The Crusades: The First Crusade (1095-99)


Figure 1.--Pope Urban proclaimed what has become known as the First Crusade in 1095. The actual organized military expedition was launched in 1096. It and subsequent efforts proved to be one of the most momentous episodes of the Medieval era with repercussions that still ripple through history.

Pope Urban proclaimed what has become known as the First Crusade in 1095. The actual organized military expedition was launched in 1096. Preparations were made in the Spring and Fall of 1096. The Crusading fervor swept over Europe, a tribute to the effectiveness of the Church in indoctrinating Europeans with Christian dogma. [Wells, p. 561.] Many Godly Christians supported the Crusades out of the most sincere and altruistic beliefs. This was, however, mixed with baser motivations. The Pope hoped to use the Crusades to bring the Byzantine Church to heel. The Crusading nobles and knights saw the possibility of booty and new lands. The First Crusade was an international expedition, made up primarily by English, French, and Italians. The participants include scions of some of the leading families of the Christian West. The French were led by Hugh the Count of Vermandois was the brother of the King of France. Accompanying him were Godfrey, Baldwin and Eustace of Bouillon, sons of the Duke of Lower Lorraine who traced their ancestry to Charlemagne. Another Frenchman was a cousin, Baldwin Le Bourg. Another Frenchman was Raymond IV of Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, was one of the few who had experience fighting Moslems. He had fought the Moors in the Reconquista underway in Spain at the time and the reason few Spaniards were involved in the Crusades. Raymond was the first Crusader to accept the Cross, symbolizing the Crusader's vow. The English contingent included Robert, Duke of Normandy, a son of William the Conqueror who had only recently conquered England. The Italian contingent included Marcus Bohemond, Prince of Toranto, son of Robert Guiscard, a Norman, and his nephew Tancred. Gathering their forces the Crusaders conducted attacks on Jewish communities, killing them and seizing their property. The Jews of the Rhineland were the first of the European Jewish communities to be targeted. [Wells, p. 563.] The attacks in the Rhineland were particularly horrendous. The Crusaders proceeded to Constantinople where difficulties ensued with Emperor Alexius Comnenus over who would command the expedition. This and subsequent disputes weakened the Christian effort. Military operations with an impressive army of about 100,000 men commenced May 1097. Nicea was besieged and taken and the Turks defeated at Dorylaeum. Antioch was taken after an arduous march and lengthy siege (1098). Baldwin took Edessa and set up the first of the Crusader states, an independent principality. Bohemund did the same at Antioch. Finally Jerusalem was invested and taken by an army totaling about 20,000 (1099). The entire Jewish and Muslim population of the city is indiscriminately put to the sword. This is the worst of the many Christian atrocities committed during the Crusades. The Muslim world was horrified at Christian barbarity and military success. Islamic armies had experienced success after success against the Christians after emerging from the Arabian desert. Godfrey was elected Baron and Defender of the Holy Sepulcher, the first ruler of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem falls, the Crusaders defeated the Egyptians at Ascalon (1099). The Knights Templar and Hospitallers were founded by the Crusading knights.

The Holy Lands

The Holy Lands are the areas of the Levant entioned in New and Old Testaments. The Holy Lands were largely Chritianized during the later Roman era. Arab armies seized the entire Levant from the Byzantines (7th century). Since that time the region gradually became Islamicized, although Christians and some Jews continue to live there. Jerusalem was not just a holy city to Christians, but also Jews and Muslims. They included most of the places described in the Jewish Old Testament. This also made them important to Christians and Jews. Chist lived and died in the Holy Lands. And the Prophet Mohammed assended to heaven from Jerusalem, in fact from the Temple Mount. The Holy Lands at the time of the Crusades were separated from Christendom by the Seljuk Turks who had recently conquered Analoia. The Turks were a major military power. ʿAbbāsid Caliphate which had controlled the Holy Lands were in a state of military, but not cultural decline. The Fāṭimid Caliphate controlled Egypt and the Hejaz anbd was extending its cnrol inti the Holy Lands. They did not, howeer, have the military forced needed to resist the Crusaders. Reports reached both Byzantium and Rome from Jerusalem that Christian pilgrims were being mistreatment. And that access to the Holy Places was obstructed. This was being dome by Muslims, but many of these reports also mebtioned the malevolence of the Jews. It is unclear why and the Jews had little real power. What ever the reason, from an early point, the Crusades became not just a campaign against Islam, but oher non-believers as well--primarily the Jews.

Byzantine Empire

The Byzantne Empire was the surviving sucessor to the Roman Empire. It once dominated the Eastern Mediterranean, but were driven back to Analolia by the Arabs (7th century) and the to the Balkans by the Turks. They were still an important trading and bureaucratic state. Constantinople was the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The efficient administration of the Empire had enabled Basil II (r976-1025) to field a quarter of a million troops and adequate resources to fund the Empire. Basil finlly defeated the Bulgarians and precided over the last great phase of the Empire. This began a period of weak emperors and imperial decline. Effucent administration and taxation collapsed. Attempts by Isaac I Komnenos and Romanos IV Diogenes to rectify the Empire's administration failed. The premature death of Isaac and the unfortunte overthrow of Romanos led to further deterioration and the inability of the Empire to effectively resist the Normans in the West and the Selijuk Turks in the East. The spiritual and secular authority was much more closely linked than in Westerm Chrisendom. The Emperor Alexios I ruled over a uych reduced Byzantine Empire, largely confined to Balkan Europe and the northwestern fringe of Anatolia. After the defeat at Manzikert (1071) and subsequent Byzantine losses in Anatolia (1074), the Byzantine territory was rediced by half. the Emperor began appealing for Western support. The term Crusades is used understandably with the connotation of Western emperialism in the Arab and wider Muslim world. Never mentioned by Muslim historians is the several centuries of Muslim (Arab and Seljuk Turkish attacks on the Byzantine Empire and Western Chrisendom).

Norman-Byzantine Wars (c1050-1189)

The Byzantine Empire did not only face the Seljuk Turks in the East. They also faced Norman incursions in the West. A number of wars between the Normans and the Byzantine Empire were fought from (c1050- 1185). These wars were largely Norman efforts to seize Byzantine territory. The Normans had come from the Duchy of Normandy in West Francce. This was the same Duchy which produced William the Conueror that seized England (1066). Normandy had ia, which in 911 had been granted to the Viking raider Rollo in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte by King Charles the Simple of France. The Normans and their new land took the name of the 'Northmen'. The Normans with their longboats proceeded to conquer Byzantiune controlled southern Italy. The Byzantine Empire at the time was in a state of internal decay, weakened by internal problems and hard pressed by the Seljuk Turks.

Seljuk Turks (c1060-1307)

The Seljuk Turks were one of many Steppe nomads. They were a tribe of Tartar pastoralists that like many Steppe people acquired notable military capabilities. They entered into Western gistory as they began military campaigns against the Byzantine Empire (anout 1060). They established a powerful empire in Persia (11th century). They seized Baghdad (1055). The ʿAbbāsidCaliph of Baghdad was so impressed with their military capabilities that he made their leader, Tugrul Bey, his deputy and gave him the title of 'King of East and West'. The Seljuks came to believe that they were the rightful soverigns of all land conquered during the time of Prophet Mohammed and were thus anxious to extend their kingdom. A contingent of around 5,000 attacked into eastern Anatolia, at the time controlled by the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuks are an imprtant group in Turkish history. Modern Turks see them as the ancestors of the Western Turks - the modern population of Turkey. Until the arrival of the Seljuks, the population of Turkey waslargely Greek. The Seljuk Turks were the first people since the Romans to invade and occupy most of Anatolia. The establishment of the Anatolian Seljuk State as part of Greater Seljuk Empire was the begining of the Islamic period in Turkey. The Seljuks played a major role in the Medieval Era, both in expanding the Islamic world at the expense of the Byzantune Empire and defending their incursions against the Crusaders. hey also provided a barrier between the West and the even more fierce Steppe people. They paved the way for the future Ottoman Empire, an even greater Turkish Empire. As the Caliphate in Bagdad declined, the Seljuks revitalized the military power of eastern Islam.

ʿAbbāsid Caliphate (750-1258)

The Abbāsid caliphate was the third dynasty of the Islamic Caliphate. Thy ruled from Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphs from all but the western most Al Andalus region (Spain). The Abbasid caliphate was founded by the descendants of Mohammad's youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib in Harran (750). They moved the capital to Bagdad (762). The Abbāsids were Sunni Muslims and flourished for two centuries, but gradually declined as they lost control over non-Arab Muslims. They never controlled el Andalus, but gradually lost control over Persia, Anatolia, Egypt, and North Africa. Abbasid control over the now vadst Muslim world was leadership over the vast Islamic empire was gradually reduced to a largely ceremonial religious function, the Abbāsids managed to retain possession over its Mesopotamian center. Baghdad despite the eclipse of the Dynadty's military powetr became a center of science, culture, philosophy and invention in what is often seen as the Golden Age of Islam.

Fāṭimid Caliphate (909-1171)

The Islamic world at the time of the First Crusade was divided. The Seljuk Turks controlled Anatolia and threatened Constaninople. The once mighty Caliphate to the south was itself divided. The Fāṭimids were a Muslim political and religious dynasty that dominated an empire first in in North Africa and then expanded into the Middle East. They claimed to be the legitimate caliphs and tried unsuccessfully to oust the ʿAbbāsid caliphs as leaders of the Islāmic world. This proved unobrainable because of the ʿAbbāsid Caliphate's links to the powerful Seljuk Turks. The Fāṭimid Dynasty took its name from Fāṭimah (Fatima), the only daughter of the Prophet Mohammad, from whom they claimed direct descent. The Fāṭimids were a Shi'ite Dynasty that at the time of the First Crusade controlled the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Pope Urban II (1095)

The Byzantine patriarch had sought assistance from Urban's predecessor, Gregory VII. Pope Gregory had called for the milites Christi (soldiers of Christ) to aid the Christians of Byzantium's aid. The call was largely ignored Gregory was mired in the Investiture Controversy with Emperor Henry IV, and such a major iniative was not posible. Gregory's appeal was, however, noticed and brought the situation in the East to the attention of Western Christendom. It was Gregory's suceesor, Urban II, that would launch the Crusades. Pope Urban II proclaimed what has become known as the First Crusade at Clermont-Ferrand (1095). The Pope spoke at the close of a council which had convened at Clermont-Ferrandthere. It was Urban who launched the Crusades. This marked the beginning of the era of greatest influence of the papacy. Never before or sence has the Church been so important or so respected as a moral force nor the influence of the pope so influental and respected throughout Christendom.

Preparations (1096)

The actual organized military expedition was launched in 1096. Preparations were made in the Spring and Fall of 1096. The Crusading fervor swept over Europe, a tribute to the effectiveness of the Church in indoctrinating Europeans with Christian dogma. [Wells, p. 561.]

Motivations

Many Godly Christians supported the Crusades out of the most sincere and altruistic beliefs. Sincere piety was very real as were family issues. This was, however, mixed with baser motivations. The Pope hoped to use the Crusades to reduce endemic warfare within Western Cristendom. He also wanted to bring the Byzantine Church to heel. The Crusading nobles and knights saw the possibility of booty and new lands.

Composition

The First Crusade was an international expedition, made up primarily by English, French, and Italians. The participants include scions of some of the leading families of Western Chrieendom. The French were led by Hugh the Count of Vermandois, the brother of the King of France. Accompanying him were Godfrey, Baldwin, Godfrey, and Eustace of Bouillon, sons of the Duke of Lower Lorraine who traced their ancestry to Charlemagne. Godfrey emerged as one of the most important commanders. After the successful siege of Jerusalem (1099), Godfrey became the first ruler of the new crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. He refused the title "King"; as he believed that the true King of Jerusalem was Christ. Another Frenchman was a cousin, Baldwin Le Bourg. Another Frenchman was Raymond IV of Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse, who led the Provençals. Raymond as one of the few who had experience fighting Moslems. He had fought the Moors in the Reconquista underway in Spain at the time and the reason few Spaniards were involved in the Crusades. Raymond was the first Crusader to accept the Cross, symbolizing the Crusader's vow. Despite his military experience, he could not convince the others that he should take command. Robert II Count of Flanders -led a group of northern French Crusaders, including Robert Cuthouse , Stephen of Blois,, and Hugh of Vermandois. The English contingent included Robert, Duke of Normandy, a son of William the Conqueror who had only recently conquered England. The Italian contingent included Marcus Bohemond, Prince of Toranto, son of Robert Guiscard, a Norman, and his nephew Tancred. Bohemond is seen by many as the most competent commander of the First Crusade. His pribcipal goal was to obtain principalitoes.

Spain

Not participating in the Crsades were Spamish knights participating in the Reconquista. The Christian kindoms were achieving important victories against the divided Muslim kingdoms. Presured by the Christians, Muslim rulers appealed for assistance from Islamicized Berber tribes across the Straits of Gibraltar. There the Almoravid Dynasty has adopted the findamentalistideals of Yusuf inb Tashuf. Yusuf crossed the straits to jojn the fight against the Christians (1086). He imposed Almoravid rule and findamentalism on what had been the tolerant Muslim regims of Spain.

European Jews

Since the fll of Rome, Cristiandns an Jews had livd together rather hamoniously, although the Jes were a relartively small minority. Over time, the Church became more hisile to the Jews, albit, the Jews were the only non-Christian groip tolerated. European Jews at the time were mostly located in Western Europe. And anti-Semitism stocked by the Church was growing. A problem here was that the Jews were relatively succesful. Jews were better educated than the overall population and were able to engag in commerce, such as lending money with interest, that Christiand=s could not. And the relative success of the Jews bred envy. A prcursor of Crusader violence came with an earlier expeditions of French knights to assist Spanish Christians in the Reconquista against the Moors (about 1065). The French knights attacked the Jews of Narbonne and ither cities. Pope Alexander II had wanted the Crusaders to focus on their military campaign in Spain. This did not occur, in part becuse of growing anti-Semitism and in part because of the lucrative rewards to be gained by pilliging Jewish communities. Gathering their forces the Crusaders assembled by Urban conducted attacks on Jewish communities in France and Germany, killing them and seizing their property. The Jews of the Rhineland were the first of the European Jewish communities to be targeted. [Wells, p. 563.] The attacks in the Rhineland were particularly horrendous. It is these attacks that set in motion the migrations of Jews toward Eastern Europe.

Constaninole

The Crusaders from all over Europe converged on Constantinople. The city was founded as the New Rome. As the Empire adopted Christianity, some saw it as the new Jeruslem. The Western knights did ot fully understand what they saw. Some were puzzeed by Eastern Orthodoxy. Others were offended. Difficulties ensued with Emperor Alexius Comnenus (Alexius I) over who would command the militry expedition. This and subsequent disputes weakened the Christian effort.

Military Operations (1097-99)

Military operations with an impressive army of about 100,000 men commenced (May 1097). The first action was at Nicea, The Crusaders besieged Nicea. They bombarded the fortified city for weeks. On the day a massive assailt was planned, the city capitulated. Alexius I suceeded in convincing the Turkish garrison to surrender June 19). Marching southeast along the Byzantine military road, the major battle of the campaign was fought at Dorylaeum. The Muslim Seljuk Turkish forces were commanded by Kilij Arslan, the Seljuq Sultan of Rûm. The Turks had been fighting Byzantine forces. Now Turkish and Western forces clashed for the first time. The Crusaders suffered substantial losses, but the Turks were forced to withdraw, leaving the route to the Holy Lands open. The Turks were the primary military force in the region. The Caliphate was a shell of its former self. With the fall of Nicaea and the defeat at Dorylaeum, the Sultan fell back to Konya which was the capital of the Seljuk sultanate. Unable to obtain relief force, the Sultan abandoined the city to the Crusaders. He would play a more important role in the Secoind Crusade. The Crusaders took Konya without a fight. Baldwin I led a force which took Edessa. He set up the first crusafer state, an independent principality.. The bastion he built would prove key in the siege of Antioch. To get to Antioch, the Crusaders had to cross the Raurus Mountains. This proved a major obstacle, made more difficult because of the autumn rains. The Crusaders are believed to have nearly halkf their men in the arduous march. They took Tarsus and then reached Antioch, a major trading center and fortified city (October 1097). A lengthy siege ensued. Bohemond I sureptiously arranged the seizure of the city through the treachery of some of the defenbders (1098). Bohemond set up another Crusader state. A major battle ensued after the fall of the city. The Siltan arrived with a large army. The Crusaders gained a huge victory (June 28, 1098). Antioch opened the path to Jerusalem. And n Muslim army impeded the advance, Finally Jerusalem was invested and taken by an army totaling about 20,000 (July 15 1099). This wa only a fraction of the Crusader Army that had assembed at Constantinope. The Crusaders indiscriminately put the entire Jewish and Muslim population of the city to the sword. This is the worst of the many Christian atrocities committed during the Crusades.

Muslim Reaction

The Muslim world was horrified at Christian barbarity and military success. Islamic armies had experienced success after success against the Christians after emerging from the Arabian desert. The once powerful Caliphate, however, by this time was a largely spent force and had desintegrated into a number of lrgely independent Islamic states, often offering nominal alligance to the Caliohate. This is somewhat understandabke given the great dustances nvolbed sych as Spain and western North Africa, But by the time of the Crusades, the writ of the ʿAbbāsid Caliphate was largely limited to Mesopotamia, especially the area around Bagdad. The major military force in the eastern Mediterranean was the Seljuk Turks.

Crusader Kingdom

The Arab Islamic outburst from Arabia defeated Byzantine and Persian armies and encountered ;ittle organized resistance as it swept west across North Africa. In Europe, nation states had not yet formed and there were no strong Christian military forces except the Byzantine Empire in the wake of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Even so, Muslim forces only managed to seize the Iberian Peninsula. Christendom suffered several centuries of unrmitting assault from the Caliphate and Turkish armies. Gradually the Caliphate declined and strong Christian states began to form (11th century). And for the first time the Christian West struck back in the form of the Crusades promoted by Pope Urban. Chritian forces managed to seize Jerusalem in the First Crusade (1095-96) after an extended iege. The Crusader victory was brutal, the Crusaders massacered some of the Muslim and Jewish population. Accounts vary on the extent of the killing. The practice of killing people in a city that resisted conquest was not uncommon in a violent age. The Crusaders did not form a single united Crusader Kingdom, rather cities were parcelled out to important knights. The result was several Crusader kfiefdoms along the coast of the Levant where the Crusader armies had past. These included the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli, fiefdoms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Despite the bloody beginnings, an amazingly multi-cultural world developed in Jeruslem. Here Templar knights, Muslim peasants, Jewish merchants, Turkish capliphs, and Christians who continued to live in the Levant lived together. It was unlike anywhere in Europe, except Spain before the completion of the Reconquista. and a woman played an important role, Queen Melisenbde of the Crusder Kingdom of Jerusalem. [Newman] Conquering cities and territory in an area that had been Islamicized was one thing, holding it was quite another. The first Crusader kingdom ro fall was the County of Edessa in the north. The Seljuk Turks took the city (1144) This resulted in the Second Crusade (11-47-87) with the purpose of the Seljuk capital at Damascus. This time the Crusader failed, but the Seljuk s failed to take any more of the Crusader kingdoms. This would come later by Muslim forces led by Saladin.

Military Orders

The Knights Templar and Hospitallers were founded by the Crusading knights. The Church authorized knightly or military orders during the 12th and 13th centuries. The three most important were the Teutonic Knights, the Templars, and Hospitallers. These military orders were "true orders" of the Roman Catholic Church. They were governed by the same rules that governing monks, similar to the Benedictine or Augustinian Rules. These orders were essentially only answerable to the authority of the pope. They also had some feudal fealties to both lay and other clerical bodies, this varied somewhat. Substantial numbers of knights became monks. They often joined these military orders and were used to man castles and other fortifications rather than join monastic orders. Like other monks, most of these knights took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These military orders played a prominent role in the Crusades and in the military history of Feudal Europe.

Sources

Newman, Sharan. Defending the City of God: A Mdieval Queen, the First Crusades andthe Quest for Peace in Jerusalem (2014), 272p.

Wells, H.G. The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man (Doubleday & Co.: New York, 1973), 1103p.







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Created: 2:22 AM 6/3/2014
Last updated: 8:28 PM 7/12/2017