Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cost of Warfare

Hugh of Bourbouton, a Provençal lord who entered the Temple in 1138 and became the master of a commandery created out of his own lands, probably never went to Palestine. He had been relatively old when he had responded to the spirituality of the new ‘knights of Christ’ and he remained, living a religious life he must have found satisfying, on his old estate, content to manage the lands there for the benefit of the fighting convent in the east. The orders’ military role was to remain attractive to recruits and benefactors for centuries. Its appeal was manifest, for example, in the 26 English coats-of-arms at the centre of which are the royal arms of Henry IV and six other members of his family, sculpted on the face of the English Tower at the south-eastern corner of the enceinte of the Hospitaller castle of Bodrum on the coast of Asia Minor.

Men like Hugh of Bourbouton were needed, because the orders’ commitments demanded money, men and matériel, and these could only be generated through the management of endowed land and investments. Warfare was hugely expensive and it got more so as time went by. The orders, moreover, chose, or were persuaded, to concentrate on fortifications and shipping: the most costly, because the most technological, forms of commitment. When the Templar castle of Safad in Palestine was rebuilt in the 1240s an estimate made within the order put the bill, over and above the income from the villages nearby, at 1,100,000 saracen besants. Thereafter the annual cost of maintenance ran to 40,000 besants. Since mercenary knights were serving in Palestine for 120 besants a year, the expenses of restoring this great fortress came to the equivalent of paying a year’s wages to over 9,000 knights and thereafter bearing a permanent establishment of 333 knights. At the time, the Templars had six castles in the Levant of roughly this size. The master of the Hospitallers, who were responsible for another three, wrote in 1268 that more than 10,000 men were being fed by his order in the East, over and above the 300 brothers who were resident there. Many of the 10,000 must have been the mercenaries required to man the garrisons and to contribute to the defence of the cities. The cost to the orders most have been enormous and the records of the interrogation of the Templars in the early fourteenth century include a graphic account of a revolt of mercenaries in Acre in the 1270s, because their wages were not being paid on time. The fleets of the Hospitallers on Rhodes and Malta and the advanced fortifications constructed in both archipelagos and by the Teutonic Knights in Prussia and Livonia were a heavy burden, as must have been the lesser commitments made by Santiago, Christ, St Stephen, St Maurice and St Lazarus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Lazarus.

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