Franks and Natives in the Crusader States: the State of the Question

Franks and Natives in the Crusader States: the State of the Question

Franks and Natives in the Crusader States: the State of the Question

By Andrew Jotischky

Paper given at Third Symposium of The Norman Edge: Identity and State Formation on the Frontiers of Europe (2009)

Introduction: In one of the most celebrated, but also least well understood passages in his extraordinary chronicle of the 1st Crusade and early establishment of the Crusader States, Fulcher of Chartres considers the meaning and significance of the settlement of Franks in the holy Land:

For we who were Occidentals have now become Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank has in this land been made into a Galilean or a Palestinian. He who was of Rheims or Chartres has now become a citizen of Tyre or Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already these are unknown to many of us or not mentioned any more. Some already possess homes or households by inheritance. Some have taken wives not only of their own people but Syrians or Armenians or even Saracens who have obtained the grace of baptism. One has his father-in-law as well as his daughter-in-law living with him, or his own child if not his stepson or stepfather. Out here there are grandchildren and greatgrandchildren. Some tend vineyards, others till fields. People use the eloquence and idioms of diverse languages in conversing back and forth. Words of different languages have become common property known to each nationality, and mutual faith unites those who are ignorant of their descent. Indeed it is written, “The lion and the ox shall eat straw together” [Isai. 62: 25]. He who was born a stranger is now as one born here; he who was born an alien has become as a native.

This piece of writing, multi-valent, elusive, in some respects contentious, conveys something of the complexities of Frankish identity in the East, the social and economic imperatives underlying immigration, as well as the aspirations of a particularly thoughtful and articulate member of the ‘new’ Frankish community in the East. It also, I think, serves as a warning to historians attempting the task I have been set for today: to offer an overview of the encounter between Franks and the indigenous peoples of the eastern Mediterranean in the context of the Crusades.

Watch the video: History of the Crusader States: 1098-1489 (August 2021).