.. Popular understanding of the crusades nowadays tends to think in terms of a great contest between faiths fuelled by religious fanaticism. This perception is bound up with modern sensibilities about religious discrimination, and... It is a perspective which, at least as far as the First Crusade is concerned, needs to be rejected.
Bull, 1999, p. 16/17)
The first crusade was initiated when Alexis I, the leader of the Byzantine Empire asked Pope Urban II for help in defending his territory against the Seljuk Turks. The religious aspect of this request was that Alexis claimed that the Eastern Christians were suffering as a result of Islamic rule. Another aspect was the danger that Christians pilgrims faced. In this regard it should be remembered that places such as the tomb of the apostle Saint James were sacred and important for pilgrims. Of course, Jerusalem and Palestine were favored pilgrimage destinations due to their proximity to Christian history. However, "...with the defeat of the Byzantines by the Seljuks at Manzikert in 1701, Asia Minor became a dangerous place indeed. " (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 67)
The First Crusade was also seen by Pope Urban II as furthering the Christian cause as a way of reuniting the Western and Eastern Christian Churches. There was dissatisfaction among the Church leaders at this division and there was a deeply felt need to unite and consolidate Christendom. Pope Urban II therefore called a Crusade to return Jerusalem and Palestine to Christian control.
The religious context of the first Crusade was also underlined by the fact that, "The Pope promised those who went on the crusade that if they were killed, their sins would be pardoned, and they would be heaven - bound. If they survived they would share in the wealth of Muslim Middle East." (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 67)
The First Crusade proved to be successful in terms of the desires of the Papacy. A combined grouping of various armies, numbering about thirty-thousand men, assembled in Asia Minor.
The Crusaders beat the Turks on 1097 and succeeded in capturing Nicea, the capital of Turkish Asia Minor. In 1099 the Crusaders took control of Jerusalem. (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 67)
After the First Crusade a number of Christian states were established along the Mediterranean Sea. However there was disagreements between the different rulers of the states and they could not provide a unified front against the Muslims. As a result these states was attacked and defeated by the Muslim forces.
The Second Crusade occurred when Edessa was conquered by the Muslims in 1144. This Crusade was headed by the French King Louis VII as well as the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III. (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 67)
However due to a lack of cooperation between the French and Germans, this Crusade failed and they were defeated by the Turks.
The Third Crusade was initiated by the conquering of Jerusalem by the Muslim leader Saladin. Saladin had created a unified Muslim state from Egypt, Syria and other areas of the Middle East. The Third Crusade was therefore begun in reaction to this event. The Crusade did not however manage to liberate Jerusalem, although it did have other minor successes; the city of Acre northeast of Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders.
There were five more Crusades that were undertaken. These Crusades were however influenced to a large extent by growing political dissention and strife, as well as other negative undercurrents in Europe. There was also as general disillusionment with the wars after the failure of the Second Crusade.
The Fourth Crusade actuality took place in Europe and was directed at Constantinople. The First Crusade had provided the model for the subsequent Crusades. The general pattern that was followed was that of a holy war which was promoted and sanctified by the Papacy against the Muslims, who were seen as dividing and retarding the growth of Christianity.
There are also interpretations of the later Crusades, which suggest that political and other issues came to dominate the motivations of these Crusades. One view is that the Fourth Crusade had, to a certain extent, lost the initial religious motivations and become more aligned to a search for power and political conquest. Some scholars see the Fourth Crusade as "perverted." "To many, the Fourth Crusade is the classic case of how perverted the crusades were. Not only was this crusade not directed towards Jerusalem, it was not even directed against the Muslims. And in the end, the crusaders gained land, not religious glory. " (Haas, L. 2001. p. 881)
The Fifth Crusade was focused on Egypt as a centre of Muslim power. The city of Damietta was taken in 1219. However the capital, Cairo, was not able to be conquered by the Crusaders and they finally gave up Damietta a few years later.
Besides the First Crusade the most successful Crusade was the sixth. (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 67)
The aim of this Crusade were achieved with no violence and the leader of the Crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II "... managed to regain control of Jerusalem by negotiating a treaty with Muslim leaders." (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 72)
The Seventh Crusade was led by King Louis IX of France and achieved little success. When the state of Antioch was conquered by Muslims in 1268, this led to another Crusade. However this final Crusade came to an end when Louis IX died of the plague in the Middle East. All of the Crusader states were eventuality conquered by the Muslims, with the last Crusader city falling in 1291. (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 74)
4. The consequences of the Crusades.
Assessments of the Crusades and their impact on the world are varied. One view that is commonly held is that in terms of the initial goals and objectives, the Crusades"...failed in their mission to win the Middle East for Christian Europe." (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 74)
On the other hand there are scholars who claim that the Crusades had a more positive consequence in that it succeeded in adding new dimensions to Western and European culture. In other words, this view relates to the cultural impact on Western society as a result of the exposure to new and different thinking and world views. This led to change and even an expansion of Western consciousness. Related to this view is the opinion that, notwithstanding its various negative effects, the Crusades also had the somewhat ironic result of opening up the possibilities of greater understanding and tolerance. This view is amplified in the comment that the Crusades in fact, "....exposed western Europeans to a completely different culture, and many of those who settled in the crusader states learned to appreciate other customs than their own. " (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 74) further impact of the Crusades was the enrichment of language through the introduction of various Arabic words such as tariff, bazaar and divan. (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 74)
There were also various other influences that permeated Western culture as a result of the exposure to Middle Eastern culture. These included new types of food, such as sugar and rice, as well as different and new material and cloth. Furthermore, these aspects were to have significant historical implications as they increased and promoted trade - which in turn was to lead to further European expansion and exploration. For example, the search for trade routes and the exploration of the East by journeys such as those undertaken by Marco Polo to Asia and China. There was also an increase in interest in geographic exploration which can also be seen to be related to the Crusades.
In a political sense the Crusades had a profound effect on aspects of European political structure. One of the most important of these aspects was the reduction of the power and cohesiveness of the feudal system. This was due to the fact that the feudal lords were required to provide much of the expenditure in terms of human resources and materials for the Crusades. This was to result in a considerable reduction of the power and influence of the feudal lords throughout Europe and to a decline in the feudal system; which led in turn to profound changes in the structure and makeup of European society.
The historical implications and the ripple effect of the Crusades can be followed to show that they often had a marked impact on later developments in the world. Related to this is the view that the Crusades were an initiatory factor for the "Age of Exploration" that was to lead to the Renaissance. Another result of the Crusades was the creation and shaping of the nation of Spain with the removal of the Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula. (Corrick, James. 1995. p. 66)
One important way in which the Crusades affected the world was the impact that it had on the Roman Church. As has been pointed out in this paper, the…