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The Crusades have become an integral part of the history of the Middle Ages. This topic is still relevant today.
Religious fanatics and outspoken fascists call themselves crusaders. And one of the groups of Islamic terrorists directly calls itself the Salah ad-Din Brigade, in honor of the famous Muslim commander. In Europe, the knights-crusaders are usually idealized.
In fact, the history of the Crusades is full of mysteries, and just myths. She is far from what we know her from movies and adventure novels.
The Crusades were an attack on Muslims. It is worth considering the campaigns not as aggression, but as an attempt to protect Europe from Muslims. But the event cannot be called successful. If you look at all the wars that have flared up in the Mediterranean since the 7th century, it turns out that the battles did not subside, but were simply fought on different fronts. The East fought with the West in the Pyrenees and Apennines, in southern France and northern Africa, in the Balkans, in Asia Minor and Western Asia, and in the Mediterranean itself. The Arab Caliphate, its allies and heirs almost always attacked. And in the Middle Ages, people thought that way. On the western front in the 11th century, the situation stabilized, but in the east, in Byzantium, after the battle of Manzikert in 1071, a catastrophe was outlined. Then, during a large-scale battle, the Seljuk Sultan Alp-Arslan defeated the army of the Eastern Roman Empire. Seven years later, Nicaea fell and became the capital of the Sultanate. At the end of the 11th century, the advanced units of the Seljuks began to appear in the vicinity of Constantinople. Then the Byzantine emperor, Alexei I Comnenus, a talented ruler and commander, asked the Pope for help. Constantinople needed a small professional army for protection. The Emperor did not even think that the Christian West would respond on such a large scale. Nobody could have foreseen the further. This is how the Crusades began.
The Holy Land was a western colony. This question immediately disappears if you find out who sponsored the crusader states in the East. Finances came from Europe. The crusaders could not siphon resources from the occupied territories, and there was no question of colonizing the Middle East. This is the fundamental difference between the Crusades in the East and what happened to the spiritual and knightly orders in the Baltic.
People went to the Crusades because of overpopulation and for money. In those years, Europe really seemed overpopulated. But the outflow of people in the XI-XIII centuries to the east of the Mediterranean did not remove the demographic tension in any way. In Latin Jerusalem and other countries created by the crusaders, the number of francs was small. They were concentrated in the strongholds, Jews, Muslims and local Eastern Christians still lived around. At the end of the 11th century, economic growth began in Western Europe. It was thanks to him that funds were found to organize numerous military campaigns. Medieval historians told the truth. The motivation for the Crusades was to help brothers in faith, stop the advance of Islam, and return the truly Christian lands. And these reasons are closely related, not related to overpopulation or enrichment.
In the Crusades, a struggle was born between Europeans. This myth appeared thanks to the famous historical confrontation between the kings Richard the Lionheart and Philip II Augustus. Indeed, many internal political conflicts were carried over by Europeans to the Holy Land. For example, the Guelphs and Gibbelins, the Italian merchant and feudal groups opposed each other. But the East was becoming just a new arena for opponents. And two monarchs, a Frenchman and an Englishman, were bitter rivals even before the start of the Third Crusade. It's just that at this time the "hot" phase of the war was replaced by the "cold" one. There were no national contradictions. Then Christians were largely cosmopolitan, perceiving themselves and others as residents of territories, not states. The same Richard the Lionheart was called "Poatevin", that is, an inhabitant of the County of Poitiers. In those years, the French were called the inhabitants of the land of Ile-de-France, which belonged to the Capetian.
Under the guise of campaigns, subjects were simply robbed. There was a constant lack of money for the Crusades. Rome constantly introduced new taxes, began to sell indulgences. The kings who sent on a campaign literally devastated their possessions in preparation. Before the Third Crusade, France and England introduced a new tax - "Saladin tithe". Richard the Lionheart squeezed all the juices out of the Anjou county, lowered the tribute from Scotland for money, and sold her several castles. The king sold out every possible ecclesiastical and secular office. Louis IX the Saint, when organizing the Seventh Crusade, managed to spend 12 of his annual income. He even built a separate harbor on the Mediterranean so as not to be dependent on the Italian fleet. In 1291, the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Acre, fell. The Mamluks not only destroyed the city, but also massacred almost the entire population. The city was restored only half a century later. However, the stronghold of the Crusaders was destroyed. For a long time, European thinkers discussed the possibility of new crusades, the amounts were calculated. However, they turned out to be so astronomical that the projects quickly died out.
The crusaders were driven by greed. For those who wanted to get rich in those years, the Crusade was an unprofitable option. Did return home with treasure units. The majority came with nothing, having lost even what they had. There is nothing to say about the peasants. The holy land is fertile, but how many have reached it and received allotments there? The feudal lords who went on the Crusade had to mortgage their possessions, borrow money for equipment and fees. The knights left their families without support, entrusting them to God, the church and the overlord. Of the leaders of the first campaign, only Bohemund of Tarentum and his nephew Tancred had definite military-political interests in the East. Both could not achieve power in southern Italy in any way. For these leaders, the campaign was an occasion to create their own eastern kingdom. For Bohemund, the attempt was not the last, all his life he tried to snatch the opportunity to become a significant figure in the confrontation between the Kingdom of Sicily and Byzantium. The four largest feudal lords in Europe, the Count of Toulouse, the Count of Flanders, the Duke of Lorraine and the Duke of Normandy, surpassed even the king of France in their possessions. However, in the East, they received modest allotments. The proof of the disadvantage of the campaign was the fact that almost all the soldiers returned back at the end of the mission. Gottfried of Bouillon, who headed the largest state in the Holy Land - the Latin-Jerusalem kingdom, had only two hundred knights left. Apparently, there were no opportunities to make treasures here.
In the Crusades, blood flowed like water. Military science uses the frank term "collateral damage", nothing can be done about it. In those days, the troops could not exist without the accompanying plunder, the war fed itself. The military leaders saw how the soldiers behaved, but put up with it. There were no other warriors, it was not a matter of discipline. And the massacre was part of the victory, it was traditional for that time. The dead do not interfere with looting. The soldiers killed and tortured, hoping to find out the location of the valuables. It is quite probable that the shedding of the blood of “infidels” was considered a ritual of purification, and not only among Christians, but also among Muslims. The most famous massacre took place in 1099, when, after the capture of Jerusalem, the crusaders made a real bloody river. It was said that the entire population of the city was destroyed. But this seems like an exaggeration. Contemporaries write that they killed selectively, many were spared, reasoning reasonably. There was no point in killing all the inhabitants - the crusaders needed servants. And what to do in an empty city? That massacre was dictated by revenge. The crusaders had to endure three years of hardships, not all of them reached the final goal. The losses of the inhabitants were enormous. The number of those killed during that massacre varies from 10 to 70 thousand in different sources. Massacres of prisoners took place on the direct orders of the commanders. In 1187, Salah ad-Din ordered the execution of 240 Templars. Killing them was more profitable than exchanging them. The execution of the knights was an act of intimidation. And in 1191 near Acre, Richard the Lionheart did a similar act. He tried to negotiate with Salah ad-Din on the exchange of prisoners, but the Sultan was playing for time. The campaign was in jeopardy, and the Muslims also had to be fed and protected. The council of war decided to execute the prisoners. Then the Europeans killed about 2,600 Saracens. Violence was not a hallmark of the Crusades. And in the days of the Vikings, and earlier, prisoners were executed en masse right on the battlefield. In those years, the war became even more humane - people were often released for ransom. They preferred to sell prisoners into slavery rather than kill. This was their chance to escape and escape.
For the Crusaders, Salvation was not the main thing. In any army there are both adventurers and cynics. But there are also many who go to serve lofty goals. It was such people who inspired the brothers, giving them the strength to defeat the "infidels." Medieval society was saturated with the ideas of religion. Our ancestors acted in accordance with them. For many Europeans, participation in the Crusade was the only way to atone for their sins before God. They refute the myth of the history of some famous participants in the campaigns. Thus, Stephen II, Comte de Blois was a wealthy and influential nobleman. His wife was the daughter of William the Conqueror himself; many children grew up in the family. Stefan went on a hike clearly not for treasure. But due to hardship and hardship, he gave up his venture and returned home. The wife began to reproach the knight for cowardice, for refusing to do her duty. Then the count in 1001 went on a campaign again. A year later, in the battle of Ramla, he died. The Comte de la Marche killed his wife's lover, and he himself went to atone for sins in the Holy Land. And he rode not as part of the Crusade, but as a pilgrim. Returning back, the count gave his lands to the English king, and he himself went to a monastery. Such morals were in those days.
The Crusades covered up the genocide of the Jews. Crusaders are often accused of Jewish genocide. If this happened, it was contrary to the wishes of the leaders, spiritual and military. The repetition of history, however, did not speak of malice, but simply of the weakness of the elite. Jews began to smash not in Jerusalem, but also in Europe. A similar story happened in London, in preparation for the Third Campaign. The authorities forbade Jews from leaving their homes to avoid fights. But they decided to arrange a holiday on the streets. It all ended with beatings and robberies. The locals gladly took part in those persecutions, who saw the Jews as representatives of the people who crucified their God. There were also economic reasons - competitors and usurers were removed, it was possible to rob under a religious pretext. The "People's" crusade became famous for its pogroms. Then up to 300 thousand people went to the Holy Land, including women with children. But the gangs of embittered and armed marginal people everywhere were rebuffed by secular and church authorities. So, in Mainz, the bishop hid Jews in his courtyard. But that didn't help them. But in Hungary, pogroms were generally avoided. It's just that the local king Kaloman closed the border, not letting the angry crowds into their lands. Violence against Jews was clearly criticized by ideologues of the crusader movement. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the inspirer of the Second Crusade and author of the Templar charter, said that the Jews are living words of Scripture, enduring slavery by Christian princes.
Muslims were severely oppressed by Christians. In his Book of Edification, Osama-ibn-Munkyz describes the courtesy of the Templars, who even allowed Muslims to pray in captured mosques. The adherents of Islam themselves tolerated the infidels, believing that they should pay for the guardianship of the state. The same tax was paid by Muslims and Jews not only in the Crusader states in the Holy Land, but also in Spain and Sicily. If Christians really brutally oppressed the local population, they would not be able to hold out in the region for two hundred years. The Arab traveler Ibn Jubair said that in the 12th century, in the Pyrenees, Muslims lived better under the rule of the Franks than under their co-religionists - taxes are quite reasonable, and no one encroaches on property. The response was not always as tolerant. If Salah ad-Din and his descendants treated Christians relatively calmly, then the Mamluks and sultans from Egypt harshly persecuted the "infidels."
The Crusaders wanted to convert Muslims to Christianity. Contemporaries in their works called Muslims "pagans". But no one wanted to convert them to their faith en masse and even more so forcibly. The Islamic world was perceived as a great culture comparable in scale to the Christian one. This is far from the Baltics, where priests marched in front of the army. It is believed that the ideas of the mass conversion of Muslims were from Saint Louis IX in the Eighth Crusade in 1270. But those activities of enthusiastic missionaries should be considered an exception. True, there are saints in history who, in dozens and hundreds, translated former Muslims into their faith.
Islamic jihad has flared up because of the crusades. The holy war against the infidels began not because of the Crusades, but much earlier, in the 6th century. And the jihad continues to this day. The great Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that a holy war is the religious duty of every Muslim, it is necessary to convince or force everyone to convert to Islam. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, jihad did not even flare up with renewed vigor, although there was a reason. Just in the Middle East, clans began to fight with each other, a change of dynasties began. At first, the region belonged to the Arabs, they were replaced by the Seljuk Turks and Kurds. In the 11th century, the Egyptians tried to conquer Syria and Palestine. Not everyone realized that Christians had started their holy war for the faith. Until the Middle East was united, the emirs, caliphs and atabeks fought with each other, not for their faith. This allowed the crusaders to achieve temporary successes.
The Crusaders were a rabble who did not know how to fight. Another myth says that Muslims in terms of the development of military affairs have gone much further than the Christian Europeans. But research showed that the Saracens had no clear technical superiority. And the fortresses and fortifications of the crusaders were much more perfect than those of their opponents. Historians analyzed the main battles, it turned out that often the course of the battle was determined by the situation or the leadership talents of individuals. And the reason for the extinction of the crusader movement by the end of the 13th century lies not at all in the military backwardness, but in politics and economics. Europe lacked resources and people. The Holy Land lay far away, and the Christian states in the East were scattered. The hottest heads either said goodbye to life, or received their allotment, remaining in the Holy Land.
In the East, the crusaders were still feared for a long time. For Europe, the Crusades became an important part of history, but for Muslims until the end of the 19th century, those events did not play a role. Much more terrible for them was the Mongol invasion. Ibn al-Athir, a contemporary of the events, recalled with horror the Tatars who came from the east. And although he mentions the Franks and the defeat from them, it was the eastern threat that was much more important for the Muslim world. The triumph of the Mongols was a real disaster for Islam. Many regions have changed their cultural identity. And the Crusades seemed like a temporary local conflict. I remembered this only recently, when Arab nationalism was born. And European historians helped in this. All the most advanced Muslims a hundred years ago considered themselves the conquerors of the Franks, without attaching special importance to the activities of the crusaders. The representatives of Islam are sincerely perplexed in response to the claims of the Europeans, who have won nothing in the East with their sacred campaigns.