The only full account of life and culture in the twelfth-century crusader states, where religious battles raged and civilizations collided
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About the Author
Malcolm Barber is emeritus professor of history, University of Reading. He lives in Reading, UK.
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The Crusader States
By Malcolm Barber
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESSCopyright © 2012 Malcolm Barber
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Expedition to Jerusalem
Between 18 and 28 November 1095, Pope Urban II held a church council at Clermont in the Auvergne. Its climax was a great speech in which he called upon the Christians of the Latin West to take up arms in order to free their eastern brethren from Muslim oppression. Soon after, as his publicity campaign gathered momentum, he wrote to the faithful of Flanders, explaining the theme of his speech.
We believe that you, brethren, learned long ago from many reports, the deplorable news that the barbarians in their frenzy have invaded and ravaged the churches of God in the eastern regions. Worse still, they have seized the Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection, and it is blasphemy to say it they have sold her and her churches into abominable slavery. Thinking devoutly about this disaster and grieved by it, we visited Gaul and urged most fervently the lords and subjects of that land to liberate the eastern churches. At a council held in Auvergne, as is widely known, we imposed on them the obligation to undertake such a military enterprise for the remission of all their sins and we appointed in our place as leader of this journey and labour our dearest son Adhémar, bishop of Le Puy.
The audience at Clermont was largely clerical and therefore, as Urban says in his Flanders letter, he set out to spread the message more widely, partly through a personal tour of southern and western France, and partly by involving local bishops and their hierarchies. He may, too, have commissioned individuals like Robert of Arbrissel, a famous popular preacher and leader of a group of ascetics living in the Loire valley; certainly other charismatics took up the cause, whether officially sanctioned or not, the most famous of whom was an ex-monk from Amiens known as Peter the Hermit.
This set in motion a series of events that, within the next twelve months, led to the assembly of nine major armies from a very wide geographical area, which encompassed northern France, Flanders, Lorraine, Toulouse and Apulia, as well as fleets from Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Greece and England. Even this is in some senses an oversimplification, in that the larger elements were made up of a coalescence of many smaller groups. The priest Fulcher of Chartres, one of the chroniclers of the expedition and a participant and settler, says that they came from all the countries of the West and that, over a period, they formed into a group of armies. The numbers involved were uniquely large for the time, a fact reflected in Fulcher's acceptance of a figure of 600,000 fighting men, noncombatants excluded, derived, he says, from those who knew what they were talking about. If everybody who set out had actually reached Asia Minor, he thought there would have been 6 million warriors. Modern estimates inevitably reduce these numbers, but, even so, the total may have been as high as 80,000 that is, about 20,000 followers of Peter the Hermit and Walter Sans Avoir, who were the first to engage the Turks, and perhaps 50,00060,000 in the major armies that came after them. They did not form a single force, says Fulcher, until they besieged Nicaea in June 1097. To these can be added at least 10,000 sailors and troops who, between the summer of 1197 and that of 1100, arrived on the ships of the Italian cities of Genoa, Pisa and Venice, as well as other maritime contingents from the western Mediterranean and northern Europe. The Muslims, too, realised that this was exceptional. Ibn al-Qalanisi, a contemporary from an important Damascene family, heard that the Franks were assembling at Constantinople in the course of the year 490 that is, 1097 'with forces not to be reckoned for multitude'. As the news spread, 'the people grew anxious and disturbed in mind'.
The very first crusaders were the least prepared. Inspired by popular preachers, some set out as early as December 1095, so there can have been little planning. The bulk of these people were not 'arms-bearers', although there may have been a few hundred knights involved. Shipped across the Bosphorus by the Byzantines in an effort to remove them from the vicinity of Constantinople, the great majority were killed or enslaved after engaging with the Seljuk Turks in September and October 1096, although Peter the Hermit was not present and survived to join the better-equipped armies, which began to arrive that autumn. Three largely German armies drawn from similar social groups followed, but after attacking Jewish communities in the Rhineland in May and June 1096, they were themselves massacred by Hungarian troops sent by King Koloman, who was unwilling to tolerate their depredations.
The members of the major armies described by Fulcher of Chartres had required time to raise money and to equip themselves, as well as to arrange their affairs for what many rightly anticipated could be a lengthy absence. They had assembled considerable information from past pilgrimages, Italian merchants and the Byzantines, so they must have had a good appreciation of the tasks ahead. Urban's appeal attracted some of the great territorial rulers of the time, some of whom, like Robert II, count of Flanders, and Raymond IV, count of Toulouse, were among the wealthiest in the West; others, such as Stephen, count of Blois, Robert, duke of Normandy, and Hugh of Vermandois, the brother of King Philip of France, were equal in rank if not quite so well resourced. As well as the men from Francia and Languedoc, Eustace, count of Boulogne, Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lorraine, and Baldwin of Boulogne, three brothers from the imperial borderlands, committed themselves to the expedition, despite the pope's continuing quarrel with the emperor, while the Normans established in southern Italy during the eleventh century, led by Bohemond of Taranto and his nephew, Tancred, son of Emma, his half-sister, left their internecine conflicts to join the army of God.
These leaders needed to establish a relationship with the Byzantine emperor, Alexius Comnenus, since they could not reach the Holy Sepulchre unless they travelled through his lands, nor were they likely to defeat the Seljuk Turks, their mutual enemy in Asia Minor, without some degree of co-operation. For Stephen of Blois, deeply impressed by imperial largesse, this presented no problems. 'It seems to me,' he wrote to his wife, Adela, in June 1097, 'that in our times no other prince has had a character distinguished by such complete integrity.' However, Alexius did not intend to rely on presents alone. Before the journey into Asia Minor began the emperor attempted to protect his own interests by extracting an oath, the essence of which was that the Latins were to return to the Byzantines all reconquered lands that had belonged to the empire before the Turkish invasions, and that they should accept Alexius as overlord for any other lands that they might take beyond these. The reaction to this was inconsistent, although in principle there was no reason for refusal, since aristocratic society in the Latin West could not have functioned without acceptance of the idea of multiple homage. According to Albert, who was probably a canon of the cathedral church of St Mary at Aachen: 'Bohemond became the emperor's man, and with an oath and a pledge of trust he made an agreement with him that he would not keep for himself any part of the emperor's realm, except by his favour and consent.' Nevertheless, Tancred tried unsuccessfully to evade the oath, while Godfrey of Bouillon resisted for some time before he was eventually reconciled. Once he had agreed, he, too, in Albert's words, 'not only gave himself to him as a son, as is the custom of that land, but even as a vassal with hands joined, along with all the nobles who were there then, and those who followed afterwards'. In the end, all the leaders accepted the imperial conditions, although Raymond of Toulouse would only agree in general terms to respect the emperor's life and possessions. According to the Provençal chronicler Raymond of Aguilers, who was the count's chaplain, he told Alexius that 'he had not taken the cross to pay allegiance to another lord'. Part of the problem was that Raymond of Toulouse wanted the emperor to accompany the crusaders to Jerusalem, but this would have been too risky an enterprise for a ruler in his position. Instead he provided a small escort led by Tatikios, one of his experienced generals, as well as considerable logistical support, especially from the sea in northern Syria.
Anna Comnena, the emperor's daughter, looking back on these events from the 1140s, claimed that, 'while in appearance making the journey to Jerusalem, in reality their object was to dethrone the emperor and to capture the capital', an enterprise they had adopted through the persuasion of Bohemond. However, Anna was writing to record the achievements of her father, whose deeds seemed to her to have been appropriated by his successors, John and Manuel, to emphasise the glory of their own reigns. This was especially galling to Anna, who believed that she and her husband, Nicephorus Bryennius, had been robbed of the succession by her brother, John. In her version of events, therefore, her father had diverted the crusaders from Constantinople by his skilful handling of men she saw as western barbarians. Although Anna's story is tendentious and heavily coloured by the contemporary scene at the time of writing, it is important because it reflects the Byzantine view of the superiority of the empire and the belief of its rulers that the crusader states were established on imperial territory.
In fact, during the next three years, the crusaders sustained huge losses and experienced almost unimaginable horrors until, on 15 July 1099, they succeeded in storming the walls of Jerusalem and regaining control of the holy places. Once they had broken in they slaughtered large numbers of the defenders and inhabitants as they finally requited their longing for the cherished city. Those who had set out from northern France had covered approximately 2,700 miles. It had taken three great sieges, at Nicaea in May and June 1097, when they had combined with the Byzantines, at Antioch between October 1097 and June 1098, and at Jerusalem in June and July 1099, and two decisive battles, at Dorylaeum on 1 July 1097, and outside Antioch on 28 June 1098. At Dorylaeum they had defeated the Seljuks under Kilij Arslan and at Antioch a Turkish coalition under Kerbogha, atabeg of Mosul, while at Jerusalem they overcame the Egyptians, who had recaptured the city from the Turks the previous year and held the lands as far as the Dog River, north of Beirut. Separate engagements against Duqaq of Damascus and Ridwan of Aleppo, the sons of Tutush, the late Seljuk ruler of Syria, on 31 December 1097 and 9 February 1098 respectively, were each major confrontations, their insignificance only relative in comparison with Dorylaeum and Antioch. At the same time squadrons of ships had struck out for the Levant, much of the time sailing along hostile coasts and with little knowledge of either the fate or the position of the land forces.
Contemporaries immediately recognised that this was an exceptional indeed, unique event; for them, it was inauditus, 'unheard of'. Yet it cannot be explained simply by a papal speech at a church council in one of the minor towns of south-central France, however eloquent the individual concerned. If, therefore, Urban tapped a potential that was already present it is important to identify those involved, for ultimately the new settlements in the East emerged from the interplay of their interests and actions. The conventionally accepted view is that Alexius I, the Byzantine emperor (10811118), sent ambassadors to a previous council, held by the pope at Piacenza in March of the same year, at which he appealed for military help for a campaign planned against the Seljuk Turks, who had invaded Asia Minor and occupied all but three small areas, one of which was opposite Constantinople and two of which were on the Black Sea coast. This was in keeping with problems experienced by the Byzantines ever since the heavy defeat of a previous emperor, Romanus IV, at the battle of Manzikert in 1071, a defeat that had opened up Asia Minor to the Turkish tribes, many of which had been moving west over the course of the eleventh century. Westerners routinely served in the Byzantine army indeed, the emperors had actively recruited them so the concept was not unfamiliar, even if the scale was larger than in the past. It may be that the appeal was pitched in terms of helping eastern Christians owing to a need to tailor the message to the sensibilities of the church council at which Alexius's messengers had been received. Urban took this up both because he felt genuine anguish at the news of Christian suffering and because he saw an opportunity to heal the schism that had opened up between the Roman and Greek Churches following a quarrel between the papal legate and the patriarch of Constantinople in 1054. However, in Urban's hands the imperial appeal for military help was moulded into something quite different, leaving Alexius to adapt his plans as best he could to the huge response which the pope elicited.
More recently, the actions of the principals have been interpreted rather differently. As there is no evidence to suggest that Alexius was planning a campaign at this time, nor that he ever appealed for westerners to serve in his army, it may be that the initiative came from the pope in that he actually invited the imperial representatives to Piacenza. In one sense, the latter event had a Byzantine origin as well in that the idea may have been stimulated by Symeon II, the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem, through a message brought to the pope by Peter the Hermit, who had visited Jerusalem on pilgrimage, where he had seen for himself the wretched state of the Christian inhabitants. This is a partial revival of a view, long rejected, that Peter had been the instigator of the crusade, but which is to be found in the chronicle of Albert of Aachen, the only contemporary writer to attempt to explain the origins of the crusade. Albert was an important member of the cathedral church at Aachen and, although he did not take part in the expedition, he had many informants who did. He had written the first six books of his work by 1102.
Some confirmation of the general circumstances in Palestine can be found in the chronicle of world history of Michael I Rabo, known as Michael the Syrian, Jacobite patriarch of Antioch between 1166 and 1199. As might be expected, although he provides more detail on the later twelfth century, Michael is nevertheless a valuable independent source for the whole period. According to him:
When the Turks ruled in the countries of Syria and Palestine, they inflicted evils on the Christians who were going to pray at Jerusalem, beating and pillaging them, and levying a poll tax at the gate of the city and also at Golgotha and at the Sepulchre; as well as this, every time they saw a caravan of Christians, especially those (who came) from Rome and the country of Italy, they contrived to cause them to perish in various ways. And when countless people had perished in this manner, the kings and counts were seized by zeal and set out from Rome; forces from every country joined them, and they went by sea to Constantinople.
All interpretations place the papacy at the centre of affairs, as did the leading crusaders who, in September 1098, described the pope as 'our spiritual father, who began this expedition'. Whether Alexius or Peter and Symeon were the catalysts for action, Urban was already receptive. In the early 1090s, he had encouraged resistance to Muslims elsewhere in the Mediterranean, both in Tarragona and in Sicily, and he was heir to half a century of increasing papal assertiveness, arising from his predecessors' attempts to free the Church from what they had come to see as the corrupting effects of lay control. Indeed, as early as 1059, Pope Nicholas II had promoted the conquest of Islamic Sicily when he received Robert Guiscard, the most prominent member of the Hauteville family in Apulia, as his vassal, granting him titles which included that of duke of Sicily. The Normans, who had been settling in southern Italy since the later years of the tenth century, were thus able to present their attack on the island as a means of restoring the Church in lands wrongfully seized by Islam in the past, thus offering an obvious precedent for Urban's justification for the invasion of Palestine.
Among Urban's predecessors, Gregory VII (107385) stands out, for not only had he been the most uncompromising of the moral reformers in Rome, but he had imagined that the papacy could place itself at the head of a community of devoted seculars, who would become 'soldiers of Christ', fighting the very visible forces of evil in the material world around them. In 1074, he planned to make this a reality by leading an expedition to the aid of the eastern Christians. In a letter to his ally Matilda, countess of Tuscany, he wrote: 'How serious my intention and how great my desire to go overseas and with Christ's help to carry succour to the Christians being slaughtered like sheep by pagans, I hesitate to say to some persons lest I seem to be moved by too great a fickleness of purpose. But to you, my most dearly beloved daughter, I have no hesitation in declaring any of these matters; for I have more confidence in your good judgement than you yourself could possibly express.' At the same time such initiatives were underpinned by a powerful intellectual structure which, despite some dissenting voices, maintained that force could be used in certain circumstances, the centrepiece of which was a threat to the faith. Drawing on biblical and patristic texts, it was possible to compare the situation with the slaughter of the Israelites found worshipping a golden calf by Moses (Exodus 32: 268), while St Augustine's formulation of precise conditions of legitimate authority, just cause and right intention fitted comfortably with the self-image of the contemporary papacy.
Excerpted from The Crusader States by Malcolm Barber Copyright © 2012 by Malcolm Barber. Excerpted by permission of YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrations viii
1 The Expedition to Jerusalem 4
2 Syria and Palestine 26
3 The First Settlers 50
4 The Origins of the Latin States 65
5 The Military, Institutional and Ecclesiastical Framework 98
6 Antioch and Jerusalem 121
7 The Second Generation 149
8 The Zengid Threat 174
9 The Frankish Imprint 200
10 King Amalric 231
11 The Disintegration of the Crusader States 262
12 The Battle of Hattin and its Consequences 289
13 The Third Crusade 324
Further Reading 433