Post-classical history


East is East and East is West: Outremer in the Twelfth Century

There is no more haunting passage in contemporary writing on the crusades than William of Tyre’s description of the young Baldwin IV, the blue-eyed (to hostile Arabic scrutiny) young prince of Jerusalem whose youthful promise turned into despair at the discovery of his leprosy. The pain of the account comes from personal involvement. William, then archdeacon of Tyre, was Baldwin’s tutor; it was in his household that the first symptoms appeared. William continued to chronicle the life of his pupil, who succeeded to the throne in 1174 aged thirteen and died in 1185, a ravaged, blind, crippled wreck only twenty-four. It was as a hero of Christendom, struggling and usually triumphing for the Faith against the enormous odds of the growing power of the infidel and his own disease that Baldwin was depicted. Yet this doomed child’s doctor, Abu Sulayman Da’ud, a native Syrian Christian born – like the Latin William of Tyre – in Jerusalem, had worked for the Fatimids in Egypt before being hired in the late 1160s by Baldwin’s father, Amalric I, an enthusiast for Arabic medicine, as was his predecessor Baldwin III. One of Abu Sulayman’s sons successfully taught Prince Baldwin to ride; another succeeded his father as Amalric’s physician. After 1187, the family enlisted in the service of Saladin, the enemy against whom Baldwin IV had expended so much of his wasting energy.1

In common with other Levantine princelings, Baldwin grew up in a cosmopolitan court; his tutor steeped in Latin culture and learning, enhanced by a twenty-year stay in western Europe studying at Paris, Orleans and Bologna; his doctor and riding-instructor Syrians with experience of working for Muslim rulers; his stepmother, Amalric I’s second wife Maria Comnena, a Byzantine Greek. However, the image the regime wished to portray through its own rhetoric, one which received elaborate and forceful corroboration from the pen of William of Tyre himself, remained that of the frontier myth, the Latin rulers in Palestine and Syria as heirs of the legendary Christian heroes of the First Crusade, the defenders of the Faith in God’s own land, a myth excluding temporal realities, political compromises and social exchange. While demonstrating the nature of the Latin presence in Outremer as one of a number of communities at once cooperating, competing and coercing, William sought to explain past success and current weakness according to a two-dimensional myth of conquest and battle, not least because his audience in western Europe expected it and his eastern compatriots understood its place in such a constructed justification for their existence. Yet myth it was and remains. Much of the twelfth-century kingdom of Jerusalem for most of the time did not resemble a military frontier, nor did its social and economic and hence legal and political arrangements follow crudely racist or supremacist ideology. Despite closer frontiers with aggressive Turks, similar conditions prevailed in the northern enclaves. The Latins dominated the regions they had conquered, imposing a hierarchy of power with themselves at the apex. Yet their community was isolated neither in city nor countryside, the settlers not withdrawn from the means of their survival. The livelihood of the Latin settlers and rulers depended on using, not ignoring, their surroundings and neighbours. In the absence of overcrowding, after the military phase of conquest, exploitation of resources did not necessarily or sensibly entail systematic persecution or discrimination of other communities. Westerners came east to live for Christ just as enthusiastically as to die for Him. As the assises (laws) of Jerusalem noted with reference to market courts where both Latins and Syrians comprised the jurors, witnesses were permitted to swear oaths on their respective holy books, Christians on the Gospels, Jews and Samaritans on the Torah, and Muslims on the Koran, ‘because be they Syrians or Greeks or Jews or Samaritans or Nestorians or Saracens, they are also men like the Franks’.2 The great hospital in Jerusalem run by the Order of St John, accommodating many hundreds of sick at any one time, was committed to treating anybody regardless of race or religion; only lepers were excluded, on obvious medical grounds.

This was not the picture the clerical opinion formers in the west or their colleagues in the east were prepared to accept. In the years after the First Crusade, Guibert of Nogent wishfully looked on the settlements in Jerusalem as ‘Holy Christendom’s new colony’ (novae coloniae). In the late 1130s, the Anglo-Norman historian Orderic Vitalis wrote of ‘the Christians who live in exile in the east for the sake of Christ’, especially potent imagery as the idea of exile was closely associated by contemporaries with monastic vocation as a metaphor for absolute commitment to Christ and a godly life. Messages from the east confirmed this idealistic vision. During the grim days of 1120, the patriarch of Jerusalem struck a similar vein of emotion in describing the perils besetting Outremer from all sides: Muslims, poor harvests, grasshoppers:

For the name of Jesus, before abandoning the holy city of Jerusalem, the cross of Our Lord and the most holy tomb of Christ, we are ready to die… Strive to come and join the army of Christ and bring us speedy aid…3

The author, Patriarch Gromond, fond of such gloomy admonitory tones, came from Picquigny in northern France, drawn to the east by such attitudes. Yet even after the pacification of most of Outremer, the rhetoric of martial solidarity and emergency persisted in official correspondence, hardly surprising, as it tended to be aimed at securing western aid. It also provided the central drama in the growing body of epic vernacular literature inspired, but significantly not written, by the Latin conquerors in the east.

The settlers’ perspective scarcely matched the epic vision. Most of the castles, fortified settlements and towers were built not on exposed frontiers but in peaceful areas largely undisturbed for the central decades of the twelfth century, their function seigneurial rather than primarily military.4 All Latin societies of the time were geared for warfare. Nobles resorted to violence as a matter of course and culture; in Outremer they behaved no differently. From the 1120s to the 1180s, much of the coastal plain northwards to Tripoli and Antioch, Judea, Samaria, western Galilee, even southern Transjordan was no less peaceful than many parts of western Europe. The imposition of precise military obligations on those who owned or held property, including farmers, did not indicate a state of perpetual ferment any more than similar arrangements did in the west. Although possibly sentimental and certainly propagandist, the impression of Outremer society left by Fulcher of Chartres, himself a settler first at Edessa then Jerusalem, while emphasizing the precarious lack of numbers, was of a growing civilian population successfully coming to terms with new surroundings. After the early days when settlers hung on the words of every visiting pilgrim in the hope of news from home, by the 1120s, Fulcher insisted not altogether plausibly, Jerusalemites had forgotten their homelands. Some had married local Syrian or Armenian Christians, even baptized Muslims, a statement corroborated by other sources. Others, once established, were joined by relatives from the west. Contact with indigenous communities was eased by the emergence of a level of lingua franca; sixty years after Fulcher wrote, the Spanish Muslim traveller Ibn Jubayr recorded the word ‘bilghriyin’, an Arabic derivation from Romance words for pilgrim (peregrinus, Latin; pèlerin, French; pellegrini, Italian). Usamah Ibn Munqidh of Shaizar recorded the Arabic version of the Frankish bourgeois (i.e. non-noble Franks): burjasi.5 Some settlers, universally described as Franks, learnt the local languages, although interpreters, dragomanni, were ubiquitous, even if their role was more involved in estate management than translation. In any case, monoglot Frank lords were not alone in this polyglot society; local Arab emirs thrived without learning Turkish. Fulcher contradicted the idea, commonly held by modern historians, that Outremer society was essentially a ‘crusader’ society. He implied (or hoped) that immigration was a constant process not restricted to veterans of military expeditions or pilgrims who stayed on. This too is borne out by documentary evidence. Around 1150, a cobbler from Châlons-sur-Marne emigrated to Jerusalem to avoid restrictive market dues.6 In Outremer itself secular and ecclesiastical entrepreneurs set out to attract settlers on to their estates by offering advantageous tenancy contracts; judging by their names, such offers were accepted by newcomers as well as established residents. While the aura of holiness cannot be ignored as an incentive for settlers to choose the Levant rather than areas of colonization nearer home, long-distance migration was a familiar feature of western and northern Europe. Not all settlers were religious zealots. Not all immigrants stayed. In the late 1150s, one tenant of the priory attached to the Holy Sepulchre gave up the struggle with alien and hostile agricultural conditions and abandoned his land and left. At about the same time an immigrant from Vézelay in Burgundy returned home after seven years in Outremer to find his wife had remarried; another, a married woman from the same region, who had gone east without her spouse, came back after some years to find him wed again.7

With settlement came accommodation. Baldwin III, described by William of Tyre as a vigorous Christian champion, waged generally successful war on his Egyptian and Turkish neighbours. This did not prevent him extending royal protection to a Muslim merchant from Tyre, Abu Ali Ibn Izz ad-Din, plying his trade with Egypt nor his funeral cortège being accompanied by mourning infidels from the hills of the interior. Such association could cause offence. William of Tyre evinced anger at the eminently sensible fashion promoted by noblemen’s wives of avoiding Latin physicians in favour of ‘Jews, Samaritans, Syrians and Saracens’ (i.e. Muslims), although the law allowed for foreign doctors, from Europe or ‘Painime’ (i.e. non-Christian lands), to receive episcopal licences to practise.8 Abroad, the unavoidable discrepancy between myth and reality earned the Jerusalemites hostile reactions. The acerbic and puritanical Anglo-Norman historian Ralph Niger was appalled at the quality of the ambassadors from the east who toured the capitals of Europe in search of aid in 1184/5; instead of austere heirs to the blessed Godfrey of Bouillon and Adhemar of Le Puy, which he might have imagined, Ralph was confronted in Paris by a parade of lavishly rich ostentation, led by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem in clouds of perfume. If not the gigolo of hostile memory, a brave and skilled politician if not a paragon of celibate virtue, Heraclius, originally from the Auvergne, reinforced the contempt some in the west felt for the poulains, as they derisively called those who lived in Outremer. (The easterners reciprocated in kind, calling westerners ‘sons of Hernaud’, a tag equally obscure but certainly very rude.) William of Tyre recorded western disenchantment with the Jerusalemites dating from the Second Crusade (1146–8), the fate of which still rankled in the 1180s. He shared the view that the lustrous giants of old had been succeeded by idler and more decadent successors, even if he stopped short of Ralph Niger’s fulminations against their ‘dissolutior’ way of life.9 Racial and national stereotypes were familiar features of twelfth-century writing; the Latins in the Holy Land were especially vulnerable by being on view to so many visitors whose expectations had been fuelled by the popular vernacular adventure stories of the First Crusade, the pieties of wishful churchmen and the Bible.

Nonetheless, residents in Outremer were careful to provide for many of these expectations. Building on the long tradition of pilgrimage and cult sites, they meticulously fashioned a new for old sacred geography to satisfy the flood of western pilgrims, for example excavating relics of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at Hebron in 1119. The pilgrim John of Würzburg in the late 1160s wrote of ‘new Holy Places newly built’. At times such enthusiasm led to complications; at least two sites near Jerusalem were claimed as biblical Emmaeus; confusion surrounded certain precise locations in the church of the Holy Sepulchre; and not all pilgrims swallowed uncritically the gaudier claims of their tour guides, such as that the Tower of David by the Jaffa Gate did actually date from the time of King David.10 In stamping a Latin religious as well as ecclesiastical mark on the Holy Land, the settlers did no more than follow a much repeated formula in remapping the sacred landscape, a process familiar from Titus and Hadrian in the first and second centuries, the Christians in fourth, the Muslims after 638, 1187 and 1291, and the Israelis after 1948. The twelfth-century Jerusalemites needed to attract and reassure pilgrims from whom as tourists they derived income and on whom the kings levied hefty taxes at the ports of entry (just as their Muslim predecessors had). They provided itineraries; physical protection (for example by the early Templars on the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem); health care (in the Hospital of St John); guesthouses; new churches at shrines designed to suit the pilgrims’ needs, as with the new altars, chapels and church at the Holy Sepulchre itself; and encouragement for western shippers (mainly Italians) in their ports: at one time there could be as many as seventy pilgrim ships crowding the harbour at Acre, some capable of carrying hundreds of passengers each.11 Central to the whole international industry were relics. A report by Gui de Blond, a monk of Grandmont, to the canons of St Junien at Condom in Gascony in the 1150s, authenticating the Holy Land relics he had distributed to religious houses across the region on his return from the east, listed their donors, including the ecclesiastical grandees of Jerusalem, the patriarch and the heads of the main religious houses associated with biblical sites, and other significant figures such as the bishop of Bethlehem, perhaps the worldly Englishman Ralph, and the abbot of the Greek monastery of St Catherine’s, Sinai. In Brother Gui’s treasure trove were fragments of the True Cross; earth mingled with the blood of Christ; hairs of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalen; pieces of Christ’s cradle, the Virgin’s tomb and the stone where Christ prayed at Gethsemane; and mementoes of biblical incidents and characters, Apostles, John the Baptist, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Stephen Protomartyr, each a tangible reminder of the original mission that lay behind the Outremer settlements.12

A religious justification for conquest did not make Outremer different from Spain, Sicily or the Baltic. Its special holy status and the weight of pilgrimage did. The west adopted a proprietorial attitude to the Holy Land, even at a distance. Leaders of Outremer continually looked westwards for assistance, even if not a single twelfth-century century ruler of Jerusalem, as king or heir, visited the west, the furthest any reached being Amalric’s visit to pay homage to the Greek emperor Manuel I at Constantinople in 1171. Popes circulated news, usually alarmist or depressing; monastic and clerical chroniclers from all parts of western Christendom recorded eastern events. In high politics, rulers such as the kings of England and France publicly accepted their responsibility to sustain the Christian settlement, even if between 1149 and 1187 they did little enough about it. Great magnates visited, Thierry count of Flanders four times; some went to fight, as did Philip count of Flanders in 1177; others, like Henry the Lion duke of Saxony in 1172, to pray and endow. In return, the kingdom of Jerusalem paid Peter’s Pence to Rome and sent its brightest students to the west for education, such as William of Tyre, from a burgess family living in Jerusalem. Whereas, outside the faltering royal dynasty, the number of westerners claiming important secular lordships even by marriage declined in the second half of the century, the church in Outremer exhibited a tenacious dependence on immigrants. Of all the Latin bishops, archbishops and patriarchs in the kingdom of Jerusalem, only one can be identified as having been born in the east, the chronicler William, who was archbishop of Tyre 1175–86. Although this may have added to the colonial appearance of the Jerusalem church, it emphasizes the lack of available, well-educated sons of the nobility who crowded the episcopal benches of western Europe, although it might also be noted that a foreign episcopacy was not unique to Jerusalem: for sixty years after 1066, possibly more, no native Englishman was consecrated a bishop in England; in parts of the German-conquered Baltic from the twelfth century such immigrant bishops remained normal. Such a colonized church, as Heraclius discovered in 1184/5, did not necessarily endear itself to the west, not least because of the generally indifferent quality of clerical recruits in the east, men who would not have got near high office at home, at best characterized, it has been argued, by ‘low-brow religiosity’, at worst by material ambition and a lack of conspicuous spirituality. Unlike the rest of Latin Christendom, twelfth-century Outremer produced no successful candidates for canonization, although a sabbatical in the Holy Land could prove useful on a saint’s curriculum vitae, such as that of the bizarre St Ranieri of Pisa, who, while living as an ascetic in Palestine c.1138–54, claimed to be ‘God’s second incarnation’.13 It is difficult to assess whether the foreign monopoly of church leadership aided relations with the west and heightened the militancy of the Jerusalem church, or, conversely, merely produced fertile ground for opportunist timeservers and encouraged western contempt.


The attraction of the Holy Land to ecclesiastical careerists formed only part of Outremer’s history of immigration. It is impossible to calculate how many westerners settled in the Levant in the twelfth century as it is to establish what proportion of the total population they constituted. All that can be determined is that, in certain regions and cities, the Franks established a significant presence which should not be minimized just because ultimately, unlike the conquests in Sicily, Spain, eastern Europe or the Baltic, the settlement failed. Not the least consistent theme of life in Outremer was the consciousness of the need for immigration to bolster the military conquest. However, generalizations can mislead. Town and countryside (often a tricky if not false distinction); coastal plains, hills, deserts; north and south; sedentary or nomadic; Outremer presented a mosaic as varied as any that adorned the floors in the homes and manor houses of the Frankish nobility. Thus, while Jerusalem was forbidden to Muslim residents, in 1110 Tancred was encouraging Muslim settlers in the principality of Antioch and negotiating the repatriation of their wives from Aleppo.14 Some towns and cities, such as Ramla or Jaffa in 1099, had been evacuated by Muslims; in others the Muslim population had been massacred after being stormed; while at Sidon (1110) and Tyre (1124) the indigenous communities were permitted to remain. Certain areas possessed large Christian populations before 1099, particularly in southern Samaria north of Jerusalem and in parts of Galilee; others were dominated by Muslims. Jewish communities were similarly unevenly spread across the landscape; nomadic Bedouin stalked the fringes of the desert. The economy of the plains around Tyre or Acre differed from that of the Judean hills, Transjordan or the commercial centres of Acre, Tyre and Antioch. Inevitably, the nature and distribution of settlement depended on the availability of land, the structure of landowning, the economic opportunities, military vulnerability, the attitude of indigenous communities and local entrepreneurial initiatives.

At the top of Latin society the nobles, having, like Tancred in Galilee, grabbed land or, like his successor there, Hugh of St Omer, been granted it by the king, would naturally dispose of estates to their followers. Other grants included money fiefs, rents from revenues in towns, rather than land. In return, vassals of kings and lords owed military service of knights, at least 675 by c.1180; others, the urban and rural freemen known as burgesses and the church, supplied footsoldiers, in theory by 1180 over 5,000. Judged by accounts of royal campaigns, the system worked at all levels: in 1170, sixty-five light-armed young men from the planted Frankish farming community of Magna Mahomeria north of Jerusalem were killed or wounded defending Gaza.15 Unlike conquests in parts of western Europe, for example England or Sicily, grantor or grantee were not concerned to establish legal continuity with pre-conquest ownership at the level of lordships even if, in practice, they did conform to previous administrative regions, as at Caesarea. In the early days of the conquest, some land was appropriated by individual lords without formal obligations. In the kingdom of Jerusalem, the creation of lordships held directly of the crown was a process of some time, but rewarded those loyal to the king, such as Eustace Garnier, lord of Caesarea and Sidon in 1110.16 Similarly, lesser lordships went to those in the king’s or the seigneur’s entourage. One of Baldwin I’s knights from Edessa, Hubert of Paceo, held land from the king north of Acre; on Baldwin’s death he returned to Edessa with Joscelin of Courtenay.17 The ties were of lordship or kinship not place. Such patterns of aristocratic patronage were inevitable and commonplace. The origins of the nobility of Outremer did not derive entirely from the contingents of the First Crusade or later military campaigns. Some of the greatest in the land were enticed to the east for political advantage not military adventure: Queen Melisende’s cousins Hugh II of Jaffa, actually born in Apulia, and Manasses of Hierges; the Constable Miles de Planchy; Prince Raymond of Antioch; King Fulk. Geographically, many of the earliest lords in the kingdom of Jerusalem came from northern France: Gerard of Avesnes, given a castle near Hebron by Godfrey of Bouillon; Hugh of St Omer in Galilee in 1101; Fulk of Guines at Beirut; Hugh of Le Puiset at Jaffa by 1110. However, their vassals displayed no uniform origins; Hugh of Jaffa’s constable, Barisan or Balian, the founder of the fortunes of the great Outremer house of Ibelin, was probably of Italian or Sardinian extraction. Family ties, as of Joscelin of Courtenay with Baldwin II of Edessa or Richard and Roger of Salerno with Bohemund and Tancred of Antioch counted for much, possibly more than regional affinities, although the nobility of Antioch and Tripoli exhibited Italian, Norman and Provençal traces respectively.

Lower down the social scale, the evidence of clerical and secular witness lists, pilgrims’ memoirs and documents relating to rural settlement projects reveals a wide catchment area of immigrant recruitment, impossible to restrict to soldierly veterans. Pilgrims outside the military campaigns arrived from as far away as Iceland and Russia. In Jerusalem, among the clergy and lay burgesses, there appear men from most regions of France, from Flanders, Normandy and Paris to Le Puy and Périgord in Languedoc, from northern Italy and Spain.18 These hardly reflect the contingents of the First Crusade. In the 1160s, John of Würzburg listed the nationalities in Jerusalem: Franks, Lotharingians, Normans, Provençals, men from the Auvergne, Italians, Spaniards and Burgundians. Although complaining loyally at the absence of Germans, or, at least, at the lack of recognition of their original contribution, John noted the German church and hospital of St Mary in the Holy City. Among the religious communities John recorded were Germans, Hungarians, Scots, Celts, English, Navarrese, Ruthenians, Bohemians, Bulgars and Hungarians as well as Italians and northern French. The overcrowding in Acre caused by the press of visitors struck the Greek visitor John Phocas in 1185, who also encountered a travelling professional holy man from Spain near the river Jordan he had first met in Cilicia some years before, and a monk on Mt Carmel from Calabria.19

A more limited but still markedly cosmopolitan basis to immigration is traceable in the countryside by the mid-twelfth century. At the Hospitaller settlement of Bethgibelin near Ascalon, most of the incomers came from France south of the Loire, with a few from north Italy and Spain. A fuller list of settlers on land owned by the Holy Sepulchre north of Jerusalem repeats this pattern of heaviest representation from south of the Loire, Italy and Spain, although there were a significant number from the Ile de France and Burgundy.20 Certain regions of western Europe are conspicuous by their absence: Lorraine, the German Empire and Norman Italy and Sicily, which displayed strangely little interest even in Antioch until late in the century. Part of the explanation for this uneven distribution, even given the extreme narrowness of the sample, may be the presence of easier opportunities nearer home. Yet the royal agent entrusted with attracting settlers to Casal Imbert near Acre in mid-century may have come from Valencia in Spain.21 The motives of these families cannot be excavated: preferment, prosperity, piety; the certainty of privileged free status, a point emphasized by Fulcher of Chartres in the 1120s, all may have played a part. Most if not all must have been of individual means or attached to people of substance. Neither legally nor financially could serfs afford the trip. Yet western land charters suggest a rich pool of free, non-noble pilgrims and crusaders, villagers of property and artisans, able to raise money for the long, arduous and expensive journey.

Attracting the bulk of settlers and accommodating the largest concentrations of population, the cities of Outremer tended to be refashioned by the new rulers, who redesigned and reconfigured city centres and public spaces to suit their social, commercial and religious needs. Immigrants to cities almost certainly conformed to a similarly cosmopolitan model. Many crusaders and pilgrims originated from the growing towns of the west, so presumably did settlers. Equally, many reared in villages possessed the skills as workmen, artisans, shopkeepers and merchants appropriate to an urban as well as a rural setting. In an environment lacking plentiful wood, thereby placing a premium on skilled craftsmen, where the basic building material was stone, it is unsurprising to find numerous Frankish carpenters and masons who may have been attracted east precisely because of the more profitable market for their trades. In cities, Frankish coiners, goldsmiths, cobblers and furriers catered for a monied elite. In the countryside, in addition to these essential skilled crafts, the sources reveal Latins as blacksmiths; drovers and herdsmen of camels, goats and, distinctively, pigs; gardeners; specialists in grain or vines; butchers; and bakers. Some may have arrived in the train of invading armies, but like Constantine, a poor cobbler from Châlons, or John, a mason from Vendôme, not all, probably not most.22

Some settlers would not have become permanent residents and the maintenance of national distinctions apparent in pilgrims’ accounts point to a transient urban population, or, like expatriate communities through the ages, groups constantly reinforced in their regional differences by visitors from home. As with all towns in the west, the cities of Outremer housed a constantly changing cosmopolitan population. Where the Italian maritime communes received privileged quarters within ports such as Acre, Tripoli and Tyre, their permanent population of residents in these trading stations remained small between the spring and autumn ‘passages’. With the reduction of the power of the crown and the physical size of the Latin principalities in the thirteenth century, and the commensurately greater dependence on commerce, the Italians became powerful autonomous political forces. Despite their privileges, there is not much evidence for this in the twelfth century.

Whether rural or urban, the significance of the continued stream or trickle of non-noble settlement was reflected in the kingdom’s laws. By 1110, the non-noble Frankish settler, known as the bourgeois, appeared as a recognizable social group; by the early 1130s they were allowed to hold their own courts, the cour des bourgeois, which operated in cities or urban and village communities in the countryside. Under Baldwin III, directed at pilgrims and the poor, in practice new arrivals, the assise du coup apparent exempted them from the customary legal requirement for sworn bona fides in a court of law. Newcomers would be unlikely to know anybody, yet were not immune to the usual exigencies of bad luck and the law. The presence of a substantial population of Latin non-noble freemen finds recognition in the number of sergeants whose service was claimed by the kings of Jerusalem in emergencies from towns and the extensive lands of churches and monasteries, as well as in Amalric I’s assise sur la ligece asserting his right to demand fealty from freemen in fiefs held directly of the crown. Clearly, not all such men, as used to be thought, lived in towns and cities; the unfortunate young men from Magna Mahomeria slaughtered at Gaza testify to that.23

So, too, do the various attempts by Latin landlords to entice Frankish settlers to their land and other documentary and archaeological indications of immigrant rural communities. The king and his agents appear active in the plain of Acre in the 1140s to 1160s, offering competitive terms to attract settlers. The priory of the Holy Sepulchre established an extensive network of Frankish villages north of Jerusalem, often on what would now be called ‘green field’ sites, with distinctive advantageous tenancy agreements. The Hospitallers attracted Frankish settlers to Bethgibelin after 1136 by offering good tenancy terms with formal legal protection of rights which, in the 1160s, they further altered to ease restrictions on tenants’ ability to buy and sell their holdings. The order also promoted Frankish settlement on the plain of Sharon. Such entrepreneurial initiatives were common accomplices to political settlement. Frankish customs had been established early at Ramla-Lydda, probably by the Latin bishop, and in the lordship of Caesarea, where the settlers before 1123 included a number of Lombards, possibly connected with the Italians who had helped capture the town in 1101. The pattern of settlement in the train of conquest – ‘the settler’s plough followed the horse of the conqueror’24 – continued in the enclaves established in the south of the kingdom and around Ascalon such as Ibelin, Darum and Gaza, or in the fortified villages surrounding the great castles of Oultrejordain at Montréal and Kerak. These communities all contained some Franks, even if, as in the Hospitaller holdings near Ascalon or on the plain of Sharon, they lived alongside Syrian Christians. Elsewhere, Latin lords attempted to maximize their profits by encouraging settlement by locals rather than Frankish immigrants: in the 1150s Baldwin, son of Ulric, viscount of Nablus, sponsored the cultivation of new land by Muslims as well as Syrian Christians.25

The distribution of Latin settlement was uneven across Outremer. In the kingdom of Jerusalem, beyond the cities, farming villages, fortified or not, comprising recent immigrants from Europe as well as Latins already established in Outremer, were to be found in western Galilee, on the coastal plains from north of Acre southwards through the plain of Sharon to Ramla, Bethgibelin, Daron and the plains around Ascalon; in Transjordan at Montréal and Kerak; south of Jerusalem between Bethlehem and Hebron; around Sebaste north-west of Nablus; and in lower Galilee. The most densely settled region lay north of Jerusalem towards Sinjil (St Gilles) in southern Samaria; it was probably the first to be systematically colonized. The density of occupation in the region near Jerusalem by the 1160s prevented Duke Bela of Hungary finding suitable property to buy.26However, elsewhere, in eastern Galilee, central Samaria, northern Transjordan, settlement did not follow lordship, whole areas of the kingdom being populated almost exclusively by Muslims and Jews. This patchwork pattern may be explained by the Franks’ tendency to settle almost exclusively in areas already dominated by local Christians.27 In a number of places, Latin and Syrian Christians – probably in Palestine Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox, Maronites or Jacobites – may have shared villages and sites. Baldwin II encouraged Christians from Transjordan to settle in Judea. At a number of villages, as in the great churches of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem and the Nativity in Bethlehem, Latin and Syrian Christians possibly shared liturgical as well as demographic and economic space. Thus is some parts of Outremer, Frankish influence in and on the countryside was negligible, in others considerable and significant in the same way that empty Christian Jerusalem contrasted with cosmopolitan Acre, the large Muslim populations of Tyre and Tripoli or Greek and Armenian Antioch.


This raises the question posed by many twentieth-century historians of the extent, if any, to which the Latin settlers mixed with the indigenous people to create a cohesive heterogeneous society or one divided by a form of legal, religious, racial and social apartheid. Given the nature of twelfth-century society, contact between communities was inevitable. Outremer was hardly alone in Christendom in containing polyglot neighbours. Communal diversity was a characteristic of the middle ages, not least in the twelfth century: in the British Isles Celts and English, English and French, Flemish settled in Pembroke, Jews establishing quarters in commercial centres; in Sicily Greek, Muslim, Norman, Lombard; the old Jewish communities of the Rhineland; the German expansion into Slavic territory across the Elbe; the competing German and Scandinavian aggression towards the Balts and other pagans; in Spain the long interaction of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Outremer’s distinction lay in the extent of the ethnic and religious fragmentation, a feature of the Near East. Nur al-Din, ruler of Aleppo and conqueror of Muslim Syria, was a Turk who surrounded himself with Kurds ruling Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians. In Egypt the Shi’ite Fatimid caliphs employed Christian Copts and Armenians as secretaries, generals and administrators; the powerful twelfth-century Vizier Bahram (1135–7), called Saif al-Islam, Sword of Islam, was an Armenian Christian from Turbessel (Tell Bashir) in northern Syria; his brother was Armenian patriarch of Egypt. One of the Kurdish Saladin’s physicians was a Jew.28

In Outremer, the Frankish invaders and immigrants discriminated between the several distinct racial and religious groups in language and law. Closest to the ruling class, and often married into it, were the Armenian Christians, mainly in the north. The Greeks, i.e. Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians, appear mainly as an urban community, periodically discriminated against politically and ecclesiastically in Antioch and elsewhere. The category of Suriani, Syrians, included Christians speaking Arabic and possibly Syriac, or using Syriac as a liturgical language, the Franks often not bothering to distinguish between Orthodox Melkites, Nestorians (who emphasized the humanity as opposed to divinity of Christ) and Monophysite Jacobites (who emphasized the divinity of Christ at the expense of his humanity) in Palestine and Lebanese Monothelete Maronites. However, local Christians were not confused, at least in the descriptive terms of chronicles, charters and the law courts, with Muslims. The settled Muslim population were known asSaraceni; the Bedouin, most but not all Muslim, could be distinguished by the description of Arabi, probably because of their wanderings on the desert edges of Outremer towards what the Franks rather vaguely called Arabia. Whereas local Christians, even if excluded from authority within the ecclesiastical hierarchy, lived within the pale of Frankish law, in the market courts, for instance, as neighbours, as property owners, as legitimate spouses, as priests, monks and worshippers, Muslims did not. The Council of Nablus in 1120, even if its draconian moral legislation acted mainly as a propagandist gesture, overtly discriminated against Muslims, forbidding any sexual congress with them (although the punishments for transgressors were equitable regardless of religion) and imposing dress discrimination. In reversal of the Islamic tax regime, Muslims now paid the poll tax instead of Christians. However, where it suited the Franks, for example on the frontier between northern Galilee and Damascus, cooperation in agricultural exploitation existed between Christians and Muslim; in some places, Muslim communities, their laws, customs, possibly headmen (ra’is), perhaps even qadi (judges) remained largely untouched except for purposes of taxation and profit. As a consequence Franks in Outremer displayed a form of cultural blindness towards their Muslim subjects and neighbours. The Franks recognized the very different nature of the Turci, the Turks, the hostile forces governed by Turks as well as the Turkish armies themselves, beyond the frontiers who constitutedthe main threat to the western settlers’ survival. As a result of harassment, discrimination and limited economic opportunities, the indigenous Jewish communities in Outremer suffered sharp decline after 1099, although maintaining a presence in certain areas such as western Galilee. Although, like the Muslims, Jewish communities avoided active persecution after the initial murderous expulsions, and there is evidence of surviving rabbinical courts, in a predominantly Christian and Muslim landscape, the most prominent role for Jewish artisans appears to have been as dyers.29

To portray Outremer as a haven of inter-communal, still less inter-faith, harmony would be absurd. The Muslims of Galilee in the 1180s called Baldwin IV the pig and his mother, Agnes of Courtenay, the sow.30 There were sporadic Muslim rebellions in the principality of Antioch, where their treatment alternated between economic encouragement and extortion. While in some areas Muslims remained unmolested in others they fell under a harsh regime. Given a chance, as with the invasion of Palestine by Mawdud of Mosul in 1113 or Saladin in the 1180s, local Islamic communities aided invaders. Muslim slaves, including women in shackles, were a common sight. The massacre of all non-Franks at Tripoli in 1152 regardless of religion exposed an element of racial tension that embraced all non-Franks, particularly likely, perhaps, in crowded cities. Fulcher of Chartres expressed distaste for black Africans he encountered near the Dead Sea in 1100, ‘despising them as if they were no more than sea-weed’.31 Anecdotal evidence noted the intolerance of boorish new arrivals towards any fraternization with Islam, but William of Tyre’s disapproval of fashionable Arab medicine points to a more general cultural unease, even if, unlike Norman Sicily, there were few, if any, anti-Muslim riots. As most indigenous peoples in the kingdom of Jerusalem, whatever their religion, spoke Arabic, the formal confessional solidarity could be overlaid by cultural distinction. Syrian Christians and Muslim converts could rise in Latin society, not least in the royal household, yet, beside any religious and ethnic discrimination or tolerance, social status imposed further barriers. With the exception of the Armenians of northern Syria, there were few non-Latin aristocrats within the orbit of Latin Outremer. Although patchy vestiges of a Graeco-Syrian episcopal structure remained, apart from the heads of Greek and Syrian religious houses, the higher reaches of the church were colonized by Latins. Muslim nobles had fled the early Frankish conquests. Prominent local Christians and Muslim converts tended to be professionals – civil servants, merchants, doctors – with only a few significant landowners, perhaps including the family of Muisse Arrabit, a vassal of Hugh of Ibelin around 1160.32 While conversion as a prerequisite for marriage appears to have been common, Baldwin I’s success may have prompted a number of more superior Muslim conversions. One possibly fanciful account records one such convert as governor of Jerusalem in Baldwin’s absence in 1112, while a member of his entourage who received the lordship of Hebron in 1107 was known as Walter cognomine Mahumet. Other Muslim converts probably joined the ranks of largely Syrian Christian light cavalry in the armies of Outremer, the so-called Turcopoles. However, in general terms social and political as well as religious or ethnic barriers precluded integrated multiculturalism.

Western Christians possessed no monopoly on inter-communal friction and suspicion. One of the odder myths concerning the middle ages is of intolerant Christendom corrupting tolerant Islam. Islamic lawyers at the time of the crusades warned against fraternization, preferring clear segregation. An eleventh-century Baghdad legist, al-Shirazi, urged discriminatory dress on Christians and Jews. The Spanish Muslim traveller Ibn Jubayr intellectually disapproved of Muslims willingly living under Christian rule, behaviour for which he insisted ‘there can be no excuse in the eyes of God’.33 Conversely, just as non-Muslim communities survived under Islam, so non-Christians lived unfree but largely unmolested in Frankish Outremer. After the early massacres, displacements and expulsions of Muslims and Jews from conquered cities, coexistence rather than either integration or persecution prevailed.

No neat picture of inter-communal relations emerges from Outremer. In cities where Latin and Syrian Christians lived cheek by jowl with Muslims, accommodation was apparent. At Acre, where the two faiths shared a converted mosque as well as a suburban shrine, Muslim visitors were treated fairly and efficiently. Mosques still operated openly in Tyre and elsewhere. Muslims of substance were able to travel through the hinterland of Outremer. Although banned from living there, in 1120 Arab traders were encouraged by Baldwin II to sell cereals and vegetables in Jerusalem. In the 1180s, according to Ibn Jubayr, two of the dominant commercial entrepreneurs along the coast of Outremer were Muslim merchants from north Africa based in Damascus. In wide tracts of the countryside Muslim villagers farmed the land under Frankish ownership, paying dues in cash and kind, the lack of active resentment evinced by their political docility probably connected with the general absence of labour services required on Frankish estates. Yet some landlords exacted harsher control; Baldwin of Ibelin in the 1150s increased the poll tax fourfold and insisted on a right of corporal punishment on his Muslim tenants in villages south-west of Nablus. The general tax of 1183 almost certainly fell more harshly on the peasantry than on any other group, although there was formal equality of assessment and exaction between the religious communities. Throughout Outremer, Muslim shrines and cemeteries fell into disrepair and out of use. To visiting co-religionists old men could inaccurately recount as folk memories the epic struggles of the loss of the coastal ports early in the century, but without the presence or investment of a Muslim social or intellectual elite, popular Islamic culture stagnated.34

Where communities coincided, relations could be volatile. Nablus and its neighbourhood presented dramatic contrasts. Situated on the edge of the frontier zone, vulnerable to attacks and pillage, such as the raid from Damascus in 1137, it formed part of the royal domain until granted to Balian of Ibelin c.1177. The immediate vicinity contained Christian villages with Frankish peasants surrounded by a largely non-Christian population. In one street of the town, a Frankish wine merchant’s shop stood opposite an upmarket Muslim guesthouse. A local Muslim highwaywoman exhibited a penchant for waylaying and murdering Franks, a habit possibly connected with her once having been married to one, whom she also killed. Another stylish Nablus woman, the Frank Paschia de Riveri, wife of the local draper, achieved notoriety as the alleged mistress of the Patriarch Heraclius, earning herself the nickname Madame la Patriarchesse and a wardrobe stuffed with silks and precious jewels. Although there were sufficient Franks settled there to have a Frankish court (a Cour des Bourgeois), the local Samaritan sect was permitted to continue its annual Passover ritual, which attracted devotees from all over the Near East, a tolerance of an active non-Christian religious centre unique within Christendom. The Frankish viscount, the king’s representative in the town, allowed an Arab emir to witness a sanguinary trial by battle between two Franks over one party’s alleged complicity in setting Muslim thieves on to his opponent’s property. A bullying Frankish landlord drove a group of devout Muslims of the Hanbali sect to evacuate their villages during the 1150s and 1160s: before that they had enjoyed full Friday prayers and sermons. In the combination of inter- and infra-communal violence, lawlessness, indifference, practical coexistence, unresolved tensions and exaggerated cultural behaviour, these stories recall the flavour of other competitive frontiers, such as the American ‘Wild’ West.35

Nablus sat on the edge of a frontier zone. Elsewhere in Outremer practical coexistence largely prevailed, even with Muslims. Religious divides could be crossed by conversion; the laws of Jerusalem insisted that former Muslim slaves, if genuine converts, became freedmen. Amongst the nobility, periods of peace, treaties or truces could lead to temporarily amicable contacts. After the treaty that ended the long and bitter siege of Tyre in 1124, the inhabitants emerged to fraternize with their conquerors and inspect the elaborate siege engines used against them. At such times of truce the loquacious raconteur Usamah Ibn-Munqidh of Shaizar, who claimed friends among the Frankish aristocracy, managed to visit his social equals throughout Outremer, even in Antioch and Jerusalem, with impunity. On one occasion Usamah managed, so he later boasted, to secure damages for the theft of part of his sheep flocks from King Fulk against Renier de Brus, lord of Baniyas. Renier’s own wife, when captive in Muslim hands in the 1130s, on her own admission ‘had not satisfactorily preserved the sanctity of the marriage bed’, prompting her husband to divorce her on her release. Amity remained superficial. During a truce between Antioch and Izz al-Din of Shaizar in 1108, Tancred of Antioch befriended a Kurdish knight called Hasanun, who had joined in horse races with the Franks; in 1110, in renewed hostilities, Hasanun was captured and tortured, Tancred personally ordering that the young man’s right eye be gouged out despite apparently having given Hasanun his personal guarantee of safety. Another Antiochene, Robert FitzFulk the Leper, struck up an alliance if not friendship with the atabeg of Damascus, Tughtegin, in 1115, although his friend later struck off his head rather than ransom him.36

Such stories of aristocratic exchange, largely based on the gilded self-serving memories of the rather unsuccessful Usamah of Shaizar, feature an underlying alienation between the Latins and their Muslim neighbours. Relations between Franks and the Muslim subjects were inescapable. While direct evidence of Muslim self-government is sparse, it is likely that Muslim village life continued much as before, but with heavier tax burdens, the relationship of Latin lords and their Muslim subjects remaining essentially fiscal. There was little overt attempt at conversion; those few Franks who bothered to learn Arabic probably did so to satisfy cultural and aesthetic interests or to converse with their Syrian Christian servants and tenants rather than establish contacts across the communal divide. Muslims existed outside the scope of most Frankish law, as Syrian Christians did not, or were lumped together in opposition to all Christians. Thus the assise des bourgeois recorded severe penalties for Muslim violence against Christians but not vice versa.37Any concept of an integrated society in Outremer that includes the Muslim community lacks evidence. Contact was administrative or personal, not communal or cultural, either at second or third hand, through village headmen or estate managers, bailiffs and interpreters, or through employment of individuals, such as doctors, possibly a few scribes or eccentric patronage such as that bestowed on Hamdan Ibn Abd al-Rahim by Alan of al-Atharib. The relationship never strayed from that of exploiting lord and regulated subject.

On the other hand, relations with local Christians assumed a very different guise. In some areas, notably Antioch, the institutional power of local churches could not be ignored. Despite visceral anti-Greek ecclesiastical prejudice and discrimination, as revealed in the work of Gerald of Nazareth (d. 1161), in the kingdom of Jerusalem, the ancient Greek abbey of St Sabas enjoyed the patronage of the Latin monarchs, three of whom married Orthodox princesses (Baldwin II, Baldwin III and Amalric I). Greek imperial funds helped rebuild the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Greek clergy were restored to the Holy Sepulchre by Baldwin I after the fiasco of the failure of the regular Easter miracle of the Holy Fire under Latin auspices in 1101, the annual ritual on Easter eve when Holy Fire is supposed to descend from heaven to light the priests’ candles in the edicule of the Holy Sepulchre. The newcomers evidently had not learnt the knack. An archbishop of the Syrian and Greek communities in Gaza and Bethgibelin negotiated successfully on their behalf with the Hospitaller landlords in 1173 and was even admitted as a confrater of the order. Latin and eastern Christians lived together in city and country; in places they worshipped together. Arabic-speaking Syrian Christians occupied important positions as scribes and customs officers, as they did under Muslim rule. Legal rights of local religious groups could be sustained in Frankish courts even, perhaps exceptionally, against Franks. In 1137/8, the Lorraine crusader Godfrey of Asch, a companion of Godfrey of Bouillon, on the plea of the Armenian catholicus of Jerusalem finally gained his freedom from captivity in Egypt, where he had languished for thirty-five years. Long presumed dead by his compatriots, his Jerusalem lands had reverted to the local Jacobite (i.e. monophysite) community, the pre-1099 owners. On his release, Godfrey claimed his property back, presumably in the High Court, but, on the intervention of Queen Melisende, had to be satisfied with compensation of 300 besants (gold pieces), leaving the Jacobites in possession.38

Integration progressed only so far. Beneath the Frankish legal system, the Syrians held their own courts for petty crimes and civil cases, but serious criminal cases were heard in solely Frankish courts, the cour des bourgeois. Even in the cour de la fronde, possessing wide civil and limited criminal jurisdiction at Acre and probably in other city ports, where Syrians were represented as jurors, the president was the Frankish viscount. Surviving witness lists of Latin land charters include very few Syrians. Mixed Latin–Syrian marriages, entirely legal and possibly common, may be disguised behind Frankish names, however, contact, cooperation and acceptance did not mean cultural integration. The Arabic-speaking Syrian Christian communities persisted in sharp contrast to the Franks in language, law and culture even though they cohabited the same cities and rural areas. The numbers of immigrants were too small and the duration of their dominance too short for much effective cultural or social symbiosis to occur: too many to be naturalized, too few to transform.

Yet the Franks left their mark and were, in turn, marked by their environment. As elsewhere in areas of conquest and frontiers, the immigrants in Outremer expressed both the necessities of settlement and the requirements of lordship through building. The most obvious statement by the new order rose, if slowly, at the church of the Holy Sepulchre itself, but across Outremer the political, religious and economic needs of the new rulers were met by extensive construction work from grand projects such as the sophisticated concentric Hospitaller castle at Belvoir overlooking the Jordan, to town and village churches, rural fortified towers, manor houses and hall houses, residential terraces for agricultural workers in new settlements such as Magna Mahomeria, to roads, water mills, olive and wine presses and sugar-processing plants. Identifying archaeological remains as specifically Frankish rather than built during the period of Frankish occupation is, in the absence of documentary support, hazardous, yet an extensive Frankish building programme, in the countryside as well as in towns and castles, is apparent in perhaps over 200 locations. Given the hundreds of castle sites identified in post-Conquest England, such an enterprise is unsurprising, even if the building materials, mainly stone, cost more in time, money and men than the plentiful wood of the west. Frankish building in the countryside, including farmhouses and towers for seigneurial and bailiff habitation, as at the Red Tower (al Burj al-Ahmar) on the plain of Sharon, and the planned villages of Frankish farmers and labourers, such as Parva Mahomeria (Qubaiyba) north-west of Jerusalem, indicate a far from entirely absentee landowning aristocracy or exclusively urban bourgeois population.39 The tangible remains of the Frankish settlements, alongside the records of a vibrant land market at all levels of rural society, display a level of economic viability never fully matched by political or demographic security.

The impression of Frankish society in Outremer as an alien intruder incapable of being grafted on to indigenous culture has been derived, where not from modern politicized analogies of empire, colonization, racial separate development and competing political and religious communities, from the seeming indifference of the Latins to assume a local Palestinian or Syrian identity. Part of this image relies on concentrating on the lack of contact or co-operation between the Franks and the Muslims to the exclusion of Franco-Syrian Christian association. We are told few Franks learnt local languages: ‘these people speak nothing but Frankish; we do not understand what they say,’ snapped Usamah, blithely ignoring his own admitted inability to speak Turkish.40 Yet communication between linguistic groups was both essential and constant, in commerce, agriculture, estate management, taxation and justice, most obviously in the multi-ethnic cour de la fronde. At Qaqun (Caco) on the plain of Sharon, a mixed settlement of Franks, Syrian Christians and possibly some Muslims, the lord of Caesarea was represented fiscally and judicially by a viscount who owed him the service of one knight and probably used the fort in the village when he visited. However, administrative contact with the Syrian villagers was maintained by the dragoman, literally interpreter, one of whom, called Peter, sold to Walter I of Caesarea land worth 200 besants in 1146. Clearly of some means, Peter, like other dragomans, probably owed his lord a duty of service, conceived in western idiom as a sergeant of a rear-vassal of the lord.41 In turn, it is possible the Arabic-speaking local Christians had their own headman to negotiate for them. While the lords of Caesarea authorized charters directly with local Syrians, the dragoman acted as the mediator. With Frankish tenants, the lord’s interests rested separately with his agent, the dispensator. Thus parallel systems of administration could exist within a mixed Christian village. Physically, too, while Franks settled in areas of previous Christian settlement, it is hard to identify displacement. Rather, the Franks created new villages, resettled abandoned sites or located themselves beside existing Christian villages, even where they shared the local church. The picture emerges of linked, cooperating communities, not fully integrated or assimilated into each other, with only limited need for shared language, a model familiar in contemporary cities and on other frontiers. In such circumstances, maintenance of identity did not imply intolerant exclusivity.

Inevitably, some Franks did learn local languages as well as more generally becoming acculturated with the Near East in diet, dress, hygiene, economic activity and accommodation. A smattering of Arabic for judicial, diplomatic or administrative purposes may have been commonplace; at least one western knight, William de Preaux, managed to learn the Arabic for king, malik, during the Third Crusade, using it to divert the attention of Turkish troops away from Richard I during an ambush near Jaffa in 1191.42 Learning to speak, even read, other languages came as less of a burden to twelfth-century western aristocrats than to some of their modern successors. In addition to his own local vernacular, an educated nobleman would have daily confronted Latin (if only in church or at prayers) and probably numerous other vernaculars, if only orally. Henry II of England was fluent in northern French and Latin, with a smattering of other western European languages; his son Richard I cracked jokes in Latin and recited verse in northern and southern French. To rule England or Sicily, Norman rulers or their officials needed to be trilingual; Bohemund spoke Greek. Among the Frankish nobility in Outremer, captivity provided a more peculiar school of languages; during his imprisonment in the 1160s, Raymond III of Tripoli learnt Arabic, probably not a unique pastime among long-stay prisoners. Others acquired Arabic out of curiosity, intellectual energy, political judgement or necessity. Reynald lord of Sidon (1171–1200), employed a Muslim language teacher, enjoyed religious debate and studied Arabic literature. Sufficiently fluent and adept to charm Saladin himself, Reynald used his linguistic skill to bamboozle the sultan into withdrawing from his stronghold at Beaufort in May 1189 and buy a year’s grace and good surrender terms for his castle. Later Reynald acted as a diplomat in negotiations with Saladin during the Third Crusade. Another Frankish noble who, according to Saladin’s associate and biographer Baha’ al-Din Ibn Shaddad (1145–1234), spoke Arabic well was the effeminate Humphrey III of Toron, whose linguistic talent was in turn employed by Richard I of England in his negotiations with Saladin in 1191.43 Both Reynald and Humphrey came from families long established in Outremer, their proficiency in Arabic, while striking Arabic chroniclers as sufficiently unusual to be worthy of note, perhaps reflecting a growing facility among the Latin rulers, surrounded as they were, even in their own households, by Arabic-speaking Christians as well as a few Muslims and Arabized Jews. Throughout the twelfth century, chance comments or descriptions of exchanges between Franks and Arabic-speaking neighbours, even at the level of spying, hint at a perhaps wide pool of linguists. The parallel may be with Anglo-Norman England, Sicily and Spain, where conquerors encountered resilient and sophisticated local languages of learning, literature, government and an indigenous social elite. Again, in the context of relations with Syrian Christians, the desire to communicate, even if not strictly imperative for political or administrative survival, appears unsurprising. Much the same could be said of other eastern elite languages. The charter recording the negotiations between the Hospitallers and Meletus the Syrian archbishop in Gaza and Bethgibelin of 1173 is bilingual in Latin and Greek. The Edessan nobleman Baldwin of Marasch, killed in a failed attempt to recapture Edessa in 1146, spoke fluent Armenian and employed an Armenian priest as his confessor.44

Much the same eclecticism finds demonstration in other Latin responses to the Near East. In recent centuries the Frankish settlements in Outremer have attracted attention as precursors of later European expansion and colonialism in the region. More properly, they should be seen on their own terms and in their own time. Certain elements of Latin Outremer culture and society reflected western life, notably in the church, language and law, but overlaid with a profound provincialism. The radical intellectual, artistic and legal developments in western Europe in the twelfth century found only a thin echo in the east. Only two even relatively recent writers were represented in the library of Nazareth cathedral, the theologian Anselm of Canterbury and the canon lawyer Ivo of Chartres. There were few home-grown Outremer theologians or canon lawyers; no universities or Gothic cathedrals; the bureaucratic practices of the royal chancery appear crude in comparison with the papacy, Sicily or England; the coinage imitative and unsophisticated. Academically, Outremer existed in a backwater, distanced alike from west and east. With a few notable exceptions, such as biblical scholar and translator Aimery of Limoges, patriarch of Antioch, western immigrant clergy came from intellectual drawers below the top. Despite cathedral schools, equipped with modest, old-fashioned libraries, indigenous scholars were rare. Apart from the western-educated Jerusalemite William of Tyre, notable was Gerard of Nazareth, bishop of Lattakiah (1140–61), an anti-Greek polemicist and hagiographer. Vernacular literature similarly derived from the west; even the crusade Chanson des Chétifs, concerning the 1101 expeditions, which was written in the east, was produced for the immigrant Prince Raymond of Antioch (d. 1149).45

The plastic arts were similarly dominated by immigrant artists and models, the most notable being Byzantine influence on decorative painting, illumination and mosaics and, in architecture, southern French and Italian styles. The exquisite illuminated Melisende Psalter of the 1130s or the programme of Greek mosaics with Latin inscriptions erected at the church of the Nativity at Bethlehem c.1170 for an English bishop, under joint patronage of Amalric I and Manuel I Comnenus place the art of Outremer in a cosmopolitan, Mediterranean context, distinctive by the coincidence of influences rather than any specific local originality. Here, the ravine between Latin and Greek proved as serious an obstacle to effective cultural symbiosis as that between Latin and Muslim. There is some debate over the existence of a stonemasons’ workshop in Jerusalem and the provenance of its artisans and skilled masons, European or indigenous. Were such skilled workers like the church hierarchy, constantly reinforced by western immigrants, or the lay aristocracy, increasingly local descendants of immigrants of previous generations? Both are plausible. One notable feature of Latin art in Outremer was provided by skill in working stone, either in sculpture, as in surviving capitals from Nazareth or the tomb of Baldwin V (d. 1186) in Jerusalem, or in the dressing of ashlar masonry of prestige buildings such as castles or churches, witnessed still in the clear, clean, sharp lines of the twelfth-century piers of Tortosa cathedral, the mighty walls of Saone castle in the principality of Antioch, or the cool certainty of the churches of St Anne in Jerusalem and at Abu Ghosh. How far the intensive labour involved in creating and erecting such stonework was conducted by slave labour, probably Muslim, is unknowable, although the contemporary account of the rebuilding of Saphet castle in northern Galilee from 1240 makes it clear that there the work was carried out by operarii et sclavii, workmen and slaves. Without the particular circumstances of Outremer’s large resource of Muslim slaves, noted with awe and horror by Ibn Jubayr in 1184, its physical monuments would have been less impressive.46 This, at least, did not distinguish the Franks from their Near Eastern neighbours.

Living in Outremer did not leave Franks unmarked, even if only in superficial habits of daily existence. The memoirs of Usamah of Shaizar, whose stories are frequently too good to be precisely true, mentioned an agent of his dining in Antioch with a Greek friend at the house of a Frankish veteran of the First Crusade who employed an Egyptian cook, avoided Frankish dishes and never allowed pork under his roof.47 Such fastidious conversion to Muslim habits was uncommon; westerners in Outremer may have adopted many local comforts, but their taste for pork appeared constant. Pork butchers traded at Tyre; swineherds tended their flocks in the countryside; surviving rubbish tips evince continued consumption. A privilege of William II of Sicily in 1168 allowed the monastery of St Mary of the Latins in Jerusalem to export from Messina without paying customs 200 sides of bacon, as well as 100 barrels of tunny fish and a large shipment of lambskin cloaks, rabbit-skins, ox-hides, linen and wool: winters are chilly in the hills of Judea.48 Perhaps the greatest dietary impact of the east on the immigrants was castor sugar; exploitation of sugar cane, especially around Acre and Tyre, became a major industry in Outremer. In dress, acclimatization went with loose-fitting clothes, cool fabrics in the summer, furs in winter, protection of skin and armour from the sun by veils and surcoats; some Franks adopted the turban.49 Most notable in contrast to the west, Franks in Outremer imitated the high standards of hygiene practised by locals. The lack of washing and ignorance of bathhouse culture and etiquette was just one source of hilarity and contempt for Usamah, on a par with what he regarded as the Franks’ lax sexual mores and poor treatment of women. Care was taken in providing water supplies for domestic use as well as irrigation, via aqueducts on the coastal plain and networks of cisterns in the arid uplands and desert. Even the Hospitaller castle at Belvoir contained a bathroom. Twelfth-century domestic architecture may rarely have reached such lavish proportions as at the Ibelin palace at Beirut, built in the first years of the thirteenth century, with its fountains, airy halls, mosaics, marble and long vistas inland and out to sea, a sort of Outremer Alhambra. However, even comparatively modest houses of the well-to-do in cities and substantial properties in the countryside boasted mosaic flooring, often with inlay of antique marble, painted plaster walls, the interiors probably furnished with carpets and textile hangings, the tables laid with pottery imports from overseas. Away from the cities, such pottery probably did not circulate, the habitations of the rural peasantry being basic in design and utensils, dependent on local produce and artefacts.

The rural economy of Outremer proved largely resistant to radical change by the western immigrants, who may nonetheless have imported their heavy ploughs to tame the thin soils of Palestine: they divided their plots of land into carrucates, as in the west, although similar land divisions and ploughs were familiar to the east. While not such a monopoly crop as in the west, cereals – wheat and barley – provided a central feature of village economy. Sesame and vegetables were planted as summer crops. The shortage of cereals apparent from imports in the early years of the century did not persist. Olives remained a staple, which would have made immigrants from southern Europe feel at home, although the orchards around the villages provided more exotic fruit. In many new villages, the central activity concentrated on winemaking.

Most evident is the degree to which the Franks in Outremer fitted into the Levantine economy, exporting dyes, luxury textiles, castor sugar and glassware and, increasingly, spices, while importing from Europe and Islamic neighbours such things as foodstuffs, metals, wood, and cotton. Outremer stimulated cross-Mediterranean commerce, in men (i.e. pilgrims) and goods. By the 1160s, one Genoese notary was recording a higher value (almost double) in trade to Syria than to Alexandria, the greatest entrepôt of the eastern Mediterranean.50 In return, the profits of commerce increasingly sustained the economy and finances of Outremer. Thus it may have appeared to restless westerners that Outremer indeed promised a land of opportunity which its rulers and patrons of settlements struggled to realize.

Despite acculturation, the comparative brevity of the Frankish presence in the Syrian and Palestinian countryside and the truncated occupation of the coastal cities precluded further developments towards either social integration or the creation of a distinctive cohesive cultural identity. The cosmopolitan backgrounds of the settlers, their lack of numbers and the constant influx of visitors and new immigrants was reflected in the diversity of art and architecture. Outremer has been described as a fragmentary colony of western Europe, displaying only disjointed facets or incomplete bits of the mother culture.51 Equally, it developed only a fragmentary unity with the indigenous Christian population and none at all with the Muslims. The divides of language, law, religion and status failed to coincide. Concerted attempts to convert Muslim subjects were limited. Owners resented the freeing of converted Muslim slaves. Elsewhere, conversions appeared as individual responses to circumstances, although there may have been some pull towards accepting the faith of the rulers of a confessional state, as there was in the later multi-faith Ottoman or Habsburg empires. Yet the ambiguity, if not of the Latin settlement than of the evidence for it, is well expressed in some surviving capitals from the cathedral of the Annunciation in Nazareth. While some have regarded their formalized, unrealistic depiction of Syrians as quintessential proof of the Franks’ colonial blindness and policy of apartheid, two of the capitals, depicting apocryphal conversion missions of the apostles Bartholomew and Matthew, have prompted suggestions that some of the Nazarene clergy desired the Christianization of their Muslim neighbours.52

Twelfth-century Frankish Outremer did not disappear in the face of Saladin’s conquest of 1187–9. Some of the rural population must have survived. In places, on the plain of Acre perhaps, villages may have sustained themselves, subjugated but intact, surrounded as they were by other Christian communities; certainly with the reconquest of the coast after 1191, some settlements resorted to their previous ownership and inhabitants to their former privileges. In such a geographically diverse and complicated region, numbers of Franks may have stayed, survival not necessarily dependent on the fate of the lords or even of the cities. The castle of Montréal had held out against Saladin for a year and a half before surrendering early in 1189. Twenty-eight years later, in 1217, when a German pilgrim, Thietmar, visited the town beneath the castle, still in Muslim hands and inhabited by Muslims and Syrian Christians, he stayed with a Frankish widow. On Thietmar’s departure, she provided him with directions on the best route towards his destination of Mt Sinai and supplied him with provisions for his journey: twice-baked bread, cheese, raisins, figs and wine.53Here, at least, was one Frankish settler whose stay in the east was not temporary, superficial, transient or destitute. As Fulcher of Chartres had trumpeted optimistically a century before, the widow of Montréal was indeed an Occidental who had become an Oriental.

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