Post-classical history

Joscelin II of Courtenay (d. 1159)

Fourth and last ruling count of Edessa (1131-1159), Joscelin II saw almost all of his lands conquered by the Turkish rulers Zangi and Nûr al-Din.

Joscelin II was born sometime between 1113 and 1119, the son of Count Joscelin I of Edessa and an Armenian mother, the daughter of Rupen of Cilicia. From 1124 to 1125, Joscelin was a hostage at the court of Timûrtâsh, the Artûqid emir of Mardin, as part of the settlement for the release of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. Joscelin inherited Edessa following his father’s death in 1131.

For the first few years of Joscelin II’s rule, the main threat to the county, Zangi, atabeg of Mosul, did not attack the Franks. By 1135, however, Zangi had consolidated his authority among the Turkish leaders of northern Syria and turned his attention to Antioch, conquering in rapid succession Atharib, Zardana, and Kafartab. Political strife in Antioch between the dowager princess Alice and her son-in- law Raymond of Poitiers left the principality divided, and Joscelin saw little reason to interfere, as his own territory was unaffected. By 1137, however, the threat to both Edessa and Antioch was too great to ignore. Following the death of Count Pons of Tripoli at the hands of Turkish raiders, the combined armies of Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, and Edessa forced Zangi to retreat, while oaths of fealty to the Byzantine emperor by both Raymond of Antioch and Joscelin brought him into an alliance against the Turkish leader. In the spring of 1138, a united Byzantine-Frankish army recaptured Kafartab and Atharib and then besieged the independent emirate of Shaizar. The siege failed, owing to the impressive fortifications of Shaizar, the approach of Zangi’s army, and the uncooperative attitudes of Joscelin and Raymond.

In 1142, Emperor John Komnenos returned to Syria to remind Joscelin and Raymond of their oaths to him. His army camped at Turbessel (mod. Tellbaflar Kalesi, Turkey), where the count now resided in preference to the more exposed city of Edessa (mod. Şanlıurfa, Turkey), and John received Joscelin’s daughter Isabella as a hostage. This alliance, however, failed to restrain Zangi’s attacks. In late 1144, Zangi attacked and captured the city of Edessa while Joscelin and his army were absent. Zangi executed most of the Franks resident in the city but spared the local Armenians and Syrians. Following Zangi’s assassination in September 1146, Joscelin recaptured the city (but not its citadel) with the help of the Armenian population. Zangi’s son Nûr al-Din quickly recaptured the city and massacred its Christian population, both Frankish and local.

Having lost the eastern half of the county, Joscelin retreated to Turbessel. On 4 May 1150 Turkish soldiers ambushed him on his way to Antioch. He was imprisoned in Aleppo and died nine years later, receiving his last sacraments from a Syrian Orthodox bishop. Following his imprisonment, Mas‘ûd, the sultan of Rûm, attacked what remained of the county, seizing Kesoun (mod. Keysun, Turkey), Besni, and Raban. Joscelin’s widow, Beatrix, ceded the remainder of the county to Emperor Manuel I Komnenos and gave the castle of Hromgla (mod. Rumkale, Turkey) to the Armenian patriarch. Joscelin’s children migrated to the kingdom of Jerusalem: Joscelin III eventually became seneschal of the kingdom, and Agnes married Hugh of Ibelin, lord of Ramla, and then (in 1157) Amalric, count of Jaffa.

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