Crusader states

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Map of the states of the eastern Mediterranean in 1135
Eastern Mediterranean in 1135. Frankish states are indicated with a red cross . The Byzantine Empire is visible in the west; the Seljuk Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green.

The Crusader states were Roman Catholic polities created in the aftermath of the First Crusade at the beginning of the 12th century on the Levantine littoral. These medieval French states became known as Outremer or outre-mer, a phrase derived from outre or beyond and mere or sea.

In 1098 the armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem passed through Syria. The crusader Baldwin of Boulogne took the place of the Greek Orthodox ruler of Edessa after a Coup d'état and Bohemond of Taranto remained as the ruling prince in the captured Antioch. In 1099, Jerusalem was taken after a siege. Territorial consolidation followed including the taking of Tripoli. At the states' largest extent, territory covered the coastal areas of southern modern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. Edessa fell to a Turkish warlord in 1144, but the other realms endured into the 13th century before falling to the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. Antioch was captured in 1268, Tripoli in 1289. When Acre, the capital of the kingdom of Jerusalem fell in 1291 the last territories were quickly lost with the survivors fleeing to the Kingdom of Cyprus.

The study of the crusader states in their own right, as opposed to being a sub-topic of the Crusades, began in 19th century France as an analogy to the French colonial experience in the Levant. This was rejected by the 20th century historians where the consensus view was that the Franks, as the western European were known, lived as a minority society that was largely urban, isolated from the indigenous peoples, with separate legal and religious systems. The indigenous peoples were from Christian and Islamic traditions speaking Arabic, Greek and Syriac.


Muslim expansion
  Muhammad, 622–632
  Patriarchal Caliphate, 632–661
  Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750

When the Franks arrived in Syria at the end of the 11th century the polities were fragmented, rulers inexperienced, the Great Seljuk sultanate and Fatamid Empire were both disinterested and declining.[1] The Islamic world was vulnerable to the surprised because it had disregarded the outside world.[2]The Islamic historian Hillenbrand has compared Islamic politics of the time to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 using the phrase "familiar political entities gave way to disorientation and disunity".[3]

Arab Islamic expansion in the Middle East had been over for centuries.[4] Turkic migration permeated the region. This had begun in the 9th century with rulers utilising Turkic nomads as slave soldiers. These were known as ghilman or mamluk and when converted to Islam they were emancipated, eventually rising in the Muslim hierarchy to dynastic founders and king makers.[5][6] In the mid-11th century a minor clan of Oghuz Turks named Seljuks, after the warlord Saljūq, from Transoxania had supplanted the Ghaznavids in Khurasan. The clan expanded through Iran to Baghdad, assimilating into Perso-Arabic culture. The caliph granted the title Sultan, power in arabic to the Seljuk Tughril founding the Great Seljuk Empire.[7] The empire was decentralised, polyglot and multi-national. Junior Seljuks were titled Malik, the Arabic for king, ruling provinces as appanages. Mamluks held positions of atabeg, derived from ata meaning father and beg meaning commander. The atabegs were often powerful guardians ruling on behalf of minors. This often continued when the malik reached majority enabling the atabegs to become emirs.[8]

Map of the Mediterranean Sea with the extent of the Byzantine Empire highlighted
Battles between Byzantines and the Turks for the control of Anatolia in the 1070s.

Byzantine Greeks ruled what remained of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Eastern Roman Empire. The Eastern and Western churches were divided over differences in custom, creed, and practice and had been in schism since 1054.[9] The Eastern church viewed the pope as only one of the five patriarchs of the Church that included the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Jerusalem.[10]The Empire stretched east to Iran and controlled Bulgaria and much of southern Italy. The Empire was open to the usefulness of western military aid for campaigns on all frontiers and was on the offensive against the Seljuks. [11].[12][13] They had recaptured Antioch after three centuries of Arab rule and invaded Syria. Turkish ghazi and their Byzantine equivalents called Akritai and often also Turkish, indulged in ephemeral cross border raiding. However, in 1071 Suljuk Sultan Alp Arslan defeated Romanos IV Diogenes at Manzikert while securing his northern border.[14]} The capture of Romanos IV and the Byzantine factionalism brought collapse to the Byzantine border and enabled the entry of ghazi and nomadic tribesmen seeking pasture into Anatolia.[15]

Map of Anatolia in 1097 prior to the Siege of Nicaea
Anatolia on the eve of the First Crusade (1097)

Alp Arslan's cousin Suleiman ibn Qutulmish carved out a realm in Anatolia, seizing Cilicia and in 1084 peacefully entering Antioch. In 1092, he was killed in conflict with the Great Seljuk Empire.[15] In the same year, the vizier and effective ruler of the Seljuk Empire, Nizam al-Mulk, the Sultan Malik-Shah, the Mamluk Armenian vizier of Egypt Badr al-Jamali and the Fatimid khalif, Al-Mustansir Billah all died. Malik-Shah's brother Tutush, the atabegs of Aleppo and Edessa were killed in the succession conflict. Tutush's sons succeeded in Damascus and Aleppo but the atabegs were in control. Edessa was seized by an Armenian warlord. The Egyptian succession resulted in a split in the Ismāʿīlist branch of Shia Islam. The Persian missionary Hassan-i Sabbah led a breakaway group, creating the Nizari Ismaili state in Iran at Alamut. This was known as the New Preaching in Syria and Order of Assassins in western historiography. Targeted murder was utilised to compensate for their lack of military power and Nizam al-Mulk was their first victim.[16]

Modern photograph of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem contains the two holiest sites in Christianity

The events the brought the Franks to the region were unexpected by contemporary chroniclers, but historical analysis shows these derived from developments earlier in the century. Jerusalem was increasingly recognised as worthy of pilgrimage. From 1000 pilgrim numbers increased after safer Hungarian routes developed. New devotional and penitential practise created fertile ground for crusading appeals.[17] The Frankish motivation may never be understood. It may have been a desire for penance through warfare. Historian Georges Duby suggested it was economic gain and improved social status for younger sons of nobles but this has been challenged for not accounting for wider kinship groups in Germany and Southern France. Gesta Francorum mentions the economic attraction of gaining "great booty". Adventure, enjoyment of warfare and extended patronage systems that obliged the following of feudal lords are also a possibility.[18] The use of violence for dispute resolution in Western Europe was common, supported by the development of a doctrine of holy war dating from the 4th-century theologian Augustine. Augustine maintained that an aggressive war was sinful, but acknowledged a "just war" could be rationalised if it was proclaimed by a legitimate authority such as a king or bishop, was defensive or for the recovery of lands, and a without an excessive degree of violence.[19][20] Pope Alexander II developed a system of recruitment via oaths for military resourcing that was extended by Gregory VII.[17] In 1071, the Turkish warlord Atsiz captured Jerusalem but Seljuk hold on the city was weak. Pilgrims returning reported difficulties and the oppression of Christians. The Byzantine need for military aid converged with an increasing willingness among western nobility to accept papal military direction.[21][22]

The Christian kingdom of Lesser Armenia followed a similar path to the crusader states. It was located to the north-west of Syria and established on former Muslim territory retaken by the Byzantines in the 10th century. The Armenians migrated from between Lake Van and the Caucasus. When the frontier collapsed after the battle at Manzikert they dominated Cilicia and territory east to the Euphrates. [23] Another ghazi state was founded at the time as the Sultanate of Rum, in north and central Anatolia by someone known by the Persian honourific Danishmend Gazi.[24]



By the end of the 11th century the Byzantine army had a long history of utilising mercenaries, so Alexios I Komnenos’s request for military support against the Turks to Pope Urban II was not unusual. The Pope responded in November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, calling for the First Crusade.[25] In October 1096, an initial force of poor Christians was ambushed and annihilated by the Turks at Civetot. Alexios cautiously welcomed the greater military capability of the feudal armies under the command of western European nobles, extracting promises from some that recaptured Byzantine territory would be restored to him.[26] A Byzantine-Crusader coalition recaptured Nicaea and in July 1097 the crusade defeated a Seljuk and Danishmendid force at Dorylaeum.[27]

The Byzantine Tatikios guided the crusade south through Anatolia to the large city of Antioch that controlled the road to Jerusalem. During the campaign junior nobles such as Bohemond of Taranto’s nephew, Tancred, and Godfrey of Bouillon’s brother, Baldwin squabbled over Cilician towns captured. In October 1097 Baldwin left the crusade heading for the west bank of the Euphrates with the probable intention of joining one side of an Armenian feud. Armenians in the small towns of Turbessel and Rawandan used his advance to expel Turkish garrisons. The crusade, native Christian allies and an English fleet secured the area around Antioch capturing local fortifications, the port of Saint Symeon and repulsing an army led by Ridwan of Aleppo. In February 1098 Tatikios left the crusade.[28][29][30]

In Edessa Thoros ruled a Christian city that in terms of size and wealth matched Aleppo and Antioch. He attempted to hire Baldwin and his men as mercenaries in the fight with the Turks and for control of Christian subjects in a city wracked with factional conflict. Matthew of Edessa reported that the Edessans greeted Baldwin with enthusiasm. They were Armenian and Jacobite Christians who regarded the Orthodox Thoros as a Byzantine representative. A month after Baldwin's arrival a Christian mob killed Thoros and acclaimed him with the Byzantine title used by Thoros, doux. Baldwin's position was personal rather than institutional and the Armenian governance of the city remained in place. This was replacing one strongman with vague Byzantine connections with another. Baldwin's nascent County of Edessa consisted of pockets separated from Baldwin's other holdings of Turbessel, Rawandan and Samosata by the territory of Turkish and Armenian warlords and the Euphrates river. The city of Edessa was an important trading centre probably providing him with a substantial income.[31]

A miniature depicting archers on the walls of a town and a crowned man in a tower besieging the town
Godfrey of Bouillon during the siege of Jerusalem (from the 14th-century Roman de Godefroi de Bouillon)

Stephen, Count of Blois deserted the crusade and told Emperor Alexios its defeat was imminent while heading to Europe. In response Alexios withdrew to the west rather than join the siege of Antioch. Some crusaders, notably Bohemond, claimed this and Tatikios departure were treacherous acts that freed them from their sworn oaths to the Byzantines. On 2 June, an Armenian commander helped Bohemond enter Antioch, taking the city but not the citadel. Hours later Kerbogha, atabeg of Mosul, arrived and the besieged the crusaders in turn. On the 28th the Franks defeated Kerbogha's army.[32] The Franks competed for the spoils, captured Syrian towns such as Ma'arra and developed a reputation for savagery that prompted local emirs to negotiate rather than resist. The delay in the progress to Jerusalem dismayed mobs of poor Franks. Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse was forced to leave Bohemond in control of Antioch, faileding to take Arqa before continuing to Jerusalem.[33]

The crusaders marched along the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. The Fatimids had regained the city from the Seljuks less than a year before in the second destructive siege the city had suffered in recent decades.[34] On 15 July 1099 the city was taken after a siege barely longer than a month. Thousands of Muslims and Jews were killed, and the survivors were sold into slavery. Proposals to govern the city as an ecclesiastical state were rejected. Raymond refused the royal title claiming only Christ could wear a crown in Jerusalem. This may have been to dissuade Godfrey from assuming the throne, but Godfrey adopted the title Advocatus Sancti Sepulchri when he was proclaimed the first Frankish ruler of Jerusalem.[35] In Western Europe at that time an advocate, or advocatus, was a layman responsible for the protection and administration of Church estates.[36]

These medieval French crusader states in the Middle East became known as Outremer or outre-mer, a phrase whose Etymology was derived from outre or beyond and mere or sea.[37]

Consolidation (1099 to 1126)

In August Godfrey defeated a counterattack by Egyptian vizier, Al-Afdal Shahanshah at Ascalon. He solidified his position by backing Daimbert of Pisa for the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, granting a section of Jerusalem to him and one in Jaffa to the Pisans in his entourage. When Godfrey died, his following enabled the succession of his brother Baldwin. Baldwin ceded Edessa to his cousin, another Baldwin, of Bourcq. In July Bohemond was captured and Tancred assumed the regency of Antioch until his release three years later.[38] Raymond laid the foundations of the County of Tripoli before he died in 1105. He captured Tartus, Gibelet and besieged to Tripoli. His cousin William II Jordan continued the siege and it was completed in 1109 when Raymond's son Bertrand arrived. Baldwin brokered a deal sharing the territory between them until William Jordan’s death united the county. Bertrand acknowledged King Baldwin I's suzerainty despite William Jordan having been Tancred's vassal.[39]

A photograph of the Montreal castle on a hill
Montréal—a castle built by Baldwin I to control caravans across the Jordan River

In 1097 or 1098, Syrian Sunnis had approached the Seljuk sultan, Barkiyaruq, for assistance but he was engaged in a power struggle with his brother Muhammad Tapar.[40][41] The fall of Tripoli induced Sultan Muhammad to mobilise the armies of his empire's western provinces against the invaders.[42] The Fatimid Caliphate repeatedly attacked in 1101, 1102 and 1105, on the last occasion in alliance with the Sunni Damascene atabeg Toghtekin. Baldwin I repulsed these and with Genoese, Venetian and Norwegian fleets conquered the towns on the Palestinian coast except Tyre and Ascalon.[43] Antioch remained contested between the Byzantine Emperors and Bohemond leading in 1108 to Bohemond’s failed campaign against the Byzantines from his Italian territory. Historian Thomas Asbridge argues that the Treaty of Devol absorbed Antioch into the structures of Byzantine rule but Tancred acting as the city's regent did not consider the terms applied to him. In 1112 Tancred died and his nephew, Roger of Salerno, followed him as regent.[44]

In 1118 Baldwin of Bourcq succeeded Baldwin I in Jerusalem, ceding Edessa to Joscelin of Courtenay. His interest remained in the defence of the Syrian territories but the barons of Jerusalem considered the resulting absences as negligent.[45] In 1119 the Artuqid Turk defeated and killed Roger at the Battle of Ager Sanguinis known as the "Field of Blood". Antioch survived only through Baldwin II's prompt intervention and military support.[46] In 1123 Baldwin II was kidnapped in north Syria for sixteen months, barons attempted to depose him and offered the throne to the Flemish count, Charles the Good. Charles declined. In 1125 the freed Baldwin II returned.[47] Relations developed between Tripoli and Antioch with Bertrand's son, Pons marrying Tancred's widow, Cecile of France.[39]

Opposition of Zengi, Nur ad-Din and Saladin (1127 to 1189)

Baldwin II had four daughters but no male heir. In 1126, Bohemond II of Antioch reached the age of majority and married Baldwin II's second daughter, Alice. Baldwin's heiress was his eldest daughter Melisende. Baldwin II married her to Count Fulk of Anjou. Jerusalem raised an imposing force for an offensive on Damascus including the leaders of the other crusader states; Bohemond II, Pons and Joscelin I. Fulk provided a significant Angevin contingent and the Templars had recruited forces in Europe. The campaign was abandoned after Atabeg Taj al-Muluk Buri destroyed the Franks foraging parties and bad weather made the roads impassable.[48] In 1130 Bohemond II was killed raiding in Cilicia. Alice targeted the guardianship of her and Bohemond's daughter Constance and after sought support from Mosul's atabeg,Imad al-Din Zengi. Baldwin moved on Antioch to prevent this[49]

In 1131, Baldwin named Fulk, Melisende and their infant son, Baldwin as his co-heirs on his deathbed. Fulk ignored his father-in-law's will, attempting to rule independently. Between 1130 and 1135, Alice made repeated attempts to gain independent power in Antioch, including an alliance with Pons of Tripoli and the new Count of Edessa, Joscelin II. Fulk defeated Pons in a fierce battle and asserted control.[50] Melisende's kinsman, Hugh II of Jaffa was also unsuccessful resisting Fulk when he revolted. In 1136, Alice's struggle for power was ended when the anti-Byzantine Antiochene nobility asked Fulk to propose a husband for Constance and he selected Raymond of Poitiers. In response, John II Komnenos reasserted Byzantine claims of suzerainty in Cilicia and Antioch. He invaded Cilicia, expelled Antiochene and Armenian garrisons from Cilician towns, besieged Antioch and forced Raymond to become his vassal. Raymond promised that he would surrender Antioch in return for Aleppo and Shaizar when they were captured, but this was never achieved.[51][52][53] In 1137, Tripoli lost its eastern territories to Damascus, Pons was killed and Raymond II captured by Zengi.[54][55] The effective ruler of Damascus, Mu'in ad-Din Unur, sought Fulk's protection from Zengi and agreed payment of a tribute.[56]

Miniature depicting two crowned young men arriving at the walls of a city accompanied by soldiers and bishops, a crowned woman and man receiving the visitors
Kings Louis VIII and Conrad III meet with Queen Melisende and King Baldwin III at Acre during the Second Crusade from a 13th-century codex

In 1143 both the Emperor and Fulk died and the focus of the new Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I moved to other theatres: internal Byzantine conflict, in 1146 the passage through the Empire of the Second Crusade and war with the Normans in Sicily between 1146 and 1157.[57] Zengi and the Turkic Artuqids competed for control of northern Mesopotamia. Joscelin allied with the Artuqids, provoking Zengi's march to Edessa. On 24 December 1144 he captured the poorly defended town and then conquered the county west of the Euphrates.[58]

In September 1146 Zengi was assassinated by his mamluk retainers or one of his Frankish slaves. His first son, Sayf al-Din Ghazi I, succeeded in Mosul, and his second, Nur ad-Din, in Aleppo.[59] Joscelin unsuccessfully attacked Edessa and Nur ad-Din destroyed the town.[60] From then on, a military campaign for Edessa was futile. Louis VIII of France did not recognise the Byzantine claim to Antioch and rejected Raymond's proposal to attack Aleppo and Shaizar. In June 1148 the French, Germans, Melisende and Baldwin III leading what is known as the Second Crusade agreed an attack on Damascus at a conference in Acre. This was a failure and the crusade undertook no further military action.[61] The action brought temporary rapprochement between Damascus and Nur ad-Din. In 1149 there was a new Burid ruler, Mujir ad-Din Abaq, who revived the Damascene–Jerusalemite partnership.[62] Raymond of Antioch was killed fighting Nur ad-Din at Inab. The next year Joscelin was captured. Beatrice of Saone, his wife, sold the remains of the County of Edessa to the Byzantines. In 1150, Joscelin was captured, blinded and died in captivity. Next year, Baldwin III and Melisende's disagreements led to armed conflict and her abdication. This prevented him from providing effective support to the Syrian crusader states. In 1153, he captured Ascalon and also sanctioned the marriage of Constance and Raynald of Châtillon during the siege.[63][64]

In 1154 Nur ad-Din forced Mujir ad-Din Abaq to surrender Damascus in exchange for Homs maintaining truces and tribute payments to the Franks while he expanded into other Muslim territories.[65] Reynald was acutely short of money. When the Emperor delayed promised payment for the suppression of raiding by the Armenian Thoros II he launched a piratical attack on Byzantine Cyprus. The arrival of Thierry, Count of Flanders provided the military strength for a new campaign. Thierry, Baldwin, Raynald and the young Count of Tripoli, Raymond III attacked Shaizar. After initial success Baldwin granted the city to Thierry. Raynald demanded that Thierry give him homage for it, but Thierry refused, and the siege was abandoned. Baldwin married Manuel's niece, Theodora. In 1158 Manuel invaded Cilicia and Antioch to reassert this authority. Reynald begged the Emperor for forgiveness and became his vassal.[66]

In 1162 Shawar, captured and executed Tala'i ibn Ruzzik's son and successor, Ruzzik ibn Tala'i. The following year Dirgham forced Shawar into exile. Amalric invaded Egypt when Dirgham refused to pay tribute but was forced to retreat when the Egyptians flooded the Nile Delta. Shawar fled to Damascus and sought Nur ad-Din's support. Nur ad-Din sent the Kurdish general Shirkuh with Shawar to Egypt. In 1164, he captured Cairo and Shawar was restored as vizier. Shawar approached Amalric for military assistance against Nur ad-Din but Shirkuh successfully resisted. In October 1168, Amalric assaulted Cairo. Shirkuh hurried to Egypt to answer an appeal for support from caliph Al-Adid. In January Amalric withdrew, Shawar was murdered, possibly by Saladin and a mamluk emir or alternatively through their political manoeuvring that forced Shirkuh to execute him. Al-Adid made Shirkuh vizier.[67] Within months, Saladin succeeded his dead uncle Shirkuh. in December, an invasion by Amalric with Byzantine naval support was abandoned at Damietta when the attackers ran out of provisions.[68] Nur al-Din demanded that Saladin brought Egypt into Abbasid Caliphate by removing of the Shi’ite Fatimids. Saladin was helped in this by the death through illness of al-Adid. A week later, the Fatimid regime was ended and the Friday khutbah was proclaimed in the name of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mustadi without dissent.[67] The Ayyubid family determined to resist any attempts by Nur ad-Din to assert authority in Egypt, but to adopt a conciliatory public tone. In March 1171, Amalric undertook a surprising visit to Manuel in Constantinople. His aim was that in the absence of support from the west he would get Byzantine military support for an attack on Egypt. In return, John Kinnamos reports he agreed to "his subjection" to the Romans.[69]

In 1174 Nur ad-Din and Amalric both died. Nur ad-Din left an eleven-year-old son, As-Salih Ismail al-Malik. As-Salih moved from Damascus to Aleppo and the city surrendered to Saladin without resistance. Saladin's determination to reunite Nur ad-Din's empire led to twelve years of warfare with the Zengid rulers of Syria and Iraq. Amalric's 13-year-old son, Baldwin IV was a leper and expected to die young. He became king and Miles of Plancy took control of the government. He was Seneschal of Jerusalem, lord of Transjordan through marriage to Stephanie of Milly and as a member of the Montlhéry family related to Baldwin II and his descendants. Raymond III of Tripoli appealed to the high court on the grounds he was Baldwin's closest relative and was granted the role of bailli and the rule of the kingdom. He married the richest heiress of the kingdom, Eschiva of Bures giving him Galilee and making him the most powerful baron.[70]

In July 1176 Baldwin turned 15, the age of majority, and Raymond's role ended. Baldwin revisited plans for a Byzantine alliance and a joint invasion of Egypt.[71] In November, Sibylla was married to William of Montferrat. Sibylla was Baldwin's heir. William was the cousin of both Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Louis VII of France. In the Summer of 1177, William died, leaving Sibylla pregnant, Jerusalem vulnerable and the succession unresolved. In September 1177, Fulk's grandson, Philip I, Count of Flanders arrived in the Holy Land with a Flemish army and he was offered the regency.[72] In September, an embassy from the Byzantine Emperor, led by the Sicilian Alexander of Gravina arrived in the kingdom with a fleet of seventy galleys plus support ships. Phillip wanted to be free to return to Flanders, suspected he would be blamed if an attack on Egypt failed and if it succeeded Baldwin or the Byzantines would rule Egypt. He rejected an attack on Egypt and instead he, Tripoli and Antioch unsuccessfully attacked Hama and Harim. In November, with most of the Frankish forces in North, Saladin invaded from the South, but was defeated by Baldwin at Montgisard. Baldwin negotiated for a marriage between Hugh III, Duke of Burgundy and Sibylla but for years the succession crisis in France prevented him sailing. Early in 1180 Baldwin married Sybilla to Guy of Lusignan. William of Tyre explains this as Baldwin's method of foiling what he believed was a plot by Raymond III of Tripoli and Bohemond III of Antioch to depose him and elevate Sibylla to the throne under their control. The two men had entered the kingdom, supposedly to celebrate Easter at Jerusalem. The marriage divided the nobility between a "court party" of the king’s maternal kin and a group that included Baldwin’s relatives descended from Queen Melisende’s sisters, Raymond of Tripoli, Bohemond of Antioch and the Ibelins. Saladin and Jerusalem made a truce that lasted from 1180 until 1182. [73]

A drawing depicting mounted warriors fighting each other
Saladin and King Guy in the Battle of Hattin (from a 13th-century manuscript of Matthew Paris's chronicle)

In the summer of 1182, the conflict reignited. Saladin demonstrated the strategic advantage he held by holding both Cairo and Damascus. While he faced Baldwin at Kerak, Turkish troops from the North attacked east of Tiberias. He also reestablished his naval forces. Early in 1183 the Franks levied an extraordinary tax for defence funding. In June Saladin captured Aleppo. Three years later he would complete the suppression of the Zengids by gaining control of Mosul. In September Guy became bailli taking command of the defence of Jerusalem.[74] In September, Saladin invaded Galilee. In response, the Franks raised what William of Tyre described as their largest army in living memory. After nine days of fierce skirmishing but no pitched battle Saladin withdrew towards Damascus. Baldwin dismissed Guy from his position as bailli for failing to fully engage the enemy, although some historians such as R.C. Small believe it was this was the result of obstruction by Guy’s baronial enemies. Baldwin went further in November crowning Guy's 5-year-old stepson, Baldwin V, as co-ruler while attempting to annul the marriage of Guy and Sibylla. Before Guy could be completely ostracised Saladin attacked Kerak, possibly in revenge for Reynald of Châtillon’s attack on a caravan in 1182 and naval raiding in the Red Sea during 1183. After Baldwin forced Saladin’s retreat, Guy and Sibylla fled to Ascalon. In response to Guy’s resistance, Baldwin handed Raymond governmental control. An embassy to Europe, meeting the Pope, Philip II of France and Henry II of England was met with offers of money but not of military support.[75]

Early in 1185 Baldwin IV knew he didn’t have long to live, so he called a council of the Frankish barons. Raymond became bailli for ten years. Baldwin V was put under the protection of Joscelin, which also protected Raymond, who was the nearest male relative, from suspicion should the boy die prematurely. As there was no consensus on what should happen in that event it would be for the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, the kings of France and England to decide between the succession claims of Sibylla and her half-sister Isabella.[76]

In 1186 Baldwin V died. Joscelin seized Acre and Beirut while Sibylla and her supporters gained control in Jerusalem.[77] Raymond and the barons' response was to find an alternative candidate. They choose Isabella’s husband Humphrey IV of Toron but instead he submitted to Sibylla to avoid a civil war. The barons were left with no alternative but to accept the new rulers, only Raymond and Baldwin of Ibelin resisted.[77] Reynald seized another caravan, which in Saladin’s view violated a four year truce and prompted him to assemble his forces for another invasion. Raymond made a treaty with Saladin and allowed Saladin’s troops to pass through his territory to raid around Acre. However, his shock at the Frankish defeat in the resulting Battle of Cresson brought him to reconciliation with Guy. Guy and the barons now gathered a united force numbering 40,000 according to Ernoul. The Franks were divided on tactics. Raymond urged defensive caution while Reynald and the master of the Templars, Gerard de Ridefort urged Guy to attack. They considered that Raymond was a traitor.[78] Guy was persuaded to march to lift Saladin’s siege of Tiberias. The march across Galilee was arduous and Saladin used his forces to separate the Franks from water supplies. On 4 July 1187 Raymond attacked, aiming to gain the springs at Hattin. The Franks trampled some of their own men and the Muslims retreated. The survivors included Raymond, his stepsons, Raymond of Antioch, Reynald of Sidon, Balian and Joscelin. They left the battle making their way 10 miles north to Safed and eventually Tyre. The remains of the Frankish army retreated up the Horns of Hattin to regroup on higher ground but were overwhelmed and the battle was lost. All the major Frankish leaders were taken prisoner including Guy, Gerard, Reynald of Châtillon, William of Montferrat, Aimery of Lusignan, Humphrey and Hugh of Gibelet.[79]

Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani reports Saladin beheaded Reynald himself. Terricus who was the most senior surviving Templar, wrote that 230 Templars were beheaded. Hattin was a massive defeat for the Franks. Guy had committed all the available Frankish resources. Letters to Europe describe it as a military defeat that had cost 25,000 lives in a single day. Eschiva surrendered Tiberias assuming that Raymond and her sons were lost. Joscelin submitted Acre and the citizens were given forty days to leave. According to Terricus by August the kingdom only retained Jerusalem, Ascalon, Tyre and Beirut. He did not realise that the great inland castles held out. Beirut fell quickly and the coastal towns followed without great loss of life, but numerous Christians were enslaved. On 4 September Ascalon surrendered in return for safe passage to Jerusalem and freedom for ten people. These included Guy, his brother Aimery, the marshal, and Gerard of Ridefort. Although Guy was not released until the following July. On 2 October 1187, Balian handed the keys. of Jerusalem to Saladin and those inhabitants who could afford ransom were released. Tyre resisted; its defences commanded by Conrad who was William of Montferrat's brother. He had arrived in the Holy Land only days after Hattin. Late in the year Raymond died leaving Tripoli to Raymond; his godson, Bohemond III's eldest son and heir. Instead, Bohemond empowered his younger son, Bohemond IV. In mid-May 1188 Saladin turned his attention to Tripoli and Antioch. Tripoli was saved by the arrival a William II of Sicily’s Sicilian fleet consisting of maybe sixty galleys and 200 knights. Ernoul wrote that William sent another 300 knights the following August. In July at the siege of Tortosa, Saladin released Guy of Lusignan and William of Montferrat on condition that they did not bear arms against him and that Guy went overseas. In October the following year, after fierce fighting outside Acre, Saladin accused Guy of breaking his oath. Bohemond asked Saladin for a seven-month truce, offering the release of Muslim prisoners. Also, if help did not arrive the city was to be handed over. Ali ibn al-Athir wrote after the Frankish castles were starved into submission that “the Muslims acquired everything from as far as [Ayla to the furthest districts of Beirut with only the interruption of Tyre and also all the dependencies of Antioch, apart from al-Qusayr”.[80]

Recovery (1190 to 1229)

map of The crusader states after Saladin's conquests and before the Third Crusade, around 1190 CE
The crusader states after Saladin's conquests and before the Third Crusade, around 1190 CE

The anonymous Historia de expeditione Friderici imperatoris records that in June 1190 Emperor Frederick Barbarossa drowned crossing the Saleph River, although it may have been a heart attack. Frederick was leading a crusading force overland of between twelve and fifteen thousand. On his death the force suffered disease and fragmented.[81] According to Ernoul in August Guy, his brothers Geoffrey and Aimery, Gerard of Ridefort and Andrew of Brienne mustered a force of 600 knights and were refused entry to Tyre by Conrad. Convinced that crusaders from the West would soon arrive they decided to make a token move on Acre with an inadequate force. A steady stream of Crusaders arrived in support including in October 1190 Frederick's son Frederick, in April 1191 Philip II of France and two months later Richard I of England. Sibylla died in the autumn of 1190 allowing Conrad to argue that Guy had no legitimacy. According to Ambroise and Itinerarium Peregrinarum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, Conrad bribed the princes in the army to allow him to marry Isabella, Sibylla’s half-sister despite her marriage to Humphrey of Toron and the widespread belief that he himself already had two living wives. Those hostile sources describe Isabella's mother Maria Comnena as "steeped in Greek filth from the cradle" and similarly describing her husband Balian of Ibelin's morals. On the 12 July and after an attritional siege the Muslim garrison surrendered Acre. At this point Philip and most of the French army returned to Europe.[82] Now led by Richard the crusade defeated Saladin at Arsuf and captured Jaffa, Ascalon and Darum. Internal dissension was disintegrating the crusade forcing Richard to abandon Guy and accept the general will that Conrad become king. Guy was compensated with the island of Cyprus that Richard had captured in transit. On 28 April 1192, this arrangement failed when Conrad was murdered in Tyre by two Assassins. One week later Henry, Count of Champagne was king through marriage to Isabella.[82] Richard could not destroy Saladin’s army or risk an attack on Jerusalem. He had to return to attend to manage his affairs in the West and was ill. On 2 September, a three-year truce was agreed. The Franks retained lands between Tyre and Jaffa, but dismantled Ascalon, Antioch and Tripoli were included and pilgrimages to Jerusalem allowed by Saladin. Frankish confidence in the truce was not high. In April 1193, Geoffroy de Donjon, the Grand Master of the Hospitaller wrote in a letter, "We know for certain that since the loss of the land the inheritance of Christ cannot easily be regained. The land held by the Christians during the truces remains virtually uninhabited." Five months after Richard's departure Saladin unexpectedly died.[83]

Map of the Crusader States, Lesser Armenia and its surroundings in 1200
Map of Lesser Armenia in 1200

Historian Claude Cahen described the early 13th century history of northern Syria as "a lack of conflicts with the Muslims, [but] constant conflicts with the Armenians". The Armenians of Cilicia became increasingly independent after the 1176 Byzantine defeat by the Seljuks at Myriokephalon ended Greek control in Cilicia and northern Syria. In 1185, during an Armenian civil war Bohemond III of Antioch forced his guest, Ruben III, Prince of Armenia, into becoming his vassal. When Roupen died, his brother Leo supplanted his daughter and heiress, Alice. In 1191, Leo occupied the Templar castle of Bagras that had been abandoned by Saladin after three years of possession. In 1194, Bohemond III accepted Leo's invitation to discuss terms for its return, but Leo imprisoned him in retaliation for the earlier imprisonment of Ruben. Leo demanded Antioch for Bohemond III's release. The Greek Orthodox population and Italian community rejected the idea of an Armenian ruler. Instead they formed a commune and installed Bohemond's eldest son, Raymond. Bohemond III was released in return for abandoning his claim over Cilicia, forfeiting Bagras and marrying Raymond to Alice. Any male heir of this marriage would be considered the next ruler of both Antioch and Armenia. Raymond died first. Bohemond III's second son, Bohemond IV, was recognised as heir by the commune while Alice and Raymond's posthumous son, Raymond-Roupen, were exiled to Cilicia.[84] Bohemond III died in 1201. The commune of Antioch renewed its allegiance to Bohemond IV, although a number of the nobility felt compelled to support Raymond-Roupen and joined him in Cilicia. Bohemond requested aid from Saladin's son, Az-Zahir Ghazi of Aleppo and Suleiman, the Sultan of Rûm. They invaded Cilicia. This forced Leo to abandon his invasion in support of his great nephew. Bohemond IV was often absent asserting his control in Tripoli. In 1203 the Templars prevented Leo taking advantage, in 1205/1206 it was Az-Zahir Ghazi. In 1207/1208 Bohemond suppressed an Antiochene revolt by Peter of Angouleme, the Latin patriarch of Antioch, and the exiled nobles. Leo and Raymond-Roupen exhausted Antioch with frequent destructive raids through the surrounding country and in 1216 occupied the city during another of Bohemond IV's absences. Leo left to address open warfare in Cilicia with the Anatolian Seljuks. The relationship between Leo and Raymond-Roupen soured and Bohemond IV's supporters took advantage, restoring him in 2019. Raymond-Roupen fled to Armenia, firstly seeking Leo's support and when Leo died in May attempting to gain the throne.Constantine of Baberon who was regent for Leo's younger daughter, Isabellal, acted quickly. He captured Raymond-Roupen, who then died in prison. Isabella was married to Bohemond IV's son, Philip. In late 1224, Phillip was abducted and poisoned by Armenian nobles. Bohemond attempts at revenge were foiled by an alliance between the Armenians and Bohemond IV's former Ayyubid allies in Aleppo.[85]

Illustration from a 13th-century manuscript depicting a young man wearing a crown giving a ring to a young woman also wearing a crown.
A 13th-century manuscript of the marriage of Frederick and Isabella

In September 1197 Henry of Champagne died falling out of a palace window in Acre when the railings gave way. In January 1198, the widowed Queen Isabella married Aimery of Cyprus.[86] Saladin's brother Al-Adil I ruled tha majority of the Ayyubid realms while his third son Az-Zahir Ghazi retained Aleppo. Al-Adil agreed almost constant truces with the Franks: 1198 to 1204, 1204 to 1210 and 1211 to 1217). This allowed him to concentrate on the threats presented by the Zengids of Mesopotamia, the Seljuks of Anatolia, the Christian states of Armenia and Georgia. In 1205 Aimery and Isabella died leaving Isabella's daughter by Conrad, Maria of Montferrat, to succeed. Isabella's half-brother, John of Ibelin assumed the regency.[87] A delegation to France to Western Europe seeking candidates for the throne resulted in the selection of John of Brienne. In 1210, he married Maria and two years later when she died after the birth of Isabella II he became king-regent for their daughter.[88] In 1217 John was chosen as de facto leader of a gathering crusade but the Emperor Frederick was expected to assume control on his arrival and the papal legate, Cardinal Pelagius, controlled the finances from the west. From May 2019 until the new Sultan Al-Kamil withdrew in November 2019 Damietta was besieged by the crusaders. Al-Kamil made repeated offers to return Jerusalem and Palestine west of the Jordan in return for a crusader withdrawal from Egypt. This offer was rejected contrary to the opinions of some of the Franks, probably including John. The defensibility of Jerusalem was questionable, the agreement was time limited, Palestine was controlled by al-Kamil's brother the sultan of Syria not al-Kamil and the crusaders vows would be unfulfilled. Instead after twenty-one months of stalemate the crusaders marched against Cairo before being trapped between the Nile floods and Egyptian army. In return for safe conduct Damietta was surrendered and the crusade ended. In 1225 Frederick became king by marrying John of Brienne's daughter, Isabella. In 1228 Isabella died after giving birth to Conrad and Frederick finally arrived in the region. The Cypriot Franks, Templars and Hospitallers were hostile to his rule. There was a negative reaction to the ten-year treaty he agreed with al-Kamil that regained Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Sidon while granting Temple Mount to the Muslims. Frederick left for Italy in May 1229, never to return. Jerusalem's monarchs were then absent until Hugh III of Cyprus succeeded in 1269.[89]

Decline and fall (1230 to 1291)

In 1231 Richard Filangieri, with an Imperial army, arrived in the kingdom of Jerusalem to rule as bailli on behalf of Frederick. He occupied Beirut and Tyre, but the local baronage led by the Ibelins retained control of Acre. In 1232 these barons established a commune in Acre to protect their interests.[90] Filangieri was supported by Bohemund IV of Antioch, the Teutonic Knights, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Pisans. The Ibelins by the Cypriot nobility, Acre, the Templars and the Genoese. More than a decade of baronial resistance to Imperial authority followed ending in July 1243 when the barons finally captured Tyre. This brought the War of the Lombards to a close. Conrad never visited his kingdom and control passed through a succession of Cypriot and Ibelin regents.[91] Without Frederick's resources the kingdom was reliant on Ayyubid division, the military orders and western aid for survival. In Europe the papacy’s conflict with Frederick meant that crusading was left to secular leadership. Nobles from the west such as Theobald I of Navarre and Richard of Cornwall followed Frederick’s tactics of forceful diplomacy and playing rival factions off against each other during the succession disputes in Egypt and Syria that followed Sultan Al-Kamil's death.[92]

In the mid-13th century the Mongol invasion of Europe threatened the Crusader states.[93] Firstly, they displaced a central Asian Turkish people called the Khwarazmians who became allies of As-Salih Ismail, Emir of Damascus. In 1244 the Khwarazmians sacked Jerusalem and with the Egyptians defeated a Frankish and Damascene coalition at La Forbie. The Patriarch of Jerusalem recorded that the Franks lost 16,000 men. The kingdom never recovered; it was the final time the Franks were capable of raising a field army in Palestine. Most of the crusaders' mainland territory was lost to As-Salah and the Franks were confined to a few coastal towns.[94][95] In 1246 Hethum I of Armenia submitted as vassal to the Mongol Hulagu Khan and persuaded his son-in-law Bohemond VI of Antioch to do the same.[96] After a failed crusade launched from Cyprus against Eqypt Louis IX of France became the de facto ruler of the kingdom of Jerusalem from his release from captivity in 1250 until his departure in 1254.[97]

In 1250s the absence of central authority meant that there was no control of the political and economic ambitions of the Italian colonists and their home governments. Beginning in 1256 and lasting until 1288 this led to a civil war known as the War of Saint Sabas over jurisdictions between the Genoese and the Venetians. The Military Orders and various barons supported various sides.[98] In 1260 Hethum and Bohemond VI joined forces with the Mongols in the sack of Aleppo, where Bohemond set fire to the Great Mosque of Aleppo himself, and in the conquest of northern Syria. While Jerusalem remained neutral the Mamluks of Egypt moved to confront the Mongols when Hulagu and much of his force moved east succession on the death of Möngke Khan to address the Mongol. The Mamluks defeated the Mongols at Ain Jalut. On their return journey the sultan Qutuz was assassinated by the general Baibars who replaced him.[96] Baibers reformed governance in Egypt and refashioned the territorial empire of Saladin giving power to the elite military mamluks. Even with the military orders the Franks of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Antioch did not have the military capability to resist this new threat without the distraction of the Mongols. Baibers captured Caesarea and Arsuf in 1265, Safed in 1266, destroyed the Armenian army and in 1268 sacked Antioch. After this Jaffa surrendered and Baibers reduced the influence of the military orders by capturing the castles of Krak des Chevaliers and Montfort before returning his attention to the Mongols for the remainder of his life.[99]

In October 1268, the titular king of Jerusalem, Conradin, was executed in Naples by Charles I of Anjou after his August defeat at Tagliacozzo. This brought the Hohenstaufen male line to an end.[100] The succession was disputed between the descendants of the daughters of Isabella I. Hugh III of Cyprus was the grandson of Alice of Champagne, Isabella's daughter by Henry of Champagne. Maria of Antioch was the daughter of Bohemond IV of Antioch and Melisende of Lusignan Isabella I's daughter by Amalric II. The Barons preferred Hugh but in 1277 Maria sold her claim to Charles of Anjou who seems to have believed that Jerusalem was part of the kingdom of Sicily. He sent Roger of San Severino to act as bailli. With the support of the Templars he blocked Hugh's access to Acre forcing him to retreat to Cyprus leaving the kingdom without a resident monarch again.[101]

In 1285 the death of the pro-Frank Mongol leader Abaqa Khan combined with the Pisan and Venetian wars with the Genoese gave the Mamluk sultan Al-Mansur Qalawun the opportunity to move towards the final expulsion of the Franks. In 1289 he destroyed Genoese held Tripoli, enslaving and killing the residents. In 1290 his truce with Jerusalem was broken by Italian crusaders killing Muslim peasants in Acre. Qalawun's death did not hinder the successful Mamluk siege of the city. Without hope of Western military support those who could fled to Cyprus, those who couldn't were subsumed into the Mamluk labour force. Tyre, Beirut and Sidon all surrendered without a fight. The Mamluk policy was to destroy all physical evidence of the Franks rupturing the history of a littoral civilisation with roots in antiquity.[102]

Demography and Society

Modern research using historical geography techniques indicate that Muslims and indigenous Christian populations were less integrated than historians previously thought. Palestinian Christians lived around Jerusalem and in an arc stretching from Jericho and the Jordan to Hebron in the south.[103] Comparisons of archaeological evidence of Byzantine churches built prior the Muslim conquest and 16th century Ottoman census records demonstrate that while some Greek Orthodox communities had disappeared prior the crusades, most continued during and for centuries after the crusader states. Maronites were concentrated in Tripoli; Jacobites in Antioch and Edessa. Armenians were concentrated in the north but communities existed in all major towns. Palestine's central areas had a Muslim majority population. The Muslims were mainly Sunnis, but Shi'ite communities existed in Galilee. The nonconformist Muslim Druzes were recorded living in the mountains of Tripoli. The Jewish population resided in coastal towns and some Galilean villages.[104][105] Little research has been done on Islamic conversion but the limited available evidence led Ellenblum to believe that around Nablus and Jerusalem Christians remained a majority.[106]

Peasants living off the land formed the vast majority of the indigenous population, particularly after the massacres and sieges of the early 11th century led to widespread death and emigration among the native city dwellers. Charters from the beginning of the 12th century show evidence of the donation of local villeins to nobles and religious institutions. This may have been a method of denoting the revenues from these villeins or land where the boundaries were unclear. These are described as villanus, surianus for Christians or sarracenus for Muslims. The term servus was reserved for the numerous urban, domestic slaves the Franks held in Jerusalem. The use of villanus is thought to possibly reflect the higher status that villagers or serfs held in the near East or that the indigenous men referred to were considered to have servile land tenures rather than that they lacked personal freedom. The difference between the Western serf and Near Eastern villein was that the latter could marry outside their lords' domain, were not obliged to perform unpaid labour, could hold land and inherit property. However, because the Franks needed to maintain productivity the villagers were tied to the land. Charters evidence landholders agreeing to return any villeins from other landholders they found on their property. Peasants were required to pay the lord one quarter to a half of crop yields, the Muslim pilgrim Ibn Jubayr reported there was also a poll tax of one dinar and five qirat per head and a tax on produce from trees. 13th century charters indicate this increased after the loss of the first kingdom to compensate the Franks for the resulting loss of income. These are the reasons that the use of the term indentured peasant is considered by historian Christopher MacEvitt to be a more accurate description for the villagers in the Latin East rather than serf.[107]

The Frankish population of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was concentrated in three major cities. By the 13th century the population of Acre probably exceeded 60,000, then came Tyre, with the capital being the smallest of the three with a population somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000.[108] At its zenith, the Latin population of the region reached c. 250,000 with the Kingdom of Jerusalem's population numbering c. 120,000 and the combined total in Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa being broadly comparable.[109] The presence of Frankish peasants is evident in 235 villages, out of a total of some 1,200 rural settlements.[110] Some were planned villages, established to encourage settlers from the West and some were shared with native Christians. The native population lived in casalia, or rural settlements, each including the dwellings of about 3-50 families.[111] In context, Josiah Russell estimates the population of what he calls "Islamic territory" as roughly 12.5 million in 1000—Anatolia 8 million, Syria 2 million, Egypt 1.5 million and North Africa 1 million — with the European areas that provided crusaders having a population of 23.7 million. He estimates that by 1200 that these figures had risen to 13.7 million in Islamic territory—Anatolia 7 million, Syria 2.7 million, Egypt 2.5 million and North Africa 1.5 million— while the crusaders' home countries' population was 35.6 million. Russell acknowledges that much of Anatolia was Christian or under the Byzantines and that some purportedly Islamic areas such as Mosul and Baghdad had significant Christian populations.[112]

The Franks ruled as an elite and outnumbered class. As such, linguistic differences remained a key differentiator between the Franks lords and the local population. The Franks typically spoke Old French and wrote in Latin. While some learnt Arabic, Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Hebrew this was unusual.[113] Society was politically and legally stratified, with self-governing, ethnically-based communities. Though relations between communities were controlled by the Franks.[114] Research into the society of the crusader states focussed on the role of the ruʾasāʾ, Arabic for leader, chief or mayor. Riley-Smith divided these into the urban, those that he considered freemen, and the rural who were tied to the land. Not only did these men administer the Frankish estates and govern the native communities but evidence indicates they were often respected local landowners in their own right. If the communities were segregated as indicated by the written evidence and identified by Riley-Smith and Prawer inter-communal conflict was avoided because interaction between the landed and the peasants was limited. Alternatively, McEvitt identifies possible tension between competing groups. According to the 13th century jurists, in the towns the Rais presided over the Cour des Syriens and there is other evidence that on occasion they led local troops.[115] Civil disputes and minor criminality were administered by these courts of the indigenous communities, but more serious offences and cases involving Franks were dealt with by the Frankish cour des bourgeois or courts of the burgesses, the name given to the non-noble Franks.[116] The lack of material evidence makes it difficult to identify the level of assimilation. The archaeology is culturally exclusive and written evidence indicates deep religious divisions, although some historians assume that the states' heterogeneity eroded formal apartheid.[117] The key differentiator in status and economic position was between urban and rural dwellers. Indigenous Christians could gain higher status and acquire wealth through commerce and industry in towns, but few Muslims lived in urban areas except those in servitude.[118]

Frankish courts reflected the region's diversity. Queen Melisende was part Armenian and married Fulk from Anjou. Their son Amalric, first married a Frank from the Levant, then a Byzantine Greek. William of Tyre was appalled at the use of Jewish, Syrian and Muslim physicians, who were popular among the nobility. Greek and Arabic speaking Christians made Antioch a centre of cultural interchange. The indigenous peoples showed the Frankish nobility traditional deference. Some Franks adopted their dress, food, housing and military techniques. This does not mean that Frankish society was a cultural melting pot. Inter-communal relations were shallow, separate identities were maintained and other communities were considered alien.[119]


Photograph of three crusader coins from the British Museum. Left: A Denier in European style with Holy Sepulchre (1162–75). Centre: a Kufic gold bezant (1140–80). Right: gold bezant with Christian symbol (1250s)
Crusader coins of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Left: Denier in European style with Holy Sepulchre (1162–75). Centre: Kufic gold bezant (1140–80). Right: gold bezant with Christian symbol (1250s). (British Museum)

In addition to being economic centres themselves, the crusader states provided an obstacle to Muslim trade by sea with the west and to the land routes from Mesopotamia and Syria to the great urban economies of the Nile. Despite hostility, commerce continued, coastal cities remained maritime outlets for the Islamic hinterland and eastern wares were exported to Europe in unprecedented volumes. The Byzantine-Muslim mercantile growth in the 12th and 13th centuries may have occurred anyway, as the Western European economy was booming due to population growth; this increased wealth and created a growing social class demanding city centred products and eastern imports, but it is likely that the Crusades hastened the developments. European fleets were expanded, better ships built, navigation improved and fare-paying pilgrims subsidised many voyages. Agricultural production, largely the domain of the indigenous population, flourished before the fall of the First Kingdom in 1187, but was negligible afterwards. Franks, Muslims, Jews and indigenous Christians traded crafts in the souks, teeming oriental bazaars, of the cities.[120] Olives, grapes, wheat and barley were the most important agricultural products before Saladin's conquests. Glass making and soap production were major industries in the towns.[121] The Italian, Provençal and Catalan merchants monopolised shipping, imports, exports, transportation and banking. The Frankish noble and ecclesiastical institutional income was based on income from estates, market tolls and taxation.[122] Seigniorial monopolies, or bans, existed, compelling the peasantry to use the landowners' mills, ovens and other facilities. The presence of hand-mills in most households implies that the serfs sometimes circumvented their lords' monopolies.[123] The main centres of production were Antioch, Tripoli, Tyre and, less importantly, Beirut. Textiles, glass, dyestuffs, olives, wine, sesame oil and sugar were exported; silk was particularly prized.[124] The Frankish population, estimated at roughly a quarter of a million people, provided an import market for clothing and finished goods.[125]

The Franks adopted the more monetised indigenous economic system, using a hybrid coinage: predominantly northern Italian and southern French silver European coins; Frankish variant copper coins minted in Arabic and Byzantine styles; and silver and gold dirhams and dinars. After 1124, Egyptian dinars were copied, creating Jerusalem's gold bezant. Following the collapse of the first kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, trade, rather than agriculture, increasingly dominated the economy and western coins began dominating the coinage in circulation. Although lords in Tyre, Sidon and Beirut minted silver pennies and copper coins there is little evidence of systematic attempts to create a unified currency.[126]


During the period of near-constant warfare in the early decades of the 12th century, the king of Jerusalem's foremost role was leader of the feudal host. They very rarely awarded land or lordships, and those awarded that became vacant—a frequent event due to the high mortality rate in the conflict—reverted to the crown. Instead, their followers' loyalty was rewarded with city incomes. As a result, the royal domain of the first five rulers —including much of Judea, Samaria, the coast from Jaffa to Ascalon, the ports of Acre and Tyre, and other scattered castles and territories—was larger than the combined holdings of the nobility. This meant that the rulers of Jerusalem had greater internal power than comparative western monarchs, although they did not have the necessary administrative systems and personnel to govern such a large realm.[127]

Map of the feudatories of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187
Map of the feudatories of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187

The situation evolved in the second quarter of the century with the establishment of baronial dynasties. Magnates—such as Raynald of Châtillon, Lord of Oultrejordain, and Raymond III, Count of Tripoli, Prince of Galilee—often acted as autonomous rulers. Royal powers were abrogated and effectively governance was undertaken within the feudatories. What central control remained was exercised at the Haute Cour—High Court, in English. Only the 13th century jurists of Jerusalem used this term, curia regis was more common in Europe. These were meetings between the king and his tenants in chief. Over time the duty of the vassal to give counsel developed into a privilege and ultimately the legitimacy of the monarch depended on the agreement of the court.[128] In practice, the High Court consisted of the great barons and the king's direct vassals. In law a quorum was the king and three tenants in chief. The 1162 the assise sur la ligece theoretically expanded the court's membership to all 600 or more fief-holders, making them all peers. All those who paid homage directly to the king were now members of the Haute Cour of Jerusalem. They were joined by the heads of the military orders by the end of the 12th century, and the Italian communes in the 13th century.[129] The leaders of the Third Crusade ignored the monarchy of Jerusalem; the kings of England and France agreed on the division of future conquests as if there was no need to take into account the nobility of the crusader states. Joshua Prawer considered that the weakness of the crown of Jerusalem was demonstrated by the rapid offering of the throne to Conrad of Montferrat in 1190 and then Henry II, Count of Champagne in 1192.[130] This was given legal effect by Baldwin IV's will stipulating if Baldwin V died a minor the Pope, the kings of England and France, and the Holt Roman Emperor should select the successor.[131]

Before the defeat at Hattin in 1187 the laws developed by the court were documented as assises in Letters of the Holy Sepulchre.[132] After Hattin the Franks lost their cities, lands and churches. Many barons fled to Cyprus and intermarried with leading new emigres from the Lusignan, Montbéliard, Brienne and Montfort families. This created a class apart from the remnants of the old nobility with limited understanding of the Latin East including the king-consorts Guy, Conrad, Henry, Aimery, John and the absent Hohenstaufen that followed.[133] The entire body of written law was lost in the subsequent fall of Jerusalem. From this point the legal system was largely based on custom and the memory of the lost legislation. The renowned jurist Philip of Novara lamented "We know [the laws] rather poorly, for they are known by hearsay and usage...and we think an assize is something we have seen as an the kingdom of Jerusalem [the barons] made much better use of the laws and acted on them more surely before the land was lost". Thus a myth was created of an idyllic early 12th century legal system. The barons used this to reinterpret the assise sur la ligece, which Almalric I intended to strengthen the crown, to instead constrain the monarch, particularly with regards to the right of the monarch to remove feudal fiefs without trial. The concomitant loss of the vast majority of rural fiefs led to the barons becoming an urban mercantile class where knowledge of the law was a valuable, well-regarded skill and a career path to higher status.[134] The barons of Jerusalem in the 13th century have been poorly regarded by both contemporary and modern commentators: James of Vitry was disgusted by their superficial rhetoric; Riley-Smith writes of their pedantry and the use of spurious legal justification for political action. For the barons themselves it was this ability to articulate the law that was so prized.[135] The sources of this are the elaborate and impressive treatises by the great baronial jurists from the second half of the 13th century.[136]

From May 1229 when Frederick II left the Holy Land to defend his Italian and German lands, monarchs were absent—Conrad from 1225 until 1254, his son Conradin until his execution by Charles of Anjou in 1268. Government in Jerusalem had developed in the opposite direction to monarchies in the west. European monarchs such as St Louis, Emperor Frederick and Kind Edward I—contemporary rulers of France, Germany and England respectively—were powerful with bureaucratic machinery for administration, jurisdiction and legislation. Jerusalem had a royalty without power.[137] When Conrad reached majority in 1242 the Barons finally prevailed, Tyre was captured, and a succession of Ibelin and Cypriot regents followed.[91] Centralised government collapsed while the nobility, military orders and Italian communes took the lead. Three Cypriot Lusignan kings succeeded without the financial or military resources to recover the lost territory. The title of king was even sold to Charles of Anjou, but although he gained power for a short while, he never visited the kingdom. The king of Cyprus fought at Acre until all hope was lost and then returned to his island realm.[138] Cyprus survived the fall of the mainland crusader states and in 1365 Peter I of Cyprus launched the last crusade against Egypt that temporarily captured Alexandria.[139]


Photograph of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity.

Indigenous Christians shared each other's churches, priests and even took the sacraments together. There is no written evidence that the Franks or local Christians recognised significant religious differences until the 13th century when the jurists repeatedly used phrases such as men not of the rule of Rome.[140] Partly a result of anti-Orthodox sentiment the early crusaders filled ecclesiastical positions in the Orthodox church left vacant with Franks, including the patriarchy of Jerusalem when Simeon II died. The Greek Orthodox Church was considered part of the universal Church, which enabled the replacement of Orthodox bishops by Latin clerics in coastal towns. The first Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Arnulf of Chocques, ejected the Greek Orthodox monks from the Holy Sepulchre but relented when the miracle of Easter Fire failed in their absence. The appointment of Latin bishops had little effect on the Arabic-speaking Orthodox Christians because the previous bishops were also foreign, from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin bishops used Greeks as coadjutor bishops to administer Syrians and Greeks left without higher clergy. In many villages Latin and Orthodox Christians shared a church. In exceptional political circumstances, Greeks replaced Latin patriarchs in Antioch. Orthodox monasteries were rebuilt and Orthodox monastic life revived. This toleration continued despite an increasingly interventionist papal reaction demonstrated by Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre. The Armenians, Copts, Jacobites, Nestorians and Maronites had greater autonomy. As they were not in communion with Rome they could retain their own bishops without a conflict of authority. Around 1181 Aimery of Limoges, Patriarch of Antioch, managed to bring the Maronites into communion with Rome, establishing a precedent for the Uniate Churches.[141]

That religion prevented assimilation is evidenced by the Franks' discriminatory laws against Jews and Muslims. They were banned from living in Jerusalem and sexual relations between Muslims and Christians were punished (at leat de jure) by mutilation. Some mosques were converted into Christian churches, but the Franks did not force Muslims to convert to Christianity. Frankish lords were particularly reluctant, because conversion would have ended the Muslim peasants' servile status. The Muslims were permitted to pray in public and their pilgrimages to Mecca continued.[142] The Samaritans' annual Passover festival attracted visitors from beyond the kingdom's borders.[143]


One Frankish weakness was the lack of sea-power. This was addressed by the purchase of naval resources from the Italian maritime republics of Pisa, Venice and Genoa.[144] These republics were enthusiastic crusaders from the early 11th century whose commercial wealth secured the financial base of the Franks. In return these cities, and others such as Amalfi, Barcelona and Marseilles, received commercial rights and access to Eastern markets. Over time this developed into colonial communities with property and jurisdictional rights.[145]

Largely located in the ports of Acre, Tyre, Tripoli and Sidon, communes of Italians, Provençals and Catalans had distinct cultural characteristics and exerted significant political power. Separate from the Frankish nobles or burgesses, the communes were autonomous political entities closely linked to their towns of origin. This gave them the ability to monopolise foreign trade and almost all banking and shipping in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Their parent cities' naval support was essential for the crusader states. Every opportunity to extend trade privileges was taken. One example saw the Venetians receiving one-third of Tyre and its territories, and exemption from all taxes, after Venice participated in the successful 1124 siege of the city. Despite all efforts, the Syrian and Palestinian ports were unable to replace Alexandria and Constantinople as the primary centres of commerce in the region. Instead, the communes competed with the monarchs and each other to maintain economic advantage. Power derived from the support of the communards' home cities rather than their number, which never reached more than hundreds. Thus, by the middle of the 13th century, the rulers of the communes were barely required to recognise the authority of the crusaders and divided Acre into several fortified miniature republics.[146][147]

Military orders

13th-century miniature of King Baldwin II granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payens
13th-century miniature of Baldwin II of Jerusalem granting the captured Al Aqsa Mosque to Hugues de Payens

The crusaders habitually followed the customs of their Western European homelands and there were very few cultural innovations in the crusader states. Three notable exceptions to this were the military orders, warfare and fortifications.[148] The order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, more commonly known as the Templars, was formed in 1119 with a mission to protect pilgrims in the perilous territory. The founders were a group of knights attached to the Holy Sepulchre. They were formally recognised at the council of Nablus and eventually granted the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount to use as the order's headquarters. This was known to the Franks as Solomon's Temple from which the order's name derives. The founding leaders, Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer travelled to Europe and in 1129 the order was recognised by the Latin Church at the Council of Troyes. Enshrining this in a detailed rule, support, privileges and immunities followed from the papacy. Donations of estates across Western Europe and the Levant enabled the order to provide the crusader states with troops, funding, loans and luxury accommodation for travellers.[149]

The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem were more commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller. The order began with the operation of an Amalfi funded pilgrim hospital in Jerusalem during the 1080s. After the arrival of the early crusaders they started receiving generous donations both locally and in the west. In 1113 the order that moved from a lay organisation to a religious one was recognised by the pope. It grew into an enormous concern with extensive estates in Italy, Catalonia and Southern France. The income from these provided funding for hundreds of beds serving patients from all religions and genders. By 1126 a military dimension had been added and members formed part of the army from Jerusalem that attacked Damascus.[150]

The creation of communities of warrior monks united the two medieval ideals of monasticism and knighthood.[151] During the 12th and 13th centuries the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar developed into Latin Christendom's first professional armies. They were now supranational organisations with autonomous powers in the region.[152] The template presented by these two organisations led to the formation of further orders. These stretched as far as the Iberian Peninsula and Christendom's northern borders. Notable examples were the Order of Saint Lazarus, founded in 1130, for knights with leprosy and in 1190 the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem. This is more commonly known as the Teutonic Order. By 1180 the number of castles controlled and the 700 knights that the military orders could put in the field matched that from all other sources available to the kingdom of Jerusalem. The knightly elite was also supported by massive organisations of sergeants, clerics, layman and servants.[153]

Art and architecture

photograph of 12th-century Hospitaller castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria showing concentric rings of defence, curtain walls and location sitting on a promontory.
12th-century Hospitaller castle of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, one of the first castles to use concentric fortification, i.e. concentric rings of defence that could all operate at the same time. It has two curtain walls and sits on a promontory.

According to Joshua Prawer no major European poet, theologian, scholar or historian settled in the crusader states. Some went on pilgrimage, and this is reflected in new imagery and ideas in western poetry. Although they did not migrate east themselves, their output often encouraged others to journey on pilgrimage to the east.[154]

Historians consider military architecture—demonstrating a synthesis of the European, Byzantine and Muslim traditions—the most original and impressive artistic achievement of the crusades. Castles were a tangible symbol of the dominance of a Latin Christian minority over a largely hostile majority population. They also acted as centres of administration.[155] Modern historiography rejects the 19th-century consensus that Westerners learnt the basis of military architecture from the Near East, as Europe had already experienced rapid growth in defensive technology. Direct contact with Arab fortifications originally constructed by the Byzantines did influence developments in the east. But the lack of documentary evidence means that it remains difficult to differentiate between the importance of this design culture and the constraints of situation, which led to the inclusion of oriental design features such as large water reservoirs and the exclusion of occidental features like moats.[156] Castles acted as centres of defence and administration. stimulating the development of new settlements.[157][158]

Typically, early church design was in the French Romanesque style. This can be seen in the 12th-century rebuilding of the Holy Sepulchre. It retained some of the earlier Byzantine details, but new arches and chapels were built to northern French, Aquitanian and Provençal patterns. There is little trace of any surviving indigenous influence in sculpture, although in the Holy Sepulchre the column capitals of the south facade follow classical Syrian patterns.[159]

In contrast to architecture and sculpture, it is in the area of visual culture that the assimilated nature of the society was demonstrated. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, the influence of indigenous artists was demonstrated in the decoration of shrines, painting and the production of manuscripts. In addition, Frankish practitioners borrowed methods from the Byzantines and indigenous artists and iconographical practice. Monumental and panel painting, mosaics and illuminations in manuscripts adopted an indigenous style leading to a cultural synthesis illustrated by the Church of the Nativity. Wall mosaics were unknown in the west but in widespread use in the crusader states. Whether this was by indigenous craftsmen or learnt by Frankish ones is unknown, but a distinctive and original artistic style evolved.[160]

Manuscripts were produced and illustrated in workshops housing Italian, French, English and indigenous craftsmen leading to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques. An example of this is the Melisende Psalter, created by several hands in a workshop attached to the Holy Sepulchre. This style could have either reflected or influenced the taste of patrons of the arts. But what is seen is an increase in stylised Byzantine-influenced content. This even extended to the production of icons, unknown at the time to the Franks, sometimes in a Frankish style and even of western saints. This is seen as the origin of Italian panel painting.[161] While it is difficult to track illumination of manuscripts and castle design back to their sources, textual sources are simpler. The translations made in Antioch are notable, but they are considered of secondary importance to the works emanating from Muslim Spain and from the hybrid culture of Sicily.[162]


Reports from John of Ibelin indicate that around 1170 the military force of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was based on a feudal host of about 647 to 675 heavily armoured knights. Each feudatory would also provide his own armed retainers. Non-noble light cavalry and infantry were known as serjants. The prelates and the towns were to provide 5,025 serjants to the royal army, according to Ibelin's list. This force would be augmented by hired soldiery called Turcopoles. In times of emergency, the king could also call upon a general muster of the whole Christian population.[163]

Joshua Prawer estimated that the military orders could match the king's fighting strength. This means the total military of the kingdom was approximately 1,200 knights and 10,000 serjants. Enough for further territorial gains, but fewer than required to maintain military domination. This was also a problem defensively. Putting a major army into the field required draining castles and cities of able-bodied fighting men. In the case of a defeat, such as the Battle of Hattin, there remained few to resist the invaders. Muslim armies were incohesive and seldom campaigned outside the period between sowing and harvest. As a result, the crusaders adopted delaying tactics when faced with a superior invading Muslim force. They would avoid direct confrontation, instead retreating to strongholds and waiting for the Muslim army to disperse. It took generations before the Muslims recognised that they could not conquer the Franks without destroying the Franks' fortresses. This strategic change forced the crusaders away from the tactic of gaining and holding territory, including Jerusalem. Instead, their aim became to attack and destroy Egypt. By removing this constant regional challenge, the crusaders hoped to gain the necessary time to improve the kingdom's demographic weakness. Egypt was isolated from the other Islamic power centres, it would be easier to defend and was self-sufficient in food.[164]

Little was achieved by a Fifth Crusade, primarily raised from Hungary, Germany, Flanders and led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria. The crusaders attacked Egypt to break the Muslim hold on Jerusalem. Damietta was captured but then returned and an eight-year truce agreed after the Franks advancing into Egypt surrendered.[165] In 1249 Louis IX led a crusade attacking Egypt, was defeated at the Battle of Al Mansurah and the crusaders were captured as they retreated. Louis and his nobles were ransomed, other prisoners were given a choice of conversion to Islam or beheading. A ten-year truce was established and Louis remained in Syria until 1254 consolidating the Frankish position.[166][167]


After the fall of Acre the Hospitallers first relocated to Cyprus. The order conquered and ruled Rhodes (1309–1522) and Malta (1530–1798). The Sovereign Military Order of Malta survives to the present-day. King Philip IV of France probably had financial and political reasons to oppose the Knights Templar, which led to him exerting pressure on Pope Clement V. The pope responded in 1312 dissolving the order on the alleged and probably false grounds of sodomy, magic and heresy.[168]

The raising, transportation, and supply of large armies led to flourishing trade between Europe and the crusader states. The Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice flourished, through profitable trading communes.[169][170] Many historians argue that the interaction between the western Christian and Islamic cultures played a significant, ultimately positive, part in the development of European civilisation and the Renaissance.[171] Relations between Europeans and the Islamic world, stretching across the length of the Mediterranean Sea, led to an improved perception of Islamic culture in the West. But this broad area of interaction also makes it difficult for historians to identify how much of this cultural cross-fertilisation originated in the crusader states and how much originated in Sicily and Spain.[162]


Modern historians have developed a broad consensus on relationships between the Frankish and native communities in the crusader states. Joshua Prawer and others described an outnumbered Frankish elite dominating the coastal areas of southern modern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. In this paradigm the Frankish elite is isolated from the majority population by discriminatory laws, conditions of serfdom and exclusion from positions of authority. Recently this position has been challenged by historians such as Ronnie Ellenblum, using archeological research. These challenges have recognised weaknesses and no alternative model has been presented.[172] Christopher Tyerman points out the challenges are not a return to older theories, the sources remain the same and the archeological materials are virtually unprovable. Denys Pringle, a specialist in Frankish architecture, notes that new architectural research does not contradict the segregationist view of Frankish society that earlier in the 20th century, Hans Eberhard Mayer had already written that the number of Franks living in rural settlements should not be underestimated.[173]

It was in the 19th century that subject of the crusader states, rather than just the crusades themselves, become a subject of study. This was particularly true among French historians. Joseph François Michaud's influential narratives had concentrated on topics of war, conquest and settlement. Later France's colonial ambitions in the Levant were explicitly linked with French-led crusading and the Frankish character of the states. Emmanuel Rey's Les colonies franques de Syrie aux XIIme et XIIIme siècles described Frankish settlements in the Levant as colonies in which Poulains, offspring of mixed marriages, adopted local traditions and values instead of those of their Frankish descent. The first American crusade historian, Dana Carleton Munro extended this analysis describing the care the Franks took to win the goodwill of the natives. In the 20th century historians rejected this approach. R. C. Smail argued that Rey, and the like, had identified an integrated society which did not exist in order to justify French colonial regimes. The new consensus was that the society was segregated with limited social and cultural interchange. Prawer and Jonathan Riley-Smith focussed on the evidence of social, legal and political frameworks in the kingdom of Jerusalem to present a widely accepted view of a society that was largely urban, isolated from the indigenous peoples, with separate legal and religious systems. Prawer's 1972 work, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem:European Colonialism in the Middle Ages extended this analysis: the lack of integration was based on economics with the Franks' position depending on a subjugated, disenfranchised local population. In this arrangement the Franks' primary motivations were economic. Islamic historian Carole Hillenbrand identified that Islamic population responded with resentment, suspicion and rejection of the Franks.[174]

This model supports the idea that the crusader states were part of the wider expansion of Western Europe in places such as Ireland, eastern Europe and Spain: driven by religious reforms and the growth of papal power. However, historians now argue that were different in that there was no vigorous church reform in the East, or resulting persecution of Jews and heretics. Some historians consider it exceptional that the 1120 Council of Nablus regulated ecclesiastical tithes, outlawed bigamy and adultery, imposed the death penalty for sodomy and a penalty of castration and mutilation for any Frank engaging in sexual relations with a Muslim. Benjamin Z. Kedar considered that Nablus followed a Byzantine, rather than western reformist, precedent.[175] This has led historians such as Claude Cahen, Jean Richard and Christopher MacEvitt to argue that the history of the crusader states is distinct from the history of the crusades. This allows other analytical techniques to be applied placing the crusader states in the context of Near Eastern politics. These ideas are sill in the process of articulation by modern historians.[176]


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