Helena Schrader's Historical Fiction

My biographical novel of Balian d'Ibelin in three parts is complete, but the saga continues. Follow me to Cyprus, where Lusignans and Ibelins struggle to put down a rebellion and establish a durable state. Watch for excerpts and updates here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chivalry and Balian d'Ibelin: Prowess

Prowess or physical courage is probably the most ancient of all manly virtues; one need only think of Achilles and Hector. It was admired in men long before and long after the Age of Chivalry, and it is deemed the prime adornment and most important asset of men in nearly every culture from the native American indians to Japan and from the Norsemen to the highlands of Ethiopia. The romances of the age could be summarized as tales of "brave knights and fair ladies."

Balian’s courage is one of the few chivalrous virtues for which we have ample evidence. Even the Arab sources mention his military prowess, starting with the Battle of Montgisard. He is also credited with fighting his way out of the encirclement at Hattin – according to some interpretations with Raymond of Tripoli, according to others breaking out in the other direction. At all events, he fought his way out after hours of being in the thick of the grueling engagement.  When he took command of the defenses of Jerusalem, he did not remain behind the walls, but first conducted dangerous foraging sorties into the surrounding area controlled by the enemy in order to capture necessary food supplies. After the siege began, he led a nearly suicidal assault on the Saracen camp.  Balian d’Ibelin had physical (as well as moral) courage in abundance.

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