Questions for Discussion:

Rebels against Tyranny

  • The Ibelins are the heroes of this tale, but they have (or make) many enemies. Why is that? Are the Ibelins really blameless in the quarrel with Barlais? What about with the Holy Roman Emperor? Why or why not?


  • When Barlais returns from Antioch, he rapes King Henry. Why do you think he did that? What were his motives? What did he hope to achieve?


  • Throughout the novel there is tension between Balian and his father? What is the cause of this tension? Is father or son in the right?


  • After his imprisonment as a hostage, Balian frequently draws attentions to his scars. Why does he do this? What does he hope to achieve?


  • Balian has many faults. List them and discuss which are the most dangerous to his success.


  • Frederick II is revered by many historians for being “ahead of his time,” particularly for being an advocate for central government and for vigorously putting down factionalism and “over-mighty” subjects. He was viewed particularly in 19th Century Germany as a “great monarch,” who opposed Church interference and asserted royal prerogatives. Do you agree?


  • At several places in this novel, Beirut is referred to as “naïve.” Do you agree? Why or why not? If so, is naïve a positive or negative characteristic in a leader?


  • Lady Alys accuses men of being “blind” when it comes to honor. Give some examples of this and discuss whether a sense of honor is useful or the reverse.


  • The bloodless recovery of Jerusalem to Christian control is usually held up as one of Frederick II’s greatest achievements and many modern historians blame his contemporaries (the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Knights Templar and the barons of Jerusalem particularly) for condemning the Emperor and his treaty. What do you think?


  • Balian says: “Creation is never a sin. It is an imitation of the divine?” But it is also called a luxury and a vanity. What do you think? Do you agree with Balian? Why or why not?