This article is the part of series about the conflicts between Europe and Asia since antiquity
- Part 1 Greco-Roman world against Persia
- Part 2 Arab Invasion of Europe ; Al Andalus
- Part 3 Christendom Strikes Back ; Reconquista
- Part 4 The Holy wars ; Crusades
- Part 5 The Mongol Horde
- Part 6 Ottoman Intrusion
- Part 7 Colonialism
Crusades were the military campaigns / migration of Eastern European nations to regain the control of “Holy Lands” motivated by the christian zeal and were sanctioned by the Catholic Church.Crusades spanned over a period of five centuries during the early middle ages.This was the revival of Eastern European powers after the the times of Roman Empire in which they wer e able to extend their dominion in Middle East . The long lost Byzantine empire was the last Remanent of the glory of Rome . Byzantine guarded the western door of Europe for a Millennia first against the Persian empire and then against the Arab invasions of Rashidun and Omayyad period. During the late 900s Byzantine empire was unable to defend itself against the Muslim Seljuk Empire in Anatolin region , situated in modern day Turkey and looked towards their distant Catholic Brethren for help.
Catholic Church at Vatican wanted to end the schism between the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity.The “pilgrim politics” for holy land also affected the clergy’s decision.Another factor was the new emerging “merchandise class ” of Europe which was looking for the new markets The previous conquests of Iberian Peninsula by the Muslim forces left Europe vulnerable.But most importantly the spirit of expansion and adventurism fueled by hatred and religious zeal were responsible for these military campaigns. The near east at the end of first thousand years was a battlefield in which sectarian schism of Muslim world played a major role. The central Abbasid dynasty was a mere puppet by now and switched sides depending on who was in power at that time.The ethnic divide in Muslim between Arabs , Persians ,Turks and Berbers of North Africa were involved in intermittent warfare for the supremacy in Islamic World The Muslim world at that time was gradually moving towards decentralized state in which warlord one after another were able to carve out a dynasty which left the populace destitute weak and vulnerable to foreign invasions. Crusades was the name later given by historians to these wars .Muslim called their enemies as Franks whereas Christians called their enemies as Saracens. The First Crusade
- Council of Clermont
Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus called upon the help of Catholic world in war against the Seljuk Empire .Pope Urban II urged the masses to raise arms against the “unjustly” occupation of “Holy Lands” and free them from the clutches of Saracens in “Council of Clermont “. An excerpt from the speech of Pope Urban 2 ‘s speech a the Council of Clermont ; source Wikipedia
“Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor.”
- People’s Crusade
Peter the Hermit was a saint who gathered a large sum of people to fight and took his army of peasants for Holy lands through Byzantine territory.The people were pillaged the cities in their way but were in the end permitted through the byzantine territory. People’s crusade was an epic failure their army after the first pitched battle was brutally defeated by the Seljuk army .
- Princes’ Crusades
The main army composed of four main factions led by the legendary leaders Hugh of Vermandois, Godfrey, Raymond, and Bohemond approached Byzantium capitol Conatantinole in 1607. They vowed that they will restore the Holy Lands
- Siege of Nicaea
- Battle of Dorylaeum
- Siege of Antioch
Antioch was an important city which surrendered to crusaders and was important in gaing control of Jerusalem
- Siege of Jerusalem
The newly found long lost holy relics were great morale boosters in European camps .The Muslims in the city were unable to defend themselves against the foreign invasion and found no help of the Fatimid of Egypt.According to Muslim sources after the conquest of Jerusalem Muslim population in the city was massacred in the process of ethnic cleansing to establish the new Christian State of Jerusalem .
- Crusade of 1101
A few dukes of Christendom of who left crusade after the early difficulties and some who were inspired by the success of crusading campaigns in middle east left Europe for the nascent state of Jerusalem but were annihilated in Asia Minor by Seljuks .
The first crusade was probably the most successful campaign in all of the crusades.Crusaders were able to maintain few duchies in heart of Muslim land for next several centuries
The Second Crusade
The combined German and Frankish army gathered in Antioch to attack Damascus a Syrian stronghold.Zangi’s two sons Saif ud Din Ghazi , the governor of Mosul and Noor ud Dim Muhammad , the overner of Aleppo hurried to reach Damascus to defend it against crusaders.The crusading army was unable to gain any materiel gains in Middle East .
The only success of this crusade was the fall of Lisbon on western front after the three centuries of Muslim rule in 1147.
The Third Crusade ; The Kings Crusades
After the second crusade Zengi dynasty was able consolidate its power in Syria.Muslims were now able to reconqure the Acre, Jaffa and most importantly the Jerusalem. After this came the staunch response of Christendom in the form of great army led by the stalwarts of Europe.
Saladin ; Sultan Salah ud Din Ayyubi 1174-93
Saladin has two aims one to unite the Islamic world of Sunnite of Abbasids dynasty in Mesopotamia and Shiite of Fatimid dynasty in Egypt and the second to drive out crusaders from Syria and Palestine.First he achieved with little difficulty and second he did by engulfing crusading states from Stria in north and Egypt from south.
The battle of Hittin was a turning point in crusades christian forces were defeated and Muslims recaptured Jerusalem on October 9, 1187 after a hundred year of christian rule.
Aged emperor of Germany Fredrick Barbarossa , the king of France , Philip Augutus , Richard the lion Hearted , King of England and Duke of Austria gathered the largest number of forces to attack the Muslim world.Although crusaders were able to reverse most of Saladin’s conquests but were unable to capture Jerusalem the most precious prize of all.
Richard was able to capture the city of Acre even after a staunch resistance from Saladin.Richard was fairly successful in his campaign against Saladin’s forces .But the failure to capture Jerusalem caused another crusade.Both sides felt the results as unsatisfactory.But now the fate was sealed for christian middle east although the coastal states were able to maintain their presence for next few centuries but were now no more threats to the Muslim world.
Fourth Crusade and Sack of Constantinople
This time a new route through Egypt was employed by the crusaders to attack Jerusalem now in Muslim hands but the goal of conquering Jerusalem turned into sack of Constantinople. The fourth crusade was the high point of eastern and western schism .The Byzantium capitol was although regained by the Greeks after a half century but the they were never able to fully recover.
The Fifth Crusade
The goal was the same as always to acquire the holy lands.This time the army consisted of mostly German and Hungarian forces .Crusaders were able to acquire the guarantee of safe passage through Anatolian region controlled by Sultanate of Rum by allying them on their side.A two pronged war against Ayubids had a few successes in earlier period of the campaign but the march in Egypt was disastrous as the crusading force was decimated by the flood and surrendered to Muslims forces of Egypt.
The Sixth Crusade
Frederick II, the holy Roman Emperor and monarch Germany lay his claim to Kingdom of Jerusalem because of his marriage to its princess.Despite not being officially sanctioned by the Holy Roman Catholic Church Fredrick took his army Jerusalem and was able to capture the holy city . But the crusading army was not able to maintain control of the city for more than 15 years.This war showed European princely elite that individual nations can conquer orient .
The Seventh Crusade
Louis IX of France from 1248 to 1254 crusaded against the Islamic world though he was later proclaimed as saint by few but was utterly defeated by Ayyubid Sultanate in Egypt.
The Eighth Crusade
The French monarch Louis IX attacked the Muslim possessions in Africa but the attack was a failure mainly due to the pandemic that left the French camp without its fighters . A truce was signed between the Muslim Ruler of Tunis and French monarch Louis IX .
The Ninth Crusade
Muslim world was in a precarious situation in the middle of thierteenth century .The Mongol horde was able to capture Baghdad and Egypt faced a challenge of both crusaders and mongols whereas the reconquista in Iberian peninsula was virtually completed.If Baibars the general of the slave dynasty of Mamluks would not have defeated the Mongols and Crusaders , the whole Muslim world from east to west would have been overrun by the non believers.
The last major crusade was actually the part of eighth crusade the English prince Edward I despite his few success was unable to have a lasting impact and ended in a truce .
The crusades were a gory episode of religious fanaticism in middle ages .Eastern Europe motivated by the “Papal Bulls” attacked Muslim middle east .The Seljuk were in a constant war against the Byzantium and the crusading forces.Byzantium was unable to recover from the Muslim advance into Anatolia and the aid of their fellow Christian brothers turned into their ultimate doom.The Kingdom of Castille , Aragon ,Leon and Navarre were able to drive out the Moorish occupants from Iberia.the crusades saw feudal Europe eventually transforming into a amalgam of nation states.The papal authority saw it high point in crusades and commanded the hearts and swords of Eastern Europe.The minor sects in Europe were now finally finished as part of western crusades, but at the end of crusades its become evident that the Christendom is becoming more secular.Some might argue that the crusades were the precursors of modern day colonialism.
The Muslim world soon forgot the crusades and their memories faded away.Crusades were a result of the weakening of Arab hegemony in Islamic world . Arab world was unable to recover from the crusades and mongol invasion. This was the first low point of Islamic history as the second came during the colonialist era . But Muslims soon recover and the three great dynasties rose far away from the earlier power center and these were Ottoman Empire of Anatolia and Eastern Europe , Mughal Empire in India and Safavid Empire in Persia.