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Saturday, 14 July 2012

How Balian of Ibelin Commanded During the Fall of Jerusalem - Capital of the Crusader Kingdom 1187

The Christian Crusaders of the Holy Wars


There is a historical movie by Ridley Scott, called 'The Kingdom of Heaven.' This film is very enjoyable and portrays the events that led to the fall of Jerusalem. Of course, the romance of Hollywood film directors added social diversions within the movie that were not so. Mainly concerning the historical characters of Balian of Ibelin and that of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem's sister; Sibylla, who would later become Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem.

This romantic story, with stunning special effects, for the backdrop of the fall of Jerusalem, in the year 1187, is untrue where Balian and Sibylla are concerned, though their paths did cross. I mention this because the film was most entertaining, but the love interest of the two mentioned (Balian and Sibylla) is untrue. Also the happy ever after ending in France was a big no, no as well.

In the movie 'Kingdom of Heaven,' we are presented with a young Balian who is 20 something years of age, and a humble blacksmith working in a remote French village. He is recently a widower and is the bastard son of an aristocratic man who fights in the crusades in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Again this aspect of Balian is not true. 

In reality Balian was a third son of Barisan of Ibelin with two elder brothers Hugh and Baldwin. Ibelin was a castle in a province ruled by the Christian crusaders. Concerning Balian's brother Baldwin; it is important to know that King Baldwin of Jerusalem (the king suffering from leprosy) and Balian’s brother Baldwin, are two different people with the same name. This bit of info is to avoid confusion as I continue the blog.

When Barisan of Ibelin died, his eldest son Hugh became the Lord of Castle Ibelin, and when he passed away the castle went to Baldwin who was already the Lord of Rama. He gave Ibelin castle to Balian, hence we have Balian of Ibelin. At this time Balian would have been around 44 to 46 years of age.

The Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem had come about in 1099 when the city fell to the Christian crusaders. It has to be visualised from a certain perspective in western points of view when calling it the 'Crusader Kingdom.'

Imagine, if you will, the American continent when it was first discovered by European nations. They carved out chunks of land for themselves, like Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina etc. Well in the middle ages, the Christian crusaders tried to do this with the Middle East, believing that it was their Holy Land where their prophet was born. Untitled Christian men could win renown for themselves and find improved social standing beyond their dreams. Far greater than if they remained in Europe. In the long run; the Muslims would win this long and turbulent struggle for the Holy Land, but it would take many generations to displace the invading Christian Kingdom builders.


Many of Europe's nobility gave themselves regal titles within this Crusader Kingdom under the endorsement of the Popes. From their point of view it was legal and the Muslims and Hebrews no longer had a viable standing concerning the matter. In this time, the Muslim nations tried to battle the European Christian invaders, but for a long period of time; the Christians occupied the Holy Land (The Crusader Kingdom of)


Over the years there had been battles, defeats and victories for the Christian Crusaders, but they also began to argue among themselves concerning lands within the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and when Balian was charged with the overseeing of castle Ibelin he may have been away from the squabbling fractions at the court of Jerusalem. Here King Baldwin IV was in the advanced stages of Leprosy and he was concerned as to who would take control of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. He wanted to marry his sister, Princess Sibylla, to a worthy consort and the person his sister married was Guy of Lusignan. 


In 1183, Balian and his elder brother Baldwin championed their support for a noble called Raymond III of Tripoli against Guy of Lusignan who was acting as a regent for Baldwin IV King of Jerusalem. The king was rapidly dying from the leprosy that was eating away at him. Balian's brother Baldwin had not long returned from Muslim captivity after being captured in a battle.

In 1185, King Baldwin IV died aged 24 and the young son of Sibylla was crowned king at just five years of age. The sickly child died a year later as Sibylla became Queen of Jerusalem in 1186 with her husband Guy of Lusignan as her consort. Balian reluctantly accepted the new consort, even though he did not support the man, while his elder brother exiled himself in Antioch. Brother Baldwin is believed to have died here in 1187.

Meanwhile, Consort Guy then went with an army of Crusaders to challenge the Muslim Sultan Saladin who had mobilised his Islamic army because of brutal raids against Muslim caravans that had permission to pass over the Christian held territories. This culminated in the Battle of Hattin in which the Muslim forces defeated the Christian Crusaders. Guy of Lusignan was captured by Saladin and imprisoned in Damascus.

Balian was in Jerusalem when Saladin led his Muslim army to recapture the city and make Islam the dominant power of the Holy Land and vanquish the Crusader Kingdom of. The siege lasted for several months and though Saladin's forces managed to puncture holes in the walls of Jerusalem; his Muslim forces could not enter the city because the Christian crusaders put up formidable defences against the besiegers.

Balian was able to evacuate his wife and four children to Tripoli unmolested because Saladin observed strict Muslim laws, and Balian was recognised as the highest ranking official defending the besieged city. He had honour status and thus his family had this right and privilege to vacate Jerusalem unmolested. It should be noted that Christian crusaders did not always afford or observe the same protocols towards Muslim nobility.

During Balian's valiant defence of Jerusalem, he made sixty men knights because there was under twelve knights to defend the Holy city when he first began to prepare defences against Saladin's army.

The siege lasted through September and when Sultan Saladin asked to speak with Balian outside the walls, a peace treaty was thrashed out after Balian promised to destroy everything of value in the city before any of the Christian Crusaders would give up.

Eventually Balian agreed to surrender the city of Jerusalem to Saladin for the Christian defenders to go free. However, there was a material price in bezants (gold coin) for this mass release of Christians. It was 30,000 bezants per man or two women or ten children. Any who could not meet the price would be sold into Islamic slavery. There were many who could not pay, but many of these were released by Saladin after and allowed safe escort from the city. There remained some Christian Frankish citizens who were not freed. Balian and Patriarch Eraclus offered themselves as high ranking hostages for their freedom, but on this issue Saladin would not give way. The Frankish inhabitants went into slavery.

Queen Sibylla was also allowed to leave with her daughters. She went to Cyprus and died of an epidemic three years later in 1190 at the age of 30. Her daughters also perished of this illness too.

Balian was reunited with his wife and four children and would have some involvement in the third Crusade, in which England's Richard the Lionheart was leading. He was at the Battle of Jaffa and took part in the peace negotiations that was known as the Treaty of Ramala. King Richard the Lionheart left for England while Sultan Saladin gave Balian castle Caymont as a Christian Vassal. Balian died in 1193 at about 53 years of age, six years after the fall of Jerusalem. 


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