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.