Descended from the twelfth-century lords of Sidon, Balian was born around 1198, the son of Reynald of Sidon and Helvis of Ibelin, and was thus the nephew of John of Ibelin, the “Old Lord” of Beirut.
In the early 1220s Balian was a trusted adviser of John of Brienne, king of Jerusalem, and when John’s daughter Isabella II married Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily, in 1225, he was a member of the party that accompanied her to the West. The German crusaders of 1227 succeeded in restoring Sidon (mod. Saïda, Lebanon) to full Christian control, and on Frederick II’s arrival in the East in 1228, Balian, unlike his Ibelin kinsmen, cooperated with him. Frederick appointed him as his lieutenant in the kingdom of Jerusalem, and at the emperor’s behest he then attempted to confiscate his kinsmen’s fiefs. It would appear that it was only after the arrival of Frederick’s Italian commander, Richard Filangieri, in the East in 1231 that Balian joined the opposition to the Staufen regime. An accomplished lawyer, Balian survived the battle of Gaza in 1239, dying the following year.