Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar is a very well known and
respected scholar who has a wide range of interests, mainly
focused on the medieval history of the Holy Land, sea
trade and the relations between Christian and Muslims around the Mediterranean.
The present book comprises 31 articles, covering a wide range of topics,
from history of art and archaeology to literature and military enterprises. There
are some articles seem like strange additions to this
volume, though, but for the purposes of this review I am going to focus
on those articles that could be of interest for medieval military historians.
Those articles are mainly concentrated between pages 61-110 and 309-385.
Let us start with the contribution by Talmon-Heller
on counter-crusade preaching. Focusing on twelfth century, Syria Talmon
offers to us a quite instructive glimpse of how Muslim preaching developed.
It is true that that yihad preaching in that context is known as “countercrusade”,
despite the basics of yihad preaching being essentially the same
both before and after the 1095 crusade, except for a few specific topics.
Anyway, is a very interesting article.
The same geographical area, but one century later,
is covered by R. Amitai in his article about the Mongol administration
of the Levant, including the role of military officers.
If not original, this author offers a very helpful summary -- including
an updated bibliography -- of recent researche about occupied Syria.
The article by Boas focuses on crusade pattern settlement.
He argues that there were three stages in the evolution of rural settlement,
parallel to the three generations of castle-building, and according to
the changing political situation. He identifies three different moments,
each one with a specific type of building:
a. conquest and settlement (1094-1140), with fortified
administrations depots and outpost (with different roles: residence, administration
and depots of taxes in kind)
b. consolidation and expansion of Frankish rural settlement(1140-1170),
with villages and fortified farming or manor houses (with a courtyard
design) including a degeneration of fortified sites
c. an increasing period of insecurity, with a more defensive
approach exemplarified by the fortification (castles) and refortification
of rural sites, estate centres and monasteries.
In another related article, Ellenblum focuses
on a very specific topic of the castle and, specifically, on the existence
and location of the citadel of Jerusalem. The article uses archaeological
as well as literary sources. His conclusion is that we cannot speak of
a citadel of Jerusalem (inside the David tower) prior to 1230 and the
first phase for that citadel is from around 1233.
Perhaps the most controversial article is the
one written by Bernard Bachrach about the real purpose and destination
of the first crusade. He starts with quite a bold statement: so far no
one has ever tried to explain why Urban II decided in 1094 to send an
entire army to Jerusalem over land, passing through the Greek empire,
and thus facing a great deal of territory crowded with infidels. A few
pages later he makes it more precise and recognizes that there have been
some historians, like Becker and Lilie, that have in fact explained the
reasoning behind this decision: it was an attempt to help Byzantium and
the eastern churches. In this point this reviewer believes that Bachrach
may have benefited from further reading. Bachrach’s main point is
Urban chose to send the army to Constantinople,
contrary to strategic rationality, and not directly to Jerusalem. He did
he wanted a western army, presumably under papal control
to be mobilized in the environs of the capital city of
the East Roman empire.
In the end, the papal aim was to try to fix up
the problem of the Schism, “Jerusalem” being only a slogan
to dupe a voluntary crusader army into heading eastward (p. 326). Bachrach
needs to explain why the direct sea route to Jerusalem would have not
just been possible but also much more useful and more logical from a military
point of view (taking as precedent the 1087 Mahdia campaign).
Curiosly enough, this festschrift offers some
very good articles for people interested in medieval naval history such
as those by Pryor (on Acre and Aigues-Mortes´s ports), Jacoby (about
venetian sailing to Acre including references to the needed military equipments)
and Balard (about the origins of the port of Caffa).
Pryor states that the Chain of the Golden Horn, floated on many baulks
of tree trunks, was deployed only on moments of crisis and its effectiveness
depended on the fleet that protected from behind.
Noah Harari give us two clear conclusion to his work
about the military knowledge and power of the medieval military:
1. “on campaign, the gap in operational knowledge
between medieval commanders and soldiers was surprisingly small” (as
knowledge in concentrated on the frontline)
2. In this way, with almost as much information
as his frontline officers, the common soldier of stateless armies
was more powerful and was more able to react that modern soldier, even
forcing his own conditions.
Those are very interesting ideas but I think that he
should need much more pages and casuistic to properly base his points.
I personally expected more from Friedman and Menache.
The former presents a kind of preview to her forthcoming
article on “Peace
and Peacemaking processes in the Holy Land”, in this case showing
some milites engaged in diplomatic relations and the
gestures involved. Meanwhile, Sophia Menache offers to us a small update
of her 1987 article about the very same figure of D. Alfonso, Master of
Calatrava. The last article by Paul Chevedden are quite useful, but also
It is a pity that this volume does not include an index
that would have been extremely helpful taking into account the great variety
of subjects and characters it tackles. On the other hand there are numerous
plans and black and white photos to illustrate the different articles.
To sum up: Most of the articles in the present volume
are worthy of a book assembled in honour of Prof. Kedar. No doubt this
is a must for anyone interested in the Holy Land and sea trade around
the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, crusade and military historian will take
profit of some very interesting approbations.