Deeper into Jeopardy! XLIX: The Knights Templar – $2000

Jeopardy! category: THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (27-7-2015)

$2000 clue: After the fall of Acre in 1291, the Knights Templar moved their headquarters to this large island west of Syria

Correct response

The gist: It was the last time they’d hold any major strongholds in the Holy Land they were sworn to defend. After the bloody Siege of Acre, which saw the Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil destroy nearly the entire city to prevent the Knights from re-establishing a base there, the Templars fled west to the island of Cyprus. At the time it was an independent kingdom backed by the Holy Roman Empire, but the Templars had a long history on the island. A little over a century earlier they had actually purchased the entirety of Cyprus from King Richard I the Lionheart of England, who had conquered it from the Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, the people of the island weren’t too happy about the transaction, and after a violent revolt the Templars were glad to sell it in turn to Guy of Lusignan, a French knight and erstwhile King of Jerusalem; his brother’s subsequent rule of the island was recognized by the Holy Roman Emperor.

In any case, the now much-reduced Templars made some efforts to retake the Holy Land, but by the end of the 13th century general enthusiasm for the Crusades had dwindled, and the attention of Christendom had turned to other matters. Still, in 1300 the Templars attempted to make common cause with the Mongols, who were also fighting the Saracens at the time, but by 1303 it was abundantly clear to all that the Templars’ mission had failed. Over the past nearly two centuries, though, the Templars had become such an influential body and integral part of Christianity that they persisted for another ten years, running farms, banks, and businesses, enjoying their special privileges like freedom from taxes and of movement across borders, and maintaining their standing army, albeit one that lacked a defined purpose. It was these privileges and that army that began to raise the suspicion of other powerful Europeans, who were not too keen on having a large, well-trained army with nothing to do hanging around their lands. This was the situation that would lead, in 1312, to the execution of the last Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the dissolution of the order.

19th century painting of the Siege of Acre of 1291

The gist: There really isn’t much west of Syria besides Cyprus until you get to the Greek islands, and that’s a ways away. This seems pretty east for a $2000 clue given a rudimentary knowledge of Mediterranean geography – the writers could have left out “west of Syria” to open it up to islands like Sicily, Crete, or Malta, which could just as easily be correct without knowing much about the Templars. But, they didn’t.

In Jeopardy!: Like all of the correct responses from this category (that’s the problem with writing categories about things most people don’t know much about), Cyprus returns a lot of clues – 111 regular and 12 FJ!, to be exact. Only one other one mentions the Templars, and that one calls it an “eastern Mediterranean island,” a little tougher than “island west of Syria.” The Crusades are in three. By far the most common themes are Greece (31) and Turkey (22) show up quite a bit, being the two countries that have controlled the island before its independence, as well as the two largest ethnicities living there and the island’s two official languages. Its capital, Nicosia, only shows up in eight clues, but you should know it anyway, like all the capitals.

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