Outremer in the Crusades


Outremer is Established

The first organized crusade, led by Raymond of St Gilles, count of Toulouse, Godfrey of Bouillon, his brother Baldwin, Hugh of Vermandois, Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew Tancred, set out in August 1096 by various routes, reaching Constantinople in April and May 1097. After swearing oaths of homage and fealty to Alexius, the Crusaders crossed the Bosphorus. The Byzantine troops accompanying them took Nicaea on 19 June and the first Frankish victory occurred at Dorylaeum on 1 July. The army then crossed Anatolia, taking Iconium (modern Konya), and arrived at the Taurus Mountains, where they divided into two groups; one led by Baldwin crossed the mountains and took Cilicia, while the other skirted around Anatolia to Caesarea and hence to Antioch.

The first major Frankish territorial gain and the establishment of the first Frankish state in the East came in March 1098 following the death of Thoros, prince of Edessa (Urfa), who after asking for Baldwin of Boulogne’s aid against the Seljuk attacks had adopted him as co-ruler and heir. With Thoros’ death during an uprising, timely from the point of view of Baldwin and perhaps instigated by him, Baldwin became count of Edessa. Prior to this, in the previous October, the Crusaders had gathered outside the walls of Antioch and a seven-month siege of the city began. Antioch was still protected by its remarkable fortifications built by Justinian and repaired in the tenth century. The long wall had over 400 well-placed towers. It surrounded not only the built-up area of the town but also its gardens and fields, and it climbed up Mount Silpius, making an effective siege almost impossible. Raymond of Toulouse was in favour of a direct attack on the walls. Such a strike might have succeeded, but instead a decision was made to try to encircle the city. In the end it was only through the treachery of one of the defenders, an Armenian named Firouz, that on 3 June 1098 Bohemond gained access to the city. With the capture of Antioch, the second Frankish state, the principality of Antioch, was established. After much delay, the march to Jerusalem commenced on 13 January 1099. Skirting the coastal towns, the Crusaders moved south to Jaffa and then turned inland to Lydda, Ramla and Nebi Samwil where on 7 June they encamped before the Holy City. After a six-week siege, on 15 July 1099 the wall was breached near the north-eastern corner by troops under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon. A week later Godfrey was elected ruler of the newly established kingdom of Jerusalem.


Siege of Jerusalem

During the reign of Baldwin I (1100–18) the kingdom of Jerusalem expanded as the coastal cities fell one by one to the Franks. Jaffa and Haifa had already been occupied in 1099. Caesarea and Arsuf fell in 1101, Akko in 1104, Sidon and Beirut in 1110, Tyre in 1124 and Ascalon in 1153. At its peak in the twelfth century, the kingdom occupied an area extending from slightly north of Beirut to Darum in the south on the Mediterranean coast, and inland to several kilometres east of the Jordan valley and the Arava Desert, down to the Gulf of Eilat.

The county of Tripoli, last of the mainland states, was founded by Raymond of Toulouse between 1102 and 1105, although the city of Tripoli itself fell to the Franks only in 1109. The northern principalities of Antioch, Tripoli and Edessa were essentially dependencies of the kingdom of Jerusalem, though they often acted independently. In 1191 Cyprus also came under Frankish rule.

Division amongst the Muslims enabled the Frankish states to maintain a degree of stability; but towards the middle of the twelfth century the Franks suffered a major blow when in 1144 Zangi, master of Aleppo and Mosul, took Edessa. This county, which had been the first territorial gain of the Crusades, now became its first major loss and Zangi became known by his followers as the leader of the Jihad (Holy War). After his death and following the humiliating failure of the Second Crusade which had attacked Damascus rather than Edessa, Zangi’s son Nur al-Din took Damascus. In order to strengthen his position Nur al-Din sent Shirkuh, a Kurdish general, together with Shirkuh’s nephew, Saladin, to occupy Egypt. Shirkuh took Cairo in January 1169 and on his death Saladin became vizier of Egypt. Although formally he was under the overlordship of Nur al-Din, Saladin was in practice sultan of Egypt. When Nur al-Din died in 1174, Saladin occupied Damascus and united Egypt and Syria, thereby establishing himself as the leader of the Jihad against the Franks.

At the time when Muslims were finding unity under Saladin, Frankish rule was falling apart. After the death of King Amalric in 1174, the 13-year-old Baldwin IV, who suffered from leprosy, ascended the throne of Jerusalem. Despite his youth and illness Baldwin proved to be an able ruler, but as his disease progressed it became clear that he would have to delegate rule to a regent until the coming of age of his heir, the future Baldwin V, who was the son of his sister Sibylla and William of Montferrat. The king reluctantly appointed as regent Guy of Lusignan, who had married the recently widowed Sibylla, but shortly thereafter replaced him with Raymond III of Tripoli. Baldwin IV died at the age of 24 in 1185, and Baldwin V died in the following year.

Whatever Raymond’s expectations may have been, it was Guy of Lusignan who became king. In the meantime Saladin had consolidated his hold over the region and in 1187 events came to a head. A truce which Saladin had signed with the Franks in 1181 was broken by Reynald of Châtillon, who even attempted to attack Mecca itself. A subsequent four-year truce signed in 1185 was broken two years later when Reynald attacked a caravan on its way to Mecca, capturing Saladin’s sister. Saladin prepared for war. A huge Muslim army that has been estimated at 30,000 with 12,000 cavalry prepared for battle. First Saladin attacked Reynald’s fortresses of Montreal and Kerak. Then in June 1187 he crossed the Jordan and on 2 July his troops laid siege to Tiberias. The Frankish army marched to Saffuriya (Tsipori) and on the morning of 4 July met the Muslims in battle at the Horns of Hattin. The Frankish army was encircled and destroyed.

Within a few months most of the castles and towns of the kingdom, including Jerusalem, fell to Saladin and by the end of 1189 only Tyre remained in their hands. Much of the territory to the north was also lost, though Antioch and the castles of Crac des Chevaliers, Margat (Marqab) and Qusair remained in Frankish hands, as did Tripoli. Even with the reoccupation of the coast by the Third Crusade (1189–92) and the short-lived recovery of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Toron and Sidon following a treaty reached in 1229, the Franks never really overcame this defeat. One of the few lasting consequences of the Third Crusade was the occupation of the island of Cyprus, which fell to Richard I of England in 1191. He sold it to the Templars and it was eventually granted to the deposed king of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan.


Outremer – Geography and climate

At their peak the Crusader states extended from Cilicia in the north to the northern edge of the Sinai Peninsula in the south; until the collapse that followed the Battle of Hattin, they included the whole of western Palestine and the eastern edge of Transjordan. After the Third Crusade the island of Cyprus also came under Frankish rule. Rarely are the blessings and curses of nature so heavily concentrated in one fairly small region, although the blessings perhaps outweigh the curses. In the north, from the Taurus Mountains to the east, the countryside is fertile and well watered. So too is the Lebanon and the coastal plain as far south as Rafiah. The Golan, and beyond it the Hauran, are highly fertile basaltic lands. To the south and east, however, aridity sets in, broken here and there by springs and oases. The climate varies over this region but generally falls into a pattern of an extended dry season commencing in April and continuing until late October, tempered only by occasional morning mists. It is followed by a wet season during which heavy but erratic showers occur, often of short duration but occasionally lasting for several days. Most of the towns are situated along the Mediterranean littoral. In the Crusader period these included Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon, Tyre, Akko, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Ascalon. Several secondary and some important towns lie inland: Antioch on the River Orontes, Tiberias and Nazareth in the lower Galilee, Sebaste, and Nablus in the Samaria Hills, Lydda and Ramla in the inland plain, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron in the Judean hills.

The island of Cyprus is physically little different from the mainland. It is often coarse, dry countryside with narrow, seasonal streams, but it is also remarkably fertile. The well-watered Troodos Mountains rise at the island’s centre to a height of over 1800 m. To the north is the lower, Kyrenia range (1067 m). Between them is an extensive plain, the Mesaoria, and to the south of the Troodos are the plains of Paphos and Limassol. The principal towns and districts are Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol, Famagusta, Paphos and Kyrenia. Under the Lusignans Cyprus was divided into twelve districts: Nicosia, Salines (Larnaca), Limassol, Famagusta, Paphos, Kyrenia, the Mesaoria, the Karpas Peninsula, the Masoto, Avdimou, Chrysokhou and Pendayia.

Outremer – The native population

The native population of the territories that came under Frankish rule included Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, Jews, Samaritans and a number of Christian sects: Armenians, Copts, Greek Orthodox (Melkites), Jacobites, Maronites and Nestorians. The early Frankish conquests were accompanied by widespread slaughter of the local urban population, Muslims, Jews and even the Eastern Christians, a policy which left the Franks facing a significant demographic problem. The population of Jerusalem dropped to a few hundred knights and footmen (Fulcher of Chartres 1913:2.6; William of Tyre 1986:9.19). Non- Christians were not allowed to return to Jerusalem, but this was not the case elsewhere. In general, after the initial slaughters and expulsions the Franks came to terms with the existence of the local communities, particularly once the majority of the Crusaders had returned to Europe. Except in the case of Jerusalem there was probably never any intention of entirely eliminating the non-Frankish population from the cities, and the Franks must have soon become aware of the need to rely on the local peasantry for food and many other necessities. Thus most of the rural population remained in place, retaining a near-serf status little different from that which they had held under the Fatimids. The depopulated capital was resettled, not with the remnants of the previous population but with Frankish and Eastern Christians. On the whole the Franks appear to have been reluctant to remain in Jerusalem. It became necessary to pass legislation aimed at making settlement in the city more attractive by easing the tax burdens: tariffs were removed from certain goods entering the city gates. In order to put an end to the widespread absentee landlordship, a law was passed whereby an estate whose owner was absent for a year and a day would become the property of the tenant. An additional means of increasing the city’s population was by the organized settlement of local Christians from Transjordan. They were housed in what had previously been the Jewish quarter, Juverie, in the north-east of the city.

Outremer – The Frankish settlers

‘Crusader’—the popular label used to describe anything or anyone connected to the Frankish presence in the East—is a somewhat misleading term. If we limit its use to people who participated in a Crusade we are on safe ground, but what about those who were born in the East and never took part in a Crusade? Strictly speaking, ‘Frank’ is not much better. A large part of the Western population settled in the East was certainly not of Frankish origin: Normans, Germans, Italians and other nations made up much of the permanent population. However, ‘Frank’ (Franj in Arabic) has a certain legitimacy in that it was the name used by the local population at the time to refer to Westerners, both new arrivals as well as pulani (those who were born in the East), whatever their ethnic origins. The Frankish population included a minority of nobles and a large class of burgesses consisting of shopkeepers and artisans, many of whom were probably of peasant origin.

In the countryside there seems to have occasionally been voluntary downward social mobility, when men who had previously been burgesses chose to become peasants. William of Tyre hints at this when he suggests that it was easier for men of limited means to make a living in these settlements than in the towns (William of Tyre 1986:20.19).

Frankish administration and institutions

Following a brief leadership contest during which Raymond of Toulouse was offered the title but in such a reluctant manner that he refused it, Godfrey of Bouillon was elected to rule over the newly established kingdom. For reasons of piety he refused the title of king, but to all intents and purposes that is what he was. He ruled until his untimely death on 18 July 1100, when his brother Baldwin of Edessa ascended the throne and took the title of king of Jerusalem. After its nominal establishment the kingdom of Jerusalem began to emerge as a physical reality. The conquest of inland areas coincided with the progressive occupation of the coastal cities. Command of the coast was vital to the survival of the kingdom and of the northern principalities. Despite the gains of the First Crusade, the overland route was not a viable alternative to the maritime connection with Europe, a fact that became particularly obvious when Zangi, the ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, retook Edessa in 1144. From the outset the coastal towns served as the only route of contact with the West. Thus their conquest was a priority that was dealt with immediately after the conquest of Jerusalem and the defeat of the Fatimid army at Ascalon in the summer of 1099.

The king of Jerusalem headed what was in theory an elective monarchy but in practice a hereditary one. Baldwin I’s successor, Baldwin de Burg was elected to the position by a council of clergy and nobles, but he was also the king’s nephew and, according to Albert of Aix, one of his choices as heir. On his deathbed Baldwin II had his eldest daughter Melisende married to the barons’ choice of his successor, Fulk of Anjou. On Fulk’s death Melisende, who ruled jointly with the king, was crowned together with her eldest son Baldwin. Thus in fact the monarchy had dropped its elective facade and openly become a hereditary one. Subsequently, with a few exceptions, the succession remained hereditary.

In the early years of the century the king was prepotent, his power stemming largely from the possession of extensive tracts of land in the interior and from the commercial revenues deriving from the port cities. His strength declined, however, as the royal domains diminished in the twelfth century and much of the port revenues were siphoned off by the Italian merchant communes. Displaying perhaps lack of foresight but clearly also lack of choice, the kings of Jerusalem granted extensive lordships from the royal lands in Judea, Samaria and the coastal plain. In this manner the king’s holdings were depleted until what remained consisted of little more than areas around the cities of Jerusalem, Akko, Tyre and Nazareth, and the region of Darum in the south. The increasingly independent class of nobles who received these land grants thereby acquired considerable political authority at the king’s expense and exercised an expanding role in the decision-making of the Haute Cour (High Court). By the later twelfth century the king was largely dependent on the barons.

In the other Frankish states the situation was rather different. The principality of Antioch was ruled by the prince, who was theoretically a vassal not of the king of Jerusalem but of the Byzantine emperor. However, Bohemund II of Antioch married the daughter of Baldwin II and after Bohemund’s death in 1130 Baldwin became guardian of Antioch and the principality became a dependency of Jerusalem. The count of Tripoli was vassal of the king of Jerusalem, while the count of Edessa was vassal of both the king of Jerusalem and the prince of Antioch. As for Cyprus, in 1192 Guy of Lusignan became ruler of the island but adopted the title dominus, rather than assuming the status of king. On his death two years later his brother Aimery (1194–1205) became the first of the Frankish kings of Cyprus. Although the new governing body, the High Court of Nicosia, was empowered to choose the king or if necessary regent; as in Jerusalem this was a hereditary kingdom. The position of the king in relation to the barons was much more advantageous than on the mainland. One reason for this was that in Cyprus, unlike the kingdom of Jerusalem, the hereditary fiefs received by the barons reverted to the Crown if there was no direct heir. Thus the king retained considerable landed property and there were no great baronies that could pose a threat to him. The seigneuries were generally limited to a few villages at the most. All the walled towns and castles were held by the king; the only exceptions were the fortresses of Kolossi and Gastria, which were held by the Hospitallers and Templars.

Outremer – The Roman Church

The Church


Although it did not achieve its expectations of establishing theocratic rule in the East, the Church maintained a certain influence throughout the two centuries of Frankish rule. The political strength of the patriarchate was never very great, and in comparison to its position in the West the Church in the Latin East was neither influential nor wealthy. However, individual ecclesiastical establishments did become important property owners. Notable amongst these were the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Convent of St Anne, St Mary of Mount Zion, and St Mary in Jehoshaphat in Jerusalem, the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Abbey of St Lazarus in Bethany. Their holdings were varied; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for example, possessed houses in the major cities as well as in many of the smaller towns, whole villages (both those of the indigenous peasantry and the newly established villages of Frankish settlers), mills, bakeries and other institutions.

The military orders


The military order was a new and uniquely Crusader institution combining the concepts of knighthood and monasticism. The orders became an important element in Crusader society, the principal means of maintaining organized and well-equipped armed forces in the Latin East. The possession of numerous castles added to their weight in the defence of the Latin East. The Order of the Hospitallers or the Knights of St John, which had its beginnings in the monastery hospital of St Mary Latin in Jerusalem established around 1070, was recognized in 1113 by the pope and became a military order around 1130. Its principal aim was to care for the sick. The second military order was the Order of the Templars, so called because they had their headquarters in al-Aqsa Mosque, which was known to the Franks as the Templum Salomonis. It was founded in 1119–20 by a knight named Hugh of Payns with the aim of defending pilgrims on the roads. Both orders developed into huge organizations with vast holdings both in Outremer and in Europe. There were other military orders, notable amongst them the German Teutonic Order founded in 1190 which had its headquarters in Akko, the Order of St Lazarus and the Order of St Thomas.

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