Post-classical history



Trust ye not in a friend.’ MICAH VII, 5

The Armenian migration to the south-west, begun when the Seldjuk invasions made life in the Araxes valley and by Lake Van no longer secure, continued throughout the last years of the eleventh century. When the Crusaders arrived in eastern Asia Minor there was a series of small Armenian principalities stretching from beyond the middle Euphrates to the heart of the Taurus mountains. The ephemeral state that the Armenian Philaretus had founded had crumbled even before his death in 1090. But Thoros still held Edessa, where he had recently managed to eject the Turkish garrison from the citadel; and his father-in-law, Gabriel, still held Melitene. At Marash the leading Christian citizen, Thatoul, was recognized as governor by the Byzantine authorities to whom the Crusaders restored the town. At Raban and Kaisun, between Marash and the Euphrates, an Armenian called Kogh Vasil, Vasil the Robber, had set up a small principality. Thoros and Gabriel, and probably Thatoul also, had been lieutenants of Philaretus and like him had started their public careers in the Byzantine administrative service. Not only did they belong to the Orthodox Church, and not to the separated Armenian Church, but they continued to use the titles that they had received long ago from the Emperor; and, whenever possible, they re-established relations with the court at Constantinople, reaffirming their allegiance. Thoros had, indeed, received from Alexius the high tide of curopalates. This imperial connection gave to their government a certain legitimacy; but a more solid base was provided by their readiness to accept the suzerainty of neighbouring Turkish chieftains. Thoros played off these potential suzerains one against the other with surprising agility; while Gabriel had sent his wife on a mission to Baghdad to obtain recognition from the highest Moslem authorities. But all these princes were in a precarious position. With the exception of Kogh Vasil, they were separated by their religion from most of their compatriots and hated by the Syrian Christians who still were plentiful in their territories; and all were distrusted by the Turks, whose disunion alone enabled them to survive.

Baldwin and Tancred Invade Cilicia

The Armenians in the Taurus were less exposed to danger; for the territory in which they were settled was hard of access and easy to defend. Oshin, son of Hethoum, now controlled the mountains to the west of the Cilician Gates, with his headquarters at the impregnable castle of Lampron on a high spur overlooking Tarsus and the Cilician plain. He kept up a fitful connection with Constantinople and had been given by the Emperor the title of stratopedarch of Cilicia. Though not, it seems, a member of the Orthodox Church, he had served under Alexius in the past; and it was probably with the Emperor’s approval that he had taken over Lampron from its unconquered Byzantine garrison. He made frequent excursions into the Cilician plain; and in 1097 he took advantage of the Turkish preoccupation with the advance of the Crusaders to capture part of the town of Adana. East of the Cilician Gates the mountains were in the possession of Constantine, son of Roupen, with his headquarters at the castle of Partzerpert, to the north-west of Sis. He had, since his father’s death, extended his power eastward towards the Anti-Taurus and had captured the great castle of Vahka, on the Goksu river, from its isolated Byzantine garrison. He was a passionate adherent of the separated Armenian Church and, like his father, as heir of the Bagratid dynasty kept up a family feud against Byzantium. He, too, hoped to use the embarrassment of the Turks to establish himself in the rich Cilician plain, where already the population was largely Armenian.

Baldwin of Boulogne had for some time past interested himself in the Armenian question. At Nicaea he had struck up a close friendship with an Armenian, formerly in the Emperor’s service, Bagrat, the brother of Kogh Vasil; and Bagrat had joined his staff. It is probable that Bagrat was anxious to secure Baldwin’s help for the Armenian principalities near the Euphrates where his family connections lay. But when at Heraclea Tancred announced his intention of leaving the main army to try his fortune in Cilicia, Baldwin decided that it would be unwise to allow any other western prince to be the first to embark on an Armenian venture, if he was to reap the advantage of being the chief friend of that race. It is unlikely that he and Tancred had come to any understanding together. Both were junior members of a princely family, without any future at home; and both frankly wished to found lordships in the East. But while Baldwin had already decided upon an Armenian state, Tancred was ready to set himself up wherever it seemed most convenient. He opposed the detour to Caesarea because it was a Byzantine suggestion from which the Byzantines were to benefit; and the presence of a friendly Christian population close at hand offered him an opportunity.

About 15 September Tancred, with a small group of a hundred knights and two hundred infantrymen, left the Crusader camp at Heraclea and made straight for the Cilician Gates. Immediately afterwards Baldwin set out, with his cousin Baldwin of Le Bourg, Rainald of Toul and Peter of Stenay and five hundred knights and two thousand infantrymen. Neither expedition burdened itself with non-combatants; and Baldwin’s wife, Godvere, and her children remained with the main army. Tancred seems to have taken the direct road for the pass, travelling as the railway does to-day past Ulukishla; but Baldwin, with his heavier army, preferred the old main road which came down to Podandus, at the head of the pass, from Tyana, further to the east. He was therefore three days behind Tancred in going through the defile.

On descending into the plain, Tancred marched on Tarsus, which was still the chief city of Cilicia. Meanwhile he sent back to the main army to ask for reinforcements. Tarsus was held by a Turkish garrison, which at once made a sortie to drive off the invaders but was severely repulsed. The Christian inhabitants of the city, Armenians and Greeks, then made contact with Tancred and begged him to take possession of it. But the Turks held out till, three days later, Baldwin and his army came into sight. Then, finding themselves outnumbered, they waited till nightfall and fled under cover of the darkness. Next morning the Christians opened the gates to Tancred; and Baldwin arrived to see Tancred’s banner waving from the towers. Tancred was unaccompanied by any Byzantine official and certainly had no intention of handing over any conquest that he might make to the Emperor. But in Baldwin he discovered a more dangerous competitor who was equally careless of the treaty made at Constantinople. Baldwin demanded that Tarsus should be transferred to his authority; and Tancred, furious but powerless in face of his rival’s greater strength, was forced to agree. He withdrew his troops and marched eastward towards Adana.

Guynemer of Boulogne

Baldwin had hardly taken possession of Tarsus when three hundred Normans arrived before the city, having come from the main army to reinforce Tancred. Despite their supplication, he refused to allow them to enter inside the walls; and while they were encamped outside they were attacked at night by the former Turkish garrison, which was now roaming the countryside, and were massacred to a man. The episode shocked the Crusaders. Baldwin was blamed for their fate even by his own army; and his position might have been badly damaged had not news come of the unexpected appearance of a Christian fleet in the bay of Mersin, at the mouth of the river Cydnus, just below the city, under the command of Guynemer of Boulogne.

Guynemer was a professional pirate who had been astute enough to see that the Crusade would need naval help. Collecting a group of fellow-pirates, Danes, Frisians and Flemings, he had sailed from the Netherlands in the late spring and, having reached Levantine waters, was seeking to make contact with the Crusaders. He retained a sentiment of loyalty for his home town. He was therefore delighted to find close at hand an army whose general was the brother of his Count. He sailed up the river to Tarsus and paid homage to Baldwin. In return Baldwin borrowed three hundred of his men to serve as a garrison of the town and probably nominated Guynemer to act as his lieutenant there while he himself prepared to march on to the east.

Meanwhile Tancred had found Adana in a state of confusion. Oshin of Lampron had recently raided the town and left a force there that was disputing it with the Turks; while a Burgundian knight called Welf, who had probably started out with Baldwin’s army but had broken off to see what he could gain, had also forced his way in and now held the citadel. On Tancred’s arrival the Turks withdrew; and Welf, who welcomed his troops into the citadel, was confirmed in his possession of the town. Oshin was probably only concerned in extracting his own men from a risky adventure. He was grateful for Tancred’s intervention; but he urged him to go on to Mamistra, the ancient Mopsuesta, where a wholly Armenian population was longing for deliverance from the Turks. He was eager to see the Franks pass on into the sphere of influence coveted by his rival, Constantine the Roupenian.

Tancred reached Mamistra early in October. As at Adana, the Turks fled on his appearance; and the Christians gladly let him into the town. While he was there, Baldwin and his army came up. Baldwin seems to have decided already that his future principality would not be in Cilicia. Possibly the climate, steamy and malarial in September, had deterred him. Possibly he felt it to be too close to the Emperor’s growing power. His adviser Bagrat was urging him eastward, where the Armenians were appealing for his help. He had at any rate damaged Tancred’s chances of founding a strong Cilician state. Now he was on his way back to the main army, to consult with his brother and his friends before embarking on a fresh campaign. But Tancred was reasonably suspicious. He would not permit Baldwin to enter into Mamistra but obliged him to camp on the far side of the river Jihan. He was ready, however, to allow victuals to be sent off to the camp from the town. But many of the Normans, led by Tancred’s brother-in-law, Richard of the Principate, could not endure that Baldwin should go unpunished for his crime at Tarsus. They persuaded Tancred to join them in a surprise attack on his camp. It was an unwise move. Baldwin’s troops were too numerous and too strong for them and soon drove them back in disorder across the river. The unedifying conflict provoked a reaction; and Baldwin and Tancred allowed themselves to be reconciled. But the harm was done. It had become painfully clear that the Crusading princes were not prepared to co-operate for the good of Christendom when a chance arose for acquiring personal possessions; and the native Christians were quick to realize that their Frankish rescuers were only superficially moved by altruistic sentiment and to learn that their best advantage lay in the easy game of playing off one Frank against another.

Baldwin and Tancred Leave Cilicia

After the reconciliation at Mamistra, Baldwin moved quickly on to rejoin the main army at Marash. News had reached him that Godveref was dying; and their children too, it seemed, were sick and did not long survive. Baldwin only remained a few days with his brothers and the other chiefs of the army. Then, when the main force set out southward to Antioch, he went off to the east, to try his fortune in the valley of the Euphrates and the lands beyond. A far smaller company travelled with him than had gone on the Cilician expedition. Maybe his popularity as a leader had not recovered from the events at Tarsus; maybe his brothers, anxious for the capture of Antioch, could not now spare troops for him. He had only a hundred horsemen; but his Armenian adviser, Bagrat, still was with him; and he added a new chaplain to his staff, the historian Fulcher of Chartres.

Tancred did not remain long at Mamistra after Baldwin’s departure. Leaving a small garrison there, he turned southward round the head of the Gulf of Issus to Alexandretta. As he journeyed he sent envoys to Guynemer, whose headquarters were probably still at Tarsus, asking for his co-operation. Guynemer responded gladly and came with his fleet to join Tancred before Alexandretta. A combined assault gave them the town, which Tancred garrisoned. He then marched over the Amanus range through the Syrian Gates to unite with the Christian army before Antioch.

The Cilician adventure had done little good either to Baldwin or to Tancred. Neither had found it worth while to found a state there. The small Frankish garrisons left in the three Cilician towns, Guynemer’s at Tarsus, Welf’s at Adana and Tancred’s at Mamistra, would not be able to withstand any serious attack. The dispersal of the Turkish garrisons had, however, been of some value to the Crusade as a whole in preventing the use of Cilicia as a base from which the Turks could launch a flank attack on the Franks during their operations at Antioch; while the capture of Alexandretta provided the Franks with a useful port through which supplies could pass. But the chief beneficiaries of the whole affair were the Armenian princes of the hills. The collapse of Turkish power in the plain enabled them slowly to penetrate its villages and towns and to lay the foundations of the Cilician kingdom of Little Armenia.

When Baldwin left the main army at Marash, it was about to start upon its southward march to Antioch; and at first Baldwin took a parallel road a few miles to the east, so as to protect its left flank. It was perhaps by promising to undertake this task that he had obtained permission again to separate from the army; and, indeed, he could justify his whole expedition for the protection that it would give to the Crusade; for the easiest road by which reinforcements from Khorassan could reach the Turks at Antioch lay through the territory that he intended to invade. Moreover, its rich lands might provide the Crusade with the supplies of food that it required.

Baldwin Advances to the Euphrates

At Aintab Baldwin turned sharply to the east. It is doubtful if he had any planned course of action beyond a general determination to found a principality upon the Euphrates, which might be of profit to himself and to the whole Crusading movement. The circumstances were favourable. He would not have to conquer the country from the infidel; for it was already in friendly Armenian hands. He was in touch with its Armenian princes. Through Bagrat he must have entered into relations with Bagrat’s brother, Kogh Vasil, whose lordship lay due east from Marash. Gabriel of Melitene, in permanent danger from the Danishmend Turks, was probably appealing for Frankish aid; while Thoros of Edessa was certainly in communication with the Crusaders. Indeed, Baldwin’s decision to leave Cilicia was said to have been due to a message that he or Bagrat received there from Thoros, inviting him urgently to Edessa. The Armenians had long hoped to obtain succour from the West. Twenty years before, when Pope Gregory VII was known to be contemplating an expedition to rescue eastern Christendom, an Armenian bishop had travelled to Rome to secure his interest. Western allies had always seemed more attractive to them, even to the princes that bore Byzantine titles, than anything that might increase their dependence upon the hated Empire. The presence of a Frankish army fighting victoriously for Christendom on their very borders offered them the opportunity, for which they had prayed, to establish their independence once and for all from both Turkish and Byzantine domination. They eagerly welcomed Baldwin and his men as liberators.

We know nowadays to distrust the hopeful word ‘liberation’. The Armenians learnt the lesson before us. As Baldwin moved towards the river Euphrates, the Armenian population rose up to greet him. The Turkish garrisons that remained in the district either fled or were massacred by the Christians. The only Turkish lord of any importance in the neighbourhood, the Emir Balduk of Samosata, who controlled the road from Edessa to Melitene, attempted to organize resistance but could not take any offensive measures. Two local Armenian nobles, called by the Latins Fer and Nicusus, joined Baldwin with their small levies. During the early winter of 1097 Baldwin completed his conquest of the land up to the Euphrates, capturing the two chief fortresses, Ravendel and Turbessel, as the Latins adapted the Arabic names Ruwandan and Tel-Basheir. Ravendel, which commanded his communications with Antioch, he put under the governorship of his Armenian adviser, Bagrat; while the command of Turbessel, important for its proximity to the historic ford across the Euphrates at Carchemish, was given to the Armenian, Fer.

While Baldwin was still at Turbessel, probably about the new year, an embassy reached him from Edessa. Thoros was impatient for the arrival of the Franks, whom he now saw delaying on the west bank of the Euphrates. His position was always precarious; and he was alarmed by the news that Kerbogha, the terrible Turkish Emir of Mosul, was collecting a huge army which was destined for the relief of Antioch, but which could easily mop up Edessa and the Armenian states on its way. But Baldwin was not going on to Edessa except on terms that suited him. Thoros had expected to use him as a mercenary, paying him with money and rich gifts; but it was clear now that Baldwin wanted more than that. The Edessene embassy at Turbessel was now empowered to offer more; Thoros would adopt Baldwin as his son and heir and would at once co-opt him as partner in the government of his lands. To Thoros, who was childless and ageing, it seemed the only solution. It was not what he would have chosen but, unpopular at home and threatened by his neighbours, he could not afford to choose. But the less short-sighted amongst the Armenians were disquieted. It was not for this that Bagrat had schooled Baldwin in Armenian affairs. Bagrat himself was the first to show his discontent. While the Franks were still at Turbessel, Fer, who doubtless wished to succeed Bagrat in Baldwin’s confidence, reported that he was intriguing with the Turks. It is probable that his intrigues were only with his brother, Kogh Vasil, with whom he was consulting about the new menace to Armenian freedom. Perhaps he hoped, too, to make himself prince of Ravendel. But Baldwin was taking no risks. Troops were rushed to Ravendel to arrest Bagrat, who was brought before Baldwin and tortured to confess what he had done. He had little to confess and soon escaped, to take refuge in the mountains, protected by his brother, Kogh Vasil, till he too was driven to join him in the wilderness.

Expedition Against Samosata

At the beginning of February 1098, Baldwin left Turbessel for Edessa. Only eighty knights were with him. The Turks of Samosata laid an ambush for him where he was expected to cross the Euphrates, probably at Birejik, but he eluded them, slipping over a ford further to the north. He arrived at Edessa on 6 February, and was received with the greatest enthusiasm both by Thoros and by the whole Christian population. Almost immediately Thoros formally adopted him as his son. The ceremony, following the usual ritual of the Armenians of the time, was better suited to the adoption of a child than of a grown man; for Baldwin was stripped to the waist, while Thoros put on a doubly wide shirt, which he passed over Baldwin’s head; and the new father and son rubbed their bare breasts against each other. Baldwin then repeated the ceremony with the princess, Thoros’s wife.

Once established as heir and co-regent of Edessa, Baldwin saw that his first task must be to destroy the Turkish emirate of Samosata, which could too easily interrupt his communications with the west. The Edessenes gladly supported his scheme for an expedition, as the Emir Balduk was the closest and most persistent of their enemies, continually raiding their flocks and fields and occasionally extracting tribute from the city itself. The Edessene militia accompanied Baldwin and his knights against Samosata, together with an Armenian princeling, Constantine of Gargar, who was vassal to Thoros. The expedition, which took place between 14 and 20 February, was not a success. The Edessenes were poor soldiers. They were surprised by the Turks and a thousand of them were slain; whereupon the army withdrew. But Baldwin captured and fortified a village called St John, close to the Emir’s capital, and installed the greater number of his knights there, to control the movements of the Turks. As a result there was a decline in the number of Turkish raids; for which the Armenians rightly gave Baldwin the credit.

Soon after Baldwin’s return to Edessa a conspiracy against Thoros began to be hatched in the city, with the support of Constantine of Gargar. To what extent Baldwin was involved can never be known. His friends denied it; but according to the testimony of the Armenian writer Matthew he was informed by the conspirators of their intention to dethrone Thoros in his favour. The people of Edessa had no love for Thoros nor any gratitude for the agility with which he had preserved the independence of their city. They disliked him for being a member of the Orthodox Church and a titular official of the Empire. He had not been able to protect their harvests nor their merchandise from raiders; and he had extorted high taxation from them. But, till Baldwin appeared, they could not afford to dispense with him. Now they had a more efficient protector. It needed therefore no prompting from the Franks to provoke a conspiracy; but it is hard to believe that the conspirators would have ventured to go far without securing the approval of the Franks. On Sunday, 7 March, the conspirators struck. They whipped up the populace to attack the houses in which Thoros’s officials lived, then marched on the prince’s palace in the citadel. Thoros was deserted by his troops; and his adopted son did not come to his rescue but merely advised him to surrender. Thoros agreed and asked only that he and his wife might be free to retire to her father at Melitene. Though Baldwin apparently guaranteed his life, Thoros was not allowed to go. Finding himself imprisoned in his palace, he attempted on the Tuesday to escape from a window but was captured and tom to pieces by the crowd. The fate of the princess, Baldwin’s adoptive mother, is unknown. On Wednesday, 10 March, Baldwin was invited by the people of Edessa to assume the government.

Baldwin and Thoros

Baldwin had achieved his ambition of obtaining a principality. Edessa was not, indeed, in the Holy Land; but a Frankish state on the middle Euphrates could be a valuable element of defence for any state that might be set up in Palestine. Baldwin could justify himself on the lines of broad Crusading policy. But he could not legally justify himself before all Christendom. Edessa, as a city that had belonged to the Emperor before the Turkish invasions, was covered by the oath that he had sworn at Constantinople. He had moreover acquired it by displacing and conniving at the murder of a governor who was, officially at least, a recognized servant of the Empire. But Baldwin had shown already in Cilicia that his oath meant nothing to him; while at Edessa Thoros himself was ready to barter away his rights without reference to his distant suzerain. But the episode was not unnoticed by Alexius, who reserved his rights till he should be in a position to enforce them.

Later Armenian historians, writing when it was clear that the Frankish domination had brought about the utter ruin of the Armenians of the Euphrates, were severe in their condemnation of Baldwin. But they were unjust. There is no moral excuse for Baldwin’s treatment of Thoros, as the embarrassed attitude of the Latin chroniclers well shows. Thoros had behaved in a similar manner to the Turk Alphilag, whom he had invited to save him from the Danishmends three or four years before and had caused to be murdered; but he acted then to save his city and his people from infidel tyranny; nor had Alphilag adopted him as his son. It is true that adoption was a less serious thing in Armenian custom than in western law; but that cannot lessen Baldwin’s moral guilt. But the Armenians should not blame him; for it was by Armenians that Thoros was actually murdered; and Baldwin was invited to take his place with the almost unanimous approval of their race. The Armenian princes whom the Crusaders were to eject and who alone distrusted the value of their aid were men who had served the Empire in olden days. They were disliked by their compatriots for their allegiance to the Emperor, and, still more, for having become members of the Orthodox Church. These former Byzantine officials such as Thoros and Gabriel alone had had sufficient experience in government to preserve the existence of Armenian independence on the Euphrates. But their ungrateful subjects, with their loathing of Byzantium, with their readiness to forgive in a Latin the heretical errors that damned a Greek eternally in their eyes, had only themselves to blame if their Frankish friends were to lure them to disaster.

For the moment all was rosy. Baldwin took the title of Count of Edessa and made it clear that he intended to rule alone. But his Frankish troops were few in number; he was forced to rely upon Armenians to work for him. He found several that he could trust; and his task was made easier by the discovery in the citadel of a vast store of treasure, much of which dated from the days of the Byzantines and to which Thoros by his exactions had greatly added. The new-gotten wealth enabled him not only to buy support but to carry off a master-stroke of diplomacy. The Emir Balduk of Samosata had been frightened by the news of Baldwin’s accession. When he saw preparations being made for a fresh attack on his capital he hastily sent to Edessa offering to sell his emirate for the sum of ten thousand bezants. Baldwin accepted, and entered Samosata in triumph. In the citadel there he found many hostages that Balduk had taken from Edessa. He promptly restored them to their families. This action, together with his elimination of the Turkish menace from Samosata, enormously increased his popularity. Balduk was invited to take up residence at Edessa with his bodyguard, as mercenaries of the Count.

Baldwin’s Marriage

As Baldwin’s successes became generally known, several western knights, on their way to reinforce the Crusading army at Antioch, turned aside to share in his fortune, while others left the dreary siege of Antioch to join him. Amongst these were Drogo of Nesle and Rainald of Toul and Raymond’s vassal, Gaston of Beam. Baldwin rewarded them with handsome gifts from his treasury and, to settle them, encouraged them to marry Armenian heiresses. He himself, a widower and childless now, set the example. His new countess was the daughter of a chieftain known to the Latin chroniclers as Taphnuz or Tafroc. He was a wealthy prince owning territory nearby and apparently was related to Constantine of Gargar; and he had connections with Constantinople, whither he ultimately retired. It is possible that he was the same as Thatoul, the ruler of Marash, whose alliance would certainly be of value to Baldwin. He gave his daughter a dowry of sixty thousand bezants and a vague promise that she should inherit his lands. But the marriage brought her no happiness; and no children were born of it.

Baldwin thus laid down the principles of the policy that he was later to establish for the kingdom of Jerusalem. The control of the government was to be kept by the Frankish prince and his Frankish vassals; but orientals, both Christian and Moslems, were invited to play their part in the state, which a general fusion of races would in the end blend into a corporate whole. It was the policy of a clear-sighted statesman; but to knights newly come from the West, pledged to dedicate themselves to the Cross and to extirpate the infidel, it seemed almost a betrayal of the vows of a Crusader. It was not to set up Baldwin and his like in semi-oriental monarchies that Urban had appealed to the faithful at Clermont.

Nor was it at first an easy policy to follow. The Moslems regarded Baldwin as a transitory adventurer of whom use might be made. Between Edessa and the Euphrates, to the south-west of the city, lay the Moslem town of Saruj. It was tributary to an Ortoqid prince, Balak ibn Bahram, but had recently revolted. Balak now wrote to Baldwin asking to hire his services for its reduction; and Baldwin, delighted by the opportunity thus opened to him, agreed to perform the task. The citizens of Saruj thereupon sent secretly to Balduk to come and save them. Balduk and his troops slipped out of Edessa and were admitted to Saruj. But Baldwin followed on his heels, bringing with him a number of siege engines. Balduk and the men of Saruj lost heart. The latter at once offered to give up their town to him and to pay him tribute, while the former came out to meet him, declaring that he had hurried ahead merely to take over the town for him. Baldwin was undeceived. He accepted Balduk’s apology and apparently restored him to favour; but a few days later he demanded that the Emir’s wife and children should be handed to him as hostages. When Balduk demurred, he arrested him and cut off his head. Meanwhile a Frankish garrison was placed in Saruj, under Fulk of Chartres; who is not to be confused with the historian Fulcher. The episode taught Baldwin that the Moslems could not be trusted. Henceforward he saw to it that any of them dwelling in his territory should be leaderless; but he allowed them freedom of worship. If he was to hold a town like Saruj, where the population was almost entirely Arab and Moslem, he could not do otherwise. But his tolerance shocked western opinion.

The capture of Saruj, which was followed a few months later by that of Birejik, with its ford over the Euphrates, by clearing the roads between Edessa and his fortresses of Turbessel and Ravendel, consolidated Baldwin’s county and ensured his communications with the main Crusade. At the same time it taught the Moslems that the Count of Edessa was a power to be taken seriously; and they concentrated on his destruction. Their determination and the value of a Frankish Edessa to the Crusades were illustrated in May, when Kerbogha, on his way to relieve Antioch, paused to eliminate Baldwin. For three weeks he battled vainly against the walls of Edessa before he abandoned the attack. His failure raised Baldwin’s prestige; and the time that he had lost saved the Crusade.

The Plot Against Baldwin

The Armenians also had not taken Baldwin seriously enough. They resented the flow of Frankish knights into their territory, and the favours that Baldwin bestowed on them. Nor did the Frankish knights placate the Armenians, whom they treated with disdain and often with violence. The notables of Edessa found themselves excluded from the Count’s council where only Franks were represented; but the taxes that they paid were no lower than in Thoros’s day. Moreover Armenian estates in the countryside were being granted to the new-comers; and the farmers were bound to them by the tighter feudal custom of the west. Late in 1098 an Armenian revealed to Baldwin a plot against his life. Twelve of the chief citizens of the town were said to have been in touch with the Turkish Emirs of the Diarbekir district. Baldwin’s father-in-law, Taphnuz, was at Edessa at the time; his daughter’s wedding had taken place only a short time before. It was said that the conspirators wished to put him in Baldwin’s place or at least to oblige Baldwin to share the government with him. On hearing the report Baldwin struck at once. The two leading plotters were arrested and blinded; their chief associates had their noses or their feet cut off. A large number of Armenians suspected of complicity were flung into gaol and their fortunes were confiscated. But, after the manner of wise orientals, they had hidden their money well enough for it to elude Baldwin’s inspectors; so Baldwin graciously allowed them to buy their freedom at prices ranging from twenty to sixty thousand bezants a head. Taphnuz, whose association with the plot could not be proved, nevertheless thought it wise to hasten back to his mountains away from his terrible son-in-law. He took with him most of the countess’s dowry, of which he had only handed over seven hundred bezants.

Baldwin’s fierce crushing of the conspiracy ended the risk of trouble from his Armenian subjects. He continued to employ a few of them in high posts, such as Abu’l Gharib, whom he made governor of Birejik. But as more Franks joined him, attracted by his renown, he could afford to ignore the orientals. His renown was now, less than a year after his coming to Edessa, already tremendous. While the main Crusading army was still toiling on the way to Jerusalem, he had founded a rich and powerful state deep in Asia and was feared and respected throughout the eastern world. He had started out on the Crusade a youngest son, penniless and dependent on the charity of his brothers. He had been utterly overshadowed by great nobles such as Raymond of Toulouse or Hugh of Vermandois or by experienced adventurers such as Bohemond. Already he was a greater potentate than any of them. In him the Crusade could recognize the ablest and most astute of its statesmen.


A pilgrim of the late eleventh century


The Emperor Alexius I before Christ


Antioch from across the River Orontes. The fortified bridge is in the foreground. The section of the wall where the Crusaders entered the city is on the right, on the slope behind the city buildings




The port of Jaffa


Jerusalem from the south


Plan of Jerusalem


The mouth of the Dog River

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!