Saturday, April 30, 2005

The true tale of Crusades

Part-III
The last part

“The Crusaders” was derived from the Latin word crux meaning “cross,” this then in turn was a reference to the biblical ruling that good Christians always carry a cross.

Second Crusade:

After the First Crusade in 1096 AD set up Christian kingdoms all along the coast of Israel and Lebanon, of course the Fatimid caliphs who had ruled that area before were very upset. By 1144, a Mamluk general, Imad-ed-din Zangi, had managed to unite enough Turks and Arabs in his army to attack the Christian kingdoms. Zangi did not take Jerusalem, but he did take the Syrian city of Edessa nearby.

In Europe, people were very upset to learn that the Turks had taken Edessa. The Pope ordered Bernard of Clairvaux (in France) to preach a second crusade to take it back and defeat Zangi. The young king of France, Louis VII, agreed to go, along with the queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. So did Conrad III of Germany, the Holy Roman Emperor. At this time Louis was 23 years old and Eleanor was 22. Conrad was 51 years old.
From beginning to end, though, this crusade was not successful. Most of Conrad's soldiers were killed as they marched through Turkey. When Louis and Conrad reached Jerusalem, they decided to attack Damascus, which would have made up for the loss of Edessa. But their attack on Damascus failed, and the kings and queens went home in disgust.

When the Mamluk general Imad-ed-din Zangi died, he was succeeded by his son Nureddin, who added Damascus to the land his father had gathered together. And after Nureddin died in 1174 AD, a strong Kurdish general named Salah al-din (called Saladin in the West) took over. Salah al-din soon conquered Egypt from the Fatimids, and then he was strong enough to begin fighting the Christian kingdoms in Israel and Lebanon. In 1187, Salah al-din took Jerusalem.


Third Crusade:

Again the people of Europe were very upset. The pope urged the kings of Europe to unite against Salah al-din, and in the end Richard the Lionhearted, the king of England, Philip Augustus, the king of France, and Frederick Barbarossa, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, all went to Jerusalem. A special tax in both France and England raised money for the crusade.

But the Third Crusade, like the Second, ran into a lot of trouble. Frederick died on the way to Jerusalem, drowned while he was taking a bath in a creek. Most of his soldiers went home. Meanwhile Richard and Philip went by boat to Jerusalem. Richard conquered the island of Cyprus on the way to Jerusalem, but he conquered it from a relative of the Roman Emperor, who therefore became Richard's enemy. The French and English armies beseiged Acre (AH-kerr), the main seaport of the area, and managed to take it, but only after a siege lasting almost two years. Richard killed 2700 prisoners taken at Acre because their ransom was not paid by his deadline.

But after the victory at Acre, Philip had had enough of the crusade. He went home to France, where he kept busy attacking Richard's possessions in France. All alone, Richard and his English soldiers could not beat Salah al-din, and finally in 1192 he and Salah al-din made peace, on very reasonable terms. Christian pilgrims were to come and go freely from Jerusalem, and Salah al-din promised not to attack what was left of the Christian kingdom for many years. Richard left for home.

But on his way home across Germany, Richard was captured by the new German emperor, Henry VI. Henry disliked Richard because Richard had promised to support King Tancred of Sicily against Henry. Henry kept Richard in jail and sent messengers to Richard's brother John demanding a huge ransom in exchange for releasing the king. In the end John had to pay more than three times the normal amount of money England made in a year. John had to call for new taxes. Richard finally got home in 1194.


A fleeting look at Salah-din: When the First Crusade defeated the Fatimid Caliphs and captured Jerusalem in 1099 AD, people in Egypt and Syria gradually decided that the Fatimids were too weak to rule anymore. One of their generals, Saladin (Salah ad-Din ibn Ayyub in Arabic), took over control from the Fatimids and founded the Ayyubid dynasty.
Saladin was Kurdish, from Tikrit in northern Iraq. He came to Egypt in 1168 as an assistant to his uncle, who was a general and then became the vizier of the last Fatimid caliph. After Saladin’s uncle died the next year, Saladin took power for himself. In 1173 Saladin's brother Turanshah conquered Yemen, in the Arabian Peninsula, which gave Saladin control of trade from India through the Red Sea. He was a very successful general who followed the Mamluk generals Zangi and Nureddin in taking back most of the territory that had been lost to the First Crusade. He won back Jerusalem in 1187 AD.


Saladin was a Sunni Muslim, so he brought back Sunni worship to Egypt and Syria, even though the Fatimids had been Shiites. He opened a series of madrasas, or schools, which helped to bring Sunni faith to the people, and also spread other learning from Iran to Egypt and Syria. This also brought the Ayyubids closer to the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. When Saladin died in 1193 AD, he was buried in Damascus, next to the great Umayyad Mosque there.

After his death, Saladin’s sons and relatives broke up his empire so they could each have their own small kingdom to rule. There were small kingdoms at Damascus, Aleppo, Hims, Hamat, and Diyar Bakr. But the Ayyubid sultans of Egypt were the richest and so they mostly controlled all the smaller kingdoms.
The later Ayyubids bought Turkish and Mongol slaves to be their army rather than fighting themselves. These slaves were called the Mamluks. But little by little the Ayyubid sultans had less and less power and the Mamluks got more and more power. Finally in 1250 AD the Mamluks took over Egypt entirely. By 1260 most of the other Ayyubid kingdoms were also taken over by the Mamluks.


Fourth Crusade:

In 1200 AD, Pope Innocent began to ask the leaders of Europe to participate in a fourth crusade, again attempting to take Jerusalem away from the Ayyubids who ruled there. Saladin had died in 1193 AD, and the Crusaders thought his successors were weaker and would be easier to beat. This time they would try something different. Instead of coming down from the north, the European armies would sail south to Egypt, and then come up from there to Jerusalem.

In order to get enough ships to take everyone to Egypt, the armies needed help from the great sea power, Venice. In 1202, the Crusaders came to Venice to get their ships, but they didn't have enough money to pay for them. So the Venetians said, "Okay, you can pay us later, but in exchange you have to fight for us to get back the city of Zara (in modern Hungary) that went over to the Hungarians a few years ago." The Crusaders agreed to do this, even though Zara was a Christian city. The Pope didn't like this and excommunicated all the Crusaders.

The Crusaders succeeded in taking Zara, and were about to go on to Egypt with their ships when Alexius Comnenus, who had recently been thrown out of Constantinople, asked the Crusaders to help him get into power again. He would pay for the rest of the Crusade, once he was back on his throne. Instead of going to Egypt, the Crusaders agreed to this plan, and in 1203 (with the help of the Venetians) they took Constantinople and put Alexius IV on the throne. But Alexius IV could not raise the money he had promised, and when he tried to raise the money through taxes he became so unpopular that he and his father were killed and a new emperor, Alexius V, got on the throne.

In 1204 the Crusaders and Venetians attacked Constantinople and sacked the city. A lot of the islands which had belonged to the Empire were taken over by the Venetians too. The Crusaders never did go on to Jerusalem, and never fought the Ayyubids at all. They took the piles of money and jewels and gold that they had captured in the sack of Constantinople and they went home. The Pope agreed to let them back into the Church.

Fifth Crusade:

The Fifth Crusade In 1216 AD, Pope Honorius III succeeded in getting some more Europeans to agree to try again to conquer Jerusalem from the Ayyubids. This time, the Pope would be in charge instead of European kings. Friedrich II of the Holy Roman Empire wanted to come along, but the Pope said no, this crusade was for the Pope, not for kings. The Crusade went south to Egypt, following the original plan of the Fourth Crusade. In 1218, the Crusaders made an alliance with the Seljuk sultan Kay Kaus I, and attacked the port of Damietta in Egypt. There was a long siege, in which many people on both sides died of disease. In 1219, the Crusaders did finally manage to capture Damietta, but then they immediately began to fight among themselves over who would be in charge there.

In 1221, the Crusaders marched towards Cairo, to try to take over more of Egypt, but the Ayyubids just used the Nile River to flood all the roads, trapping the Crusaders. The Crusaders had to make peace in order to get out. They gave Damietta back to the Ayyubids and went home.

Sixth Crusade:

The Sixth Crusade Soon after the failure of the Fifth Crusade, Friedrich II, the Holy Roman Emperor, decided he would try his luck on Crusade, since he hadn't been allowed to go on the last one.
Friedrich marched on Acre, in Syria. But not everyone supported him. The political problems between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines that had troubled Friedrich at home continued to be a problem in Syria.

Then Friedrich got an offer from al-Kamil, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt. Al-Kamil wanted to put his brother in power in Syria. He would hand over Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem to Friedrich in exchange for help from Friedrich's army. Friedrich agreed, and crowned himself King of Jerusalem in 1229 AD.
But only a few months later Friedrich had to go home to Germany because of problems there. He left Jerusalem without an army to protect it. The truce held for a while, as the Ayyubids got weaker and weaker. But in 1244, the Mamluks, who were rising into power in West Asia, took Jerusalem.

Seventh Crusade:

The Seventh Crusade The Seventh Crusade was not started by any Pope, but by King Louis IX of France, who became known later as Saint Louis because of his great devotion to God. After the Mamluks took Jerusalem in 1244 AD, Louis announced his Crusade (in 1245). Louis raised money from church tithes and then sailed to Cyprus in 1248 (when he was 34 years old).

From Cyprus, Louis attacked and took the port of Damietta in Egypt, which had caused so much trouble in the Fifth Crusade. The Ayyubids were very weak now and could not stop him. Using Damietta as a base, Louis then attacked Cairo, but the Mamluks arrived and defeated him. Louis was taken prisoner, and to get him back the French had to pay a lot of gold and give Damietta back.

Louis and his army left for Acre (AH-ker) in Syria. In Acre, he tried to negotiate with the Mongols to get their help against the Mamluks, but the Mongols weren't interested. By 1254, Louis (now forty years old) had run out of money. Also, his mother, Blanche of Castile, died. She had been ruling France while Louis was away, and with her dead Louis had to go home and take charge.

Eighth Crusade:

The Eighth Crusade After Louis IX of France had gotten France organized, following the death of his mother, Blanche, he wanted to try another Crusade. The Seventh Crusade, which Louis led, had ended in failure in 1254 AD, so in 1270, when he was 56 years old, Louis tried again. But he started by going to Tunis, to get a base in North Africa. At Tunis plague struck his camp, and Louis himself died of it. That was the end of the eighth and last Crusade.

And the 'Kingdom of heaven' continued to be ruled by Musilms till 1917. In 1917, during World War I, Jerusalem was captured by British forces under Gen. Edmund Allenby.

The rest as they say is History!