The Crusades were a series of religious wars dating from 1095 to 1291. A crusade is defined as a medieval military expedition made by Europeans in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. These wars were called to regain the Holy Land, Palestine, from the Seljuk Turks. There were approximately eight or nine crusades in total and only one was a victory for the Christians. Despite this number, only the first four were of significant importance. The Crusades also introduced new interests and the spread of cultural ideas.
Alexius I Comnenus was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 1095. He requested military help from Pope Urban II so that they can fight against the Seljuk Turks. After receiving Alexius’ plea for help, Urban was eager to regain Palestine from the Turks. Later that year, in November, the Council of Clermont met. Urban commanded the French and Norman men to fight in The Crusades. Not only was it an exercise of his power, but Urban wanted to unite the nobles and bishops so that they may fight together. These men, however, kept their personal intentions in mind. Merchants saw it as an opportunity for trading, knights joined for their love of fighting, and other men joined for money.
The First Crusade was planned to begin August 15, 1096. This plan , however, was overthrown when Peter the Hermit, a priest and one of Pope Urban II’s most successful preachers, gathered men and sought after Jerusalem himself. Peter and his group of peasants had traveled from Europe to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. They were told by Alexius to wait for the stronger mass of men arriving from Europe. This did not please Peter or his troops, who had already undergone a long journey with many difficulties. Alexius decided to ferry the peasants to Asia Minor. Once there, Peter’s men were either killed or enslaved. The stronger group of men from Europe finally arrived to Jerusalem later on. They were sworn by oath to remain loyal to Alexius, and then the battle began. They joined forces with Byzantine leaders and attacked Nicea, the capital of the Seljuk Turks, in Anatolia. Anatolia surrendered and the crusaders forced the governor of Jerusalem to do the same. The city of Jerusalem faced extreme devastation as the crusaders massacred and wreaked havoc. The crusaders were victorious and they set up four crusader states: The County of Edessa, The Kingdom of Jerusalem, The Principality of Antioch, and The County of Tripoli.
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The Second Crusade was called by Pope Eugene III in 1147. The County of Edessa had been captured three years before by Zangi, the governor of Mosul. The news of this capture surprised Europeans and they reacted quickly to win it back. The Second Crusade was led by two European kings: Louis VII of France and King Conrad III of Germany. The two kings rushed into Jerusalem with little communication, causing their forces to suffer a devastating defeat. Forty years after this loss, Philip II of France, Barbarossa, and Richard I of England joined forces to fight against the Muslims in the Third Crusade. On the way to Jerusalem, Barbarossa died by drowning. Philip ended up retreating, and Richard signed a treaty with Saladin, who united Syria and Egypt. This treaty allowed for Christian pilgrims to enter Jerusalem, however, the city was still under Muslim control.
Pope Innocent III decided to call the Fourth Crusade. He believed that Jerusalem was Christian territory and so he pushed to recover it. Recruits from the French territory gathered and were to be sent to Cairo in Egypt. They were to get there by Venetian transport. However, the crusaders could not afford the amount the Venetians offered, 85,000 silver marks. In order to fulfill this sum, the Venetians asked the crusaders for their assistance in capturing Zara, a Byzantine port. The crusaders obliged and captured the port with ease. They then began to move towards Constantinople. After ransacking and destroying the beauty of the city, the men took their profits and returned home.
The Fifth Crusade to the Ninth Crusade all resulted similarly; the Christians lost and the Muslims were deemed victorious. However, there were many beneficial parts to the Crusades. The Europeans advanced in trade. Their knowledge of the outerworld expanded, sea travel became more invested upon, and their interest in new products grew. The Catholic Church also became a stronger political force. Although the Christians suffered heavily, they accomplished new feats that benefited history later on.