The First Crusade

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The First Crusade: Battles of vengeance
Throughout the Middle Ages, which lasted from the V-XV Century AD, there was rarely peace. Religious missions and revolutions were occurring throughout the world and new lands were always being conquered. One of the most famous of these missions was the Crusades.. The First Crusade occurred for several reasons, primarily because it was a military response to the Muslim conquest of The Levant in which the ‘Holy Land’, Jerusalem, was captured. The interest of the Crusade first arose when the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Komnenos I asked Pope Urban II for soldiers, (mostly knights) to help fend off the Muslim Turks who were placing great pressure on him and his land. Believing he was on the brink of a great idea, Pope Urban II called together a council to preach of his ideas and discuss a way to both help the Byzantine Emperor and himself, known as the Council of Clermont in November of 1095. The speech delivered by Urban is said to have been so persuasive that not only were those in attendance ready to join but they went on to spread the message themselves and recruit more people to join the Crusade. Urban went beyond his own power and influence by sermonizing it was in ‘God’s will’ to fight for the Holy Land since he, as a Pope, was closer to God than anyone else. Although many Christians and Byzantines died in battle, the Crusade of Jerusalem was successful and returned power to enable the west to establish a kingdom and trade routes in the ‘Holy Land’. A constant bickering over Jerusalem was the main reason for the beginnings of the Crusades. It was thought of as holy and spiritual since it was the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the savior and messiah of the Christians. By the fourth century it was continuing to grow with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity, making a significant part of it Christian and establishing Christianity as its main religion. Moreover, the Muslims also viewed it as a place of religious value and wished to have it to themselves as well since they considered it to be the place where the foremost prophet of Allah (their main god), Prophet Muhammed, rose to heaven. During the seventh century the Muslims, under rule of Rashidun Caliphs took part in The Levant, a battle fought over Jerusalem as what can be looked at as almost the ‘crusade before the crusade’. All this to say the Jerusalem was holy to several religions, all of which carried different motifs to have control and defend it.

The Byzantine Empire was under the rule of Alexios I, and although he was not solely responsible for it, his empire was dwindling quickly. The Battle of Manzikert in 1071 was one of the main reasons for Alexios I to appeal for help after the Byzantine Empire lost the majority of its land in Asia to the Seljuk Turks and was reduced to just the surrounding area of Constantinople. In his desperate state Alexios I could not afford to give up any more territory so he called upon Pope Urban II for reinforcements to help in battle. Alexios I asked Urban for soldiers to help ward off the pressuring Muslims, however it was unsuccessful and although they lost the battle, they would soon take part in a much more important historical event. Alexios I remained worried and cautious of how Urban might respond, he could have decided the Byzantines were weak and tried to persuade an army to conquer them, however it was unusual a Pope to get involved in military issues. As it turns out, Urban had something else in mind and with a plan of political genius brewing, he called together the Council of Clermont in 1095.

The Crusade was an idea of which Pope Urban had been contemplating since before his reign began. As Robert Payne wrote in his novel ‘The Dream and the Tomb: A History of the Crusades’ “Then, with the coming of Urban II to the throne in 1088, the Crusade became eminently possible. The new pope was practical, and he possessed a particular French...
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