This is the second part in Deadliest Blogger’s politically incorrect look at the Crusades. At best, considering the sheer volume of material and scope of history involved, this can only be a cursory examination of the Crusades*; with the politically correct blinders removed. In this part we will look at the First Crusade, and the establishment of the Christian Crusader States in Syria and Palestine.
(To read Part One, Go HERE)
In Part One we exploded some of the most egregious myths and canards regarding the struggles between Islam and the West; beginning with the inception of Islam as a religion originating in the Arabian peninsula in the early 7th century, and continuing to this very day.
Following their disastrous defeat at Battle of Manzikert (in Armenia), the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I Comnenus appealed to the Frankish West for help in turning back the Turkish invaders. This appeal, made to Pope Urban, led to the sermon at Clermont and the First Crusade.
The response in western Europe was far greater than either the Pope or Emperor expected. While Alexius requested military aid, in the form of fighting-men to be enlisted as mercenaries in Byzantine service, his request set in motion nothing less than a mass movement. Not only did many of the great lords of France and the Holy Roman Empire march east leading their own vassals and household warriors; a “People’s Crusade” of peasants and minor nobles, led by Peter the Hermit actually set out in April 1096, months ahead of departure of the great nobles. From the highest to the lowest, the men and women of western Europe were filled with Crusader zeal.
That First Crusade was not only about aiding Byzantium in its struggle with the Turks; and in fact the average Crusader didn’t see the Crusade in those terms. To most, this was about the maltreatment of Christian pilgrims by the Seljuks; and about regaining the Holy Land, occupied by Muslims since the 7th century, for “Christendom”. It was in this cause, and with promises of spiritual reward in the afterlife that Pope Urban excited the knights of Christendom to travel to the Holy Land and defend both pilgrims and the holy places:
“The Turks, an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God…. has invaded the lands of Christians and has depopulated them by the sword, pillage and fire… On whom therefore is the labor of avenging these wrongs and of recovering this territory incumbent, if not upon you?”
Far from being an unprovoked act of aggression against the peaceful Muslim peoples and lands of the Middle East, as it is often portrayed, the First Crusade was both an answer to an appeal from the Byzantines for military aid; and a much-belated response to centuries of Islamic attacks and conquest of Christian lands. Lands which included most of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. It was also in response to Turkish banditry, to protect and keep open the pilgrim routes from Europe to the holy places.
In response to the sermon at Clermont, many of the leading princes of the day “took the cross”. They came, for the most part, inspired by religious duty. These were not penniless adventurers looking to enrich themselves. Many were the among the wealthiest and most powerful men in Western Europe; men who had much to loose on such a far-flung venture. Europe in the 11th century was a place of conflicting loyalties and allegiances, questionable borders, of old feuds and ancient grudges. Leaving one’s lands unattended invited rival claimants to seize them from the absentee. Only a deep belief in the righteousness of their cause, and a chance to be part of one of the great movements of history motivated the powerful princes of Europe to leave behind their domains and march east…..
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