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John: Hi there, my name is John Green. This is Crash Course World History. Today we're going to talk about the Crusades. (whining) Aw, Stan, do we have to talk about the Crusades? I hate them. Here's the thing about the Crusades which were a series of military expeditions from parts of Europe to the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The real reason they feature so prominently in history is because we've endlessly romanticized the story of the Crusades. We've created the simple narrative with characters to root for and to root against and it's been endlessly idealized by the likes of Sir Walter Scott and there are knights with swords and lion hearts ... No, Stan ... Lionhearts. Thank you. (theme music) Let's start by saying that initially the Crusades were not a holy war on the part of the Europeans against Islam, but in important ways, the Crusades were driven by religious faith. Mr. Green! Mr. Green! Religion causes all wars. Imagine no wars ... I'm going to cut you off right there before you violate copyright [me] from the past, but as usual, you're wrong. Simple readings of history are rarely sufficient By the way, when did my handwriting get so much better? If the Crusades had been brought on by the lightning fast rise of the Islamic Empire and a desire to keep it in Christian hands the land of Jesus, the they would have started in the 8th century. Early Islamic dynasties like the Umayyads and the Abbasids were prefectly happy with Christians and Jews living among them as long as they paid the tax. Plus, the Christian pilgrimage business was awesome to the Islamic Empire's economy, but then a new group of Muslims, the Seljuk Turks, moved into the region and they sacked the Holy City and made it much more difficult for Christians to make their pilgrimages and while they quickly realized their mistake, it was already too late. The Byzantines, who had their literal asses kicked at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, felt the threat and called upon the west for help. The first official Crusade began with a Call to Arms by Pope Urban II in 1095 CE. This was partly because Urban wanted to unite Europe and he'd figured out the lesson the rest of us learned from alien invasion movies; the best way to get people to unite is to give them a common enemy. So Urban called on all the bickering knights and nobility of Europe and he saideth until his people, "Let us go forth and help the Byzantines because maybe then they will acknowledge my awesomeness and get rid of their stupid not having me as Pope thing. And while we're at it, let's liberate Jerusalem." I'm paraphrasing, by the way. Shifting the focus to Jerusalem was really important because the Crusades were not primarily military operations. They were pilgrimages. Theologically, Christianity didn't have an idea of a holy war; war might be just, but fighting wasn't something that got you into heaven, but Pilgrimage to a holy shrine could help you out on that front and Urban had the key insight to pitch the Crusade as a Pilgrimage with a touch of warring on the side. I do the same thing to my kid every night. I'm not feeding you dinner featuring animal crackers, I'm feeding you animal crackers featuring dinner. Oh, it's time for the open letter? (harp music) An open letter to Animal Crackers. First let's see what's in the secret compartment today. Oh ... It's animal crackers. Thanks, Stan. Hi there Animal Crackers, It's me, John Green. Thanks for being delicious, but let me thow out a crazy idea here. Maybe foods that are already delicious do not need the added benefit of being pleasingly shaped. Why can't I get my kid animal spinach or animal sweet potato or even animal cooked animal? We can put a man on Mars, but we can't make spinach shaped like elephants? What Stan? We haven't put a man on Mars? Stupid world always disappointing me! Best wishes, John Green. One last myth to dispel ... The Crusades were not an example of early European colonization of the Middle East, even if they did create some Europeanish kingdom there for a while. That's a much later post and anti-colonialist view that comes at least in part, from a Marxist reading of history. In the case of the Crusade, it was argued the knights who went adventuring in the [unintelligible] were the second and third sons of wealthy nobles who, because of European inheritance rules, had little to look forward to by staying in Europe and lots to gain in terms of plunder by going to the east. Cool theory Bro, but it's not true. First, most of the people who responded to the call to Crusade weren't knights at all, they were poor people. Secondly, most of the nobles who did go crusading were Lords of the State, not their wastrel kids. More importantly, that analysis ignores religious motivations. We've approached religions as historical phenomena; thinking about how for instance, the capricious environment of Mesopotamia led to a capricious caudry of Mesopotamian gods. But just as the world shapes religion, religion also shapes the world. Some modern historians might ignore religious motivations, but medieval Crusaders sure as hell didn't. I mean, when people came up with that idiom, they clearly thought hell was for sure. To the Crusaders they were taking up arms to protect Christ and His kingdom and what better way to show your devotion to God than putting a cross on your sleeve, spending five to six times your annual income to outfit yourself and all your horses and heading for the Holy Land. So when these people cried out, "God willed it," to explain their reasons for going, we should do them the favor of believing them. The results of the first Crusade seemed to indicate that God HAD willed it. Following the lead of roving preachers with names like "Peter the Rabbit", "Peter the Hermit" ... Stan, you're always making history less cool. Fine. Following preachers like Peter the Hermit, thousands of peasants and nobles alike volunteered for the first Crusade. It got off to kind of a rough start because Pilgrims kept robbing those they'd encounter along the way, plus there was no real leaders, so there was constant rivalries between nobles about who could supply the most troops. Notable among notables were Godfrey of Bouillon, Bohemond of Taranto, and Raymond of Toulouse. But despite the rivalries and the disorganization, the Crusaders were remarkably, some would say, miraculously successful. By the time they arrived in [unintelligible], they were fighting not against the Seljuk Turks, but against that Fatimid Egyptians who had captured the Holy Land from the Seljuks, thereby making the Turks none too pleased with the Egyptians. At Antioch the Crusaders reversed a seemingly hopeless situation when a peasant found the spear that had pierced Christ's side hidden under a church, thereby raising morale and up to win the day ... And then they did the impossible. They took Jerusalem, securing it for Christiandom and famously killing a lot of people in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Crusaders succeeded in part because the Turkish Muslims, who were Sunnis, did not step up to help the Egyptians who were Shia. That kind of complicated inter-Islamic rivalry gets in the way of the awesome narrative. The Christians just saw it as a miracle. By 1100 CE, European nobles held both Antioch and Jerusalem as Latin Christian Kingdoms. I say "Latin" to make a point that there were lots of Christians living in these cities before the Crusaders arrived. They just weren't Catholic, they were Orthodox, a point that will become relevant shortly. We're going to skip the second Crusade because it bores me and move onto the third Crusade because it's the famous one. Broadly speaking, the third Crusade was the European response to the emergence of a new Islam power; neither Turkish nor Abbasid. The Egyptian, although he was really a Kurd, Sultan Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf, better known to the west as Saladin. Saladin having consolidated his power in Egypt sought to expand by taking Damaskus and eventually, Jerusalem ... Which he did successfully because he was an amazing general. And then the loss of Jerusalem caused Pope Gregory VIII to call for a third Crusade. Three of the most important kings in Europe answered the call; Phillip Cowardly Schemer II of France, Richard Lionheart I of England, and Frederick-I-Am-Going-To-Drown- Anti-climatically-On-The-Journey-While- Trying-To-Bathe-In-A-River Barbarosa of the Not Holy, Not Roman and Not Imperial Holy Roman Empire. Both Richard and Saladin were great generals who earned the respect of their troops. While from the European perspective, the Crusade was a failure because they didn't take Jerusalem, it did radically change crusading forever by making Egypt a target. Richard understood that his best chance to take Jerusalem involved first taking Egypt, but he couldn't convince any Crusaders to join him because Egypt had a lot less religious value to Christians than Jerusalem. So Richard was forced to call off the Crusade early, but if he had just hung around until Easter of 1192, he would have seen Saladin die. Then Richard could have probably fulfilled all his crusading dreams, but then we wouldn't have needed the Fourth Crusade. Although crusading continued through the 14th century, mostly with an emphasis on north Africa and not the Holy Land, the Fourth Crusade is the last one we'll focus on because it was the crazy one. Let's go to the Thought Bubble. A lot of people volunteered for the Fourth Crusade, more than 35,000. The generals didn't want to march them all the way across Anatolia because they knew from experience it was; A, dangerous and B, hot. So they decided to go by boat which necessitated the building of the largest naval fleet Europe had seen since the Roman Empire. The Venetians built 500 ships, but then only 11,000 Crusaders actually made it down to Venice because like, "Oh, I meant to go, but I had a thing come up," etcetera. There wasn't enough money to pay for those boats, so the Venetians made the Crusaders a deal; help us capture the rebellious city of Zara and we'll ferry you to Antolia. This was a smidge problematic crusading-wise because Zara was a Christian city, but the Crusaders agreed to help resulting in the Pope's excommunicating both them and the Venetians. Then after the Crusaders failed to take Zara, and were still broke, a would-be Byzantine emperor named Alexios III, promised the Crusaders he would pay them if they helped him out, so the excommunicated Catholic Crusaders fought on behalf of the Orthodox Alexios who soon became Emperor in Constantinople. It took Alexios a while to come up with the money he'd promised the Crusaders, so they were waiting around in Constantinople and then Alexios was suddenly dethroned by the awesomely-named [unintelligible] leaving the Crusaders stuck in Constantinople with no money. Christian warriors couldn't very well sack the largest city in Christiandom, could they? Well, it turns out they could, and boy, did they! They took all the wealth they could find, killed and raped Christians as they went, stole the statues of horses that now adorn Saint Mark's Cathedral in Venice, and retook exactly none of the Holy Land. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So you'd think this disaster would discredit the whole notion of crusading, right? No. Instead, it would legitimize the idea that crusading didn't have to be about pilgrimage, that any enemies of the Catholic church were fair game. Also, the Fourth Crusade pretty much doomed the Byzantine Empire which never really recovered. Constantinople, a shadow of its former self, was conquered by the Turks in 1453. So ultimately, the Crusades were a total failure at establishing Christian kingdoms in the Holy Land long term, and with the coming of the Ottomons, the region remains solidly Muslim as it mostly is today. Crusades didn't really open up lines of communication between the Christian and Muslim worlds because those lines of communciation were already open. Plus most historians now agree that the Crusades didn't bring Europe out of the Middle Ages by offering it contact with the superior intellectual accomplishments of the Islamic world. In fact, they were a tremendous drain on Europe's resources. For me the Crusades matter because they remind us that the Medieval world was fundamentally different from ours. The men and women who took up the cross believed in the sacrality of their work in a way that we often can't even conceive of. When we focus so much on the heroic narrative, or the anti-imperialist narrative, or all the political in-fighting, we can lose sight of what the Crusades must have meant to the Crusaders. How that journey from Pilgrimage to Holy War transformed their faith and their lives. And ultimately, that exercise in empathy is the coolest things about studying history. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next week.