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The Crusades were born out of a chain of military struggles under the watch of the Roman Papacy spanning for 200 years between the 11th and 13th centuries. The wars were perceived as religiously justified, thus making the Crusades be regarded as holy. The seizure of Jerusalem by Muslims was the original factor that inspired the Papacy’s intentions to recapture the Holy Land. In other cases, the crusades were directed to other Christians who were not in conformity with the expectations of the Roman Catholic. This paper will look into the Crusaders, their historical background, the activities they carried out, and their impacts during the Middle Eastern History.
The first four crusades are referred to as the Principle Crusades, while the remaining ones are known as the Minor Crusades (Madden 79). Some unnumbered minor crusades occurred during this period in areas like Spain and some parts of Central Europe. The participants of the crusades were mainly men of war, lords, knights, and any other able men fit for the battlefields. The popes and leaders highly recommended these individuals, but with time, almost everyone joined the crusades after it became impossible to restrict participants who were motivated by the spiritual rewards that they would gain from fighting religious wars.
Priests and monks were forbidden from joining the crusades since they had taken religious vows that were regarded contrary to the activities of the Crusaders (Madden 82). Those who joined the Crusades had to leave their families for unspecified periods of time, which extended to forever depending on one’s fate.
The First Crusade (1096-1099)
The first crusade occurred in the period of three years, where different Western European regions formed four troops set to leave for Byzantium in 1096. The armies were under-qualified leadership guided by a religious leader known as Peter the Hermit (Riley-Smith 326). Peter led a small army of knights to the destruction of the Byzantine Empire. The troops then proceeded to Bosporus by defying Alexius’ advice not to cross over after succeeding.
The result of this move was defeat by the Turks, thus leading to the deployment of the second army. In 1096, Count Emicho led the second group of Crusaders, which managed to carry out massive destruction in Rhineland (Madden 97). The destruction involved the massacre of Jews, thus causing enmity between Christians and Jews. Alexius ordered the leaders of his four troops of Crusaders to swear an oath of loyalty after they entered Constantinople. In 1099, the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem and stamped their authority in the city. Small Crusader states emerged after the massacre of hundreds of men, women, and children.
The Second Crusade (1147-49)
There was a need to govern the conquered states after the First Crusade. This need led to the formation of four Crusader states in Antioch, Tripoli, Edessa, and Jerusalem. In 1144, the Muslims resurfaced and engaged the Crusaders in holy wars (jihad), thus leading to their reclamation of the northern state of Edessa (Riley-Smith 332). The second Crusade was propagated by the Muslims’ move in 1147. However, the Turks fought back and defeated the Crusaders at Dorylaem. An unwitting attack on Damascus by both Conrad and Louis in 1149 weakened the Crusaders, thus rendering their operation unsuccessful and forcing them to return home.
The Third Crusade (1189-92)
The Crusaders in Jerusalem conducted several attacks in Cairo with the aim of seizing the state, but they failed. The Crusaders, who had gained entrance to Cairo, were driven out under the pressure of Nur al-Din’s forces in 1169. The third Crusade emerged after the loss, which inspired King Phillip II and King Richard I of France and England respectively to fight back. In 1191, the battle of Arsuf emerged, where Richard emerged victorious after defeating Saladin’s troops. Richard gained control of the region and proceeded to the signing of the peace treaty with Saladin in 1192. The treaty provided for the reestablishment of the Jerusalem kingdom, with the city of Jerusalem excluded (Madden 102).
The Fourth and Subsequent Crusades
The institution of the Fourth Crusade was facilitated in 1202 by Pope Innocent III. His aim was to take over Jerusalem through Egypt. Misunderstandings developed between the parties involved, thus leading to violence, which resulted in the sacking of the city in 1204. Consequently, subsequent Crusades were founded on the Papacy’s intentions to shift the Europeans’ aim to Syria.
With the aim of capturing the Holy Land, the Church organized the Fifth Crusade. In 1215, the Fourth Council of the Lateran organized a force from Austria, Bavaria, and Hungary. In 1219, they managed to capture Damietta in Egypt with the help of the Pope’s legate, Pelagius (Asbridge 346). In 1228, the Papacy directed Emperor Fredrick II from Brindisi towards Syria, thus leading to the development of the Sixth Crusade. His diplomatic strategies enabled the Crusaders to take control of Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem for a period of ten years.
The papacy in association with King Louis IX spearheaded the seventh Crusade by extending their authority to the Eighth Crusade from 1248 to 1270. A series of attacks on Egypt were initiated under the command of Louis, but he did not manage to conquer the state, thus forcing him to divert his crusade to Tunis before his death two months later. In 1247, England’s future, Edward I, conducted another crusade in Syria, but he was unsuccessful, thus leading to his retirement a year later.
Towards the close of the 13th Century, the Crusaders’ vigor started diminishing after subsequent defeats in conquest wars. After 1291, the Church organized Crusades that had limited success after trying to push Muslims away from the conquered states. The declension of the pontifical authority and the emergence of the Reformation in the 16th Century further faded away the resurgence of the Crusades (Riley-Smith 323).
Impacts of the Crusades
The Crusades’ activities in the Middle East led to various repercussions that can be felt up to date. The notable impact is the influence that they had on the Western Civilization, which was inferior to theirs. According to Riley-Smith, this aspect led to the growth of new cities in Europe and other surrounding regions to match the status of the Arabs (438). As a result, this move paved the way for the development of the Western Europe’s economy, which exploded after the Venetians’ expansion of their economic activities. A manifestation of this aspect was evident in the way the monarchs flaunted their wealth and treasures as they exercised their authority.
Religious violence was a major impact of the Crusades right from the First Crusade. The aim of the Christians was not only to prove their strength in arms, but also the power of their creator as they protected the Roman Empire against invasion (Asbridge 356). On the other hand, Muslims were fighting a Jihad. The willingness to fight and suffer religious violence amongst the Christians was based on the quest to uphold their religious beliefs. Religious leaders like St. Augustine, who justified wars based on religion, played a major role in commissioning military struggles in the name of faith.
The impacts of religious violence among Christians can also be identified when medieval Christians fought themselves before the incoming of the Crusades. In an effort to prevent war among Christians, Pope Urban shifted the military conquests towards other religions in the First Crusade The Crusaders expected heavenly rewards after murdering people as they sought to safeguard their religious beliefs and interests (Asbridge 370). In this regard, it can be noted that the Crusades were accompanied by events of violence described as holy wars, thus leading to massive destruction of lives and property.
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The Crusaders’ activities had a substantial impact on the literacy levels of the people of Western Europe. The Greeks were highly educated, hence inspiring Western Europe to emulate them and improve on their literacy levels. As a result, the Arabs and Greeks acted as reference sources on how the economies of Western Europe ought to be run (Riley-Smith 352). The civilizations of Western Europe had to copy the literature of the Greeks and Arabs.
For instance, the knowledge of mathematics, architecture, and meteorology quickly spread to Western Europe, thus leading to civilized states (Riley-Smith 365). The advancements of the Eastern regions were responsible for the civilization of the West in this regard.
Before the Crusades started, there were trading activities with the East. Huge profits were made by city-states like Florence, which brought luxuries and ideas from the East to the ready market in the West. Asbridge insists that he first Crusade aimed at seizing the economic opportunities that came along with the trade, hence it had to take control of the Mediterranean, which was occupied by the Arabs (331).
Their naval superiority was enough to drive away the Arabs and gain control of the trade along the coast. The Italians enjoyed the economic prosperity along the Mediterranean Sea after they overthrew the Byzantine Empire, which inhibited them from accessing new marketplaces (332). Therefore, the Crusades played an important role in enriching the West with trading activities that laid the foundations for further civilization.
The Crusades facilitated territorial expansion as new states were conquered. After the first crusade, Crusader states in Levant, which is a region along Eastern Mediterranean, were developed, thus leading to the dominance of new fields that were occupied by European settlers. The conquest of islands along the Mediterranean Sea ensured that Christians had control over the Mediterranean Trade, thus expanding their territory economically and politically (Riley-Smith 377). The conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (now Portugal and Spain) also ensured that they could expel the Muslims from Granada in 1492. Consequently, the Crusaders gained control of the East as monarchies were established to control the activities in the region.
It is evident that the Crusades were mainly based on religious interests of the Roman Catholic to reclaim the Holy Land. This move resulted in the formation of nine major Crusades that were mainly comprised of armies that fought religious battles. The battles resulted in massive loss of lives and property in states like Damascus, Cairo, and Edessa. The Crusades further led to the formation of new monarchies in the conquered states. The Middle East region provided inspiration for the Western Civilizations due to the interaction during this period facilitated by trade. After 1291, the authority of the Papacy declined after the Church failed to safeguard its control over Acre in Jerusalem.
Asbridge, Thomas. The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land, New York: Ecco, 2011. Print.
Madden, Thomas. The Concise History of the Crusades, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013. Print.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Crusaders: A History, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.