Post-classical history

Tripoli, County of

The fourth and last of the Frankish states founded in Outremer by the First Crusade (1096-1099). It survived to the late thirteenth century.

The county of Tripoli came into existence when Raymond of Saint-Gilles, count of Toulouse, having seized Tor- tosa (mod. Tartûs, Lebanon) in 1102, attempted to conquer the surrounding country with his southern French followers, with the city of Tripoli as his principal objective. Raymond attacked Homs (1103), occupied Raphanea (mod. Rafan'ah, Syria) and Gibelet (mod. Jubail, Lebanon) in 1104, and invested Tripoli (mod. Trâblous, Lebanon) by constructing the castle of Mont-Pèlerin (“Mount Pilgrim”) outside the city.

History to 1187

On the death of Raymond of Saint-Gilles (1105), his cousin William-Jordan, count of Cerdagne, took possession of his conquests, while Raymond’s younger son, Alphonse-Jordan, was sent back to Toulouse. William-Jordan had taken Arqah (1108 or 1109) when Raymond’s elder son, Bertrand, arrived in Tortosa to claim his father’s inheritance. King Baldwin I of Jerusalem imposed a settlement dividing the county between the two cousins, but William-Jordan died, whereupon Bertrand seized Arqah, and Tancred of Antioch, who had supported William-Jordan, occupied the rest of his share. Meanwhile Bertrand had captured the city of Tripoli (1109) and pushed his frontier as far as the mountains that dominated the upper Orontes Valley. After Bertrand’s death, his son Pons placed himself under the protection of Tancred, who ceded to him Tortosa, Chastel Blanc (Safitha), and Krak des Chevaliers (Hisn al-Akrād). Thus by 1113 the unity of the county was established.

Bertrand was succeeded by his descendants Pons (11121137), Raymond II (1137-1152), and Raymond III (11521187), without incident other than the unexpected arrival (1148) of the count of Toulouse, Alphonse-Jordan. The latter may have envisaged claiming the county for his own illegitimate son Bertrand, but soon died in a manner regarded as suspicious; Bertrand seized the castle of Arima, and Raymond II was obliged to appeal to Nûr al-Dīn, who recaptured the castle. The childless Raymond III intended that the county should pass to his godson Raymond, son of Bohe- mund III of Antioch, although he reserved the rights of the counts of Toulouse. Nevertheless, Bohemund III appointed his second son Bohemund (IV) as heir in Tripoli. After a war against his nephew Raymond-Rupen, Bohemund of Tripoli gained control of Antioch (1219), and thereafter Tripoli was ruled by successive princes of Antioch, who, however, maintained the separate character of the county, notably with regard to its legal customs, the usages of its chancery, and the appointment of its chief officers.

The political status of the county was a complex issue. Raymond of Saint-Gilles had benefited from the support of the Byzantine emperor, and Bertrand also received Byzantine subsidies and supplies, and apparently agreed to support the emperor when he tried to establish a coalition against Tancred, but Pons did not continue such policies. In 1137 Raymond II went to Antioch to do homage to Emperor John II Komnenos, but by this time the county’s ties with Byzantium had become much looser. Raymond III even led a punitive expedition against Cyprus when Manuel I Kom- nenos broke a promise of marriage made to his sister Melisende. Pons had done homage to the prince of Antioch when he received the north of the county from him, but this vassalage does not seem to have had further consequences. By contrast, Bertrand had done homage to the king of Jerusalem at the time of the capture of the city of Tripoli; he and his successors often took part in the military operations of the kings of Jerusalem, and King Amalric governed the county during the captivity of Raymond III (1164-1174), although it was always stipulated that Tripoli was not part of the kingdom.

At first the county expanded swiftly at the expense of its Muslim neighbors. The early counts apparently even intended to conquer Homs and Hama, and sometimes these towns did pay tribute. Yet it took a considerable effort to conquer Raphanea, which was taken only in 1126 by Pons after he had built the castle of Montferrand to control it, and both places were lost by 1137. Other castles (such as Tuban) dominated the plain of Homs, known to the Franks as the Bouquée (Arab. Buqaia). Raymond II even claimed fishing rights in the Lake of Homs. A series of defeats, however, demonstrated the limits of the counts’ power: a Damascene raid reached Mont-Pèlerin in 1137 (the same year that Mont- ferrand capitulated to Zangī); Nūr al-Dīn seized Tortosa in 1152 and in 1167 exploited the captivity of Raymond III to take Arima, Chastel Blanc, and Gibelcar (Jebel ‘Akkar), albeit only temporarily. Thereafter the counts increasingly turned to the military orders to rebuild and garrison castles. In 1144 the Hospitallers received Krak des Chevaliers, Felis, and Lak (Tell Kalakh), which guarded the approaches to the valley of the Nahr al-Kabir; they received Chastel-Rouge in 1177, Tuban in 1180, and Eixserc in 1183. The Templars were given Tortosa in 1152 and Chastel Blanc in 1167. From that time, it was the orders who held the frontier facing Homs, Hama, and the mountain massif where Ismā‘īlīs of the Bātinīya sect (better known as the Assassins) had built up a domain bristling with fortresses, of which at least one, La Coïble (al-Khawabi), had been captured from the Franks. The knights of the orders feared assassination by these fanatics much less than the secular rulers did: the Assassins’ victims included Bohemund IV’s eldest son Raymond (1213), but the orders were able to exact a tribute from the Ismā‘īlīs.

History, 1187-1289

The fall of the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187 occurred at a time when Count Raymond III’s relations with the king, Guy of Lusignan, were strained. Although present at the defeat of Hattin, Raymond managed to return to his county and died not long afterward. In 1188 Saladin’s army invaded the county but failed to take Krak des Chevaliers, Chastel Blanc, or Arima, and made only a demonstration at the city of Tripoli, which was protected by a fleet sent by the king of Sicily. A complete collapse of Frankish positions in the county was thus prevented. Hostilities with theAyyūbid rulers remained sporadic, and primarily involved the military orders. Yet some Frankish raids went deep into Muslim territory, and the Mamlūk sultan Baybars I used one such as a pretext to punish the Christian inhabitants of Qara, supposedly for collusion with Frankish raiders from Gibelcar. The situation changed with the arrival of the Mongols in Syria and their alliance with Bohemund VI of Antioch- Tripoli. In 1261 Baybars invaded the county, capturing Tuban, Arqah, Halba, and Coliath and thus reaching the coastal plain. The Mamlūks also seized Krak des Chevaliers, Chastel Blanc, and Gibelcar, and forced the counts to share the revenues of the plain of Tripoli. A treaty concluded in 1281 delimited the size of the count’s domain, which included Tripoli, Nephin, Botron, Gibelet, Arqah, and fifty- one villages, and established a condominium in the mountains. Bohemund V married Luciana of Segni, a relative of Pope Innocent IV. Her brother Paul of Conti became bishop of Tripoli and attracted a number of “Roman” clerics and laymen who became members of the count’s entourage. During the reign of Bohemund VI, a conflict broke out between the count and the lord of Gibelet, who had fought against him during the War of St. Sabas. In the course of hostilities, Bohemund was wounded by Bertrand of Gibelet, who was subsequently killed by peasants. Eventually a settlement was imposed by the master of the Temple, who set up a commission to mediate between the count and the barons (1258). Another conflict broke out between the count and the Gibelet family on the occasion of the marriage of a brother of the lord of Gibelet to the heiress of a rich lord whom Bohemund VI had intended for another suitor. The ensuing struggle pitted the Templars and Paul of Conti against the count and his vassals: the Templars’ house in Tripoli and the cathedral were besieged, and many “Romans” were massacred, while the Templars attacked the count at Botron and inflicted two defeats upon him (1278-1279). When eventually it seemed that peace might be restored, the master of the Temple and Guy of Gibelet tried to take Tripoli by surprise. Guy was obliged to submit, and was imprisoned and left to die of starvation. His heir placed himself under the sultan’s protection.

On the death of Count Bohemund VII (1287), a fresh conflict erupted because of his mother’s decision to confer the regency on Bartholomew Mansel, bishop of Tortosa. The count’s vassals rejected this choice and refused to accept Bohemund’s sister Lucy as countess unless she removed the cause of their grievances. A commune was established at Tripoli under the leadership of Bartholomew Embriaco, lord of Gibelet, and sought an alliance with Genoa. Lucy, who had found refuge at Nephin under the protection of the Hospitallers, was installed as countess after accepting the terms of the Genoese, but enemies of the Republic provoked an intervention by the sultan Qalâwûn, who seized Tripoli by surprise on 26 April 1289, massacring its inhabitants. The lordship of Gibelet was permitted to survive as an iqta (grant of revenues) belonging to Qalâwûn’s empire. Only in 1303, after the withdrawal of the Mongols from Syria, did the last of the Embriaci set fire to his castle and abandon the lordship.

Government and Institutions

Raymond of Saint-Gilles and his successors retained direct lordship over a number of towns (Tripoli, Raphanea, Arqah, Mont-Pèlerin, Montferrand, and others) and villages. They granted the rest of the county as fiefs to lords who largely came from Languedoc and Provence: the Porcelet family in Artussa; the Montolieu in Chastel Rouge; the Puylaurens in Gibelcar, Felis, and Lac; the Meynes in Maraclea and Tor- tosa; the d’Agout and d’Aurel families in Botron. Gibelet was a special case: in return for naval help rendered to Counts Raymond I and Bertrand, the city was given to the Genoese, who installed the Embriaci family as lords. The Embriaci became integrated into the Tripolitan nobility, as did one Pleban, a wealthy Pisan, who married the heiress to Botron. When the count had occasion to grant castles to the military orders, he was obliged to indemnify the owners of these fiefs. Fiefs were subject to an evaluation expressed as caballarie, that is, the number of knights a lord had to contribute to the comital army. In the twelfth century the total number of knights available to the count through enfeoffment was around 300, a figure considerably smaller than those of the other Frankish states.

The accession of the Antiochene dynasty in Tripoli does not seem to have caused any conflict between the new counts of Poitevin extraction and their vassals, who largely originated from the southern French lands of the Saint-Gilles family; indeed, on his accession Bohemund IV made a point of marrying into the Gibelet family. Yet serious disputes did arise, often as a consequence of the right claimed by the counts to authorize the marriages of heiresses to fiefs. When Raynouard of Nephin married the heiress to the fief of Gibelcar without the count’s consent, Bohemund IV seized his fief. A coalition immediately formed to oppose the count and attacked Tripoli, but Bohemund prevailed, and Ray- nouard had to surrender Nephin and Gibelcar to him (1205). Bohemund was careful not to commit himself to the cause of Emperor Frederick II when the latter came into conflict with the Ibelin family in the kingdom of Jerusalem; yet neither did he compromise himself with the Ibelins, for fear of antagonizing the powerful Porcelet family, who were allied with the Barlais family, the Ibelins’ chief adversaries.

The Latin Church

Raymond of Saint-Gilles had intended to create endowments in his future county for the religious institutions of the Holy Land and his own country of origin. The canons of St. Ruf in Avignon were offered the church of Artussa when it was restored to Christian worship, as well as a church in Tripoli. Around the castle of Mont-Pèlerin, Raymond established priories dependent on the churches of the Holy Sepulchre, St. Mary of the Latins, and Bethlehem (and later Mount Zion), as well as on the Hospital of St. John, endowing them with landed properties in the neighboring region. Hospitals for pilgrims founded by the early counts at Mont-Pèlerin and Raphanea were handed over to the Hospitallers by Count Pons in 1126. The Hospitallers especially were richly endowed at the time when their activities were purely charitable, but from 1144, as the order became militarized, they acquired an extensive dominion based on the possession of several castles, as did the Templars. During the thirteenth century, both orders were frequently involved in political disputes, as, for example, when the Templars backed the party hostile to Count Bohemund VI. A Cistercian monastery was founded in Belmont near Tripoli (1157) and another at St. Sergius near Gibelet (1231); we also know of a nunnery dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene in Tripoli. Religious life also included the veneration of the sanctuary of Our Lady at Tortosa; it was visited by numerous pilgrims, including the chronicler Joinville, and the son of Bohemund IV was praying there when he was murdered. We know less of parochial life, although it is clear that many Latin churches existed in the city of Tripoli, which had a large population belonging to the Roman rite.

Before the capture of Tripoli, Raymond of Saint-Gilles had appointed a bishop for the city, who administered the united former dioceses of Tripoli, Arqah, Orthosias (Artussa), and Botron. A second bishop was appointed at Tortosa for the former dioceses of Arados, Antarados, and Maraclea, and a third at Gibelet. All three bishoprics, which were probably in existence by 1110, were part of the ecclesiastical province of Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon), which had traditionally belonged to the patriarchate of Antioch (mod. Antakya, Turkey). They thus depended directly on Antioch as long as Tyre remained in Muslim hands. After the capture of Tyre by the Franks in 1124, an archbishop was appointed by the patriarch of Jerusalem, and thereafter the see and its southern bishoprics were treated as part of the Jerusalem patriarchate. The Tripolitan bishoprics, however, continued to be dependent on Antioch, as did a fourth bishopric, that of Raphanea (1126), which belonged to the see of Apamea.

The Native Communities

The non-Latin Christian communities prospered in the days of Frankish rule, as is demonstrated by the architectural and artistic activity of the Lebanese churches. Arabic-speaking Melkites of the Greek Orthodox rite as well as Western (Monophysite) and Eastern (Nestorian) Syrians each had their own clergy and episcopal hierarchy. The Greek Orthodox Church, however, was most probably subject to the same restrictions as in the kingdom of Jerusalem: it was regarded as an integral part of the Latin Church, and in each diocese the Greek bishop had to make submission (at least formally) to the Latin bishop, although he had sole authority over the clergy and congregations of the Greek rite. Syrian Mono- physites were numerous, particularly on the coast, and according to the Syrian chronicler Bar Hebraeus, they and the less numerous Nestorians were on friendly terms with the Latins. The Latins themselves were not ignorant of Arabic culture: it was a cantor of the cathedral of Tripoli, Philip, who in the mid-thirteenth century translated from Arabic the Secretum Secretorum, attributed to Aristotle.

The particular ecclesiastical characteristic of the county was the presence of the Maronite Church. The Syriac-speaking Maronite community had its own patriarchate, episcopal hierarchy, and priests; the life of the church, however, was centered on the monasteries, where the archbishops and bishops normally resided. The precise doctrines of the Maronites have been much discussed, but it seems that at least part of the church adhered to monotheletism (a doctrine that recognized one will and two natures in Christ); this seems to have been the understanding of the Latin Church, which in the twelfth century conducted negotiations with the Maronite hierarchy with the aim of reaching doctrinal agreement. An accord was proclaimed in 1182, thanks to the efforts of Aimery of Limoges, Latin patriarch of Antioch, and at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Maronite patriarch Jeremiah received from Pope Innocent III a bull confirming his dignity and authority as head of the Maronite archbishops and bishops. Some conflicts among the Maronites have been ascribed to opposition to the union of the churches, but it is difficult to establish the extent of ecclesiastical quarrels. The election of the patriarch Jeremiah in 1283 was carried out in the presence of the lord of Gibelet and an envoy from Rome, and apparently coincided with a schism in which he was opposed by a rival patriarch, Luke of Beniharan, who was backed by the leaders of the Besharri region.

The Maronites (and probably other Christians) of the Lebanese mountains provided the counts of Tripoli and their vassals with auxiliary soldiers, especially archers. It was customary in all of the Frankish states of Outremer to employ “Syrian” recruits, yet in this particular region we also know of the existence of lordships held by local headmen or chieftains (known in Arabic as ra'is or muqaddam). While recognizing the authority of Frankish lords, these leaders administered villages, presided over courts of justice, maintained order, and also on occasion raised troops. This did not rule out the possibility of conflicts among the chieftains or collusion with the Muslims: Count Pons was the victim of an act of treachery in 1137, which his son punished by confiscating the lands of the culprits. The Franks had similar relations with non-Maronite local chieftains, whether Muslim, Druze, or Nusayri, including the Ismāī‘īlis who occupied the frontier areas to the north.


Frankish society in the county does not seem to have involved rural colonization: villages maintained their traditional structure, under their ra'is and other notables, while paying traditional dues to the counts or Frankish lords. In the towns, by contrast, Frankish burgesses mingled with a population of Eastern origin that included some wealthy merchant families; the Saïs family who advanced Guy of Lusignan the money he paid for the acquisition of Cyprus may have been one of these. These Syrian burgesses enjoyed personal freedom and came under the authority of their own ra’is. In Tripoli and Raphanea (and probably elsewhere), the Frankish burgesses were answerable to a court consisting of jurors chosen from among their own numbers and presided over by a viscount.

The county had considerable agricultural resources. The flow of the rivers permitted abundant irrigation, which particularly benefited sugarcane plantations, while olive cultivation produced sufficient quantities of oil to supply soap factories. Industrial activity was also important. According to Burchard of Mount Zion, there were some 4,000 weavers in Tripoli, and Louis IX of France is known to have commissioned John of Joinville to bring back fabrics from the city. These products contributed to a flow of commerce that also involved merchandise originating from inland Syria: according to the Arab geographer al-Idrīsī, Tortosa was the port for Homs, and Tripoli that for Damascus. Even states of war did not interrupt these relations, and merchants from Montpellier, Genoa, and Pisa enjoyed trading rights in the towns of the county, although Genoa, originally promised a third of the city of Tripoli, was obliged to be content with the possession of Gibelet, which it made over to the Embriaci; in the late thirteenth century the republic was still trying to obtain a street in Tripoli that it claimed it had been granted by one of the counts. The Pisans had a more favored status until they fell out with Bohemund IV.

The county of Tripoli seems to have enjoyed real prosperity under both comital dynasties, in no small part thanks to its geographical situation, which enabled it to escape the worst effects of the conquest of the Frankish states by Saladin in 1187-1188. The multi-ethnic structure of the Latin East may well have been more pronounced there than in the other states, and in the twelfth century the county had a certain individuality owing to the predominance of southern French elements in its nobility, although this characteristic gradually faded. But the county of Tripoli never possessed a power comparable to the neighboring states of Antioch and Jerusalem.

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