Kingdom of Jerusalem

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The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Christian kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. It lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks.

At first the kingdom was little more than a loose collection of towns and cities captured during the crusade. Later kings expanded its size so that at its height in the mid-12th century, the kingdom roughly encompassed the territory of modern-day Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. It extended from Lebanon in the north to the Sinai Desert in the south, and into modern Jordan and Syria in the east. There were attempts to expand the kingdom into Fatimid Egypt. Its kings held a certain amount of authority over the other crusader states: Tripoli, Antioch, and Edessa.

Many customs and institutions were imported from the crusaders' original homelands in Western Europe, and there were close familial and political connections with the West throughout the kingdom's existence. As a relatively minor kingdom it often lacked financial and military support from Europe. The kingdom had closer ties to the neighbouring Kingdom of Armenia and the Byzantine Empire, from which it inherited oriental qualities, as well as being influenced by pre-existing Eastern institutions. Socially, the Frankish inhabitants were dominant and the Muslims and eastern Christians were a marginalized lower class.

At first the Muslim world held little concern for the fledgling kingdom, but as the 12th century progressed, the kingdom's Muslim neighbours were united by Nur ad-Din Zangi and Saladin, who vigorously began to recapture lost territory. Jerusalem itself was lost to Saladin in 1187, and by the 13th century the Kingdom was reduced to a few cities along the Mediterranean coast. In this period, the kingdom, sometimes referred to as the "Kingdom of Acre", was ruled by the Lusignan dynasty of the crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, and ties were strengthened with Tripoli, Antioch, and Armenia. The kingdom was soon increasingly dominated by the Italian city-states of Venice and Genoa, as well as the imperial ambitions of the Holy Roman Emperors. The kingdom became little more than a pawn in the politics and warfare of the Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties in Egypt, as well as the Khwarezmian and Mongol invaders. The Mamluk sultans Baibars and al-Ashraf Khalil eventually reconquered all the remaining crusader strongholds, culminating in the destruction of Acre in 1291.


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