The Crusades >> The
First Crusade >> Edessa
The most significant event along the road to Antioch was the diversion of
one portion of the army away from Jerusalem. Tancred and Baldwin had gone to
Tarsus, held by a Turkish garrison. Tancred arrived first and was able to
take the city, whose citizens were Greek and Armenian, friendly to the
Crusaders. The very day he occupied Tarsus, though, Baldwin arrived with his
much larger army. Baldwin had been involving himself in Armenian politics
and was prepared to pose as their champion. He insisted that the city be
handed over to him. Tancred was hopelessly out-manned and had to withdraw.
They squabbled again further down the road, to the point where there was a
brief battle between them at Mamistra. The whole affair ended with a
reconciliation by which they both agreed they would not found a principality
in Cilicia. Here is early evidence that at least some among the Crusaders
were interested in using the Crusade as a means of establishing themselves
as eastern lords.
Tancred eventually re-joined the main army, but Baldwin headed off in an
entirely different direction. He had received a plea of Toros of Edessa, the
imperial lord of the city. He was Greek Orthodox and so was disliked by many
of the native Armenian and Jacobite citizens. He knew that Kerbogha might
move to defend Antioch and could easily smash his city along the way. He
offered to adopt Baldwin as his son, if the knight would only come right
away to his defense.
Baldwin agreed, and set out early in February of 1098. He had a grand total
of eight knights, for most Crusaders were unwilling to turn aside from the
road to the Holy Land. He arrived on February 6th. Toros adopted him
immediately. Within a month, the old man was betrayed. The local Armenians
hatched a plot to dethrone him and install Baldwin in his place. On March
a mob stormed the palace. Toros' troops deserted him, and Baldwin refused to
defend him. He tried to escape through a window, but he was caught and torn
to pieces by the mob. On March 10th, Baldwin of Boulougne formally took
possession of Edessa, making it the first of the Crusader States. It was not
an edifying beginning.