FULCHER OF CHARTRES, who chronicled Pope Urban’s speech at Clermont in 1095 and travelled east with the First Crusade, eventually became canon of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and remained in Jerusalem for the rest of his life. Before he died in 11271Fulcher recorded the great changes he had witnessed in Outremer, years when soldiers, traders, settlers and pilgrims mingled and intermarried with the indigenous inhabitants to form a revitalised society and culture in the East.
We who were Occidentals now have been made Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank is now a Galilaean, or an inhabitant of Palestine. One who was a citizen of Rheims or of Chartres now has been made a citizen of Tyre or of Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already they have become unknown to many of us, or, at least, are unmentioned. Some already possess here homes and servants which they have received through inheritance. Some have taken wives not merely of their own people, but Syrians, or Armenians, or even Saracens who have received the grace of baptism. Some have with them father-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or son-in-law, or stepson, or stepfather. There are here, too, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One cultivates vines, another the fields. The one and the other use mutually the speech and the idioms of the different languages. Different languages, now made common, become known to both races, and faith unites those whose forefathers were strangers. As it is written, ‘The lion and the ox shall eat straw together’.2 Those who were strangers are now natives; and he who was a sojourner now has become a resident.3
It is noteworthy that Fulcher of Chartres specifically mentions that the Franks were engaged in rural activities such as cultivating vines and fields. This is testimony to the settled conditions in Outremer and to the way Franks lived and worked among the indigenous population. It also contradicts the assertions of certain present-day historians that the Franks enjoyed no security and kept themselves apart, for example Jonathan Riley-Smith, who has written: ‘In the kingdom of Jerusalem, most of the immigrant Frankish population lived in towns or castles; the countryside was populated and worked almost exclusively by native Syrians, both Christians and Muslims.’4 As we shall see there is plenty of solid evidence, quite apart from Fulcher of Chartres, to demonstrate that this view is wrong.
Fulcher also mentions that the Franks learned the local languages, which meant Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Arabic; this stood in contrast to the Arabs and the Turks, for whom there is very little evidence that they could speak the others’ language or troubled to learn the languages of the people they had conquered and oppressed.
Intermarriage occurred throughout all levels of society, not least among the aristocracy. At the same time as Fulcher of Chartres was describing the mixing of East and West, the first generation of Franks in Outremer was dying off, and with the death of Baldwin II in 1131 they were gone. Baldwin was now succeeded by Fulk and Melisende, who was half Armenian and ruled as queen in her own right. Like her, Melisende’s younger sisters were powerful and influential women: Alice was princess of Antioch; Hodierna was countess of Tripoli; and through Melisende’s influence Ioveta became abbess of the richly endowed convent of St Lazarus in Bethany, not far from Jerusalem, a pilgrimage site famous for its gospel associations with Lazarus and Mary Magdalene. Outremer was passing into the hands of a new home-grown generation.
The Aqsa mosque had already become dilapidated under Seljuk rule, and by the time Baldwin II came to the throne in 1118, the Temple of Solomon, as the crusaders knew it, that is the Templum Solomonis, was in a sorry state. Although the king was using the building as his palace and would soon hand over a wing to the Templars, Fulcher of Chartres remarked that ‘the fabric of the roof needs repairing [. . .] This is due to our lack of resources.’ Things were so bad that the previous king, Baldwin I, would sell off any lead that fell from the roof and was even known to order the roof to be stripped so that he could sell the lead to merchants.5 But after the Council of Troyes in 1129, Baldwin II or his successors King Fulk and Queen Melisende, moved into their newly built palace near the Tower of David to the west and put the Templars in full possession of the Temple of Solomon as well as the entire southern end of the Temple Mount.
With the lands, tithes and other donations the Templars were beginning to acquire and develop in the West following Hugh of Payns’ mission, their numbers were increasing, and they also had the funds to repair, enlarge and embellish the Templum Solomonis. The former palace was the headquarters not only of their administration but also of their daily lives; they resided there and used it to store arms, clothing and food, and they stabled their horses in a great underground vault at the south-east corner of the Mount.
The Temple was also a place of prayer. For all their later reputation as warriors, the Templars were very much monks and lived the monastic life in accordance with the canonical hours. Rising at 4 a.m. for Matins, they then attended to their horses before returning to bed. Services began at 6 a.m. with Prime and continued with Tierce at 9 a.m. and Sext towards noon, the intervals in between devoted to training and grooming their horses. At noon the knights had a dinner of cooked meats, maintaining complete silence throughout the meal while the chaplain read from the Bible. Nones, the afternoon service, fell at 3 p.m., followed by Vespers at 6 p.m. and then supper. At 9 p.m. the Templars attended Compline, after which they received a glass of wine and water, were given their instructions for the following day, and went to see after their horses. At midnight they were in bed, keeping complete silence in their dormitories until rising again at 4 a.m.
But the Templars were not alone in praying on the Temple Mount, nor the Canons of the Temple, who were quartered near the Templum Domini, the Dome of the Rock. Unlike the Muslims, who during their occupation of Jerusalem forbade entry to the Temple Mount to all non-Muslims, the Franks made the platform of the Dome of the Rock available to Muslim worship, the pilgrim John of Würzburg remarking in about 1170 that ‘very many Saracens even today come to this altar to pray’.6 The Jews, forbidden by their laws to stand within what had been the Holy of Holies, the innermost shrine of their Temple, and not being sure exactly where it had stood, preferred to keep off the Mount and prayed at the Western Wall, as they do today.
While the Templars on the Mount were still acting as guides and guardians to pilgrims on the roads in the kingdom of Jerusalem, they were playing an altogether more military role in the Iberian peninsula.
In Spain, King Alfonso I of Aragon had reconquered large territories from the Muslims and was attracted to the concept of military orders as a means to safeguard them, rather than let them be taken by his barons, who might build up power bases independent from the crown. When he died childless, in 1134, he willed his entire kingdom to the Templars, the Hospitallers and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in equal measures. But although the will was contested and adjusted, a settlement was reached with the Templars in 1143 which gave them six major castles in Aragon, a tenth of royal revenues and a fifth of any lands in future conquered from the Muslims, turning the Templars into a major force in the Reconquista against the forces of Islam. The Templars were the first; the Hospitallers followed them into the Iberian peninsula around 1150.
The Templars played a similar role in the west of the Iberian peninsula, where in the struggle against the Muslims a new nation was emerging, the independent kingdom of Portugal. The Templars’ commitment to the cause of the crusade against Islam made them perfect allies; at no cost to existing Portuguese resources they were given anticipatory grants, so that, as the frontier was extended against the Muslims during the 1130s and 1140s, the Templars acquired a share in newly recovered lands and were given control of border castles.
In Outremer, by contrast, the Templars are reported in medieval sources to have been involved in only three military engagements between 1119 and the arrival of the Second Crusade in 1148. The Templars were at the failed siege of Damascus in 1129, they took part in a campaign to defend an eastern outpost of the county of Tripoli which met with defeat in 1137, and they were worsted in a skirmish at Hebron in 1139. The Templars did take over responsibility for guarding the passes into Antioch from Asia Minor through the Amanus mountains in about 1136. Otherwise the surviving record is silent on the early decades of the Templars in the East.
For that matter nothing much is heard of the Hospitallers’ military exploits in the East during these early decades, despite the survival of their archives. Both the Templars and the Hospitallers were religious orders, but whereas the Templars had been founded by secular knights whose mission was to protect pilgrims by force of arms, the Hospitallers, who included both monks and nuns, were monastics from the start and their purpose remained primarily the care of the needy and the sick. Nevertheless in 1128 the Hospitallers were given the village and tower of Calansue (now Qalansuwa) on the plain between Jaffa and Caesarea, and in 1136, the same year that the Templars were sent to guard the passes in the north, the Hospitallers took charge of the village and fortress at Bethgibelin, one of several new settlements built in the vicinity of Fatimid-held Ascalon.
Yet these beginnings were less dramatically military than they might seem. The three castles built by the Templars in the Amanus range were poorly constructed affairs, all relying on the craggy mountainous terrain for their defences; they were hardly meant for sustained warfare. Two routes pass through the mountains, one north of Alexandretta (present-day Iskenderun), where the Templars built the castles of Trapesac and La Roche de Roissol, the latter actually on a mountain peak, the other route south of Alexandretta, the famous Belen Pass, through which Alexander chased the Persian king Darius after the battle of Issus, where the Templars built the castle of Baghras. These castles did not mark a frontier between the Christian states and the Seljuk Turks; rather, the passes were connecting avenues between the principality of Antioch and the new Armenian homeland in Cilicia, established after the catastrophe of Ani. In particular the Belen Pass, also known as the Syrian Gates, led directly south to the city of Antioch itself. It is not surprising that the castles were built soon after Queen Melisende came to the throne; being half Armenian and with her sister married to the prince of Antioch, her concern was naturally with the alliance between Outremer and the Armenians. The Templars’ castles in the Amanus mountains did not directly block the passes – rather, they could serve as secure bases for attacking any Turkish forces attempting to cross the range – but more immediately and importantly they protected the two routes along which trade and pilgrimage traffic, as well as military assistance, passed between the Armenian and Frankish allies. The Templars’ role in the Amanus mountains, therefore, at least initially, was an extension of their role as a gendarmerie along the roads in the kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Hospitallers’ activities at Calansue and Bethgibelin were humbler yet. Calansue was an estate founded by Geoffrey of Flujeac on the Plain of Sharon, north of Jaffa and west of Nablus. In the village stood a stone tower, two storeys high, thought to have been built by Geoffrey before he granted the Hospitallers his estate, and near it a hall and three other vaulted structures added later. But the tower and other buildings were not enclosed and can hardly be said to have amounted to a fortress; but even if they were, their primary purpose would not have been defensive, for Calansue was far from any danger. Frankish landowners commonly built towers or other structures that might be described as fortifications not so much for defence as to attract settlement to their estates. The same was going on in Europe, where fortified settlements had been widespread since the tenth century despite the lack of an external or internal threat. Quite the opposite; fortified settlements followed on the heels of improved security and rising prosperity. As the historical geographer Ronnie Ellenblum has written, in Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, ‘The fortress, it is now commonly argued, was designed to be more of a power symbol and a nucleus for a new settlement rather than an answer to acute security requirements. The construction of new settlements as well as the construction of fortresses are considered to be the result of an improvement in the security and economic situation and not of its deterioration.’7
Bethgibelin, built in rolling countryside 25 miles inland from Ascalon and granted to the Hospitallers by King Fulk and Queen Melisende in 1136, was an altogether more impressively fortified settlement. The city of Eleutheropolis had stood on the site in Roman times; when the Frankish settlement was established here, the remains of the ancient amphitheatre were used to construct a concentric fortress with an inner and outer circuit of walls, towers and a moat. Significantly, Bethgibelin was built only after Ascalon ceased to be a serious threat to the Franks. It was not a defensive outpost to guard the frontier; rather, it supported attacks against the Fatimid garrison at Ascalon. During a period of disorder in Egypt, the Franks were pressing home their military superiority. Meanwhile all of southern Palestine was enjoying a period of security, and Bethgibelin was primarily an agricultural community.8
The loss of the Templar archives means that there is less evidence for their settlement activities, but archaeological excavations are helping to fill the gap, as at Wadi al-Haramiya, along the road from Jerusalem to Nablus, where the Templars had possession of a spring and built a tower and established an agricultural settlement, suggesting that ‘the Templars may have been acting here as property developers, in the same way as [. . .] the Hospitallers at Bait Jibrin [Bethgibelin] and Qalansuwa [Calansue]’.9
From these small beginnings the Templars and the Hospitallers not only became wealthy developers in the East but also developed their military careers. When Thoros II, prince of Armenia, was travelling through the kingdom of Jerusalem in the 1160s, he remarked to Baldwin III, ‘When I came to your land and enquired to whom the castles belonged, I sometimes received the reply, “This belongs to the Temple”; elsewhere I was told, “It is the Hospital’s”. I found no castle or city or town which was said to be yours except three.’10 This was no exaggeration. The Templars and the Hospitallers owed direct responsibility only to the pope while enjoying the favour of all strata of society, and they transcended not only local feudal quarrels but also the antagonisms of nations and their kings. As corporate bodies, the military orders were everlasting, their numbers undiminished by disease or death, and they were able to draw on a continuous supply of young men of noble families in Europe seeking to fulfil the moral and religious obligations of knighthood. Also the Templars and the Hospitallers received donations of property in Europe which together with their development ventures in Outremer soon made them wealthy. Very quickly the lords of Outremer were selling or giving fortresses to the orders, and by 1166 there were only three castles in the kingdom of Jerusalem that the military orders did not control.
Mythology rather than history tells us that the East was settled by crusaders. The truth is that three-quarters of those who set out on the First Crusade never made it to Jerusalem but fell along the way, victims of battles or disease. And many of the survivors returned home, where news of their deeds was wildly celebrated in epic songs such as the Chanson d’Antioche and the Chanson de Jerusalem – which fostered the mythology that attached itself to the crusader states and is remembered to this day. But the settlement of Outremer depended on a very different people.
Outremer was ultimately swept away, and almost all the local records that would have provided a social history were destroyed. But here and there documents have survived, including lists of the inhabitants of Bethgibelin of the Hospitallers and the settlement of Magna Mahomeria (al-Bira), 10 miles north of Jerusalem, founded by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in about 1128. The lists indicate the settlers’ places of origins and their occupations,11 and they are striking first of all for showing that not a single settler at either place came from northern France, the origin of the greater number of crusaders. Instead the Frankish settlers at Bethgibelin and Magna Mahomeria came from central and southern France, Italy and Spain. They were peoples of southern Europe and the Mediterranean, familiar with the environment, bringing their enthusiasm and skills to bear in Outremer just as they had been doing in the West, where their ancient lands were being liberated from Muslim occupation. The First Crusade established the boundaries for Frankish settlement, but it did not determine the demographic composition of Outremer; that was left to a wider process of migration which was occurring also in Europe, where enterprising people travelled far afield in search of places offering better social and economic conditions. There may have been those who ventured to the East as much to satisfy their souls as to seek opportunities, but otherwise they were very much the same people who were settling in Sicily or Spain, newly recovered from Muslim occupation, or in any other area of European settlement, and who came almost by chance, who might have settled elsewhere but came to the Levant. ‘It is doubtful’, Ronnie Ellenblum has stated, ‘whether in the minds of the Lombards or Burgundians there was any great difference between settlement in Languedoc and Catalonia or the Frankish East.’12
There was a difference, however, between the settlers in Outremer and in comparable places in the West. Compared to villagers in Languedoc, for example, the lists show that the inhabitants of Bethgibelin and Magna Mahomeria were highly skilled and specialised. This was probably true of the Templars’ settlement at Wadi al-Haramiya, 3 miles north of Magna Mahomeria, and indeed throughout Outremer. As well as the usual butchers, bakers and shoemakers, the settlers in the East counted among their number an unusually large number of builders, carpenters and blacksmiths, as well as a concentration of expertise in such areas as vegetable gardening, vineyards, grain cultivation and also rearing pigs, goats and camels. After centuries during which native Christians were forbidden by their Muslim masters to build churches or even keep them in repair, the locals had lost much of their experience in large-scale construction. The need to restore lost skills meant there was a particular demand for Frankish masons, carpenters and metalworkers, who also found themselves engaged in military activities such as building fortresses and siege engines and shoeing horses. Pig-breeding and wine-making served the requirements of the indigenous Christian and Frankish population, and the increase in olive oil production at least partly reflected its use in the growing number of new churches, while Frankish experts succeeded in the husbandry of animals such as goats and camels, previously largely the preserve of Muslims.
The Frankish achievement in the rural development of the kingdom of Jerusalem was considerable. Recent archaeological investigations reveal that they founded over two hundred new settlements; they interconnected their sites with a network of roads, constructed bridges and renovated ancient aqueducts, built watermills and windmills, and in a hard and drought-prone environment mastered the complicated traditional techniques of irrigation. The military orders played a leading part; as well as founding settlements, both the Templars and the Hospitallers developed the rural economy by building watermills and granaries; the Hospitallers also engaged in the sugar industry and the Templars in the glass-making industry in the countryside.
The Franks numbered about a quarter of the population of Palestine, over 100,000 out of an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 inhabitants in all,13 further bolstering the Christian character of Palestine, whose rural population was ‘still Christian on the eve of the Crusaders’ conquest’ and whose major city, Jerusalem, ‘was certainly inhabited mainly by Christians during the entire period [of the Muslim occupation]’.14 But during the Arab period some parts of Palestine – eastern Galilee, for example, and also the region on the west bank of the River Jordan around Nablus – had suffered from frequent nomad attacks and depredations, forcing the sedentary farming population to abandon their lands, which were eventually settled by Muslims. The pattern of Frankish settlement was affected by these conditions, the Franks preferring to establish themselves among fellow Christians, founding new sites in Christian neighbourhoods and marrying local Christian women, or even living in the same villages with Eastern Christians and sharing the same churches, but staying away from areas where the population was Muslim and largely intrusive, invaders rather than indigenous converts to Islam.
The Muslims had long failed to involve themselves in the daily lives and culture of the people they regarded as their chattel, the Christians and the Jews who had been ‘tolerated’ as dhimmis under Islamic rule; and they felt the same, even more so, about the Franks. Very few Muslims troubled to learn the languages of the Franks, or indeed were aware that the Franks spoke a variety of languages; instead they lumped them all together as speaking one Frankish tongue. The Arab writer and diplomat Usamah ibn Munqidh contemptuously dismissed them with the remark, ‘These people speak nothing but Frankish; we do not understand what they say.’15 Not that the Arabs chose to understand the Turks, nor the Turks the Arabs; there is very little evidence that they learned the other’s language. Usamah ibn Munqidh underlined the point when he added for good measure that he did not understand Turkish either. As Carole Hillenbrand, one of the leading scholars of the Turkish imperium admits, the effect of this linguistic haughtiness, or ignorance, is to cast doubt on Muslim chronicles of the time in which ‘dialogues in high-sounding Arabic’ are put in the mouths of Turkish commanders and sultans but ‘could never have actually taken place’.16
To the extent that the Muslims verbally acknowledged the Franks, it was to hurl abuse, calling them devils, dogs and pigs, while the Muslim chroniclers could barely write a page about the Franks without resorting to some invective, calling them ‘accursed’ or ‘enemies of God’. Abusive phrases such as ‘may God curse them’ and ‘may God send them to perdition’ run like a litany through Muslim writings about the Franks,17 but the chronicles of those Franks who knew the East are generally free of such abuse towards Muslims. As Fulcher of Chartres observed, Franks did learn Arabic, and Syriac and Armenian too: ‘the one and the other use mutually the speech and the idioms of the different languages’.18 Knowledge of the local languages facilitated trade and allowed the Franks to work with the indigenous population in developing the country through agriculture, road-making, construction works and so on, and also to share in their lives as neighbours and to intermarry. The Franks were successfully establishing a political, social and cultural environment based on the local Christian population, accruing along the way a tolerance and breadth of view that Muslim society ignored. After several hundred years of alien occupation, Outremer was being restored to the Mediterranean world.