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<b>The Crusades<b>

Making pilgrimages to holy sites had been a popular activity for European Christ
ians for centuries. There were important religious centers in Europe but the mos
t important site was the Holy Land in Palestine. The rise of the Seljuk Turks ma
de travel to Jerusalem and other Middle Eastern locales suddenly much more dange
rous. The Turks had little use for non-Muslims and ended the relatively peaceful
relations between the Arabs and Christians. At the same time, the Turks put tre
mendous pressure on the Byzantines by capturing the valuable lands in Asia Minor
. As a result, Pope Urban called for a Crusade by Christian warriors to recaptur
e Palestine from the Muslims.
The call for a Crusade electrified the knights of Europe. They were strong belie
vers, and the pope promised a heavenly reward for those who died in the cause. O
f equal or greater importance was the opportunity to grab land and wealth abroad
, rather than continuing to squabble with relatives and neighbors at home.
By 1097, an army of 30,000, including many pilgrims and camp followers, had cros
sed into Asia Minor from Constantinople. Despite feuding among the leaders and b
roken promises between the Crusaders and their Byzantine supporters, the Crusade
stumbled forward. The Turks were just as disorganized, or more so. The Frankish
heavy knights and infantry had no experience fighting the Arab light cavalry an
d archers, and vice versa. The endurance and strength of the knights won the cam
paign over a series of often very close victories. Antioch was captured through
treachery in 1098 and Jerusalem in 1099 by assault against a weak garrison. The
Christians debased themselves after both victories by slaughtering many of the r
esidents regardless of age, faith, or gender. Many of the Crusaders returned hom
e, but a hardy band remained to set up feudal kingdoms similar to those in Europ
The Crusader rulers of Palestine were greatly outnumbered by the Muslim populati
on they attempted to control, so they built castles and hired mercenary troops t
o hold them. The culture and religion of the Franks was too alien to win over th
e residents of the area, however. From their secure castle bases, the Crusaders
struck out to intercept raiding Arabs. For about a century the two sides engaged
in a classic guerrilla war. The Frankish knights were powerful but slow. The Ar
abs could not stand up to charges by the heavy cavalry but could ride circles ar
ound them, hoping to disable their units and catch them in ambushes in the deser
t. The Crusader kingdoms kept mainly to the coast, from which they could get sup
plies and reinforcements, but the constant raids and unhappy populace meant they
were not an economic success.
Orders of Christian warrior monks were formed to fight for the Holy Lands. The K
nights Templar and Hospitillar were mainly Frankish. The Teutonic Knights were G
erman. These were the fiercest and most determined of the Crusaders, but there w
ere never enough of them to make the region secure.
The Crusader kingdoms survived for a while in part because they learned to negot
iate, compromise, and play the different Arab groups off against each other. A g
reat Arab leader appeared, however, who united the various Islamic groups. Salad
in became Sultan of Egypt and Syria in 1174. In 1187 he won a great victory over
the Crusaders in the desert and recaptured Jerusalem.
For another century the Europeans made several attempts to reassert control over
the Holy Land and Jerusalem, with only a rare temporary success. Eight more Cru
sades followed and most failed to do more than get ashore and make some progress
inland before being pushed back. The Fourth Crusade did not even reach Palestin
e. Under the guidance of the Doge of Venice, they sacked Constantinople instead,
a blow from which the Byzantines never recovered. One of the worst Crusades was
a Children's Crusade launched in 1212. Several thousand European children got a
s far as Alexandria in Egypt, where they were sold into slavery.
The legacy of the Crusades included a new hostility between Christians and Musli
ms, a deterioration of the feudal system, and exposure to new cultures. Feudalis
m declined because many lords went bankrupt, leaving their lands to their kings.
Many serfs became Crusaders and never returned. New words entered the European
languages, such as cotton, muslin, divan, and bazaar. Europeans brought back new
textiles, foods, and spices. Demand back home for these new goods increased tra
de and contributed to the growth of the Italian trading city-states, especially
Genoa and Venice. This demand was also the impetus for the great age of discover
y that began in fourteenth century. Treasure brought home increased the local mo
ney supplies, aiding economic growth.