The Shia Hamdanid State's Role in Repelling Byzantine Invasion
The hero of this state was Ali bin Hamdan known as Saif-ud-Dawlah. He died in 356 A.H. in Aleppo (Halab) which was his capital. The Syrian writer Sami Al-Kayyali has written about Saif-ud-Dawlah al-Hamdani:
Among the glorious acts of heroism, which had an important role in repelling the Byzantine invasion of the Arab territories, was bravery of Saif-ud-Dawlah al-Hamdani. This great Arab commander stood against the onslaught of the armies of the great Byzantine Empire alone and at a time when the Abbasid state was torn within it and shattered and was threatened by vested interests from every side.
During this critical period raised Saif-ud-Dawlah and laid the foundations of the Hamdanid state in Aleppo. He used his fort as a stronghold for repelling the Byzantine invasions on his motherland.
His position was very difficult. He organized an army and made it fit for the combat. His foremost concern was to check the Byzantines from occupying an inch his motherland. He took the initiative and pushed the fighting back to the Byzantine territory in order to repel their attacks who were dreaming of re-establishing their supremacy over the Eastern Arabian lands, having sensed that Abbasid empire was undergoing a split and was going to end in small principalities always fighting against one another for petty thrones.
Yes, Saif-ud-Dawlah's mission was of great importance and very dangerous. But he was one of those brave man in front of whom great and dangerous event look petty and small, despite all their dangerousness.
Saif-ud-Dawlah fought more then forty battles against the Byzantines and the advance ranks of his armies reached Anadul and were almost right near Constantinople. His battles had changed into poetry.
If we read the eulogies written by the poets about him and his bravery, we would be astonished to find that they give less attention to praising him than describing the battle he fought... Saif-ud-Dawlah preferred to take the poets along with him to the front so that they might see the battles themselves. In this case, if they described the battles, they would portray the real picture and not wander about in the imaginary worlds.
Salambarker says in his book about the Byzantine Commander Nichorphagus: "şThe pages of the history of the Byzantines during the mid-tenth century, and for about more than twenty years, i.e. from 945 to 967 A.D., repeat the name of one person again and again, who is described as a brave man, untiring and sworn enemy of the Byzantine Empire. This man is named the Prince of Aleppo Saif-ud-Dawlah bin Hamdan".
His engagements in the field did not let this great commander ignore to create an environment suitable for the development of art and letters in Aleppo. He, as Salambarker has said, opened his palace for talented artists and writers who came to him from various places including Iraq, Syria, Byzantine, Phoenicia etc. He gave an attentive ear to the poets, loved writers and painters and showered gifts upon historians. All of them returned to their own countries carrying with them a grand picture of the character and personality of this man.
This hero, despite the internal troubles which Akhshidites created or risings which the tribal people led against him, was able to repel the repeated attacks of the Byzantines and to protect Syria from being invaded and occupied. Protection of Syria from these invasions meant the protection of whole Islamic territory, especially Egypt and Iraq. Had the Byzantines captured and occupied Syria, they would have penetrated into all other areas.
Shorter Shi'ite Encyclopaedia