Edessa county

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Edessa County and the Other Crusader States, 1135.

The county of Edessa was one of the four original crusader states of the 12th century with the capital Edessa in the Osrhoene as its center. The city ​​of Asia Minor has a long history and an old Christian tradition.


During the First Crusade left Baldwin of Boulogne , the brother of the leader of Godfrey of Bouillon , in 1098 the bulk of the crusader army, the southward direction, Antioch and Jerusalem moved, and turned east to Edessa to where he regional rulers Thoros to brought him to adopt him as his son and heir. Thoros was a Greek Orthodox Christian who was unpopular with his Armenian subjectsand fell victim to an assassination attempt shortly after Baldwin's adoption, in which it is not clear whether and to what extent Baldwin was involved in him. Baldwin became the new ruler with the title of Count, as he had already been called in Boulogne .


In 1100 Baldwin became king of Jerusalem when his brother Gottfried died. He passed the county of Edessa on to Baldwin von Bourcq , a close relative (nephew or cousin) who was popular with the city's residents and who also took an Armenian wife.

One of Balduin's most important followers was Joscelin von Courtenay , whom he appointed commander of the Turbessel fortress on the Euphrates , an important outpost of the county against the Seljuks .

Baldwin quickly became embroiled in politics in northern Syria and Asia Minor . In 1103 he helped to secure the release of Bohemond I of Antioch by the Danischmenden , and together with Antioch attacked the Byzantine Empire in Cilicia at the beginning of 1104 . A little later, in the Battle of Harran (May 7, 1104), both Baldwin and Joscelin were captured by the Muslims. Bohemond's nephew Tankred of Tiberias was now regent in Edessa until Baldwin and Joscelin were released in 1107, but was then unwilling to give up his office, so that Baldwin had to ally himself with local Muslim rulers to drive him out.

In 1110, the entire area east of the Euphrates was lost to Mawdud of Mosul, who, unlike usual, did not allow this success to be followed by an attack on Edessa, as he was now too much concerned with consolidating his own power.

After the death of Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1118, Baldwin II of Edessa was his successor, since Eustach III. von Boulogne , the brother of the late Baldwin who remained in France , had refused the title in Jerusalem. Edessa went to Joscelin in 1119.

Joscelin I of Edessa was captured again in 1122, and when Baldwin came to free him, he suffered the same fate, so that Jerusalem was now without a king. Joscelin managed to escape in 1123 and obtained Baldwin's release the following year.


In 1131 Joscelin I died as a result of an injury sustained during a siege. His successor was his son Joscelin II. At this time Zengi had brought Aleppo and Mosul under his rule and threatened various Artuqid and Kurdish domains. Joscelin II responded to a call for help from the Artuqid ruler of Hisn Kaifa and left Edessa with a large army. Thereupon Zengi besieged the defenseless city from November 16, 1144 and was able to take it on December 24 of that year, on December 26 the citadel also fell. As a result, there was a massacre of the city's population. An Armenian resident described that "the Muslims shed huge amounts of blood ruthlessly, they did not show any respect for the elderly, nor did they feel sorry for the innocent, lamplike children." The fall of Edessa sparked the Second Crusade of 1146.

Joscelin now only ruled the areas west of the Euphrates around Turbessel until he was captured in a battle by Zengi's son Nur ad-Din in 1149 . He remained in captivity until his death in 1159. His wife sold the remains of the county to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos , but the remaining fortresses of Nur ad-Din and the Sultan of Rum Mas'ud I were within a year taken away. Edessa was the first Crusader state to emerge and the first to be lost.

Geography and demography

Edessa was the largest of the Crusader states in terms of size and the smallest in terms of population. The city of Edessa had around 10,000 inhabitants, the rest of the county consisted almost entirely of fortifications.

The greatest extent of the county extended from Antioch in the west to beyond the Euphrates and reached in the north to the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia . To the south and east were the powerful Muslim cities of Aleppo and Mosul, and the Jazira , the Mesopotamian, which also no longer belonged to the county.

The residents were mostly Syrians, Jacobites and Armenian Christians, with some Greek Orthodox Christians and Muslims in between. Although the number of Latins was always small, there was a Catholic patriarch.

Counts of Edessa, 1098–1149

For the genealogy of the Counts of Edessa see Grafschaft Boulogne , Duchy of Rethel and House of Courtenay


  • Sergio Ferdinandi: La Contea franca di Edessa. Fondazione e profilo storico del primo principato crociato nel Levante (1098–1150), (Medioevo 29) Ed. Antonianum, Roma 2017, ISBN 978-88-7257-103-3 ( table of contents , Italian)
  • Mark Guscin: The Image of Edessa (Medieval Mediterranean: Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1500) (= The Medieval Mediterranean. 82). Brill, Leiden et al. 2009, ISBN 978-90-04-17174-9 .
  • Horst Kratzmann: The fight for the Holy Land. The story of the crusades, the rise, bloom, and end of the crusader states. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli, the County of Edessa. Photos: Helga Kratzmann. Ancient Mail Verlag Betz, Groß-Gerau 2008, ISBN 978-3-935910-59-0 .
  • Steven Runciman : History of the Crusades. Special edition. CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-39960-2 .

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas S. Asbridge: The Crusades . 7th edition. Cotta, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-608-94921-6 , pp. 214 f .