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1099-1300 - Crusader States

The Germanic peoples (commonly called Northmen) who inhabited Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were divided into many independent tribes, much as the Germans were in the days of Tacitus. Eventually they settled in the countries which they had first visited as marauders. They settled in the islands north of. Scotland, in Iceland, and Greenland, and even visited the coast of North America. Their conquest and settlement of England in the ninth and tenth centuries have already been mentioned. They planted colonies also in Ireland and in Russia. The most important of all their settlements was in the valley of the Seine (911), which came to be called Normandy. Their fundamental character was not changed by emigration, for these Normans were one of the most ambitious and restless peoples of Europe. Their duke, William, in 1066 conquered England and became its king. In the eleventh century Norman nobles went as adventurers to southern Italy, where they succeeded in building up a kingdom (Sicily). From there they more than once tried to conquer the Greek empire, and Bohemond, the greatest of the leaders of the first crusade, was a Norman.

The crusaders reached Jerusalem, June 7, 1099, and in spite of their sufferings from heat and thirst prosecuted the siege with great energy. Their fanatical zeal was stirred as never before and, although Jerusalem was surrounded by high walls and was strongly garrisoned, they stormed and took it July 15 (1099). Scenes of indescribable barbarity ensued. They murdered the Mohammedan inhabitants, men, women, and children, without mercy, and sacked and plundered till they were exhausted. Covered with blood and laden with spoils they ended the day with a great procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where, in the midst of hysterical rejoicings, they gave thanks to God for their victory.

The first crusade was now at an end. Of all the hosts that had begun it, not more than 20,000 were left to return home. Laden with relics and booty they marched to the north along the Mediterranean coast until they reached Laodicaa, whence most of them sailed for some Italian port. Raymond of Toulouse, however, remained in Laodicasa, and by the help of the Greek emperor soon got possession of several towns, among them Tripolis, which came to serve as the capital of his principality. As count of Tripolis he spent the brief remainder of his life (d. 1105) in a struggle to build up his own power. Selfish, ambitious, and incapable of working in harmony with others, he was to the end a troublesome neighbor to the rulers of the other crusader states.

The material success of the first crusade was small indeed. Alexius had recovered a small part of Asia Minor; the Armenians had received some aid in their struggle with the Turks; Baldwin I had got possession of an Armenian city, the First Edessa, which, it must be remembered, was already Christian; Bohemond had obtained a small principality with Antioch as its capital; Raymond of Toulouse had Laodicaa, the beginning of a small state; and Godfrey of Bouillon had Jerusalem. Such was the meagre outcome of this great expedition which had begun with high promise. But that which counted for the most glorious success was the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, the news of which gave Europe a paroxysm of joy.

Greater nobles among the crusaders divided the conquered Syrian districts among themselves and set up there four " Latin states," of which the chief was the "Kingdom of Jerusalem." Each ruler divided his realm in feudal fashion among his retainers, and, on the soil of Asia, a complete feudal society sprang up, to continue the war against the crescent. These Latin states found the core of their fighting force in a new institution, which combined in a remarkable fashion the two opposite ideals of the age, - that of the monk and that of the knight. Three orders of fighting monks arose. The Knights of St. John, or of the Hospital, grew out of an organization to care for the sick and wounded: soon the nurses became themselves'warriors and knights; they took the monk's threefold vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and added a fourth, binding themselves to perpetual warfare against the infidel. The Templars arose in like manner out of a society to succor distressed pilgrims, and the name came from the fact that the eight or nine knights who originally composed the organization dwelt in a house near Solomon's Temple. The Teutonic Order grew out of the hospitality of a German merchant toward his needy countrymen in Jerusalem. All three orders played important parts in later history.

The history of these petty crusader states (they are sometimes called Latin states) is quite unimportant. It is difficult to realize how insignificant they were. Godfrey was left with only a few fighting men and his kingdom at first hardly extended beyond the walls of Jerusalem. But the pious imagination of the west pictured him as a powerful king living in unparalleled splendor and magnificence. Nor were the rulers of the other crusader states much more powerful. Nothing could be more wearisome than a detailed account of their history, for it is full of petty jealousy, ambitious intrigue, unsavory scandal, civil strife, and treacherous murder. They fought against one another quite as much as against the Turks, and more than once allied themselves with the Turks to destroy one another. The inhabitants seemed to acquire the vices of both Mohammedans and Christians and to practise the virtues of neither.

The chief interest in these states is in the fact that they developed an extensive and important commerce with Europe which had a quickening and civilizing influence on the west. For by this means a part of what was best in the Mohammedan civilization was introduced into Europe. The crusader states were able to maintain themselves only by constant new arrivals of men and supplies. The West was made acquainted with new articles of use or luxury, and desires and needs rapidly increased. Connections were formed with new peoples, as with the Mongols. New commercial routes were opened up, geographical knowledge increased, and new regions appeared in the maps.

As long as the Latin states in Syria lasted (nearly two hundred years), they were practically military colonies, dependent upon Europe for weapons, horses, and supplies of food. From the first, such supplies had to be transported by sea, and, after the Second Crusade, the crusaders themselves always journeyed by ship. This stimulated shipbuilding, and led to an increased production in Europe of many commodities for these new markets. Even more important was the reappearance in the West of long-forgotten Oriental products. Europeans now learned to use sugar-cane, spices, dates, buckwheat, sesame, saffron, apricots, melons, oils, perfumes, and various drugs and dyes, and, among new objects of manufacture, cottons, silks, rugs, calicoes, muslins (from Mosul), damasks (from Damascus), satins, velvets, delicate glassware, the cross-bow, the windmill.

For nearly fifty years the new Latin states, reenforced by the anuual streams of pilgrim-crusaders, kept the Mohammedan from the Holy Land. Finally, however, the enemy began to gain ground again, and in 1147, Europe was alarmed by the fall of Edessa, the foremost outpost of the Christian power iu Syria. St. Bernard at once preached another great crusade. This time, Emperor Conrad III and King Louis VII of France were persuaded to lead the expedition. The Second Crusade failed miserably, from bad generalship and ignorance; but the numbers of crusaders left by it in Palestine enabled the Christian states there to make head, for a time, against the enemy.

Each new generation was ready for its new crusade; and forty years after Conrad's failure, the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin called Europe again to arms in the Third Crusade. The Christian states in Palestine had been reduced to a mere strip of coast, but now the great sovereigns of Western Europe - Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Philip II of France, and Richard of England-united in a mighty effort for the recovery of the Holy Land. The Third Crusade is the best known and the most romantic of the whole series ; but it failed to produce important results, because of the death of Barbarossa and the jealousies between the French and English kings.

Ottoman SyriaThe Later Crusades are of minor consequence. Their actual military operations were carried on largely in Egypt, which had become a chief center of Mohammedan power. After a terrible loss of life in the Fifth and Sixth Crusades, the Emperor Frederick II recovered Jerusalem by peaceful negotiation (1230): but it was soon lost again to the Turks. Then, in 1249, Louis IX of France organized the Seventh Crusade. This attempt came to nothing ; and the crusading spirit expired with another expedition, twenty years later, in which Louis died at Tunis.

Before 1300, the last territory of the Latins in Syria had fallen finally to the Turks ; and thereafter, men who still wished to fight for the cross went to aid the Christian princes in Spain against the Moors, or warred against the heathen on the northeast of Europe. The Teutonic order removed to Germany and took up the conquest and settlement of heathen Prussia, so laying the foundation for the greatness of a future German state. The Knights of St. John withdrew to Rhodes, where In constant warfare, for two hundred years more, they formed the outpost of Christendom against Mohammedanism.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2012 18:43:12 ZULU