greece, mentioned by Stephanus of Byzantium. It was a colony of Aradus, was placed by Stephanus in the late Roman province of Phoenicia, though it belonged rather to the province of Syria. In Greek and Latin, it is known as Balanea. Baniyas has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate. Rainfall is higher in winter than in summer; the average annual temperature in Baniyas is 19.3 °C. About 862 mm of precipitation falls annually; the bishopric of Balanea was a suffragan of Apamea, the capital of the Roman province of Syria Secunda, as is attested in a 6th-century Notitiae Episcopatuum.
When Justinian established a new civil province, with Laodicea as metropolis, Balanea was incorporated into it, but continued to depend ecclesiastically on Apamea, till it obtained the status of an exempt bishopric directly subject to the Patriarch of Antioch. Its first known bishop, took part in the Council of Nicaea in 325 and was exiled by the Arians in 335 Timotheus was at both the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In 536, Theodorus was one of the signatories of a letter to the emperor Justinian against Severus of Antioch and other non-Chalcedonians. Stephanus participated in the Second Council of Constantinople in 553. In the Crusades period, Balanea became a Latin-Rite see, called Valenia or Valania in the West, it was situated within the Principality of Antioch and was subject to the Latin-Rite metropolitan see of Apamea, whose archbishop intervened in the nomination of bishops of the suffragan see in 1198 and 1215. For reasons of security, the bishop lived in Margat Castle.
No longer a residential bishopric, Balanea is today listed by the Catholic Church. During the early 21st century Syrian civil war, rebel sources reported that a massacre took place on 2 May 2013, perpetrated by government forces; this article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Siméon. "Balanaea". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 2. New York: Robert Appleton
County of Edessa
The County of Edessa was one of the Crusader states in the 12th century. Its seat was the city of Edessa. In the late Byzantine period, Edessa became the centre of intellectual life within the Syriac Orthodox Church; as such it became the centre for the translation of Ancient Greek philosophy into Syriac, which provided a stepping stone for the subsequent translations into Arabic. When the Crusades arrived, it was still important enough to tempt a side-expedition after the Siege of Antioch. Baldwin of Boulogne, the first Count of Edessa, became King of Jerusalem, subsequent counts were his cousins. Unlike the other Crusader states, the County was landlocked, it was remote from the other states and was not on good terms with its closest neighbor, the Principality of Antioch. Half of the county, including its capital, was located east of the Euphrates, far to the east, rendering it vulnerable; the west part of the Euphrates was controlled from the stronghold of Turbessel. The eastern border of Edessa was the Tigris.
The fall of Edessa provoked the Second Crusade. All the Crusades, were troubled by strategic uncertainties and disagreements; the Second Crusade did not try to recover Edessa, calculating it to be strategically better to take Damascus. But the campaign failed and Edessa was lost for the Christians. Today, the city is part of modern-day Turkey; the Oriental Orthodox community disappeared after the Armenian Genocide during World War I. In 1098, Baldwin of Boulogne left the main Crusading army, travelling south towards Antioch and Jerusalem, he went first south into Cilicia east to Edessa, where he convinced its lord, Thoros, to adopt him as son and heir. He married Thoros' daughter, Arda of Armenia, who became the first queen of Jerusalem. Thoros was a Christian of Armenian origin but of Greek Orthodox religion and disliked by his Armenian Orthodox subjects, which led to his removal from power in March 1098. Different sources claim he was assassinated or abdicated, but it is unknown if Baldwin had any part in this.
Nonetheless, Baldwin succeeded Thoros as ruler. In 1100, Baldwin became King of Jerusalem when Godfrey of Bouillon, died; the County of Edessa passed to his cousin Baldwin of Bourcq. He was joined by Joscelin of Courtenay, who became lord of the fortress of Turbessel on the Euphrates, an important outpost against the Seljuk Turks; the Frankish lords formed a good rapport with their Armenian subjects, there were frequent intermarriages. Count Baldwin's wife had died in Maraş in 1097, after he succeeded to Edessa he married Arda, a granddaughter of the Armenian Roupenid Prince Constantine. Baldwin of Bourcq married Morphia, a daughter of Gabriel of Melitene, Joscelin of Courtenay married a daughter of Constantine. Baldwin II became involved in the affairs of northern Syria and Asia Minor, he helped secure the ransom of Bohemond I of Antioch from the Danishmends in 1103, with Antioch, attacked the Byzantine Empire in Cilicia in 1104. In 1104, Edessa was attacked by Mosul, both Baldwin and Joscelin were taken prisoner after their defeat at the Battle of Harran.
Bohemond's cousin Tancred became regent in Edessa, until Baldwin and Joscelin were ransomed in 1108. Baldwin had to fight to regain control of the city. In 1110, all lands east of the Euphrates were lost to Mawdud of Mosul; this was not followed by an assault on Edessa itself as the Muslim rulers were more concerned with consolidating their own power. Baldwin II became King of Jerusalem when Baldwin I died in 1118. Although Eustace of Boulogne had a better claim as the late Baldwin's brother, he was in France and did not want the title. Edessa was given to Joscelin in 1119. Joscelin was taken prisoner once again in 1122. Joscelin escaped in 1123, obtained Baldwin's release the next year. Joscelin was gravely injured during a siege in 1131 and was succeeded by his son Joscelin II. By this time, Zengi began to threaten Edessa. Meanwhile, Joscelin II paid little attention to the security of his county, argued with the counts of Tripoli who refused to come to his aid. Zengi besieged the city in 1144. Joscelin continued to rule his lands west of the Euphrates, he managed to take advantage of the death of Zengi in September 1146 to regain and hold his old capital.
The city was again lost in November, Joscelin escaped. In 1150 he was captured by Zengi's son Nur ad-Din, was kept a prisoner in Aleppo until he died in 1159, his wife sold Turbessel and what was left of the County to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus, but these lands were conquered by Nur ad-Din and the Sultan of Rum within a year. Edessa was the first Crusader state to be created, the first to be lost. Edessa was one of the largest of the Crusader states in terms of territory but had one of the smallest populations. Edessa itself had about 10,000 inhabitants; the rest of the county consisted of fortresses. The county's territory extended from Antioch in the west to across the Euphrates in the east at its greatest extent, it often occupied land as f
Tell Tweini, sometimes known as Gibala, is a 12 hectare archaeological site located 1 kilometre east of the modern city of Jableh, Syria. It is situated within the coastal plain of Jableh, a short distance of two other main archaeological sites: Tell Sukas and Tell Siyannu; as a tell, the site is the result of centuries of habitation on the same place, which resulted in a rising mound, as every new generation built their houses on top of the remains of older structures. The tell is sited about 1.7 kilometers from the coast but it appears that in the Bronze Age a sea incursion provided a harbor access to the sea. Tell Tweini was inhabited from at least the end of the third millennium BCE until the Persian period; the town may have been ancient Gibala, a city mentioned in a treaty found at Ugarit from the 13th century BCE. An extraordinary find at Tell Tweini was the communal tomb dating to ca 1700 BCE; the grave contained the skeletons of 16 infants. Serving as grave-goods were 160 well-preserved ceramic vessels and dishes, several bronze pins and a figurine...
Among others, the grave goods included a fenestrated axe, quite typical for this period. Similar axes have been discovered at Sukas and Byblos. At the end of the Late Bronze Age Gibala formed the southern border of the Ugaritic kingdom; the transition between the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age remains one of the most poorly understood aspects of the most northern Levantine site, but preliminary results from the end of the 2007 campaign show that the city was inhabited during the 11th-10th century BCE. During the Iron Age, the city was urbanised. Geophysical prospecting conducted on the complete surface of the tell demonstrated this and made it possible to detect the ancient street system of the Iron Age city. By the Persian era the city had lost its importance and the habitation was relocated near to the modern harbour of Jebleh at the Mediterranean sea coast. During the Byzantine domination of the region, some isolated structures were installed on the surface of the tell. Since 1999, Tell Tweini has been investigated by a Syro-Belgian interdisciplinary team led by Michel al-Maqdissi, Joachim Bretschneider and Karel Van Lerberghe.
Since excavations started in 1999, major discoveries include a Phoenician sanctuary, a large communal tomb from the end of the Middle Bronze Age containing 58 human remains, a large city wall, several domestic and public structures from the Iron Age I-II and multiple small finds. Excavations ended in 2010, interupted by of local condition but work on the findings continue. Short chronology timeline - one of the chronologies of the Near Eastern Bronze and Early Iron Age Cities of the ancient Near East Bretschneider, J. Van Lerberghe, K.. An Archaeological and Historical Study Based on Eight Seasons of Excavations at Tell Tweini in the A and C Fields; the Syro-Belgian'Tell Tweini' Project. In: In Search of Gibala. Barcelona: AUSA. Michel al-Maqdissi, Karel Van Lerberghe et al; the Occupation Levels of Tell Tweini and Their Historical Implications, in Proceedings of the 51st Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Oriental Institute SAOC 62, pp. 341–350, 2005 Syro-Belgian Tell Tweini excavation project Geophysical prospection results from the 2004 campaign
An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, known as Salah ad-Din or Saladin, was the first sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. A Sunni Muslim of Kurdish ethnicity, Saladin led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Upper Mesopotamia, the Hejaz and other parts of North Africa, he was sent to Fatimid Egypt in 1164 alongside his uncle Shirkuh, a general of the Zengid army, on the orders of their lord Nur ad-Din to help restore Shawar as vizier of the teenage Fatimid caliph al-Adid. A power struggle ensued between Shawar after the latter was reinstated. Saladin, climbed the ranks of the Fatimid government by virtue of his military successes against Crusader assaults against its territory and his personal closeness to al-Adid. After Shawar was assassinated and Shirkuh died in 1169, al-Adid appointed Saladin vizier, a rare nomination of a Sunni Muslim to such an important position in the Isma'ili Shia caliphate.
During his tenure as vizier, Saladin began to undermine the Fatimid establishment and, following al-Adid's death in 1171, he abolished the Fatimid Caliphate and realigned the country's allegiance with the Sunni, Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate. In the following years, he led forays against the Crusaders in Palestine, commissioned the successful conquest of Yemen, staved off pro-Fatimid rebellions in Upper Egypt. Not long after Nur ad-Din's death in 1174, Saladin launched his conquest of Syria, peacefully entering Damascus at the request of its governor. By mid-1175, Saladin had conquered Hama and Homs, inviting the animosity of other Zengid lords, the official rulers of Syria's various regions. Soon after, he defeated the Zengid army at the Battle of the Horns of Hama and was thereafter proclaimed the "Sultan of Egypt and Syria" by the Abbasid caliph al-Mustadi. Saladin made further conquests in northern Syria and Jazira, escaping two attempts on his life by the "Assassins", before returning to Egypt in 1177 to address issues there.
By 1182, Saladin had completed the conquest of Muslim Syria after capturing Aleppo, but failed to take over the Zengid stronghold of Mosul. Under Saladin's command, the Ayyubid army defeated the Crusaders at the decisive Battle of Hattin in 1187, thereafter wrested control of Palestine – including the city of Jerusalem – from the Crusaders, who had conquered the area 88 years earlier. Although the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem continued to exist until the late 13th century, its defeat at Hattin marked a turning point in its conflict with the Muslim powers of the region. Saladin died in Damascus in 1193, he is buried in a mausoleum adjacent to the Umayyad Mosque. Saladin has become a prominent figure in Muslim, Arab and Kurdish culture, he has been described as being the most famous Kurd in history. Saladin was born in Tikrit in modern-day Iraq, his personal name was "Yusuf". His family was of mixed Kurdish and Turkish ancestry, had originated from the city of Dvin in central Armenia; the Rawadiya tribe he hailed from had been assimilated into the Arabic-speaking world by this time.
In 1132, the defeated army of Imad ad-Din Zengi, the ruler of Mosul, found their retreat blocked by the Tigris River opposite the fortress of Tikrit, where Saladin's father, Najm ad-Din Ayyub served as the warden. Ayyub gave them refuge in Tikrit. Mujahed al-Din Bihruz, a former Greek slave, appointed as the military governor of northern Mesopotamia for his service to the Seljuks, reprimanded Ayyub for giving Zengi refuge and in 1137 banished Ayyub from Tikrit after his brother Asad al-Din Shirkuh killed a friend of Bihruz in an honour killing. According to Baha ad-Din ibn Shaddad, Saladin was born on the same night that his family left Tikrit. In 1139, Ayyub and his family moved to Mosul, where Imad ad-Din Zengi acknowledged his debt and appointed Ayyub commander of his fortress in Baalbek. After the death of Zengi in 1146, his son, Nur ad-Din, became the regent of Aleppo and the leader of the Zengids. Saladin, who now lived in Damascus, was reported to have a particular fondness for the city, but information on his early childhood is scarce.
About education, Saladin wrote "children are brought up in the way in which their elders were brought up." According to his biographers, Anne-Marie Eddé and al-Wahrani, Saladin was able to answer questions on Euclid, the Almagest and law, but this was an academic ideal and it was study of the Qur'an and the "sciences of religion" that linked him to his contemporaries. Several sources claim that during his studies he was more interested in religion than joining the military. Another factor which may have affected his interest in religion was that, during the First Crusade, Jerusalem was taken by the Christians. In addition to Islam, Saladin had a knowledge of the genealogies and histories of the Arabs, as well as the bloodlines of Arabian horses. More he knew the Hamasah of Abu Tammam by heart, he spoke Arabic. Saladin's military career began under the tutelage of his uncle Asad al-Din Shirkuh, a prominent military commander under Nur ad-Din, the Zengid emir of Damascus and Aleppo and the most influential teacher of Saladin.
In 1163, the vizier to the Fatimid caliph al-Adid, had been driven out of Egypt by his rival Dirgham, a member of the powerful Banu Ruzzaik tribe. He asked for military backing from Nur ad-Din, who compl
Aleppo is a city in Syria, serving as the capital of the Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 4.6 million in 2010, Aleppo was the largest Syrian city before the Syrian Civil War. Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Excavations at Tell as-Sawda and Tell al-Ansari, just south of the old city of Aleppo, show that the area was occupied by Amorites since at least the latter part of the 3rd millennium BC; this is when Aleppo is first mentioned in cuneiform tablets unearthed in Ebla and Mesopotamia, in which it is a part of the Amorite state of Yamhad, is noted for its commercial and military proficiency. Such a long history is attributed to its strategic location as a trading center midway between the Mediterranean Sea and Mesopotamia. For centuries, Aleppo was the largest city in the Syrian region, the Ottoman Empire's third-largest after Constantinople and Cairo; the city's significance in history has been its location at one end of the Silk Road, which passed through central Asia and Mesopotamia.
When the Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869, trade was diverted to sea and Aleppo began its slow decline. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Aleppo ceded its northern hinterland to modern Turkey, as well as the important railway connecting it to Mosul. In the 1940s, it lost its main access to the sea, Antakya and İskenderun to Turkey; the isolation of Syria in the past few decades further exacerbated the situation. This decline may have helped to preserve the old city of Aleppo, its medieval architecture and traditional heritage, it won the title of the "Islamic Capital of Culture 2006", has had a wave of successful restorations of its historic landmarks. The Battle of Aleppo occurred in the city during the Syrian Civil War, many parts of the city suffered massive destruction. Affected parts of the city are undergoing reconstruction. Modern-day English-speakers refer to the city as Aleppo, it was known in antiquity as Khalpe, to the Greeks and Romans as Beroea. During the Crusades, again during the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon of 1923–1946, the name Alep was used.
Aleppo represents the Italianised version of this. The original ancient name, has survived as the current Arabic name of the city, it is of obscure origin. However, the term Ḥalab might be derived from related to a folktale of Abraham, who milked his sheep to feed the poor. Others have proposed that Ḥalab means "iron" or "copper" in Amorite languages, since the area served as a major source of these metals in antiquity. Another possibility is that Ḥalab means'white', as this is the word for'white' in Aramaic, the local language which preceded regional Arabization; this may explain how Ḥalab became the Hebrew word for milk or vice versa, as well as offers a possible explanation for the modern-day Arabic nickname of the city, ash-Shahbaa, which means "the white-colored mixed with black" and derives from the famous white marble of Aleppo. Abraham is said to have camped on the acropolis which, long before his time, served as the foundation of a fortress where the Aleppo citadel is standing now, he milked his grey cow there, hence Aleppo's name "Halab Al-Shahba".
From the 11th century it was common rabbinic usage to apply the term "Aram-Zobah" to the area of Aleppo, many Syrian Jews continue to do so. Aleppo has scarcely been touched by archaeologists; the site has been occupied from around 5000 BC. Aleppo appears in historical records as an important city much earlier than Damascus; the first record of Aleppo comes from the third millennium BC, in the Ebla tablets when Aleppo was referred to as Ha-lam. Some historians, such as Wayne Horowitz, identify Aleppo with the capital of an independent kingdom related to Ebla, known as Armi, although this identification is contested; the main temple of the storm god Hadad was located on the citadel hill in the center of the city, when the city was known as the city of Hadad. Naram-Sin of Akkad mention his destruction of Ebla and Armani/Armanum, in the 23rd century BC. but the identification of Armani in the inscription of Naram-Sim as Armi in the Eblaite tablets is debated, as there was no Akkadian annexation of Ebla or northern Syria.
In the Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian Empire period, Aleppo's name appears in its original form as Ḥalab for the first time. Aleppo was the capital of the important Amorite dynasty of Yamḥad; the kingdom of Yamḥad, alternatively known as the'land of Ḥalab,' was one of the most powerful in the Near East during the reign of Yarim-Lim I, who formed an alliance with Hammurabi of Babylonia against Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria. Yamḥad was devastated by the Hittites under Mursilis I in the 16th century BC. However, it soon resumed its leading role in the Levant when the Hittite power in the region waned due to internal strife. Taking advantage of the power vacuum in the region, king of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni instigated a rebellion that ended the life of Yamhad last king Ilim-Ilimma I in c. 1525 BC, Parshatatar conquered Aleppo and the city found itself on the frontline in the struggle between the Mitanni, the Hittites and Egypt. Niqmepa of Alalakh who descends from the old Yamhadite kings controlled the city as a vassal to Mitanni and was attacked by Tudhaliya I of the Hittites as a retaliation for his alliance to
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the Islamic State and by its Arabic language acronym Daesh, is a Salafi jihadist militant group and former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi doctrine of Sunni Islam. ISIL gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by its capture of Mosul and the Sinjar massacre; the group has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and many individual countries. ISIL is known for its videos of beheadings and other types of executions of both soldiers and civilians, including journalists and aid workers, its destruction of cultural heritage sites; the United Nations holds ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes. ISIL committed ethnic cleansing on an historic scale in northern Iraq. ISIL originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and participated in the Iraqi insurgency following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces at the behest of the United States.
In June 2014 the group proclaimed itself a worldwide caliphate and began referring to itself as the Islamic State. As a caliphate, it claimed religious and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, its adoption of the name Islamic State and its idea of a caliphate have been criticised, with the United Nations, various governments and mainstream Muslim groups rejecting its statehood. In Syria, the group conducted ground attacks on both government forces and opposition factions and by December 2015, it held a large area extending from western Iraq to eastern Syria, containing an estimated 8 to 12 million people, where it enforced its interpretation of sharia law. ISIL is believed to be operational in 18 countries across the world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, with "aspiring branches" in Mali, Somalia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. In 2015, ISIL was estimated to have an annual budget of more than US$1 billion and a force of more than 30,000 fighters. In July 2017, the group lost control of Mosul, to the Iraqi army.
Following this major defeat, ISIL continued to lose territory to the various states and other military forces allied against it, until it controlled no meaningful territory by November 2017. U. S. military officials and simultaneous military analyses reported in December 2017 that the group retained a mere 2 percent of the territory they had held. On 10 December 2017, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq's territory. By 23 March 2019, ISIL lost one of their last significant territories in the Middle East, surrendering their "tent city" and pockets in Al-Baghuz Fawqani near the end of the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani. In April 2013, having expanded into Syria, the group adopted the name ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām; as al-Shām is a region compared with the Levant or Greater Syria, the group's name has been variously translated as "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham", "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria", or "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant".
While the use of either one or the other acronym has been the subject of debate, the distinction between the two and its relevance has been considered not so great. Of greater relevance is the name Daesh, an acronym of ISIL's Arabic name al-Dawlah al-Islamīyah fī l-ʻIrāq wa-sh-Shām. Dāʿish, or Daesh; this name has been used by ISIL's Arabic-speaking detractors, although – and to a certain extent because – it is considered derogatory, as it resembles the Arabic words Daes and Dāhis. Within areas under its control, ISIL considers use of the name Daesh punishable by flogging or cutting out the tongue. In late June 2014, the group renamed itself ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah, declaring itself a worldwide caliphate; the name "Islamic State" and the group's claim to be a caliphate have been rejected, with the UN, various governments, mainstream Muslim groups refusing to use the new name. The group's declaration of a new caliphate in June 2014 and its adoption of the name "Islamic State" have been criticised and ridiculed by Muslim scholars and rival Islamists both inside and outside the territory it controls.
In a speech in September 2014, United States President Barack Obama said that ISIL was neither "Islamic" nor was it a "state", while many object to using the name "Islamic State" owing to the far-reaching religious and political claims to authority which that name implies. The United Nations Security Council, the United States, Turkey, Russia, the United Kingdom and other countries call the group "ISIL", while much of the Arab world uses the Arabic acronym "Dāʻish". France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said "This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam and Islamists; the Arabs call it'Daesh' and I will be calling them the'Daesh cutthroats.'" Retired general John Allen, the U. S. envoy appointed to co-ordinate the coalition. S. Army Lieutenant General James Terry, head of operations against the group.