+ Real Crusades History +

+ Real Crusades History +

Monday, May 23, 2022

Baldwin II

 At Baldwin de Boulogne’s death the throne of Jerusalem passed to Baldwin de Bourcq. The latter was crowned alongside his Armenian wife Morphia on Christmas Day 1118 at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as Baldwin II.  Baldwin was undoubtedly an able king, but not always a lucky one. His misfortune included being taken captive and held for ransom.



Nevertheless, it was during Baldwin II’s reign that the vital coastal city of Tyre surrendered to the Franks after a five-month siege aided by a large Venetian fleet. The latter had first intercepted and destroyed the Fatimid navy at sea. The Muslim population of Tyre was granted the right to withdraw with their moveable possessions, but the Venetians ran riot and, against the terms of the surrender, engaged in acts of violence. Baldwin II also successfully defeated a coalition of Turkish forces at the Battle of Azaz on 11 June 1125.

Equally significant, during Baldwin II’s reign the Franks began to systematically build castles of their own rather than merely occupying existing fortification as they had done up to this point. Counter-intuitively, most of these castles were built in the parts of the kingdom that were already secure. They were built not in areas threatened by Muslim raids and incursions, but rather in regions of significant agricultural production and near concentrations of Christian inhabitants or important Christian shrines and pilgrim destinations. The obvious conclusion from this pattern of building was that these castles were not part of a defensive perimeter nor primarily defensive in character at all. Rather, these castles were an expression of growing administrative sophistication and control. The exception to this rule was the great castle of Montreal. This was built as an intimidating stronghold controlling the lands beyond the Jordan (the Barony of Transjordan) and threatening — or at least watching — the lines of communication between Egypt and Damascus.

Baldwin II was also responsible for the first codification of laws for the kingdom at an ad hoc ‘Council’ at Nablus, attended by both secular and ecclesiastical lords. He continued his predecessor’s policy of encouraging settlement, particularly appealing to the great monastic orders to establish houses in his kingdom. The importance of monastic presence was that the religious orders enjoyed huge patronage in the west and brought these enormous financial resources to bear when they established houses in the East. In short, the religious orders could tap the resources needed to rebuild and renovate the Christian churches and convents left in ruins by four hundred years of Muslim occupation. The religious orders of this period were also known for the sophistication of their administration and for fostering the introduction of modern agricultural techniques. Monasteries across Europe were bringing marginal land under cultivation and increasing yields through the construction of expensive infrastructure such as terracing, water mills, and irrigation.

Although we know little about the details, under Baldwin II the Kingdom of Jerusalem evolved efficient administrative, financial and legal structures. These were sufficiently robust to function even in the absence of the king. Taxes and duties were collected regularly, properly recorded and allocated to important building programs and the vitally important military operations. The construction of castles and cathedrals required quarries, roads, harbors, and other forms of infrastructure, which suggests that the economic base of the country was growing rapidly. Likewise, the population and the number of pilgrims was evidently increasing rapidly.

These factors combined enabled Baldwin II to take the offensive against two of the most important Seljuk power centers: Aleppo (in 1124) and Damascus (1129). The latter siege particularly was a major operation that appears to have been defeated more by bad weather than by enemy action. Furthermore, the Sultan was sufficiently unsettled by the Frankish threat to agree to an annual tribute of 20,000 dinars to be left in peace. This latter point underlines the degree to which the Seljuks as well as the Fatimids viewed the Franks as dangerous opponents. At his death on 21 August 1131, Baldwin II left behind a kingdom stronger than ever. Yet his reign was over-shadowed by severe set-backs in the northern Crusader states, which I will look at in my next entry.

 This entry is largely an excerpt from Dr. Schrader's comprehensive study of the crusader states.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Jerusalem Becomes a Kingdom

  Barely a year after the capture of Jerusalem by the First Crusade, the man elected by the crusade leadership to remain behind and defend it was dead. Godfrey was succeeded by his elder brother, Baldwin of Boulogne, a man of a decidedly different character -- but not without his virtues as his record would show.


Baldwin, for a start, was not prepared to be a mere ‘Protector of the Holy Sepulcher;’ he wanted a crown — of gold. On Christmas Day 1100, Daimbert crowned Baldwin King of Jerusalem in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and with this act the Kingdom of Jerusalem came into being. Baldwin’s new kingdom, however, still consisted only of Jerusalem and its hinterland, including Bethlehem, along with a narrow, insecure corridor to the coast at Jaffa. It also still had only about 300 knights and at most 2,000 Frankish soldiers to defend it.

When Baldwin I died eighteen years later, he bequeathed a kingdom that stretched across the Jordan and from Beirut to Gaza, with only Tyre and Ascalon still in Muslim hands. In the north it bordered not a Muslim state, but the newly established crusader county of Tripoli. Much of this expansion was made possible by the support of the Italian maritime powers, who repeatedly sent fleets to the Eastern Mediterranean which aided in the capture of the coastal cities in exchange for receiving trading privileges in the newly acquired territories. 

The Kingdom of Jerusalem captured Arsuf and Caesarea in 1101 and Tortosa and Jubail in 1102, all with Genoese support. Two years later the Genoese enabled Baldwin to take the vitally important coastal city of Acre. The following year the siege of Tripoli commenced with Genoese and Provencal maritime support; the city fell four years later (1109). Both the Pisans and Genoese assisted in the capture of Beirut in 1110, while Sidon fell to King Baldwin I aided by a Norwegian fleet under the command of King Sigurd. Notably, at Arsuf, Acre, and Tripoli, the cities surrendered on terms and the Saracen inhabitants were allowed to withdraw unmolested. Meanwhile, Galilee and Samaria were conquered and occupied by the Franks, pushing the borders of Frankish control across the River Jordan and south along the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Just as important as these offensive victories, however, were King Baldwin’s successful defense of his kingdom from tenacious attempts by Saracen powers to destroy it. The Egyptians sent a second army to regain Jerusalem in September 1101. At Ramla on 7 September, despite mustering only 260 knights and less than 1,000 infantry, Baldwin was able to put the Egyptians to flight — at the cost of eighty knights and many more infantry. The following year Baldwin again defeated the Egyptians, this time at Jaffa in May. Almost simultaneously, on 14 April, the Count of Toulouse routed a Seljuk army from Homs and Damascus near Tortosa, while tenaciously seeking to establish what would become the County of Tripoli. When in 1105 the Fatimids sent a fourth army to drive the Franks out of Jerusalem, Baldwin was able to meet them with a force of 500 knights and 2,000 infantry supported for the first time by mounted archers (i.e. native cavalry) in unspecified numbers. With this force, Baldwin decisively defeated the Egyptians on 27 August 1105 in what became known as the 2nd Battle of Ramla. A Frankish defeat at any of these battles would almost certainly have ended in the obliteration of the still nascent Kingdom of Jerusalem.

How then were these victories and the related expansion possible? Where did the replacement for the dead of the First Battle of Ramla come from? How could Baldwin field almost twice as many knights in 1105 as in 1101?

The key was settlement. Baldwin actively encouraged Christian settlement in any territory he could wrest from Muslim control. Significantly, this included inviting Syrian Christians to relocate from Muslim-controlled to Christian-controlled territory as well as welcoming Christian settlers from Western Europe. Vitally important to the viability of the kingdom, Baldwin established baronies which could be parceled out as fiefs to maintain a feudal army of knights and sergeants. Even lands granted to, for example the canons of the Holy Sepulchre, were fiefs owing sergeants to the army of the king. What this means is that the land was tilled by free tenants who owed feudal service as sergeants, while the profits of the agricultural activity was split between the tenant and the ecclesiastical landlord.

It was also during Baldwin I’s reign that both the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller were established in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1118, both institutions were still too tiny to play a significant role in the defense of the realm, but seeds had been planted that would soon bear extremely valuable military fruit.

Baldwin I died on 2 April 1118 without issue. He left behind a kingdom, not just a city, that was economically viable due to the conquest of both coastal ports and inland areas. It was a kingdom with sufficient land to create fiefs and to assure fundamental self-sufficiency in foodstuffs such as grains, wine and oil. Nevertheless, the situation was still precarious. Letters to the West from this period stress that civilians (particularly unarmed clerics) were afraid to travel between cities without an escort. Many pilgrims still fell victim to Saracen ambushes. This was the background against which the Knights Templar were founded as a band of knights dedicated to the protection of pilgrims. The Israeli historian Ronnie Ellenblum characterizes this as a period in which the ‘threat was continuous,’ adding the crucial point ‘and mutual.’[i] The crusader kingdom-in-the-making was both vulnerable and aggressive. The smaller, Saracen coastal city-states and inland garrisons felt as threatened and unsettled by Frankish presence as the Franks felt about the larger Muslim powers in Aleppo, Damascus and Cairo.

[i] Ellenblum, Ronnie. Crusader Castles and Modern Histories. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007] 151.

This entry is an excerpt from Dr. Schrader's comprehensive study of the crusader states.

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Creation of "Outremer"

 With the capture of Jerusalem, the crusaders' mission was accomplished -- and most wanted nothing more than to return home. Yet, while the immediate threat had been eliminated, Jerusalem remained surrounded by enemies. If the sacrifices of the three-year campaign across two thousand miles were not to be in vain, Christian control of Jerusalem needed to be institutionalized. Yet none of the men who had fought their way to Jerusalem by their own strength on their own resources and watched four out of every five of their comrades die were prepared to hand the Holy City over to the Byzantine Emperor. Thus was born the idea of an independent state — not yet called a kingdom — that would defend Jerusalem for Christendom. It was to be a part of the Latin Christian world yet beyond the sea and so it became known as "Outremer."

The bulk of the men who survived the First Crusade returned whence they had come, their vows absolved by the restoration of Jerusalem to Christian rule. Contemporaries claim that the surrounding cities had more Saracen troops in their garrison individually than the Franks had altogether. Fulcher of Chartes, chaplain to Baldwin of Boulogne and a witness of both the crusade and the early years of the crusader states, claims that in 1101 the Kingdom of Jerusalem could muster just 300 knights and an equal number of foot soldiers. If these numbers are correct, only six per cent of the knights who joined the First Crusade and less than one third of those who had survived to capture Jerusalem were still living in the East at the start of the twelfth century.

On the other hand, land grants to Western settlers in twenty-one villages north of Jerusalem in 1099 suggests that substantially more commoners remained in the East. Since the poor were more likely to lack the resources to return home, this is not surprising. An estimated 2,000 common crusaders, or roughly four per cent of all those who set out but fully twenty per cent of those who made it to Jerusalem, settled in the Levant at the end of the First Crusade.

Clearly, 300 knights and 2,000 foot-soldiers did not constitute a military force adequate for the defence of Jerusalem against an enemy assault or siege. However, the situation of these remaining Franks was far less precarious than it may seem. Data mining and archaeological surveys conducted at the end of the twentieth century have demonstrated that Jerusalem’s hinterland was overwhelmingly Christian. Thus, these few Franks were not trying to rule over a population of resentful Muslims, but rather surrounded and supported by the native population, a pattern that was recorded across Armenia and in Bethlehem.

Control of Jerusalem and its surrounding countryside, on the other hand, was insufficient to secure the Holy City for Christendom in the long run. Jerusalem needed at least one secure port through which pilgrims and reinforcements could pass, and it needed sufficient fighting men to withstand a determined attack by the Fatimids or Seljuks. The fact that a second wave of crusaders, nearly as numerous as the First Crusade, disintegrated after various defeats while crossing Asia Minor 1100-1101 underlined the severe difficulty of reinforcing the Frankish outpost in Jerusalem by land. If Jerusalem were to remain under Frankish control, it had to have troops of its own. Yet backbone of Christian armies in the early twelfth century consisted of vassals who gave military service in exchange for land — and land was exactly what the Frankish leadership in Jerusalem at the start of the twelfth-century did not have.

Furthermore, the raison d’ĂȘtre of the new political entity was the defense of the most important shrines of Christendom. This was reflected in the fact that Godfrey de Bouillon refused the title of ‘king’ on the grounds that it would be inappropriate for a mere man to ‘wear a crown of gold where Christ had worn a crown of thorns.’ Godfrey chose instead the title ‘Protector of the Holy Sepulchre.’  Yet while the Holy Sepulchre was without doubt the most important of Christian shrines, it was not the only significant religious site in the region. Because Christ had be born, lived and died in the region, almost every town in Palestine, starting with Bethlehem and Nazareth, could claim a connection to some event in the New Testament. For this reason, the entire region was known to Christians simply as ‘the Holy Land.’

This posed four major problems for the few Franks left in possession of this sacred legacy. First, many of the important sites were still under Muslim control and were ‘crying out’ — at least in the eyes of the crusaders — for liberation. Second, even those now in the hands of the Franks had been neglected if not actively damaged during the long years of Muslim rule. Many churches and monasteries were in ruins or in desperate need of repairs and renovation. These sites needed massive investment to ensure both physical and spiritual integrity, the latter in the form of clerical manpower. Yet neither money nor clergy was available in 1100. Third, pilgrims from across Christendom could be expected to flood to these sites and the few Franks remaining had to create the infrastructure and secure the environment to receive them. Last but not least, Jerusalem was so holy that many churchmen believed it should not be subject to any secular authority, but rather remain an ecclesiastical state.

The last issue proved the most pressing. Had the respected papal legate Adhemar still been alive at the capture of Jerusalem, he might have succeeded in asserting church authority over the inchoate political entity then in the making. Certainly, when in late 1099 a new legate, Daimbert Archbishop of Pisa, arrived to take Ademar’s place, he attempted to assert church authority, including obtaining promises from Godfrey about a position of dominance in the future. Godfrey’s untimely death on 18 July 1100, however, dramatically altered the political situation. Godfrey’s knights seized control of the most important fortification in Jerusalem, the Tower of David, and held it in the name of Godfrey’s younger brother Baldwin de Boulogne until the later could arrive. Their action foiled Daimbert’s attempt to establish himself as the ruler of the emerging state — and underlined the brutal reality that Jerusalem belonged not to the holy but to those best able to defend it.

This entry is an excerpt from Dr. Schrader's comprehensive study of the crusader states.