Hostages and ransoms, 1103-1108

Keeping up with the Roupenians: “Baby Blues” [Morphia’s baby is due, but her husband is in Mosul. Her father just got killed, and now Arda has a divorce shocker! How will the family cope?]

By 1103, Count Baldwin II of Edessa, his lieutenant Joscelin of Tel Bashir, and other Crusaders had finally raised the sum of gold to buy Bohemund’s freedom. A tenth of the gold was levied from a local Muslim who wanted an alliance, so that’s interesting. Equally interesting, his own nephew Tancred didn’t contribute. Tancred clearly wanted to continue being regent of Antioch and resented it when his uncle Bohemund came home smelling like a yurt.

Bohemund probably learned a lot about life with the Danishmend Turks, but we’ll never know what it was. His first major action was to collect Count Baldwin II and Sir Joscelin and start getting revenge on the Turks. It worked out very badly: on the plains near Harran (another Abrahamic place name), they met a combined Turkish force and the Edessans become isolated and surrounded. Many Edessan knights and soldiers died, and both Count Baldwin II and Sir Joscelin were captured! Hostages, again!

What I find the most interesting about this hostage-taking is that Count Baldwin II spent the next four years in Mosul. He’s an interesting guy, all around. He was a knight who came with the Boulogne brothers; I presume got his knight training in a little “school” with Eustace, Godfrey, and Baldwin, since that was a common way to form friendships and feudal bonds even among children. He was a little younger, about 25 when he joined the Crusade. We know little about Baldwin’s past, but much about his adult lifetime.

Baldwin II married Morphia of Melitene, probably at the same time that he assumed the status of Count. Unlike most of the other Crusaders, he really turned into a family man. Morphia was pregnant when he was captured, and gave birth to a daughter, named Melisende. There’s a big gap between Melisende and the next baby, of course, but eventually they had four daughters. Four daughters is significant in many ways: it means they liked each other enough to have lots of sex, and it means that when no boys were born, Baldwin II didn’t try to have the marriage annulled and start over.

By contrast, in 1105 the older Baldwin I King of Jerusalem (former Count of Edessa) was tired of his Armenian wife Arda. She had no children, and perhaps he felt time was running out. He put her in a convent; I don’t think he had any valid excuses to annul or divorce. He married the widowed Countess of Sicily who brought gold and a thousand archers as her dowry. Later, he set her aside, too. It’s hard not to view his marital adventures with cynicism, so his cousin is a refreshing change.

The younger Baldwin II came from a monolingual French culture, unlike his age-peer Tancred who grew up in Arabic-fluent southern Italy. I like to think that Baldwin began learning basic Armenian in Edessa, to help with governing and then to talk to Morphia. There’s no doubt little Melisende spoke nothing but Armenian when her father came home from Mosul. Did he learn some Arabic or Turkish in Mosul? Four years is a long time to pass with nothing to do, and Baldwin seems to have been a very active man. He would have sought opportunities to observe the economy of Mosul, and perhaps he got some Arabic or Turkish martial arts training as well.

The older Crusaders never really adjusted to the Levant; they were intruders, always. Baldwin II, I think, really went native in a way they didn’t. He had no interest in his hometown of Bourg (sometimes spelled Bourcq), apart from bringing his sister out to marry one of the younger lords. He and Morphia eventually established the royal family of Jerusalem that we read about for the rest of the Crusades. He wasn’t royalty in Europe; but when he put down roots in Palestine, he became it. Baldwin II is my favorite First Crusader.


This entry was posted in Crusades, Muslim Empire, Women. Bookmark the permalink.