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3 - From Hattin to La Forbie: The Military Resources and Strategy of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1187–1244

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2024

Kelly DeVries
Affiliation:
United States Military Academy
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Summary

Despite the Franks’ decisive defeat at the battle of Hattin in 1187, and the near destruction of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem that followed, by the battle of La Forbie in 1244 the Franks were able to muster an army that contemporary sources indicate was comparable in size to that which it had summoned for Hattin. Yet, how the Latin kingdom was able to recover its martial strength between these two battles has not been adequately explored in the current historiography. An analysis of early thirteenth-century Jerusalemite charter material and narrative sources for post-Hattin crusades to the Latin East suggests that the military resources of the Latin kingdom recovered steadily in the decades after Hattin, so that by the mid-thirteenth century the Franks were once again able to field a large force of knights and a significant body of infantry. The Military Orders quickly replaced the losses they had suffered at Hattin while the Latin kingdom's baronage was able to assemble between 300 and 400 knights by the 1220s. The overall number of infantry available to the Latin kingdom is harder to assess, but the number of troops that the Franks could call upon in the early thirteenth century should not be underestimated. However, while the early thirteenth-century kingdom still possessed substantial military resources, its experiences at Hattin made it reluctant to employ these forces aggressively and risk another calamitous defeat. Rather, the Latin kingdom focused its attention upon limited objectives and waited until reinforcements from the Latin West arrived before undertaking any significant military action

The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem's catastrophic defeat at the battle of Hattin on 4 July 1187 has been the subject of considerable study by historians of the Latin East. So comprehensive was the Frankish defeat at Hattin that very few knights remained in the kingdom for its defense, and in the months that followed the battle, the kingdom was almost annihilated as one Frankish city after another fell to Islam.2 Only through the intervention of the Third Crusade (1189–92) was the Latin kingdom preserved, as crusader forces successfully restored a narrow strip of coastal territory, punctuated by a handful of port cities, to Frankish control.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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