By Shlomo Lotan
Ordines Militares: Colloquia Torunensia Historica / Yearbook for the Study of the Military Orders, Vol. 16 (2011)
Introduction: Being an international organisation, the Teutonic Military Order had not only been able to survive the crisis in the Latin East during the second half of the thirteenth century. In effect, it had – possibly unexpectedly – been able to reinvigorate itself and “re-invent” itself as a powerful and vital organisation militarily and administratively.
Indeed, it had been the administrative and military activities of the Teutonic Order which – together with efforts extended by the other Military Orders – that had aided the attempt to salvage and maintained the Latin Kingdom during the decline and final collapse which marked the Crusader Kingdom in the later years of the thirteenth century.
The Teutonic Military Order was founded in the Holy Land in 1198, where the already well established Military Orders of the Hospitallers and Templars were long active, with an ever-increasing military power and political influence. The rather new Teutonic Order had to secure its military power and to elevate its political standing in the havoc characterised the Crusader Kingdom of the time. Its strength stemmed from economic and military vigour frequently tested in political events in the Latin East. Such trials included the expansion of Crusader settlements in the north of the Latin Kingdom which also resulted in new rural fiefs and urban estates that had been acquired by the Order. Also, their leadership had acted as arbitrator in disputes between other Military Orders and the Kingdom’s political authorities. The Teutonic knights oered their political experience and intimate knowledge of the Crusaders’ enemies and helped in formulating what could be construed as a rational policy for the Latin Kingdom. All of these had occurred during King Louis IX’s Crusade in the Latin East in 1248, lasting until the collapse of the Latin Kingdom and the fall of Acre in 1291.