Greetings, my friends! Welcome back to my old blog--Saint George Academy! Or simply welcome, if you are new.
Yes, I'm back. But, as it should be, I will be posting a school writing assignment. This one is for the Ron Paul Curriculum, and the Western Civilization class in particular. I'm going to be posting another of these, hopefully tomorrow.
I won't generally put a little introduction like this in front of all my school writing assignments. I just decided to do it for this one, my first post back on Saint George Academy with Grace. I hope you enjoy, or better yet, learn from this little historical work of mine!
The Crusades, taking place in the late 1090s to early 1290s, were the efforts of Western Christians, working with Eastern Christians, to win back the Holy Land, and especially Jerusalem. This much is fairly common knowledge. But beyond this, there are a lot of misconceptions about the Crusades. In this writing assignment, I will play the historian. And historians have an obligation to tell the truth about what they teach.
I will bring up several misconceptions about the Crusades, and address why they are incorrect.
A simple look at history proves otherwise. The Muslims (the Crusaders’ opposition) had taken over two-thirds of the Christian world by the time of the Crusades. Asia Minor—including the important cities of Antioch, Ephesus, and Nicaea—the Middle East, North Africa, and most of Spain had been conquered by the Muslim armies. They had made attempts to conquer France, but were driven back by Charles Martel (an ancestor of my family!).
There was particularly a lot of conflict between the Muslims and Byzantium, also known as Turkey. Things only got worse for them as the Seljuk Turks entered the scene, and became rulers of Islam. At that point, even the uneasy peace that had existed was gone. Christian pilgrimages became very dangerous. Eventually, the Byzantine emperor had to send pleas for help back West, as the Muslims threatened Constantinople (currently Istanbul). Rather than unprovoked aggression, it was an act of self-defense.
#2 – The Crusaders were fixated on wealth.
This is a very silly idea. The Crusades were immensely expensive, and were actually a source of financial ruin for many. People had to sell off or mortgage their lands to raise the money needed. According to recent research, many crusaders were already wealthy landowners, and the Crusades were only going to eat away at that fortune.
A popular theory along these lines is the “Second Sons” theory. Fathers would leave all their lands to their firstborn son as inheritance. The younger sons, who didn’t get any lands, went off on crusades in order to gain lands. However, there is no evidence for this theory. As a matter of fact, it was the “first sons”, the sons that inherited lands, who answered the calls to crusade.
This idea is probably just the product of anti-Christian bias. Muslims living in Crusader states were never forced to give up their religion. In fact, Muslims always outnumbered Catholics in the Crusader State of Jerusalem. The truth of the matter is, almost everybody who went on the Crusades really did go for the reasons they gave—to do penance for their sins and to help their Christian brethren.
This is not true. There was no army of children, no crusade started by little kids. There was just a variety of uprisings and processions. One such uprising centred around a young man from Cologne named Nicholas, around 1212. Since the rich and powerful had apparently failed to take back Jerusalem, he started a mass movement, his own crusade with the peasants of the Western world. He got a lot of people behind him. Unfortunately, his movement came to an end when they came to the sea. He believed it would open before him, showing the way to the Holy Land. It didn’t. After that, most of the people went home, though some went to Rome.
To be honest, if you asked a Muslim in the 17th century about the Crusades, he would have no clue what you were talking about. The Crusades were minor episode—blips—and hardly worth mentioning, from the Muslim perspective. The first Muslim mention of the Crusades in a scholarly work was in 1899, eight hundred years after the First Crusade. Trust me, the Crusades weren’t even on their radar. Not until we modern Westerners started making a big deal about them, anyway.
So there you have it. The Crusades were started and fought for the exact reasons that they said: to aid their Christian brethren in the East, and to retake the Holy Land. And, as they said in their Crusade's battle cry--and ours--"Deus Vult! God wills it!"