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Useful Notes / The Crusades

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Deus vult!Translation 

"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, most famously against the Muslims, or Saracens, to reconquer the Holy Land, but it also included other conflicts, such as the campaigns against the Moors in Spain as well as pagans in the Baltics, and the Albigensian heretics. The word Crusade is a coinage from a later era. During the era, the expeditions were described as iter or peregrenatio which means pilgrimage. The warriors going to the Holy Land saw their duty as essentially religious in nature, a holy quest to a holy place, defeating and crushing heathens and heretics, earning glory in earth and a place in heaven. The word Crusade comes from croisade which referred to the practice of stitching a cross on garments, a heraldic practice which metaphorically certainly fits the era. Arab historians of the medieval era simply called it "the Frankish Wars" while modern historians returning to the Crusades after their experience with colonialism and Arab nationalism, also call it Crusades (or "campaigns of the cross" or ḥamalāt ṣalībiyya with the word ṣalībiyyūn used to describe Crusaders and Westerners in general).


The immediate cause was the petition from the Eastern Roman Emperor Alexios I to Pope Urban II. 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 under Ismail I). 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 fervor 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.

Levantine Crusades

  • The First Crusade: In 1096, after Pope Urban II had called for military action at the Council of Clermont in central France, the mainly Frankish, Norman and Lombard Crusader forces, led by Bohémond de Hautevillle, his nephew Tancrède, Raymond de Toulouse, Godefroy de Bouillon, 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 Konrad 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 supposedly 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 Philippe II "Augustus" of France suspended their war with each other and joined the crusade. Friederich 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. Philippe 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 Philippe's sister, threw Leopold's banner off the walls of Acre, and was supposedly complicit in the assassination of the King of Jerusalem), Philippe 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, Philippe, 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.
  • The Sixth Crusade: In 1228 the Holy Roman Emperor Friederich 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.
  • The Seventh Crusade: Lasting from 1248 to 1254 under Louis IX of France, this was an utter disaster after Louis and thousands of his troops were captured by the Ayyubid Sultan Turanshah. He was freed after payment of a large ransom. No significant territory changed hands.
  • The Eighth Crusade: In 1270, Louis IX instead tried to attack Tunis, but died shortly after arriving, with his army struck by disease and dispersing quickly back to Europe afterward.
  • The Ninth Crusade: The last crusade, from 1271-1272, saw Edward, son of Henry III of England (the future Edward I of England) attack Acre in Palestine. Despite impressive victories over Baibars, Edward withdraw to England because of pressing concerns at home and inability to resolve the internal conflicts within the remaining Outremer holdings. The crusading zeal was nearly burned out by this point, and with the end of efforts to recapture the Holy Land the last Crusader states fell to the Muslims.

European Crusades

  • The Northern Crusades (1147 - 1240): Eventually successor Popes got the idea, lets call for Crusades against the remaining pagans of Europe and complete the Christianization of Europe. Crusaders traveled into the Baltic countries and mounted campaigns against the Wends. These were led by The Teutonic Knights and other orders such as the Livonians that spun of the Teutons. The success was complete and total, albeit filled with horrific scenes of violence such as the mass suicides of Pilenai where Lithuanian pagans, 4000 according to medieval chronicles, committed suicide rather than submit or convert to Christianity. The Livonian Crusaders also clashed with the Orthodox states like Novgorod where they were famously defeated by Alexander Nevsky.
  • The Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229): Far and away the bloodiest of all crusades, concentrated on the practitioners of the Cathar sect in Languedoc which ultimately crushed it. Reports of casualties range from 200,000 to 1,000,000. Famous for Arnaud Amalric's famous dictum at the massacre at Béziers.
  • Spanish Reconquista (718-1492): While the Iberian Peninsula was under occupation by Muslims long before the official call for the Crusades and it was concluded long past the time the ones in the Levant were over, up until that point the struggle of the Northern Christian kingdoms to recover the region was an purely territorial one for dominance. After the call of the Crusades, the conflict gained a religious dimension and Crusaders frequently lent assistance to the Spaniards and Portuguese to fight their enemies like in Siege of Lisbon and the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa.

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

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     Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Exodus, the Knight Templar villain from X-Men, was eventually revealed to have been a French knight who fought for King Philippe II and the medieval Catholic Church during the Third Crusade. Being an early mutant and Superpower Lottery winner, he survived becoming a Sealed Badass in a Can for the next 800 years before being revived in the present day by Magneto.
  • There are two characters from The Avengers who call themselves the Black Knight, both of whom are descended from a lineage that can be traced back to the days of King Arthur. One of their mutual ancestors, Eobar Garrington, fought as a crusader knight during the days of the Third Crusade (and was incidentally the best friend of Bennet du Paris, the future Exodus as detailed above).
  • A more generalized Marvel Comics character with roots in the Crusades is Arthur Blackwood, a minor villain who literally calls himself the Crusader. An ex-seminary student of unstable mind, Blackwood eventually had a vision of one of his ancestors, who is identified as having served in the Crusades (in which Crusade and in what role is not specified). Being bequeathed a suit of knightly armor and a sword by said ancestors, Blackwood went on to become a ranting Tautological Templar villain to heroes such as The Mighty Thor, Luke Cage: Hero for Hire and Nate Grey the X-Man.
  • On the DC Comics side of things there's the Order of St. Dumas from the Batman books. An offshot of The Knights Templar dedicated to the teachings of the titular Dumas (who, according to Oracle, "no one else ever accused of being a saint."), the Order quickly fractured further due to the Tautological Templar nature of its followers, but somehow managed to survive over the centuries into the present day. They're best known as The Man Behind the Man to Azrael.
    • Speaking of Azrael, he eventually gained a villain of his own called the Crusader, who is about as loony as the Marvel Comics Crusader above.
  • Lady Death: Throughout several different continuities, the character's backstory was tied or at least took the same time concurrently with the Crusades. In both the Chaos! and Avatar versions, Hope's father was an feudal lord who conscripted his peasants to fight in the Crusades, but was in reality an evil sorcerer who sacrificed his men souls to Hell in exchange for power (leading to a uprising against him that leads Hope to be sent to the underworld. In the Crossgen title Medieval Lady Death which features an completely different setting and background, the title character is mentored by an Teutonic Knight operating in the Novgorod Republic.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Alexiad is a historical account written by Byzantine princess Anna Komnene who recorded the reign of her father Alexius I and also covers the First Crusade from her people's perspective, showing that the relationship between the Greeks and Latins was uneasy at best or downright hostile at worse.
  • Umberto Eco's Baudolino begins in Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
  • In The Crowner John Mysteries, Sir John de Wolfe is a returned Crusader, and the 15th book Crowner's Crusade is a prequel taking place during his time in the Third Crusade.
  • The second book of Angus Donald's The Outlaw Chronicles bears the title "Holy Warrior", and with a title like that you already know it's the one where series protagonist Alan Dale (along with his master Robin Hood) travel to the Middle East to fight in the Third Crusade.
  • 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.)
  • Piers Anthony's ''For Love of Evil'' portrays some of the horrors of the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars of southern France, as does his Tarot trilogy.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 


    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS campaign Banestorm takes place in a Magical Land that has summoned Crusaders and Saracens from this time period, who managed to establish Christianity and Islam and convert most of the local natives into their faiths. The opening quote goes on to say that the Crusades never ended in this universe.
  • 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.
  • 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 Friederich I Barbarossa.
  • Assassin's Creed 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.
  • 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.
  • Dante's Inferno takes place during the Third Crusade and behavior of crusaders as a major plot point, as Dante was a crusader in his back story.
  • Dragon Age: The Exalted Marches are Thedas' equivalent to the Crusades as holy wars led by the Chantry against their enemies, though technically speaking, the first ever Exalted March preceded the Chantry's foundation as it was carried out by their Jesus-like figure Andraste. These wars were fought against the Dalish Elves (which was an excuse by the newly formed Chantry to annex their territory of the Dales into Orlais), Tevinter several times over theological differences (mirroring the conflict between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy) and the Qunari (who are partly inspired by Muslims, but they are more complicated than that).
  • Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader is an Alternate Universe take on the Crusades of the 12th century and features appearances from several notable medieval figures who appear to have been born a few centuries earlier in this timeline, from Jehanne D'Arc to Leonardo da Vinci.
  • 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.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption features a French Crusader-turned-vampire called Christof Romuald as The Hero, though it takes place in 1141 just before the Second Crusade took place and he is fighting against pagans in Prague.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The background lore details a distant time in the past when the Republic was taken over by an human supremacist cult known as Pius Dea that venerated a deity only known as the Goddess and they fought an series of wars against aliens in general. Initially, they gained great support due to targeting the Hutts since they were launching slave raids into Republic territory, but soon they escalate into an all-out war against all aliens and end up alienating the Jedi Order with their actions. If the parallels with the Crusades weren't obvious enough, their battle cry was "The Goddess Wills It" an parallel with historical Crusader war cry "Deus Vult".
  • Anno Domini 1257 features medieval European kingdoms as the main powers, but also others kingdoms and empires like the the Crusader states (reworked as a single united faction), the Mamluk Sultanate, the Roman Empire of Nicaea, and the Latin Empire (respectively the remnants of the Byzantine Empire post-Fourth Crusade, and the Empire founded by the Crusaders after said crusade) as factions that can be joined or fought against. Also, when playing as a lord in a catholic faction, you can ask to temporarily leave your liege's service by announcing you're going to fight in the Holy Land. The European crusades against North-Eastern Europe pagans are also alluded to in the mod (the map features the Teutonic Knights and natives from the Baltic region as other playable factions).

    Western Animation 


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