Multicultural Empires and the New World
Western Governors’ University
A.1. Origins of the Crusades
Parts of the Middle East fell under the Seljuk Turks’ authority because they were so powerful. Because of their power, they were difficult to control. The Turks gained control over Baghdad in 1055, which was then part of Persia. They then took control over the remainder of Persia and Syria. They launched an attack on the Byzantine nation of Armenia. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks overthrew the Egyptian Muslim dynasty who ruled Jerusalem, which put the Holy Land into different hands. The Turks were outnumbered but they were experienced warriors and tough. They defeated the Byzantines and captured the emperor at the battle of Manzikert of 1071. The Byzantines were so weak that they could not stop the Turks, so their land and important cities continued to be conquered. The Greek Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118 C.E.) was alarmed by the swift land intrusion of the Turks. The people were concerned that the Seljuk Turks would reject entry by Christians into Jerusalem. They knew that the Turks wanted to make their sacred pilgrimage journeys into the Holy Land to gain salvation and they feared the fall of the Byzantine Empire. This could allow more threats from the Turks and it would fall into an unfriendly people. Without help, Alexius knew that he would never be able to drive them out entirely and regain control of the Byzantine lands. Alexius called on his enemy, Pope Urban II (1088-1099 C.E), in hopes that he would aid him in taking back the lands by building an army. The Emperor wanted simple military assistance, but the pope declared a Holy War much to the Emperor’s anger. The pope then decided to summon a council in Clermont, France to handle numerous religious matters including, taking back the Holy Land from the Muslim Turks. The pope also wanted to re-incorporate the Eastern Orthodox Church back into the Catholic Church. There were three hundred people who attended the council, which consisted of bishops, abbots, lords, and kings. There was a great response to the pope’s wish of taking back the Holy Land. In 1095, because of the overwhelming response, the pope was motivated to create an army of Christian knights from Western Europe who waged a religious war against the Muslims in Jerusalem in an attempt to recover the holy land. The war was known as a Holy War, or crusade. After accomplishing their goal in the First Crusade in 1099 with the reclamation of Jerusalem, the Christian knights created many Latin Christian states. A continuous threat from the Muslims, with thousands slaughtered, to wage holy war or Jihad to reclaim power throughout the region, were against the knights; however, the Knights did most of the slaughtering of civilians. The Third Crusade ended in 1204, with weakening relations amongst the Crusaders and their Christian allies in the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople (Acrobatiq, 2017).