Post-classical history



The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee.’ ISAIAH LX, 13

Of all the princes that set out in 1096 for the First Crusade, Raymond, Count of Toulouse, had been the wealthiest and the most distinguished, the man whom many expected to be named as leader of the movement. Five years later he was among the least considered of the Crusaders. His troubles were of his own making. Though he was no greedier and no more ambitious than most of his colleagues, his vanity made his faults too clearly visible. His policy of loyalty to the Emperor Alexius was genuinely based on a sense of honour and a far-sighted statesmanship, but to his fellow-Franks it seemed a treacherous ruse, and it won him small advantage; for the Emperor soon discovered him to be an incompetent friend. His followers respected his piety; but he had no authority over them. They had forced his hand over the march to Jerusalem during the First Crusade; and the disasters of 1101 showed how little fitted he was to direct an expedition. His lowest humiliation had come when he was taken prisoner by his young colleague Tancred. Though Tancred’s action, breaking the rules of hospitality and honour, outraged public opinion, Raymond only obtained release on signing away any claims to northern Syria and incidentally destroying the basis of his agreement with the Emperor. But he had the virtue of tenacity. He had vowed to remain in the East. He would keep his vow and would still carve for himself a principality.

The Banu Ammar of Tripoli

There was one area that must be conquered by the Christians if their establishments in the East were to survive. A band of Moslem emirates separated the Franks of Antioch and Edessa from their brothers in Jerusalem. Of these emirates the most considerable was that of the Banu Ammar of Tripoli. The head of the family, the qadi Fakhr al-Mulk Abu Ali, was a man of peace. Though his army was small he ruled a wealthy district, and by a skilful if inconsistent attitude of appeasement towards all his neighbours he maintained a precarious independence, relying in the last resort upon the strength of his fortress-capital, on the peninsula of al-Mina. He had shown considerable friendliness towards the Franks whenever they approached his dominions. He had re-victualled the First Crusade, and he did not oppose its leaders when they besieged his city of Arqa. He had given Baldwin of Boulogne useful help during his perilous journey to assume the crown of Jerusalem. But when the Crusaders receded into the distance he had quietly taken over the cities of Tortosa and Maraclea which they had occupied. He thus controlled the whole coast-road from Lattakieh and Jabala to the Fatimid dependency of Beirut.

The alternative route from northern Syria to Palestine ran up the valley of the Orontes, past the Munqidhite city of Shaizar, past Hama, which owed allegiance to Ridwan, and Homs, where Ridwan’s stepfather, Janah ad-Daulah reigned. There it divided. One branch, followed by Raymond on the First Crusade, forked through the Buqaia to Tripoli and the coast; the other went straight on, past the Damascene dependency of Baalbek, to the head-waters of the Jordan.

Raymond, whose ambitions were never modest, contemplated the establishment of a principality that would command both the coast-road and the Orontes, with its capital at Homs, the city that the Franks called La Chamelle. But his first objective, determined probably by the presence of Genoese ships that might help him, would be the cities of the coast. On his release by Tancred, in the last days of 1101, he set out from Antioch together with the surviving princes of the Crusades of 1101, Stephen of Blois, William of Aquitaine, Welf of Bavaria and their comrades, who were anxious to complete their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. At Lattakieh he was reunited with his wife and with his troops, and with them he marched on to Tortosa. The Genoese flotilla on whose help he counted anchored off the coast as he reached the city walls. Before this double menace, the governor made little resistance. About the middle of February Raymond entered Tortosa, together with his fellow-travellers, who agreed without discussion that it should be his. They supposed that he would then accompany them on to Jerusalem. On his refusal they were angry and, according to Fulcher of Chartres, spoke blasphemous words against him. But Raymond had decided that Tortosa should be the nucleus of his dominion. So they took their leave of him and journeyed on to the south.

Raymond had made no secret of his plans; and the Moslem world was alarmed. Fakhr al-Mulk sent to warn the emirs of Homs and Duqaq of Damascus. But when Raymond appeared before the walls of Tripoli, it was seen that his army numbered little more than three hundred men. The Moslems thought that now was the moment to destroy him. Duqaq hastily provided two thousand horsemen, and Janah ad-Daulah as many more; and the whole army of the Banu Ammar was collected. In all the Moslem host outnumbered Raymond’s by twenty to one as it converged on him on the plain outside the city.

1102: Raymond’s Victory before Tripoli

Raymond’s deeds were poorly reported by the Crusader historians. It is from the Arab Ibn al-Athir that we learn of the extraordinary battle that ensued. Raymond placed a hundred of his men to oppose the Damascenes, a hundred to oppose the Banu Ammar, fifty to oppose the men of Homs, and the remaining fifty to be his own bodyguard. The Homs soldiers began the attack; but when it failed they suddenly panicked; and the panic spread among the troops of Damascus. The Tripolitans were enjoying greater success, when Raymond, finding his other foes in flight, swung his whole army against them. The sudden shock was too much for them; and they too turned and fled. The Frankish cavalry then swept over the battlefield, slaughtering all the Moslems that could not escape. The Arab historian estimated that seven thousand of his co-religionists perished.

The victory not only re-established Raymond’s reputation; it also ensured the survival of his Lebanese dominion. The Moslems never again dared to take the offensive against him. But his forces were too small for him to capture Tripoli itself, with its great fortifications on the peninsula of al-Mina. After exacting a heavy tribute in money and horses, he returned to Tortosa, to plan his next campaign.

After spending the following months in establishing himself in the neighbourhood of Tortosa, he set out in the spring of 1103 to conquer the Buqaia, a necessary move if he wished to isolate Tripoli and himself expand towards the Orontes. His attempt to surprise the fortress of Tuban, at the north-eastern entrance to the valley, failed; but undaunted, he settled down to besiege Qalat al-Hosn, the tremendous castle that dominated the whole plain, which his troops had occupied for a week in 1099. These castles belonged to Janah ad-Daulah of Homs, who could not afford to lose them. He prepared an army for their rescue. But, as he came out of the great mosque of Homs, after praying for victory, he was murdered by three Assassins. His death caused disorder in his city. Raymond at once raised the siege of Qalat al-Hosn and marched eastward to profit by it. Public opinion attributed the murder to agents of Ridwan, who had never forgiven Janah for having attacked him three years before, when he was engaged against the Franks of Antioch. But Janah’s widow, who was Ridwan’s mother, terrified by Raymond’s approach, sent to Aleppo to offer Ridwan the city. Janah’s counsellors did not support her, but instead summoned Duqaq of Damascus to their rescue. Duqaq hastened up in person from the south with his atabeg Toghtekin and took over the government, which he entrusted to Toghtekin. Raymond was not in a position to fight against him, and withdrew to the coast.

When he returned to Tortosa he learnt that a Genoese squadron of forty vessels had put into Lattakieh. He at once hired its help for an attack on Tripoli. The attack failed; so the allies moved southward and captured the port of Jebail, or Gibelet, the Byblos of the ancients. The Genoese were rewarded with one-third of the town. But Raymond was determined to conquer Tripoli itself. During the last months of 1103 he set up a camp in the suburbs of the city and began to construct a huge castle on a ridge, some three miles inland. Shortly before, to please the Byzantines, he had tried to divert Tancred from Lattakieh. In return they provided him from Cyprus with materials and with skilled masons. By the spring of 1104 it was completed and Raymond was in residence. He called it Mount Pilgrim; but to the Arabs it was known as Qalat Sanjil, the castle of Saint-Gilles.

1103: Death of Raymond

Tripoli was now in a state of permanent siege, but it remained inviolate. Raymond controlled the land approaches, but he lacked permanent sea-power. With their great hoards of wealth the Banu Ammar could still maintain a large merchant-fleet and bring in provisions to the city from the Egyptian ports to the south. But Raymond’s castle menaced their freedom. In the late summer they made a sortie and burnt the suburbs up to its walls; and Raymond himself was injured by a burning roof which fell on him. Early next spring Fakhr al-Mulk was induced to arrange a truce with the Christians, by which he abandoned the suburbs to them. The negotiations were hardly concluded, when Raymond, who had never fully recovered from his bums six months before, fell mortally ill. He died at Mount Pilgrim on 28 February 1105. The gallant adventures of his later years had quite restored his fame. He was mourned as a great Christian knight who had preferred the hardships of the Holy War to all the pleasures of his native land.

This tribute was deserved. For Raymond, unlike his fellow-Crusaders now settled in the East, who were of small account in their home-countries, had possessed a rich heritage in Europe. Though he had sworn never to return to it, yet he had kept some control over its government. His death created a problem of succession in Toulouse as well as in the Lebanon. He had left Toulouse under the rule of his eldest son, Bertrand. But Bertrand’s right to inherit the county was questioned, probably because he was a bastard. Of Raymond’s children by the Countess Elvira all had died save one small boy, Alfonso-Jordan, born a few months ago in the castle of Mount Pilgrim. It was clear that an infant could not take over the government of a precarious military state in the Lebanon; while his very existence was probably not yet known at Toulouse. Bertrand continued to govern his father’s European lands; and in the East Raymond’s soldiers chose as Raymond’s successor, probably in conformity with Raymond’s own last wishes, his cousin, William-Jordan, Count of Cerdagne. William-Jordan, whose maternal grandmother had been Raymond’s maternal aunt, had only recently arrived in the East. He regarded himself as regent for his baby cousin and refrained from taking any title from his eastern territory. But, so long as Alfonso-Jordan lived, neither William-Jordan nor Bertrand could be secure in his government.

William-Jordan continued his predecessor’s policy, pressing on the blockade and preserving the alliance with Byzantium. At the Emperor’s request, the governor of Cyprus, Eumathius Philocales, sent him an ambassador to receive his homage and in return to make him valuable presents. As a result of William-Jordan’s compliance, regular supplies were sent from Cyprus to the Franks before Tripoli, and Byzantine troops occasionally helped in the blockade of the city. While provender flowed into the Frankish camp, Tripoli itself was now threatened with starvation. No food could reach it by land. There were ships from the Fatimid ports and even from Tancred’s territory that ran the blockade; but they could not bring enough for its large population. Prices for foodstuffs rose fantastically; a pound of dates cost a gold piece. Everyone that could escape from the city emigrated. Within the walls there was misery and disease, which Fakhr al-Mulk tried to alleviate by distributing food, paid for by special taxes, among the soldiers and the sick. Certain city notables fled to the Frankish camp; and two of them revealed to the besiegers the paths by which goods were still smuggled into the city. Fakhr al-Mulk offered William-Jordan vast sums of money for the persons of these traitors. When the Count refused to give them up, they were found murdered in the Christian camp.

1108: Fakhr al-Mulk visits the Caliph

Fakhr al-Mulk did not know where to turn for help. If he applied to the Fatimids, they would insist on the annexation of his state. He was, for some reason, on bad terms with Toghtekin of Homs, his most natural ally, who had taken over the government of Damascus on Duqaq’s death in 1104, and who himself kept up constant warfare with William-Jordan. Distant allies seemed the safest; so in 1105 he sent an urgent appeal to Mardin, to Soqman the Ortoqid. Soqman, who was not unwilling to re-enter the arena of the Syrian coast, set out with a large army across the desert. But when he reached Palmyra he suddenly died, and his generals hurried back to the Jezireh to dispute about the succession. Thanks to his wealth and his diplomacy Fakhr maintained himself in Tripoli, amid increasing misery, throughout 1106 and 1107. His relations with Toghtekin improved; and Toghtekin’s diversions against the Franks, as when he recaptured Rafaniya from them in 1105, were of assistance to him. But the Franks were now firmly established on the Lebanese coast; and no neighbouring Moslem power seemed prepared or able to eject them. In the spring of 1108 Fakhr al-Mulk, in his despair, decided personally to beg for help from the head of his religion, the Caliph of Baghdad, and from its greatest potentate, the Seldjuk Sultan Mohammed.

Leaving the government of Tripoli in the hands of his cousin, Abu’l Manaqib ibn Ammar, and giving all his soldiers six months’ pay in advance, Fakhr set out from Tripoli in March. He had already informed Toghtekin of his intentions, and it seems that he obtained permission from William-Jordan to pass through Frankish-held territory. He took a bodyguard of five hundred men, and numerous costly gifts for the Sultan. When he arrived at Damascus, Toghtekin received him with every mark of respect, and the leading Damascene emirs showered gifts on him though, as a precaution, he lodged outside the city walls. When he continued his journey, Toghtekin’s own son, Taj al-Mulk Buri, joined his escort. As he approached Baghdad he was honoured with every flattering attention. The Sultan sent his own barge to transport him across the Euphrates, and he lay on the cushion usually honoured by the Sultan’s body. Though he had never assumed a title higher than that of qadi, he entered Baghdad with the ceremony accorded to a sovereign prince. Both the Caliph and the Sultan showed him brotherly affection and praised him for his services to the Faith. But when it came to the discussion of business, the emptiness of these compliments was revealed. The Sultan promised him that a great Seldjuk army would come to relieve Tripoli; but first there were a few little tasks to be completed nearer Baghdad. For instance, the emir of Mosul, Jawali, must be reduced to a more obedient state of mind. Fakhr understood that in fact Mohammed had no desire to intervene. After spending four luxurious and fruitless months at the Sultan’s Court, he began his homeward journey, only to find that now he had no home.

Abu’l Manaqib and the notables of Tripoli were realists. They saw that only one Moslem power was in a position to help them, the Fatimids who still had some command of the seas. They invited the Egyptian vizier, al-Afdal, to send a governor to take over the city. In response, al-Afdal appointed Sharaf ad-Daulah, who arrived in Tripoli in the summer of 1108, laden with supplies of com for the populace. He had no difficulty in assuming control. All the partisans of Fakhr al-Mulk were arrested and shipped off to Egypt. Fakhr had reached Damascus before he heard of the revolution. He still possessed Jabala, to the north of Tortosa, and he made his way thither. But his rule in Jabala was of short duration. In May 1109 Tancred of Antioch appeared in full force before the city. Fakhr at once capitulated on the understanding that he should hold the town as a fief from Tancred. But Tancred broke his word. Fakhr was forced to leave, and made his way without molestation into retirement in Damascus. He spent the rest of his life as Toghtekin’s pensioner.

1108: Bertrand of Toulouse leaves for the East

Though Fakhr al-Mulk lost Tripoli, the Egyptians could not hold it; nor did William-Jordan win it. On Raymond’s death, the barons of Toulouse had accepted Bertrand’s succession, because he had already governed them for nearly ten years and because they were not aware that Raymond had left a legitimate son. But when they learnt of the existence of the young Alfonso-Jordan, they sent out to the East to ask him to take over his rightful inheritance. The Countess Elvira cannot be blamed for preferring for her son the rich lands of southern France to a precarious lordship in the East. She arrived with him at Toulouse in the course of 1108.

Their coming obliged Bertrand to consider his future. It is probable that a family compact was arranged by which Bertrand gave up any claims that he might have to his father’s lands in Europe, and in return Alfonso-Jordan, in order to be well rid of him from Toulouse, abandoned in his favour his inheritance in the Lebanon. Bertrand set out for the East in the summer of 1108. He was determined to round off his future principality by the conquest of Tripoli; and he probably anticipated that he might have some difficulty with William-Jordan. To achieve his aims he brought with him an army of four thousand cavalry and infantry and a flotilla of forty galleys, provided by the ports of Provence. His young son, Pons, travelled with him. His first visit was to Genoa, from whom he hoped to obtain the naval help needed for the reduction of Tripoli. William-Jordan had also tried to arrange an alliance with the Genoese; but his embassy found Bertrand already accepted as the Republic’s ally. Genoa had promised to aid Bertrand to take over his father’s conquests in the East and to crown them with the capture of Tripoli, in which they would be given the favoured commercial position. When Bertrand sailed on eastward in the autumn, a Genoese squadron sailed with him.

Next, Bertrand planned to visit Constantinople, to secure the support of his father’s friend, the Emperor. Storms obliged his fleet to put into the Gulf of Volo, to the harbour of Almyro, where his men made an excellent impression by abstaining from the usual Western habit of pillaging the countryside. Consequently, when he arrived at Constantinople, Alexius was prejudiced in his favour and received him as a son. Bertrand was given many valuable presents and the promise of imperial favours to come. In return he swore allegiance to the Emperor.

From Constantinople Bertrand and his allies sailed to Saint Symeon, the port of Antioch, and sent an envoy to Tancred to ask for an interview. Tancred at once came down to see him. But their conversation did not go smoothly. Bertrand arrogantly demanded that Tancred should hand over to him the portions of the city of Antioch that his father once had held. Tancred replied that he would consider this if Bertrand would assist him in the campaign on which he was about to embark against Mamistra and the Byzantine cities of Cilicia. To Bertrand, who had just sworn an oath of allegiance to Alexius and who counted on Byzantine subsidies, the proposition was unacceptable; but he offered instead to conquer for Tancred the town of Jabala, in which Fakhr al-Mulk had taken refuge. Tancred insisted on co-operation in the Cilician expedition; and when Bertrand categorically refused because of his oath to the Emperor, Tancred ordered him to leave his principality and forbade his subjects to sell him supplies. Bertrand was obliged to move on down the coast, and sailed into Tortosa harbour.

1109: Bertrand and William-Jordan

Tortosa was held by one of William-Jordan’s lieutenants; who at once admitted Bertrand into the town and gave him all the provisions that he required. Next day Bertrand sent a messenger to William-Jordan’s headquarters at Mount Pilgrim, requiring the surrender of all his father’s inheritance in the lands of La Chamelle, that is to say the principality of Homs that Raymond had hoped to found. But William-Jordan had recently won a signal success. When the Egyptians took over Tripoli, the town of Arqa, under the leadership of one of Fakhr’s favourite pages, had placed itself under the protection of Toghtekin of Damascus. Toghtekin set out in person to inspect his new dependency; but the winter rains delayed his progress through the Buqaia. While waiting for the weather to improve, he attacked certain forts that the Christians had built near the frontier. William-Jordan, with three hundred horsemen and two hundred native infantrymen, crept over the shoulder of the Lebanon and fell on him unexpectedly, near the village of Akun. The Damascene army, with Toghtekin at its head, fled in panic to Homs, pursued by the Franks, who could not venture to attack the city, but then turned northward to raid the territory of Shaizar. The Munqidhite brothers, Murshid and Sultan, emirs of Shaizar, hearing that the Frankish army was small, came out in the confident expectation that it could easily be captured. But the Franks attacked at once so fiercely that the men of Shaizar broke and fled. William-Jordan then returned to Arqa, which capitulated to him after a siege of only three weeks.

Encouraged by these victories, William-Jordan was in no mood to abdicate in Bertrand’s favour. He replied that he held Raymond’s lands by the right of inheritance and that moreover he had defended them and added to them. But the size of Bertrand’s armada alarmed him. He sent to Antioch to ask Tancred to intervene in his favour. In return he promised to become Tancred’s vassal. His move obliged Bertrand to take corresponding action. He sent a messenger to Jerusalem, to put his case before King Baldwin, to whom he appealed as supreme arbiter of the Franks in the East and whom he thereby recognized as his suzerain.

Baldwin, whose statesmanship saw that the Franks in the East must work together and whose ambition pictured himself as their leader, at once answered the appeal. He was already angry with Tancred over his treatment of Baldwin of Edessa and Joscelin of Courtenay. Bertrand had moved southward to Tripoli, where his army was conducting the double task of continuing the blockade of the Moslem city and besieging William-Jordan’s supporters on Mount Pilgrim. William-Jordan had meanwhile left Mount Pilgrim and had reoccupied Tortosa, where he awaited Tancred. No sooner had Tancred joined him than they were visited by the envoys of the King, Eustace Gamier and Pagan of Haifa, who ordered them both to appear at the Royal Court before Tripoli, to settle the question of Raymond’s inheritance as well as the restitution of Edessa and Turbessel to their rightful owners. William-Jordan wished to refuse the summons; but Tancred realized that defiance was impracticable.

In June 1109 all the princes of the Frankish East assembled outside the walls of Tripoli. Bertrand was there with his army. King Baldwin came up from the south with five hundred knights and as many infantrymen. Tancred brought seven hundred of his best knights; and Baldwin of Edessa and Joscelin arrived with their bodyguards. At a solemn session in the castle of Mount Pilgrim Tancred was formally reconciled with Baldwin of Edessa and with Joscelin, while the Toulousain inheritance was divided. William-Jordan was to keep Tortosa and his own conquest, Arqa; and Bertrand was to have Jebail and Tripoli as soon as it was captured. The former swore allegiance to Tancred, and the latter to King Baldwin; and it was agreed that on the death of either candidate the other should inherit his lands.

1109: The Surrender of Tripoli

With peace made between its leaders, the Frankish army set seriously about the capture of Tripoli. The Egyptian governor, Sharaf ad-Daulah, had been desperately demanding help from the authorities in Egypt, who equipped a huge fleet, with transports for an army and boats laden with supplies. But intrigues and quarrels amongst the Egyptian commanders had delayed its departure from the ports of the Delta. Months passed by, while the vizier half-heartedly tried to compose the quarrels; and now at last orders were given for it to sail. But the north wind blew steadily and the ships could not leave harbour. When at last they set out reduced in number, it was too late.

The garrison of Tripoli, cut off from help by sea by the fleets of Genoa and Provence, and with their land-wall battered by all the machines that the Frankish army could muster, soon abandoned all thought of resistance. Sharaf ad-Daulah sent to King Baldwin offering to surrender on terms. He asked that the citizens wishing to emigrate from the city should be allowed to go in safety with their movable goods, and that those wishing to remain should become Frankish subjects and should keep all their possessions, merely paying a special yearly tax; he himself would be permitted to depart with his troops to Damascus. Baldwin agreed; and on 12 July 1109 the Christians entered Tripoli.

Baldwin himself kept to his agreement. In the districts that he took over there was no pillage or destruction. But the Genoese marines, finding the city undefended, forced their own way in. They began to sack and to burn houses and to slay every Moslem that they met; and it was some time before the authorities could restrain them. In the tumult the great library of the Banu Ammar, the finest in the Moslem world, was burnt to the ground, and all its contents perished.

When the city was fully occupied and order was restored, Bertrand was installed as its ruler. He took the title of Count of Tripoli and reaffirmed his vassaldom to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. His obligations to the Emperor Alexius were ignored. The Genoese were rewarded by a quarter in Tripoli, by a castle, known as the Castle of the Constable, ten miles south of Tripoli, and the remaining two-thirds of the town of Jebail. Jebail was given by them to the Admiral Hugh Embriaco, whose descendants formed it into a hereditary fief.

Bertrand did not have long to wait before he secured the whole of his father’s eastern inheritance. While the Frankish army was still at Tripoli William-Jordan was shot by an arrow. The circumstances remained a mystery. It seemed that he rashly intervened in a scuffle that had broken out between two grooms, and as he tried to separate the men, someone fired on him. Suspicion inevitably fell on Bertrand; but nothing could be proved. Bertrand at once took over all William-Jordan’s lands; which thus passed under the allegiance of King Baldwin. Tancred had backed the wrong horse.

So it was that Raymond’s son fulfilled his father’s ambition of founding a state in the East. It was a lesser principality than Raymond had envisaged. The lands of La Chamelle were never to form part of it; and instead of acknowledging the distant suzerainty of the Emperor at Constantinople, it had an overlord close at hand at Jerusalem. But it was a rich and prosperous heritage. By its wealth and by its position, linking the Franks of northern Syria with the Franks of Palestine, it was to play a vital part in the history of the Crusades.

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