Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Second and Third Crusades

First Crusade (1095-1099)
Urban 2nd, ruler of the Roman Catholic Church, launched the First Crusade in 1095. That crusade accomplished its objective of retaking Jerusalem in 1099. Crusaders consolidated their control of coastal Levantia by 1124. All remaining crusades were simply efforts by Catholic (vs. Orthodox) Christians to maintain the existence of four small and vulnerable Catholic (vs. Orthodox) Christian states in Levantia against the determined efforts of Muslim rulers to make them disappear.

Second Crusade (1147-1149)
In 1098 Crusaders took control of Edessa and its surrounding region from Turkish Muslims and established the first Catholic state in eastern Olympia. In 1144 a Muslim army took back Edessa and made that Catholic state the first to disappear.

To reverse this loss, the ruler of the Catholic Church called for a second crusade. Bernard of Clairvaux, the most powerful man in Catholic Christendom, heavily supported that call in 1146.

The preaching of another crusade again excited popular passions which again expressed themselves in the murder of thousands of Jews in the Rhineland. Bernard and other Catholic leaders did their best to stop this.

Louis 7th, ruler of the French state, and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, answered the call. So did the Germanian ruler Conrad 3rd. All three brought thousands of their knights and soldiers with them.

Conrad, his men, and their camp followers arrived at Constantinople in September 1147. Conrad decided not to wait for his French Catholic partners. Worse, he split his army in half to cross Anatolia. Muslim armies decisively defeated each half separately, killing most, holding some for ransom, and selling the rest into slavery. A little later, most of French Catholic army also died while crossing Anatolia.

Somehow Conrad, Louis, Eleanor, and what remained of their armies arrived in Levantia. There they met with the ruler and leaders of the Catholic state near Acre in June 1148. Gathered leaders decided not to retake Edessa, the original purpose of the Second Crusade, but to capture the much closer city of Damascus because its ruler had recently allied himself with the Muslims.

The Crusaders attacked Damascus in July. It went so badly they retreated to Jerusalem within a week. Conrad immediately left Levantia for Constantinople. While Louis and Eleanor remained in Levantia until 1149, they took no further military action and grew so estranged that they returned to Gallia on separate ships.

Bernard of Clairvaux, who had done so much to promote the Second Crusade, felt humiliated by its disastrous results.

Third Crusade (1189-1192)
Salah ad-Din, also known as Saladin, united Muslims in Egypt and Levantia under his rule by 1174. In 1187 he annihilated a large Catholic army at the Battle of Hattin near the Sea of Galilee. With too few knights and soldiers remaining, the three small Catholic states in Levantia could not stop Salah ad-Din from taking the coastal cities of Ashkelon, Jaffa, Acre, Sidon, and Beirut. In October 1187, Salah ad-Din even took control of Jerusalem.

This loss of Jerusalem appalled Catholic Christendom. The ruler of the Catholic Church blamed the sins of Christians across Catholic Christendom for the debacle and called for a new crusade in October 1187. Three rulers, Richard ("the Lionheart") of England, Philip of France, and Frederick of the Holy Roman Empire, separately committed themselves and their men to retaking Jerusalem.

In May 1189 Frederick was the first to leave for Levantia. He took with him a huge army of 20,000 knights and 80,000 soldiers. Their progress toward Jerusalem was slowed by the Orthodox Roman ruler in Constantinople who had formed a secret alliance with Salah ad-Din. Nonetheless by June 1190, three years after the loss of Jerusalem, Frederick and his army had reached the threshold of Levantia. Tragically, Frederick then drowned when his horse lost its footing while crossing a river and his armor prevented him from swimming to safety. Almost all of his army immediately returned home.

While sailing to Levantia in April 1191, Richard led his army of Crusaders against the ruler of the lightly defended island of Cyprus, then belonging to the Orthodox Roman state, and took control of it. He later sold control of it to the displaced ruler of the Catholic Kingdom of Jerusalem as consolation.

Philip and his knights and soldiers sailed from Sicily to Levantia in March 1191 and arrived in May. They immediately joined other Crusaders besieging the important coastal city of Acre. Richard and his men joined them at Acre on June 8. This combined Catholic force captured the city in July. Hating Richard and hated by him, Philip returned to Gallia but left 10,000 men in Levantia.

Salah ad-Din negotiated with Richard to ransom the Muslim men, women, and children he had captured in Acre. Richard thought he took too long to return with the ransom, so had all 2,700 executed instead.

In September Richard marched his army south to take Jaffa. Enroute Salah ad-Din attacked it but Richard proved victorious. This victory in their first engagement boosted the vitality of the Crusaders just as it disillusioned the Muslims fighting for a leader they no longer saw as invincible. Richard soon took Jaffa and rebuilt an Ashkelon destroyed by Salah ad-Din earlier in 1191.

In November 1191 Richard led his army to within 12 miles of Jerusalem. The Muslim soldiers there were demoralized and incapable of stout defense. Unknown to Richard at the time, that was his one best chance to take Jerusalem. For various reasons he didn't and returned to Jaffa.

Not one to remain idle, Richard paid to have Conrad, the newly elected ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, assassinated.

In June 1192 Richard and his Crusaders came within sight of Jerusalem again but again retreated.

In late July Salah ad-Din surprised the defenses of Jaffa and took control of the city. Richard rushed to Jaffa and retook it. Salah ad-Din counterattacked but failed to regain control of the city.

In September 1192 Richard and Salah ad-Din made a treaty. Salah ad-Din agreed to allow the Kingdom of Jerusalem to control the coast of Levantia from Jaffa to Tyre from its new capital in Acre and to allow unarmed Christian pilgrims and traders to enter Jerusalem. As representative of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Richard agreed to affirm Salah ad-Din's continued control of Jerusalem and to return Ashkelon to Salah ad-Din's control. Catholics farther north remained in control of the coastal cities of Tripoli and Antioch and their surrounding areas.

In 1193 Salah ad-Din died of a fever and his sons failed to maintain the integrity of his state. Relatives of assassinated Conrad kidnapped Richard on his way back to Britannia and held him for ransom from 1192 to 1194. In 1199 he was killed in Gallia by a boy with a crossbow in revenge for Richard's murder of his father and two brothers.

Copyright © 2013 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.