Post-classical history

§ The Status of the Knight among the Franks

The Franks (may God confound them) have none of the human virtues except for courage. They have neither precedence nor high rank except that of the knights, and have no men worthy of the name except the knights – it is they who are the masters of legal reasoning, judgment and sentencing. I once brought a case [65] before them concerning some flocks of sheep that the lord of Banias had seized from the woods while there existed a truce between us. At the time, I was based in Damascus.94

I said to the king, Fulk, son of Fulk,95 ‘This man has encroached upon our rights and seized our flocks right at the time of lambing. But they gave birth and the lambs died, so he returned them to us after so many lambs were lost.’

Then the king turned to six or seven knights: ‘Arise and render a judgment for him.’

So they left his audience-chamber, sequestering themselves and deliberating until their minds were all agreed upon one decision, and then they returned to the king’s audience-chamber.

‘We have passed judgment’, they said, ‘to the effect that the lord of Banias should pay compensation equal to the value of the lambs that were lost from their flock of sheep.’

And so the king ordered him to pay compensation. He entreated me and begged and pleaded with me until I accepted from him four hundred dinars. That judgment, having been passed by the knights, cannot be changed or rescinded by the king or any Frankish leader. So the knight is someone of greatness in their view.

The king said to yours truly, ‘By the truth of my religion, I was made very happy indeed yesterday!’

‘May God keep the king ever joyful!’ I said. ‘What was it that led to your happiness?’

‘They told me you were a great knight,’ he replied, ‘but I hadn’t really believed it.’

‘My lord,’ I assured him, ‘I am a knight of my race and people.’ You see, if the knight is tall and thin, they find him more impressive.

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