The Crusades

Dieu le veut!

"Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius."Translation 
-Arnaud Amalricnote 

The Crusades were a series of military campaigns that took place between the 11th and 13th centuries against the Muslims, or Saracens, to reconquer the Holy Land (other conflicts, such as the campaigns against the Moors in Spain, the Baltic pagans, or even the Albigensian heretics, were occasionally styled "crusades", but in the popular mind, it is the Palestinian campaigns that dominate). The immediate cause was the petition from the Byzantine Roman Emperor Alexios I to Pope Urban II for help against the Muslim conquests in the Byzantine Empire. Less directly, Alexios' request was a somewhat delayed response to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and to the ongoing campaigns of Norman lords based in southern Italy against Constantinople's holdings in the Balkans. Manzikert was symptomatic of the Byzantines' major problem to the East—the arrival and rise of the Turks, who had upset the balance of power that had existed between the Empire and the Arabs for over 200 years. The Normans for their part were to the Byzantines emblematic of Catholic Christendom's small-mindedness and stupidity—attacking the only thing keeping the ascendant Turks from rampaging all over a completely unprepared Europe. The Emperor (or someone in his court) conceived an idea: Why not turn these bloodthirsty, land-hungry Normans (and their equally uncouth Catholic friends) against the Turks? Hence the letter to the Pope, who in turn considered all sorts of angles to convince the Normans—whom he also disliked, since the Normans had kidnapped his predecessor and were generally wreaking havoc in Italy as well—to fight the Turks. Eventually, the Pope got windnote  of a Turkish provocation to all Christendom—the Turks had just (re)taken Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and being a more itchily pious lot than the Fatimids, they tended to treat Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem poorly (as opposed to the Fatimids, who were more like "as long as you keep the gold flowing, we don't care what you do").note  This gave the Pope an idea: sell this war as a kind of armed pilgrimage, with the holy aim of "bringing the Cross to Jerusalem." After all, "Bring the Cross to Jerusalem" is a much better slogan than "Save the Greek Empire".

These wars and their associated events had a powerful and lasting effect, despite the fact that the Crusaders left Palestine by the fourteenth century. The Western Catholics, who already had something of a taste for Eastern luxuries, got even more of a taste for them after living in the East for a while—and the Italians, who ferried them between Western Europe and the Levant, got massive experience in sailing (which helped in the 15th century craze for exploration, and we all know where that led) and Middle Eastern trade contacts up the wazoo (which gave the Italian city-states the means to fund The Renaissance once The Black Death was over).note  The Crusades also led to the development of Catholic "just war" theory, and reintroduced the idea of a Church Militant to the West—which promptly turned it on the East, when the Teutonic Knights went and conquered/converted the Baltic (giving the side effect of completing the Christianization of Europe).note  The Muslim world, which had long been locked in a period of infighting, got something to unite it; the end result was larger, stronger Muslim states, and—with Saladin's conquest of the Fatimid Empire—the end of Shiism as a significant political force for the next three hundred years (when the Safavids converted Iran). And as for Byzantium—well, scroll down to see what the Fourth Crusade did to them.

Naturally, the movement extended to a much bigger and more complex set of conflicts. Although religious fervour was certainly a big factor, the motives, progress, and effects of the various Crusades are deeper and more various than most people think, so perhaps you are better off reading The Other Wiki (among other places) if you want to know more. Nevertheless, here is an overview of the more important crusades―the first through the fifth, which had the approval and blessing of the then reigning Popes, to get you started.

  • The First Crusade: In 1096, after Pope Urban II had called for military action at the Council of Clermont in central France, the mainly Norman and Lombard Crusader forces, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemond of Taranto, his nephew Tancred, Raymond of Toulose and other noblemen, after being warily received in Constantinople and pledging to restore lost territories to the Byzantines, sailed to Anatolia and began conquering the Seljuk-occupied land. All the while being faced by grave deprivation of food and water, they reached Jerusalem in 1099; the city refused to surrender and a lengthy siege began, with Jews and Muslims fighting side by side to repel the attackers, the native Christians having been expelled from the city before the siege. After the city was taken, the soldiers massacred all inhabitants of a city that refused to lay down arms (so that, we are told, their horses waded in blood up to the fetlocks), though some commanders managed to control their men and allowed the remaining citizens to surrender. Still, much of the city was destroyed and most of its civilian inhabitants were killed or expelled. Afterwards, the consolidation of the crusader states was completed, with the barons dividing the territory of Palestine (or as they called it, Outremer ― the "Land Beyond the Sea") among them. Godfrey of Bouillon became the first "Frankish" ruler of Jerusalem, though refusing the crown and title of a King and preferring to be known merely as "Defender of the Holy Sepulcher".
  • The Second Crusade: Initially the Muslim leaders did not do anything about the Crusaders, as they had internal conflicts to deal with, and a period of relative calm followed in the Holy Lands between the Muslim and Christian population. Eventually, however, Muslim forces under Zengi, the Turkish Atabeg ("Viscount", more or less) of Mosul (in what is now northern Iraq) finally organized and retook the city of Edessa in 1144; a second crusade was launched to defend the new kingdoms. They had great success in the Mediterranean but failed to win any major battles in Palestine. King Louis VII of France and the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II returned to their countries (although not before Louis led a completely futile and idiotic attack on Damascus—one of the few Arab allies of the Crusaders). This crusade was enlivened by the spectacle of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the wife of the King of France, conducting with her ladies-in-waiting a sort of pageant of "women-warriors" (as well as being accused of carrying on an affaire with her uncle(!), Raymond of Antioch).
  • The Third Crusade: Also known as the Crusade of the Three Kings. After the Second Crusade had ended, Turkish emir Nur ad-Din, Zengi's son, took control of Damascus, unified Syria, and subjected Egypt to his rule. When Nur ad-Din died in 1174, his general in Egypt, the Kurd Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, better known as Saladin, seized power and became his successor. Now commanding a unified Muslim front, Saladin defeated the King of Jerusalem's army in 1187 at the Battle of Hattin, conquered Acre, and headed towards Jerusalem itself; the city, not being able to stand against Saladin's army, surrendered after being put under siege. The fall of Jerusalem after it had been nearly a century in Christian hands caused widespread alarm across Europe, and a new Crusade was called to retake her. King Richard I "The Lion-Hearted" of England and King Philip II "Augustus" of France suspended their war with each other and joined the crusade. Frederick I "Barbarossa" of the Holy Roman Empire also answered the call, but his crusade was cut short when he drowned in the River Saleph in Turkey on his way to Outremer; a tiny fraction of his army straggled on under the command of Leopold, Archduke of Austria. Philip and Richard arrived in Acre in 1190 and 1191 respectively (Richard having paused along the way to be married and to conquer Cyprus) and recaptured the city. However, after a falling-out in the Crusader leadership (Richard had jilted Philip's sister, threw Leopold's banner off the walls of Acre, and was supposedly complicit in the assassination of the King of Jerusalem), Philip and Leopold left the Holy Land, while Richard carried on the campaign, defeating Saladin again at Arsuf and Jaffa. However, it became apparent to Richard that he would not be able to hold Jerusalem with his remaining forces; moreover, Philip, back in Europe, was already plotting against him with Richard's brother, John. Richard therefore reached an agreement with Saladin which allowed unarmed Christian pilgrims into the city, and afterwards pulled back his army and set forth to England. As ill-luck would have it, he was forced to make his way home through the domains of Leopold of Austria — where he was recognized, seized, and held ransom in the castle of Dürrenstein by Leopold and his overlord, Barbarossa's son, the Emperor Henry VI.
  • The Fourth Crusade: In 1199, Pope Innocent III initiated another crusade to save the remaining Christian territories in the Holy Land through Egypt. After the failure of the Third Crusade, his call was largely ignored by the most powerful monarchs of the time, who were preoccupied in their own conflicts with each other. Nonetheless, those crusaders who heeded his call assembled in Venice, which had offered ships to transport them. However, the Venetians refused to transport the soldiers until the latter had paid in full, as the Venetians had devoted great expenses to preparing the expedition. The famous blind Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, perceived an opportunity to use the crusaders to crush the city of Zara, which had rebelled against Venice. The papal legate reluctantly authorized this, deeming it necessary to prevent the failure of the Crusade, but when Pope Innocent found out, he was alarmed and forbade the attack against fellow Christians under threat of excommunication; it nonetheless duly took place anyway. To make matters worse, one of the crusade leaders, Boniface of Montferrat, had left Venice earlier to meet with the son of the recently deposed Byzantine emperor Isaakios II Angelos, Alexios IV Angelos, who offered money, ships, and men to help the crusaders — if Boniface and his men would in turn sail to Byzantium and topple the reigning emperor Alexios III Angelos (brother and usurper of Isaakios II, and thusly the uncle of Alexios IV). This unsavory bargain ended in the infamous sacking of Constantinople in 1204, marking the definitive point where the crusades lost their original intent and making the schism between western and eastern Christianity all but absolute. Following crusades would be largely engineered by monarchs more for political than religious motivations; by the end of it almost none of the Fourth Crusade reached the Holy Land and the Pope excommunicated everyone who participated in it.
  • The Fifth Crusade: Sometimes divided into two different crusades, this began in 1217, when crusader forces from Austria and Hungary joined with John I of Jerusalem. Their remarkable early success was reversed when their foolhardy attempt to capture Cairo in July of 1221 failed, resulting in an eight-year truce with the Egyptians. In 1228 the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (called Stupor Mundi, "Wonder of the World") landed in Palestine; through a spectacularly unexpected coup of diplomacy, he reached a peace agreement with the ruler of Egypt and seized the rule of Christian Jerusalem for himself. A section of the kingdom, including Nazareth and Bethlehem as well as the Christian parts of the Holy City itself, was delivered to the crusaders for a period of ten years ― until some Muslims who were not content with their leaders' decision to allow the crusaders back into Jerusalem put the city under siege and expelled the remaining Christian forces in 1244. This is the last time the crusaders would maintain any actual control of Jerusalem itself.

Tropes associated with the Crusades:

  • Anticlimax: In the Third Crusade, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, already known as a Badass for his leadership in many wars in Italy, marched an army of many thousands from Germany to southern Turkey — and drowned in a one foot deep river (his armor was too heavy for him to get up and he may also have had a heart attack simultaneously).
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: This was what a sizable portion, maybe even the majority, of the First Crusade and especially the preceding Peoples' Crusade was (or devolved into at any rate), and especially the later ones. Prior to the Crusade many of these fellows spent their time robbing and stealing and pillaging each other; much of the violence in the First Crusade was basically them doing in the Middle East what they normally did in Europe. Some historians have posited that a big reason the Pope announced the Crusade is that he feared they would sooner or later get round to sacking Rome, and so directed them against the Saracen aggressor to put their impulses to more constructive use. He promised them pardon for all past sins, but even he was pretty horrified by their behaviour (this included sacking Byzantine cities, i.e. the the people they were supposed to be rescuing from Muslim invaders), and it's debatable how much this pardon affected their actions.
    • Given that actual repentance is needed - i.e. for the absolution of sins by a priest to hold, one must sincerely repent - it doesn't seem likely that this pardon would do anything.
      • While theologically correct, your point comes from the point of view of a Roman Catholic who actually knows their religion. For these guys, it was a different story.
    • They actually did sack Rome—the Normans under Robert Guiscard around 1060. So, needless to say, Urban had very good reason to fear this.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In his chronicle on the First Crusade, Albert of Aix comments on the cannibalism at Ma'arra with the incomparable line: "The Christians did not shrink from eating not only killed Turks or Saracens, but even dogs!"
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: This was a justification some used to persuade others to go on a crusade, killing another Christian was a sin but, but killing Muslims that were seen as enemies of Christianity to free the holy land would actually be held as a noble cause that would get one forgiven for their sins. This however, did not stop Crusaders from killing Arab or Byzantine Christians eventually.
  • Ax-Crazy: Raynald of Chatillon
    • Andronikos I of the Byzantine Empire
    • Isaakios Komnenos of Cyprus (a foe of Richard the Lion-Hearted)
  • Badass Princess: Marie de Courtenay, a daughter of the would-be Latin Emperor Pierre de Courtenay and his wife, Yolande of Flanders (sister of the deceased Latin Emperors Baldwin I and Henry). Sent as a peace offering to her family's enemy, Theodoros Laskaris, emperor of Nikaia, Marie convinced him to make peace with the Latin Empire at a time when it was at its most vulnerable. When her husband died in 1221, Marie went to join her brother, Robert, now the emperor in Constantinople. Robert died in 1228, leaving Marie as "Empress Regent" for their eleven-year-old brother, Baldwin II. Marie, who was herself still only about twenty-five years old, ruled ably for eight months until her own death.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Played straight in the First Crusade. Godfrey of Bouillon, the later King of Jerusalem, was ambushed by a Syrian brown bear in Anatolia while hunting, and he only miracolously escaped with his life, later being incapacitated for weeks. It later added strength to the legends surrounding him.
  • Big Bad: Kaloyan of Bulgaria was arguably this for the Fourth Crusade.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Several examples:
    • In 1206, the remants of the Crusader army under Henry of Flanders, newly-crowned emperor of Constantinople, coming to the rescue of 20,000 Greeks taken prisoner by Kaloyan, khan of Bulgaria.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: As historian Thomas Madden has stated, it is increasingly difficult for a person of a 'modern' secular mindset to understand the origins, codes of warfare, and for the most part deeply sincere spiritual beliefs that motivated Crusader and Muslim alike. Most pop culture and TV history boils several hundred years of conflict down to, "religion is bad because it makes people kill each other." Obviously, there was a lot more to it than that.
  • Cain and Abel: The Komnenoi Imperial Family basically slaughtered itself into near-extinction, but a direct example of this trope were Alexios III and Isaakios II.
    • Subverted by their arch-nemeses: Ivan Asen I, Teodor-Kalopetar, and Kaloyan of Bulgaria. So long as the three brothers were together, they were almost unstoppable. The Byzantines tried multiple times to get the brothers to turn on one another, to no avail. Apparently, a trio of part-Bulgar, part-Kuman barbarian warlords could understand filial devotion, even if the Byzantine Emperor himself could not.
  • Church Militant: Examples include The Knights Hospitallers, The Knights Templar, and The Teutonic Knights.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The Byzantine court. FULL STOP.
    • Really, most of the courts were this to some degree. The Muslim world was absolutely fascinated by the (Christian) Kingdom of Jerusalem because succession *didn't* feature the entire kingdom plunging into chaos as everybody struggled for control. Considering things like their own track record and that of the Eastern Romans, they had good reason for it.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Frederick Barbarossa, leader of the Third Crusade. See Anticlimax above.
  • Enemy Mine: Most of the Christians (French, Greeks, German, English...) and Muslims (Syrians, Turks, Egyptians...) did not like each other, but had to band together to fight the other side. Played best by the Hashassin, Muslim fanatics that even allied at some point with the Crusaders to fight off Saladin.
    • In 1109, two powerful Muslim lords, Chavli of Mosul and Radwan of Aleppo, quarreled. At the same time, Tancred of the Galilee and Baldwin of Le Bourcq (future king of Jerusalem) were at each other's throats. So Tancred and Radwan teamed up to take on their co-religionists, Chavli and Baldwin (who had assistance from Joscelin de Courtenay). The Tancred/Radwan team won the day.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Richard the Lionheart. Frederick Barbarossa was Christendom's White Knight, leader of a Power Trio of European warrior-kings. Richard was actually the least well-known of the three at the time. Frederick's death in a freak accident before the Third Crusade could really get off the ground meant someone had to step in and take a leadership role...and in the process, become legend.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Daughters: Isaakios of Cyprus, a despot so evil that he was accused of murdering his wife and son and everyone thought it sounded like something he'd do, broke down and surrendered when Richard the Lion-Hearted captured his beloved daughter.
  • First Installment Wins: Averted; the Third Crusade tends to be the most famous, thanks to Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.
  • Five-Man Band: For the First Crusade...
    • The Hero: Raymond of St. Gilles, the all around leader of the First Crusade, he would step aside and become the Lancer to Godfrey after the latter won the Siege of Jerusalem
    • The Lancer: Bohemond of Antioch, leader of the Normans and constant rival to Raymond
    • The Big Guy: Robert of Flanders, was given the position of the vanguard of the Crusaders
    • The Smart Guy: Gaston le Croise of Bearn, the more philosophical and diplomatic minded member of the Crusaders, although a veteran of the wars in Spain and a capable military leader in his own right
    • The Chick: Adhemar of Le Puy, a priest sent by the Pope to accompany the Crusaders as Spiritual Leader who tried to keep the Crusade leaders united... until his untimely death
    • Sixth Ranger: Godfrey of Bouillon, would become the Hero after Jerusalem was captured
    • Token Evil Teammate: Tancred of Galilee, another Norman knight. He was kept in check by Bohemond until he became his own ruler...
      • The only thing "evil" about Tancred was that he hated the Byzantines and opposed them whenever he could. He was one of the only crusaders to even attempt to save the lives of Muslims when Jerusalem fell.
    • Tagalong Kid: Robert Curthose of Normandy, disgraced at home in England, despite being the son of the famed William the Conqueror, his contribution to the crusade was rather minor and consisted of only himself and a small guard
    • Crutch Character: Hugh of Vermandois, one of the early crusaders, an ineffective soldier and leader but with a sizable army. He left the Crusade and returned home after a few battles before the Crusaders reached Jerusalem.
    • Early-Bird Cameo: Baldwin of Edessa, Godfrey's younger brother, who would have qualified for The Smart Guy if he had stayed with the Crusaders. Instead he campaigned with the Crusaders only for a bit before marching his army to the east and becoming Count of Edessa. He would later return to Jerusalem and become it's first real king...
    • Eleventh Hour Ranger: Guglielmo Embriaco, who appeared out of nowhere during the Siege of Jerusalem with siege engines.
  • The Evil Prince: Alexios III Angelos. Exiled by the Ax-Crazy Andronikos I, he spent several years wandering around the Crusader and Muslim states in the Middle East before being recalled to Constantinople by his brother, Isaakios II, who had deposed Andronikos and become emperor. Isaakios adored Alexios, heaped him with honors, and refused to hear a bad word spoken about him. Alexios repaid his brother by ambushing him, putting his eyes out, imprisoning him, and commandeering his throne.
  • Fanon: The idea that Raynald of Chatillon ever raped Saladin's sister. Raynald was without a doubt a sadistic bastard, but no contemporary sources, even the Muslim ones which could be expected to cast him in the worst possible light, ever accuse him of raping Saladin's sister. It is known that Raynald raided some of Saladin's caravans and held the merchants hostage, and that in response Saladin sent troops to watch over his sister as she returned from her pilgrimage to Mecca. The two events seem to have become conflated with rape added on top.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Alexios I Komnenos' call for help from the West resulted in the Crusades.
  • Gone Horribly Right: That call for help? It's believed the Emperor only intended to ask for a contingent of Western mercenaries to bolster the Byzantine army.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The Fourth Crusade, for so many reasons. What began with the crusaders intervening in what they thought would be a relatively easily resolved dynastic squabble at Constantinople turned into them taking over the entire Byzantine Empire and completely gouging Constantinople of all its wealth. The crusaders never even tried to fulfill their original goal of taking Egypt and Palestine, and controlling Constantinople only detracted funds and soldiers away from the cause of keeping a Christian foothold in Palestine. In the long term, although eventually the Byzantines would regain control over Constantinople, the empire would remain weakened and shattered and impoverished, vulnerable to enemies like the Ottoman Turks, who'd eventually take over much of eastern Europe.
  • The Good King: Saladin was famous among all rulers for his religious tolerance and humane treatment of prisoners and occupied peoplesnote . Richard The Lionheart is also usually portrayed this way.
    • Henry (Hendrik) of Flanders, who became emperor of Constantinople after his brother Baldwin was defeated in battle by Kaloyan and hauled off to a mysterious fate in a Bulgarian dungeon. Notably the only Latin Emperor to be respected by his Greek subjects (they called him "Emperor Ares" because of his martial prowess) Henry kept the Latin Empire going decades longer than it might have otherwise.
    • Godfrey of Bouillon would be an example but he refused to ever take the title of King of Jerusalem insisting that only no man could be crowned king in the city where Christ was crowned. He's essentially made into an idealized figure by most chroniclers of the crusades and made a hero in a number of epic poems.
      • Most of these cases are examples of Historical Hero Upgrade. Saladin, Richard, and Godfrey all engaged in acts that would be considered monstrous today. While Saladin in particular is remembered for his tolerance and humane treatment, he behaved in such way only when it suited him. After the Battle of the Horns of Hattin, Saladin had one hundred to two hundred Templars and Hospitallers executed by Sufis and Islamic scholars, men for the most part unfamiliar in the use of weapons, leading to clumsy, agonizing deaths for many of the prisoners. Saladin, by his own admission, intended to sack Jerusalem, and only abstained from doing so when the commander of Jerusalem, Balian of Ibelin, threatened to destroy the Islamic Holy Places and execute thousands of Muslim prisoners. Earlier, before he began his conquest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he put down a Sudanese revolt in Egypt by burning down their quarter of Cairo...with their women and children still inside their homes. After the Sudanese troops surrendered, he promised them safe passage up the Nile, only to have them massacred when they left Cairo in smaller, disorganized groups. Godfrey, of course, was one of the leaders of the brutal sack of Jerusalem. Richard executed 2700 Muslim prisoners at one point during the Third Crusade.
  • Handicapped Badass: Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the "Leper King", as his nickname implies, suffered with leprosy throughout his life; nevertheless, he did not let this prevent him from fulfilling the role of a tough young warrior-king. He was only 13 when crowned, won a decisive victory over Saladin at sixteen at the Battle of Montisgard, and is often portrayed sympathetically in works related to him.
    • Also the Magnificent Bastard Enrico Dandolo, doge of Venice, who was past sixty and completely blind when he pointed the Fourth Crusade like a missile at the Byzantine Empire.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Godfrey de Bouillon occasionally appears, but the big star is Richard the Lionheart, followed by his opponent Saladin.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kaloyan of Bulgaria offered to ally with the Fourth Crusade against their common enemy, the Byzantine emperor Alexios III. The Crusader lords dismissed him coldly as a minor barbarian warlord. This ended up being a very, very bad idea.
  • Idiot Ball: Passed between Christian and Muslim leaders like a game of Hot Potato.
  • Just the First Citizen: When Godfrey of Bouillon established the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he took the title "Defender of the Holy Sepulchre" rather than King, declaring that only Christ had the right to call Himself King in the Holy Land. His successors were neither as devout or as particular as he was...
  • Kill 'em All: How the First Crusade ended. When the Crusaders took Jerusalem, after six months of grueling marching and a month-long siege, by the end of which they were hungry, tired, and just generally pissed off, pent-up fanatical bloodlust took over and they slaughtered just about every living thing inside the city walls that wasn't them.
    • Pretty much the same thing happened to the citizens of Acre after the muslim Mamluks finally took over the city.
  • Knight Templar: Both sides had people that were willing to do whatever it took to achieve victory, but really that's standard mediæval fare. It's also where the original Knights Templar come from.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Many, but special props should go to:
    • Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, a reluctant Crusader king who took Jerusalem without a fight, despite being excommunicated twice. He put the crown on Jeruselem on his own head because the Catholic authorities refused to participate in the coronation.
    • Enrico Dandolo, the aged and blind doge of Venice, who had a planet-sized grudge against the Byzantines and hijacked a Crusader army to take his revenge in true Bond villain fashion.
    • The brothers Mikhael and Theodoros Angelos Doukas, who carved out their own principality in Epiros in the wake of the devastation of the Fourth Crusade, and made Epiros a force to be reckoned with in the region. Theodoros also lured the would-be Latin Emperor, Pierre de Courtenay (brother-in-law to the deceased Latin Emperors Baldwin I and Henry, and father of the future emperors Robert and Baldwin II) into an ambush, destroyed his army, and took the guy prisoner, using nothing more than his charm and Pierre's naivety.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: After the capture of Ma'arra in Syria in the First Crusade, the crusader army was so beset by famine that they turned to eat the bodies of the dead Muslims.
  • Outside-Context Villain: By around 1250, the Muslim forces had soundly defeated and driven back the Christian forces. The shaky alliance of European monarchs had fallen apart, and there was little chance of them getting their acts together to mount another Crusade any time soon. There would be no further significant threat from the west. Unfortunately, during the two bloody centuries before, nobody had really been paying attention to what was happening further east. Cue the Mongol Horde. Of course, historians point out that the Crusaders had drained the region significantly of its manpower and left it vulnerable to an attack from the East. The Crusades essentially marked the end of the Arab Golden Age, culminating in Hugelu Khan's sack of Baghdad and the destruction of the House of Wisdom.
  • Pirates: Raynald of Chatillon's Red Sea fleet, which threatened Mecca itself at some point. In reality, Mecca was under no real threat and it was unlikely that Raynald's fleet was actually targeting it. However, the existence of a Christian fleet operating in Arabian waters close to Islam's holiest city raised fears of this.
  • Power Trio: The leaders of the Third Crusade:
  • Professional Killer: The Hashashins (whence the word "assassin" comes from) were a semi-religious sect that held a few independent territories next to the area of conflictnote ; the name is derived from the "hashish" with which their legendary leader, Rashid ad-Din Sinan, the "Old Man of the Mountain", supposedly brainwashed them and bound them to his will. Their preferred method of dealing with anyone who might threaten them (Muslim or Christian) was quietly disposing of him by means of well-planned assassinations or by leaving a dagger next to his bed to let the target know that he should really leave them alone.
    • Not quite the same as modern career killers, as an Hashashin's career would comprise exactly one kill (their favored modus operandi involved a highly public assassination in which the assassin would definitely be killed).
    • They also worked as deep cover agents, trained in languages and politics for infiltrating enemy organizations.
    • The sect was feared enough that their fortress in Masyaf was assaulted and the members killed or scattered sometime after the third crusade. Yes, most of Assassin's Creed is historically accurate.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Subverted and played straight in an interesting anecdote. Saladin captured a number of Crusader princes, one of whom, Raynald of Châtillon, had even more of a reputation for Rape, Pillage, and Burn then most warlords(on either side) had not only had Raynald harried the Muslims, he had once tortured the Christian Patriarch of Jerusalem. Saladin passed around water, which was a symbol and each drank as a sign that the captor had pledged his protection. When it got to the hapless Raynald, Saladin said "I did not give him permission to drink" and then swiped his head off.
    • Before killing him, Saladin offered him a chance to convert to Islam, which Raynald refused. It was unlikely Saladin expected Raynald to accept, and Raynald likely knew the consequences his refusal. So it probably didn't come as much of a surprise to Raynald.
  • Save The Crusaders: When the remnants of the French and German armies reached Attalia in 1147, those who could pay the exorbitant prices charged by the Greeks did so and took ship to Antioch. The poor, the sick, and the injured were left behind in the care of locals, who promptly abandoned their charges and even told the local Turks where they where, fully expecting the Turks to finish them off. When the Turks saw what a sorry state they were in, they took the Crusaders in and fed and cared for them. Odo of Deuil, a historian and participant of the Second Crusade, notes with astonishment that more than 3,000 of the Crusaders, traumatized by the cruelty of fellow Christians, willingly converted to Islam and went to live with the Turks.
  • Seasonal Rot: As the Crusades progressed, most of the religious fervor died out. Most "Crusaders" by the late stages of the conflict were actually simple mercenaries and adventurers that were more interested in glory and loot than they were about defending what was left of the Christian kingdoms in the Levant or recapturing the holy places.
    • Culminated during an event in which a band of hastily recruited Italian crusaders went on a rampage of sacking and pillaging in the city Acre, the capital of the Christian kingdom by then, against both Christian and Muslims citizens with only the Templars putting a stop it, nonetheless that incident was enough to give the Mamluk sultan the justification he wanted to conquer the city.
  • The Siege: Quite a few. The most notable are probably the one that gave Jerusalem to the Crusaders in the First Crusade, and the one that gave the same city to Saladin later.
    • Another important siege was the Fall of Acre which marked the end of the crusades in the Levant. In contrast to the "peaceful" surrender of Jerusalem, Acre choose to fight to the last man against a large Mamluk army, which slaughtered everyone who did not mange to escape trough the city's harbour.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • Byzantium—aka Basileia ton Romaion, the Empire of the Romans. Oddly enough, it was actually experiencing a minor renaissance under the Komnenoi and was actually getting stronger between the First and Third Crusades, but the Fourth Crusade put the kibosh on that.
    • Even after its namesake city was recaptured by Saladin in 1187, the Kingdom of Jerusalem lingered along the Palestinian coast for a little more than a century. After even that was lost, the royal court relocated to Cyprus, where they continued to rule until the island was essentially sold to the Venetians in the late 15th century.
  • What an Idiot: In an era of amazing leadership and brilliant strategy, there were numerous occasions when leaders suffered from holding the Idiot Ball. Examples include sacking an allied city for no apparent reason, getting lost on the way to the war, and marching a force to attack Saladin's army in the middle of a desert. In heavy armor. In the middle of the day. With no water. The dehydrated and exhausted army was summarily defeated, resulting in the capture of Reynold de Chatillon.
  • Worthy Opponent: Even though he was the Muslim leader, Saladin was highly respected by King Richard and many of the crusaders fighting against him (and vice versa).

Works dealing with, or set in the era of the Crusades:

  • Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott, features Orlando Bloom as a French blacksmith who enlists in a crusader army to the defend the now conquered city of Jerusalem from the Saracen leader Saladin. It's not exactly historically accurate, but that's pretty much a given, and it's (relatively) fair to those involved. At least, it only demonizes the people who everybody agrees were jerkasses in real life (*Cough* Raynald of Châtillon *Cough*).
    • The main problem with this movie is that it made the Knights Templar the main villains of the piece, while in reality most of the people who were Knights Templar in that movie, weren't in real life.
  • Nearly all versions of Robin Hood have King Richard I out fighting the Crusades, leaving his no-good brother Prince John in charge. In some versions (Kevin Costner's Prince of Thieves, for example), Robin himself is a Crusader.
  • King Richard and the Crusaders, from 1954 pits a knight of the Third Crusade not against the Muslims, but against the corrupt Christian "Castellains," while Saladin is played as a supporting hero by Rex Harrison.
  • Derek Jacobi's crime-solving Benedictine monk Cadfael is a veteran of the First Crusade.

  • Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Set Free) is a poetic version of the First Crusade; the original version included fantasy elements, which Tasso later suppressed, to no good literary effect.
  • Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (and its various film versions — and the opera by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan) and The Talisman (and its film version, unimaginatively re-titled King Richard and the Crusaders); the former features characters who have returned from the Third Crusade, the latter is set actually in the crusade itself. King Richard the Lionheart is prominent in both.
  • Throughout the Requiem series of books by Robyn Young, which follows the fall of the Templars, we see the fall of Acre and the attempts of the Templar Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and Pope Clement V to get another crusade going. They never do.
  • Piers Anthony's For Love of Evil portrays some of the horrors of the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars of southern France.
  • Jan Guillou's Crusades Trilogy focuses on the life of Arn Magnusson, a Swede who is forced to join the Knights Templar as penance. During his service in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, he saves the life of and later befriends Saladin, who saves Arn's life in turn and gives him the means to return to his homeland and establish himself as a force to be reckoned with.
  • Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks is a young adult novel in which the ironically-named Pagan Kidrouk becomes a squire to one of The Knights Hospitallers in the Third Crusade. (In the sequels, Sir Roland returns to his native France, taking Pagan with him, and they eventually get tangled up in the Albigensian crusade as well.)


Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer had a Fantasy Counterpart version. The Skaven (who had been trading services of espionage and assassination for warpstone for the Sultan) convinced Sultan Jaffar (by lying of course) that Estalia is planning to invade Araby and that he should strike first, which he does, conquering the city of Magritta and moving onto Tilea. Two-hundred years of warfare follow in which Bretonnia and the Empire get involved sending thousands of Knights to fight the Arabyans. The Empire's Knights Panther knightly order was founded during the crusades and named after the exotic animal the brought back from Araby. The Skaven disappeared once the tide turns against Jaffar having caused much destruction with not single Skaven casuality.
  • Tabletop Game/((Ars Magica)) takes place in the year 1220 so the crusades (and Reconquista) are an important background event or perhaps even something the characters themselves will take part in.

  • Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing is set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade, with Saladin as one of the main characters.

Video Games
  • Age of Empires II has two campaigns including missions inspired by the Third Crusade: one focused on Saladin, one focused on Frederick I Barbarossa.
  • Assassin's Creed I is set during the Third Crusade. You play as a member of the third side in the conflict, the Hashshins. Again, it isn't much of a historic representation of the period, what with those pesky Templars orchestrating the entire thing in yet another of their Ancient Conspiracy schemes.
    • However, if you look past the conspiracy stuff and the reimagining of the Hashashin sect, the game has a surprisingly amount of historical accuracy (gothic architecture 500 years too early notwithstanding).
  • One of the campaigns in the Kingdoms expansion for Medieval II Total War takes place in the Holy Land after the First Crusade. You can play as the Kingdom of Jerusalem, The Principality of Antioch, The Turks, The Egyptians, or the Byzantine Empire. Focused, of course, around Palestine and Egypt.
    • Oh, and in the main game of Medieval II, if you gain enough favor with the Pope, you can ask a Crusade to be waged on one of your enemies. On the other hand, if you manage to conquer the Papal States, the Pope will launch a Crusade on the Vatican. Look forward to wave after wave of Christian armies marching on you.
      • Only if you're a Catholic or Islamic faction, but if you're playing an Orthodox one, you can conquer Rome without worrying about a Crusade.
  • Crusader Kings. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, especially with Deus Vult expansion.
    • The sequel opens the game's time period, and being an Alternate History game from the second you start playing, the crusades will almost never play out the way they actually did. In fact, you can entreat the Pope to call a Crusade on a non-Catholic realm, or have a rival leader excommunicated and then call a Crusade to take his realm from him.
      • With the Sword of Islam expansion pack, playing as a Muslim leader allows you to call Jihads on any realm with a non-Muslim religion, making them Crusades in all but name. And the Old Gods expansion makes it possible to reform several faiths that historically were marginalized, making them major religions and launching their own holy wars.
  • Dantes Inferno has the crusades and behaviour of crusaders as a major plot point, as Dante was a crusader in his back story.
  • Stronghold Crusader, with both historical campaigns and a skirmish mode featuring opponents such as Saladin and Richard the Lionhearted.
  • If you play with a Catholic State in Knights of Honor the Papal States can request/order your best marshall to head a Crusade, and not complying with this decreases your relationship with the Papal States and other Catholic States immensely. If you play with an Islamic State, the moment you become the least bit powerful, or start conflicts with a Catholic State, Crusades will be called against you.

Western Animation