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The Three Crusades
Transcript of The Three Crusades
Another manifestation of the wave of religious enthusiasm that seized Europe in the High Middle Ages was the series of Crusades against the Muslims.
The Crusades were a curious mix of God and warfare, two of the chief concerns of the Middle Ages.
The Seljuk Turks
A nomadic people from Central Asia who had been converted to Islam and flourished as military mercenaries for the Abbasid caliphate.
However, in the 11th century, their numbers grew and they were able to take over the eastern provinces of the Abbasid empire.
In 1055, a Turkish leader captured Baghdad and assumed command of the Abbasid empire with the title of "Sultan" (holder of power).
When the Byzantine emperor foolishly challenged the Turks, they were brutally defeated by the Turks in the battle of Manzikert in 1071.
In dire straights, the Byzantines looked west for help, setting in motion the papal please that led to the Crusades.
To fully understand the complexity of the situation, we need to also take a look at the Byzantine Empire.
The Byzantine empire experienced many internal struggles for power between ambitious military leaders and aristocratic families.
They also experienced external conflict due to the growing division between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church because they were unwilling to accept the pope's claim that he was the sole head of the church.
This conflict came to a head when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius, head of the Byzantine Church, formally excommunicated each other in 1054, creating a schism between the two Churches that has not been healed to this day.
Additionally, there were many external threats to the empire's security. The greatest challenge came from the Seljuk Turks who had moved into Asia Minor - the heartland of the empire and its main source of food and manpower.
Emperor Alexius I turned to the West for military assistance. The response to the emperor's request led to the Crusades.
The pope at the time was Urban II (1088-1099) who saw the pea for help as a golden opportunity to liberate Jerusalem from the muslim infidels.
At the council of Clermont in France near the end of 1095, Urban challenged Christians to join in the holy war. He promised remission of sins: "All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested."
Urban was a charismatic, effective speaker and he knew the people felt the weight of their sins. He marketed the crusade brilliantly knowing people wanted a ticket into heaven.
For this reason, countless families, even whole villages, took up the crusade. For the knights, however, it was mostly motivated by riches.
The Peasants' Crusade
The First Crusade was preceded by a self-appointed leader who convinced a large mob, most of them poor peasants, to under take a Crusade.
This motley crew moved through the Balkans, terrorizing the natives and looting for food and supplies.
Unfortunately, their misplaced religious enthusiasm led to another tragic by-product, the persecution of the Jews who they considered the murderers of Christ.
Two bands of peasant crusaders, led by Peter the Hermit, managed to reach Constantinople.
Emperor Alexis wisely shipped them over to Asia Minor where the Turks massacred the undisciplined and poorly armed crew.
The First Crusade:
Pope Urban II was not very impressed with the peasant crusaders and was more inclined to trust the knights who had been well trained in the art of war.
The Princes' Crusade
The knights who joined the crusade were trained warriors motivated by both religious fervor and adventure. Others saw it as an opportunity to gain riches, status, and territory.
Many Italian cities relished the prospect of new trading opportunities in Muslim lands.
The First Crusade began in 1096 when three organized bands of noble warriors, most of them French, made their way to the east. The army probably numbered several thousand cavalry and as many as 10,000 foot soldiers.
A very pious knight who brought monks along to help him in his prayers. He was a trained warrior with a good reputation.
The ambitious and highly trained brother of Godfrey.
He was considerably less religious and was motivated more by the prospect of economic gain.
When this "dream team" arrived in Constantinople, Alexius immediately wanted it for himself. He manipulated them through the promise of food for an oath of allegiance to him and that all the land they conquered would go to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Seige of Nicea
The first objective of their campaign was Nicaea, previously a city under Byzantine rule, but had become the capital of the Turks under Sultan Arslan I.
The thick, 3 mile wall enclosing the city would make it extremely difficult. The crusaders outside the wall were an easy target for those inside.
For six weeks they seiged the city. Just as they were on the verge of victory, the Byzantines pulled the rug from underneath them. Though the crusaders fully intended to surrender the land to the Eastern Orthodox Church, they expected to be able to keep the riches they plundered. When the Byzantines realized this, they secretly contacted the Turks inside and gave them the option of peacefully surrendering to them or being slaughtered by the bloodthirsty crusaders.
The Sultan was furious at the loss of Nicaea and drew together 50,000 men for an ambush surprise attack....
In 1097, the Crusader army was passing through a narrow valley and could only cross in rows of five. For an army of 60,000, this took 3 days. Twenty percent of the army got separated from the main body and ended up camping alone in the valley.
The Turks launched a surprise attack at dawn with fast and light archers mounted on hourseback.
But the rest of the crusader army soon returned and defeated the Turks.
After the defeat of the Turks the crusaders were extremely optimistic and believed they would arrive in Jerusalem in just a few weeks. They could not have been more wrong...
Marching through the Anti-Taurus Mountains
Forced to travel in single file, it took 3 weeks to cross the treacherous mountains. They arrived in the plains in 40 degree heat with no water.
Many men and horses died including Baldwin's wife, who was from a very wealthy family. Her death meant all of her wealth went back to her family and Baldwin was left penniless. His ambition to make it rich grew significantly and he immediately set off on his own with a group of men.
The Siege of Edessa
Baldwin immediately cast his gaze at the trading city of Edessa. The problem was that Edessa was not a Muslim city but a Christian one that had been battling the Turks themselves for quite some time.
Baldwin agreed to protect the city in exchange for the keys to the city and the promise to be the next ruler after the old, childless King Thoros died.
The King not only agreed but adopted him as his son as well. Baldwin, however, began plotting with other unloyal subjects to kill the king.
Then, in March 1098, Baldwin became the new ruler, thus creating the County of Edessa, the first of the crusader states.
Siege of Antioch
Meanwhile, the crusader army marched on to Antioch, which lay about halfway between Constantinople and Jerusalem.
Antioch was significant because:
It was the gateway to Syria and the Holy Land.
Without the city, their route for supplies would be cut off.
It was spiritually parallel to Jerusalem as the location of the first Christian church.
Most of the inhabitants were Christian who were given freedom of worship by the Turks who had seized it.
While the turkish governor, Yaghi - Siyan, was previously tollerant of the Christians in the city, that changed as the crusaders drew near.
Siyan sent all the muslims out to dig trenches on one side and the christians on the other. At the end of the day, he let the muslims back in the city but locked out the christians. He said to them, "Antioch is yours, but you have to leave it to me until I find out what happens with the Franks."
While Siyan fiercely defended the city for 8 weeks, food grew scarce for the crusaders as they were feeding both themselves and the outcast Christians.
It got so bad, they were forced to drain blood from their own horses and drink it. Disease then broke out and half of the army diminished.
Siyan summoned reinforcements through Pigeon messengers. Two months later the crusaders heard that a massive Turkish army was on its way.
They found a traitor amongst the muslims inside and managed to bribe him with money and land. The man happened to be the warden of 3 of the 4 towers. In the middle of the night, he allowed them to enter through the towers and open the gate so the men could funnel in from the outside.
Once they got in, the crusaders killed all the muslims. Siyan managed to escape but was then decapitated by a shepherd who found him and his head was brought back to the city on a stick.
Then the Turkish reinforcements arrived...ironically the crusaders were inside with the turks outside ready to siege the city.
News spread that one of the soldiers, Peter Bartholomew, had received a vision says there was a "holy lance," the spear that had stabbed Christ, buried in the Church in the city.
He picked 12 men to dig up the floor to find it. After a day and a half of searching, Bartholomew himself went in and found it.
As the crusades advanced, the number of great relics multiplied.
The mood of the army changed and they were ready to fight. They only had 200 horses left but road out to face the turks.
Visions of white men on horses riding alongside them drove them on as they viewed them as help sent by God.
Massacre of Ma'arra
This was the last stop before Jerusalem. The crusaders killed everyone regardless of their faith. When they entered, each man seized as many goods as he could and by dawn everyone had been killed.
They burned alive and decapitated the children, the elderly and the women as well. Then, hungry soldiers ate the dead bodies.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem had fallen in the hands of the Fatimids of Egypt who were calling for peace...
At the end of 1098 the crusaders arrived in Jerusalem.
They found wood to build two 50 ft seize towers. They rolled them up to the walls of Jerusalem - one to the North West and the other to the South.
The muslims destroyed the second tower by dousing it with oil and setting it on fire. Godfrey then ordered the first tower to be moved to a place where the wall was least defended secretly at night. There they broke in.
Godfrey became the new ruler of Jerusalem. His brother then took the title one year later upon Godfrey's death.
The Second Crusade (1145–1149)
In 1099, the Muslim world was unable to fight back because of political instability and disunity.
They needed a uniting ruler.
Many crusaders had returned home after the capture of Jerusalem. The Catholic Church began requesting families move there. The city then flourished to 30,000 people.
Thousands of Catholic pilgrims flooded to Jerusalem. Along the way, Bandits tried to rob and kill them. One traveler said, "If your friend is killed, don't stop to bury him for the grave you dig for him shall be your own."
Talk of Jihad
Zengi, a Turk, arose to power as an esteemed warrior who had the vision of uniting the Muslim world. He managed to unite Syria after 20 years of fighting his fellow muslims.
Zengi was known for being ruthless and his reign was one of terror. He found pleasure in human suffering.
He had always coveted Edessa and he besieged the city with 30,000 men who took them by surprise in 1144.
The only way to take down Edessa is by taking down its walls. Expert miners were brought in to go in the cave system under the walls and set it on fire so the walls collapsed.
This victory was huge for the Muslim world as it symbolized the first victory in their "holy war."
Nonetheless, Zengi was hated because he was so ruthless and was murdered in his sleep most likely by a slave.
Zengi's son, Nur ad-Din succeeded him and continued his father's legacy. He was extremely fundamentalistic and focused: Unity and Jihad. Unlike his father, he never misused his power and was always respected. He was a true threat to the crusader states.
"They have waged a holy war on us, we will wage a holy war on them!"
When Pope Eugene III heard about the fall of Edessa into Muslim hands, he called for the Second Crusade.
This call was answered by Louis VII of France and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was powerful and pious and she was wealthy and adventurous. They wanted to honor the work of the First Crusaders by retaking Edessa and expanding the Crusader States. They set of with a large army.
It took them 5 months to cross Asia Minor with their army under extreme weather and logistical problems. Plus, they were in constant fear of attack. The weather conditions caused the army to loose its tight formation isolating the slow wagon train lead by Eleanor and Louis from the vanguard.
The Turks attacked and defeated them. Louis and Eleanor manage dto escape but thousands were killed. Those who remained fled to Antioch and there Louis decided to abandon the idea of Edessa and looked south to Damascus.
Damascus was an independent muslim city that Nur ad-Din coveted as well. The question was: who would get there first?
If Nur ad-Din was to take Damascus, it would mean control over the entire eastern side of the crusader states.
However, Damascus did not want to surrender their independence to ad-Din and also feared the Crusaders. So they proceeded to prepare for battle alone against the Crusaders. They were defeated after a fierce struggle with thousands of Damasians dying. They had no choice but to call for help from ad-Din.
Louis, however, had to decide if he wanted to risk the fight against ad-Din or go back to Europe. He chose the later. The Muslim world won and the crusaders felt extremely defeated.
Through intimidation and charm, ad-Din managed to win over Damascus and convinced them to join him in retaking all the crusader states.
The eastern side was now his and his plan was to surround the crusader states by taking Egypt to the south.
At the time, Cairo was part of the Shi'ites.
The crusaders made the mistake of undergoing a massacre of a city near Cairo. Before this move, they had the upper-hand and the city was ready to surrender itself. However, after the massacre, the Egyptians turned to Nur ad-Din for help.
Nur ad-Din responded by sending his most ambitious general, Saladin, who shared his vision for uniting the muslim world. Saladin, however, wanted to be the leader of that world. And his plan for accomplishing this goal was to take Egypt for himself.
In 1169, Saladin took Egypt and had just as much territory as Nur ad-Din, who obviously wanted to make him pay for his treason.
Five years later, however, Nur ad-Din mysteriously died at age 57.
Upon the news of Nur ad-Din's death, Saladin raced to Aleppo, the capital city. But before he arrived, the 12 year old son of ad-Din was appointed his successor.
Though he was young, he was ambitious. He called for a group of fundamentalists known as the "assassins" (or, in arabic "hashishin") to kill Saladin. They managed to break into his tent and get past his guards, but Saladin escaped with a mere flesh-wound.
Seven years later, the then 19 year old king suddently died and Saladin took over the Muslim empire. This meant there was both unity and that all the crusader states were surrounded.
In 1187, Saladin attacked the Christians in the battle of Hattin. The Christian army went out to fight with the "holy cross" relic. they crossed through the desert in extremely hot weather with now water. As soon as they saw the lake of Galilee, the Muslims surprise attacked them, blocking them from the lake. The weak army lost miserably. Saladin then seized the relic of the "holy cross" and Saladin's dream had come true: he had united the Muslim world and seized Jerusalem.
The news of the Battle of Hattin and the defeat of Jerusalem caused a call for a Third Crusade.