Crusades Refer to a Series

Kilij Arslan, having seen saw how easily his army had defeated the Frank invaders at minimal cost, grossly underestimated at his great cost the much more disciplined and formidable European crusading armies that followed. (McFall 5, “Ill-Fated Crusade….”)

The Second Wave

The second wave of crusaders — elite contingents of effective military force led by local leaders and knights from different parts of Europe took a little longer to organize and depart for the East in the summer of 1096. The major contingents of the second wave were led by Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, numerically the largest group; Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lower Lorraine, and his brother, Baldwin of Boulogne; Duke Robert of Normandy, and Bohemond of Taranto. (Lloyd 36) When these formidable groups of crusaders began to appear at the gate of Constantinople in early 1097, the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I, was taken by surprise. He had expected to see a small group of Western mercenaries, whom he had planned to amalgamate into his imperial army. The elite Western forces gathered at Constantinople were more than mere helpers for the Byzantine Army. (Gore 3)

Alexius, however, managed to negotiate a deal with the crusaders: they agreed to return the former possessions of the Byzantine Empire in Asia Minor (now lost to the Turks) to imperial control as and when they were captured, in return for the supplies and provisions provided to the crusaders. The four major Christian armies that had assembled at Constantinople, thus, proceeded to enter the hostile territory of Asia Minor on the road to Jerusalem — held by the forces of Seljuk Turks. (Ibid.)

The Crusaders laid siege to the Anatolian capital city of Nicaea in the spring of 1097. The Seljuk Sultan Arslan at first did not take the Crusaders seriously as he had easily dealt with the previous force of crusaders at Nicaea. He soon realized that the new wave of crusaders was made of sterner stuff. The crusaders repulsed Turkish forces that cane out to engage the attackers and besieged Nicaea for more than a month until the Turkish garrison at Nicaea finally surrendered. This was the first major success of the Crusaders and it convinced them that God was on their side in their crusade to free the holy lands from the infidels.

The Crusaders turned the captured city over to the Byzantines, after receiving a substantial compensation from the emperor and marched on. Their next major battle with the Turks took place at Dorylaeum in July of 1097. The Turks were defeated after a fierce, see-sawing battle. Both sides developed respect for the others fighting abilities after the battle but the Crusaders were now more than convinced that they were under Gods protection.

Detour at Edessa: As the crusaders approached Syria on the road to Jerusalem, they were asked by Christians from Edessa to liberate their city from the Turks. Most of the crusaders insisted that Jerusalem must take precedence, but Baldwin of Boulogne, one of the leaders of the crusader armies, agreed to free the city — having more selfish objectives in mind. After defeating the Turks at Edessa, Baldwin stayed on and a few months later, deposed the Christian count, becoming the ruler of Edessa himself. The County of Edessa became the first of the crusader states with Baldwin its first ruler.

Antioch: The next major obstacle for the crusaders on the road to Jerusalem was the fortress city of Antioch (now in modern-day Syria) — it had to be captured for further progress to the south. The crusaders reached the city in late 1097 and laid siege to it for several months. The Turks by then were weakened by internal rivalries and could not fight off the Franks effectively. The city finally fell to the crusaders when they managed to bribe someone from inside the city to leave a gate open. Soon after the city was taken by the crusaders, another Turkish force under the command of Kerbogha besieged it. There was hardly any food left in the city when the miraculous discovery of the Holy Lance by a monk named Peter Bartholomew inspired the crusaders. Taking the discovery as a portent for victory, the Franks attacked the besieging Turkish army with ferocity. The Turks, who were looking for an easy victory and had no stomach for a bloody stand-off, fled and Antioch became the second major Crusader city-state.

Bohemond of Tarentum stayed behind as its ruler. (Mcfall 3, “Climax of the First Crusade..”)

The Assault on Jerusalem: The main objective of the Crusade was, of course, to free the holy city of Jerusalem — the site of Christs crucifixion — from Muslim rule. Before the Crusader army left Antioch in January 1099 for its assault on Jerusalem, the Muslim world was greatly divided and fighting among themselves. The Fatimid Shiite Caliph based in Egypt was fighting the Sunnite Seljuks and the Caliph in Baghdad. In the summer of 1098, the Shiite Egyptian Muslims had taken over Jerusalem from the Turkish Seljuk after laying siege to the city. Hence the crusaders had to face the Fatimid Egyptians rather than the Seljuk Turks in Jerusalem. The bedraggled army of about 15,000 crusaders (including women and children) that approached Jerusalem in 1099 seemed ill-equipped for capturing a well-guarded city like Jerusalem but was battle-hardened and fired by a fanatical zeal. (Ibid.)

The siege of Jerusalem culminated in a bloody and destructive Christian victory in July 1099, despite a fierce defense of the city led by the Muslim forces. The crusaders used a huge wooden tower with a drawbridge to storm the walls of the fortress on Friday July 15, 1099. The storming of the city took place at the ninth hour on a Friday, which was the hour of the Passion of Christ. (Atiya 61) Most of the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants of the city were massacred in the aftermath of the crusaders victory. It was a bloody but victorious climax to the First Crusade.

The Aftermath and Other Crusades

Some of the Crusaders saw the taking of Jerusalem as the goal of the Crusade and wanted to return home. Others believed in the creation of a permanent Christian presence in the Holy Land. They believed in carving out their fortunes and to transplant their culture in the East besides protecting the routes to holy Christian sites frequented by the Christian pilgrims from Europe. Hence the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was established under Godfrey of Bouillon, who took the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, succeeded by his brother Baldwin after his death, who ruled as king of Jerusalem. Besides the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa in Turkey, and the Principality of Antioch in Syria a fourth crusader state — the County of Tripoli, in modern-day Lebanon was established.

Despite the almost miraculous success of the First Crusade, there was no escaping the fact that the Crusader states were an implant amidst hostile Muslim territory and destined to live in a state of crisis. To the rulers of the Muslim states, the Crusader states were an affront and they set about plotting their downfall. A major success against the Christians, however, eluded them until 1144 when the city of Edessa was re-captured by the Muslims. When news of the capture reached Europe, a 2nd Crusade was ordered by Pope Eugenius III. The Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III and Frances King Louis VII were among the major figures who joined the 2nd Crusade. Conrads army was decimated at Dorylaeum in Asia Minor while the French army also suffered serious casualties during the journey to Jerusalem, and only part of the original force reached it in 1148. The Crusaders decided to attack Damascus but failed to take the city, and shortly afterwards, the remnants of the French army returned home. The Second Crusade resulted in many crusader casualties and was a failure except for a detour by English crusaders, who helped free the city of Lisbon (in Portugal) from the Muslim Moors.

Despite the failure of the 2nd Crusade, the Latin crusader states managed to survive until the late 12th century. The Muslim Prince Saladin came to power in Egypt in 1170 and triggered the collapse of the Latin states. In 1187 he inflicted a major defeat on a combined Christian army at Hattin and subsequently took Jerusalem. At the Churchs call for a Third Crusade, three major Western rulers decided to lead the crusading forces in person — Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, Philip II of France, and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The three were mutually antagonistic and the crusade failed to recapture Jerusalem — Barbarossa was an old man and died on the way to the holy land in 1191. Philip II returned home without achieving much..

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