Archive for October, 2016

No longer Crusaders: the 12th century and beyond

October 26, 2016

For those of you who haven’t been able to make it to all of my Crusades classes and those who are interested but don’t live nearby, I am, belatedly, giving a summary of the last few classes.

The leaders of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem in 1099.  They also had control of Antioch, Edessa, Tripoli and other coastal cities.  Most of those who survived went back to Europe.  The ones who remained were largely from three areas: Flanders, Norman Italy, and Languedoc/Provence.  Most of the time, the rulers of these areas worked at consolidating their holdings and conquering more.  As time went on, they established law codes of a sort, often regulating religious practice and trade.   crusader-state-map

I handed out time lines in class with names of the rulers and dates of battles etc.  But what is difficult to do in any short session is to show how the invading Crusaders were much the same as the Sunni Turks who had invaded only a few decades before, the Byzantine Greeks who were trying to regain their land and the Shi’te Fatimids who had recently conquered Egypt.  The natives of the area were largely made up of Islamic and Christian sects descended from the ancient invaders as well as the Persian, Greek and Roman colonists.  These included, Maronites, Syriac Christians, Nizari, Jacobites, Druze, Armenians (fairly new) Yazidi, Allowites and many other sects. Added to that were at least three Jewish sects: Palestinian, Samaritan and Karaite.  Genetically, they were, and are, a mix of millennia of conquests.

Recently, I endured an exchange on Facebook on the Crusades.  At least some of the participants were historians, although no medievalists.  They repeated the same weary arguments about either the barbarian Europeans destroying a peaceful Muslim kingdom for profit or a valiant effort by the West to take back the cradle of Christianity.  The number of ‘facts’ stated was amazing, although no sources were given.  Neither of these opposing arguments are true, although one must acknowledge that many of those who made the expedition were motivated by strong religious feeling.

Admer leading the soldiers.jpg

Bishop Admer leading the army of the First Crusade

 

What many people don’t know about the period is that only the first generation of invaders could be called Crusaders.  Their children were natives of the states they were born in.  Some were the product of mixed marriages.  Melisende (whom I wrote a book about) was the daughter of the Flemish King Baldwin and the Armenian, Morfia.  She never went to Europe and certainly spoke French, Armenian and possibly, Arabic. Jerusalem was her home and her kingdom.

The major opponents of the Latin States were the Muslim rulers of Aleppo and Damascus.  However, they were often fighting each other, too.  The Norman rulers of Antioch loathed the Frank/Armenian counts of Edessa.  More than once Aleppo teamed up with Antioch to fight Edessa and Mosul.  By the third generation, many of the descendants of the crusaders spoke Arabic or Syriac.  Visitors from Europe commented that they had created their own dialect, which some called poulain.  Churches and homes were built, along with fortresses.  Monasteries copied and illuminated manuscripts.  There were stone carvers, jewelry makers and other artists.  It’s only in the intervening centuries that most of this has been lost, along with stories and music that might have been a part of this mixed culture.

It wasn’t a peaceful land.  There were always pilgrims and warriors coming from Europe.  There were new Turkic tribes moving east.  Eventually, in the thirteenth century, there were Mongol armies.  They soon realized that India and China were richer by far than the near east and set up kingdoms in those countries.

I believe that the Latin States would have eventually assimilated in the mix, becoming part of the culture of that thin strip linking Europe, Africa and Asia.  But two things happened.  The first was the rise of a strong Sunni leader, Zengi, who united squabbling factions and captured the city of Edessa.  This loss prompted the Second Crusade, led by Louis VII of France, the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad and the young co-ruler of Jerusalem, Baldwin III.  This new invasion solved nothing, as a council decided to attack Damascus instead of Edessa.  The attack failed but, what was worse, it drove the Damascenes to make a treaty with Zengi and then his son, Nur al-Din.  Thus, a cosmopolitan, fairly tolerant city was taken over by fundamentalist Sunni.  Their successor, Saladin, was determined to drive the Fatimids out of Egypt and, after that, to eradicate the Latin States.  He succeeded in taking both Cairo and Jerusalem.

This led to the new king of England, Richard I and the king of France, Phillip II, joining in another Crusade with the Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.  This led to a lot of ballads and legends and the strengthening of some of the coastal Latin states, but it also galvanized Muslims who hated each other to fight against the common foe.

c_croisade3_richard_vs_saladin

Saladin and Richard.  I think Richard is on the left, but I’m not sure.

Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth were brought back into the Latin States by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and enemy of Pope Innocent III.  In 1229, he made a treaty with the Egyptian sultan, Al-Kamil  that regained the territory and allowed Muslim control of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.  How Frederick became involved is a long dynastic story.  Al-Kamil wanted peace with the Latin Kingdoms in order to engage in his own wars within his own religion.  Jerusalem was lost for good in 1244 when it was taken by the Khwarezmians, a group from Central Asia who were being pushed west by the Mongols, under Genghis Khan.  However, the final battle consisted of the leaders of Jerusalem and Damascus against the sultan of Egypt and Khwarezmian mercenaries.

al-kamil_muhammad_al-malik_and_frederick_ii_holy_roman_emperor

Frederick and Al-Kamil bargaining.

The last major crusade (in two parts) was that of King Louis IX.  He accomplished nothing except to die at the gates of Tunis and be made a saint. Why Tunis?  Another long story; history is really messy.

 

The era of the crusades to Palestine ended with the capture of Acre in 1291.  But the idea of crusade took on a life of its own, becoming a term for any single-minded fight.  The Teutonic knights, formed in the Latin States, soon began a crusade to wipe out paganism in Poland and the Baltic, although some remained in Acre until the end.  Innocent III set off a crusade against the Albigensian heretics in what would become the south of France.

I recently stumbled upon a book on the Children’s Crusade, which will be discussed in class on Oct. 27.  I really mean I stumbled on it; it was in a stack on the floor of my office.  The author, Gary Dickson, does a wonderful job of disentangling the myth from what might be the reality of the events.  Even more, he talks about the creation of myths and why we prefer them to the messy, multi-sided truth.  Crusades have taken on a life of their own and that means that the first crusades and the multi-cultural life of the Latin Kingdoms are likely to be lost, smothered by the myths we have created.

Review of First Crusade

October 2, 2016

Last week, I gave a wild ride from Europe to Jerusalem, touching on the sieges of Antioch and Jerusalem.  Here is a summary and a list of participants, many of whom will appear over and over.

Dramatis Personae:

European.

Peter the Hermit. Leader of the Peasant army.  The peasants were mostly killed or sold into slavery but Peter survived and went home to a comfy monastery.

Count Robert of Flanders

Stephen, Count of Blois (married to Adele, daughter of William the Conqueror) Came home and was sent back by his wife to atone for his cowardice.  He died in battle, which seems to have pleased her.

Robert, Duke of Normandy, a son of William the Conqueror.  Robert went home but was captured by his younger brother, Henry I of England, and died in prison.

Hugh of Vermandois, brother of Phillip I, king of France (Phillip was excommunicated at the time since he was living with his mistress, the wife of the count of Anjou)

Bohemond, Count of Taranto (Italy) Son of the Norman, Robert of Guiscard. Bohemond led the siege of Antioch, claimed it for himself, then left for Europe and never returned.

Tancred, Bohemond’s nephew, who administered Antioch for his uncle.

Raymond of St. Gilles, Count of Toulouse, born c. 1041,  with his 3rd wife, Elvira, the illegitimate daughter of King Alphonse of Castille and his son Bertrand.  Raymond died there in 1105.  Bertrand became count of Tripoli.

Eustace, Count of Boulogne, Godfrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine; and Baldwin of Boulogne, brothers and the center of later Crusade legends.

Their cousin, Baldwin of LeBourq, later King Baldwin II

Bishop Adhemar of le Puys, spiritual leader and papal legate, but not adverse to picking up a sword, if necessary.

Bishop Fulcher of Chartres wrote one of the best eye-witness accounts of the crusade.  He remained in Jerusalem, where he died.

In the East

Alexis, emperor at Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Empire.  Alexis had usurped the throne and was fighting a civil war as well as Turkish invaders.  Naively, he believed that the crusading army were there to help him and then go home.

Kirbogha, the atabeg of Mosul, who brought his army to keep the crusaders from taking the city of Antioch.  The army was a coalition of the leaders of several area, including Hims and Damascus. Although the crusaders were few and starving, Kirbogha was defeated.  The Christians were sure it was because the had the newly-discovered Holy Lance.  Muslim chroniclers say it was because there was infighting among Kirbogha’s  coalition.

(for those who want more on what an atabeg was: http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/atabak-turkish-atabeg-lit)

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The taking of Jerusalem. Note the several images of Jesus and the depiction of the city as a church.

After the establishment of the Crusader States, Bishop Fulcher wrote the following idyllic version of life in the Hold Land:

“Consider, I pray, and reflect how in our time God has transferred the West into the East, For we who were Occidentals now have been made Orientals. He who was a Roman or a Frank is now a Galilaean, or an inhabitant of Palestine. One who was a citizen of Rheims or of Chartres now has been made a citizen of Tyre or of Antioch. We have already forgotten the places of our birth; already they have become unknown to many of us, or, at least, are unmentioned. Some already possess here homes and servants which they have received through inheritance. Some have taken wives not merely of their own people, but Syrians, or Armenians, or even Saracens who have received the grace of baptism. Some have with them father-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or son-in-law, or stepson, or step-father. There are here, too, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One cultivates vines, another the fields. The one and the other use mutually the speech and the idioms of the different languages. Different languages, now made common, become known to both races, and faith unites those whose forefathers were strangers. As it is written, “The lion and the ox shall eat straw together.” Those who were strangers are now natives; and he who was a sojourner now has become a resident, Our parents and relatives from day to day come to join us, abandoning, even though reluctantly, all that they possess. For those who were poor there, here God makes rich. Those who had few coins, here possess countless besants; and those who had not had a villa, here, by the gift of God, already possess a city. Therefore why should one who has found the East so favorable return to the West? God does not wish those to suffer want who, carrying their crosses, have vowed to follow Him, nay even unto the end. You see, therefore, that this is a great miracle, and one which must greatly astonish the whole world. Who has ever heard anything like it? Therefore, God wishes to enrich us all and to draw us to Himself as His most dear friends. And because He wishes it, we also freely desire the same; and what is pleasing to Him we do with a loving and submissive heart, that with Him we may reign happily throughout eternity.”