Fatimites, Or Fatimides, the descendants of Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, a powerful Arab dynasty which for 2 1/2 centuries ruled Egypt and Syria, while the Abbasside caliphs reigned at Bagdad. They claimed as their founder Ismael, the 6th of the 12 imams who were descended from Ali and Fatima; but this claim was disputed, and they were variously said to have first appeared in Persia, in Egypt, and at Fez, and to have been descendants of a Jew, a locksmith, and an eastern sage. They first attained to empire under Abu Obeidallah, who in A. D. 909 announced himself in Syria as the mahdi, or director of the faithful, foretold by the Koran, and expected as the Messiah by a class of heterodox Mussulmans. Denounced by the caliph, he tied to Egypt, was imprisoned for a time in north Africa, but was afterward recognized as a messenger from heaven, and made himself caliph of the whole country from the straits of Gibraltar to the border of Egypt. His successor conquered the island of Sicily. Moez, the 4th caliph, wrested Egypt from the Ab-bassides in 970, founded Cairo, fixing his residence in its present suburb of Fostat, and conquered Palestine and a large part of Syria. Aziz, his successor (975-990), consolidated and extended his conquests, and embellished Cairo with many monuments.
His son Hakem (996-1021) was preeminently distinguished for fanaticism and cruelty, persecuting alike Christians, Jews, and orthodox Mohammedans. Declaring himself a manifestation of God, he became near the close of his reign the founder of a new religion, now represented by the Druses of Syria, who expect his reappearance as their Messiah. From his time the power of the Fatimites declined. On the death of Adhed, the 14th caliph, in 1171, the dynasty was extinguished, and a new one established by Saladin. (See Caliph.)