Skip to comments.The First Crusade, the true story
Posted on 02/27/2012 12:07:26 AM PST by DeaconBenjamin
Why was there a sudden need to recover the city where Jesus Christ lived and was crucified? The answer, writes Peter Frankopan, lies in the imperial capital of Constantinople.
On November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II stood up at the Council of Clermont in central France to make an important announcement. Persians (by whom he meant the Turks), a people rejected by God, had risen up against the Christians in the East, he said. It was imperative for the knighthood of Europe to rush to defend their brethren. Take up arms, he urged, and defend the faithful who were suffering unspeakable deeds at the hands of the oppressors.
The story of the First Crusade has remained largely the same ever since. The expedition that eventually reached and captured Jerusalem in 1099 was conceived by the pope, who seized the chance to encourage men in Western Europe (above all France) to march to drive the Turks back from major Christian sites. It is a story that was commemorated in chronicles, poems and songs almost as soon as the Crusaders reached the Holy City; and it is a story that has been told for generations ever since.
And yet, underneath this tale of bravery, courage and devotion is the story of what really happened, a story that has been hidden in the mists: In the place of heroism is a tale of deception; in the place of honor is the breaking of some of the most sacred oaths in Christendom. At its heart lies the betrayal of the Byzantine Empire.
The speech made by the pope is so famous that it is rarely asked why he delivered it in the first place. Jerusalem, it should be remembered, fell to the Muslims many centuries before he gave his address. Why now, more than 450 years later, was there a sudden need to recover the city where Jesus Christ lived and was crucified?
The answer lies not in Rome or in Clermont, but in the imperial capital of Constantinople. In fact, it was in the heart of the Byzantine Empire that the expedition to the East was conceived; it was the emperor -- Alexios Komnenos -- who devised the campaign and took control of it; perhaps most importantly, it was specific strategic targets, set by the emperor, that the Crusade was designed to attack.
The reign of Alexios Komnenos is recorded by several texts, the most important of which is the remarkable Alexiad, written by his daughter Anna Komnene. It is an account written in high style, full of subtlety and hidden meanings -- many of which have remained hidden and unidentified since she wrote the text.
But her account has now finally been unraveled. What has emerged can be taken alongside other Byzantine, Arabic, Syriac and Armenian sources to present a startling and new picture of the empire on the eve of the First Crusade.
Rather than being in a healthy position, as has long been assumed, a series of disastrous events took place in and around Constantinople that led Byzantium to the brink of collapse. The emperors immediate family, rather than being a rock he could rely on, turned on him -- his own brothers and relatives joining a conspiracy to depose and if necessary murder him.
If that was not bad enough, major attacks in the Balkans by Serbian opportunists and by nomadic tribesmen increased pressure further still on the embattled ruler. And then in Asia Minor, the empires position simply collapsed.
Although the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 has long enjoyed notoriety for marking the turning point in the Turkish conquest of Anatolia, the moment when Byzantium lost control of the region, evidence from the texts and from lead seals now shows that the apparatus of government remained intact long after this military setback.
As a matter of fact, there are signs that the provincial administration was in good shape long after the supposed defining moment in the history of Asia Minor. Indeed, there were extensive -- and direct -- contacts between Alexios and the Turkish ruler of Baghdad, with much cooperation between the two until the latters death in 1092.
What happened next was catastrophe: Turkish warlords in Nicaea, Smyrna and elsewhere took matters into their own hands, and pushed the empire to the brink of collapse. The Aegean was devastated -- figures like St Christodoulos were forced to abandon their monasteries in Patmos because of incessant raids; suddenly Byzantium was left without even a foothold in the East; Constantinople itself was under threat.
Alexios took a bold decision. He turned to the pope, suggesting an end to the schism between the churches in return for military help. The pope did not need to be asked twice -- and headed straight for his home region, where he was confident of raising men.
To start with, Alexioss gamble paid off. Nicaea was recovered first, followed by a series of other gains in Anatolia. But at Antioch he lost control. One of the leading figures, Bohemond, a handsome but devious fellow, realized that he could benefit personally from the Crusade and set about doing exactly that, insisting that he be given control of substantial territories, including Antioch.
This was not easy, for the knights had given solemn oaths to Alexios as they passed through Constantinople on their way east. The emperor had demanded that the senior figures swear vows to him over some of the most holy Christian relics -- the Holy Cross and the crown of thorns -- that they would hand over any gains they made to him. It was hard to see how these could be conveniently put to one side.
And yet they were. Although many did not agree, Bohemond managed to take Antioch for himself, declaring boldly that his oath was invalid. He then promptly wrote to the pope, accusing Alexios of not doing enough to help the Crusade and of actively conspiring against the best interests of the Christian knights. It was the first salvo of what quickly became a vicious -- and highly effective -- campaign to destroy the reputation of Alexios and in fact of the Byzantine Empire in Western Europe. Neither recovered.
It also resulted in the real origins of the Crusade being concealed. Rather than Alexios and Byzantium being at the heart of the story, contemporary accounts made sure that the focus remained elsewhere -- on the pope and on those brave knights who set off for Jerusalem.
History, they say, is written by the winners. In the case of the First Crusade, it has taken nearly a millennium to show just how true this is. But finally the time has come for Alexios Komnenos to step out of the shadows.
If I remember my history correctly,in June 1099 Crusaders began a five-week siege of Jerusalem, which fell in July 1099.
The preaching of the First Crusade inspired an outbreak of anti-Jewish violence. In parts of France and Germany, Jews were perceived as just as much an enemy as Muslims: they were held responsible for the crucifixion,
People have to be careful with allusions to the Crusades since many of the crusaders had more worldly motives for going east rather than simply defending the faith. And they were tough, brutal men in their own right.
You are very correct!
My brother has visited many Crusader sites in the Middle East. I have helped him in getting the necessary visas for countries.
Why did they pick the middle of summer for the siege is beyond me.
Sure, many Crusaders having broken through after a long siege, lost control and dishonored their oaths. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there still many Crusaders who took the long, dangerous journey with honorable motives.
Sir Raymond of Toulouse, after capturing Jerusalem, was asked if he wished to be crowned the ruler of Jerusalem. He turned it down, saying, “I refused to wear a crown of gold in the city where my Savior wore a crown of thorns.”
None of this is new.
Would it be possible to imagine Jesus Christ leading the Crusades, or calling forth a Crusdade on his behalf?
“.....calling forth a Crusdade on his behalf?”
He did by using the voice of a Pope. n/s
No Eastern Christians were massacred
Contrary to what is sometimes alleged, no eyewitness source refers to Crusaders killing Eastern Christians in Jerusalem, and early Eastern Christian sources (Matthew of Edessa, Anna Comnena, Michael the Syrian, etc.) make no such allegation about the Crusaders in Jerusalem. According to the Syriac Chronicle, all the Christians had already been expelled from Jerusalem before the Crusaders arrived. Presumably this would have been done by the Fatimid governor to prevent their possible collusion with the Crusaders.
The Gesta Francorum claims that on Wednesday August 9, two and a half weeks after the siege, Peter the Hermit encouraged all the "Greek and Latin priests and clerics" to make a thanksgiving procession to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This indicates that some Eastern Christian clergy remained in or near Jerusalem during the siege. In November 1100, when Fulcher of Chartres personally accompanied Baldwin on a visit to Jerusalem, they were greeted by both Greek and Syrian clerics and laity (Book II, 3), indicating an Eastern Christian presence in the city a year later.
Current secular scholarship on the Crusades says that this legend is false. The streets did not run with blood. The “massacre” was hugely exaggerated in the chronicles.
Does that mean the victorious Crusaders were perfect little angels.
But the first rule in historical research is to evaluate sources critically. It is common for accounts of military victories to be exaggerated.
Regarding the massacres of Jews in some times in Germany. This was mob action; the bishops did their best to protect the Jews. Socio-economic issues as well as religious issues were involved.
That will be at his second coming.
It had little to do with religion and more to do with taming the Arab/Persian threat to Europe.
“Muslim invasion of nearby countries was of great concern of the Europeans.”
And now the West welcomes Muslim invasion through its insane immigration system.
Jews, of course, kept records of the locales and families murdered by the Crusades.
Just as now there is a whitewashing of the murder of Jews during the Crusades, there will be ‘serious scholars’ in the future whitewashing the Holocaust.
But the day-by-day facts can be found:
Today in Jewish History
In the early 1070s, the Muslim Turks commenced an offensive against the Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem. Pope Gregory VII offered his help to defend the Greek Christians, but the army he promised never materialized.
In 1095, his successor, Urban II, began to call for a holy war to liberate the Christians in Jerusalem. By the next year, more than 100,000 men had rallied to his call, forming the First Crusade. Urban and the local clergymen in Europe felt that the Crusade had another purpose as well—to annihilate all non-Christians in Europe who refused to convert to Christianity.
On their way to the Holy Land, the mobs of crusaders attacked many Jewish communities. On Shabbat, the 8th of Iyar, the Jews of Speyer (Rhineland-Palatinate), Germany were massacred. Many of the Jews of Worms, Germany were also massacred on this day; some of them took refuge in a local castle for a week before being slaughtered as they recited their morning prayers (see “Today in Jewish History” for Sivan 1).
Link: The First Crusade
Looks like the muzzies and the liberals have much in common.
Christians in the Middle East could use a Pope Urban II these days...
“[A]n account written in high style, full of subtlety and hidden meanings — many of which have remained hidden and unidentified since she wrote the text” is open to divergent interpretations. And I don’t think Byzantium is considered to have been in “a healthy position” at this time either. Where does the author think the phrase “Byzantine” politics came from? Fratricidal brothers and plots upon plots are the modern image of Byzantium.
But it is important to see that even after the schism, the East and West Churches could still work together, even if the alliance was undermined from within by worldly ambition.
The Jeaus bloodline or Davidic bloodline. All the Royal Houses of Europe are of the bloodline.
Back then Primo Genitur had created a large number of Royals who had titles but were landless.They thought that because of their bloodlines they had claims to these lands thru-out the Levant.
Commoners participated because the Pope promised them entry into heaven.
Even today most people consider Steve Runciman's 3volume history of the Crusades to be the authority on the Crusades. The first volume covers the first Crusade and ends with Templers being pushed into the sea.
Spain and southern France had been lost through incompetent defense.
I have visited 3 Crusader sites but didn’t need to go to the Middle East to do so: Karytaina and Chlemoutsi in Greece (built by the Franks after they took Greece from the Byzantine Empire in the Fourth Crusade) and Zadar in Croatia (attacked by the Fourth Crusade at the behest of the Venetians although it was ruled by a Christian ruler, the king of Hungary).
I think we are already in a modern day Crusades. The Muslims fired their first shot on September 11th. Its a modern day Christendom versus Moslem. This time instead of spears it will be bullets and bombs.
To quote the “War Scroll”, “The Sons of Light of Against the Sons of Darkness”. The Sons of Light(Chirstendom) and the Sons of Darkness(Muslim).
Stephen of Bloise fled the siege, to the shame of his wife - the daughter of William the Conqueror. He returned and hoped to do better. The letters between him and his wife are a historic treasure.
William the Carpenter - called that because of the way he used an axe to cleave flesh fled also - and Tancred (later Prince of Galilee) the cousin of Bohemund was sent to bring him back.
The Doge of Venice had the last laugh on Constantinople and the Crusade impulse they had unleashed.
Sorry. The first rule of historical research is NOT to take any source uncritically.
You flunked History 101.
You also flunk FReeper 101. We don’t take things uncritically here. Ask Dan Rather.
Just because you want to believe that the crusaders behaved nobly at the climax of the First Crusade and that the massacre is a myth does not mean that it is so.
And I suppose that you think that the crusaders' sack of Christian Constantinople in 1204 never happened either.
You just flunked reading 101. I said the “massacre” was greatly exaggerated. That the blood did not flow in the streets. That’s the current consensus of historians. I read them. There was a sack. Not as Fulcher described it. If you take every chronicler as telling the literal truth with no critical analysis at all
And you would still be wrong.
There was a sack. Not as Fulcher described it.
Oh, I guess the fact that he was there and saw it first hand doesn't lend any credibility to his account.
Are you dense or just willfully ignorant.
Any intelligent person knows that eyewitness accounts can vary. Historians’ rule no. 1 is to evaluate all sources critically.
Calling me names doesn’t change the fact that you are the one violating the basic FR principle: evaluate things critically.
All I said is that most historians do not take Fulcher literally. They have discovered Muslim eyewitness sources that contradict him.
They are just being historians. You are being obstinate.
In post #34, you were the one who called me a dupe, pal.
All I said is that most historians do not take Fulcher literally. They have discovered Muslim eyewitness sources that contradict him.
Complete BS. Please point out these new Muslim sources that paint the Crusaders as nice guys after they captured Jerusalem.
And you did not answer my question about the sack of Constantinople, which undermines your whole silly assertion.
Dupe is not a name. It describes behavior.
Read Jonathan Riley Smith, Rethinking the Crusades, First Things, 101 (March 2000, 20-23 (www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0003/opinion/riley-smith.html)
and the half-dozen books he’s written. Then read Thomas Madden’s half-dozen books. You’ll find contemporary Muslim accounts that report that about 1/3 the number killed in the sack as compared to accounts written long after the events. You’ll find all the citations in these two historians’ books. They are two of the world’s leading crusade experts.
But your mind is made up. Enjoy your tunnel.