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The Military Situation in the Holy Land

hen the Templars arrived in Holy Land, the military situation was a very tangled mess. Modern political quarrels appear ridiculously small when compared to the politico-military systems in the Holy Land. First of all, there never was a single Crusader state, but four distinct ones, constantly at odds with each other. Just take a look at the figure below.

Picture of the Latin KingdomT he four Crusader states were the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Edessa. The oldest of these was the Principality, who had its own Patriarch under the Byzantine Church. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was the largest, but also the most troubled of the states. The County of Edessa was a short-lived (47 years) attempt at a state, and the County of Tripoli was in the middle of it all, harried from every direction.

T he end of Edessa came in 1144, when Zengi took it after a four-week siege. He entered the town on Christmas eve, and immediately set about to kill all Franks in the town. After this, Muslims controlled all the area between Mosul and Aleppo, with no Christian wedge in between. Thus the Turks of Iran and the Turks of Anatolia were united, and it was against this situation that the Second Crusade was initiated in 1146.

T he states quarreled over every possible matter, and there was no sign of Christianity uniting for the cause of the Faith in Palestine. Due to the discord, the Crusader states were for example never able to stop Muslim armies from passing through their land from Aleppo to Damascus, but resorted to uneasy truces with the Muslims to keep their areas intact.

I t is interesting to note that even the first recorder military action of the Templars was an offensive with Emperor John of Constantinople against the interests of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The Templars had to do some bending of their Rule to be able to participate in such action, but the true strength of the Order was just this: being able to shift between warring factions and serving as many as possible without appearing as traitors to others. To do this they had to be militarily very capable and cunning, and their valour served them well in the battles they fought.

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