chapter  3
16 Pages

True Romans: remembering the crusades among Eastern Christians True Romans: remembering the crusades among Eastern Christians

WithChristopher MacEvitt

The First Crusade and subsequent settlements and military ventures were a challenge to the Near Eastern political and theological order of the world.1 The ‘Franks’ or the ‘Latins’ were rarely mentioned in Eastern Christian chronicles before 1099, yet they conquered Jerusalem, the city most central to eschatological and providential history. A variety of sources from the twelfth century bear witness to the ways Eastern Christians (particularly Armenians and Jacobites)2

reconfigured their memory of the providential past and future to accommodate the Franks’ presence in the Levant. For many Christians of the Near East, the world existed as a balance between two divinely established forces. The first was that of the empire of the Romans, that is to say the Byzantines, who, however poorly and heretically they might do so, ruled the empire established by God to spread salvation throughout the world. The second was the empire of the Muslims, equally established by divine providence, but intended to serve as the hammer with which God punished Christian peoples when they sinned. Armenians and Jacobites sought to fit the Franks and the crusades into this understanding of the world. For

*Email: [email protected] 1 This article follows on the pioneering work of Robert W. Thomson in innumerable ways, but particularly through his article ‘The Crusaders Through Armenian Eyes’, in The Crusades From the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World, eds. Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2001), 71-82. 2 Although it is sometimes deployed pejoratively, I use here the term ‘Jacobite’ to avoid confusion of the repeated use of the term ‘Orthodox’ for the many communities that claim it.