Post-classical history

Jerusalem, (Latin) Kingdom of

The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was the largest of the Frankish principalities or states established in the Near East by the First Crusade (1096-1099), taking its name from its capital city of Jerusalem. The kingdom was ruled and dominated by a minority of Christian settlers who originated in western Europe; they belonged to the Latin (Roman) Church, in contrast to the majority of the subject population, and were known to contemporaries as Franks or Latins (hence the name “Latin kingdom”).

At its widest extent, attained by the third quarter of the twelfth century, the kingdom occupied most of historical Palestine. In the north it bordered on the county of Tripoli a few miles north of Beirut; in the south, Frankish rule extended as far as the port of Aila on the Gulf of ‘Aqaba. The kingdom thus covered an area corresponding to all of modern Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, together with some adjacent parts of modern Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

In 1187 the Muslim leader Saladin defeated the kingdom’s army at the battle of Hattin and proceeded to reduce its territory to a coastal enclave around the city of Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon). The military assistance brought to Outremer by the Third Crusade (1189-1192) recovered most of the Palestinian coast, and some parts of the interior were also subsequently recovered. However, in the later thirteenth century this reduced kingdom, with its capital at Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), was gradually worn down by the Mamlûk sultanate of Egypt and Syria, which finally captured its last surviving stronghold in 1291.

Foundation (1099-1100)

On 15 July 1099 the army of the First Crusade captured the city of Jerusalem from the Fātmids, who had managed to seize it the previous year from its Saljûq governor. The crusaders had already captured the port of Jaffa (mod. Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel); the nearby town of Lydda (mod. Lod, Israel), where they installed a Latin bishop; and Bethlehem.

The leaders of the crusade seem to have accepted that Palestine formed a kingdom (Lat. regnum), although there was no agreement about its precise form of government or its future ruler. Some crusaders regarded this kingdom as belonging to Christ and thought it would be sacrilegious to appoint a king to rule it, but on 17 July it was decided to proceed with the election of a secular ruler, to be chosen by the leading men of the army. Raymond of Saint-Gilles, count of Toulouse, clearly hoped to be made ruler, having previously been thwarted in his designs to establish a principality in northern Syria. However, Raymond had antagonized large sections of the army, and on 22 July the leaders elected Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lotharingia. Godfrey took the titles of prince and defender of the Holy Sepulchre, thus sidestepping the objections of those who objected to the use of a royal title in the city of Christ. On 1 August Arnulf of Chocques was elected as Latin patriarch.

On 12 August the nascent Latin principality survived its first major threat when the crusaders defeated a major Fātimid invasion near Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel). However, the subsequent departure of the majority of the crusaders to their homes exposed the weakness of the Franks of Palestine. Godfrey had only some 300 knights and 2,000 foot soldiers available to him, and he controlled Jerusalem and southern Judaea, including Bethlehem and Hebron, and a coastal strip around Jaffa, Lydda, and Ramla. Jaffa, the only Christian-held port, did not have a good deep- water harbor; the Muslims still controlled the rest of the coast, including the major ports of Acre and Tyre, as well as Beirut, Sidon (mod. Saïda, Lebanon), Haifa (mod. Hefa, Israel), Caesarea (mod. Har Qesari, Israel), Arsuf (near mod. Herzliyya, Israel), and Ascalon. Communications between Godfrey’s two blocs of territory were unsafe and could easily be disrupted by Fātimid forces operating from their base at Ascalon. A third bloc of Christian-held territory was found in Galilee, where the crusader Tancred and his predominantly Norman followers clearly intended to found an independent principality and were not necessarily disposed to defer to Godfrey of Bouillon.

Succession to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099-1291

Succession to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099-1291

If Frankish rule in the Holy Land was to survive, it was essential to extend control over all of Palestine, and above all to capture the major ports necessary to secure communications with the West. The requisite naval assistance soon arrived in the form of a fleet under the command of Daib- ert, archbishop of Pisa. As the price of this support, Godfrey was obliged to accept Daibert as patriarch of Jerusalem in place of Arnulf of Chocques. Daibert of Pisa was given a quarter of the city of Jerusalem as a patriarchal lordship, but he soon began to make further territorial claims, which produced a breach between him and Godfrey, who died unexpectedly of illness on 18 July 1100. Fearing the ambitions of Daibert and Tancred, the knights of Godfrey’s household (Lat. domusGodefridi), led by the Lotharingian nobleman Warner of Grez, seized the citadel of Jerusalem. Determined that the rulership of Palestine should be subject to principles of hereditary succession, they summoned Godfrey’s younger brother, Count Baldwin I of Edessa, to take up his inheritance. Unable to prevent Baldwin’s arrival, Daibert was forced to agree to crown him king as the price of retaining the patriarchate.

Medieval map of Jerusalem from Robert the Monk’s Chronicle of the Crusades, c. 1099. (Gianni Dagli Orti/Corbis)

Medieval map of Jerusalem from Robert the Monk’s Chronicle of the Crusades, c. 1099. (Gianni Dagli Orti/Corbis)

History, 1100-1174

The coronation of King Baldwin I (1100-1118) took place in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Day 1100; this venue, rather than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, was a gesture intended to conciliate patriarchal sensibilities, but Baldwin’s assumption of the royal title was a clear signal that he was determined to tolerate no ambiguities as to the limits of his power. He was able to have Daibert of Pisa deposed in 1102, and thereafter the king (originally a cleric by training) was able to appoint candidates of his own choice to the patriarchate, usually with papal approval. The king was also able to force Tancred to accept that Galilee was part of the kingdom.

Baldwin I was tireless in his efforts to extend Frankish control over the rest of Palestine. He countered and defeated Fātimid invasions in 1101, 1102, and 1105. He secured naval support by making agreements with the Italian republics of Genoa and Venice. It was necessary to concede to them property, trading privileges, and ultimately automous quarters in various cities of the kingdom, but the arrangement did give the republics a significant interest in the kingdom’s survival. Genoese and Venetian (and later Pisan) fleets were also important in bringing large numbers of seasonal pilgrims, keen to visit the newly liberated holy places, who could also be enlisted during their stays to fight alongside the king’s meager forces. With the help of these external forces, Baldwin I was able to capture the ports of Arsuf and Caesarea (1101), Acre (1104), and Beirut and Sidon (1110). By the end of the reign, only Tyre and Ascalon remained in Muslim hands. The king had also begun to penetrate the region south and east of the Dead Sea and to mount an invasion of Egypt, in the course of which he died (1118).

The childless Baldwin I had designated his surviving elder brother, Count Eustace III of Boulogne, as his successor. However, Eustace’s partisans among the magnates were outmaneuvered by a more powerful party, which chose the late king’s distant cousin Baldwin (II) of Bourcq, then count of Edessa. The reign of Baldwin II (1118-1131) saw a growth of the influence of nobles connected by ties of kinship and vassalage with his family in north-central France (some of them new immigrants), in contrast to the Flemings, Normans, and Lotharingians favored under Godfrey and Baldwin I. The defeat of the Franks of Antioch by the Turks of northern Syria at the battle of the Ager Sanguinis (1119) meant that Baldwin was obliged to spend most of the next four years in the north, acting as regent of Antioch and defending the Frankish territories. In 1123 he was captured by the Turks, and he remained a captive for over a year. Resentment grew because of the king’s long absences and the demands of repeated campaigns in the north, and during his captivity an unsuccessful attempt was made to depose him. More importantly, the barons and prelates of the kingdom concluded an alliance with the Venetians that defeated a Fātimid invasion and captured the port of Tyre (1124).

From this time the kingdom was secure from major Muslim invasions until the 1160s. On his release, Baldwin II pursued a foreign policy calculated to appeal more to his nobles. In 1126 he invaded the Hauran, the fertile Damascene territory east of Lake Tiberias; in 1129 he enlisted crusaders from the West to mount an unsuccessful attack on Damascus itself. A further important feature of the reign was the establishment of military religious orders, which came about through the foundation of the Order of the Templars and the militarization of the existing charitable Order of the Hospital. These new institutions were to subsequently play an increasingly important part in the defense of the kingdom.

The succession to Baldwin II was secured through the marriage of his eldest daughter, Melisende, to Fulk V, count of Anjou. The joint reigns of Melisende (1131-1162) and Fulk (1131-1143) were disrupted by a revolt in 1133-1134 staged by Melisende’s kinsman Hugh of Jaffa, who feared that Fulk intended to set aside arrangements that vested joint rule in the royal couple and their young son Baldwin III. Although the revolt was put down, Fulk was forced to abide by the existing constitutional settlement. The king was also obliged to devote considerable time to affairs in the north, where he exercised the regency of Antioch (1131-1136). However, Fulk put considerable efforts into improving the security of his own kingdom by constructing castles around Fātimid-held Ascalon, in Galilee, and also in Transjordan. On Fulk’s death, sole rule passed to Melisende, as Baldwin III was still a minor.

By this time a new Muslim leader had arisen to fill the power vacuum in northern Syria: ‘Imād al-Dīn Zangi, ruler of Mosul and Aleppo. In 1144 he captured the Christian city of Edessa (mod. Şanlıurfa, Turkey). Zangī was a brilliant and ruthless military leader whose Muslim contemporaries regarded him as waging a holy war (Arab. jihād) against nonbelievers. After Zangī was murdered in 1146, his lands were divided between his two sons. The elder son, Saif al-Dīn Gazī, succeeded him in Mosul; the younger, Nûr al-Dīn, took over the government of Aleppo and concentrated on expanding his power in Syria. Since 1139 the Franks of Jerusalem had maintained an alliance with Damascus, which was the most important Muslim state in the Near East still independent of Zangī and his successors.

The Second Crusade (1147-1149) was launched in response to the victories of Zangī and Nûr al-Dīn, but only much-reduced Western forces reached Outremer after their difficult passage through Anatolia. Neither King Conrad III of Germany nor Louis VII could be persuaded to attack Aleppo, as argued by Prince Raymond of Antioch. In June 1148 Baldwin III (1143-1163), Queen Melisende, the magnates of the kingdom, and the crusade leaders decided on an attempt to capture Damascus. As a strategic decision, this was by no means as senseless as scholars once believed. The regime of Unur, atabeg of Damascus, was becoming increasingly unstable, and in 1147 he had concluded an alliance with Nûr al-Dīn. A combined Frankish-crusader attack may well have been the last opportunity to secure Damascus and parts of its territory before it passed under the influence of Nûr al- Dīn. However, in the event, the campaign was executed incompetently and the siege failed; in 1154 the people of Damascus expelled their ruler and welcomed Nûr al-Dīn as lord of the city.

In the years following the Second Crusade, the young King Baldwin III became increasingly impatient at having to share power with his mother. In a short civil war in 1152, Baldwin III displaced Melisende’s major supporter, Manasses of Hierges, and excluded his mother from government. The following year Baldwin flexed his muscles by besieging and capturing Ascalon, the last Muslim-held city in Palestine. In 1158 he married Theodora, a niece of the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos. The Byzantine emperors had no territorial claims on Jerusalem, in contrast to their ambitions to establish control over the principality of Antioch, and relations between Byzantium and the kingdom were generally cordial during this period.

The childless Baldwin III was succeeded by his younger brother Amalric (1163-1174), who, however, was obliged to divorce his wife, Agnes of Courtenay, as their marriage was regarded as bigamous by the Latin Church and leading magnates. Amalric’s main energies during his reign were devoted to attempts to invade and conquer Egypt. That country’s wealth appealed to the Franks of Jerusalem as well as to potential allies such as Byzantium and the Italian maritime republics. The increasing instability of the unpopular Fātimid caliphate, Shi‘ite in faith in contrast to the majority Sunni population, meant that a Frankish intervention was becoming increasingly necessary to prevent Egypt from falling under the control of Nûr al-Din. Amalric mounted invasions of Egypt in 1163, 1164, and 1167, forcing the Egyptian vizier, Shâwar, to abandon his alliance with Nûr al- Din and pay a huge tribute to the king.

Still hoping to establish control over Egypt, the king concluded a treaty of assistance with Emperor Manuel Kom- nenos, whose niece Maria he married in 1168. At the end of that year Amalric launched another major invasion of Egypt, but without coordinating the campaign with the Byzantine navy. Nûr al-Din countered by sending an army under his general Shirkûh, who seized control in Egypt. Shirkûh was succeeded as vizier of Egypt by his own nephew Saladin, who repulsed a final invasion led by Amalric in 1169. Saladin dissolved the Egyptian army and abolished the Fātimidcaliphate.

On Nûr al-Din’s death (1174), Saladin, already de facto ruler of Egypt, seized Damascus, Homs, and Hama from Nûr al-Din’s heirs. King Amalric of Jerusalem died later that year, his inheritance now surrounded by territories controlled by Saladin. The chronicler William of Tyre perceptively attributed the geopolitical predicament of the kingdom to this new circumstance: “all the neighbouring realms are subject to the rule of one man” [Guillaume de Tyr, Chronique, ed. Robert B. C. Huygens (Turnhout: Brepols, 1986), p. 971].

History, 1174-1200

The reigns of Amalric’s son Baldwin IV (1174-1185) and his heirs were characterized by the ever-growing threat from Saladin, who was determined to liberate Jerusalem for Islam and recover Palestine from the Franks. His forces invaded the kingdom in 1177, 1179, 1182, 1183, 1184, and 1187. Invasions were interspersed with periods of truce, during which Saladin attempted to extend his control over Muslim Syria, seizing Aleppo and its territory in 1183. Individual crusaders and their retinues came to the Holy Land during this time, but there was no major crusading effort from the West on the scale of the Second Crusade, despite appeals from the secular and ecclesiastical leadership of the kingdom.

Baldwin IV suffered from leprosy and could not be expected to marry and produce an heir. A regent was thus required not only at first, during the young king’s minority, but in subsequent periods when he was incapacitated by illness. A suitable husband also had to be found for his next heir, his sister Sibyl. Repeated disputes concerning these two issues, added to wider political rivalries among the ruling classes of the kingdom, greatly hampered its efforts to resist Saladin. Baldwin IV died in May 1185, worn out by his crippling disease and the rigors of repeated military campaigns.

Baldwin V (1185-1186), the son of Sibyl and her first husband, William Longsword, had been crowned as co-king during the reign of his predecessor. As Baldwin was a minor, the regency had been entrusted to Count Raymond III of Tripoli, who was opposed by a significant party around Sibyl and her second husband, Guy of Lusignan. This faction seized power when Baldwin V died, and Sibyl and Guy were crowned rulers. The kingdom was thus politically divided when Saladin led a great invasion into Galilee. Against the advice of Raymond of Tripoli and others, King Guy gave battle at a site known as the Horns of Hattin, where the Franks of Jerusalem suffered their greatest ever military defeat (3-4 July 1187). Guy himself was taken prisoner, while most of the kingdom’s leaders and fighters were killed or captured. In the aftermath of the battle Sal- adin’s troops were able to overrun the entire kingdom, with the exception of the port of Tyre.

The defeat at Hattin, and above all the surrender of the city of Jerusalem in October 1187, sent shock waves around the West. Pope Gregory VIII proclaimed a new crusade in his encyclical Audita tremendi. Some military and naval assistance reached Outremer quickly, but it was a considerable time before major armies arrived in the course of the Third Crusade (1189-1192). A land army from Germany under Frederick I Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor, broke up after the emperor died in Cilicia (1190). However, seaborne expeditions led by King Richard the Lionheart of England and King Philip II of France succeeded in recovering most of the coast from Tyre to Ascalon, although it proved impossible to retake the city of Jerusalem itself. The kingdom’s capital was now the port of Acre, where most of the leading governmental and ecclesiastical institutions established themselves. Additional territory to the north of Tyre was later secured by the German crusade sent by Barbarossa’s son, Emperor Henry VI (1197-1198).

The Kingdom of Jerusalem at its greatest extent

The Kingdom of Jerusalem at its greatest extent

The Christian recovery was hampered by disputes over the throne of Jerusalem. Guy of Lusignan (released from captivity in 1188) was supported by Richard of England, whereas Philip and others favored Conrad of Montferrat, an Italian nobleman who had won distinction while leading the defense of Tyre. The death of Sibyl and her daughters left Guy without any legitimate rights to the throne. A compromise reached in 1192 awarded the throne to Conrad (I), who was married to Sibyl’s younger sister and heir, Isabella I. Guy was compensated with the island of Cyprus, which Richard had conquered before arriving in Outremer. Conrad was assassinated before he could be crowned, and so the kingdom passed, along with the hand of Queen Isabella, first to Henry of Champagne (1192-1197) and then to Aimery of Lusignan, king of Cyprus (1198-1205).

History, 1200-1291

From the death of Saladin in 1193 until 1260, the Muslim powers that surrounded the kingdom were divided. Damascus, Aleppo, Kerak, and Egypt were ruled by different members of Saladin’s family (the Ayyûbids), who were constantly at war with each other, a circumstance that the Franks were able to exploit. In 1250 there was a change of government in Egypt when power was seized by a group of Turkish mamlûks (slave soldiers), who established a regime known as the Mamlûk sultanate. Yet as Aleppo and Damascus were still ruled by the Ayyûbids, the Franks could still play the rival powers off. So between 1193 and 1260 there was a repeated pattern of a truce, followed by a crusading expedition that tried to recover new territory, followed by another truce.

Richard the Lionheart had planned to attack Egypt in 1192 but had been unable to persuade the whole crusade army to accompany him. Nevertheless, many of the later crusades saw Egypt as the key to the Holy Land. It was believed that if Egypt could be conquered, then the Holy Land would be secure; even if Egypt proved impossible to hold permanently, a strike against the major center of Muslim power might be sufficient to force the Ayyûbids and later the Mamlûks to surrender enough territory in Palestine to enable the Franks to hold a restored kingdom of Jerusalem (including the Holy City itself) with defensible frontiers. This is why Egypt was chosen as the original goal of the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204), although it was eventually diverted to Constantinople (mod. Istanbul, Turkey). The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) was initially successful in capturing the Egyptian port of Damietta, but its chances of success were destroyed by quarrels between the papal legate and the secular princes.

The lack of a strong central authority in the kingdom, which was already apparent after 1174, became even more serious during the thirteenth century. Up to 1268 several of the monarchs were either underaged (Maria la Marquise and Isabella II) or absentees (Conrad II and Conradin), requiring regents to govern for them. There were frequent disputes about the choice of regent, as well as resistance to the policies of both regents and monarchs. Effective power passed to a number of different groups and institutions which struggled to defend their interests and to control the kingdom. First, there was a relatively small group of noble families, notably the Ibelins. Many of these families produced or employed jurists who became expert in manipulating the High Court, which was the highest governing body of the kingdom. Second, there were the great military orders—the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights—that now had much greater political weight than in the period before Hattin. They acquired large areas of land and castles, which they often bought from impecunious nobles. With sources of income in the West, the orders were one of the few institutions that had sufficient financial resources for the purchase of lands and the costly construction and upkeep of castles. However, they also sometimes followed opposing policies and became embroiled in factional disputes; after Frankish Palestine was lost, some people blamed them for fighting among themselves when they should have been fighting the Muslims. Third, there were the communities from the Italian trading cities of Genoa, Venice, and Pisa,

which had their own quarters in the major ports, such as Acre and Tyre, where they had privileges such as being able to hold their own courts to deal with their own legal business. Although they provided a vital link with the West by bringing pilgrims and supplies, they were rivals in Europe and brought their disputes and wars to the Holy Land. Fourth, there were burgess confraternities, groups of freemen who formed associations to defend local rights. On occasion, the confraternities would join with nobles and non-Frankish inhabitants in communes. These were sworn associations formed to achieve political aims, as in the case of the Commune of Acre, which opposed the rule of the German-Sicilian Staufen dynasty. Finally, various monarchs and other powerful figures who arrived from the West on crusade expeditions often overruled or ignored local institutions.

In 1228-1229 Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily, came to the East, having previously married the heiress to the throne, Isabella II, granddaughter of Isabella I. Frederick recovered the city of Jerusalem by negotiation as part of a ten-year truce concluded with al-Kāmil, the Ayyûbid sultan of Egypt, rather than by fighting. As Jerusalem technically belonged to Damascus, not to Egypt, and as the Franks were not allowed to fortify the city, many of them considered that this truce was more for Frederick’s interests than theirs. It seemed that Frederick was more interested in making a treaty to protect the commercial interests of his kingdom of Sicily than in protecting Outremer. Supported by the Teutonic Knights, the Genoese, and Pisans, Frederick staged a crown-wearing ceremony in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. However, he was opposed by the secular church, the other military orders, and the majority of the nobility. As Isabella II had died in 1228, this party refused to recognize Frederick’s rights to the throne, accepting only that he was regent for his infant son Conrad II (IV of Germany).

Frederick’s return to the West (1229) was followed by an intermittent civil war between Frederick’s supporters and mercenaries (known as Lombards) and the majority of the Franks, led by the powerful Ibelin family. More crusaders from the West arrived in 1239-1240, led by Thibaud IV of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall, to coincide with the expiry of Frederick II’s truce. They succeeded in refortifying Ascalon as well as in gaining territory in Galilee. However, in 1244 the city of Jerusalem was captured by the Khwârazmians, nomadic mercenaries in the service of Sultanal-Sālih Ayyûb of Egypt, and the Egyptians destroyed a Frankish army in battle at La Forbie near Gaza. Most of the recent territorial gains were lost again soon after. The kingdom’s territory now consisted of the area between Beirut and Caesarea from the coast to the line of the Jordan, with a much narrower coastal strip extending south as far as Jaffa.

The marriage of Frederick II to Isabella II brought the Staufen dynasty to the throne. Yet neither of their two successors, Conrad II (1228-1254) or his son Conrad III, better known as Conradin (1254-1268), ever visited their kingdom. Government was carried out by a series of regents appointed by the High Court. The death of Conrad III without heirs meant the extinction of the line that was descended from Maria la Marquise, daughter of Queen Isabella I and her second husband, Conrad of Montferrat. The throne now passed to King Hugh III of Cyprus (I of Jerusalem), who was descended from Isabella I and her third husband, Henry of Champagne. Hugh I/III (1268-1284) was succeeded, in turn, by his son Henry II (1285-1324), who was to be the last reigning king of Jerusalem.

Up to the mid-thirteenth century the Franks were still in a relatively strong position, and the kingdom was still rich from the trade that passed through its ports. But from that time the economy began to decline. From 1256 trade with the West was disrupted by wars between the Italian merchant cities of Genoa, Venice, and Pisa and by the conquests of the Mongols in Central Asia. The Mongols swiftly advanced into the Middle East, and in 1260 they captured Aleppo and Damascus. The Christian rulers in their path had to decide whether to negotiate with the Mongols or to risk being destroyed by them. The leaders of the kingdom of Jerusalem decided to remain neutral, assisting neither the Mongols nor the Mamlûks of Egypt. However, in September 1260 the Mamlûk sultan, Qutuz, defeated the Mongols at ‘Ayn Jâlût in Galilee.

The decisive victory of ‘Ayn Jâlût saved the kingdom of Jerusalem and Egypt from the Mongols, but it also enabled the Mamlûks to take over Aleppo and Damascus, which had previously opposed them. The kingdom was again surrounded, and over the next three decades the Mamlûk generals captured fortress after fortress and city after city, until the kingdom was reduced to a few fortified cities along the coastline. The Mamlûks’ repeated campaigns in Palestine also destroyed the agriculture and infrastructure of the kingdom; they adopted a scorched-earth policy, destroying everything, so that the Franks could not regroup and recover as they had done during the Third Crusade. Unlike Saladin, who used to allow the Christian defenders of a castle or town to go in peace if they surrendered, the Mamlūks would routinely kill the defenders of the castles and towns they captured. Saladin’s policy had been intended to encourage quick surrenders. The Mamlūks relied on their superior siege machinery to capture fortresses quickly and aimed at destroying their enemy completely.

In May 1291 the last Frankish-held stronghold, the city of Acre, fell to the troops of the Mamlūk sultan Khalil. Some of those in the city managed to escape by sea to Cyprus, but the rest were either killed or taken prisoner. Many plans were drawn up to recover the Holy Land, but these all came to nothing. The Lusignan kings of Cyprus continued to call themselves “king of Jerusalem” after 1291, though the title was also claimed by the kings of Naples and Sicily and by the kings of Aragon. The ecclesiastical institutions of the kingdom, such as the patriarch of Jerusalem, also continued in name.

Settlement, Economy, and Society

When the crusaders arrived in Palestine at the end of the eleventh century, they found an extremely wealthy country. There were large, rich trading ports, such as Acre and Tyre. By the thirteenth century Acre was a world trade center as important as Constantinople or Alexandria. It was a great spice market, exported most of the sugar consumed in Europe, and also had an important slave market, although the pope tried to restrict the last. The new Christian lords of these towns encouraged this trade. They extended the ports and gave privileges to merchants, most of them from Italy. Most of Palestine north of Gaza and Hebron was agriculturally rich, producing crops such as wheat, olives, wine, sugar, and citrus fruits. The Terre de Suète east of Lake Tiberias, especially productive of wheat, was a major area of contention between the Franks and whichever Muslim power ruled Damascus.

There was a marked difference in the character of the urban and rural populations under Frankish rule. As the Franks gradually conquered the coastal towns, they either massacred or expelled the Muslim and Jewish urban populations, although native Christians were allowed to remain, and some Jews were later permitted to return. The majority of the Franks settled in the towns, as did the Italian colonists later on, in their own designated quarters. The countryside continued to be inhabited by predominantly Arabic-speaking peasants living in villages (Lat. casalia), each governed by its headman (Arab. rafs). The majority of these peasants were either “Saracens,” that is, Muslims, or “Syrians,” a term that could refer either to the Greek Orthodox (Melkites), who constituted the majority among the native Christians, or to the Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites). There were much smaller numbers of rural Jews (in Galilee), Samaritans (in the area around Nablus), and Druzes (in the mountains above Sidon), as well as nomadic Bedouin in the frontier areas. There was no Turkish population in the kingdom, although Turks formed the ruling and military classes of many Muslim territories in the Near East. There was no manorial system in the countryside, as was the case in much of western Europe. Those Franks who lived in the countryside were to be found living either, on one hand, in or alongside the Frankish castles, or, on the other, in fortified villages, such as Magna Mahomeria (mod. al-Bira, West Bank) and Bethgi- belin (mod. Bet Guvrin, Israel), in some cases alongside native Christians.

The city of Jerusalem was a special case in terms of population and economy during the periods when it was under Frankish control (1099-1187 and 1228-1244). Largely depopulated in the course of the crusader conquest, its initially small number of Frankish settlers was augmented by Syrians brought from Transjordan by King Baldwin I. In the course of the twelfth century, the city also became host to more Latins, members of other Eastern Christian denominations, and a transient population of pilgrims from the West. However, Muslims and Jews were not permitted to settle there. Jerusalem’s main role was as a pilgrimage and administrative center, but as it lacked significant trade interests it did not attract settlement by Italian colonists.

The kingdom had very long land frontiers, although the realities of geography and supply meant that there were relatively few invasion routes that could be used by large Muslim armies. From Egypt, armies usually marched along the northern coast of Sinai toward the area of Ascalon and Jaffa; alternately, they could proceed due east across Sinai toward the Gulf of ‘Aqaba and Transjordan. The usual invasion route from Syria was either north or immediately south of Lake Tiberias into Galilee. The Franks built numerous castles where military forces and supplies could be placed, and these could be used as bases from which to raid enemy territory or in order to halt enemy incursions into Frankish territory. In the twelfth century, castle building was concentrated in three areas: (1) in northern Galilee and the Terre de Suète to the east, (2) on the southwestern frontier facing Fātimid-held Ascalon, and (3) in Transjordan, from Kerak in the north to Aila on the Gulf of ‘Aqaba in the south. In the thirteenth century, as the Franks were pushed back to the west, more castles were built further west toward the coast to defend the reduced Frankish territory.

The Franks never constituted more than a large minority among the total population of Palestine. They were divided legally into three classes. The Frankish nobility was a relatively small group, originating primarily from northern France, Lotharingia, and the Low Countries. They provided the main fighting forces of the kingdom. The clergy was also small in number, and those who held high office tended to be immigrants from the West. The majority of Franks belonged to the burgess class. They originated from the same lands as the nobility and also from Italy, southern France, and Spain.

Westerners who came to the East complained that the Franks had become too native in their habits. Up to a point these accusations had some truth. The Franks wore local styles of dress, bathed regularly (unlike western Europeans), and ate local food. What was more, they made alliances with local Muslims and sometimes had Muslim friends. Some Westerners argued that this fraternizing with Muslims angered God and that this was why God allowed the Christians in the Holy Land to be defeated by the Muslims. Yet most of the local customs were sensible, and they were superficial compared to other characteristics. Although a few Franks learned Arabic, the vast majority continued to speak French and used Latin as their written language; of course, they continued to adhere to the Latin Church. They regularly made truces and alliances with Muslim rulers, but this was necessary for the survival of the kingdom. There was some intermarriage between burgesses and native Christians, and even converts from Islam, although the ruling class only married other Franks, Byzantines, Armenians, or immigrants from Europe. Native Christians served as minor officials in urban and rural administration, but after centuries of Muslim rule they had no noble class and no real military traditions. They could therefore make little contribution to the kingdom’s defense, in contrast to the situation in the northern states of Outremer.

Government and Institutions

From 1100 the kingdom was a hereditary monarchy, whose head was officially known as “king of the Latins in Jerusalem,” a title that reflected the fact that the Franks (or Latins) were the only group in full possession of political and legal rights. The king of Jerusalem was sometimes recognized as having a kind of overlordship over the other Frankish states, which manifested itself in acts of homage by their rulers and in the fact that the king could act as regent for them during minorities. However, this relationship was never formalized beyond such acts, and the northern principalities did not form part of the kingdom proper.

Rulers of the Kingdom


of Jerusalem


Godfrey of Bouillon


Baldwin I (of Boulogne)


Baldwin II (of Bourcq)




Fulk of Anjou


Baldwin III




Baldwin IV


Baldwin V




Guy of Lusignan


Isabella I


Conrad I of Montferrat


Henry I of Champagne


Aimery of Lusignan


Maria la Marquise


John of Brienne


Isabella II


Frederick (II) (Holy Roman Emperor)


Conrad II (IV of Germany)


Conrad III (Conradin)


Hugh I (III of Cyprus)


John II (I of Cyprus)


Henry II (also Cyprus)


The central royal administration was based at Jerusalem until 1187, and later at Acre. It had a chancery headed by a cleric, plus lay officers along the lines found in the West: a constable, marshal, seneschal, butler, and chamberlain. A substantial part of the country, the royal demesne, remained directly under royal control and was administered by viscounts. The royal demesne varied in extent, but before 1187 it consisted of two main territorial blocs: northern Judaea and southern Samaria (including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nablus), and the coastal area around Tyre and Acre. The rest of the country was divided into lordships. Most of these were held by nobles, but some were ecclesiastical lordships, such as those held by the bishops of Nazareth and Lydda, as well as the Latin patriarch’s quarter in Jerusalem. At times, Jaffa and Ascalon formed part of the demesne or were given to members of the royal family.

Most towns in the royal demesne and the lordships had a burgess court (Fr. Cour des Bourgeois), which was the main court for Frankish burgesses and more serious cases involving non-Franks. The native communities originally had their own courts for lesser cases, but these competencies were taken over by the Court of the Market (Fr. Cour de la Fonde), which originated as a court dealing with commercial matters involving Franks and non-Franks. There were also courts for the vassals of each lordship and ecclesiastical courts for the clergy.

The royal demesne provided the main stream of royal income in the form of rents, agricultural revenues, and, above all, tolls from the wealthy ports. Much of this income was paid out in the form of money fiefs to support knights who were the king’s vassals in the royal demesne. Other sources of royal income were the profits of justice, coinage, and shipwreck; feudal dues; occasional tribute payments from Muslim powers; and subsidies from Byzantium. General taxation was rare and only conceded on exceptional circumstance. The lordships and the royal demesne provided about 600-700 knights for the kingdom’s army in the twelfth century, plus some 5,000 more lightly armed troops, known as sergeants. A substantial number of knights and sergeants was also maintained by the military orders.

The king was expected to rule with the consent and cooperation of the great nobles and ecclesiastical dignitaries, just as kings did in Europe. The main forum for this was the High Court (Fr. Haute Cour), which was not only the highest court of law, but also an institution for political consultation and decision making. For much of the twelfth century, kings were relatively strong, although most of them encountered opposition at some point. They exercised a strong control over higher ecclesiastical appointments. Before 1118 few secular lordships were created, and even thereafter the kings often intervened to reorganize lordships and remove their holders. However, from 1174 onward kings were frequently minors or absentees or incapacitated by illness. Nobles and clerics had a major role in appointing regents; in the thirteenth century they also increasingly used the High Court to defend their own privileges and prevent any extension of royal prerogatives.

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