Overview and Analysis of the Crusades
The Crusades were military expeditions planned and carried out by western
European Christians. The crusades started around 1095. The purpose of these
crusades was to overtake and gain control of the Holy Land from the Muslims. The
Holy Land was Jerusalem and the Christians believed that gaining control of it
was their fate. The pope would gather the people together and incite them. The
origin of the crusades was a result of the expanding Turks in the middle east.
These Turkish forces invaded Byzantium, a Christian empire. The crusaders were a
militia, sent out to recover what they thought was theirs.
The first crusade was essentially started by Pope Urban II. On November 27, 1095,
he gathered his followers outside the French city of Clermont-Ferrand. He
preached to these people and told them that action needed to be taken. In
response, the people cheered and planned their attack. Urban II brought together
all of the bishops and urged them to talk to their friends and fellow villagers
and to encourage them to participate in the crusades. Small groups started to
form and each group would be self- directing. All the groups planned their own
ways to the Constantinople, where they would meet and regroup. They would attack
the Turkish forces in Constantinople and hope to regain control of the city.
The large Christian armies talked to Alexius I Comnenus, the Byzantium emperor,
and agreed to return any of his old land that was recaptured. The armies were
skeptical of this demand but agreed anyway. The first attack by the crusaders
was on Anatolian, the Turkish capital. Meanwhile the Byzantians were also trying
to recapture Anatolian, and later that year, the city surrendered to the
Byzantians instead of the crusaders. The Byzantians were using the crusaders as
pawns to achieve their own goals. The crusaders again met and crushed the
Turkish army. The crusaders scored a great victory and boosted the troops’ moral.
The crusaders captured Antioch and also held off relief forces sent to help the
Turks. The crusaders then moved on to their main goal-Jerusalem!
The city was under Egyptian control and was heavily guarded. The crusaders set
up siege machines and called for reinforcements, finally forcing the Egyptians
to surrender. Everyone in the city was massacred in the belief that the blood of
the former holders purified it. The crusaders kept control of the city for the
next generation or so and brought in people to inhabit the Holy Land. Slowly the
Muslim forces started to rebuild and soon came back to take the Holy Land.
After the defeat of the Egyptians in Jerusalem, the crusaders started to
colonize. The Latin colonists set up four states: Tripoli, which was on the
Syrian coast, Antioch, centered near the Orontes Valley, Edessa, a far east
state which held most of the Christians, and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the
most powerful and centered between the other three states. The crusaders’
strategy during the first crusade was to isolate the Muslims and Egyptians, and
to cut off any supplies or reinforcements from strengthening their status. Once
the original generation of crusaders died, their children were not as determined.
They forgot about the Muslims that had escaped, and because of that, the Muslims
had a new leader and were regaining power. Under their leader, Imad ad-Din, the
Muslims regrouped and planned their attack against the colonies. After the
passing of Imad ad-Din, a new radical leader emerged-Zangi. Zangi led his troops
to a victory against the crusaders and their colonies by capturing the state of
Edessa. The Muslims destroyed the Christians churches, buildings, and killed the
crusaders. Back home, the Pope saw what was happening and declared a second
crusade to recapture the territory that had been lost. King Louis VII, from
France, set out to meet Conrad III army. The Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad III, set
out from Germany and soon met up with Louis’ men. With their armies, they left
from their homeland to meet in Jerusalem. Conrad’s army began their voyage, only
to be ambushed. Afterwards, their supplies and cavalry were drastically depleted.
The better half of the French army reached Jerusalem and met up with the small
remains of the Germans and the old crusaders. Together they ventured to Damascus,
but failed to take the city and were badly defeated. The French army and king
had had enough and returned home. The small remnants of the Germans stayed with
the colonies, along with the old crusaders. Slowly but surely, the states the
crusaders had set up were systematically being destroyed. The failure of the
second crusade brought on the third crusade.
The Muslims had named a new leader, Nur ad-Din, who regrouped the Muslims and
motivated them to take back what believed was theirs. Their leader died a few
years later, and was succeeded by their military leader, Saladin. In 1187,
Saladin took his now revived and recuperated army to recapture Jerusalem. In
July, he crushed the crusaders front line army in Galilee. Saladin then led his
troops throughout the area of Jerusalem and finally took Jerusalem in early
October. This led to Pope Gregory VIII starting a third crusade. The people in
the west knew that their time had come to defeat the Muslims once and for all.
Included in the ranks of men going on the crusade were Fredick I, the Roman
emperor; Philip II, the French king; and Richard I, of England. These forces
were thought to be one of the most powerful armies assembled during the middle
ages. Again, this crusade suffered misfortune. On his journey to Jerusalem, the
Roman emperor died, and his army accompanied the body back home for burial. Even
with the size of Richard’s and Frederick’s remaining armies, they were not able
to recapture Jerusalem. When the armies left Jerusalem and its surrounding areas
to return home, they accomplished none of their goals.
Since none of the following crusades were successful or even important, not much
is known about them. The later crusades also provided almost nothing for the
Christians therefore much time and money was wasted on them.
I have several thoughts on the crusades. The first crusade was the most
memorable. It was the most successful one, with a minimal amount of casualties.
Its execution reflected well on the leaders. The Muslims and Turks were taken by
surprise. They did not expect the Christians to bring such a force or such to
Jerusalem. Later crusades were anticipated by the Muslims and very predictable.
After the Muslims won control, the Christians initiated a new crusade within 10
years or so, with the full force unable to reach Jerusalem. I think the people
were more pleased with the first crusade not only because of the outcome but
because it was a new idea to the Christian faith. Christian philosophy did not
espouse, “if there is something you want, take it forcefully.” The crusades also
offered the Christians a chance to vent their anger towards Jerusalem’s
possessors. It established a routine and thereby structure for their lives.
Towards the end of the second or the third crusade, the common folk were
becoming angry with the Pope and kings for their lack of results. Monies went
into the preparation of the crusades with minimal return. The first crusade set
a great example for the others, yet the next crusades didn’t follow the same
path. The later crusades lacked organization. No one wanted to provide
leadership due to the uncertain outcome. Leadership demonstrated in later years
was from Stephen and Nicholas in the Children’s Crusade, however unfortunately
young children were used in combat. This was a reflection of the moral character
or lack of it, in their leaders and subsequently contributed to their failure.