County of Edessa

From Academic Kids

The County of Edessa was one of the Crusader states in the 12th century, based around a city with an ancient history and an early tradition of Christianity (see Edessa). The County of Edessa was different from the other Crusader states in that it was landlocked. It was remote from the other states and was not on particularly good terms with its closest neighbor, the Principality of Antioch. Half of the county, including its capital, was located to the east of the Euphrates and hence far to the east of the others. The part west of the Euphrates was controlled from the stronghold of Turbessel.

In 1098, Baldwin of Boulogne left the main Crusading army which was travelling south towards Antioch and Jerusalem, and went first south into Cilicia, then east to Edessa. There, he convinced its lord, Thoros, to adopt him as a son and heir. Thoros was a Greek Orthodox, and was disliked by his Armenian Orthodox subjects; he was soon assassinated, although it is unknown if Baldwin had any part in this. In any case, Baldwin became the new ruler, taking the title of Count (having been a count when his brother's vassal in Verdun).

In 1100, Baldwin became king of Jerusalem when his brother Godfrey died. The County of Edessa passed to his cousin Baldwin of Bourcq. He was joined by Joscelin of Courtenay, who became lord of the fortress of Turbessel on the Euphrates, an important outpost against the Seljuk Turks.

The Frankish lords formed a good rapport with their Armenian subjects, and there were frequent intermarriages; the first three Counts all married Armenians. Count Baldwin's wife had died in Maraş in 1097, and after he succeeded to Edessa he married Arda, a granddaughter of the Armenian Roupenid chief Constantine. Baldwin of Bourcq married Morphia, a daughter of Gabriel of Melitene, and Joscelin of Courtenay married a daughter of Constantine.

Baldwin II quickly became involved in the affairs of northern Syria and Asia Minor. He helped secure the ransom of Bohemund I of Antioch from the Danishmends in 1103, and, with Antioch, attacked the Byzantine Empire in Cilicia in 1104. Later in 1104, Edessa was attacked by Mosul, and both Baldwin and Joscelin were taken prisoner when they were defeated at the Battle of Harran. Bohemund's brother Tancred became regent in Edessa, until Baldwin and Joscelin were ransomed in 1107. However, Baldwin had to fight to regain control of the city; Tancred was eventually defeated, though Baldwin had to ally with some of the local Muslim rulers.

In 1110, all lands east of the Euphrates were lost to Mawdud of Mosul; however, like the other attacks, this one was not followed by an assault on Edessa itself, as the Muslim rulers were more concerned with consolidating their own power.

Baldwin II became King of Jerusalem (also as Baldwin II) when Baldwin I died in 1118. Although Eustace of Boulogne had a better claim as late Baldwin's brother, he was in France and did not want the title. Edessa was given to Joscelin in 1119. Joscelin was taken prisoner once again in 1122; when Baldwin came to rescue him, he too was captured, and Jerusalem was left without its king. However, Joscelin escaped in 1123, and obtained Baldwin's release the next year.

Joscelin was killed in battle in 1131 and was succeeded by his son Joscelin II. By this time, however, Zengi had united Aleppo and Mosul and began to threaten Edessa; meanwhile, Joscelin II paid little attention to the security of his county, and argued with the counts of Tripoli who then refused to come to his aid. Zengi besieged the city in 1144, capturing it on December 24 of that year. Joscelin continued to rule his lands west of the Euphrates, and he also managed to take advantage of the death of Zengi in September 1146 to regain and hold briefly his old capital. The city was again lost in November, and Joscelin barely escaped. In 1150 he was captured, and was kept a prisoner in Aleppo until he died in 1159. His wife sold Turbessel and what was left of the County to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus, but it was captured by Nur ad-Din and the Sultan of Rum within the year. Edessa was the first Crusader state to be captured, and also the first to be lost.

Edessa was one of the largest of the Crusader states in terms of territory. However, it was one of the smallest, by population. Edessa itself had about 10 000 inhabitants, but the rest of the county consisted mostly of fortresses. The county's territory extended from Antioch in the west to across the Euphrates in the west, at least at its greatest extent; it also often occupied land as far north as Armenia proper. To the south and east were the powerful Muslim cities of Aleppo and Mosul, and the Jazira (northern Iraq). The inhabitants were mostly Syrian, Jacobite, and Armenian Orthodox Christians, with some Greek Orthodox and Muslims. Although the numbers of Latins always remained small, there was a Roman Catholic Patriarch, and the fall of the city was the catalyst for the Second Crusade in 1146.

Vassals of Edessa

Lordship of Turbessel

Turbessel was firstly the lordship of Joscelin I when he was not yet the Count of Edessa. It controlled the area west of the Euphrates, and held the border against Antioch. It then was a special holding of Courtenay counts of Edessa, and again became their seat after the loss of the city of Edessa. It was sold with the remaining parts of the County to the Byzantines just before it was conquered by Muslims. After the sale, the wife and family of Joscelin II moved with the proceeds to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, near Acre.

Counts of Edessa, 1098-1149

fr:Comté d'Édesse pl:Hrabstwo Edessy

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