The Crusades (1096–1291)
The Crusades (1096–1291)
Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II (ca. 1040–1099) was the catalyst for the First Crusade. It is doubtful that the Crusades would have ever been launched without his guidance. Although Pope Urban II became the pope in 1088, he was unable to occupy the Vatican until 1094 due to a conflict with Henry IV (1056–1106), the Holy Roman Emperor. However, once he became the undisputed head of the Church, Urban’s actions revived the influence of the Pope and the Church during the Middle Ages.
Before the Crusade
The conflict between Henry IV and Urban II was tied to the Investiture Controversy (1057–1122) that dominated relationships between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire throughout the early Middle Ages. The issue was whether the emperor or the pope could appoint bishops within the empire. Henry IV had submitted to the authority of Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085), Urban’s predecessor, but he would not recognize Urban. Instead, he backed and recognized another candidate, Clement II. Urban’s successful conclusion of this affair, along with his support of the archbishop of Canterbury against the English King and the excommunication of King Philip of France for repudiating his wife, gave Urban unparalleled prestige.
The Call for Crusade
In 1095, Urban II received a message from the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Comnenus (1081–1118), requesting a few hundred knights to aid in his effort to retake territory from the Turks. All Alexius sought was a mercenary force to augment his army; what Urban recruited for him would be quite beyond his expectations or needs.
The arrival of the Byzantine envoy coincided with reforms that Urban had spent much of his early years creating. With his earlier achievements against Henry IV and Philip of France, Urban had the authority to take a greater step. At the Council of Clermont, where a large number of archbishops, bishops, and priests, as well as many of the nobility of southern France had gathered, Urban made a call for Crusade in 1095. It was an unexpected announcement, but it made a significant impression.
At Clermont and a number of meetings afterwards, Urban greatly exaggerated the plight of the Byzantines as well as the atrocities inflicted upon Christian pilgrims going to Jerusalem, artfully spinning tales of cruelty and mayhem. Whereas Alexius wanted troops for the Byzantine Empire, Urban called for an expedition to liberate Jerusalem.
For Europe, Urban’s call to Crusade was the first of its kind. Urban justified his actions through the idea of pilgrimage, which European Christians had undertaken for years. It was a form of penance. If one completed it, his sins would be wiped away. Yet this time, it would be an armed pilgrimage. It was a trip of great hardship and expense, often requiring a knight to spend three times or more of his annual income. To encourage participants, he also granted Papal Indulgences, which gave the person who held one complete remission of their sins, even if they died before reaching Jerusalem.
Others soon took up the preaching of the Crusade. Urban had originally sought only knights and soldiers; even priests and monks had to gain special permission to go with the expedition. However, the message was so powerful that many non-warriors, ranging from peasant farmers to old women, would abandon their fields and homes to accompany the Crusade. Eventually these groups coalesced round the leadership of individuals such as Peter the Hermit and Walter Sansavoir. This became known as the Peasant’s Crusade and was crushed in 1097 by the Turks near Nicea.
The main body of Crusaders, consisting mainly of nobles and their armies, set forth from multiple locations in August of 1096. It is not known exactly how many began the journey, but estimates run from sixty thousand people to well over a hundred thousand. To observers in the east, it was not so much an army on the march but a migration.
Legacy and Impact of Urban II
Few popes would have the impact and prestige that Urban II gained. His call for Crusade unleashed a force that Urban did not fully comprehend. The vast majority of the participants in the Crusades were religiously motivated. Before the Crusade, not even Urban fully understood how influential the papacy could be. Afterwards, it gave the papacy more power than ever before.
The First Crusade was a success; indeed, it was the only successful Crusade. Urban, however, did not live to enjoy the fruits of his labors. He died before learning that the Crusaders captured Jerusalem.
Raymond of Toulouse
Raymond of Toulouse (1040–1105) was the ruler of thirteen counties in southern France. He was at Clermont when Pope Urban II made the original call for Crusade. One of the principal leaders of the First Crusade, Raymond often clashed with others and although he was the most powerful leader, he lost twice in political battles for leadership positions. He played a crucial role throughout the campaign, but his lasting achievement was the founding of the County of Tripoli in modern Lebanon.
The First Crusade
Raymond was fifty-five when he took the cross. Much of his early life was spent extending his power over a large portion of southern France. Indeed, his wealth, army, and even the amount of territory he directly controlled was greater than what Philip, the King of France, controlled. Once he took the cross, Raymond committed himself to the venture completely. He gave his lands to his son, gathered a sizeable force of fifteen to twenty thousand men, and began his march to Constantinople in October, 1096.
Arriving at Constantinople on April 21, 1097, Raymond heard of Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1048–1118) extracting oaths of loyalty. Raymond deftly avoided this by explaining that he had come to serve God and would not serve anyone else. Although Alexius was annoyed, he and Raymond eventually developed a mutual respect and understanding.
After Constantinople, Raymond emerged as one of the major leaders of the Crusade, rivaled only by Bohemund of Taranto. Their rivalry came to the fore at Antioch, when Raymond did not agree with Bohemund’s claim to the city. Their disagreement led to Raymond’s refusal to participate in the battle against Kerbogha, an Arab leader who came to Antioch’s aid. Bohemund’s victory further strengthened his claim to the city.
The root of the disagreement was that Bohemund, unlike Raymond, had sworn an oath to Alexius. Therefore, regardless of the circumstances of the siege, the city belonged to Alexius and not Bohemund. Raymond may have also felt slighted, since Bohemund had tricked the other barons into agreeing to circumstances that Bohemund had already arranged. Also, as Raymond was the most powerful in terms of wealth and army size, he may have naturally felt that it was his right to claim the city.
Their bickering continued well after the city was secured. Raymond eventually accompanied the army to Jerusalem after the rank and file almost mutinied after months of waiting. At Jerusalem, Raymond again lost an opportunity to rule. After capturing Jerusalem, he was offered the title of King of Jerusalem by the barons. Raymond was a devout Christian, but also a political animal. When offered the title, he refused on the grounds that Christ alone reigned in Jerusalem.
Raymond, always concerned about image, felt that if he accepted the title too readily, he would be viewed as an opportunist. Therefore, he refused, believing that the barons would insist that he take the title. However, this did not happen, as they then asked the popular northern French leader, Godfrey of Bouillon, to be King of Jerusalem. Godfrey also refused the title of King, but he accepted the position of ruler under the title of Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre.
After the Crusade
Godfrey’s acceptance of the top spot in Jerusalem naturally annoyed Raymond. Godfrey also forced Raymond from the Tower of David, where Raymond had quartered. Eventually, Raymond abandoned Jerusalem altogether and returned to the Byzantine Empire, where he encountered new waves of Crusaders in 1100. He then accompanied them on a disastrous journey across Anatolia where Turks destroyed most of the army. However, Raymond used the survivors to create a kingdom for himself in the Holy Land.
Raymond set his eyes on the city of Tripoli, a rich trading city in modern Lebanon that also served as the port for Damascus. As it was on the coastal route between Antioch and Edessa in the north and Jerusalem in the south, it severed communications between the two Crusader states. Thus Tripoli had significant strategic importance. Raymond built a fortress on Mount Pilgrim, as he called it, outside of the city to begin the siege in 1103.
The siege was long and Raymond had to fend off sorties from the city as well as relief armies. In all cases he was successful, even when outnumbered. Even though he had not captured the city, Raymond was already known as the Count of Tripoli. However, he did not live to see the fall of the city, as he died in 1105, and the city fell in 1109. Nonetheless, Raymond was truly responsible for the creation of the last Crusader state.
Bohemund of Antioch
Bohemund (1057–1111) was the first ruler of the Crusader state of Antioch. As the eldest son of Robert Guiscard, the Norman conqueror of Sicily and Southern Italy, he received a sizeable inheritance. He and his brother Roger divided it, with Bohemund receiving the eastern portion. Unfortunately, much of that territory had been seized by the Byzantines under Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1048–1118). This left Bohemund with a rather small inheritance based in the Italian city of Taranto.
The First Crusade
In hopes of increasing his realm, Bohemund joined the First Crusade in 1096. He proved to be one of the best military leaders on the expedition. Despite his hostility towards the Byzantines for most of his life, Bohemund did swear an oath of allegiance to Emperor Alexius when the Crusaders passed through Constantinople.
Bohemund, however, found reason to break that oath after the capture of Antioch, in which he played a large part not only in capturing the city, but also in defending it against a relief army in 1098. In Bohemund’s eyes, when Alexius did not come to Antioch to assist him, the conditions of the oath had been nullified. However, Alexius had been informed by deserters that the Crusaders had been destroyed. This misunderstanding would become a major point of contention between the two.
After the capture of Antioch, Bohemund remained in the city and did not accompany the rest of the Crusaders to Jerusalem. Whereas most of the Crusaders had joined primarily out of religious devotion, Bohemund had accompanied the Crusade for personal gain. At Antioch, he created a principality, although Raymond of Toulouse objected, as he felt that the territory should be returned to the Byzantines. Nonetheless, Bohemund remained at Antioch.
Prince of Antioch
Bohemund then continued to expand his territory, seizing territory from nearby Muslim lords. During one of his raids, Bohemund was captured in Anatolia and imprisoned in 1100. In the meantime, his nephew Tancred ruled Antioch as regent. Bohemund was released in 1103 after a ransom was paid.
Upon his release, Bohemund looked at his neighbors and determined that Aleppo was his greatest threat. Bohemund and Baldwin of Bourcq, the ruler of Edessa, made an alliance and marched on Aleppo in 1104. The campaign, however, proved disastrous. Their army was routed at Harran and Baldwin was captured. Bohemund barely escaped.
War with the Byzantine Empire
A new and greater threat emerged from the West. When he first passed through Constantinople, Bohemund swore an oath to turn over any conquered lands to Emperor Alexius. Bohemund reneged on that oath with the conquest of Antioch. After Bohemund’s defeat at Harran, the emperor now sought to make good on that oath. He seized Cilicia, which Tancred had conquered while Bohemund was imprisoned. Then the Byzantines seized the important port of Lattikieh. It would not be long before Alexius would march on Antioch.
Bohemund did not stay in Antioch. Instead, he returned to Europe. He went to France and Rome to gather support for the war against the Byzantines, and he was successful in recruiting an army of Normans to open a western front against the Byzantines. Meanwhile, he left Tancred to serve as a regent. Bohemund crossed the Adriatic Sea from Italy, landing at Durazzo. Bohemund, however, miscalculated the abilities of the Byzantines. Alexius had restored the Byzantine army and navy to a formidable force, and he defeated Bohemund.
As part of the Treaty of Devol (1108), Bohemund was to remain the ruler of Antioch, but he would rule it as the vassal of Alexius. Thus, Antioch would return to the Byzantine Empire. It would be reduced in territory, as Cilicia and Lattikieh would remain in Byzantine hands. Alexius, however, did allow Bohemund the opportunity to increase his territory by conquering the lands of Aleppo.
Bohemund was humiliated, but he found the loophole in the truce. As long as he did not return to Antioch, it remained independent. Thus Bohemund remained in Italy and left Tancred as the ruler of Antioch.
Bohemund was the most ruthless and ambitious of the leaders of the First Crusade. He died in 1111, far from the principality he created, yet even in defeat he found a means to ensure it remained independent. Meanwhile, his successors would rule Antioch until it fell to the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517) in 1275.
Yagi Siyan (d. 1098) was the ruler of Antioch and an official of the empire of the Seljuk Turks. Yagi Siyan was the first Syrian ruler to face the First Crusade when the European knights descended into the Orontes River valley where Antioch is located.
The Siege Begins
As an army of over thirty thousand attempted to surround Antioch, Yagi Siyan had to defend the city with a garrison of approximately six thousand men. Throughout the siege, Yagi Siyan attempted to get assistance from his neighbors. This was not an easy task as the nearest and most powerful neighbors, Ridwan of Aleppo and Duqaq of Damascus, were brothers and mortal enemies.
Yagi Siyan feared to form an alliance with Ridwan (who was also his son-in-law) because Yagi Siyan had learned that Ridwan desired to incorporate Antioch into his own realm. Duqaq was preferable, but in order to reach Antioch, the army of Damascus would have to march through the territory of Aleppo.
Upon the approach of the Crusaders, Yagi Siyan expelled the Christians of the city. It was due not to fears of religious solidarity, but rather to the fact that the Seljuks had captured Antioch from the Byzantines in 1087. It was rumored that the Crusaders were in alliance with the Byzantines, so there was too much at risk to allow former Byzantine citizenry to remain in the city. Yagi Siyan, however, did allow their wives and children to remain in the city under his protection.
Betrayal and Death
Yagi Siyan’s own actions as a ruler ultimately undermined the city. As the siege wore on, prices for food skyrocketed. Those who profited through black market practices were fined. One such person was Firuz, a captain of a one of the towers on the walls. Firuz, annoyed by the fine (and a possibility that Yagi Siyan had seduced his wife), negotiated with Bohemund of Taranto, a Crusader leader, and allowed his men entry to the city.
As the Crusaders stormed the city, the defense of Antioch collapsed. Yagi Siyan attempted to flee, but his horse tripped, causing Yagi Siyan to fall from the saddle. He was killed by the mob.
Godfrey of Bouillon (1061–1100) was one of the major leaders of the First Crusade and was the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Godfrey abandoned his realm in Europe and established a new state in a turbulent region, a polity that lasted almost two hundred years.
Before ruling Jerusalem, Godfrey was the duke of Lotharinga or Lower Lorraine, with his capital at Bouillon. He had gained his position in 1087. Before the Crusade, Godfrey spent considerable time and effort in consolidating his lands and expanding them. However, when he heard the preaching of the First Crusade, Godfrey was swept up in the enthusiasm for the First Crusade and joined it with his brother, Baldwin I (d. 1118), the first ruler of Edessa and then the second king of Jerusalem.
After taking the cross, he abandoned his efforts to expand his territory and instead began to accumulate wealth to finance his expedition. Godfrey sold many of his lands and also settled other disputes, often to his disadvantage. Although he planned to go on Crusade, he had every intention to return to Lorraine as he never relinquished his title to Lower Lorraine.
Although the march east was long, Godfrey kept his troops in good order and passed into Byzantine territory with little trouble. He and Baldwin arrived at Constantinople in 1096 and received an invitation from Emperor Alexius Comnenus to come to his palace. Godfrey also learned from other Crusader leaders (who had arrived before him) that Alexius expected an oath of allegiance from Godfrey and Baldwin, and that the emperor would most likely not release them until they did so.
Godfrey did not oblige the emperor’s request. Emperor Alexius countered by refusing to allow Godfrey’s army to cross the Bosporus Straits into Asia until Godfrey met with him. Furthermore, he cut off provisions to Godfrey’s army. Alexius eventually reopened the markets after Godfrey’s troops pillaged the suburbs and outlying villages. Nonetheless, Godfrey still waited three months for Alexius to allow his troops to cross. Alexius proved to be equally obstinate, and so Godfrey ordered an attack on Constantinople. This attack was quickly quelled as well-disciplined Byzantine troops sortied out of the city. After this, Godfrey realized that attacking the best defended city in the world was probably not in his best interests; he agreed to swear the oath of allegiance on January 20, 1097. Alexius then allowed Godfrey to cross into Asia.
Once the Crusader army was united, Godfrey did not emerge as a dominant figure in the Crusade until after the siege of Antioch, as Bohemund of Taranto and Raymond of Toulouse dominated most of the decisions. Nonetheless, he performed well at Dorylaeum and at Antioch.
At Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey and Raymond shared in the responsibilities of directing the siege. He and Raymond both launched attacks with siege towers. Godfrey’s was the first to breach the wall and storm the city.
Raymond was offered the title of King of Jerusalem first, but he refused, believing that it would be pressed upon him. However, because of Godfrey’s performance during the siege, the rest of the barons turned to him. Godfrey was generally viewed by the barons, as well as the rank and file, as a great warrior and leader. Consequently, he was chosen by the others as the ruler of Jerusalem. Godfrey refused the title of King and instead used the title of Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre.
This move angered Raymond, who refused to give up the Tower of David, the strongest location in the fortifications of Jerusalem. His refusal to do so almost led to violence between Raymond and Godfrey. However, cooler heads prevailed and reminded them that a Fatimid army was approaching from Egypt.
Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre
Godfrey led the Crusaders towards Ascalon, along the coast, where the Fatimid forces were located. The Fatimid forces had assumed that the outnumbered Crusaders would remain behind the walls of Jerusalem. Yet on August 11, 1099, Godfrey’s small force of a few hundred knights surprised the sleeping Fatimid army and crushed it.
Afterwards, most of the Crusaders returned home to Europe, having completed their vows of liberating Jerusalem from the Muslims. Godfrey, however, remained. Those who returned to Europe increased his legend and he was idealized as the perfect example of a Christian knight. Godfrey died on July 18, 1100. He created a state that stretched from the Sinai to Beirut and would last—albeit in a much reduced form—until 1291. After his death, his brother Baldwin was summoned from Edessa to serve as his successor.
Imad ad-Din Zengi (d. 1146) was the atabeg (ruler) of Mosul who conquered Edessa, the first Crusader state. Although much of his focus was on restoring Mosul’s authority over Syria, he revived the idea of jihad (“holy struggle”) among the Muslims in the Holy Land, despite not being very religious himself.
Rise to Power
Previously, Zengi had served as a Seljuk governor of Basra. His major achievement was crushing a revolt by Caliph al-Mustarshid Billah against the Seljuks when he came to power. Zengi decisively defeated the Caliph’s army in a single battle. As a reward for his efforts, Zengi was appointed the atabeg of Mosul in 1127.
Historically, the atabeg of Mosul had wielded authority over the Syrian possessions of the Seljuk sultans. In reality, the Syrian polities generally ignored the atabeg of Mosul as much as they could. This was vividly demonstrated during the siege of Antioch in 1098 when Kerbogha, the atabeg of Mosul at the time, was defeated by Bohemund as his Syrian allies deserted him. Zengi was determined to make sure that did not happen to him.
Zengi was able to expand his authority over Aleppo in 1128 partially because of the lack of unity among the Crusader states. When the ruler of Aleppo (Balak) died in 1124, Bohemund II of Antioch did not take advantage of the situation. Instead, he committed himself to continue Antioch’s occasional war with Edessa. Zengi went to Aleppo with little opposition and took the reins of power. This allowed Zengi to quickly unite two of the most powerful polities in the region, virtually without any resistance by the Crusaders.
Fortunately for the Crusaders, Zengi seemed more interested in fighting his fellow Muslims. He spent much time and effort attempting to capture or coerce Damascus into joining his camp. While he could not break the city’s defenses, the constant threat began to wear down the defenders. Eventually, Damascus formed an alliance with the Kingdom of Jerusalem to counter Zengi’s power in 1139. King Fulk of Jerusalem, who ruled from 1131 to 1143, was only too happy to oblige. Although he would have preferred to own Damascus himself, Fulk appreciated the benefits of forming an alliance with Damascus.
Thwarted by the Jerusalem-Damascus alliance, Zengi focused his attention elsewhere. The majority of his efforts concerned consolidating his power in northern Iraq as Seljuk authority began to crumble in that region. However, he eventually began to turn his attention to the west.
Zengi the Mujahid
Zengi’s attention was attracted by two events. In 1143, King Fulk died in a hunting incident, placing his wife Melisende (1131–1152) in charge, as his thirteen-year-old son, Baldwin III (1143–1163), was too young to rule. In addition, Antioch and Edessa continued to clash. For Zengi, this was the moment to strike.
Taking advantage of the fact that the bulk of the army was out of the city (near the border with the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia), Zengi besieged Edessa in November 1144. Despite having few defenders, Zengi could not immediately take the city due to its strong fortifications. However, he maintained pressure on it and dug a series of mines underneath the wall. On December 24, 1144, Zengi collapsed the wall and sacked the city.
After his conquest of Edessa, Zengi’s prestige and popularity soared. Titles were bestowed upon him; instead of atabeg, he was called Sultan and Defender of the Faith, and Mujahid, or Holy Warrior. The irony of the situation was that Zengi had little time for religion or any member of the clergy. Indeed, his leadership was based more on fear than piety or devotion. His troops marched in close ranks and an orderly formation, as those who fell out of rank and trampled the crops of the villages were crucified. Ultimately, he was killed on September 14, 1146, by a slave who Zengi had chastised earlier for drinking.
Although Zengi died, his actions set several events in motion, as the fall of Edessa initiated the Second Crusade. Zengi’s success also revived the spirit and idea of jihad. For the Muslims, it now seemed possible to find unity and to drive the Crusaders out of the region. Zengi’s son Nur ed-Din (1117–1174) was truly motivated by religion and would carry out this religious and militaristic ideal.
Conrad III (1093–1152) ruled Germany from 1138 to 1152. Although Pope Eugenius III attempted to prevent him from going on Crusade, Conrad led the German knights on the Second Crusade.
Rise to Power
Conrad became the king of Germany in 1138, not long after the investiture conflict—a long-running dispute between secular and religious leaders concerning which group would control the appointment of bishops, among other issues—came to an end. Even with this dispute behind him, Conrad’s reign was not without crises. The king of Germany was elected by the leading lords of Germany, but he quickly alienated them by forbidding them to hold more than one duchy. It was a reasonable demand; if a baron held more than one duchy, their power could rival that of the king. Reasonable or not, the rebellion did not end until 1142.
The Second Crusade
When Pope Eugenius III called for a Crusade to regain Edessa in 1145, he had no desire for Conrad to partake in the venture. Eugenius hoped to persuade only the French to go. Because of the threat of the expanding Norman state in Sicily and southern Italy, the pope needed Conrad’s military might to shield Rome.
Despite his best efforts to prevent the Crusade from being preached in the German lands, he could not control every individual. One such person was the monk Radulf, who not only preached the Crusade, but also laced it with anti-Semitism. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090‐1153), who Eugenius placed in charge of preaching the Crusade, remembered the havoc caused by Crusaders in Germany during the First Crusade. Jewish populations in the cities of the Rhine were massacred during the religious hysteria.
Bernard entered Germany to stop Radulf. However, even after he sent Radulf back to his monastery in France, Bernard could not stop himself from preaching the Crusade in Germany, despite knowing Eugenius’ desires. Initially, Conrad III was not interested, but the eloquent Bernard finally persuaded him to take the cross in 1146 on Christmas.
Conrad III and the German knights departed in May 1147 and arrived at Constantinople in September. The Byzantine Emperor, Manuel Comnenus (1143–1180), was displeased to see the Germans. It was a large force with poor discipline; as they marched through Byzantine territory, they clashed with townspeople and troops on several occasions. Although Manuel wanted to keep a civil relationship with Conrad, Manuel also needed to get rid of the Germans, so he had the German army ferried over to Asia.
From Constantinople, Conrad marched into the territory of the Seljuk Turks. He had heard that Louis VII of France was only days behind him, but Conrad pushed on rather than waiting to march in a united force. After deciding that the route of the First Crusade was good luck, he followed it. Like the First Crusade, Conrad encountered the Seljuk Turks at Dorylaeum. Unfortunately, he did not fair as well as the First Crusaders did. His army was surrounded and annihilated, and few made it back to Byzantine territory.
Despite the massive loss, Conrad continued on to Jerusalem, but via ship. At Jerusalem, he joined the forces of Louis VII. The two European kings then called an assembly of the barons of Jerusalem to determine the goal of the Crusade. After much debate, they targeted Damascus, an ally of Jerusalem. The siege was a disaster and the army retreated after only four days on July 28, 1148.
After the Crusade
In September, Conrad left Palestine in disgust. He sailed back to Constantinople where he stayed as a guest of Emperor Manuel. There the two found a mutual interest in their animosity of the Normans of Sicily. Their plans never materialized, as a rebellion prevented Conrad from taking action against the Normans.
The king of Germany typically became the Holy Roman Emperor. Because of rivalries within the Empire, however, Conrad had never built the support to claim the crown of the emperor. Even so, in 1152 Pope Eugenius III urged him to come to Rome for the title. Conrad III died on February 15, 1152, before he could make the journey.
King Louis VII
Born in 1120, King Louis VII ruled France from the age of seventeen to his death in 1180. Although he defended France from the aggressions of King Henry II of England (who was not only his enemy but the husband of Louis VII’s former wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine), Louis VII is best known as one of the leaders of the Second Crusade.
Rise to Power
Louis came to power after his father, Louis VI, died in 1137. Louis VI had ensured that his son inherited a strong and much enlarged state by arranging a marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine, who came from a large and rich region in southern France. Intensely religious, Louis VII spent the previous ten years before he became king cloistered in a monastery.
Thus Louis came to power with little political experience, with a fiery and much worldlier queen at his side. Despite his inexperience, the kingdom of France was kept in good order, with Louis VII earning a particular reputation for the maintenance of justice. However, as both king and queen came to the throne as teenagers, their political and administrative experience was lacking. Therefore they relied heavily on Suger, the Abbot of St. Denis, who acted as the king’s key advisor.
The Second Crusade
In 1145, a year after the fall of Edessa to the Arab leader Zengi, Pope Eugenius III (1143–1153) made a call for Crusade. To preach the Crusade, Eugenius called upon Bernard of Clairvaux, (later Saint Bernard). Bernard was perhaps the most eloquent and persuasive speaker in all of Europe, although it is probable that Louis would have answered the call even without Bernard’s formidable skills.
Louis received his cross from Bernard himself and left France on June 11, 1147. Near Constantinople he met the German king Conrad III (1093–1153), whose armies had been crushed by the Seljuk Turks. Now united, the two leaders took ships to Antioch. However a sizeable portion of the army had to march overland where they were subjected to constant attacks by the Turks. Most were killed.
Raymond, Antioch’s ruler and uncle to Eleanor, attempted to persuade Louis to attack Aleppo. Louis objected. In his view, before any campaign could be undertaken, he and the Crusaders must fulfill their pilgrimage vow by going to Jerusalem first. This idea was probably due to his piety rather than the rumors of an affair between Raymond and Eleanor. Nonetheless, the rumors played a role. Eleanor threatened to have the marriage annulled if Louis did not adhere to Raymond’s plan. Louis ignored her and marched the army to Jerusalem. Eleanor made good on her promise in 1152.
On June 24, 1148, Louis and Conrad met with the nobles and clergy of the Kingdom of Jerusalem to discuss the direction of the Crusade. Bolstered by reinforcements, it was determined that they would attack Damascus. The knights of Jerusalem were divided, as Damascus was their ally. Louis, however, could not understand how they could make treaties with infidels.
The brief and disastrous siege of Damascus began on July 24, 1148. After four days, dissension among the Crusaders from Europe and those from Jerusalem led the army to retreat. Despite the defeat, Louis remained in the Holy Land until Easter in 1149, trying to benefit the kingdom in some way, mainly by repairing fortresses.
After the Crusade
Reconciliation with Eleanor proved impossible once they returned home. In 1152, the marriage was ended based on consanguinity, or being too closely related. To make matters worse, she married Henry II (1154–1189) of England. Henry and Louis VII engaged in war, not over Eleanor, but over territory. Nonetheless, one cannot doubt that it was in the back of their minds.
Now, however, Louis was a wiser ruler even without Suger. He waged a cautious war and gained allies as well as the support of the Church in the conflict. His religious devotion may have cost him the Crusade and his wife, but it assisted him in keeping his kingdom. Louis died as an invalid, possibly due to a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122–1204) was not a warrior queen. Although she went on the Second Crusade, she did not fight. Nevertheless, as Queen of France and the wife of King Louis VII (1120–1180), and then as Queen of England and the wife of Henry II (1154–1189), she had a profound impact on the era of the Crusades.
Early Life and Queen of France
In twelfth-century France, although many regions nominally recognized the Capetian monarchy based in Paris, many vassals were independent and more powerful than the king. The duchy of Aquitaine in southern France was the richest and most powerful of these regions. Eleanor inherited Aquitaine at the age of fifteen when her father, William X, died in 1137 without a male heir.
Louis VI, seeing this as an opportunity to bring more of France under his control, married her to his son Louis VII. The two were married in 1137 and ascended their thrones not long after their wedding with the death of Louis VI in the same year. The two teenaged regents were almost polar opposites. Having spent ten years in a monastery, Louis VII was serious and very pious. Eleanor, on the other hand, was beautiful, intelligent, and cultured. Louis could not help but be impressed with her and may have even truly loved her, despite the arranged marriage.
The Second Crusade
Shortly after the fall of Edessa in 1144, Pope Eugenius II (1145–1153) called for a new Crusade to restore it to Christian hands. Louis responded eagerly and Eleanor took the cross as well, not willing to be left behind, and her presence altered the nature of the venture. While wives had accompanied their husbands before, Eleanor also took numerous ladies-in-waiting with her. They traveled east in 1147.
The French army arrived in Antioch, which was ruled by Eleanor’s uncle, Raymond of Poitiers, in 1148. Raymond was handsome, charismatic, and of a much more similar nature to Eleanor than her pious husband. As a result of their kinship and kindred spirits, Eleanor spent considerable time with him; rumors soon spread that their relationship was more than familial. It remains unknown if there was any substance to the rumors, but the fact remains that tension rose between Raymond and Louis.
Raymond sought to direct the Crusade against Nur ed-Din by either recapturing Edessa, or, as Raymond hoped, Aleppo (Nur ed-Din’s capital). Louis was reluctant to do so, as he felt the Crusade should continue to march to Jerusalem first. Raymond, seeing the issue as life or death for his state, persuaded Eleanor of his cause. Eleanor then went to Louis and stated that if Louis did not assent to Raymond’s plan, she would annul their marriage based on consanguinity, or being too closely related, and remove Aquitaine from Capetian control.
Beyond the rumors and this threat (which may have convinced Louis that Eleanor was having an affair with her uncle), Louis VII and Eleanor’s marriage was strained. Despite almost eleven years of marriage, they still had only one child, a daughter. On top of this, their temperaments were too different. Eleanor was passionate; Louis was pious. In any case, Louis placed Eleanor under guard and led his army to Jerusalem.
After reaching Jerusalem, the Second Crusade attempted to take Damascus. This gambit ended in failure, and the marriage of Eleanor and Louis ended as well. They left the Holy Land in 1149 on separate ships. Although reconciliation was attempted, the papacy granted the annulment in 1152, as Louis and Eleanor were fourth cousins.
Queen of England
Now independent of Louis, Eleanor ruled Aquitaine. To protect her realm from possible attacks from France, she secured the realm in 1152 by marrying Henry Plantagenet, the heir to the throne of England. Henry II came to the throne in 1154, making their kingdom extremely powerful. Unfortunately for Eleanor, she could not control him as she did Louis, although she was twelve years his senior. Furthermore, Eleanor was the one who became jealous in the new marriage, as Henry openly had an affair. As a result, Eleanor established her own court at Poitiers.
Unlike with Louis, as Henry’s wife, Eleanor gave birth to eight children—three daughters and five sons. Angry at her husband’s affair, Eleanor encouraged her sons to revolt against the king, and to the chagrin of their father these dutiful sons obeyed their mother. Although the revolt (1173–1174) was quelled, it was significant. For instigating the revolt, Eleanor was imprisoned for sixteen years in Touraine. She was only released with the ascension of her son, Richard I, to the throne.
Richard, of course, became known as Richard the Lionheart and commanded the Third Crusade. Eleanor served as Richard’s regent and defended the realm against the machinations of Prince John. It was a difficult task, as John was aided by the king of France, Philip II Augustus. While in the Holy Land, Philip was the ally of Richard. However, he returned before Richard and took the opportunity to attack Richard’s territory in the south of France. After Richard died in 1199, Eleanor also influenced John’s reign. She secured his ascension to the throne and served as his advisor until her death in 1204.
In addition to perhaps inadvertently causing the Second Crusade to be diverted from Edessa and Aleppo, Eleanor gave birth to perhaps the most famous of Crusaders, Richard the Lionheart. Although she did not participate in the Third Crusade, her capacity as regent played a major role in organizing the funding and support of it in Richard’s territory.
Furthermore, Eleanor was a patron of the arts. Her court at Poitiers was a center for the popular poets and musicians known as troubadours and a place where the idea of courtly love developed. Both the troubadour songs and the idea of courtly love held Middle Eastern influences due to Eleanor’s stay in the Middle East during the Second Crusade.
Nur ed-Din (1117–1174) created a sizeable empire in Syria and Egypt that brought a unified resistance to the Crusader kingdoms. He was a devout Muslim and was instrumental in bringing the concept of jihad, or a holy struggle against the Crusades. Before this period, that concept had diminished in use.
Political Actions Before the Second Crusade
Nur ed-Din became the ruler of Aleppo in 1146 with the death of his father Zengi. After his father died, Nur ed-Din took his father’s ring and assumed control of Aleppo. His brother, Sayf al-Din, ruled Mosul.
Unlike his father, Nur ed-Din was very religious. He believed that religious purity was essential to driving the Crusaders out of the region. Like his father, he believed that there must be union among the Muslim leaders in order to achieve this goal. However, unlike his father, Nur ed-Din did not attempt to conquer other Muslim polities; instead, he sought to bring them under his control through more subtle measures.
Nur ed-Din had writers send letters to the leaders and local notables of the Muslim states. All of the letters extolled Nur ed-Din’s virtues. Indeed, it was expedient for the region’s rulers to support Nur ed-Din on campaigns against the Crusaders, for if they did not, the religious leaders in their respective cities would curse them in public.
The Second Crusade and Damascus
Nur ed-Din’s biggest threat was the Second Crusade, especially as Raymond of Antioch (1136–1149) tried to persuade them to either regain Edessa or attack Aleppo. However, the divided leadership of the Crusade instead focused on Damascus, a city that was not only allied to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but also in opposition to union with Nur ed-Din. The Franks who lived in the Holy Land tried to persuade the Second Crusaders to choose some other target, but to no avail.
This gave Nur ed-Din an opportunity to insert himself into Damascene politics. He led his army to relieve the besieged city in 1148. For Muin al-Din Unar, the ruler of Damascus, this was the worst possible scenario. If the Crusaders won, he lost his city. If Nur ed-Din defeated them, then it would be impossible to deny Nur ed-Din’s supremacy. To counter both situations, Unar sent letters to the Crusaders to persuade them to abandon the siege. The plan succeeded and Nur ed-Din failed to capture Damascus.
Nonetheless, Nur ed-Din did not give up on Damascus. When Unar died in 1149, Nur ed-Din marched on Damascus. However, he did not lay waste to the countryside. Indeed, he took great pains to not burden the people; he avoided fighting with the army of Damascus; and he retreated when Jerusalem’s army approached. His efforts paid off, as Nur ed-Din appeared as the model Muslim ruler while the leaders of Damascus were in league with the enemy. A coup occurred in 1154, and citizenry proclaimed Nur ed-Din as the ruler.
An illness left Nur ed-Din incapacitated for almost two years. It was not until 1162 that he could risk advancing his efforts against the Kingdom of Jerusalem. However, rather than invading Jerusalem, his efforts were focused in Egypt.
Land of the Ancient Pharaohs
Both Nur ed-Din and King Almaric (1163–1174) of Jerusalem desired to rule Egypt. As the Fatimid Caliphate—a Shi’a Muslim state—waned, it sought support. Eventually the Fatimids decided that Amalric, despite having made several raids into Egypt, was a lesser threat. It would be possible to make an alliance with King Amalric, but Nur ed-Din, an ardent Sunni, viewed the Shi’a as heretics.
A number of clashes occurred, but in 1171, Nur ed-Din’s top general, a Kurd named Shirkuh, took over Egypt. One of Shirkuh’s lieutenants was his unassuming and rather unimpressive nephew, Saladin. Saladin was made governor after Shirkuh died two months later.
With the capture of Egypt, Nur ed-Din had the Crusaders states surrounded and the resources to annihilate them. However, events did not go well. Although he and Saladin attacked the Kingdom of Jerusalem, tension began to arise. Saladin was not always obedient and began acting increasingly independent. It was evident that conflict was coming, but Nur ed-Din died from illness in 1174 before fighting occurred. Nonetheless, Nur ed-Din had resurrected the idea of jihad and demonstrated the importance of unity in fighting the Crusaders.
Saladin (1138–1193) was the name that the Crusaders gave Salah al-Din Yusuf, the ruler of the Ayyubid Empire. Saladin united this region—which stretched from Mosul in Iraq to Egypt and included all of Syria—after the death of Nur ed-Din. After stabilizing his realm, Saladin made a concentrated push against the Crusaders, crushing them at Hattin and then capturing Jerusalem. Although he pushed the Crusaders to a string of castles on the coast, Saladin’s efforts were thwarted by the English king Richard the Lionheart. Throughout his career, Saladin was the embodiment of chivalry.
Early Life and Egypt
Saladin was a Kurd from the town of Tikrit, located in modern day Iraq. In his youth he was an unassuming man. He entered the service of Nur ed-Din in 1152 due to family connections. (His uncle, Shirkuh, was a leading general of Nur ed-Din.) The uncle took him to Egypt in 1164 almost as an afterthought, but the Crusaders drove them out of Cairo shortly thereafter. Five years later, in 1169, Shirkuh and Saladin had greater success.
The uncle/nephew celebration was brief as Shirkuh died two months after their victory. After Shirkuh died, Nur ed-Din appointed Saladin as his governor in Egypt, primarily because Saladin was deemed the least ambitious and threatening. Once in power, he carried out Nur ed-Din’s orders, but he also began to show an independent streak as well as military and administrative talent.
While he served as Nur ed-Din’s governor, he was also the vizier of the Fatimid Caliphate. In this capacity he improved the economy and also returned Sunni Muslim practices to the Shi’a Muslim state. In 1171 he overthrew the Fatimid Caliphate and ruled Egypt directly. A rebellion among the African infantry led to Saladin crushing their regiments.
A United Front, A Common Foe
Saladin’s growing independence created tension with Nur ed-Din, but the death of Nur ed-Din in 1174 prevented a collision between the two. Saladin then promptly moved against Nur ed-Din’s successor and captured Damascus. His next move was to conquer Aleppo and Mosul in an effort to unite the Muslim world against the Crusaders.
The unification of these cities gave Saladin the resources needed to conduct a long term campaign against the Crusaders. Just as the Crusaders carried out a Holy War to conquer Jerusalem, Saladin planned to use that emotional appeal and message to drive the Crusaders out of Jerusalem. Thus he began a jihad against the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
In 1187, he invaded the Kingdom of Jerusalem with nearly thirty thousand troops. King Guy de Lusignan, the ruler of Jerusalem, met Saladin at Hattin (near Lake Tiberias in modern day Israel) with more than twenty thousand men. It was the largest army the Kingdom of Jerusalem ever assembled, as the Crusaders stripped most of their garrisons for this battle. All the added troop strength counted for naught, however, for Saladin lured them into a waterless plain and carefully sapped their strength through thirst and well-timed attacks.
After defeating and capturing King Guy, Saladin immediately moved on to other various cities, capturing them one by one. With the army destroyed at Hattin, most cities surrendered without a fight. Saladin then laid siege to an isolated Jerusalem. The garrison fought bravely, but ultimately surrendered after negotiating a peace treaty. As part of the conditions of the surrender, the population had to pay a ransom to leave the city and have passage to the coast. Saldin’s generosity and kindness even in war was immediately noted by the defeated, as he personally paid the ransom of many to keep mothers and children together.
The Third Wave of Franks
Saladin continued to pressure the Crusader states. In 1189, the Third Crusade arrived and defeated Saladin’s forces at Acre. Despite Saladin’s brilliance, he met his equal in Richard the Lionheart. Although Richard defeated Saladin at Acre, Arsuf, and Jaffa, he could not take Jerusalem. At the same time, Saladin could not risk further battle with Richard, as the defeats had eroded his reputation of invincibility. Thus in 1192, they agreed to a truce.
Saladin did not live long afterwards. He died in Damascus in 1193. Although he united the Muslim states, his heirs and relatives quickly fragmented it into a loosely bound confederacy rather than the unified empire it once was.
Saladin’s legend only grew after his death. Although he was a Kurd, in the modern era Saladin became the symbol of independence and Arab and Muslim greatness in the face of Western dominance.
Richard the Lionheart
Richard I (1157–1199) is one of the best known leaders of the Crusading era. His prowess in battle earned him the sobriquet of “Coeur de Lion” or the Lionheart. Richard left his kingdom of England and spent several years campaigning and often besting Saladin during the Third Crusade. Despite his successes, he made many enemies among his erstwhile allies, and this ultimately led to his abandonment of the Crusade and his imprisonment in Austria.
Before the Crusade
Although Richard was the king of England, he only visited England twice in his life. Richard spent the majority of his time in his territories in France. As the son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, Richard ascended the throne of England in 1189, when his father Henry II died.
As Jerusalem had fallen to Saladin in 1187, a new call for Crusade had swept through Europe. Even before ascending the throne, Richard planned to participate in the campaign. Now as king, he would have even more influence.
While going to the Holy Land, a few of his ships—including one of his treasure ships and one carrying his sister, Joan, and fiancée Berengeria—wrecked on the island of Cyprus. Isaac Comnenus, the ruler, did not treat them well. As a consequence, Richard stormed the island in May 1191 and took it. Thereafter, it served as an important base of operations for the Crusades.
Once in the Holy Land, Richard made an immediate impact. His troops and fleet turned the tide and gave the Crusaders the city of Acre in June 1191. It was here that he overshadowed King Philip Augustus of France, who returned to France after securing Acre.
After winning at Acre, Richard marched south towards Jaffa, the port of Jerusalem. Along the way, Saladin’s forces shadowed them and harassed his army. Richard kept his troops in good order until he found a desirable location at Arsuf. Saladin and Richard met in battle on September 7, 1191. Richard kept his knights behind a line of crossbowmen and spearmen. These kept Saladin’s horse archers from getting too close. Richard planned to unleash his knights at the appropriate moment. When the time came, the charge split the Muslim army and inflicted heavy casualties. For the Muslims, it was an important reminder of how devastating a well-conducted charge could be.
Before marching to Jaffa, Richard massacred nearly three thousand Muslim prisoners in front of Saladin’s army. They were to be ransomed, but as Saladin was late in making the first installment, Richard had them all killed.
After Arsuf, Saladin would not challenge Richard in open combat again. Richard continued on to Jaffa and captured it. He then turned on to Jerusalem. The march was slow as Richard insisted on repairing fortifications along the route from Jaffa to Jerusalem. He realized that without secure communication and supply routes, the Crusaders would not be able to hold Jerusalem even if they conquered it. Facing such difficult logistics, Richard ultimately abandoned the march in January, 1192. The army withdrew to Acre.
While there, he received news that Saladin was attacking Jaffa. While his army began the march, Richard and a small force set sail. Richard landed with a crossbow in one hand and a battle axe in the other. He quickly cleared the beach of attackers, due to his bravado as much as the actual attack. He then secured Jaffa, again defeating Saladin.
Richard and Saladin eventually agreed to a truce. Saladin could not continue the war against Richard due to his losses. Meanwhile Richard realized that he needed to return to Europe. Furthermore, he realized that the conquest of Jerusalem was not to be. Even with this setback, Richard had restored much of the Kingdom of Jerusalem to the Crusaders and also won the right for Christian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem. Richard set sail from the Holy Land on October 9, 1192.
Unfortunately, due to a shipwreck, Richard passed through the territory of Duke Leopold V, the ruler of Austria, and was taken prisoner. At the siege of Acre, Richard had offended him by tearing down his banner and replacing it with his own.
A ransom was paid, although Prince John (of Robin Hood fame), Richard’s brother and regent, did his best to prevent Richard’s release. He and King Philip II Augustus of France conspired to keep Richard from returning. Nonetheless, Richard returned to his lands in France, which Philip had invaded. The two former allies were at war. During the course of this conflict, Richard was wounded by a crossbow bolt; he died from complications from the wound in 1199.
In 1152, Frederick Barbarossa (1122–1190) succeeded Conrad III as king of Germany, and he became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1155. After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187, Frederick took the cross and led a large army into the East, only to die while on Crusade.
Rise to Power
Frederick’s election to the German throne in 1152 was an effort to promote peace in Germany. As Frederick was related to both of the warring factions (the Hohenstaufens and the Welfs), it was hoped that the country would unite under his leadership.
Frederick formed an alliance with Pope Eugenius III against rival claimants to the papacy. As a result, Frederick was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 1155. Eventually, he abandoned the alliance with the pope in order to deal with politics within the Empire. Over the next few years, Frederick increased his personal domains as well as the authority of the Holy Roman Emperor. His most difficult efforts were trying to quell rebellions in Italy beginning in 1158. Papal intrigues fueled further tensions in northern Italy.
Frederick was constantly on campaign, dealing with Italian cities or rebellious German princes who resisted his efforts to centralize his authority within the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick’s focus shifted in 1188 when he received news of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. Frederick took the cross at the age of sixty-six years old. The Third Crusade would not be his first Crusade, as he had also participated in the disastrous Second Crusade.
The Third Crusade
Frederick led a large army—perhaps the largest German army ever assembled up to that time—in May 1189. They marched down the Danube to Constantinople. Having learned from Conrad’s mistakes, Frederick sent envoys ahead of the army to secure markets and a peaceful route. Even so, Byzantine Emperor Isaac II did not trust the Germans. Isaac was also on peaceful terms with Saladin (both viewed the Seljuks as enemies), and he did not welcome the massive German army.
Unfortunately for Isaac, Frederick learned of the treaty; tensions between Isaac and Frederick arose almost immediately. The markets and supplies that had been promised to the envoys did not materialize. In addition to the fact that Frederick was leading the large army of Europe in his territory, Isaac also resented Frederick’s use of the title of Emperor. In Isaac’s eyes, the only Emperor was that of the Byzantine Empire and not some half-barbarous polity in Central Europe.
Negotiations between the two deteriorated quickly. Frederick, however, did not hesitate to use force. He preferred peaceful relations, but his ultimate goal was to reach Jerusalem. Thus he conquered Adrianople, a provincial capital, an action which gained Isaac’ attention. Aware that an assault on Constantinople was not out of the question, Isaac offered to transport the Germans to Asia.
Frederick led his forces into Seljuk territory on April 25, 1190. Originally he had secured a treaty with the Turks in order to pass through their lands peacefully. However, the temptation of looting Frederick’s camps and wagons was too great for the Turks, who launched an attack on May 18, 1190. The Germans crushed them in a resounding victory.
Some harassing attacks followed, but a major attack did not occur on the Germans. The march across Anatolia went well, and it appeared that unlike the Second Crusade, the German army on the Third Crusade would arrive in the Holy Land intact. However, as they entered Cilicia and crossed the river Saleph on June 10, 1190, Frederick suffered a heart attack.
Afterwards, most of the army dissolved and returned to Europe. A sizeable contingent continued under the command of the Austrian ruler, Duke Frederick. This unit, however, was paltry compared to the force that Frederick had led. Although the Third Crusade enjoyed some success, one can only speculate what it could have achieved had Frederick’s complete army arrived under his leadership.
Philip Augustus (1165–1223), also known as Philip II, was one of the most powerful medieval kings of France. Despite increasing the size of the royal domains and regaining territory from England, he is best known for his role in the Third Crusade. Even then, however, he often is portrayed in a negative light compared to the swashbuckling Richard the Lionheart.
Rise to Power
Philip Augustus inherited the throne when Louis VII died in 1180. The new king was quite unlike his pious father, who focused so much on justice. Cynical, shrewd, and calculating, Philip would not hesitate to manipulate a situation to his benefit. His mind was his greatest asset, as throughout his life Philip had a frail constitution and was often sick.
In addition to inheriting the throne, Philip also inherited his father’s wars with England. Although Henry II was the ruler of England, by virtue of marrying Eleanor of Aquitaine and by right of conquest, that kingdom also included much of western and southern France. Indeed, Henry ruled more of France than Philip did.
Philip defended his kingdom as best he could. At the same time, he wisely manipulated Henry’s sons, Richard and John. In this manner, Philip gained important allies against Henry. He also became the feudal lord of Henry’s English territory in France. Thus Henry was not only the King of England, but also a vassal of Philip by 1189.
The fall of Jerusalem in 1187 momentarily ended this conflict. As the call for the Third Crusade made its way through Europe, Philip reluctantly took the cross. His concerns had little to do with the Holy Land and more to do with stabilizing his realm.
The Third Crusade
Richard, now King of England, and Philip agreed to join the endeavor together and to split whatever booty they accumulated. They left on July 4, 1190, and traveled to Sicily. There Richard sacked the city of Messina over a slight to his sister. Philip did not take part, but he insisted on his share of the plunder due to their agreement. His real agenda was that Richard had taken another woman as his wife, despite being engaged to Philip’s sister, Alice.
Philip left Sicily on March 30, 1191, ahead of Richard who still awaited his own ships. Philip arrived at Acre where Guy de Lusignan and Conrad of Montferrat had laid siege to the city. Both claimed the crown of Jerusalem. Philip supported Conrad’s claim to the throne, as did most of the barons of the much reduced Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Even with the siege weapons that Philip had brought, the Crusaders had little success in taking the city. Added to this frustration was the annoyance that Richard was late and most of the army anticipated victory with his arrival. In addition, Philip was chronically sick while at Acre. Although Richard’s arrival on June 7 did lead to the capture of Acre, it took over a month to capture the city.
Afterwards, Philip decided to return to France despite the pleas not only from his own army but from the leaders of other forces, including Richard. Philip, however, had had enough of the Holy Land. Overshadowed by Richard and suffering from illnesses that he could only attribute to Palestine, he simply wished to return home. In addition, his wife had died in 1190 and Prince Louis (the future Louis IX) had barely survived a severe illness. He was needed at home.
When the Lion’s Away, Philip Makes a Play
Once he was back in France, Philip took advantage of Richard’s absence. He and John, the younger brother of Richard, began to attack Richard’s holdings in France, successfully conquering Normandy. Philip and Richard’s rivalry continued until Richard was killed in 1199. Then John, as the new king of England, became the enemy of Philip. John, however, was not the equal of his brother (or Philip) on the battlefield or in politics. Philip simply used feudal law to acquire the French territories of John north of the Loire River.
The conflict with England ended in 1214 at the battle of Bouvines. John tried to reconquer his territories while aligning himself with Otto IV of Germany. Philip sent one army to southwestern France to deal with John; John fled rather than risk battle. Meanwhile, Philip engaged Otto IV at Bouvines and crushed the combined Anglo-German army on July 27, 1214.
With this victory, the war was over. Philip Augustus had secured peace for France against foreign aggression until his death in 1223.
Louis IX (1214–1270) came to the throne of France in 1226 while still a minor. His mother, Blanche of Castile, served as his regent during this period, and also later when he served on the Crusades. Louis IX was largely responsible for maintaining the Crusades during the thirteenth century. Although both Crusades that he led were failures, he later became a saint for his devotion to the church.
It is not surprising that Louis led two crusading expeditions; he was devout and believed that true Christians should not tolerate nonbelievers of any sort. Indeed, in 1240 he held a trial for the Talmud, the book of Jewish law, accusing it of heresy. Not surprisingly, the Talmud was found guilty and all Talmudic works that the government acquired were burned.
By all accounts (including his detractor’s), the pious Louis was a man of integrity and a just ruler. Although Louis was descended from Crusaders as the grandson of Louis VII, and had considered going on Crusade for several years, he had not. His mother, Blanche, successfully discouraged it until 1244. While stricken with illness, Louis took the cross; however, his mother had the vow commuted, as the oath was made while Louis was delirious. Nonetheless, Louis persisted in fulfilling that vow.
The Seventh Crusade
In 1248, the king led what is known as the Seventh Crusade. Although a few contingents arrived from other European countries, it was largely a French venture. The Crusaders wintered at Cyprus and then sailed to Egypt. Initially, the invasion was tremendously successful, capturing Damietta on June 4, 1249. However, at Mansurah, his brother (Robert of Artois) led a disastrous attack on the city. This turned the tide of battle.
As Louis IX withdrew from the battle, his armies were harassed. The enemy cut off their escape route, and to make matters worse, disease became rampant in his camp. Louis did not escape this either and was stricken with dysentery. The Muslim forces forced the French to surrender, and Louis was released on a ransom of four hundred thousand bezants. To his credit, he did not desert his forces, but generated funds to ransom the rest of his army from captivity.
Although the Seventh Crusade ended in disaster, Louis did not return to France. Instead, he remained in the Middle East and spent considerable time repairing fortresses. He returned to France in 1254, but funded a regiment of one hundred knights to supplement the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Even after he returned to France, King Louis IX sent significant funds to assist the kingdom.
During this period, Louis IX also established contact with the Mongols. He hoped to develop an alliance with them against the Muslims as he had received news that several of the Mongol leaders were Christians. While on Cyprus, he sent emissaries to Baiju, the Mongol commander stationed in the Middle East. This ended in disaster as Louis had sent sumptuous gifts which were interpreted by the Mongols as tribute. Thus in their eyes, Louis IX had submitted to their authority.
Louis also had other contacts with the Mongols through his envoy, William of Rubruck, who met with Mongke Khan in Mongolia. Even after the Mongol Empire broke apart, some contact continued between the Mongols and Louis. However, an alliance never developed from this.
The Final Crusade of Louis IX
After spending several years tending to the affairs of his kingdom, Louis IX planned another Crusade. News of this alarmed the Mamluk Sultanate, which now dominated Egypt and Syria as a result of Louis’ invasion in 1250. However, Louis IX instead invaded Tunis. He thought, wrongly, that capturing Tunis would deprive Egypt of revenue. However, it is also clear that Tunis was just a stepping stone to the Holy Land.
Despite his best intentions, the Crusade ended at Tunis. They landed on July18, 1270, and seized a fortress by the ancient city of Carthage. While waiting for reinforcements, disease broke out in Louis’ camp. No one was exempt from the disease, and Louis died on August 25, 1270. With his death, the campaign collapsed.
In 1297, the papacy canonized Louis IX as Saint Louis for his devoted works to the Church, despite the fact that he failed in both efforts for which he is most remembered.
Dorylaeum, June 1097
This was the first significant field battle between Crusader and Muslim armies. After the members of the First Crusade (1095–1099) captured Nicea from the Seljuk Turks of Rum, they pressed on for the Holy Land. The route they traveled required them to pass through the valley of Dorylaeum. There the Seljuk sultan, Kilij Arslan, awaited them.
Not Like the Previous Pilgrims
Prior to the arrival of the nobles such as Bohemund of Taranto, Godfrey of Bouillon, and Raymond of Toulouse, Kilij Arslan’s army had encountered Europeans. These were the first Crusaders who had passed into Anatolia, led by Peter the Hermit in October 21, 1096. These had been mainly peasants and only a handful of knights. In contrast, the new army that entered Anatolia was primarily a military force of knights and professional men at arms. Furthermore, it was much larger than the ten to fifteen thousand led by Peter the Hermit, and these troops had already bloodied the forces of Kilij Arslan (1092–1107) at Nicea. There, the Seljuk sultan did not take them too seriously and found, much to his chagrin, that they were indeed a most formidable force.
After Nicea fell, the Crusaders continued east. Their progress in 1097 alarmed Kilij Arslan, forcing him to form an alliance with his rivals, the Danishmend Turks. The Turks, primarily being light horse-archers, felt confident that in open battle, they would defeat the Crusaders.
The Battle Begins
Meanwhile, the Crusaders marched in two sections. The first section, under Bohemund of Taranto, camped in a field not far from Dorylaeum (near present day Eskisehir, Turkey). At sunrise the following day (June 29, 1097), the Seljuk forces charged from the hills. Under a barrage of arrows, the European knights charged. The Turks, wheeling on their horses, avoided the charge and maintained the attack.
The Crusaders were forced back to their camp. Under the direction of Bohemund, the knights dismounted and formed a protective barrier with the noncombatants in the middle where springs of water existed. Bohemund also sent a courier to the second section.
The Turks, however, maintained a steady hail of arrows upon the Crusaders. Surrounded, the Crusaders faced destruction or slavery. Despite the constant barrage, they held against the onslaught.
The Second Section Turns the Tide
Fortunately, the main body of the Crusaders arrived under the command of Raymond of Toulouse. This second force surprised the Turks. As the Crusader armies merged, they began to counterattack; the Turks struggled to withstand them. Their initial surprise turned to panic as the papal legate, Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy, successfully executed an outflanking maneuver.
Although the Turks wore armor and could deliver charges, their primary attack was with their powerful composite bows, which had a greater range than the bows of the Europeans. Furthermore, they were a very mobile force, able to lure the Crusaders into a charge and then avoid contact. When the Crusader knights charged and made contact, few could resist them. The Turks quickly realized this and avoided them. However, the successful attacks by Raymond and Adhemar crushed the Turks and threw the army of Kilij Arslan into disorder. The Turks were routed and the camp of Kilij Arslan fell to the Crusaders.
The victory served the Crusaders well. They learned early that warfare in the east was much different from that of Western Europe. Although mounted archers continued to be troublesome, the Crusaders on the First Crusade mastered tactics and formations that allowed them to counter the continuous harassment that could occur.
After Dorylaeum, the Crusaders easily dispersed other Seljuk forces they encountered in Anatolia, and were able to continue to the Holy Land with minimum trouble. Until they reached Antioch, their greatest enemy would be the harsh environment and starvation.
Siege of Antioch, 1097–1098
Antioch was the first major city the Crusaders captured outside of Anatolia. The city carried importance not only as a former possession of the Byzantine Empire but also for its importance in Christianity. Located in the fertile Orontes River valley, it was protected by natural defenses (such as the river and its location atop high ridges) as well as a citadel and a high wall with four hundred towers. The Battle of Antioch occurred in two stages. The first part consisted of the Crusaders siege of Antioch, while the second consisted of their defense of the city.
Before Bohemund of Taranto and Raymond of Toulouse laid siege to Antioch on October 20, 1097, Yagi Siyan (ruler of Antioch) had expelled all of the Christians from the city for fear of treason. Nonetheless, Bohemund hoped to win the city through subterfuge and keep it for himself. Raymond, however, generally opposed the idea.
Although the Crusaders attempted to isolate the city and built fortresses—such as Malregard—around the city, they could not completely surround it. The city continued to receive supplies from the countryside for months. At the same time that they conducted the siege, the Crusaders repeatedly fended off sorties from the garrisons, made foraging raids, and fought relief armies.
Before a large relief army arrived, Bohemund had successfully negotiated with a renegade Armenian within the city named Firuz. He was the captain of one of the towers and had a grievance against Yagi Siyan.
Since it was well known that the relief army led by Kerbogha of Mosul was approaching, Bohemund led the army east, as if to meet him. Then, at night on June 3, 1098, sixty knights climbed a ladder to Firuz’s tower. They promptly seized two other towers and opened the gates to the returning Crusader army. The city quickly fell, although the citadel remained in the hands of the Turkic garrison. Yagi Siyan, however, perished while fleeing the city.
Despite their victory, the approach of Kerbogha loomed over their heads. On June 4, 1098, Kerbogha’s army entered the vicinity of Antioch. Kerbogha had brought the armies of Damascus and Homs in addition to his own, so his army outnumbered the Crusader forces.
As the citadel was still in the hands of the original garrison, Kerbogha hoped to use it as an entrance to the city. However, while the Crusaders had destroyed their old fortifications that they used during the siege, they erected new ones to isolate the citadel from the rest of the city.
As Kerbogha’s army arrived, the Crusaders in Antioch faced a dire situation. Not only were they now trapped between the garrison and the relief army, but having captured a city that had endured eight months of siege, their food stores were dangerously low. Bohemund had to bar and lock the gates to prevent a general exodus.
Some of the Crusaders, such as Stephen of Blois, did flee. He eventually met a relief army led by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius. Stephen, who had viewed the size of the enemy army, convinced the emperor that by the time they reached Antioch, the Crusaders would have been destroyed. This unintentional abandonment ended all loyalty the Crusaders had toward the Byzantines.
After failed negotiations, the Crusaders marshaled their army before Antioch on June 28, 1098. Inspired by the Holy Lance, the knights advanced through a hail of arrows from the Turkic horse archers. When the archery fire failed to stop the knights, panic seized the Muslim army. Kerbogha attempted to turn a flank, but Bohemund countered it with his reserves. Kerbogha’s forces, many of whom were there against their will, began to desert. The Crusaders pressed home their advantage and completely routed the Muslims. With Kerbogha’s defeat, the garrison quickly surrendered. Bohemund claimed the city as his own.
The capture of the city, however, had important repercussions for the history of the Crusades. The First Crusade’s victory at Antioch established a Latin state in the Middle East, and Bohemund became the first ruler of the Principality of Antioch.
Siege of Jerusalem, 1099
Its religious importance unparalleled, Jerusalem had always been the goal of the First Crusade. Even before the Crusades, many Christian pilgrims from Europe believed that if they traveled to the city, their sins would be cleansed. In fact, alleged mistreatment towards the pilgrims was one of the reasons that the Crusades began. That had been a brief aberration when the Seljuk Turks conquered Palestine. Once the Shi’a Muslim Fatimid Caliphate (909–1171) regained control of Jerusalem, the persecution had ended.
This, however, did not matter to the Crusaders, as the differences in Islam were unknown to them. Furthermore, in their eyes, it was God’s will that Jerusalem should be in Christian hands.
The Franks Arrive
On June 7, 1099, the members of the First Crusade encamped before the walls of Jerusalem. After years of hardship, they had reached their goal, although to enter the city they faced considerable difficulties. The city was defended by strong walls and a moat on the northern side of the city. Furthermore, the Fatimids had poisoned local wells to deprive the Crusaders of their use, and virtually all materials useful for construction had been destroyed or removed. This meant the Crusaders had to send foraging parties often a day’s journey away simply for water. In addition, the Fatimid garrison of Arab and Sudanese troops was led by Iftikhar al-Dawla, who had recently captured the city from the Seljuks. Much like at Antioch, while the Christian population had no ties to the Catholic Crusaders, Iftikhar took no chances and sent the Christian population outside the city.
Over the years, the Crusader army had declined. Much of this was due to death, but many had remained in Antioch with Bohemund as well as in Edessa with Tancred. With only fifteen thousand men, the Crusaders could not completely encircle the city. Fortunately for them, even though the Fatimid garrison was numerous and well armed, it could not man the entire wall. Not willing to risk a battle with the Crusaders, they waited behind their walls in hope of the arrival of a relief army from Egypt.
The First Attempt
Led by Godfrey of Bouillon and Raymond of Tolouse, the Crusaders began their attack on June 13, 1099, assaulting the walls with siege ladders. They gained access on the outer walls, but because they lacked sufficient ladders and siege engines to support the attack, they were forced to withdraw.
To remedy the situation (as well as to procure water), the Crusaders endured skirmishes while securing lumber from as far away as Lebanon in order to build siege engines. Luck also came on their side as six ships from Europe, filled with lumber, sailed into the port of Jaffa.
Despite this break, morale declined as news of the approach of a Fatimid army circulated in their camp. Nonetheless, the Crusaders’ resilience paid off, and soon they had two siege towers and allegedly forty catapults.
The City Is Gained
With the relief army approaching rapidly, Raymond and Godfrey realized that time was short. Nonetheless, prior to attacking, the entire army fasted and made a procession up Mount of Olives, where they held mass on July 8. The garrison of Jerusalem was shocked and baffled by these pious actions prior to attack.
The Crusaders launched their attack on July 13, 1099. Raymond led the assault on one tower against the southern wall and Godfrey attacked another tower on the northeastern wall. It was not until July 15, 1099, that they successfully seized a portion of a wall. With this breach, the Crusaders stormed the city. Iftikhar al-Dawla realized he’d lost Jerusalem and surrendered to Raymond. However, this did not save the city.
Filled with religious zeal and bloodlust, the Crusaders rampaged through the city, massacring all they encountered. Muslims, even those who took refuge in mosques, were cut down regardless of age or gender. The Jewish population also was given no quarter. While the reports of the massacre are often exaggerated to the point where the blood flowed up to the knees of a horse, it nevertheless was an enormous orgy of destruction.
Despite petty jealousies throughout the leadership of the Crusade, the capture of Jerusalem culminated in the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted as a Latin presence in the Holy Land for almost two hundred years.
Harran, May 1104
Although it is one of the most important battles of the Crusades, this battle’s significance is often overshadowed by later events. The Crusader defeat at Harran undermined the security of Edessa and Antioch for years due to the capture of many leaders and the destruction of a sizeable army.
Crusader Territorial Gains
In late 1103 and early 1104, the states of Antioch and Edessa aggressively expanded their domains. Bohemund of Antioch captured territory from Aleppo. Meanwhile, the expansion of Edessa and Antioch eastward cut off Syria from Mosul. This made the ruler of Mosul, Jokermish, nervous, as he was at least the nominal overlord of the region. The town of Harran was also in a precarious situation due to raids by the Crusaders. It would only be a matter of time before it would be forced to submit to Edessa if the raids continued.
Jokermish gathered an army together from Mosul and other cities and marched towards Edessa in May 1104. Baldwin II of Edessa, who ruled that polity from 1100 to 1118, informed Bohemund of their approach. They decided to intercept the Muslim army.
Baldwin left Edessa with a small garrison and set out with his knights and a sizeable force of Armenian infantry. Near Harran, Joscelin de Courtenay (who would later rule Edessa from 1119 to 1131) joined him. Joscelin was Baldwin’s most important vassal. Bohemund also came with his army. With the combined forces of Edessa and Antioch, the army numbered three thousand knights and almost ten thousand infantry—virtually all of the soldiers in their kingdoms excluding the garrisons.
A Clash of Egos, then Swords
Although the army of Mosul was still some distance away, the Crusaders did not attempt to storm Harran. It is thought that they hoped that it would surrender peacefully and they would not have to destroy its fortifications. Indeed, their hopes appeared to come true as the city negotiated.
However, as happened so often among the Crusaders, egos intervened. Baldwin and Bohemund quarreled over whose banner would be raised first, signaling who claimed the city and would be awarded the greatest share of plunder. This delay while bickering would cost them, as it gave the army from Mosul time to arrive before the Crusaders invested the city. Naturally, with the arrival of help, the citizenry of Harran ended their negotiations and waited to see who won.
The battle took place near the Balikh river, very close to the ancient battleground of Carrhae. Knowing that Jokermish was approaching, the Crusaders planned their strategy carefully. Baldwin’s army would engage the enemy, while Bohemund’s Antiochene forces would stay hidden in the nearby hills to deliver the killing blow.
It was a good plan, but the Muslims had a similar idea. A sizeable force of cavalry advanced and engaged Baldwin’s army. After some fighting, they turned and fled. The Edessans, believing they had routed the Muslims, pursued, leaving the Antiochenes behind. Their pursuit took them across the Balikh River where they rode into an ambush. The feigned flight of the Muslims successfully lured the Crusaders to the rest of the Muslim army, who had also hidden in the hills to deliver a killing blow.
The majority of the Edessan force was annihilated. Bohemund and the Antioch troops did catch up and engage some of the Muslims, but seeing the destruction of Baldwin’s army and the flight of those who could, he also retreated. However, as the Crusaders attempted to cross the river, bands of Turkic horse archers shot them. The retreat continued to their camp before the walls of Harran. The garrison, seeing the plight of the Crusaders, then sallied forth and attacked. However, in the confusion and due to the lateness of the day, they also killed many of the Muslim army.
Bohemund’s army escaped with heavy losses. Bohemund himself had to hide to avoid capture. Meanwhile, the Edessan army simply was no more. Realizing the vulnerability of Antioch and Edessa, Bohemund rallied his remaining troops to defend them both. He sent his talented cousin Tancred to defend Edessa.
Jokermish did not advance on either city immediately, and his army disintegrated. Much like Kerbogha at Antioch, his arrogance alienated the other leaders. Indeed, his troops even attacked Soqman of Mardin’s camp in order to secure Baldwin, who had been captured. (Often both sides took opposing leaders prisoner, as they fetched a handsome ransom.) Soqman eventually returned to Mardin while Jokermish pressed on to Edessa. However, the delay gave Tancred time to organize the city’s defenses, and a sortie in the middle of the night routed Jokermish.
Harran was an important defeat, for the loss of manpower would keep Antioch and Edessa weak for decades. It also exposed the vulnerabilities of the Crusaders. Bohemund’s reputation suffered, as his martial prowess had previously been feared by all. Aleppo was able to regain recently lost territory from Antioch with little opposition.
In addition, there was a vacuum of leadership as both Joscelin and Baldwin were captured. Tancred was reluctant to pay the ransom, as he enjoyed ruling Edessa. This would lead to later troubles after Baldwin secured his release in 1108.
Edessa was the first state established by the Crusaders in the Middle East in 1098. It had long been an economic center in the region, and its inhabitants welcomed the Crusaders as a counter to the growing Turkish presence in the region. Despite these advantages, Edessa was also the first state to fall in 1144.
Problems Start at the Top
Prior to its fall, Edessa suffered from a series of poor rulers. They were often at odds with the Principality of Antioch (another Crusader state to the south), and the state was constantly threatened by neighboring Muslim states. The only true stability it ever had was when John II Komnenos, the Byzantine Emperor, forced Joscelin II (the Count of Edessa) to submit to him. This deterred attacks by the Turks, but that protection disappeared with the death of John in 1143.
Although Zengi had not been willing to risk war with the Byzantines, he was more than happy to engage the state of Edessa. Zengi chose his time wisely. Joscelin II was away from Edessa when he attacked. He had gone to defend his borders and had the bulk of his troops near Turbessel.
With Joscelin engaged elsewhere, Zengi began his siege of the city in November 1144. Joscelin did not have sufficient troops to launch an attack on Zengi, so he requested troops from Raymond of Antioch. However, the two were rivals and had cooperated in previous years only due to Byzantine influence.
Crusader Spurns Crusader
Despite the dire need, Raymond preferred to see Joscelin stripped of his city than to aid him against Zengi. Joscelin also sent an appeal to the Kingdom of Jerusalem; a relief force was sent, but it was much farther away than Antioch.
The relief army from Jerusalem did not arrive in time. With most of the Crusaders with Joscelin, the city’s garrison consisted primarily of Syrian and Armenian Christians. These were town militia, not professional soldiers, and they had neither the skill nor the ability to hold off a determined army indefinitely.
After a four week siege, the city fell. On December 24, 1144, Zengi’s troops opened a breach in the wall. Muslim sappers had spent weeks digging tunnels towards the wall. Once they reached it, they set fire to its supports, causing that section of the wall to collapse. Zengi’s army stormed the city. The Franks—as the Muslims referred to the Crusaders—were massacred, but Eastern Christians were spared (along with their churches). Zengi then went on to conquer most of the county. All the while, Joscelin held at Turbessel.
The City is Taken Again and Again
After the murder of Zengi in 1146, Joscelin quickly seized the city, but he did not hold it for long. Nur ed-Din, Zengi’son approached it, and Joscelin fled. Nur ed-Din massacred all of the Christian population to ensure that the Crusaders could never seize the city through treachery, and thus ended the County of Edessa. Although its fall triggered the Second Crusade, the Crusaders never made another attempt to regain Edessa.
Siege of Ascalon, 1153
The Siege of Ascalon took place from January 1153 until August of the same year. King Baldwin III (1143–1163) employed all of the Kingdom of Jerusalem’s resources into conquering the port city. Since the Crusaders first arrived, Ascalon had been used by the Fatimid Caliphate as a launching point for raids into the Kingdom. Until it was captured, Jerusalem would never be truly secured from a Fatimid attack.
A Lingering Thorn in the Frankish Side
Over the years, raiding had been nullified as the Crusaders had erected a series of castles around Ascalon. Nonetheless, the heavily fortified city continued to be a nuisance as the Fatimid fleet could disrupt shipping and still attack ships bearing pilgrims. Even with the fortifications, it remained possible that the Muslims could invade the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Ascalon. Thus, Baldwin was determined to capture the city and secure Palestine from any Fatimid attacks.
The siege began on January 25, 1153. Carrying the relic of the True Cross with them, the Crusaders were confident of victory. Nonetheless, the siege went on for months. Although the Crusaders could blockade it, they could not penetrate the walls. A constant stream of pilgrims from the West added to their forces, but the Fatimid navy kept the city supplied as a fleet of seventy ships intimidated the small Crusader fleet of twenty galleys. Yet for some reason, the Egyptian fleet did not remain at the siege and returned to Egypt after unloading their cargo.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders bombarded the city with their siege engines. The most intimidating device was a massive siege tower that was taller than the city walls. From this structure, the Crusaders launched stones and flaming material into the streets of the city. This tower almost led to the capture of the city in an unexpected way.
Because of its threat, a commando attack was made by the garrison of Ascalon to destroy it. They successfully set it on fire. However, the wind shifted and the tower and flames crashed against the city wall. The inferno caused the masonry of that section of the wall to crack and disintegrate, and a breach opened. What happened next is a perfect illustration of the general lack of unity of command among the Crusaders.
The Ever-Bickering Leaders
Although Baldwin was the commander of the army, most units were commanded by their own lords with their own agendas. The army functioned by forming a consensus, often after much debate. The military order known as the Templars commanded the section of the breach. They stormed the opening. As the elite force of the Crusaders, they easily overcame any opposition. However, they had also decided to keep the glory (and plunder) for themselves. Therefore, they also posted men to keep other Crusaders from entering the breach. Seeing how few men actually entered the city, the garrison rallied, annihilated the Templars, and then repaired the wall.
Thus, the siege continued. After the Templars debacle, the Crusaders almost abandoned the whole venture. However, the King was persuaded them to continue the siege, so the bombardment of the city continued. Without sustained support from Egypt, the city could not continue. Thus, on August 19, 1153, the garrison surrendered. As part of the negotiations, the citizenry were guaranteed safe passage. The greater part of the population left the city under the protection of Baldwin III, Ascalon became the property of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Beginning of the End
Despite the victory, Ascalon came with a price. It was the last great conquest by the kings of Jerusalem. Also, while the kings focused on Ascalon, Nur ed-Din took advantage of the situation and secured Damascus. This meant the Crusaders lost an ally while Nur ed-Din’s power increased.
Perhaps most importantly, with Ascalon in their possession, the road to Egypt was now open for the Jerusalem Franks. Known since time immemorial for its wealth, Egypt became a temptation for the rulers of Jerusalem, and it often distracted them from other concerns.
The battle of Hattin (or more correctly, Hittin) was a turning point in the history of the Crusades. Not only did Saladin annihilate the army of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but he also conquered most of the kingdom, leaving only a scant handful of cities in Crusader hands.
Saladin Isolates the Franks
Since his rise to power, Saladin had focused most of his efforts not on the Crusaders but on uniting Egypt, Syria, and much of modern northern Iraq. This formed a crescent around the Crusader states. Saladin did want to drive the Crusaders from Palestine, but he was patient and waited for the right moment.
That moment arrived in 1187. Reynald de Chatillon, the ruler of Transjordan (consisting of the Castles of Kerak and Montreal [or Shawbak]), broke the peace and pillaged a Muslim caravan.
Saladin had endured previous raids by Reynald; however, under the leadership of the leper king, Baldwin IV (1174–1185), a détente had been achieved. The current king, Guy de Lusignan (1186–1190), did not command the same respect from Saladin. Therefore Saladin mobilized his army, drawing units from throughout his empire. As he crossed the Jordan River from Syria into Palestine with thirty thousand men, the Crusaders mobilized.
While Saladin’s army marched on the city of Tiberias, in the district of Galilee, King Guy marched with an army of almost twenty thousand men. It included over one thousand knights, sizeable contingents from the military orders of the Templars and Hospitallers (the elite troops of the Crusaders), and thousands of infantry. In order to mobilize such a force to meet Saladin’s army, Guy swept up almost all available troops in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Franks Argue (Again)
As usual, the Crusaders were not in agreement on what course of action to take. Count Raymond of Tripoli, who also was the ruler of Tiberias, argued to wait Saladin out as they had in previous years. If they did so, his feudal army would eventually dissolve. If they marched near Tiberias and kept a defensive position, it would prevent Saladin from taking the city. Others argued that it was a cowardly move and that they must attack immediately to save Tiberias. Guy, convinced by this rhetoric, led the army forward.
On July 3, 1187, the army marched from Jerusalem as quickly as they could. The army had not heeded Raymond’s advice to stay near water. Their approach to Tiberias took them across a waterless plain between two hills known as the Horns of Hattin, only a few miles from water. On this plain they camped, for they did not wish to advance too close to Saladin after their long march.
Saladin, however, was well aware of the Crusaders’ approach. His troops surrounded their camp to prevent them from reaching water. As the bulk of Saladin’s army consisted of horse archers, they held the advantage of mobility and could harass the Crusaders constantly with arrows. (Indeed, Saladin had camel-loads of arrows waiting to supply any who ran out of them.)
A Bad Situation Gets Worse
The Crusaders, under constant harassing fire and already suffering from the summer heat and thirst, were then subjected to billowing smoke as Saladin set fire to the dry bushes and grass surrounding the Crusader camp. Guy ordered Raymond of Tripoli to lead a charge. The charge of the knights could be a devastating and unstoppable attack, and the charge did break a hole in the enemy. However, it was also Saladin’s plan to allow that charge to break through. Its overall effect on the battle was minimal.
Realizing the futility of trying to salvage a victory, Raymond retreated to try and save the rest of the kingdom. The battle continued with the Muslims tightening their noose. Suffocating in the heat and smoke, many of the Crusader army surrendered. Other fought on, rallying around the tent of King Guy. Although they repulsed numerous attacks and even launched a few counterattacks, it was not enough and they were overwhelmed.
Saladin was victorious and the Crusader army annihilated. There were some prisoners, but all of the Templars and Hospitallers were beheaded. King Guy and Reynald were taken to Saladin’s tent. There Guy was treated honorably and Reynald—who was not invited, but simply accompanied the king—was executed.
Consequences of the Battle
Afterwards, Saladin overran most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Stripped of their defenders, cities and castles surrendered or gave little defense. Even the fortifications of Jerusalem could not save it from Saladin’s attack. On October 2, 1187, Jerusalem fell. Only the timely arrival of a fleet from Europe saved Tyre.
After Hattin, the Kingdom of Jerusalem consisted of only a few towns on the coast. Even so, Saladin’s failure to eliminate Tyre allowed the Kingdom to live another hundred years.
Siege of Acre, August 1189–July 1191
The siege of Acre was the opening battle of the Third Crusade. Although Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus participated and ultimately won the battle, it was initiated by Guy de Lusignan, whom Saladin had defeated at Hattin in 1187. The significance of Acre is that it was the first major defeat for Saladin and gave hope to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Down but Not Yet Out
After defeating and humiliating King Guy at Hattin, Saladin swept through Palestine and captured most of the cities and fortresses. He almost captured the port city of Tyre, but the timely arrival of Conrad of Montferrat revived the resistance. Saladin had to give up the siege.
Saladin released his prisoners (including King Guy) from Hattin in June 1188 after securing an oath that they never take up arms against him again. The Christian clergy gave the freed knights absolution from the vow. In their eyes, an oath sworn to an infidel could not be upheld in the eyes of God. Thus King Guy was ruler of a much reduced kingdom again. However, not everyone wanted him to be king. Indeed, Conrad would not even allow him into the city.
When a Pisan fleet arrived, Guy took advantage of the situation and the reinforcements by marching to Acre in August 1189. A large part of this move, which seemed suicidal considering the paucity of Guy’s army, was to resuscitate Guy’s reputation as a leader.
Guy’s plan worked. In the eyes of the newcomers, Guy appeared as an active Crusader, whereas Conrad sat in Tyre and did nothing. Conrad’s position was strategic, but one must remember that the recently arrived Crusaders were there to liberate the Holy Land, and this required action. Furthermore, with Tyre denied to him, Guy needed a base, and Acre was the best option. Eventually, Conrad had no option but to go to Acre in September 1189 and make a tentative peace with Guy in the spring of 1190.
The Siege Gains Strength
With a steady flow of Crusaders coming ahead of Richard and Philip (along with the Germans who continued after Frederick Barbarossa’s death), the army steadily grew. As the Pisan fleet blockaded the port, the Crusader army launched numerous—but ultimately unsuccessful—attacks. The boldness (or foolishness) of the attacks caught Saladin by surprise; since the Muslims could trap the Crusaders between the city and Saladin’s army, it did not seem a wise course of action for an army to take. Even so, the Crusaders had high hopes.
In the early part of 1190, the Crusaders assaulted the city. The Pisan fleet won a sea battle, but an attempt to storm the city failed on May 5. The Muslims used Greek fire to destroy their siege towers. Meanwhile, Saladin launched attacks on the Crusader camp, but these were repulsed. On July 25, the infantry unwisely tried to launch an attack on Saladin’s camp and was defeated.
Both sides were at an impasse. The Crusaders could neither take Acre nor drive off Saladin, nor could Saladin crush them. The Crusader’s dominance of the sea allowed supplies and men to arrive unimpeded and their camp had good fortifications.
Despite driving Saladin from his hilltop camp on November 12, 1190, the Crusaders’ camp was not jubilant. A food shortage made life in the camp miserable. Fortunately, Philip Augustus arrived in the spring of 1191, restoring hope to the siege. Despite the reinforcements and French siege engines—including a great catapult known as “Bad Neighbor”—the siege was still a stalemate, as Philip, although methodical, was too cautious. When a breach was made, the Crusaders attacked, but then Saladin attacked their camp, forcing the Crusaders to withdraw from the city.
The Besiegers Outlast the Besieged
Richard arrived in June and re-invigorated the Franks. His fleet defeated an Egyptian fleet that tried to supply the city, but illness prevented both Philip and Richard from taking advantage of the situation. Skirmishing continued through all of June. Finally in July 1191, the Crusaders learned that the garrison was on the verge of collapse. The city offered to surrender and pay a ransom. A deal was made, and the Crusaders claimed the city.
Despite the victory, all was not well in the Crusader camp. Philip returned to Europe as soon as he could, as he tired of being in Richard’s shadow. The rivalry between Guy and Conrad continued, and Richard massacred close to three thousand prisoners when Saladin failed to pay their ransom at the designated time. This was primarily because Richard grew impatient, as he wanted to move to the next conquest and had no desire to be bogged down with prisoners. It also clearly demonstrated the difference between Richard and Saladin, who had allowed many from Jerusalem to leave rather than to become slaves.
Constantinople, April 1204
The siege of Constantinople was a turning point for the Crusading era. Previously the Byzantine Empire was an active participant in the affairs of the Crusader states on a variety of levels that ranged from ally to enemy and all points in between. Nonetheless, it was a Christian state, albeit Orthodox rather than Catholic. The sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade was the virtual death knell for the Byzantine state. It continued for another two hundred fifty years, but the Byzantines never fully recovered.
As for the Crusaders, the sacking of Constantinople—perhaps more so than any other instance—tainted the image of the Crusades in the eyes of not only historians, but also contemporary observers. Nonetheless, it was an impressive feat considering that no foreign power had ever successfully attacked the city.
Once More into the Holy Land
In 1198, Pope Innocent III called for a new Crusade shortly after he assumed his papal duties. He was determined to restore all of Palestine to Christian control. Unfortunately, Europe was a little too busy fighting itself to leave off and go fight infidels. The kings of France and England were at war, and a civil war wracked the Holy Roman Emperor. Nonetheless, many younger and less experienced nobles stepped forward. Command was ultimately given to Boniface of Montferrat (1155–1207), a seasoned leader in his fifties.
The largest obstacle for any Crusader traveling to the Holy Land was finding a way to actually get there. As none of the barons possessed ships, envoys were sent to Venice to negotiate passage. In return for eighty-five thousand silver marks, Doge Dandolo (Doge was a title) agreed to transport 33,500 men, their horses, and supplies, as well as to provide naval support for a year. Although blind and old, the Doge was a savvy negotiator. He also made sure the Venetians would receive half of any booty gained through the Crusade. It was also revealed that they planned to attack Egypt and then go on to Jerusalem. The two sides agreed that the fleet would sail on June 29, 1202.
The Crusade leaders soon began to encounter other problems. Being young and inexperienced in organizing large expeditions, they seriously overestimated how many troops they could raise. By the agreed-upon date in late June, the Crusaders were well short of the men they had expected. Only eleven thousand men arrived. The Venetians were also concerned about the payment.
Regardless of the number of men the Crusaders would provide, the Venetians had put all of their effort into building a fleet of five hundred ships. They had even suspended much of their mercantile shipping to ensure that enough ships and sailors would be present to transport the Crusaders.
The Crusade Goes Off Topic
Dandolo was in a bind. Although he was the ruler, he also had to answer to his people. So he suggested that the Crusaders could work off the debt by helping the Venetians recapture the city of Zara across the Adriatic Sea.
Boniface agreed to the terms, but many of the leaders were uneasy about the deal as it meant attacking a city controlled by other Christians. They had agreed to take part in a Crusade, not to attack a Christian city. However, they had little choice. The fleet left Venice in November 1202 and sacked Zara shortly thereafter. Shocked, Innocent III excommunicated the entire expedition.
While at Zara, the Crusaders also received a Byzantine prince, Alexis IV, son of the deposed Eastern Emperor Isaac II (who ruled from 1185–1195 and 1203–1204). He revealed that his uncle, Alexis III (ruler from 1195–1203), had usurped the throne, and Alexis IV sought aid to overthrow the usurper. If the Crusaders would help him, Alexis IV promised to pay them handsomely and provide ten thousand soldiers for the Crusade. In 1203, the Crusaders agreed, although some again protested, as it distracted them from the true intent of the Crusade.
Siege or Folly?
The Crusaders arrived at Constantinople in July 1203. On July 5, 1203, a Crusader army of less than twenty thousand men attacked a city of a half million. Fortunately for the Crusaders, the Byzantine army declined an engagement and did not possess a navy.
Initially it was a two-pronged attack. The Crusaders attacked the land walls while the Venetians attacked via the sea. The Venetians broke through, but they were forced to retreat.
Although the Byzantines were winning, they began to question their ruler. He had not led the army out to fight the Crusaders, and the Venetians had done considerable damage when they penetrated the city. Sensing the mood of the populace, Alexis III fled the city.
The following morning, the Crusaders awoke to find emissaries from Isaac II welcoming them to the city. This caused an awkward situation for Alexis IV as he now had to fulfill his promises to the Crusaders. It is not clear how he had planned to achieve this from the start. Indeed, Emperor Isaac II was shocked when he learned the terms, but now he had no choice but to accept the conditions.
A Debt is Paid, But None Too Gently
The Crusaders waited at Constantinople for months as Alexius IV tried to gather the required sum of two hundred thousand silver marks. Alexius IV doled out money slowly, often with funds confiscated from the Byzantine nobles. Naturally, tensions arose in Constantinople not only over Alexius IV’s actions, but also over the presence of the less sophisticated Crusaders. Meanwhile the rank and file among the Crusaders were becoming uneasy about the long diversion from the true Crusade. In addition, the knights began to extract their payment by raiding villages.
Alexius IV tried to oppose these attacks, but with little luck. Early in 1204, Alexius IV was deposed by his lieutenant Murzuphlos, who then ascended the throne as Alexius V. This revitalized Byzantine resistance. However, the Crusaders now had a better understanding of the city as well as access to it. They attacked Constantinople in April 1204; it fell quickly, and the Crusaders pillaged for three days.
After the sack, the Crusaders selected Baldwin IX of Flanders as leader and divided the territory between the Crusaders and the Venetians. Thus, the majority of Greece, the Aegean islands, and a part of Western Anatolia came under their control. This new Latin Empire would last until 1261.
This engagement proved to be the pivotal battle of the Seventh Crusade, which was led by France’s King Louis IX (who later became more commonly known as Saint Louis). Louis’s defeat at Mansurah became an impetus to the rise of the Mamluk sultanate.
The Seventh Follows the Fifth
King Louis of France departed from Aigues Mortes in August 1248, and wintered in Cyprus. Then in May 1249, he and an army of approximately twenty thousand men sailed for Egypt.
During the Fifth Crusade (1218–1221), the Crusaders had landed near the city of Damietta in the Nile delta. Louis intended to do the same. Sultan al-Salih, the ruler of Egypt, was not surprised. He had already increased the garrison there and established his own camp nearby. Yet despite attempts by the army of Sultan al-Salih to prevent a landing, the Crusader army charged ashore and secured the beach. To their surprise, the Muslim army not only retreated from the beach, but also abandoned Damietta, which had resisted the Fifth Crusade for eighteen months.
After securing Damietta, King Louis IX and the other leading figures held a council of war to determine their goal. Many argued that only by conquering Egypt could they make the Crusader states secure. Others argued they should simply hold onto Damietta and take Alexandria. Both were port cities, and since the Crusaders dominated the sea, they would be able to hold them. Furthermore, they could also use the cities as bargaining chips to regain territory in Palestine.
Being deeply religious, Louis saw the victory at Damietta as a sign of God’s favor that they would conquer Egypt. Thus, on November 20, 1249, King Louis led his army towards Mansurah, marching southward along the Nile.
Down the Great River
The Crusaders arrived before Mansurah in December 1249 and found their army between the Nile and a tributary. Mansurah sat across the tributary along with the camp of Fakhr al-Din, the commander in charge of the Muslim army. (Sultan al-Salih had died on the retreat from Damietta, and the heir to the throne was still in Syria.) Fakhr al-Din’s troops were sufficient to prevent any landing via ship. Therefore, the Crusaders began to build a causeway. The Muslim’s catapults bombed it with stones and Greek fire. Even under this barrage, slowly but surely the Crusaders made progress.
In the meantime, Louis also learned of a ford further down. Louis intended to use the ford and strike Mansurah from the rear, so he sent the vanguard, which was commanded by his brother, Robert of Artois. Robert was to cross the ford and secure a foothold to allow the rest of the army to cross. The entire army would then sweep down on Mansurah and Fakhr al-Din’s camp, which would still be distracted by a force building the causeway.
Robert crossed the ford with the Templars; however, he did not wait for Louis. Instead, he moved forward and attacked the Egyptian camp. The Muslims were taken completely by surprise and were routed. Fakhr al-Din was cut down before he was armed. Emboldened by this, Robert advanced into the city of Mansurah rather than waiting for reinforcements.
The Tide of Battle Turns
This overextension proved to be a disastrous mistake. The narrow streets of Mansurah became a gauntlet for the knights as arrows, stones, and tiles hailed down from the rooftops. The Egyptian counterattack, led by the Mamluks (elite Turkic slave troops), annihilated the vanguard, including Robert.
Louis had successfully crossed the ford but, of course, he did not find his brother. The victorious Mamluks now descended upon Louis. The Crusaders could not retreat and had to fight their way along the river until they were opposite their camp, which could provide archery support. With this, the Crusaders were able to take possession of the enemy camp, but they now lacked sufficient numbers to take the city. Sure that God would grant him victory, Louis refused to retreat.
Instead of getting better, the situation became much worse for the Crusaders. Muslim forces harried the Crusaders’ supply lines on land and on the river. Furthermore, disease struck their camp, leaving King Louis himself with dysentery. On April 5, 1250, the Crusaders began their retreat back to Damietta, subject to constant attack the entire time.
Halfway to Damietta, the starving and sick army could go no further. Thus on April 6, 1250, King Louis surrendered and offered himself as a hostage. The invasion of Egypt ended with the exchange of King Louis for the city of Damietta and the ransoming of his army.
Fall of Acre, 1291
Although it was known as the Kingdom of Jerusalem, by 1291 the kingdom consisted of the port city of Acre and a few other towns on the coast. Since the end of the Third Crusade in 1192, the Kingdom of Jerusalem slowly lost the territory that Richard the Lionheart had regained. Saladin’s victory at Hattin and then Jerusalem had destroyed the foundation and security of the state. The fall of Acre signaled not only the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but—in the eyes of some historians—the end of the Crusades as well.
The Mamluks Come Prepared
It is uncertain how large the Muslim army that attacked Acre was. Sultan al-Ashraf al-Khalil (the ruler of the Mamluk Sultanate that replaced the empire that Saladin built) began the siege on April 6, 1291. Some sources list the Muslim army as well over one hundred thousand. This, however, is extremely doubtful. Nonetheless, the exaggerated numbers indicate that the attackers vastly outnumbered the defenders. More importantly, Ashraf al-Khalil also brought large numbers of siege weapons, for he was determined to destroy the Crusaders once and for all.
The Crusaders were led by Amalric, the brother of King Henry II, the ruler of Jerusalem and Cyprus. Henry was not present due to an incapacitating illness. The Military Orders who had so long provided the backbone of the defense of the Holy Land were also present. The Templars, Hospitallers, and the German Teutonic Knights had requested all available aid from their brethren in Europe. Notwithstanding the troops, the fortifications of Acre were superb; twin walls surrounded the city, and towers were evenly spaced along these walls.
The Crusaders had one more key advantage, thanks to the support of the Italian city-states; they held the sea, and thus could not be threatened by a naval attack. However, one section of the wall was vulnerable. A salient point protruded from the walls, allowing it to be attacked on two sides. Naturally, Ashraf al-Khalil focused his attack there, but it was defended by one of the most intimidating Crusader units—the Teutonic Knights.
Both Sides Maneuver
From the beginning, Sultan Ashraf al-Khalil ordered a continuous bombardment from his siege engines. Stones and fire hailed down on the city while Muslim engineers dug tunnels in hope of collapsing the walls of Acre. The Crusaders attempted to counter the bombardment with two sorties, including one night attack by the Knights Templars and another by the Hospitallers. They were unsuccessful in breaking the siege.
Although the Crusaders’s numbers diminished throughout the siege, the fortifications held. Reinforcements arrived on May 4 as King Henry arrived with forty ships. King Henry’s arrival raised morale, but the reinforcements were too paltry in number to launch a significant counterattack. Negotiations by the king also failed to make a difference, as Sultan Ashraf al-Khalil was determined to capture the city.
Their best hope was to continue to hold the city and hope that the Muslim army disbanded due to the logistics of feeding thirty to forty thousand troops. Also, some of his vassals would tire of sitting before the city and desire to retire to their homes.
The Walls Crumble
Fortunately for the sultan, after a month of digging, his sappers finally collapsed a section of the wall on May 15. Now the sultan could finally take advantage of his superior numbers.
After taking the outer wall, the Muslims were quick to take the inner wall. After this breach, King Henry’s troops could not withstand the onslaught despite the aid of the military orders. From there, the battle devolved into house-to-house fighting.
Soon only the Templars headquarters remained in Christian hands. Henry and Amalric were forced to their ships and escaped. The Templars negotiated free passage, but Muslim troops attempted to seize some of the women in the building, and the Templars retaliated. They then barred the doors and endured a siege. Again, the sappers undermined the foundations and collapsed a wall. Muslim warriors streamed in, but soon thereafter the entire building collapsed, killing all inside on May 28, 1291.
Henry and Amalric returned to Cyprus. Those not fortunate enough to escape on the ships were sold into slavery or massacred, with almost thirty thousand being killed. The remaining cities of Tyre and Sidon and the few remaining castles surrendered afterwards. The two-hundred-year-old Kingdom of Jerusalem was no more.
Key Elements of Warcraft
Military Orders (Hospitallers, Templars)
The Military Orders were among the most important institutions and fighting forces during the Crusades. They combined the discipline of monks with the martial skills of the knights. From their rather modest beginnings, the Military Orders increased not only in importance as military units but in land holdings. As time went on, the Crusaders increasingly depended on their manpower to garrison the fortresses of the Holy Land.
Origin of the Templars
The Templars were the first and most famous Military Order. Hugh of Payns and eight companions established the order in 1119 in order to protect pilgrims on the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem. The group was granted use of the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount (where the Temple of Solomon was once located) for their headquarters. From this location, their name evolved into the Templars.
The Templars were granted a formal rule by Bernard of Clairvaux in 1129. With Bernard’s support and a general enthusiasm for their work, the order grew quickly. Temples, as their monasteries were often called in Europe, were established in Europe, and these served as recruiting offices. In the 1130s, with their expanded manpower, the Templars received several castles to defend.
Most of the Templars came from noble families as most knights did, but the majority of the Templars were sergeants. Sergeants were the backbone of all European armies. They were professional soldiers who served as infantry or as cavalry, but were of common background. Although they could never be knights, they often fought in the same manner.
In addition, regular priests could join in order to provide religious services. Because of increased garrisoning duties, the Templars also hired mercenaries to serve with them. The Templars were easily recognizable as they wore white tunics emblazoned with a red cross.
Like monks, they took an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Templars—and for that matter, all of the military orders—had to maintain daily liturgical hours, even while in the field. They were governed by a Grand Master located in Jerusalem. All of their properties were divided and governed by commanders who answered to the Grand Master; proceeds were sent to the east.
Creation of the Hospitallers
The second most important Military Order were the Knights of St. John, also known as the Hospitallers. Originally founded by Italian merchants in Jerusalem, they were a monastic order that offered hospital services. The hospital was attached to a monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The papacy recognized it as a monastic order in 1113, but it did not acquire a military component until the 1130s. Although the military wing became more dominant, it never abandoned its hospital work, which provided services to pilgrims to the Holy Land regardless of wealth or social status.
Its organization and membership was similar to that of the Templars. Originally, the military wing of the Hospitallers was probably created to protect the hospitals that the order established in various towns in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. As the Crusader states were chronically short of manpower, they often called upon the Hospitallers for assistance.
Like the Templars, they were disciplined fighters. Initially they wore black tunics with a white cross, but after 1259 they wore red surcoats with a white cross. Soon, they also acquired many castles to garrison, the most important being Krak des Chevaliers in Syria. This mammoth structure served as their headquarters.
Like the Templars, the Hospitallers also had offices throughout Europe and were subject only to the pope’s authority. There was a rivalry between the two orders that was not very conducive to the well being of the Crusader states. However, they could also cooperate. On campaigns, due to their discipline and prowess, the Templars served as the vanguard of the army, while the Hospitallers served as the rear guard.
After the fall of Acre in 1291, the Hospitallers moved to Cyprus and then Rhodes, which became their headquarters in 1309. Forced to become a naval power by this relocation, they acted essentially as pirates on Muslim shipping. Eventually, the Ottomans forced them from Rhodes in 1523. Homeless for seven years, they were granted the island of Malta, where they stayed until their destruction by Napoleon in 1798.
In the twenty-first century, the Hospitallers live on as a monastic order in Rome.
Although the Crusades were known for knights in armor and famous warriors such as Bohemund, Saladin, and Richard the Lionheart, the vast majority of battles took place in the form of sieges rather than field battles. Part of this was due to a chronic lack of manpower on the part of the Crusaders. It was easier to control territory with castles than large armies. For both sides, a disastrous encounter in the field could leave an entire region exposed to conquest, so most decided to stay in their fortresses and wait out marauding armies.
Because of the emphasis on siege warfare, both fortification and siege engines advanced significantly. Many of the castle designs and weaponry used in the Crusades spread into Europe and even into China.
Ladders, battering rams, and sapping (digging tunnels to undermine the foundations of a wall) had been standard parts of siege warfare for centuries. However, none of these tactics were successful unless they were used in conjunction with siege engines such as towers, catapults, and trebuchets.
Design of a Siege Tower
Siege towers were critical at Jerusalem and Ascalon, and it is doubtful if the sieges would have been successful without them. This construct was essentially a wooden tower on wheels that could be pushed up to the wall. Typically, it was designed to be higher than the wall, since this allowed archers or catapults to dominate their sector.
As they were made from wood, towers were susceptible to fire (particularly Greek fire which could only be extinguished with vinegar). To help shield it, animal hides covered a tower, as the hides tended to resist the fire, or if set aflame, could be cut away before the fire ignited the entire structure.
Towers often had one or more openings. Battering rams could be used to open a breach, or a bridge could be lowered to allow troops to cross over to the enemy’s walls.
Machines of Destruction
Catapults had been standard siege engines since the ancient period. Those used in the Middle Ages were based on torsion and tension. One such device was the mangonel, which was powered by twisted rope. A bowl-shaped holder held a projectile and was attached to an arm. When fired, the energy stored in the ropes released the arm, which hit a crossbeam, sending the projectile forward. It was not accurate, but it could be effective.
Another weapon was a trebuchet. This was simply a long beam with a sling attached to it. The arm was attached to a framework and powered by men pulling ropes attached to the other end of the arm. The longer end with the sling would move forward and release the missile. These were known as traction trebuchets. Their range and power was based on the number of people pulling the ropes.
The most destructive weapon was the counterweight trebuchet. Rather than having men pulling ropes, a box filled with heavy weights would power it. When released, the weights would swing down with more force, giving the missile greater range and velocity, and consequently causing more damage. Many of these engines were given colorful nicknames, such as “Bad Neighbor.” A European invention, the first recorded use of them was around 1187 by Saladin.
Another weapon in common use was the ballista. This was an oversized crossbow. Although oversized bolts could be used, it was more common to use stones. As trebuchets became more common, the ballista gradually declined in use.
Impact of the Crusades
The impact of the Crusades on World History is undeniable. The contact that the Crusaders had in the Middle East resulted in a transfusion and dissemination of ideas, technology, and culture between that region, Europe, and beyond.
The use of the papal indulgence, or the remission of sins and the guarantee of salvation for participating in the Crusades, increased from Pope Urban II’s first use of the indulgence. Soon it was used not only for those going to the Holy Land, but for those who fought against infidels in Spain, the Baltic region, or against heretics in Christendom. The indulgence was then extended to those who donated money to the effort. Eventually, the indulgence was simply sold as a way for the church to raise money. This abuse became one of the principle complaints of Martin Luther, which led to the Reformation (1517–1689).
The Inquisition also came out of the Crusades. This program of rooting out heresy came out during the Albigensian Crusade (a crusade in southern France against a heretical group in 1208–1229). After the Crusade, to ensure that heresy had been stamped out, the Inquisitors interrogated and tortured anyone suspected of not adhering to the doctrine of the Church. Best known as the Spanish Inquisition, the Inquisition became a standard tool of the Church in the later Middle Ages and throughout the Reformation.
The Crusades also served as an opportunity for centralization, not only in Europe but also in the Middle East. The Crusades made long-range planning and organization absolutely necessary. For a king to go on Crusade meant a massive mobilization of men and resources. Furthermore, he had to ensure the state ran smoothly in his absence, a requirement that often demanded better organization within a state. It should be remembered that states also expanded by taking advantage of the absence of various rulers, such as Philip Augustus’s opportunism against the domains of Richard I.
This was also seen in the Muslim world. Before the Crusades, Syria was a hodgepodge of small polities and city-states. The need for unity forced leaders to consider consolidating the region to mobilize more resources against the Crusaders, a unification that was carried on until completed with Saladin. Even after Saladin’s successors were overthrown by the Mamluks after the battle of Mansurah, the Mamluks maintained that unity, forever transforming the politics of the region.
The Crusades continued to live in the minds of politicians and writers in the nineteenth century. In the age of Imperialism, Europeans (especially the French) viewed the Crusades as a glorious period that justified their own expansion. Others would use it as a way of explaining Western expansion and dominance during the modern period. The adventurism and drive of the Crusaders demonstrated Europe’s dominance over other countries.
While the interpretation was inaccurate—considering that when they started the Crusaders were viewed by Byzantines and Muslims alike as rude, crude, and socially unacceptable—there is an element of truth in it. The Reconquista of Spain was a territorial war which transformed into a holy war to drive the Muslims from Spain. The Spanish victory in 1492 allowed Spain to fund Christopher Columbus’s journey. Furthermore, it instilled a religious zeal among the Spanish and Portuguese that carried over as part of their empires. They expanded not only for empire, but to spread the glory of Christianity to the infidels.
In addition, ideas about fortification expanded. As they traveled back to Europe, the Crusaders brought with them Byzantine and Islamic ideas about architecture and other matters. Meanwhile, European siege weapons (such as the counterweight trebuchet) entered the Middle East, eventually making their way to China in the late thirteenth century.
Trade networks were also extended. The Italian city-states benefited greatly from the Crusades. Although they participated in them, they also traded with Muslim states. Even after the Crusaders were expelled, many Italians remained active in trading in the Middle East.
Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.
Marshall, Christopher. Warfare in the Latin East, 1192–1291. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Richard, Jean. The Crusades. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Tyerman, Christopher. God’s War: A New History of the Crusades. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2006.