-- Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam
The Stage Setting
|Map from The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History: Trade Routes and Towns|
The Empire itself was being called Romania by folks sensing that they were now all in the same lifeboat together. The Gauls had finally given up Gallic for Latin, and the Iberians likewise, though both spoke it with funny accents. Case endings were no longer being pronounced, though they were still being meticulously spelled. (Though odd spelling mistakes are creeping in as the new semi-literate elites have begun spelling things they way they sound.) The Latin demonstrative ille has been clipped to become il or le or even el in different dialects and the definite article has appeared as if by magic.
The Empire is a large agribusiness with luxury goods coming in from the east and bulk commodities circulating on the Mediterranean, the backbone and center of the classical world. Anyone much more than a day's cart ride from the sea coast is S.O.L. bulk shipment-wise, save for what can be raised locally. The grain grown in Egypt and Africa is destined for the welfare lines in the great cities. The peasants in the provinces live in poverty and oppression, and many have been placing themselves under the protection of local counts or (in the West) barbarian barons. (Outside the Empire, in Ireland, it is different: the farms are smaller, the peasants are independent, and they are well-armed.)
North of the Alps, the city lamps have gone out, but there are still four sizable metropolises around the Mediterranean, though only Constantinople is still growing. None of them exceed 125,000 people. Rome itself is only a shadow of its old imperial glory. Anybody who is anybody is headed for Constantinople to kiss imperial butt.
At the time of the map, all the territory shown in the map is Christian of one sort or another except for the North, where the Scandinavians, Saxons, Lombards, Slavs, etc. remain pagan, and the East, where the Persians practice Zoroastrianism. The Arabian peninsula is a mixture of pagans, Jews, and Christians; and there are additional Christians off the map in Ethiopia (Axum), India (Malabar Coast), and in Central Asia.
There are also Jews ruling Yemen, in the city-state of Yathrib (now Medina), and in the empire of the nomadic Khazars north of the Caucasus. Also, as agriculture contracts with the cooling climate, the pagan Berbers of the Sahara have begun raiding the Christian Berbers of the coast.
The PatriarchsAs the Church had grown, so had the need for some sort of organization. Each of the four metropolises has become the seat of a Patriarch of the Church and under each is a set of local bishops. The idea is to keep the beliefs reasonably uniform. This network parallels roughly the organization of the Empire in which the Church found herself.Or did until trans-alpine Europe began to deflate.
1. First in dignity is Rome, the See of St. Peter, which has administrative authority over all the West, including North Africa as far as Tripolitania (Tunisia) and northern Europe as far as anyone dares go a-calling. About a hundred years before the map, Patrick chased snakes out of Ireland, and about a hundred years after it, Boniface will cut down the Donar Oak in Hesse. The bishop of Rome, who started calling himself "Pope" about a hundred and fifty years before the map, has a collegial doctrinal authority over the whole church. That is, when the others cannot agree on a troublesome matter, they would appeal to Rome.
|Constantinople, with the Land Walls in the background|
5. A fifth Patriarch, Jerusalem, the See of St. James, administers three provinces in Palestine; but this position is mostly honorary as being the Mother Church. Jerusalem at the time is nowheresville and was given the honor at the council of Chalcedon. Jews had been forbidden to live in Jerusalem by the pagan Romans after the failed revolt of Bar Kockba. This really frosted them and they are eager to return from Arabia and Persia.
|Ctesiphon, what's left of it|
But all is not beer and skittles. (Except maybe in German lands, where there is at least beer. Come to think of it, they may also have played an early form of skittles. Who knows?)
|Vandals behaving badly. Why are football teams named Vikings|
and Pirates, but not Vandals and Visigoths?
Clovis united the Franks into a single nation, and converted to Catholicism a generation or two before the map. But the Frankish custom of dividing the inheritance among all surviving male heirs means a) unified kingdoms split up in the next generation and b) the next generation starts killing one another. The Visigoths in Spain are about to switch from Arian to Catholic ca. 589, but the Ostrogoths in Italy will remain stubbornly Arian until the Byzantines arrive, kick their butts, and snuff out the lights in Rome.
|Pope Dioscorus of Alexandria |
is a saint in the Coptic Church
In overreaction to Nestorianism, there had been a swing to the opposite extreme of Monophysitism. So a Council had been called at Chalcedon in 451 to settle things. This Council declared that Monophysites had cooties and deposed Patriarch Dioscorus from the See of Alexandria, installing Proterius in his place.
|Pope Proterius of Alexandria is a |
saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church
The situation in Antioch was similar, but instead of killing the Orthodox patriarch, the Syrians simply continued to recognize the deposed heretical one and after AD 518 Antioch wound up permanently with two Patriarchs. Again, much of this was rooted in Syrian resentment against heavy-handed Greek rule. Ironically, both the Egyptians and the Syrians also regarded genuine Monophysites as heretics and preferred to call themselves Miaphysites.
From our distant perspective, much of the problem seems to have stemmed from the difficulty of translating Greek philosophical terms into Syriac and Coptic. These were not only different languages, but were from different language families! Concepts that were distinct in Greek overlapped in Syriac. Discussions in 1984 between St. John Paul II and Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, the Patriarch of the Syriac Church, concluded the whole thing was a matter of "differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter."
In 525, shortly before the above map and off its southeast border, Dhu Nuwas, a pagan Yemeni convert to Judaism rebelled against the Ethiopian garrison and attempted to forcibly convert the Christian Arabs of Najran, throwing those who refused into a burning ditch. Survivors who escaped to Ethiopia secured a punitive expedition from Axum, which crossed into the Yemen and kicked Yemeni butt. The story of the Martyrs of Najran spread all over the Middle East.
|The Relevant World in AD 600, on the Eve of the Byzanto-Sassanid Was|
The Persians think this is going a little too far and begin to suppress the Jews, who respond WTF? Fun and games in the early 7th century. Heraclius, the governor of Africa, overthrows Phocas and after a penalty flag for offsides, throws long and goes straight for the Persian heartland. The shah pulls all his troops out of the Empire to block him and gets himself assassinated by his brother, who sues for peace. He's like, Dude, what were you thinking?
Jerusalem is now back under Christian rule. The Jews are like uh-oh.
Shah and Emperor look around and realize that nearly thirty years of continuous war has seriously depleted their military resources. Oh well. We'll just take some time to patch things up and rebuild.
But they would not have time, because....
It's Jihad Time!
The Prelim BoutsBefore we get into the Crusades, we have to review the context. Here is the context. (Events not directly affecting Europe are in italics. Those representing counterattacks (i.e., not simply battlefield victories) are in boldface.)
634-651 Muslims conquer Persian Empire (incl. Iraq); extirpate Zoroastrianism.
634. Muslims take Damascus from the Byzantines.
636. Muslims defeat the Byzantines at Yarmuq.
637. Muslims take Aleppo from the Christians.They go on to take all of Syria-Palestine from the Christians (the Patriarchate of Antioch). Following the Siege of Caesarea, they slaughter all men, women, and children. The Patriarch of Jerusalem welcomes the muslims as liberators, and there is no sack.
642 Muslims take Egypt from the Christians (the Patriarchate of Alexandria). The Egyptians have been waiting for someone to liberate them from Greek rule and have not yet learned about frying pans and fires. So what is this dhimmi tax thing? Some Byzantine forces retreat upstream and harrass the Arabs for a few years. Byzantine naval expeditions harass the coast.
642 Muslims overrun Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (modern Libya).
649 Muslims raid Cyprus, sack the capital, Salamis-Constantia.
650 Muslims raid Sardinia.
652 Muslims from Tunisia raid Sicily.
653 Muslims from Syria raid Rhodes and take the remaining pieces of the Colossus back to Syria to be sold as scrap metal. Similar treatment is often meted out to pagan relics to this day.
654. Muslims conquer Cyprus from the Christians.
667 Sicily is raided again.
668-675. First siege of Constantinople. Byzantines ward off the Muslims with Greek fire.
669. Muslims conquer Morocco from the Christians; convert the Christian Moors to Islam.
698. Muslims capture Carthage.
672. Muslims conquer Rhodes from the Christians.
674. Muslims reach the Indus river.
677. Muslim fleet against Constantinople turned back by Greek fire.
688. Muslims and Byzantine agree to a Co-Dominium on Cyprus (which in a sense continues to this day).
700. Muslims raid the island of Sicily.
705. Muslims raid the island of Sardinia.
711. Newly-converted Berber muslims cross into Spain at the invitation of the losers in a Visigothic dynastic squabble. But after killing King Roderic, they refuse to turn the kingdom over to the heirs of would-be-king Witica. Bummer.
716. Muslims take Lisbon from the Christians.
717-718. Second Siege of Constantinople by mulsims fails.
718. Nearly all of Iberia is under muslim control.
719: Muslims attack Septimania in southern France and establish themselves in the Languedoc, later the center of the Cathar heresy.
720. Muslims raid Sicily. Again.
721. Muslims cross the Pyrenees and take Narbonne, but are defeated by the Franks near Toulouse. and forced back into Spain.
722. Pelayo, a Visigoth noble who had been elected the first King of the Asturias, defeats a Muslim army at Alcama near Covadonga. This is generally regarded as the first real Christian victory over the Muslims in the Reconquista.
724. Muslims raid southern France and capture the cities of Carcassone and Nimes. Primary targets in these and other raids are churches and monasteries where the Muslims take away holy objects and enslave or kill all the clerics.
725. Muslim forces occupy Nimes.
730. Muslim forces occupy Narbonne and Avignon.
732. Battle of Tours: Charles (the Hammer) Martel halts a Muslim force of around 40,000 to 60,000 cavalry under Abd el-Rahman Al Ghafiqi from moving farther into Europe. Many regard this battle as being decisive in that it saved Europe from Muslim control. Muslims regard it as a minor border skirmish, but that might be because they lost.
735. Muslim invaders capture the city of Arles.
737. Childebrand, brother of Charles Martel, drives the muslims out of Avignon and goes on to recapture Narbonne, Beziers, Montpellier, and Nimes in the following years.
(Note: By this time, Rome had dwindled to a few villages in a vast rubble field. Where Augustus had once fed a city of 200,000, the Pope was hard-pressed to feed a hundred. There were no more sizeable cities in the West and with the loss of the granaries of Egypt, the population of Constantinople began to dwindle. The opening of the Black Sea trade routes with the Khazars was crucial. The Mediterranean was no longer the highway of trade, but a barrier across which muslim raiders harried Europe. "The Christians cannot float a plank on the inland sea," the historian ibn Khaldun will boast.)739. Childebrand captures Marseille, one of the largest French cities still in muslim hands.
751. Muslims, having completed the conquest of the outlying provinces of Persia defeat the Chinese and take Central Asia from them; they extirpate Buddhism in the region.
756. Taking advantage of the Umayyad civil war in Spain, the Asturias found the kingdom of Galicia in northwest Iberia.
761. Muslims conquer Tabaristan on the Caspian coast, the last Persian hold-outs.
770s. Pepin III drives the muslims from Septimania.
792. The Emir of Cordova calls for jihad against the infidels in Andalusia and France. Tens of thousands from as far away as Syria heed his call and cross the Pyrenees to subjugate France. Cities like Narbonne are destroyed, but the invasion is ultimately halted at Carcassone.
798. Muslims from Spain conquer Ibiza
810. Muslims conquer Corsica from the Christians.
813. Muslims attack the Civi Vecchia near Rome.
813. Muslims raid Nice.
823. Muslims from Spain conquer Crete.
827. Muslims from Tunisia invade Sicily, initially aided by a rebel Byzantine general. 75 years of hard fighting ensues.
832. Muslims conquer Palermo from the Christians.
838. Muslim raiders sack Marseilles.
841. Muslim forces capture Taranto and Bari, principle Byzantine base in southeastern Italy, as well as Brindisi.
843. Muslims raid Rome.
846. Muslim raiders sail a fleet of ships from Africa up the Tiber river and attack outlying areas around Ostia and Rome. Some manage to enter Rome and damage the churches of St. Peter and St. Paul, demanding a yearly tribute of 25,000 silver coins.
847. Muslims seize Bari on the heel of Italy and use it as a base for further raids.
849. Battle of Ostia. Aghlabids send a fleet of ships from Sardinia to attack Rome. As the fleet prepares to land troops, the combination of a large storm and an alliance of Christian forces destroy the Muslims ships.
843. Muslims take Messina on Sicily from the Christians.
850. Christians retake Corsica.
858. Muslim raiders attack Constantinople. Again.
859. Muslim invaders capture Castrogiovanni (Enna) on Sicily, slaughtering several thousand inhabitants.
859. Muslims raid Nice.
868-870. Muslims occupy Ragusa.
869. Muslims capture the island of Malta from the Christians.
870. After a month-long siege, muslims take Syracuse on Sicily from the Christians.
871. Frankish forces retake Bari.
876. Muslims pillage the Campagna in Italy.
880. The Byzantines recapture lands occupied by Arabs in mainland Italy.
880. Muslims raid Nice.
884. Muslims burn the monastery of Monte Cassino to the ground.
885. The Caliph grants autonomy to the Christian kingdom of Armenia and (in 888) Caucasian Iberia as counterweights to a rebellious emir in Azerbaijan. The Caucasus goes to hell in a handbasket.
888. Muslims set up castles in Fraxinet, Provence, and raid along coast and inner France
902. Muslims take Taomina on Sicily.
911. Muslims control all the passes in the Alps between France and Italy, cutting off passage between the two countries.
916. A combined Byzantine and German force and the Italian city-states defeat muslim invaders at Garigliano.
918. Muslims raid Reggio Calabria.
920. Muslims cross the Pyrenees, enter Gascony, and reach as far as the gates of Toulouse.
During this period the Umayyads of Spain lead regular raids into the Christian north of Spain and conquer the islands of Majorca and Minorca, the Fatimids of Tunisia ravage the Italian coast, and both give Corsica (officially part of the Kingdom of Italy) and Sardinia (technically part of the Byzantine Empire, but who knew) a bad time. The bolder rievers set up bases ashore. One on the Italian foot lasts 25 years before a combined force of the Pope, the Duke of Spoleto, and the Byzantine fleet eradicate it. Another, on the Provençal coast above St. Tropez, endures for the better part of a century.930. Muslims conquer Corsica. Again.
934. Muslims sack Genoa. Region depopulated.
935. Muslims take La Spezia from the Christians.
939. Reconquista: Christians recapture Madrid.
942. Muslims raid Nice. Again.
942-964. Muslims reach Asti and Novi in the Piedmont, move north along the Rhone valley and western flank of the Alps; defeat the Burgundians.
952-960. Muslims briefly occupy Savoy and part of Switzerland
961 et seq. Caliph Abdallah of Cordova has captured Christians decapitated if they refuse to convert to Islam.
961. The Byzantines recover Crete.
964 Muslims take Rometta, the last Byzantine stronghold in Sicily.
965. The Byzantines recover Cyprus.
965. Franks recapture Grenoble.
969. The Byzantines recover Antioch.
972. The muslims in the Sisteron district of France surrender to Christian forces and their leader asks to be baptized.
972. Muslims give up Fraxinet under German pressure
981. Kingdom of Leon is defeated and forced to pay tribute to the Caliph of Cordova.
985. Muslims sack Barcelona.
994. Muslims destroy the monastery of Monte Cassino a second time.
997. Muslim forces find the city of Compostela evacuated and burn it to the ground.
1002. Muslims attack Genoa
1004. Muslims sack Pisa
1004. Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, founder of the Druze sect and sixth Fatimid Caliph in Egypt, forbids the Christians under his rule to celebrate Epiphany and Easter. The next year, he orders Christians to wear an iron cross around their necks and Jews to wear a wooden calf necklace.
1009. Al-Hakim orders Constantine's Church of the Holy Sepulcher (along with other churches) in Jerusalem be destroyed down to the bedrock. The rumor reaches Europe that this was done at the instigation of the Jews, which leads to unjust attacks on Jewish communities in Rouen, Orelans, and Mainz.1012. Al-Hakim orders the destruction of all Christian and Jewish houses of worship in his lands.
1012. Berber forces capture Cordova from the Christians and order that half the population be executed.
1013. Jews are expelled from the Umayyad Caliphate of Cordova.
1015. Arab muslim forces conquer Sardinia from the Christians.
1016. Sardinia freed by the Genoans and Pisans
1020. Christians retake Corsica again
1021. Caliph al-Hakim proclaims himself to be divine, managing to honk off the muslims along with everyone else. Shortly after, he disappears and his blood-stained garments are found in the hills outside the city. His successor allows the Byzantines to rebuild the destroyed churches and loosens up the restrictions; but the Christians are now understandably nervous.
1022. (Cathar heretics discovered in Toulouse are put to death.)
1030. Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba collapses into 20 independent states following a revolt against Berber ministers (1009).
1034. Pisans attack Tunis.
1061. Normans capture Masara in Sicily.
1065. Bishop Gunther of Bamberg leads 7000 pilgrims, incl. nobles and an armed escort. Central authority has collapsed and the Turkish invasions are in high gear. The party is attacked by bedouin in sight of Jerusalem. After two days siege, the knights in the party arm themselves and repel assailants. They are eventually rescued by the emir of Ramleh and his garrison. Only 2000 pilgrims return to the Germanies. Things go downhill after that.
1070. Saljuq Turks take Jerusalem from the Fatimids and begin oppressing Christians. Pilgrims like Bishop Gunther return to Europe with tales of persecution and oppression.
1071. Battle of Manzikert. Saljuq Turks crush Byzantine Army and Turkish herdsmen swarm into Anatolia, displacing native farmers.
1072. Normans retake Palermo.
1073. Saljuqs conquer Ankara.
1078. Saljuqs capture Nicaea. It will change hands three more times, finally coming under control of the Turks again in 1086.
1079. Battle of Cabra. El Cid routs Emir Abd Allah of Granada.
1080. Armenian refugees feeling the Saljuq invasion of their homeland found Little Armenia in Cilicia, on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor, north of Cyprus.
1084. Saljuqs capture Antioch.
1085. Castilians capture Toledo.
1086. Battle of Zallaca. Remaining Umayyad emirates call on the Almoravids (al-murabitim) for help. These Sanhaja Berbers from the Sahara had recently conquered Morocco and practice a fiercely puritanical form of Islam. They regard the Moors as weenie Muslim-light. They defeat the Castilians; but afterward the Murabits take over from their allies. (Serves 'em right. See 711.) The intent is to make Al-Andalus an African colony ruled by Marrakesh.
1089. Byzantine forces re-take Crete.
1090. Almoravids capture Granada.
1091. The last Arabic fortress in Sicily falls to the Normans.
1091. Almoravids capture Cordova.
1094. El Cid captures Valencia from the Moors. Almoravids from Morocco land near Cuarte and lay siege to Valencia with 50,000 men. El Cid, however, breaks the siege and forces the Amoravids to flee.
1095. For no apparent reason, religious maniacs in Europe declare an atrocious "crusade" against muslims in their Near Easter homeland.
Tune in again next time when we will look at the First Crusade in some detail and compare it to the modern myth of the crusades.