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Why The Crusades Failed Essay


Introduction

The crusades refer to the chain of religious wars, fought in the Levant and Asia Minor between the years 1095 and 1291. During the wars, Western European nations engaged the locals, in response to propaganda related to religious expansion.1

The first crusade was ordered by Pope Urban II, who was acting as an agent of the Roman Catholic. The aim of the crusade was to restore Christian control of the holy lands at Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.2

The cause for the crusades could be traced to the times of the Siljug-Byzantine and Arab-Byzantine wars, which ended in the conclusive defeat of Byzantine forces in 1701.

After the decisive defeat, the Emperor, Alexios I appealed to Christian nations to fight the common enemy (Muslims), thus requested for their participation in the armed conflict. As a result, Pope Urban II agreed to the request, and committed western leaders to the course of reclaiming the Holy lands.3

The crusaders’ forces were made up of Catholic armies that had come in from Western Europe. However, the forces were never under the same unit of command; the different teams were commanded by different leaders.4

The first crusades were successful. However, those that followed thereafter failed, leading to the defeat of the crusaders. After the defeat, the Crusaders were forced to return to their countries. Most of the soldiers were French. Thus, they were referred as Franks.

This was the name used by the Muslim fighters during the duration of the war. On the other hand, the Europeans commonly referred to the people of the Holy Lands as Saracens. The name was used in a negative manner and was used throughout the crusades and after, including the 20th century.5 The crusades were characterized by alliances, including that between Christians and Sultanate of Rum, during the time of the fifth crusade.

The crusades had major economic, political and social effects on Western Europe, including the considerable weakening of the Christian-Byzantine kingdom, which was later conquered by Muslim Turks.6

The factors that led to the failure of the Crusades

The failure of the crusades resulted from a number of factors, including the weakening of the rule of the leaders of the war at their home countries.7 They came to the realization that their continued stay at Middle East undermined the rule and the peace at their home countries: the authority and the powers of the leaders of the crusades were threatened at their countries.8

One of such cases was that of Richard I of England, who realized that the brother that he had left in charge of the throne at England was no longer willing to allow him, take the throne upon his return.9

As a result, the threat to the rule of the leaders of the crusaders forces resulted in their departure from the Middle East, so that they could regain their previous rule and the control of their nations.

As a consequence, the forces of the Crusaders continued to weaken, which resulted in their inability to handle the fighting capacity of the Muslim forces.10

Further, the divided attention of the crusaders between focusing their attention on the war, and returning to their countries, so they could continue their activities weakened their resolve to continue the crusades.

The crusades failed, as a result of the conflicts between the leaders of the different crusaders’ teams. Some of the conflicts resulted from the lack of a common center of command, while others resulted from differences in the priorities of the different leaders.

Some of the conflicts among European forces included the rivalry between Innocent IV and Fredrick II. Fredrick II believed that Innocent IV was spreading a campaign against him. At the same time of the rivalry between Fredrick II and Innocent IV, Louis IX of France was planning the seventh crusade, which was not supported by many of the other leaders.

Later, Louis IX attempted to reconcile the conflict of interest between the two, to no avail, which increased the rivalry between the crusaders forces. The continued conflict of interest and the rivalry between the Crusaders’ forces weakened their combined effort, as well as well as their strategic approach to the wars.

Further, the weakening resolve decreased the ability of the crusaders to match the fighting abilities of the Muslims, which led to their unexpected defeat.11

The failure of the crusades resulted from the double-crossing of the Greeks. It was considered so, after the military allies of the pope lost their trust in the loyalty of the church. They lost faith in the church after the Greek Orthodox Church gave money to the authorities of the church, so that the church could help install Alexius to power.12

The strategy of buying the placement of Alexius to power seemed to the military allies, as an effort that went contrary to the values of the Greeks. As a result, the misunderstanding between the church and the military allies led to a continued withdrawal of the support offered by the allies of the pope.

The withdrawal of the support of the allies of the Pope led to a reduction in the military capacity of the crusaders’ forces. The withdrawal of the support offered to the Crusades also resulted from the increasing incidences of corruption and political dissension among the partners in the war.

With the decreasing cooperation between the different parties, towards winning the war, the Muslims were on the other hand, improving their cooperative effort and shared participation. As a result, the crusaders were overpowered by the increasing efforts of the Muslims, which forced them to concede defeat.

The failure of the crusades was caused by the relatively few soldiers in the crusaders forces, compared to those from the Muslim side. The crusaders benefited from the superiority of their war technology and skills, which offered them an edge ahead of the Muslim forces.

As a result, the first attacks were successful, but as time went on, the Muslims mastered their skills. Therefore, they were able to avoid defeat. Further, the western armies arrived in the Middle East after a long journey, which would leave them tired, weakened by diseases and also the attacks that they met on their way there.

As a result, their fighting abilities would be greatly reduced by the factors mentioned, which made them not to compete with the Muslims at their optimal war capacity. Also, after conquered a certain area in the Middle East, some members of the crusaders forces would leave for their home countries.

As a result, the remaining troops would have few soldiers to continue with the war, as well as those to ensure that the conquered areas were not reclaimed. The impact of the continual return of the Crusaders forces was worsened by the fact that the soldiers that left for their home countries would take more than decades to return, or send other soldiers to take their place in the war.13

The failure of the crusades was caused by the expensive nature of the war attempts. Some groups believed that the crusades were staged by the Europeans, so they could acquire wealth and riches.

However, contrary from this view, the nations involved in the crusades scrapped, borrowed and imposed great taxes on their citizens so that they would afford sustaining the crusades.

The funds raised through the increased taxation levels, and the borrowing was channeled towards paying the armies, equipping the forces and feeding the soldiers at the base. The difference between the conquest of the Middle East and other areas where they had previously captured was that the land there was not a revenue-producing.

Therefore, compared to their European farm lands, the Crusaders felt that they were not gaining from the captured. As a result, the home nations of the Crusaders continued to carry the burden of the war, which left them no choice, other than to accept that the crusades were not viable in the long term.

Further, most of the exhaustible resources that were available to the crusaders as well as the supplies that they received from their nations started running out after years of fighting. The continued reduction of European resources discouraged some of the nations, which resulted in a continuous withdrawal of their forces from the Middle East.

As a consequence, the forces left at Middle East continued weakening and reducing, which resulted in their defeat by the Muslim soldiers.14

The failure of the crusades resulted from the lack of support from the Byzantines, despite the fact that they had promised to offer the Europeans support throughout the crusading period.15 As a result, the Crusaders continued to wait for the help of the Byzantines, which led to a weaker resolve to engage in the crusades without them.

Their expectation of getting help from the Byzantines was solidified by their knowledge that the Comnenus lineage of rulers had requested for the help of the pope, which marked the beginning of the Crusades.16 As a result, the lack of support from the Byzantines demoralized the crusaders, and weakened the ground they had gained in the Middle East.17

The failure of the crusades was caused by the lack of a proper channel for transporting more people from Europe to the Middle East, so that the new recruits could offer support to the soldiers that had arrived earlier.18 The European groups willing to participate in the war lacked the channel of arriving in the Middle East.

In this regard, their valuable input would have helped maintain the dominion of the earlier armies, which is evident from the success of the first crusades. One example of such a failed attempt to transport more people to the Middle East was that led by a German youth called Nicholas in 1212.19

Nicholas announced that he had been commissioned by God to voyage to the holy land, and spread the message that he would take more people to participate in the crusades. From his campaigns about the voyage to the holy land, he gathered the following of 30,000 hopefuls who were willing to go with him to the holy land.20

However, after the leaving Cologne for the Middle East, many of the people died of disease and hunger along the way, while some were eaten by wild animals like wolves.

Additionally, thieves attacked them and stole their clothing and food, leaving them without the resources to keep them going. Upon the arrival of the many hopefuls in Genoa, they were dismissed to go back to their homes as there were no ships to transport them to the Middle East.21

The impossible nature of transporting people in the Middle East stopped many groups, which could help the troops that had arrived there earlier, so that they could win the wars.22 There was another case of a group in France, which sought its way to the Middle East to participate in the crusades.

The group led by Stephen comprised of more than 20,000 people. Stephen had promised that the sea would give way for the group to cross to Palestine.23 However, the seas did not give way, forcing them to seek an alternative means of transport. While at the shore, some ship owners offered to take them across to the holy land.

Unfortunately, some of the ships wrecked while at sea, and those that arrived at the other side were attacked by forces ordered by Fredrick II. The travelers in the ships including the children were taken as slaves.24

This difficulty in the transportation of more people in the Middle East shows the difficulty that the Europeans experienced, when trying to increase the forces participating in the Crusades.

As a result, the rate of replacing the soldiers that died and those that went back to their homeland was slow, which weakened the ability of the crusaders forces, leading to their defeat.25

The failure of the crusades was fueled by the bloody attacks of the Muslim forces, including the raid that took place after the departure of Louis. Immediately after the departure, a civil war started between the Genoese and the Venetians.26

At the same time, the Baibars took the opportunity to strike, and marched across the coast of the region, capturing different towns, previously controlled by Christians, one after another. Some of the towns captured during the raid include Antioch, Jaffa, Safad, and Caesarea.27

During the raid, many Christians and crusaders were enslaved, and others slaughtered, which greatly weakened the power of the Crusaders’ forces in areas like Antioch to an irreparable extent. The massive attack weakened the ability of the crusaders in countering Muslim forces, and also demoralized the remaining forces, which drove them towards accepting defeat.

The forces of the Crusaders were also affected by a lack of communication, which resulted, partly from the unfriendly relations between the leaders of the different nations or teams. The lack of communication between the different teams was worsened by the language barriers that existed between them.

Some of the teams used Latin while others used French. However, among the soldiers, the problem was worse, as most of them could not understand one another, which widened the rivalry between different teams.28 As a result, there was a prevalent lack of common resolve and unit of command, which widened their inability to counter Muslim forces.

The relations between the groups were also characterized by an inherent lack of proper planning due to the rivalry between the different groups. This was with regard to the resources required and the avenues to use during the crusades.29

The failure of the Crusaders’ forces was perpetuated by the European style of fighting, as the crusaders relied on heavy armor and large horses. They also relied on a few bowmen, which was not enough to counter the experienced fighting style of the Muslims.

The Muslims, on the other hand, used camels and fast horses, which allowed them to move across the desert-war-front very fast. The Muslims also had innumerable bowmen. Therefore, they could attack the Europeans from a far distance, which increased their advantage in defeating them.

The fighting strategies of the Muslims left the Crusaders helpless, whenever the Muslims decided to strike. Therefore, this shows that the fundamental war style between the Crusaders and the Muslims increased the potential of the Muslim forces, which led to the unsuccessful nature of the crusades.30

Conclusion

The crusades refer to the chain of religious wars, fought between Muslim and European forces at Levant and Asian minor. The crusades started after Alexios appealed for the help of the Pope. Thus, the church could help the Byzantines at restoring the Holy Land to Christian rule. The crusaders were made up of armies from Western Europe.

The factors that led to the failure of the Crusades include the unskilled nature of the crusaders forces, which were not able to counter the war techniques of the Muslims. The failure of the crusades resulted from the rivalry that existed between the different leaders and the double-crossing of the Greeks by the church, which reduced the support offered to the crusades.

The failure was caused by other factors, including the limited number of the soldiers that made up the crusaders forces, the high costs required to sustain the crusades and the lack of the support promised by the Byzantine forces.

Other factors included the lack of effective transport networks in the Middle East and the bloody attacks by Muslim forces, which demoralized the crusaders. Lack of communication among the crusaders teams and the experienced fighting style of the Muslims also perpetuated the failure of the crusades.

Bibliography

Bull, Marcus and Norman, Housley (eds). The Experience of Crusading Volume 1, Western Approaches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003: 307.

Cartlidge, Cherese. The Crusades: Failed Holy Wars. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2002

Constable, Giles. “The Historiography of the Crusades” in Angeliki E. Laiou, ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World. Washington, DC: Dumarton Oaks, 2001. 77.

Edbury, Peter and Jonathan Phillips (eds). The Experience of Crusading Volume 2, Defining the Crusader Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003: 326.

Edgington, Susan and Sarah Lambert (eds). Gendering the Crusades. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002.

Florean, Dana. “East Meets West: Cultural Confrontation and Exchange after the First Crusade.” Language & Intercultural Communication, 7. 2 (2007): 150–151.

Folda, Jaroslav. Crusader Art in the Holy Land, From the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Harris, Jonathan. Byzantium and the Crusades. New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2003: 276.

Hodgson, Natasha. Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007.

Housley, Norman. The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

James, Douglas. “Christians and the First Crusade.” History Review, 53 (2005): 34-38.

Kagay, Donald and Andrew Villalon (eds). Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean. Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher, 2003.

Madden, Thomas (ed). The Crusades: The Essential Readings. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.

Footnotes

1 Giles Constable, “The Historiography of the Crusades” in Angeliki E. Laiou, ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, DC: Dumarton Oaks, 2001), 77

2 Dana Florean, “East Meets West: Cultural Confrontation and Exchange after the First Crusade.” Language & Intercultural Communication, 7. 2 (2007): 150–151

3 Norman Housley. The Later Crusades, 1274-1580: From Lyons to Alcazar. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 75

4 Peter Edbury and Jonathan Phillips (eds), The Experience of Crusading Volume 2, Defining the Crusader Kingdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 326

5 Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2003), 276.

6 Donald Kagay and Andrew Villalon (eds), Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean (Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher, 2003), 134.

7 Peter Edbury and Jonathan Phillips (eds), The Experience of Crusading Volume 2, Defining the Crusader Kingdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 326

8 Dana Florean, “East Meets West: Cultural Confrontation and Exchange after the First Crusade.” Language & Intercultural Communication, 7. 2 (2007): 144.

9 Ibid, 145

10 Ibid, 150

11 Giles Constable, “The Historiography of the Crusades” in Angeliki E. Laiou, ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (Washington, DC: Dumarton Oaks, 2001), 77

12 Florean Dana, “East Meets West: Cultural Confrontation and Exchange after the First Crusade.” Language & Intercultural Communication, 7. 2 (2007): 143

13 Cherese Cartlidge. The Crusades: Failed Holy Wars. (San Diego: Lucent Books, 2002), 24

14 Natasha, Hodgson, Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), 87.

15 Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2003), 276.

16 Donald Kagay, and Andrew, Villalon (eds), Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean (Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher, 2003), 172.

17 Thomas Madden (ed), The Crusades: The Essential Readings (New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002), 74.

18 Douglas James, “Christians and the First Crusade.” History Review, 53 (2005): 34-38.

19 Natasha, Hodgson, Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), 78.

20 Susan Edgington and Sarah Lambert (eds), Gendering the Crusades (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002), 232

21 Marcus Bull, and Norman, Housley (eds), The Experience of Crusading Volume 1, Western Approaches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 307

22 Jonathan Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2003), 276

23 Donald Kagay, and Andrew, Villalon (eds), Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean (Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher, 2003), 172.

24 Florean Dana, “East Meets West: Cultural Confrontation and Exchange after the First Crusade.” Language & Intercultural Communication, 7. 2 (2007): 144

25 Natasha, Hodgson, Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), 78.

26 Thomas Madden (ed), The Crusades: The Essential Readings (New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002), 174.

27 Ibid, 175.

28 Donald Kagay, and Andrew, Villalon (eds), Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean (Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher, 2003), 172.

29 Natasha, Hodgson, Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), 78.

30 Natasha, Hodgson, Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), 78.

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Q., P. (2019, December 13). Why The Crusades Failed [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-the-crusades-failed-essay/

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Q., Paloma. "Why The Crusades Failed." IvyPanda, 13 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/why-the-crusades-failed-essay/.

1. Paloma Q. "Why The Crusades Failed." IvyPanda (blog), December 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-the-crusades-failed-essay/.


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Q., Paloma. "Why The Crusades Failed." IvyPanda (blog), December 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-the-crusades-failed-essay/.

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Q., Paloma. 2019. "Why The Crusades Failed." IvyPanda (blog), December 13, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/why-the-crusades-failed-essay/.

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Q., P. (2019) 'Why The Crusades Failed'. IvyPanda, 13 December.

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