Crusades , a series of military campaigns that the Christian countries of Europe waged to conquer the Holy Land from the Muslims. The name came from the Latin crux (cross), and referred to the emblem worn by the warriors. The Muslims called the Crusaders "Franks," even though they came not only from France but from many other parts of Europe as well. The Muslims were known to the Crusaders as "Saracens," which is Greek for "Easterners."
There were eight major Crusades, which are referred to by number, and there were lesser ones as well. The First Crusade began in 1096, the Eighth in 1270. The Crusaders won some early victories but were eventually driven from the Holy Land.
The Crusades contributed to many social and political changes that were taking place in Europe. Western peoples gained geographical knowledge of the East. Contact with Arab culture encouraged the intellectual awakening that was already under way. Europeans gained Eastern products and plants, adopted Arabic words, and benefited from Arab learning in such fields as mathematics and astronomy. Commerce and trade expanded.
The Crusades were one phase of the long struggle between Christians and Muslims. This period came after centuries of Muslim advance, during which time many Christian lands had been overrun by successive invasions of Arabs and Seljuk Turks.
There were various reasons for the Crusades. They started as a result of a proclamation by Pope Urban II in 1095, declaring holy war against the Muslims in an effort to free Palestine from their control. The pope's proclamation came in response to an appeal by Alexius I Comnenus, the Byzantine emperor, for military aid against the Seljuk Turks, who had conquered much of the Byzantine Empire.
Local church officials made impassioned pleas for volunteers. People joined the Crusades for a variety of reasons. Some joined out of religious devotion. Others joined for the prospect of military glory. Still others joined for the chance of acquiring loot or land.
(1096). Peter the Hermit, a French monk, recruited thousands of peasants for a march on the Saracens. His forces were reduced on the march to Constantinople as a result of hunger, disease, and skirmishes with Bulgarians. At Constantinople, Peter joined his forces with a band led by Walter the Penniless, a knight. Against Peter's advice, the Crusaders crossed the Bosporus. They were slaughtered by Seljuk Turks at Nicaea.
(1096-99). This expedition was led by feudal lords, most of whom were French. The chief, leaders were Bohemund of Taranto, Robert of Flanders, Robert of Normandy, Raymond of Toulouse, and Godfrey of Bouillon. Their forces defeated the Turks, captured Antioch, and in 1099 took Jerusalem.
The victors created the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the lesser states of Antioch, Tripoli, and Edessa. The Byzantine Empire regained much of Asia Minor. The Turks were disorganized and poorly led, but the Muslims continued the struggle over the Holy Land. The European feudal lords quarreled among themselves and with the Byzantine emperor. The religious military orders, the Hospitalers (Knights of the Hospital of St. John) and the Templars (Knights of the Temple), protected Palestine but were bitter rivals.
(1147-49). When the Muslims captured Edessa in 1144, Bernard of Clairvaux. an influential French monk, led the call for a new Crusade. Conrad III of Germany and Louis MI of France led the campaign. This Crusade collapsed after its siege of Damascus failed.
(1189-92). The Muslims, led by Saladin, had recaptured Jerusalem after the Battle of Hattin in 1187. This defeat inspired a new expedition, led by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa), Richard the Lion-Hearted of England, and Philip Augustus of France. Frederick died in Asia Minor, and Richard became the leader of the expedition. His forces captured the port of Acre in 1191. Saladin then granted Richard a truce that permitted Christians to visit Jerusalem.
(1202-04). This campaign was intended to strengthen Crusader positions at Acre On their way to Acre, however, the Crusaders, prompted by their desire for loot and new lands to rule, decided to sack Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire. They captured the city and established the Latin Kingdom of Constantinople, which lasted until 1261.
(1212). Two bands of children were organized, one French, the other German. Many thousands died of hardships, and others were sold into slavery. Both bands were destroyed before they reached Constantinople.
(1218-21). This Crusade attacked the center of Muslim power in Egypt. The Muslims held off the attackers.
(1228-29). Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire led this expedition, and by negotiation won control of Jerusalem.
(1248-54). In 1244 the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem. Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) organized a new expedition that attacked Egypt. The French king was captured and forced to pay a heavy ransom.
(1270). In 1268 the Muslims captured Antioch, which the Crusaders had held since 1098. Louis IX then organized his second Crusade, which attacked Tunis in North Africa. This campaign ended when the French king died of the plague.
Other Crusades were planned but never carried out. When the Muslims captured Acre in 1291, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem was ended.