“For We Who Were Occidentals Have Become Orientals:” The Evolution of Intermediaries in the Latin East, 1095-1291
By K. A. Tuley
Honors Research Thesis, Ohio State University, 2012
Introduction: The Mediterranean Basin in the medieval era was, itself, a cultural contact zone, where Jews, Muslims, and Christians of various sects and languages met, trading ideas, goods, and battles. The strip of Levantine coastal territory from Ascalon in the south to Antioch and Edessa in the north conquered by the armed pilgrimages now called the Crusades has come to be known the “Crusader States,” but I find the “Latin East” to be a more accurate title: Europeans who came to the Levant quickly lost the total-war ideology associated with Crusaders, and developed an identity based on being Latins in and of the East. As the generations passed, they integrated more completely into the politics and society of the region, while retaining a distinct, Latin identity.
Intermediaries were a vital component of this new society, one often almost entirely ignored by modern scholarship, which bypasses the interpreters and diplomats who moved between Latins and Muslims. The historical sources themselves rarely place much emphasis on these individuals, and later historians have followed their lead; no one scholar has written a cohesive study of them, no single work examines their role from the Latin arrival in Constantinople in 1097 to the final loss of Acre, the last Latin stronghold on the mainland, in 1291.
Through a close reading of sources available in translation, in particular those from the Arabic, Greek, Latin and French, I have addressed this gap in Crusade Studies scholarship, piecing together the isolated incidents mentioning interpreters, envoys and negotiators. By tracing the actions of these intermediaries, their relations with contemporaries, and their presentation in the sources, it is possible to chart the evolution of a Latin identity in the Levant from newcomer to local. This identity was neither static nor directly correlated to time spent in the Levant; instead, changes in political realities directly affected the social dynamics of the region. Intermediaries’ relationships with both Muslims and Latin Christians changed both with time and with the balance of power between indigenous Latins, local Muslims, and Crusaders from Europe, representing the constant adjustment of the Latin identity in the East.