What Problems Did The Kingdom Of Jerusalem Face In The Period 1174-1187

From 1174 the Kingdom of Jerusalem waned until its eventual fall to Saladin. It faced a number of problems from Amalric’s death that saw that its demise was inescapable. It had a series of weak and distracted rulers that damaged political stability, it faced economic and military pressures, however most importantly it faced the threat of a united Muslim front under Saladin. A series of weak and short ruling kings weakened Jerusalem and wore away at political stability. Historians have argued that those who succeeded Amalric from his death in 1174 were weak and unworthy of Jerusalem’s throne.

Runciman says Amalric was “The last king of Jerusalem worthy of his throne”. From his death onwards there was a constant fight for power between the ill, young and protectorates. It stemmed from Amalric’s repudiation of his wife in 1163 essentially creating two factions after his death, those from his original wife’s side and those from his second’s. During Baldwin IV’s reign there was constant rivalry between his sister and half-sister over succession of the throne. This infighting and rivalry meant that issues in court were not decided on judgement but on one-upmanship, this understandably led to a poor administration.

For example in 1184 even during the siege of Kerak Baldwin convened his council to decide who to succeed him after falling out with his current regent Guy of Lusignan. Weak rulers such as Baldwin meant that Jerusalem suffered as he could not cope with the strain and stress of administration however the infighting that came with a weak leader was far more toxic for Jerusalem as they were weakened in an almost civil war situation in the face of a finally united Muslim threat. Jerusalem also suffered from financial problems.

The continued expansion of Crusader land in years before them had provided the Crusaders with an economic float on which to build their interests. For example the invasion of Egypt in 1167 provided both extra opportunities for tax and also the loot and plunder that came with such operations. Trade began to suffer also with the re-emergence of the Egyptian navy, Acre and Tripoli were targeted by Saladin and the Frank’s naval supremacy and trade monopoly began to fade across the Holy Land.

Most attempts made during Baldwin’s reign to expand territory failed for example in 1179 his castle at Jacobs Ford was sacked and destroyed by Saladin after only being constructed months beforehand. The stagnant economic condition of the crusader states meant they could not afford to raise armies with mercenaries and reliance on patronage and coalition armies left many areas weak to attack by Saladin for example when Saladin’s eventual siege came upon Jerusalem only two knights remained in the city.

Jerusalem faced the problem of needing to fund a huge defensive network whilst also having a very few opportunities to raise revenue as any attempt to plunder surrounding land met with Saladin’s harsh retribution as we see at Kerak in 1184 after Christian naval raids. Another obvious problem for the Crusaders was the emergence of Saladin and his formation of a united front against the Christians. Saladin’s military power could not be matched by the Crusaders who had a weak leader and economic position.

Since Christian defeat at Jacobs Ford in 1179 Saladin had begun to close his grip on the Franks with attacks on Galilee in 1180 and Beirut in 1182. Saladin used these attacks to opportunistically weaken Frank power and plunder their land. Even if Saladin was not engaged in harassing the Franks then he was strengthening his empire that already cast a shadow over Jerusalem. Saladin posed a major threat to Jerusalem who maintained an uneasy state of appeasement as they grew weaker and Saladin grew stronger.

In conclusion from 1174 the Kingdom of Jerusalem faced a deadly combination of threats and problems that were weak leadership, financial and military incapability and the unopposed expansion of Saladin’s empire and military capabilities. I believe the biggest problem they faced was Saladin however this was clouded by their other issues and an illusion that split Crusader minds that appeasement would lead to co-existence or that attacking Saladin would lead to their prevail. Jerusalem saw its destruction and chose to concentrate on infighting and bitter arguments rather than face such a threat.

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