Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The First Crusade (1095-1099)

In 1054, Christendom broke into two large sections, Greek and Latin, in eastern and western Olympia respectively.

In 1071, the Roman emperor Romanus Diogenes lost a decisive battle against Turkish Muslims at Manzikert in the land of Incognita  just east of Anatolia. This decisive defeat marked the beginning of a decline from which the Roman Empire never recovered. After that, Turkish Muslims quickly and completely settled central Anatolia. They also soon took control of central Levantia, including the city of Jerusalem, from its Arab Muslim rulers in Cairo in 1073.

On the other side of a now divided Christendom, Spanish Christian armies did better. Fighting against Arab and Berber Muslims in Iberia for over 300 years, they captured the significant city of Toledo in 1085 and took control of roughly the northern half of Iberia.

In 1095, the Greek Christian Alexios 1st Komnenos, Roman emperor, requested military assistance from Urban 2nd, ruler of the Latin Christian Church, to recover control of Christian people, church buildings, and landmarks in Anatolia and central Levantia from the Muslims. In November Urban convened a general council of church and political leaders in Clermont, Gallia, to develop a response. Urban told the gathered leaders that they should restore Christian control of eastern Olympia, save Christian pilgrims from Muslim violence, and retake Jerusalem. Those gathered shouted, “God wills it!”

The People's Crusade
Urban expected a few thousand knights to answer his call. Instead most of the people responding enthusiastically to his call were peasants.

An itinerant preacher named Peter the Hermit inspired perhaps 30,000 people, mostly peasants (men, women, and children) but also some minor knights, to gather together and head for Jerusalem under his leadership. This motley crew came to be called the People's Crusade.

As this large group of people moved south down the Rhine River valley, they robbed and murdered perhaps 6,000 Jews in several cities along the river. This occurred despite attempts by Latin Christian leaders to prevent it.

This spontaneous and undisciplined army continued to pillage and murder its way to Constantinople. The emperor wisely ferried them quickly across the Bosporus. Rather than waiting for the professional soldiers who were coming, this army continued its rush toward Jerusalem. Professional Muslim soldiers defending their territory quickly slaughtered a majority of them.

The Stronger Crusaders March to Jerusalem
The four main armies of Crusaders left their homes in Gallia, Alpinia, and southern Latinia in August 1096 and met in Constantinople by April 1097. Entering Anatolia together, they first besieged and took Nicaea in June. In keeping with previous agreements, Latin Christian Crusaders handed control of Nicaea to the Greek Christian emperor and he, in turn, paid them well for their work. They then continued their march toward Jerusalem.

The Crusaders won their next battle against Muslims in July but then started losing the battle of attrition. Summertime Anatolia had little food or water and the Christians needed a lot of both. People and their horses started to die.

One Latin Christian leader on Crusade lacked lands in western Olympia and so coveted lands in eastern Olympia. He and his soldiers left the other Crusaders and headed east. He managed to make himself ruler of the central Levantian city of Edessa and thereby created the first Latin Christian state in eastern Olympia in March 1098.

Meanwhile the other Latin Christian leaders and their armies continued south into Levantia without him or his soldiers. They besieged the great city of Antioch in October 1097. In May 1098 a bribe opened a tower in the wall. The Crusaders poured through it, took control of the city, and killed almost all of its inhabitants--Muslim, Jewish, and even Christian. A Muslim relief army arrived too late to save the city but did besiege it. A monk was believed to have discovered the Holy Lance, the one used to pierce Christ's side, and the Crusaders, inspired by this sign, rallied and defeated the Muslims.

Latin Christian leaders spent the rest of 1098 arguing about who should rule Antioch. Morale among their troops, eager to get to Jerusalem, dropped. In the city a plague broke out and killed many including some leaders. That summer food again ran short. Finally leading Latin Christians decided to violate their agreement with the Greek Christian ruler in Constantinople and keep Antioch for themselves. One Latin Christian leader stayed in Antioch with his army as ruler.

In early 1099 the Crusaders began their final advance toward Jerusalem. With one leader keeping an army in Edessa, another doing the same in Antioch, deaths in battle, and desertions, their numbers had dwindled from 35,000 to perhaps 12,000.

In June these remaining leaders and soldiers saw Jerusalem for the first time and wept. On July 15th they penetrated the city walls and proceeded to slaughter almost all the inhabitants of the city. On July 22, meeting in council at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, leading Crusaders chose Godfrey of Bouillon, one of their own, to be ruler of the new Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

In August, the Muslim ruler in Egypt sent an army to recapture Jerusalem. The Crusaders were able to repel them with little effort. Afterward, most of the knights, having fulfilled their vow to retake Jerusalem, returned to their homes in Catholic Christendom.

Once the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem had been established, knights and soldiers from Catholic Christendom came and went with some regularity. These reinforcements helped the small vulnerable Catholic kingdoms in central Levantia to extend and consolidate their control by capturing the coastal cities of Acre in 1104, Tripoli in 1109, Beirut and Sidon in 1110, and Tyre in 1124. Catholic Christian control was also strengthened by the creation of two military monastic orders: the Knights Hospitallers in 1113 and the Knights Templar in 1129.

In the 26 years between the takeover of Edessa in 1098 and the capture of Tyre in 1124, knights and soldiers from Catholic Christendom had managed to take control of central Levantia from Muslims and to establish the four small Catholic states of Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem. All the Crusades which followed, until the final loss of the last Catholic outpost in 1291, were simply greater or lesser attempts to maintain the existence of those four small Catholic states against constant Muslim attempts to make them disappear.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.