THE FIRST CRUSADE
The Crusades represent a chapter in the history of confrontation between the East and the West. The East came to be dominated by Islam, and Christianity got a foothold in the West. The conflict between the East and the West thus took over a religious colour. During the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth centuries the Muslims dominated the world political stage, and the Christians had to lie low. During this period the Caliphate was a strong centralised state, and the Christians were beaten by the Muslims on all fronts. However, a remarkable change in the balance of power occurred between the Christians and the Muslims in the eleventh century. Around 1000 CE the barbarian Vikings and the Magyars who had been raiding and ravaging Europe were converted to Christianity, and that brought in an era of peace and progress for the West. New towns and markets sprang up, and trade and commerce came to flourish.
The Muslim World during the Eleventh Century.
While the eleventh century marked the rise to power of the Christians, it marked the reverse for the Muslim world. By this time the Abbasid caliphate lost its hold and power and their empire stood fragmented.
In Spain the Ummayad caliphate collapsed in 1031; and then followed half a century of chaos and anarchy which provided opportunity to the Christian powers of the north to gather strength. Up until the tenth century, the Mediterranean Sea was practically a Muslim lake. By the eleventh century however, the Muslims had lost their naval supremacy in the Mediterranean.
Origins of the First Crusade.
The successes of the Christians in Spain and the Mediterranean encouraged them to open a third front against the Muslims in the East.
The Byzantines who were still seeking revenge for the loss of a greater part of their empire to the Muslims since the rise of Islam, appealed to the Pope for help. At this time there was a lot of conflict between the Church and the State, which had brought misery to a lot of people. As a result, the Pope felt that it was the opportune time to launch the crusading movement against the Muslims in order to divert from the civil conflict between the Pope and the princes in feudal Europe. Therefore in 1095, Pope Urban II proclaimed a crusade and called the Christian world to arms in a bid for power against the Muslims. It was declared that he who participated in the crusade would get the blessings of the Church, and the full remission of all his sins. The cry rose from every pulpit in the Christian world that the Land should be rescued from the Muslims. The cry was taken up in all parts of Europe, and about one hundred and fifty thousand men, responded to the call.
The First Crusade : 1095 - 1099
With each warrior wearing the cross as a badge, the crusaders marched to Asia Minor. Their first confrontation was with the Seljuk Sultan Qilij, who was defeated. He lost his capital Nicaoa, and after annexing this city, the crusaders advanced to Armenia. The Norman Crusaders took the whole of Armenia, where they set up a Christian principality in Edessa. By 1098, Antioch in Northern Syria, had also fallen to the crusaders, and shortly after that, they marched south along the coast and captured the coastal town of Tripoli.
From Tripoli, the crusaders advanced towards Jerusalem. They reached Jerusalem in 1099 and laid siege to the city. The city fell after a month and then the entire Muslim population of over 10000 was killed. Jerusalem was created an independent principality.
Consequences of the First Crusade
The first crusade ended in considerable success for the Christians. The Muslims were not united enough to have put up a strong front against them. There was betrayal among the Muslims as the followers of Hasan Sabah, known as the "Assassins", openly helped the Crusaders.
As a result of the first crusade, the Christians were able to set up five strongholds in the heart of the Muslim world.
THE SECOND CRUSADE: 1144 - 1155
Political Situation after the First Crusade
After the first crusade, a state of stalemate continued for some fifty years. The Christians had set up five principalities and occupied an area across the Mediterranean coast about fifty miles wide. The rest of the country remained under Muslim control. The Christian powers however, were now beginning to fight among themselves and were unable to forge a united front. As a result, they were not able to extend their conquests. Furthermore, there was no strong power among the Muslims, which could expel the Christians from their principalities
Towards the middle of the twelfth century, a strong ruler Imad-ud-Din Zangi rose in Mosul. He took up the fight among the Muslims and spearheaded the movement of Jihad against the Christians. In 1144, he invaded Armenia, and after a brief siege, he recovered Edessa. This was an important victory for the Muslims, and this spread a lot of anxiousness and dismay among the Christians. Imad-ud-Din did not survive for very long after this victory; he was assassinated in 1146 CE.
Imad-ud-Din was succeeded by his son Nur-ud Din, who was even more determined to fight for the Muslim cause. After his father's death, Edessa was reconquered by the Christians. As a result, Nur-ud Din led his forces into Armenia and managed to get back Edessa again.
The news of the fall of Edessa was received in Europe with great concern, and Pope Eugene III, proclaimed another crusade. The second crusade was led by Louis VII of France, and Conrad III of Germany. However, a greater part of the forces of Conrad was defeated in Asia Minor, and the forces of Louis was largely destroyed while crossing the Admus river. In a confrontation with the forces of Nur-ud Din Zangi near Antioch, the crusaders suffered a defeat, and as a result, part of the principality of Antioch was occupied by Nur-ud Din Zangi.
The Siege of Damscus
The object of the second crusade was the recapture of Edessa. With the destruction of a greater part of the crusaders army in Asia Minor and their subsequent defeat near Antioch, the crusaders altered their plan, and instead of proceeding to Edessa, they went to Jerusalem instead. After getting reinforcement from Jerusalem, the crusaders decided to invade Damascus as a diversion.
The crusaders laid siege to the city of Damascus.The siege lasted for some time, until the inhabitants of Damscus managed to send a message to Nur-ud-Din Zangi for help. Immediately Nur-ud-Din and his forces advanced towards Damascus. However, upon hearing of this advance, the crusaders quarrelled among themselves, lifted the siege and withdrew from Damascus. Damascus was now back under the control of the Muslims.
Consequences of the Second Crusade
With the occupation of Damascus by Nur-ud -Din Zangi, the balance of power changed in favour of the Muslims. The Christians had hoped that with the occupation of Damascus, they would have a strong base from where they could extend their conquests further inland. They had failed in securing this strategy. On the other hand, with the occupation of Damascus by Nur-ud Din Zangi, a strong Muslim state came to be established next door to the Christian strongholds. The Christian states were disunited and quarrelled among themselves.
The establishment of a strong Muslim state under Nur-ud Din Zangi did not merely block their way to extend, but it also posed a threat to their very existence.
Hostilities ceased in 1155 and the second crusade was over. The Christians had failed to achieve the object for which the second crusade had been organised. The second crusade ended as a setback for the crusaders. They failed to recapture Edessa; they lost part of Antioch.
After the second crusade the Latin states were weaker and more disunited than they were before the crusades.
THE THIRD CRUSADE: 1187 - 1192
Rise of Salah-ud-Din
After the second crusade, the situation was calm for a generation. In the seventies of the twelfth century, Salah-ud Din Ayyubi rose to power in Egypt. In 1171, he put an end to the Fatimid rule in Egypt and by 1174, he had captured Damascus.
Fall of Jerusalem
During this time, the principality of Jerusalem faced a lot of trouble. Taking advantage of the chaos in Jerusalem, Salah-ud Din led his forced against the Christians in 1187. He and his forces marched against Jerusalem, where a battle took place at Hittin, overlooking the sea of Galilee. Here the Christian army of 20,000 was destroyed and the city re-conquered by the Muslims.
The fall of Jerusalem was a serious blow to the Christians, and the Pope consequently raised the call for another crusade. Richard of England, Barbaroosa of Germany and Philip of France led the crusaders. Barbaroosa who came by land, was drowned crossing a river. The crusaders under Richard and Philip came by sea. The crusade began with a siege of the port of Accra by crusaders. Accra fell to the crusaders; and thereafter they advanced to Jaffa and Ascalon, which also fell to them. From there, the crusaders under Richard advanced to Jerusalem.
In the battle outside Jerusalem, the crusaders suffered a heavy defeat. As a result, Salah-ud-Din recaptured Jaffa and Ascalon. The crusaders now fell back on Accra, where Richard fell sick and was forced to ask for terms. Peace was eventually concluded in November 1192; the peace was for a period of three years, three months and three days. According to the terms of the treaty the Muslims retained Jerusalem, but the Christians were allowed free access to the city for pilgrimage.
Consequences of the Third Crusade
The third crusade ended in failure for the Christians. The crusade was organised with a view to recovering Jerusalem from the occupation of the Muslims. However, the crusaders could not dislodge the Muslims from Jerusalem. The crusade also cost the crusaders a heavy loss of life. In spite of the hostilities there was a good deal of exchange of courtesies on the two sides. In this crusade, Salah-ud-Din emerged as the hero and the champion of Islam.
The Last Five Crusades
After the third crusade, there were a further five crusades that took place between 1194 and 1218; all of which ended in complete failure for the Christians. In the beginning the Christians had succeeded in setting up five principalities. Thereafter their advance was held up and the scales gradually tilted in favour of the Muslims leading to the ultimate expulsion of the Christians from the Muslim lands towards the close of the thirteenth century.