Expanding the Kingdom of Jerusalem: Part II

In the early spring of 1101, close to Easter, a Genoese fleet and a Pisan fleet arrived in Jaffa. These sailors came to the Holy Land with the intention of helping King Baldwin defend and expand the Kingdom of Jerusalem. But they also wished to establish trading relations with Outremer (the Holy Land; also known to the Crusaders as the land beyond the sea) and Europe, namely Italy.

For Baldwin, their arrival in Palestine was very timely. Their presence would enable him to capture key port cities. It’s quite possible that Baldwin also saw their presence as a means to grow the kingdom’s economy. So, in exchange for their military aid, Baldwin offered the Italians and Genoese a third of all booty taken – should they successfully capture a city – and semi-independent living and trading quarters within the cities. Eager to earn a handsome profit, the Italians and Genoese accepted Baldwin’s generous offer.

Shortly after Easter, Baldwin decided to lay siege to Arsuf. The Muslim garrison at Arsuf had fiercely resisted a land-based assault by Godfrey in December 1099, but that was because Godfrey had no fleet to aid him. While Baldwin launched a land-based assault, the Genoese and Italians attacked from the sea, effectively cutting the Muslim inhabitants off from all help. Terrified, the Muslim garrison capitulated three days after being besieged. In the days following the brief siege, Baldwin provided all Muslim inhabitants safe passage from the city to Ascalon. They were allowed to carry as many of their belongings as they were able to take. Arsuf was restored to Christian rule without any Christian or Muslim blood being shed, a rare event in those days.

The Muslims at Caesarea were not nearly as lucky as their co-religionists were at Arsuf. But that was because they refused to surrender to the Franks.

Caesarea was an old Greco-Roman port city, situated about 20 miles north of Arsuf. At one time, Caesarea belonged to the Byzantines. Under Byzantine rule, Caesarea flourished economically. Its walls stood tall and strong and its streets were filled with merchants, eager to have a part in the trade with Constantinople. But since the Muslims had captured the city 400 years previous, Caesarea’s walls faded and its port deteriorated until all that remained was a shallow harbor.

Baldwin may not have known of Caesarea’s faltered infrastructure. In his mind, it was a large, wealthy port city and he was determined to have it. Baldwin sent a few messengers (or possibly a letter) to the Emir of Caesarea with the message: capitulate or be besieged. The Emir refused to do so because he was waiting for Egyptian re-enforcements to arrive in Palestine and crush the Latin threat once and for all. No doubt, that Emir believed the Egyptian army would arrive soon. In the meantime, he refused to hand Caesarea over to the enemy.

Outraged by the Emir’s response, Baldwin marched on Caesarea with as big of a force as he was able to muster. No doubt the Italian and Genoese fleets followed his force via sea. Baldwin’s troops bombarded Caesarea’s walls with mangonels, but the Muslim garrison put up a staunch resistance. The siege dragged on for fifteen agonizing days until the Franks breached the walls. At that point, a furious Baldwin showed no mercy to the Muslim inhabitants. His men mercilessly slaughtered Muslim men, enslaved women and children. They also discovered a vast amount of treasure which they took for themselves. “How much property of various kinds was found there it is impossible to say, but many of our men who had been poor became rich. I saw a great many of the Saracens who were killed there put in a pile and burned…these wretches were burned for the sake of finding the gold coins which some had swallowed,” wrote one chronicler (quoted in Asbridge, 123-4).

Following the clean-up of the city, Baldwin made good on his promise to the Genoese and the Italians. The booty and living quarters they received at Arsuf and at Caesarea gave those sailors and merchants reason enough to stay in the Holy Land and conduct business there. Not only would the Italians and the Genoese open up trade with Europe, they would in time, establish a flourishing economy in Outremer.


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Expanding the Kingdom of Jerusalem: Part 1

Although Godfrey laid the foundation for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, when Baldwin became king, the kingdom consisted of no more than Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramla, Tiberius and the maritime cities Haifa and Jaffa. Though the possession of these two maritime cities opened up communications with the West, they had no harbor where ships could make port. Not to mention, the tiny kingdom was surrounded by Muslims who could, at any time if they willed it, rise up and destroy the new Christian Kingdom.

The Franks’ saving grave was the divisions that tore apart the Muslim world. That was ultimately what kept the Kingdom of Jerusalem and its Christian inhabitants alive. But Baldwin still faced the problem of how he was going to expand the Kingdom of Jerusalem with such a small army. According to Fulcher of Chartres, the Christian army had no more than 300 knights and about as many foot soldiers. That total number came to less than a thousand warriors. To add to their predicament, most pilgrim routes in Palestine were unsafe. According to one pilgrim, the road between Jaffa and Jerusalem “was very dangerous…because the Saracens are continuously plotting an ambush…day and night always keeping a lookout for someone to attack (quoted in Asbridge, 122). Human corpses littered that road, rotting and torn apart by wild animals. No one dared to give them a proper Christian burial because they feared for their own lives.

Baldwin quickly realized that, in order to expand the kingdom, he needed to do more than just raid the countryside. He needed to capture the key maritime ports and secure all of the pilgrim routes, especially the one that wound over the Judean hills between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

Almost immediately after his coronation, Baldwin learnt that a large group of Arab nomads had settled in the Trans-Jordan region. These nomads included women, children, tents, horses, mules, camels and undoubtedly vast amounts of treasure. Wasting no time, Baldwin assembled a small force and rode out until they came within site of the Arab camp. Adopting Arab strategy, the Franks hid in the bushes and waited until nightfall. Then they attacked. Only a few sheiks managed to escape. Not many Arabs were killed in that attack, but most of them were taken as prisoners. The Franks also gained an immense amount of booty through the capture of this roaming Arab city.

Among the prisoners was a young, pregnant woman who was the wife of a wealthy sheik – one of the sheiks who had managed to escape. At that time, she was ready to give birth. Filled with compassion for her, Baldwin set her up in a large tent (her own tent) that had many pillows for comfort. He then ordered servants to tend to her throughout her labor and to her new born child after it was born. Baldwin even gave the woman his robe. Fortunately for the mother and baby, the father returned for them. When he found his wife in a large tent, unharmed and comfortable, he was profoundly grateful to the Christian king for sparing her life, his child’s life and her dignity. From that day forth, the sheik swore an oath of loyalty to Baldwin and paid homage to the Christian king by paying an annual tribute.

This event was one of a few cases where Baldwin extracted submission from Arabs without much (or even no) bloodshed.


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Interview With Author Helena Schrader: Knight of Jerusalem



     1.  What inspired you to write about Balian d’Ibelin?

The Ridley Scott film Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom. Although it was a beautiful piece of cinematography, as a historian I was immediately suspicious that most of it was pure “Hollywood” so I did a quick check on “Balian d’Ibelin” — only to discover to my amazement that some of the most unlikely parts of the film were historical fact but also that the historical Balian had a far more interesting story than Scott’s Hollywood Balian. The more I read about the real Balian, the more fascinated I became. I was soon hooked. I started out to write a single book biography and within nine months knew the story was too complex to handle in a single volume, hence the biography in three parts.

  1. What is it about this time in history – the Crusades – that you find most fascinating?

The fact that it was a period of rapid cultural, artistic and economic development based on cross-fertilization of cultures. That gives the age so much vibrancy and color. I also think I’m attracted to the fact that the Crusades have been misrepresented in popular literature for so long. Scholars have long since refuted the notion of the crusaders being “barbarians” and the Saracens being culturally or intellectually more advanced. Certainly scholars always knew the Crusades were a reaction to Muslim conquests of Christian territory and that the Muslims were anything but “tolerant” of non-believers — no more than now. (Jihad was not invented in the 21st century! It comes directly from the Koran and Salah-ad-Din himself, like his predecessor, used the term to describe his campaigns against the crusader states.) Yet to this very day, most novels set during the crusades portray the Saracens as refined and educated, even tolerant and open-minded, while the crusaders are made into bigoted brutes. Worse, some political commentators are now justifying the barbarism of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) with the fact that they’re “just making up for the crusades.” Really? Didn’t Salah-ad-Din and Baibars and all the other Muslim leaders that destroyed, slaughtered and enslaved the inhabitants of the crusader states already do that?

Last but not least, I confess that I also love the setting — the Mediterranean. I love the climate, the vegetation, the architecture, the food, the wine, the colors…

  1. Knight of Jerusalem is part 1 in a 3-part series. Can you tell readers a little bit about volume 2?

The series is a biography of Balian d’Ibelin. Book I (Knight of Jerusalem) covers his youth, and ends just shortly after his scandalously advantageous marriage to the Dowager Queen of Jerusalem. Book II (Defender of Jerusalem) covers the critical period in which Balian, as Baron d’Ibelin, played a key role in the defense of the embattled Kingdom of Jerusalem (1178 – 1187), including the disastrous Battle of Hattin and Balian’s role in the defense of the City of Jerusalem against Salah-ad-Din in 1187. It ends with the surrender of the Holy City. The final book in the series (title still TBD but possibly Envoy of Jerusalem or Emissary of Jerusalem), describes the important role Balian played in the struggle to salvage something of the crusader kingdoms from defeat, especially his role in negotiating a truce with Salah-ad-Din for Richard the Lionheart.

  1. What do you enjoy most about writing?

The way my characters take me to new worlds and new insights. When I sit down to write, I never really know where I will end up. I am at the mercy of my characters, who dictate where every scene goes. All I do is decide the starting point and then I switch my mind from “send” to “receive” and let my characters guide me.

  1. What marketing strategy works best for you?

Well, I’m not exactly an internationally best-selling novelist, so I’m not sure I’ve discovered what marketing strategies work for me. What I do know is that a lot of tactics routinely suggested by media advisors have not worked for me. Because my books do not have a strong local connection (and I’m living on the other side of the world from my own roots), no local bookstore or library has any reason to organize a “book signing.” And they are absolutely right! Why should many people in my home town care about the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th century? There are lots of people interested in the topic, but they are scattered all over the world. Hence, it makes much more sense for me to market my books exclusively on the internet. Fortunately, using print-on-demand and ebook technology, I don’t have to sell 5,000 books in three weeks to prevent my book from being pulled off shelves and ditched from catalogues. I can afford to wait for readers to find it slowly. But with a 100 new books published each day, how are readers supposed to know my books are even out there? The best method I’ve found to date is straight forward advertising on platforms like Goodreads and on blogs focused on historical fiction.

Another marketing tactic that seems to work is having a blog with serious, related content: In this case, my blog Defending the Crusader Kingdoms. On my blog I write short essays about the Crusades, the crusader kingdoms, key personalities, crusader art and architecture and more, as well as reviews of books on the Crusades and novels set in the period. And of course it has ads for my books as well.

  1. What advice do you have for new authors in terms of writing, publishing and marketing?

First, if you don’t have something you passionately want to write about, don’t. I can’t stand people who want to be writers but have nothing to say. Second, if you have a great idea for a book, then write it — but don’t expect everyone to share your passion. Third, once you write a book, get it edited and share it with strangers in order to get realistic feed-back. If you get consistently positive feed-back, then publish it, but be sure you invest great care and effort into making your publication a masterpiece with no typos and spelling errors (that means get it professionally edited at least three times!). Hire a professional cover designer and then be prepared to spend as much time marketing your book as you did writing it. Last but not least, do not expect to make money from publishing. It happens — once in million times.

  1. Where can readers find Knight of Jerusalem?

It is listed on both amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Baldwin Crowned Baldwin I of Jerusalem

William of Tyre described Baldwin as “a man who loved work and disdained idleness” (quoted in Malcolm Barber, 63). That was because Baldwin felt the need to unite the kingdom under his authority. Only then, Baldwin realized, would the kingdom of Jerusalem thrive. A thriving kingdom also meant more money in his coffers, a commodity Baldwin was always striving to gain more of.

Just six days after his arrival in Jerusalem, Baldwin assembled a small force and embarked on a raiding campaign that would last for one month. He harassed the Muslim inhabitants at Ascalon into submission, securing the pilgrim routes in the process. Baldwin then marched east and raided the countryside – and possibly attacked caravans – around Hebron and the Dead Sea. Baldwin and his force marched and raided as far south as Wadi Musa, about 50 miles south of the Dead Sea. Not only did Baldwin gain lots of treasure and provisions from these raids, he exacted tribute from the Muslims in the areas he raided.

Baldwin returned to Jerusalem on December 21, 1100, feeling more secure in his position as king. Daimbert, in an act of submission, crowned and anointed Baldwin as the first official king of Jerusalem on December 25th. The coronation ceremony took place at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, a church built on the very site where Christ had been born. Given the religious significance of the day and of the occasion, the Church of Nativity was decorated with all the finery the kingdom was able to buy. It should be noted that most, if not all of the relics and tapestries were in Greek Orthodox origin and style. Though, the Franks at that time did not seem to care. In fact, Baldwin dressed in Eastern Christian fashion: his clothes were of a fine material and woven with gold. He also carried with him a shield made of gold (Rita Stark, 33). This was what kings were meant to look like, Baldwin thought. To him, a public display of wealth was not meant to be done out of vanity, but to show courage and ability, two characteristics important to proper government.

In the months following Baldwin’s coronation, all resistance to his authority melted away. Tancred, Baldwin’s bitter enemy, refused to acknowledge Baldwin as his king. At that time, Tancred governed the Principality of Galilee. Fortunately for both men and for the kingdom, messengers from Antioch arrived in Galilee, requesting audience with Tancred. Antioch had been without a governor since the summer of 1100 and was in desperate need of one. Since Tancred was Bohemond’s nephew and a capable military leader, he was the man for the job. Seeing this as a way out of Baldwin’s realm of authority, Tancred jumped at the opportunity and made his way to Antioch in the spring of 1101.

As for Daimbert, the amount of support bestowed upon Baldwin by the majority of the Christians living in the new kingdom rendered Daimbert powerless. So, he retreated to the small Mount Zion monastery where he took to reading and writing books. It’s most likely he also planned his next course of action: how he would re-align the Kingdom of Jerusalem in favor of the Latin Church. But Baldwin was not a man who could easily be pushed around. He also refused to submit to the Church. In the months following his coronation, Baldwin worked on re-aligning the Catholic Church – including the eastern sects as well – in his favor.

Later in the year 1101, Daimbert was deposed when Baldwin discovered he had kept for himself a large portion of money sent from Apulia to fund the Kingdom of Jerusalem. What happened to Daimbert after that is unknown; what we do know is that his reputation was permanently ruined and, because of that, his wealth dwindled.


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Baldwin of Boulogne: Next King of Jerusalem

In the summer of 1100 Godfrey of Bouillon lay on his bed, dying. He had fallen ill after he had feasted on oranges while dining with the Muslim emir of Caesarea. After saying his last rites, Godfrey passed away on July 18th. There was suspicion that Godfrey had been poisoned, but given that the summer of 1100 was exceptionally hot, he most likely contracted typhoid.

During his short reign, Godfrey had established and maintained friendly relations with the neighbouring Muslim groups. With the help of Daimbert, who Godfrey had elected as Patriarch of Jerusalem in December 1099 (Godfrey turned on Arnulf in favor of Daimbert), Godfrey had forced the Muslim-held coastal cities of Arsuf, Acre and Caesarea into paying an annual tribute to him. Even though Godfrey never conquered those coastal cities — his force was much too small to do so — the tribute he received from the Muslim emirs filled the kingdom’s coffers. Also, the presence of a Pisan fleet on the Palestinian coast strengthened the kingdom militarily and made it more secure.

Though after his death, everything Godfrey accomplished for the Kingdom of Jerusalem almost came undone. The Kingdom of Jerusalem needed a new king immediately. Godfrey’s younger brother Baldwin of Boulogne was heir to the throne. Since Godfrey had no sons, he undoubtedly bequeathed the kingdom to Baldwin. Unfortunately, as always, men’s unchecked ambitions got in the way. Daimbert aspired to have Jerusalem become an ecclesiastical state, ruled by the patriarch. Since he was patriarch, he would be the man to rule the Kingdom of Jerusalem; an ambition Daimbert wished to fulfill.

To the north, in Syria, Bohemond fostered his own ambitions: he expelled the Greek patriarch in Antioch and appointed a Latin one in his place. Bohemond’s quest for greater wealth and prestige expanded beyond the boundaries of Antioch. He aspired to be the next king of Jerusalem. However, during a campaign on Antioch’s northern frontier in July 1100, Bohemond was captured by a force of Anatolian Turks and taken to a castle deep into the Anatolian mountains where he would spend the next three years in prison.

Bohemond’s captivity alleviated the crisis in Jerusalem, but Daimbert had some powerful adversaries. While Daimbert took part in the siege of Haifa with Tancred, Arnulf of Chocques and Geldemar Carpinel seized the Tower of David — the seat of royal authority — and sent messengers to summon Baldwin to Jerusalem.

The messengers reached Edessa sometime in the middle of September 1100. Fulcher of Chartres, Baldwin’s chaplain and close friend wrote; “He (Baldwin) was conveniently sad about his brother’s death, but more joyful about the heritage received” (quoted in Rita Stark, 31). Baldwin’s reaction to the news of his brother’s death came as no surprise given how ambitious he was.

For a man in his mid-thirties, Baldwin was exceptionally handsome. He was taller than Godfrey and robust in stature. His hair and beard were dark brown and his skin, quite fair. Baldwin’s physical appearance and air of confidence made him fit to be king. Most Franks already acknowledged Baldwin as their king because they firmly believed he would be the man to expand the Kingdom of Jerusalem geographically and financially.

As predicted and expected, Baldwin readily accepted the title of king. Besides, he had yet to fulfill his vows and what better way to fulfill them as the kingdom’s new leader. But first, he had to make sure Edessa remained under Latin control and that it was economically stable and well garrisoned. Baldwin recognized prudence, ambition and military might in his cousin, Baldwin le Bourq. So, he handed the county over to Baldwin le Bourq on condition that Baldwin would recognize Baldwin of Boulogne as his overlord. Since the two men had good relations, this was a task Baldwin le Bourq embraced.

After settling the county’s affairs, Baldwin set out for Jerusalem with a reasonably sized force. Historians differ over the size of Baldwin’s force. Thomas Asbridge suggests Baldwin’s force consisted of 200 knights and 700 infantrymen. Rita Stark, on the other hand, wrote that Baldwin left Edessa with 400 knights and a thousand infantrymen. Regardless how large Baldwin’s force was, he was well equipped and prepared because he knew how treacherous the journey would be.

It was early October when Baldwin left Edessa. He travelled overland via Antioch. Fortunately for Baldwin, since Bohemond was held in captivity, the Christians of Antioch welcomed him warmly. Though, Baldwin did not stay long in Antioch. After spending three days, resting and stocking up on provisions, Baldwin resumed the march south.

Meanwhile, Duqaq of Damascus must have found out about Baldwin’s march to Jerusalem because he sent a large Turkish force ahead of the Frankish host to the Dog River in Lebanon. There, the Turks hid in the surrounding forest in wait for the Franks. They could have annihilated Baldwin’s force had not one traitor within their ranks told Baldwin about the impending attack.

The Franks managed to beat off the Muslim force. They then hurried down the Palestinian coastline, Baldwin anxious to get to Jerusalem and be crowned king before the scheming Daimbert took that opportunity away from him. He arrived in Jerusalem on November 9th, greeted by throngs of cheering Latins, Greeks and Syrians. Baldwin’s arrival in Jerusalem was immediately followed by extensive celebrations. While the tiny kingdom celebrated, Baldwin planned on how he would expand the kingdom of Jerusalem while keeping the Muslim threat at bay.

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Kingdom of Heaven: Fact vs. Myth

My passion for the History of the Crusades was ignited in the fall of 2005 when I first saw the film, Kingdom of Heaven in one of UNBC’s few spacious theatre-type classrooms. I enjoyed that movie so much, I put it at the top of my Christmas wish-list. Much to my delight, I held a copy of Kingdom of Heaven in my hands on Christmas morning that year.

Ever since then, I’ve watched Kingdom of Heaven several times over. I was so much in awe of the historical time and place the movie captures, and of the characters, Balian d’Ibelin, Baldwin the Leper King and Salah-ad-Din. Curious to know more about 12th century Palestine and whether Kingdom of Heaven was based purely on fact or fiction, I did extensive research on this subject matter. I discovered that, while Ridley Scott – the producer of Kingdom of Heaven – was accurate in some areas, he missed the mark in so many other areas.

Here below are the historical facts that Ridley Scott did stick to.

– The Christian army was utterly crushed at the Battle of Hattin in July 1187.

– Salah-ad-Din then marched on Jerusalem; laid siege to the Holy City and captured it in 1187. Unlike the First Crusaders, Salah-ad-Din spared the Christians from slaughter. Thanks to his good relations with Balian d’Ibelin and to his own skills as negotiator. Unfortunately, Salah-ad-Din also took thousands of Christians as slaves as those unfortunate people were unable to pay the fee necessary to buy their freedom.

– Balian d’Ibelin defended Jerusalem and the people within its walls.

– Jerusalem didn’t have a strong garrison. Balian and a few of his knights – ones who escaped the slaughter at Hattin — were the only men capable of defending the city, so Balian knighted all men he thought were capable of bearing arms.

– Guy de Lusignan did in fact marry Princess Sybilla and he was arrogant, foolish and incredibly ignorant: he knew nothing about Levantine politics and military strategy.

– Reynald de Chatillon was a ruthless, bloodthirsty adventurer. He mercilessly attacked Arab caravans even after King Baldwin negotiated a 2-year truce with Salah-ad-Din. While Reynald terrified Muslim pilgrims, his actions aided the destruction of the Kingdom of Jerusalem because they gave the Arabs a valid reason to rally behind Salah-ad-Din in the spirit of Jihad.

– Guy de Lusignan was captured and held captive following the capture of Jerusalem.

– After the Battle of Hattin ended, Salah-ad-Din had Reynald slain in front of Guy after Reynald took a cup of water that was meant for Guy to drink.

– King Baldwin was a leper. Whether he wore a mask is unknown. No doubt he did given his royal status.

– Balian was well-liked and highly respected by his fellow men-at-arms, including – and especially – by King Baldwin.

Now, here is where Ridley Scott strayed from the path of historical accuracy and entered into the realm of fiction in order to appeal to many people.

– In the film, Balian is a blacksmith who meets his estranged father (Godfrey) and moves from Europe to the Holy Land to fight for the Cross. The real Balian d’Ibelin was born in Palestine; the third son of the nobleman Barison d’Ibelin.

– The film Balian had a wife who committed suicide after her child died at birth. In Jerusalem, he met Princess Sybilla and fell in love with her. The real Balian married the Dowager Queen Maria Comnena (widow of the former King Amalric I) and had four children with her. It was Baldwin, Balian’s older brother, who had a love affair with Princess Sybilla.

– In the film, Balian was portrayed as an agnostic. He constantly questioned his faith and even doubted Christianity. He was also somewhat of a wimp. The only time he showed any courage was when he defended Jerusalem near the end of the movie. The real Balian was deeply Christian and chivalrous. His marriage to Queen Maria was as close to a love match as marriage was in those days (in medieval times, marriage was seldom based on love). Yet, he was courageous; a lion in battle and merciless when necessity compelled.

– In the film, Balian stayed in Jerusalem while the rest of the Christian army was annihilated under the horns of Hattin. He willingly defended the Holy City against Salah-ad-Din’s numerically superior army. In truth, Balian fought at the Battle of Hattin and was lucky enough to escape.  After learning that his wife and children were in Jerusalem, Balian negotiated with Salah-ad-Din the safe conduct of his family out of the Holy City. He had no intention of defending the Holy City. He only stayed and defended Jerusalem because the people there begged him to do so.

– The film version of Baldwin IV sought peace with Salah-ad-Din. The real Baldwin IV was not the peace-loving leper king that Ridley Scott desired him to be: like all medieval men, Baldwin was deeply religious and ardently committed to the defense and preservation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Watch the video above.

– The film Sybilla was kind, honest, yet meek. The real Sybilla was a frivolous, arrogant brat who was incredibly lustful. Ridley’s Sybilla also disliked and – to a point – feared Guy. The real Sybilla was head-over-heels in love with Guy.

– In the film, Templars were hung for taking part in Reynald’s bloody raids on Arab caravans. Also, Reynald was a Templar himself. In reality, the Knights Templar was a religious order that swore their fealty to the Pope and only the Pope. No secular order, including the King of Jerusalem, had any authority over them. Yet, the King relied heavily on them for the defense of the Kingdom because they were the fiercest fighters of all the warriors.

The real Reynald of Chatillon was not a Templar although he was an ally of the Templars. He was a lord, albeit not a well-liked one.

– In the film, Salah-ad-Din and the Muslims in general are portrayed as a peaceful-loving people who were hard done by the Christians. That is completely inaccurate. There were several moments in time between the First Crusade and the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 when Christians and Muslims lived with and worked together peacefully. In fact, as Salah-ad-Din worked hard to unite Islam in the latter half of the 12th century, political and social divisions within the Kingdom of Jerusalem tore the kingdom apart, leaving it vulnerable to its enemies. Muslim-Christian tensions heated up once again, but that time, the Christians were on the defensive.

– At the end of the film, after Salah-ad-Din captured Jerusalem, he found a cross lying on the floor of the Royal Palace. He placed that cross respectfully on a table. In reality, Salah-ad-Din and his followers had no love or respect for the Christian faith. They dragged the True Cross through the streets of Jerusalem.

It would have been nice if Ridley Scott had followed the history of the film’s setting much more closely and portrayed the characters’ as how they really were, or as best as he was able to. Regardless, Kingdom of Heaven is an enjoyable movie. Despite the fictional elements, it captures all the color, drama and bloodshed of the times.




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Outrage in the Crusader Camp

Bohemond’s control over Antioch was not secure. Not only did he have to prepare for future potential attacks by the Turks, Bohemond knew the Emperor Alexius deeply resented him for keeping Antioch for himself. There was no shadow of a doubt Alexius wanted to take back Antioch. Alexius managed the strongest fleet in the eastern Mediterranean waters. His imperial troops also controlled two strategic maritime places: Cyprus and Latakia, a port city located just south of Antioch. For those reasons, it wouldn’t take much effort for Alexius to capture Antioch.

Bohemond had every reason to be afraid. He planned to march south and lay siege to Latakia, but he had no fleet. An attempt to lay siege to Latakia without naval support would be futile, so Bohemond put off his war plans until help arrived from the west.

Daimbert’s arrival in the port near Antioch came at the perfect time. Relieved, Bohemond welcomed Daimbert and the Pisan sailors and immediately struck up a friendship with Daimbert. In return, Daimbert promised Bohemond every form of assistance he was able – or willing – to offer. So, Bohemond proposed the following to Daimbert: he would raise an army and attack Latakia by land while Daimbert and the Pisans attacked it by sea. Daimbert readily agreed. Soon after their plans were consolidated, their combined forces set out for Latakia.

Neither Bohemond nor Daimbert anticipated they would come across Count Raymond, the two Roberts and all their troops returning from Jerusalem. Or rather, they had not anticipated the vehement opposition from their fellow crusaders.

The crusaders – those who had fulfilled their vows at Jerusalem – were outraged by Daimbert’s and Bohemond’s actions. They realized the capture of Latakia would permanently destroy Byzantine-Latin relations, something the Franks could not afford, especially since the Byzantines conducted safe passage for Franks travelling to and from Europe and the Middle East via sea. They also thought it was despicable for a papal legate to begin his vocation in the Holy Land waging war against fellow Christians.

Daimbert was summoned to the crusader camp at Jabala where he was severely berated for his actions. Realizing his wrongs – or more probable – fearful of being stripped of his title, Daimbert called off the Pisan blockade. Without Pisan help, Bohemond was not able to continue the siege, so he was forced to surrender.

Count Raymond and the two Roberts entered Latakia where they planted the imperial standard, a move that assured the Greeks of their continued allegiance to the emperor. Raymond planted the banner of Toulouse next to that of the imperial standard. His reasons for doing that are not known. It’s likely Raymond did that to publicly display his friendship with the emperor Alexius, but the fact that he stayed in Latakia while the two Roberts returned to Europe suggests that his actions were more superficial than sincere.

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Daimbert: Quest for Riches

Upon hearing of Bishop Adhemar’s death, Pope Urban searched for a new spiritual leader to take Adhemar’s place in the Holy Land. Shortly before his death, Urban elected Daimbert, Archbishop of Pisa. In doing so, Urban undid his policy for Holy War and Christian settlement in the Holy Land. Daimbert shared Urban’s interest in the Holy Land and was ardently interested in Church affairs, but he was incredibly ambitious and dishonest.

When Daimbert served as Urban’s legate in Spain at King Alfonso VI’s court in 1098, he rigorously re-established and organized churches re-conquered from the Moors (Runciman, 299). But it was discovered afterwards that Daimbert had kept a large portion of the treasure King Alfonso VI had sent to Pope Urban. How Urban and King Alfonso overlooked that misgiving is unknown. It’s quite possible they didn’t find out about it until after Daimbert set out for the Holy Land.

Accompanied by a Pisan fleet, Daimbert set sail from Italy sometime in 1098. Their relationship with each other was a use-use relationship: Daimbert used the Pisans as a tool to strengthen and consolidate his power; the Pisans used him to enhance their own power in the budding maritime trade between Europe and the Middle East. It was a win-win situation for everyone. Problem was; their actions further strained the fragile relations between Byzantium and the Christian west.

En route to the Holy Land, Daimbert and the Pisans decided to find a quick path to riches. So, they raided the Byzantine-held islands, Heptannese, Corfu, Leucas, Cephalonia and Zante (Runciman, 299). They gained an immense amount of treasure, food supplies and other provisions through those raids, but word of their misconduct reached the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus in Constantinople. Alexius sent a fleet, commanded by Tatikios and an Italian born sailor, Landulf, after the Pisans. The Byzantines intercepted the Pisans near Rhodes, but a storm blew up and the Pisans managed to slip away.

The Pisans attempted to enter port in Cyprus where they most likely planned another raid. This time though, they were driven away by the Greek Governor, Philocales. Humiliated, the Pisans sailed on to the Holy Land. Meanwhile, the Byzantine fleet put into port at Cyprus.

Alexius had ordered Tatikios to punish Latins for committing the act of piracy so long as the punishments weren’t so severe, they’d destroy Byzantium’s relations with the Catholic west. But Tatikios hadn’t successfully captured any of the Pisans involved in the plunder of Byzantine-held territory and he wasn’t sure how to deal with the situation.

After consulting with the Cypriot governor and the Byzantine general, Butumites, it was agreed that Tatikios would sail to Antioch and conduct an interview with Bohemond. However, Bohemond refused to receive Tatikios and the other Greek ambassadors. Feeling defeated and insulted, Tatikios returned with the Byzantine fleet to Constantinople.

Part 2: Outrage in the Crusader Camp will be posted Tuesday, January 13th.

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7 Myths About the Middle Ages

The Siege of Jerusalem 1099

The Siege of Jerusalem 1099

The Middle Ages as we know them spanned from 700 – 1500 AD. This period in history was colorful and vibrant in many ways, yet dark and ruthless in other ways. Unfortunately scholars and other popular authors of the early Modern Era (17th and 18th centuries) had focused on the ‘dark’ side of the Middle Ages, blaming their ancestors for being too violent, dirty, ignorant and Catholic. That is, too religious and not Christian. Sadly many people to this day uphold the beliefs of our early modern counterparts, even though those beliefs are false.

There are several myths about the Middle Ages; all of them have been written about and published online, but I have decided to cover seven myths that stand out to me the most.

  1. People never bathed.

The belief that medieval people never – or seldom – bathed continues to live on. It’s probably the most widely known myth about the Middle Ages. Medieval people did bathe; they bathed quite often actually. Bathing was not a luxury that only noblemen and women had access to either.

In those days, personal hygiene and cleanliness was considered as next to godliness. Most towns in medieval Europe and in the Levant (Holy Land) had public bathhouses. Bathing was even incorporated into important ceremonies. It’s quite possible that kings and the wealthiest nobles had their own private bath tub. Bathing in hot water was just as common back then as it is today. The only difference; the medieval people had to manually heat their water.

  1. The Death penalty was common and extremely harsh.

The death penalty in the Middle Ages was not nearly as common or as harsh as it was in the early modern period. In fact, the jury and trial system of today is based on that of the Middle Ages. Execution was reserved only for serious crimes: murder, treason and arson. Prior to the 1500s, hanging was the only form of execution and it was done in public.

Though seldom if ever were warriors hung for acts of murder, rape and arson following the capture of a city. Also, during the time of the Crusades, it wasn’t uncommon for criminals to be sent off to the Holy Land to fight for the cross as penance for their sins.

  1. Dungeons were located in the underground compartments of a castle.

Everyone is quite familiar with the cold, damp, dirty and dimly lit dungeon where prisoners were kept and tortured. That’s the image we’ve all seen on television and film. In reality, dungeons (from the French word ‘donjon’) were located in the tallest tower of the castle. That’s where prisoners were kept.

4.  Peasant life was harsh.

Everyone is taught in high school that the life of a peasant in medieval times was less than ideal. According to popular belief, medieval peasants, who worked from dawn to dusk tilling the fields, had little to eat and wore torn and dirty rags. Although peasants worked hard — often harder than the lords whose lands they tilled — they also played hard. They took part in religious and secular festivals; they danced, drank, played games and held tournaments.

Although peasants couldn’t afford to wear richly colored silk robes and dresses, they weren’t confined to old, tattered clothing. Their clothing was plain, but decent and clean. Peasants undoubtedly took the same care for their clothing and personal hygiene as did noblemen and women.

  1. The rich ate well while the poor starved.

In medieval times, the rich did indeed eat well, but not at the expense of the poor. While noble families had access to spices and a greater variety of meat, peasants and laymen had fresh porridge, bread and beer on a daily basis. They also ate an assortment of cured meant, poultry, fruit and vegetables, the portion of their labour. Some peasants had bee hives just so they could sweeten their daily diet with honey.

  1. Women were oppressed

We all know from literature that women – especially those women from noble and royal families — in the Middle Ages did not have the same amount of freedom as women do today. Noble and royal women were married as early as age 12 or 13 and they had no say in the choosing of their partner. Women were considered the property of their husbands and if they rebuked, belittled or argued with their husbands, they were given a beating. While this happened in some households, not all women were that badly oppressed.

Noble women brought to the marriage vast estates and large amounts of treasure, two resources that automatically granted them a degree of authority and autonomy. They managed their estates and the people who worked them alongside their husbands. When the men went off to war, which was often the case in medieval Europe, women managed their households alone.

It also wasn’t entirely uncommon for women to fight on the battlefields alongside their male counterparts. Joan of Arc is the most prominent example of the female warrior.

  1. Following the capture of Jerusalem in 1099, the crusaders massacred nearly every person who lived in the city

Modern day apologists for the crusades insist that the Christians slaughtered most, if not all of Jerusalem’s inhabitants following their capture of the Holy City in 1099. This is a myth, yet many people continue to uphold it as the Gospel truth. There is no denying that the crusaders were violent; they slaughtered about 3,000 people after they took Jerusalem. Although that is a large number, that figure does not represent all of the people who had lived in Jerusalem at that time. Several Muslims and Jews managed to escape. In fact, the crusaders took a great many Jews – and possibly Muslims – as slaves and then had those slaves rebuild Jerusalem.

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Godfrey of Bouillon: Little Known Facts

Historians credit Baldwin of Bouillon (later Baldwin I) as being the first ‘real’ king of Jerusalem. That was because Baldwin worked and fought tirelessly to expand Christian domination in Palestine. The other reason why Godfrey has often been overlooked by many modern historians is because he died in the summer of 1100, just one year after he accepted the title ‘Defender of the Holy Sepulcher’; not a long time to accomplish much for the Kingdom of Jerusalem. But Godfrey’s short reign is too significant to be ignored. There are two little known facts about Godfrey of Bouillon and his reign that make it important to the foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Tancred helped Godfrey expand the Kingdom of Jerusalem

Despite the mistakes he made regards to his treatment of Count Raymond and regards to the loss of Ascalon, Godfrey laid the foundations for which Baldwin built on. He also had the loyalty of Tancred; a young man who had much tenacity, vigor and prowess. Although Tancred fought to obtain a lordship for himself, he had much more integrity than his uncle Bohemond. Under Godfrey’s command, Tancred expanded the new Kingdom: he conquered Galilee and received Genesareth as a fief. Tancred also captured the port of Haifa from the Egyptians. Adopting Muslim war tactics, Tancred led raids into enemy territory. Every raid ended victoriously for Tancred and made him and the Kingdom of Jerusalem wealthy from the booty they obtained. The capture of Haifa was also a significant victory for the crusaders because it opened up communications with the west.

The Muslims deeply admired Godfrey

Interestingly, Muslim-Christian relations during Godfrey’s reign weren’t completely ruined by warfare. They were actually cordial. Given how fractured the Muslim world was at that time, there is no doubt that some Muslim groups sought an alliance with the Franks. But the Arabs were also deeply impressed by the Franks’ courage and prowess in battle. They were particularly impressed with Godfrey’s pious and contrite personality. During the siege of Arsuf, sheiks brought a variety of goods to Godfrey to pay tribute to their new overlord. They were surprised to see how simply Godfrey dressed. “This redoubtable prince, who had come from so far to create a disturbance among them…satisfied with such a modest apparel, without rugs or silk drapes and without a royal attire,” wrote one Arab chronicler (quoted in Rita Stark, 26).

When questioned about his lack of royal finery, Godfrey responded; “Man must remember that his is nothing but dust and will return to dust” (Rita Stark, 26). The Arabs were filled with so much admiration for Godfrey; they sought greater interaction with the Franks. They had also learnt of Godfrey’s legendary strength and wanted to witness it for themselves.

One Bedouin lord wished to see Godfrey, so accompanied by a small force, he rode out to meet the Frankish lord. Upon greeting Godfrey, the Arab bowed deeply before him and then presented Godfrey with a large camel. He asked Godfrey if he was truly capable of cutting off the head of a camel with one stroke of his sword. In response, Godfrey drew his sword and struck the camel in the thickest part of his neck, slicing off the head, making the task look as easy as slicing a loaf of bread in half. Amazed, the Arab gave Godfrey his finest collection of glass ware (Rita Stark, 26).

This little known act proves that there were times when Christians and Muslims laid aside their differences and got along. It was in those moments, when they stripped away the layers of religion, Muslims and Christians alike realized that they were the same. Yet, as great as relations were with some Arab lords, Godfrey probably wouldn’t have been able to expand his kingdom – God’s kingdom – without Tancred’s help.


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