The County of Edessa became a victorious symbol of the First Crusade. Baldwin of Boulogne, the leading crusader, and his squadron of sixty knights entered the Middle East territory predominantly populated by Armenians and established control over it.
Situated in the south-east of modern Turkey, Edessa had risen to the magnitude of Aleppo and Antioch before the First Crusade. The representation of Edessa was as a Christian colony resulting from the crusaders’ conquest. But the true situation described by the historians differs from the propaganda of that time.
Baldwin and his knights received an invitation from Thoros acting as governor of the ancient and rich city. The invitation was immediately formalized as legal adoption of the rule over the territory. Why was it so easy to gain control over such important county? The answer exists. Thoros feared the continuous threat from the neighboring Turkish sultanates and sought defense from such efficient commander as Baldwin.
Thoros wanted to “buy” the foreign protection with silver and gold, but Baldwin coveted rather power than material assets. Baldwin managed to gain sympathy of the local elite. Thereafter, under the pressure of the Edessa nobles, Thoros gave in and ceded power to Baldwin. Thoros inevitably ended up cruelly murdered with his family by the crowd of locals.
After the death of Thoros, Baldwin was given the title of “doux” which meant that he was a Constantinople vassal. Baldwin and other Christian nobles effectively merged with the Armenian environment. Many of them married Armenian noblewomen. But the crusaders’ challenge was the hostility of the surrounding settlements headed by belligerent Armenian warlords.
The Edessa County remained under the crusaders’ rule for more than half a century. It served as a frontline stronghold of the Jerusalem kingdom against Muslims. The European crusaders had been bravely repelling Turkish attacks before the Muslim troops finally conquered the territory in 1144.