Crusader States 2024

Beginning in the year 1095, a series of wars now known as the Crusades began in and around the Holy Land of the Middle East, with armies from Christian Europe fighting to retake the city of Jerusalem and its surrounding area from its Muslim occupiers. Following the Crusaders' 1099 victory in the First Crusade, the European nations established four Crusader states, also called "Outremer" (from the French word for "overseas"), in their new territory: the County of Edessa (1098–1150), the Principality of Antioch (1098–1268), the County of Tripoli (1102–1289), and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099–1291). Collectively, the Crusader states covered all or some of the modern-day nations of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Syria, Turkey, and Lebanon.

Crusader States of the Holy Lands

StateYears of ExistenceModern-Day Location
County of Edessa1098-1150Portions of Turkey and a tiny part of Syria
Principality of Antioch1098-1268Coastal portions of Syria and a small part of Turkey
County of Tripoli1102-1289Coastal portions of Syria and Lebanon
Kingdom of Jerusalem1099-1291Israel, Palestine (West Bank and Gaza Strip), southern Lebanon

The Crusader states were alternately referred to by Europeans as the "Latin Kingdom" or the "Frankish Levant", names inspired by the facts that the Europeans who settled there were largely Roman Catholic (hence the "Latin") people who spoke French (hence "Frankish", with Levant being another name for the geographical region).

The primary goal of the Crusader states was to ensure that the lands taken over by the Crusaders remained in Christian hands and were not immediately retaken. As the need for several additional Crusades over the next century+ would demonstrate, this concern proved valid.

Do any of the Crusader states still exist today?

None of the Crusader states exist today, though several modern countries exist in their place. The Crusader states' distant location proved expensive and logistically challenging to their European ruling states. Moreover, many European countries were locked in squabbles with one another. As a result, the Crusader states were left with too few defenders from the start, and all four were reclaimed by Muslims within 200 years.

The County of Edessa

The first of the Crusader states, the County of Edessa was established in 1098. Edessa was the only landlocked Crusader state, made up of territory now part of inland Turkey and Syria, and had both one of the largest land areas of any Crusader state and one of the smallest populations. Odessa was also the first Crusader state to fall, conquered by Turkoman ruler Imad al-Din Zengi in 1144 and ceased to exist by 1150. The fall of Edessa is credited as a main trigger event for the Second Crusade (1144-1149).

The Principality of Antioch

Principality of Antioch was founded by Crusaders in 1098, in coastal regions of modern-day Syria and Turkey. The smallest Crusader state in terms of total area, Antioch became notably smaller following a Muslim attack in 1144 and was subsequently allied with the Byzantine Empire for protection for several decades. In 1260, weakened by additional crusades and a long-standing power struggle with Armenia, the principality surrendered to the invading Mongol Empire. Mongol rule would prove to be short-lived, as Muslim forces from Egypt would take the city of Antioch in 1268 and follow by claiming the rest of the principality's territory.

The County of Tripoli

The last of the Crusader states to be established, the County of Tripoli was founded in 1102 in territory that now makes up coastal regions of Syria and Lebanon. Although Tripoli successfully repelled Seljuk attacks in 1111, 1119, and 1125, and survived a powerful earthquake in 1170, the county became a vassal state of the Mongol Empire around 1260 and ultimately fell to the Egyptian Mamluk Empire in 1289.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem

The Kingdom of Jerusalem was established in 1099. One of the two largest Crusader states, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was also arguably the most important, as it included both the Holy City of Jerusalem and Acre, a vital shipping port and military outpost. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was divided into more than a dozen smaller sections, or "seigneuries", the main four of which were the County of Jaffa and Ascalon, the Lordship of Oultrejordain, the Lordship of Sidon, and the Principality of Galilee.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem's history is divided into two halves. The first ran from its founding in 1099 to 1187, at which time most of the country was taken over by the Ayyubid Sultanate and its leader, Saladin. However, the Third Crusade reclaimed much of the land (with the exception of parts of Jerusalem and the inland regions) and the country was reestablished in 1192 with Acre as its capital.

For nearly 100 years, the reborn Kingdom of Jerusalem (alternately called the Kingdom of Acre) endured both the political machinations of various European nobles (typical of the time) and the rising threats of the Mongol Empire from the East and the Egyptian Mamluk empire. But in 1291, the Mamluk laid siege to Acre. The city quickly fell and its surviving defenders were forced to flee to the island of Cyprus. The rest of the mainland kingdom fell within months, marking the end of both the Kingdom of Jerusalem and of the Crusader states as a whole.

The Crusaders would still control a speck of land in the Holy Land—the tiny island outpost Ruad—but it too fell in 1302.

Brief Timeline of the Crusades

First1095-1099CrusadersThe initial force, made up of mostly civilians and led by the priest Peter the Hermit, was known as the People's Crusade and fared poorly. A better-trained and better-funded force, later dubbed the Princes' Crusade, followed a few months later and successfully took control of Jerusalem in July 1099.
Second1145–1149MuslimsLaunched in response to the fall of the County of Edessa, the first Crusader State to fail. Announced by Pope Eugene III and led by King Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany. Crusader forces were ultimately defeated and forced to retreat at Damascus, and Jerusalem would fall to the Muslims in 1187.
Third1189–1192Crusaders (partial)Led by King Philip II of France, King Richard I of England and Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor (and known as the King's Crusade as a result). Reclaimed much of the Holy Land, but left Jerusalem in Muslim control
Fourth1202–1204None (Byzantine Constantinople)Called by Pope Innocent III. Logistical challenges and political developments would see the crusading forces turning back after an unsuccessful siege of Constantinople, having failed to reach their intended destination.
Fifth1217–1221Muslims (Egypt)Called by Pope Innocent III and his successor Honorius III. Led by Andrew II of Hungary and John of Brienne, king of Jerusalem. Failed when Crusaders bogged down in an attempt to first conquer Egypt.
Sixth1228–1229Crusaders (partial success)Called the Crusade of Frederick II in honor of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who managed to regain control over most of Jerusalem and nearby regions (and establish a ten-year truce) largely through diplomacy rather than combat.
Seventh1248–1254Muslims (Egypt)First of two Crusades led by Louis IX of France. Alternately titled the Crusade of Louis IX to the Holy Land. Conquered Damietta in Egypt, rejected an offer from Muslims to exchange Damietta for Jerusalem, and proceeded. The entire Crusader army was either killed or captured in later fighting in Egypt. Many were executed, though some (including Louis IX) were held for ransom and eventually released.
Eighth1270-1270NoneAlso called the Crusade of Louis IX Against Tunis or the Second Crusade of Louis. Failed after a prolonged attempt to conquer Tunisia led to rampant disease, Louis IX's own death from dysentery, and a loss of motivation in the remaining forces.

A few unnumbered intermediary crusades also took place, such as the ill-fated "Crusade of 1101" and "Lord Edward's Crusade" (occasionally nicknamed the Ninth Crusade) of 1271-1272. However, none were significantly successful. Ultimately, the Crusaders would cede control of the city of Acre (their main base in the Holy Land) in 1291 and lose their final territory in the Holy Land, the island of Ruad, in 1302.

What was the cause of the Crusades?

Although they were considered Holy Wars between Christians and Muslims, the Crusades were largely a battle for territory. In 1094 CE, the Byzantine Empire (a remnant of the Roman Empire, largely located in modern-day Turkey and Greece) had been sporadically at war with various Muslim factions since the year 629. The Byzantines had already lost significant territory in Northern Africa and the Middle East, including Jerusalem in 637.

This conflict expanded greatly with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks in the 1060s. Having already established a significant Muslim empire in Middle Asia, the Seljuks united many of the Middle East's smaller, disparate Muslim factions into a single massive force—which then began chipping away at Byzantine territory in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). The Seljuks' victory in the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, which included the capture of Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, made clear the Seljuk Empire was a legitimate threat to the Byzantines.

The threat posed by the Seljuks prompted Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komneenos to petition Pope Urban II and the Latin Catholic church in Rome, as well as the countries of Western Europe, for assistance in 1095. The rise of the Seljuk Empire, coupled with continued Muslim rule over Jerusalem (which the Seljuks had taken from another Muslim tribe in 1077) and Alexios I's call for help inspired concern among the Christians of Europe. Thus, shortly after Urban II's call for a crusade at the 1095 Council of Clermont rally, an army of over sixty thousand men, as well as upwards of six thousand knights set out on the First Crusade.

How many crusader states were there?

The four crusader states were The County of Edessa, The County of Tripoli, The Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Principality of Antioch.

Frequently Asked Questions