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Contents Introduction Map Chapter 1: The Holy Land Chapter 2: "God Wills It!" Chapter 3: At the Gates of Damascus Chapter 4: The Great Adversaries Chapter 5: Striking at the Empire Chapter 6: On the Banks of the Nile Chapter 7: Jerusalem Regained Chapter 8: The Saint's Progress Chapter 9: Endgame and Aftermath Chronology and Biographies Bibliography Introduction In 1394 an Italian traveller named Martoni was visiting Cyprus when he was surprised to see that the well-to-do women of the island were wearing black clothes from head to toe, with only their eyes showing. When he inquired about the origin of this dress code he was informed that the women were symbolically mourning the capture by the Muslims of the Christian city of Acre on the Palestinian coast. What was extraordinary was that Acre had been lost more than a century ago, in 1291. But its fall to a Mamluk army from Egypt had a tremendous significance, because it marked the end of a 200-year Christian presence in Syria and Palestine (which historians usually label the "Latin east" or "Outremer", from the French for "beyond the sea"). From 1099 to 1291, crusaders from western Europe had established themselves in a region that had been under Muslim control since the rise and expansion of Islam in the seventh century AD. The crusaders, or Franj ("Franks") as they were called by the Muslims, were drawn to their epic expeditions of conquest by a mixture of motives (see Chapter Two), not least by a burning desire to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the infidel. As well as holding out the attractive prospect of power, money and land, the crusades were at heart profoundly religious and idealistic enterprises, having the character of a pilgrimage. They were sanctioned by popes, and those hardy souls who "took the cross" had to swear a solemn vow to make their journey. If they then defaulted, they were liable to excommunication / being cast out from the church, with all the spiritual perils that entailed. Crusaders, like pilgrims, were also granted papal indulgences, which assured them of a remission of penance due to sin / an enormous reward in an age when people were anxious about the afterlife, with its all-too-real categories of hell, purgatory and heaven. The crusades to the east began after Pope Urban II, in 1095, called for a great expedition to help the Christian Byzantine Greeks, under pressure from the Seljuk Turks, and to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims. The First Crusade eventually got under way a year later and ended triumphantly with the Christians' capture of Jerusalem in 1099. The crusaders established four main states, namely the counties of Edessa and Tripoli, the principality of Antioch, and the kingdom of Jerusalem. The problem then was how to maintain these states in the face of Muslim hostility and a shortage of manpower, never satisfactorily resolved by the constant arrival of further adventurers and settlers from the west. That the Franks managed to remain in the east for nearly 200 years is a testament to their determination, tenacity and martial prowess, as well as to the way the spiritual allure of the Holy Land was constantly able to attract material assistance from Europe. After the First Crusade there were other major expeditions (which, by convention, are numbered) as well as countless smaller ones. The Second Crusade was launched in 1147 to retake Edessa after it had fallen to the Muslims three years earlier. The Third Crusade was prompted by the loss of Jerusalem to the great Muslim general Saladin in 1187, while the Fourth Crusade (1202/04) ended up with the capture and pillaging of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. The crusades in the thirteenth century included two expeditions to Egypt, perceived as the weak spot in the Muslims' defences, as well as an abortive attempt by Louis IX, king of France, to take Tunis. In the end, despite the threat of the Mongols, whose empire was steadily expanding westward from its central Asian heartland, the Muslim Mamluk dynasty in Egypt succeeded in driving the Christians from Outremer for good. The crusades continue to hold a fascination for the west. This is partly due to a long process of romanticization and mythologizing (for example through the writings of Sir Walter Scott, such as Ivanhoe) that has crystallized and made popular images of knights in shining armour, chivalric behaviour and feats of derring-do. But for the reader who comes to accounts of the crusades with rose-tinted spectacles it can be something of a shock to discover that Christian chivalry and magnanimity were more than matched by cruelty and savagery. In 1156, Aimery, the patriarch of the Christian city of Antioch in Syria, was taken prisoner and brutally beaten around the head before having honey rubbed into his broken skin. His tormentors then chained him up outside in the full heat of the day as human fly-paper. Aimery's persecutor was not a sadistic Muslim but the Christian crusader Reynald of Ch¿tillon, who wanted the patriarch to surrender to him his considerable wealth. Why? Because Reynald wanted to invade the rich island of Cyprus / Christian Cyprus. This he duly did, with his Armenian allies, and subjected the island to a three-week orgy of violence. As the historian Sir Steven Runciman remarked: "The murder and rapine was on a scale that the Huns or Mongols might have envied." Although it must be said that Reynald was widely recognized by his fellow crusaders to be ruthless and irresponsible, even those with the noblest reputations were capable of terrible violence. Richard the Lionheart, the paragon of English chivalry, had a couple of thousand Muslim prisoners butchered in cold blood. The Christian generals besieging the Turkish-held city of Nicaea in Anatolia (modern Turkey) tried to dampen the spirits of the defenders by lobbing over the walls the hacked-off heads of dead Muslim soldiers. Yet it is well to remember that the violence of the crusades was not unusual in an age when brutal warfare was commonplace. Nor, of course, were the atrocities and cruelty one-sided / the Muslims were quite capable of matching the savagery of their Christian enemies. Another common conception of the crusades is that it was a titanic clash of civilizations and religions, west versus east, Christianity versus Islam, inspired by idealism and dogmatic theologies. Yet as historian Jeremy Johns has written: "Christendom's assault against the Muslims had less to do with the relationship between Christianity and Islam than with the internal stresses and strains of Christian Europe." Of course it is true that the crusaders, in the main, were fired up by religious zeal and that, over time, the Muslim idea of jihad, that is holy war against the infidel, reasserted itself. But there were other, more secular, motives for crusading, discussed in Chapter Two. Also, from the Muslim point of view, the crusades had far less historical significance than the threat to Islam from the Mongols. In 1258 the Mongol general H¿leg¿ destroyed a huge Muslim army before capturing the city of Baghdad, slaughtering tens of thousands of its citizens. But for a decisive riposte by the Mamluks of Egypt, the entire Muslim Middle East might have come under Mongol control. In the early years of the twenty-first century, when conflicts in the Middle East and other parts of the world incorporate strong religious elements, it is tempting to set modern struggles in the tradition of the crusades. Indeed, the rhetoric of the crusades is sometimes drawn upon for publicity or propaganda. In 1920, a French army took over Damascus under the mandate of the League of Nations in the aftermath of World War I; its commander made his way to the tomb of Saladin / the great Muslim hero who recaptured Jerusalem from the Christians in 1187 / and declared: "Nous revoil¿, Saladin!" ("Here we are again, Saladin!"). Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader who was deposed in 2003, had his portrait put on a postage stamp beside that of Saladin in an attempt to depict himself as a latter-day Muslim knight. Even the word "crusade" can raise pulses in the Muslim world, as "jihad" sometimes does in the west. President George W. Bush, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, talked of mounting a "crusade" against terror, and although he was using the word in its general, non-historical meaning, it rang alarm bells in the Muslim world. Yet to try to make facile connections between present conflicts involving Muslim and non-Muslim countries and the crusades is misleading, because it ignores the very different geo-political and religious circumstances and various other complexities. In the crusades era, for example, the Franks of the Latin east could at times live quite peacefully with their Muslim neighbours and cooperate with them over trade. (Indeed, when Prince Edward of England arrived in the Holy Land in 1271 he found that the Venetians were supplying weapons materials to his Muslim opponents!) Equally, the Christians were often drawn into conflicts among themselves / Latin Franks against Greek Byzantines, Venetians against Genoese / in the same way that the Muslims were also often caught up in internal strife. Nor was the religious element straightforward: the Catholic crusaders were generally hostile toward the Orthodox Byzantines, whom they held to be schismatics, while in the Muslim world, the orthodox Sunnis were usually at odds with the Shiites. There were also racial complexities: Christians and Muslims were not ethnically homogeneous. Those whom the Muslims bracketed under the term "Franks" actually consisted of men from France, England, Spain, Italy, Germany and other parts of Europe, among whom keen rivalries often existed. Equally, those usually labelled by the Christians as "Saracens" might be Syrians, Egyptians or Turks, who themselves could be Seljuks, Danishmends or, later on, Ottomans. Although this book concentrates on the major expeditions to the Latin east, it is important to remember that the concept of the "crusade" was applied to theatres of war other than Outremer, for example Spain. There, for centuries, Christians fought the Moors / Muslim Arabs and Berbers who had invaded the country in 711 and conquered most of the Iberian peninsula by 718. The Christian Reconquista of Spain gained momentum in the late eleventh century, when Alfonso VI scored important victories against the Muslims with the help of Rodrigo Diaz, better known as El Cid, who became a national hero. It was late in the same century that the first crusade in the country was formally initiated, when in 1096 Pope Urban II encouraged Catalan crusaders bound for the Holy Land to fulfil their vows by fighting the Moors in Spain instead. Thenceforth, several crusades were launched to reinvigorate the Reconquista, especially after the Christian victory over the Moors at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Crusading in Spain was also prominent in the early fourteenth century and the late fifteenth century until, in 1492, the last Moorish enclave of Granada fell. It should also be stressed that crusades were not merely confined to combating Muslims. They were also launched at various times against: pagans in eastern Germany and the Baltic region; heretics, such as the Albigenses of Languedoc in the south of France and the Hussites in Bohemia; and political enemies of the pope in Italy. For what marked out a crusade was not so much the nature of the enemy but its endorsement by the pope and his granting of spiritual rewards in the form of indulgences as well as certain privileges, such as the protection of property while the crusaders were absent from home. Thus the historian Jonathan Riley-Smith has defined a crusade as "a holy war fought against those perceived to be the external or internal foes of Christendom for the recovering of Christian property or in defence of the Church or Christian people." Nevertheless, the most glamorous, prestigious and high-profile crusades of the Middle Ages were recognized to be those against the Muslims in the east, and it is these which form the main narrative of this book, from the Council of Clermont in 1095 to the fall of Acre in 1291. The Crusades also sets out the historical background to the expeditions and describes the social, political and religious conditions in Outremer. Short biographies of the leading characters and a chronology are included to give signposts along what can be a tangled path of events, politics and personal names / in the index of Sir Steven Runciman's third volume of his History of the Crusades there are listed six different Bohemonds, 13 Baldwins and 33 Williams. It goes without saying that the modest aim of an introductory book of this nature is to encourage the reader to study more specialist works / whether those of contemporary chroniclers, such as John of Joinville, or modern studies, particularly those by Runciman and Riley-Smith / and suggestions for further reading are listed in the bibliography.
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
Crusades -- Influence.