The Crusades allude to a controversial subject that often tends to go beyond historicity of events to account for religious prejudices and political statements. But intriguingly enough, the Crusader States in themselves present an interesting parcel of history, with their intrinsic social and military systems often bringing the European feudal ‘flair’ to Levant, while at times showcasing a syncretic scope that was borne by the fusion of different cultures. So without further ado, let us take a gander at ten things you should know about the medieval Crusader State armies of Levant.
1) Poverty and mules
While chroniclers had ‘poetically’ dealt with the nobility and leaders of the First Crusade, the fact remains that most of these Europeans who participated in the armed endeavor were ‘desperately’ poor. In fact, at times the objective of reaching and conquering Jerusalem seemed so far-fetched to many of the ordinary folks and soldiers who accompanied their leaders that they plundered and looted just for survival, as opposed to making profitable gains. And at times starvation and poverty reached maddening levels (like during the Siege of Antioch) that fueled fanatical behavior on the part of some of the poor Crusaders. One pertinent example would relate to the so-called Tafurs, a group of destitute Crusades who seemingly cultivated bizarre codes of conduct that preventing them from acquiring wealth while allowing murder, rape and even (possibly fabricated) cannibalization of their enemies.
Another factor that popular history seems to miss is that the original Crusader army that initially made its way across Anatolia, was much reduced in size when it arrived at the gates of Jerusalem. The reasons for this could be many, including attrition, desertion and disease. The reduction of available military forces was particularly harsh for the knights since the scope encompassed the loss of many horses. To that end, by circa 1098 AD (and some years afterwards), many of the supporting Crusader cavalry in Syria possibly fought on mules, with horses being reduced to mere hundreds in number.