The first crusade began in 1096 when Pope Urban II called for an armed pilgrimage to the Holy Lands in the Middle East. This led to a period of tenuous Christian control of the Levant. This article discusses the list of crusader states that formed in the aftermath of the First Crusade.
Contrary to popular belief the crusades were not called as a result of Jerusalem falling to Muslim forces (the Seljuk Turks). In fact, Jerusalem had been part of Muslim nations for centuries before and within the Fatimid Caliphate previously.
The reality of the situation was that the Seljuk Turks posed a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire. In response the Byzantine emperor asked the west for aid in their struggle. The pope complied, and the masses in Europe responded enthusiastically. The result was the first crusade where some ~60,000 men from various factions of Europe marched and sailed to the Holy Lands.
For such a complex international invasion the First Crusade was surprisingly successful. The marauding Christian forces captured many key cities beginning in 1096 and culminated the crusade with the capture of Jerusalem in 1099. After this most crusaders returned home and 4 crusader states were organized to hold the newly gained territories: the Kingdom of Jerusalem, County of Tripoli, Principality of Antioch and County of Edessa.
List of the Crusader States
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was the de facto leader of the region, though all 4 states operated independently. In general the European brought their feudal system with them to the region. Lords were granted titles and lands to profit and help defend the region. Given the decentralized ruling, the states were politically weak and prone to internal rivalries and lack of coordination.
After the first crusaders returned home the states were also weak militarily. With few Christians in the region, they were unable to raise sizable armies. The creation of 2 independent orders, the Knights Hospitaller and Knight Templar served as the main fighting force.
The states initially benefitted from a period of Muslim political turmoil in the region. Simply put the empires surrounding the region had bigger concerns to tackle than the crusaders. When they finally did organize, they slowly took back all the gains of the crusaders. Future crusades were called to try and recapture territory lost, though most were failures or had limited success. By the mid 13th century, the crusaders states consisted of a few scattered hold out cities with limited influence.
The longest standing of these states lasted for 192 years (Jerusalem) before the last cities were conquered and the Christian rulers were finally expelled from the region by the Mamluks. The Mamluks would eventually vie for control of the region with the western reaches of the Mongol Empire.