Feudal Monarchy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1100 to 1291

Feudal Monarchy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1100 to 1291

Feudal Monarchy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1100 to 1291

Feudal Monarchy in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1100 to 1291

Excerpt

The institutions of the Latin crusading states owe much of their interest to the geographical location of the states themselves. Stretched along the Levantine seaboard from the Taurus passes to the desert of Sinai in the first and second centuries of their existence, the Latin principalities formed a Christian wedge in the side of the Moslem world. They nestled into that meeting place of East and West which is the Near East, that land of color and squalor, where time is unimportant and even now the machine age progresses leisurely. Before the first century elapsed they had already begun to be dislodged from their precarious foothold on the Asian shore; after another century had passed they vanished, but they still existed in Cyprus,--that island which Richard of England had conquered almost by hazard on his way to Acre in 1192 and which was destined to be the eastern outpost of Latin Christianity for over two and a half centuries.

It is of course a misnomer to refer to the East as 'unchanging', for there is change everywhere, but the Levant and the Orient in general tend to retain their customs and institutions for a far longer period of time than does the West; even in our feverish modern age the eastern Mediterranean world retains much of its 'antique flavor'. The Chevrolet in which modern Syria rides must stop and wait for a caravan of camels and donkeys to pass; bales of goods, perhaps from France or the United States, are still unloaded from the ships in Tyre harbor by naked porters who wade out and carry them in to the beach on their heads.

The Levant has always been a meeting ground of East and West, of the old and the new. It takes what it will from the newer West and keeps what it desires from the older Orient. The crusaders, who went to the East with their ideas of western feudalism, had to adapt them to the conditions of the country with its Byzantino-Saracen background and its well-developed institutions. It was a hard task, for the crusaders were mostly French, and they clung to . . .

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