The Crusades became an integral part of the history of the Middle Ages. In the 11th-15th centuries Europeans launched a series of military campaigns against Muslims. The main goal was to return the Christians to the Holy Land, Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher. Today this topic is still relevant.

Crusaders call themselves both religious fanatics and outspoken fascists. And one of the groups of Islamic terrorists directly calls itself the “Salah-ad-Din Brigade,” in honor of the famous commander of Muslims. In Europe, knights-crusaders are idealized.

In fact, the history of the Crusades is full of mysteries, and just myths. It is far from what we know from movies and adventure novels.


The Crusades were an attack on Muslims.

It is worth to take the campaigns not aggression, but an attempt to protect Europe from Muslims. But it is impossible to name a successful event. If you look at all the wars that have flared up in the Mediterranean since the 7th century, it turns out that the battles did not subside, but were simply fought on different fronts. The East was at war with the West in the Pyrenees and the Apennines, in the south of France and in the north of Africa, in the Balkans, in Asia Minor and in the Near East, and even in the Mediterranean Sea itself. Almost always attacked the Arab Caliphate, its allies and heirs. And in the Middle Ages, people thought that way. On the western front, the situation stabilized in the eleventh century, but in the east, in Byzantium, after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, a catastrophe began. Then in the course of a large-scale battle the Seljuk Sultan Alp-Arslan defeated the army of the Eastern Roman Empire. Seven years later, Nicaea fell, which became the capital of the Sultanate. At the end of the XI century, advanced parts of the Seljuks began to appear in the vicinity of Constantinople. Then the Byzantine emperor, Alexei I Komnin, a talented ruler and commander, asked the Pope for help. Constantinople needed a small professional army to protect. The Emperor did not believe that the Christian West would answer so much. Further one could not foresee. This is how the Crusades began.

The Holy Land was a western colony.

This issue immediately disappears if one learns who sponsored the Crusader states in the East. Finance came from Europe. Crusaders could not extract resources from the occupied territories, colonization of the Middle East, and speech was not conducted. This is a fundamental difference of the Crusades in the East from what happened to the spiritual and knightly orders in the Baltic States.

People went to the Crusades because of overpopulation and for the sake of money.

In those years, Europe really seemed overpopulated. But the outflow of people in the XI-XIII centuries to the east of the Mediterranean did not relieve the demographic tension. In Latin-Jerusalem and other countries created by the crusaders, the number of francs was small. They were concentrated in strongholds, Jews, Muslims and local Eastern Christians still lived around. In the late 11th century, economic growth began in Western Europe. It was thanks to him that funds were found for organizing numerous military campaigns. Medieval historians told the truth. The motivation for the Crusades was to help the brethren by faith, stop the advance of Islam and return the truly Christian lands. And these reasons are closely related, not related to overpopulation or enrichment.

In the Crusades there was a struggle between Europeans.

This myth appeared, thanks to the famous historical confrontation between the kings of Richard the Lionheart and Philip II Augustus. Indeed, many internal political conflicts were carried by Europeans to the Holy Land. For example, Guelphs and Gibelins, the Italian merchant and feudal groups opposed each other. But the East was just a new arena for opponents. And two monarchs, a Frenchman and an Englishman, were irreconcilable rivals even before the Third Crusade. Just at this time, the “hot” phase of the war was replaced by a “cold” phase. There were no national contradictions.At that time, Christians were cosmopolitan in many ways, perceiving themselves and others as residents of territories, not states. The same Richard the Lionheart was called “Poitevinets,” that is, the inhabitant of the county of Poitiers. The French, in those years, called the inhabitants of the land of Ile-de-France, which belonged to the Capetians.

Under the guise of campaigns, the subjects simply took off.

There was always a shortage of money for the Crusades. Rome constantly introduced new taxes, began selling indulgences. Kings who set off on a campaign, literally devastated their possessions during the preparation. Before the Third Crusade in France and England introduced a new tax – “saladinovuyu tithe.” Richard the Lionheart squeezed out all the juices from the county of Anjou, for money reduced the level of tribute from Scotland, sold her several castles. The king sold out all possible church and secular posts. Ludovik IX the Holy during the organization of the Seventh Crusade managed to spend 12 of his annual income. He even built a separate harbor in the Mediterranean, in order not to depend on the Italian fleet. In 1291, the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Akra, fell. Mamluks not only destroyed the city, but also cut out almost the entire population. The city was restored only half a century later. However, the state-stronghold of the Crusaders was destroyed. European thinkers for a long time discussed the possibility of new crusades, the sums were calculated. However, they were so astronomical that the projects quickly faded away.

Crusaders were driven by greed for profit.

For those wishing to get rich in those years, the Crusade was an unprofitable option. Really went home with the treasure of the unit. Most of them came with nothing, losing even what was. About the peasants and say nothing. The Holy Land is fertile, but how many have reached it and received allotments there? On their way to the Crusade the feudal lords had to mortgage their possessions, to borrow money for equipment and charges. The knights left their families without security, entrusting them to God, the church and the overlord. Of the leaders of the first campaign, only Bohemond of Tarentum and his nephew Tankred had certain military and political interests in the East. Both could not achieve power in southern Italy. For these leaders the campaign was an occasion to create their own eastern kingdom. For Bohemond, the attempt was not the last, throughout his life he tried to snatch the opportunity to become a significant figure in the confrontation between the Sicilian kingdom and Byzantium. The four largest feudal lords of Europe, the Earl of Toulouse, the earl of Flanders, the Duke of Lorraine and the Duke of Normandy, surpassed even the king of France with their possessions. However, in the East they received modest allotments. The proof of the unprofitable nature of the campaign was that almost all the soldiers returned to the mission after the end of the mission. At Gottfried Bouillon, who headed the largest state in the Holy Land – the Latin-Jerusalem kingdom, there are only two hundred knights. Apparently, there was no opportunity to gain treasure here.


In the Crusades, the blood flowed like a river.

Military science operates with the frank term “collateral damage”, nothing can be done about it. In those days, the troops could not exist without accompanying looting, the war itself fed. The commanders saw how the soldiers behaved, but they reconciled themselves to this. There were no other soldiers, it is not a matter of discipline at all. And the massacre was part of the victory, it was traditional for that time. The dead do not stop robbing. The soldiers were killed and tortured, hoping to find out the location of the valuables. It is likely that the shedding of the blood of the “infidels” was considered a ritual of purification, not only among Christians, but also among Muslims. The most famous massacre took place in 1099, when, after the capture of Jerusalem, the Crusaders built a real bloody river. It was said that the whole population of the city was destroyed. But this seems an exaggeration. Contemporaries write that they were killed selectively, many were spared, reasoning reasonably. Sense to kill all the inhabitants was not – the crusaders needed servants.And what to do in an empty city? That massacre was dictated by revenge. Three years of hardship had to be experienced by the crusaders, not all reached the final goal. The loss of residents was enormous. The number of deaths in the course of that massacre varies in different sources from 10 to 70 thousand. The massacre of the prisoners took place on the direct orders of the commanders. In 1187 Salah-ad-Din ordered the execution of 240 Templars. It was more profitable to kill them than to exchange them. The execution of knights became an act of intimidation. And in 1191 under Aka, a similar act was performed by Richard the Lionheart. He tried to negotiate with Salah-ad-Din about the exchange of prisoners, but the sultan spent time. The campaign was in jeopardy, but Muslims had to be fed and protected. The Military Council decided to execute the captives. Then Europeans killed about 2600 Saracens. Violence was not the hallmark of the Crusades. And in the time of the Vikings, and earlier, the prisoners were executed massively right on the battlefield. In those years, the war became even more humane – people were often released for ransom. Prisoners preferred to sell into slavery, rather than to kill. This was their chance to escape and save.

For the Crusaders, Salvation was not the main thing.

In any army there are adventurers and cynics. But there are also many who are going to serve high goals. It was such people who encouraged their fellows, giving them the strength to defeat the “infidels”. Medieval society was imbued with ideas of religion. In accordance with them, our ancestors did. For many Europeans, participation in the Crusade was the only opportunity to atone for their sins before God. Refute the myth of the history of some famous participants in marches. So, Stephen II, the Comte de Blois was a rich and influential nobleman. His wife was the daughter of William the Conqueror himself, many children grew up in the family. Stefan went on a trek obviously not for treasure. But because of the hardships and hardships, he abandoned his venture and returned home. Wife began to reproach the knight for cowardice, in renouncing his duty. Then the Count in 1001 year again went on a campaign. A year later in the battle of Ramla he died. The Count de la Marsh killed his wife’s lover, and he himself went to expiate sins in the Holy Land. And he was not traveling in the context of the Crusade, but as a pilgrim. Returning back, the count gave his land to the English king, and he himself went to the monastery. Such morals were in those days.

The Crusades hid the genocide of the Jews.

Crusaders are often accused of genocide of Jews. If this happened, then contrary to the wishes of the leaders, the spiritual and the military. However, the repetition of history did not speak of malice, but simply of the weakness of the elite. The Jews began to be smashed not in Jerusalem, but also in Europe. A similar story happened in London, even in preparation for the Third Hike. The authorities banned Jews from leaving their homes, in order to avoid fights. But they decided to arrange a holiday on the streets. All ended with beatings and robberies. In those persecutions, the local people gladly participated, who saw in the Jews representatives of the people who crucified their God. There were also economic reasons – competitors and usurers were removed, it was possible to plunder under a religious pretext. He became famous for his pogroms “People’s” crusade. Then, up to 300 thousand people went to the Holy Land, including women with children. But gangs of angry and armed marginals everywhere were repulsed by secular and ecclesiastical authorities. Thus, in Mainz, the bishop hid the Jews in his courtyard. But it did not help them. But in Hungary, pogroms were generally avoided. Just local King Kaloman blocked the border, not letting embittered crowds on their land. Violence against Jews was clearly criticized by the ideologists of the crusading movement. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the inspiration of the Second Crusade and the author of the Templar statute, said that Jews are living words of Scripture enduring slavery on the part of Christian princes.

Christians cruelly oppressed Muslims.

In his “Book of Edification”, Osama-ibn-Munkiq describes the courtesy of the Templars, who even allowed Muslims to pray in the captured mosques.The adherents of Islam themselves tolerated infidels, believing that they should pay for the tutelage of the state. The same tax was paid by Muslims and Jews not only in the states of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, but also in Spain and Sicily. If Christians really cruelly oppressed the local population, they could not survive in the region for two hundred years. Arab traveler Ibn Jubayr said that in the XII century in the Pyrenees, Muslims under the rule of the Franks lived better than with the co-religionists – taxes are reasonable, and no one encroaches on property. The reciprocal attitude was not always the same tolerant. If Salah-ad-Din and his descendants treated the Christians relatively calmly, the Mamluks and Sultans from Egypt harshly persecuted the “infidels”.

Crusaders wanted to convert Muslims to Christianity.

Contemporaries in their works called Muslims “pagans.” But massively and the more so forcibly to convert them into their faith no one wanted. The Islamic world was perceived as a great culture, comparable in scale with the Christian one. This is not the Baltic States, where the priests went before the army. There is an opinion that the idea of ​​a mass appeal of Muslims was in Louis IX the Holy in the Eight Crusade in 1270. But that activity of enthusiastic missionaries is an exception. True, the saints remained in history, who, in dozens and hundreds, translated former Muslims into their faith.

The Islamic Jihad flared up because of the crusades.

The holy war against the infidels began not because of the Crusades, but much earlier, back in the VI century. And the jihad continues to this day. The great Arab historian Ibn-Khaldun wrote that the holy war is a religious duty of every Muslim, one must convince or force everyone to convert to Islam. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, jihad did not even flare up with renewed vigor, although there was a reason. Just in the Middle East began to fight with each other childbirth, began the change of dynasties. At first the region belonged to the Arabs, they were replaced by the Seljuk Turks and Kurds. In the XI century, Egyptians tried to seize Syria and Palestine. Not everyone understood that Christians started their holy war for their faith. While the Middle East was not alone, the emirs, caliphs and atabiks fought each other, not for their faith. This allowed the crusaders to achieve temporary success.


Crusaders were a rabble who could not fight.

Another myth says that Muslims in the development of military affairs have gone far beyond European Christians. But studies have shown that the Saracens had no apparent technical superiority. And the fortresses and fortifications of the Crusaders were much more perfect than those of their opponents. Historians analyzed the main battles, it turned out that often the course of the battle was determined by the situation or the generals’ talent of individual people. And the reason for the extinction of the Crusader movement by the end of the 13th century is not in the military lag, but in politics and economics. Europe lacked resources and people. The Holy Land lay far away, and the Christian states in the East were scattered. The most ardent heads either parted with life, or received their allotment, remaining in the Holy Land.

In the East, the crusaders were still afraid for a long time.

For Europe, the Crusades became an important part of history, but for Muslims until the end of the XIX century those events did not play a role. What was more terrible for them was the invasion of the Mongols. Ibn al-Athir, a contemporary of events, recalled with horror the Tatars who came from the east. And although he mentions the francs and defeated them, much more important for the Muslim world was precisely the eastern threat. Triumph of the Mongols became a real catastrophe for Islam. Many regions have changed their cultural appearance. And the Crusades seemed like a temporary local conflict. I remembered this only recently, when the birth of Arab nationalism. And European historians helped in this. All the most advanced Muslims a hundred years ago considered themselves the winners of the Franks, not attaching special importance to the activities of the Crusaders.Representatives of Islam sincerely perplexed in response to the claims of Europeans, who did not win anything in the East in their sacred campaigns.

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