Renaissance Emir: A Druze Warlord at the Court of the Medici

by Gorton, T. J.

Fakhr ad-Din Ma’n was a small man with outsize ambitions, and Renaissance Emir tells his story, a unique account of cultural discovery with a tragic end. A Druze prince who fled his mountain to seek refuge in Florence at the end of the Renaissance, he took along a diverse party of Moslem, Christian, and Jewish Levantines on their first visit to the ‘Lands of the Christians’. The Medici princes, their courtiers and the people of Florence were as astonished as their guests, and their mutual act of discovery was recorded in an Arabic memoir written by one of the exiles, and the detailed reports filed in the Medici archives, all newly translated for this book. Fakhr ad-Din tried to convince the Popes and potentates of Europe to join him in a chimerical crusade to push the Ottomans out of the Levant, eventually returning home to defeat an Ottoman army on the battlefield – a Pyrrhic victory that would lead him and his sons to execution in the presence of the Sultan, thus extinguishing his line. His influence is still seen in certain Italianate buildings, and some groups in fractured Lebanon claim him as ‘Father of the Nation’. The story of his life offers the reader a vibrant vignette of life at the intersection of European and Islamic empires, told for the first time in English and based on first-hand archives and other original sources that impart to it a truly exceptional poignancy.