Wattasid dynasty

Wattasid dynasty
الوطاسيون - al-waṭṭāsīyūn
ⵉⵡⴻⵟⵟⴰⵙⴻⵏ - Iweṭṭāsen
Ruling dynasty of Morocco
Map of the Wattasid sultanate (dark red) and its vassal states (light red)
Capital Fes
Religion Sunni Islam
Government Sultanate
   Established 1472
   Disestablished 1554
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Marinid dynasty
Saadi dynasty

The Wattasid dynasty (Berber: ⵉⵡⴻⵟⵟⴰⵙⴻⵏ, Iweṭṭasen, Arabic: الوطاسيون, al-waṭṭāsīyūn) were a ruling dynasty of Morocco. Like the Marinids, they were of Zenata Berber descent.[1] The two families were related, and the Marinids recruited many viziers from the Wattasids.[1] These viziers assumed the powers of the Sultans, seizing power when the last Marinid, Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq, who had massacred many of the Wattasids in 1459, was murdered during a popular revolt in Fez in 1465.

Abu Abd Allah al-Sheikh Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Mahdi was the first Wattasid Sultan. He controlled only the northern part of Morocco, the south being divided into several principalities. The Wattasids were finally supplanted in 1554, after the Battle of Tadla, by the Saadi princes of Tagmadert who had ruled all of southern Morocco since 1511.


Morocco endured a prolonged multifaceted crisis in the 15th and early 16th centuries brought about by economic, political, social and cultural issues. Population growth remained stagnant and traditional commerce with the far south was cut off as the Portuguese occupied all seaports. At the same time, the towns were impoverished, and intellectual life was on the decline.


Morocco was in decline when the Berber Wattasid dynasty assumed power. The Wattasid family had been the autonomous governors of the eastern Rif since the late 13th century, ruling from their base in Tazouta (near present-day Nador). They had close ties to the Merinid sultans and provided many of the bureacratic elite. While the Merinid tried to repel the Portuguese and Spanish invasions and help the kingdom of Granada to outlive the Reconquista, the Wattasids accumulated absolute power through political maneuvering. When the Merinids became aware of the extent of the conspiracy, they slaughtered the Wattasids, leaving only Abu Abdellah al-Shaykh Muhammad ben Yehya alive. He went on to found the Kingdom of Fez and establish the dynasty to be succeeded by his son, Mohammed al-Burtuqali, in 1504.

The Wattasid rulers failed in their promise to protect Morocco from foreign incursions and the Portuguese increased their presence on Morocco's coast. Mohammad al-Chaykh's son attempted to capture Assilah and Tangiers in 1508, 1511 and 1515, but without success.

In the south, a new dynasty arose: the Saadians who seized Marrakesh in 1524 and made it their capital. By 1537 the Saadians were in the ascendent when they defeated the Portuguese at Agadir. Their military successes contrast with the Wattasid policy of conciliation towards the Catholic kings to the north.

As a result, the people of Morocco tended to regard the Saadians as heroes, making it easier for them to retake the Portuguese strongholds on the coast, including Tangiers, Ceuta and Mazagan. The Saadians also attacked the Watttasids who were forced to yield to the new power. In 1554, as Wattasid towns surrendered, the Wattasid sultan, Abou Hasan Ali, briefly retook Fez. The Saadians quickly settled the matter by killing him and, as the last Wattasids fled Morocco by ship, they too were murdered by pirates.

The Wattasid did little to improve general conditions in Morocco following the Reconquista. It was necessary to wait for the Saadians for order to be reestablished and the expansionist ambitions of the kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula to be curbed.


Known Wattasid coins include a few extremely rare gold coins and also square silver dirhams and half dirhams, still following the Almohad standard of roughly 1.5 grams.[2]

The dynasty

Wattasid Viziers

Wattasid Sultans

Chronology of events

See also


  1. 1 2 C.E. Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties, (Columbia University Press, 1996), 48.
  2. Album, Stephen. A Checklist of Islamic Coins, Second Edition, January 1998, Santa Rosa, CA
Royal house
House of Banu Wattas
Preceded by
Idrisid dynasty
Joutey branch
Ruling house of Morocco
1472 – 1554
Succeeded by
Saadi dynasty
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