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Raymond II, Count of Tripoli

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Raymond II, Count of Tripoli

Hodierna of Jerusalem (m. 1137)

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1152, Tripoli, Lebanon

Raymond II (Latin: Raimundus; c. 1116 – 1152) was count of Tripoli from 1137 to 1152. He succeeded his father, Pons, Count of Tripoli, who was killed during a campaign that a commander from Damascus launched against Tripoli. Raymond accused the local Christians of betraying his father and invaded their villages in the Mount Lebanon. He also had many of them tortured and executed. Raymond was captured during an invasion of Imad ad-Din Zengi, atabeg of Mosul, who seized the two important castles of Montferrand (at present-day Baarin in Syria) and Rafaniya in exchange for his release in the summer of 1137.


Raymond II, Count of Tripoli Raymond II Count of Tripoli

Since his army proved unable to secure the defence of the eastern borders of his county, Raymond granted several forts to the Knights Hospitaller in 1142. The sudden death of his father's uncle, Alfonso Jordan, Count of Toulouse, during the Second Crusade gave rise to gossips which suggested that Raymond poisoned him, because Alfonso Jordan had allegedly wanted to lay claim to Tripoli. Alfonso Jordan's illegitimate son, Bertrand of Toulouse, actually seized the fortress of Araima in the County of Tripoli in 1149, but Raymond recaptured it with the assistance of Muslim rulers. Raymond ceded the castle to the Knights Templar.

The marriage of Raymond and his wife, Hodierna of Jerusalem, was unhappy. Her sister, Melisende of Jerusalem, came to Tripoli to put an end to their conflict. Hodierna preferred to leave Tripoli for Jerusalem along with her sister and Raymond escorted them for a short distance. On his way back to Tripoli, a group of Assassins stabbed him at the southern gate of the town. He was the first Christian ruler to be murdered by the Assassins.

Early life

He was the elder son of Pons, Count of Tripoli and Cecile of France. The date of his birth is unknown, but William of Tyre noted that Raymond was "adolescent" when his father died, implying that he was at least fifteen in 1137. He and his younger brother, Philip, were mature enough to sign their father's charters in the early 1130s. Historian Kevin J. Lewis argues that Raymond "could easily have been in his early twenties" in 1137, suggesting that he was born around 1116. Lewis also states that Raymond was most probably betrothed to Hodierna, who was a younger daughter of Baldwin II of Jerusalem, "as early as 1127".

War with Muslim powers

Bazwāj, the mamluk (or slave) commander of Damascus made a raid against Tripoli and defeated Pons in a battle. Pons fled from the battlefield, but native Christians captured and handed him over to Bazwāj who had him executed on 25 March 1137. Bazwāj captured a frontier fort, but returned to Damascus without attacking Tripoli. To take vengeance for his father's death, Raymond invaded the local Christians' settlements in the Mount Lebanon and captured many of them. The captured men, women and children were taken to Tripoli where their majority was tortured and executed. William of Tyre remarked that Raymond's campaign against the local Christians provided "the first lessons of his martial courage".

After learning of Pons' death, Imad ad-Din Zengi, atabeg of Mosul, invaded Tripoli in July 1137. A Muslim historian, Kamal al-Din, would later claim that Zengi attacked Tripoli only after Raymond mustered his troops to force Zengi to lift the siege of Homs. Lewis emphasizes that Kamal al-Din's report is doubtful, because Bazwāj had almost annihilated the army of Tripoli, preventing Raymond from launching major campaigns. After Zengi laid siege to Montferrand, Raymond sent envoys to his maternal uncle, Fulk, King of Jerusalem, urging him to hurry to the besieged fortress. Shortly after Fulk and his army crossed the frontier of the County of Tripoli, the envoys of Raymond of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, informed him that the Byzantine Emperor John II Komnenos had invaded Antioch.

Fulk and Raymond of Tripoli decided to launch an assault on Zengi's forces before marching to Antioch, because they though they could easily defeat the atabeg. However, Zengi lifted the siege of Homs and made an unexpected attack on the united forces of Jerusalem and Tripoli. Thousands of Christian soldiers were killed during the battle, and even more (including Raymond) were captured; Fulk and his retinue fled to Montferrand. Zengi again besieged Montferrand, but began negotiations with the besieged when he heard that further relief was on its way from Raymond of Antioch, Joscelin II of Edessa, and John II Comnenus. Those besieged in the fortress did not know of these movements but readily agreed to hand over the castle to Zengi in exchange for a safe passage and the release of Raymond and all other Christian captives.

Attempts to consolidation

The Byzantine author, Theodore Prodromos, praised John II Komnenos for having made Tripoli subject shortly after 1137. Decades later the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates would also describe Raymond as a "liegeman" of John II Comnenus. Both sources suggest that Raymond renewed his predecessors' oath of loyalty towards the Byzantine emperor, according to Lewis. Nevertheless, Raymond did not participate in John II Comnenus' military campaign against the Muslim rulers of Northern Syria in 1138. Historian Ralph-Johannes Lilie says, the lack of sufficient military forces prevented Raymond from assisting the Byzantines.

Raymond granted several settlements to the Knights Hospitallers along the eastern borders of his county in 1142. His grant included "the fortress of the Kurds" which developed into the important crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers during the following decades. He also transferred his rights to Montferrand and Rafaniya, both seized by Zengi in 1137, to the Hospitallers if they could recapture them. When establishing a military order on the eastern borderland, Raymond only wanted to secure the defence of his county, but his magnanimous grant laid the foundation of an almost independent ecclesiastic state.

Family affairs

Raymond was a great-grandson of Raymond of Saint-Gilles, one of the leaders of the First Crusade who was the first to style himself as count of Tripoli (even before Tripoli had been captured). However, Raymond was descended from Saint-Gilles through Bertrand of Toulouse, a son with disputed legitimacy. Saint-Gilles' legitimate son, Alfonso-Jordan, was born after Saint-Gilles started to use the title of count of Tripoli, making him his father's lawful heir in accordance with the idea of porphyrogeniture.

Alfonso-Jordan was one of the supreme commanders of the Second Crusade, but he died shortly after he landed at the Holy Land in April 1148. Because of his unexpected death, gossips about his murder started spreading among the crusaders, although he most probably died of natural reasons, as a consequence of his lengthy voyage across the Mediterranean Sea. An anonymous Syrian chronicler accused Raymond of the crime, stating that he poisoned Alfonso-Jordan because he feared that his uncle had come to seize Tripoli. Lewis emphasizes, the chronicle "is hardly the most reliable piece of evidence, so some skepticism about Raymond's involvement in Alfons's death is surely advisible". An other contemporaneous author—the continuator Sigebert of Gembloux's chronicle—was convinced that Raymond's sister-in-law, Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem, had poisoned Alfons-Jordan, because she wanted to prevent him from claiming Tripoli.

Raymond did not attend the assembly of the leaders of the crusade at Acre on 24 June 1148. He also kept away from the crusaders' campaign against Damascus. In contrast with Raymond, Alfons-Jordan's illegitimate son, Bertrand, who had arrived in his father's retinue, participated in the crusaders' fights. He decided to lay claim to Tripoli and took possession of the fortress of Araima in the summer of 1149. After being unable to expel Bertrand from the fort which controlled important roads in the county, Raymond sought assistance from Mu'in ad-Din Unur, the Muslim ruler of Damascus, as well as from Zengi's son, Nur ad-Din. The two Muslim rulers captured Araima and imprisoned Bertrand and his family. After destroying the castle, they returned the territory to Raymond. Raymond granted the land to the Knights Templar in the early 1150s.

Last years

Baldwin III of Jerusalem crossed Tripoli during his march towards northern Syria in the summer of 1150. He wanted to meet with the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenos who had purchased the last fortresses of the County of Edessa. Because of a conflict between Baldwin and his mother, Melisende, her supporters had denied to accompany the king, who thus asked Raymond to join him. Raymond agreed and accompanied Baldwin to the meeting and they jointly supervised the transfer of the castles to the Byzantines.

A Fatimid fleet pillaged Tripoli during a plundering raid against the coastal towns in the summer of 1151. The Egyptians destroyed ships and killed or captured hundreds of people in the harbor. In December, crusader troops invaded the Beqaa Valley, seizing prisoners and booty during their campaign before the Muslim governor of Baalbek routed them. Nur ad-Din broke into the county in April or May 1152 and captured Tortosa, leaving a garrison there. Baldwin III came to Tripoli and held a "general court", attended by the leading barons of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. After the king's arrival, the Nur ad-Din's troops left Tortosa, but they destroyed the fortress. Since its restoration proved costly, Raymond ceded Tortosa first to the local bishop, then to the Templars who transformed it into one of their most important headquarters.

An "enmity born from marital jealousy" had meanwhile emerged between Raymond and his wife, according to William of Tyre. Her sister, Melisende, who attended the assembly at Tripoli, tried to mediate between them, but their relationship remained tense. After the assembly was closed, Melisende and Hodierna left Tripoli for Jerusalem. Raymond rode out with them for a short distance, and on his way back to Tripoli, he was killed by a group of Assassins—fanatics employed by the head of the Nizari to murder their enemies—at the southern gate to the city, along with two of his knights. The motivation of the crime is unknown. Since the Nizari had not killed Christian rulers, modern historians propose that the establishment of the Templars at Tortosa outraged them.


The exact date of the marriage of Raymond and Hodierna is unknown. According to historian Peter Lock, it took place in the spring of 1133, after her brother-in-law, Fulk of Jerusalem, provided military assistance to Raymond's father against Zengi. Raymond and Hodierna's son, Raymond III, was born only in 1140, thus he was still a minor when he succeeded his father in 1152. Raymond and Hodierna's daughter, Melisende, was famed for her beauty, but her delicate health and rumours about her mother's infidelity prevented her marriage to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus.


Raymond II, Count of Tripoli Wikipedia

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