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The Participation of the Military Orders in Truces with Muslims in the Holy Land and Spain during the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
By Alan Forey
Ordines Militares: Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders, Vol. 17 (2012)
Introduction: Although the military orders’ primary function was to fight against the infidel, warfare in the Middle Ages was never continuous, as armies could not be kept in the field indefinitely, and when there was an imbalance of power between Christians and Muslims it was in the interests of the weaker side to seek truces, even at the expense of concessions. When the neighbouring Islamic world was divided, it was also possible for Christians to play off rival Muslim powers by siding with one against another and sometimes gaining tribute. As the military orders grew in importance in the twelh century, it was inevitable that they were among those consulted on cessations of hostilities, and this involvement was at times formalized in undertakings given by rulers to seek the orders’ advice. In 1143 Raymond Berenguer IV, count of Barcelona, promised to the Templars that in future he would not make peace with the Muslims except with their advice. At almost the same time, Raymond of Tripoli gave an undertaking to the Hospitallers that he would not enter into truces with the Muslims without their counsel, and a similar promise was made by Bohemond III of Antioch to the Hospital in 1168. Such promises, some of them made at an early stage of the orders’ involvement in warfare against the infidel, reflect the important contribution they were expected to make in the struggle against Islam. That advice was in fact sought and given, and that brothers of the orders were often among the negotiators employed by rulers, hardly needs demonstrating; but the purpose of this paper is to consider to what extent military orders acted independently in the making, observing and breaking of truces.
A distinction must be made between the Iberian peninsula and the Latin East, for in the latter the orders came to enjoy much greater freedom of action. This is hardly surprising. Rulers and nobles in the crusader states were normally dependent on limited local sources of revenue and manpower, while the international orders in the East were able to draw upon resources from the whole of western Christendom: they therefore constituted a major element in the armies of the crusader states, and gained authority over an increasing number of strongholds, in some areas controlling considerable marcher districts. In the Iberian peninsula military orders, by contrast, had to rely primarily on local resources. Santiago did have some property outside the peninsula, especially in France, but these holdings were not very signicant; and Templars and Hospitallers in Spain did not receive support from colleagues in other parts of western Europe. The international orders in the peninsula were in fact obliged to send men and supplies out to the East. Spanish rulers themselves were able to draw on revenues and manpower – both nobles and townsmen – from an area which, despite setbacks, grew considerably during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Central authority was also for most of the period more rmly established in Spanish kingdoms than in the crusader states, even if there were some periods of political instability in the peninsula. In the East, the lack of an eective ruler was most apparent in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the thirteenth century, but succession problems also occurred farther north.