CRUSADER STATES OF THE CRUSADES
The ‘Crusader States’ were a series of Christian kingdoms established by crusaders from the time of the First Crusade in the region of the Holy Land. These Crusader States were vitally important to the history of the Crusades. The Crusades are one of the most significant events in the history of Europe and the Middle East. They were a series of religious wars carried out by Christian crusaders from Europe during the timeframe of the Middle Ages. Beginning in 1096 CE, the Crusades saw European knights and noblemen travel to the Middle East in an attempt to capture the Holy Land away from Muslim people that had controlled the region for the previous centuries. The term crusade means ‘cross’. Therefore, the Europeans that became crusaders viewed themselves as ‘taking up the cross’. In fact, many of the crusaders wore crosses on their clothing and armor as they made their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
As stated above, the First Crusade was a major military expedition of European crusaders to the Muslim-held lands in the Middle East from 1096 CE to 1099 CE. This first official crusade saw European nobles, knights, and peasants travel by land and sea to the Middle East in an attempt to free the Holy Land from Muslim control.
Historians have argued that the First Crusade consisted of four main armies that totaled approximately 35,000 crusaders and 5,000 cavalry. These numbers included nobility, knights and commoners. As well, the crusaders were generally enthusiastic about participating in the First Crusade for a variety of reasons. The First Crusade saw the western European crusaders leave their homes in the summer of 1096 CE and travel east towards the Byzantine Empire. For instance, the crusaders supposedly arrived at the Byzantine capital (Constantinople) in late 1096 CE. During their travels, the crusaders followed a path through eastern Europe that thousands of others would follow in the decades and centuries that followed. The main armies of the First Crusade regrouped and resupplied in Constantinople before finally attacking into the societies of the Middle East and the Holy Land.
CREATION OF THE CRUSADER STATES
On route to Jerusalem from Constantinople, the crusaders captured several key territories which they later turned into ‘Crusader States’. These states were controlled by the crusaders for their benefit and used as a way of carrying out further attacks in the Middle East. The main crusader states established at the time were: the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli. All of these states are in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean and were vital routes towards the Holy Land for European crusaders. The fighting of the First Crusade continued until 1099 and saw the European crusaders face off against the Muslim fighters in a series of brutal battles. Eventually, the crusaders captured Jerusalem in July of 1099 during the Siege of Jerusalem and immediately slaughtered many of the Muslims and Jewish people living in the city. This victory served as inspiration for the crusades that followed, but in reality, Jerusalem and the Holy Land changed sides many times throughout the two centuries in which the crusades took place.
LIFE IN THE CRUSADER STATES
Life in the Crusader States was based around several key factors including: economy, religion and military. In terms of ethnic makeup, the Crusader States were quite diverse and included people that originated from Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. This was due to the importance of the region as a trading and religious center.
In general, the Crusader States were centrally located in the Holy Land, which sat at the crossroads of major trade routes that spanned from Europe to Africa and Far East Asia. For instance, the most famous of these trade routes was the Silk Road. The Silk Road was perhaps one of the earliest and largest trade networks in human history, and played a vital role to many different civilizations throughout Eurasia from approximately 120 BCE to 1450 CE. At its height, the Silk Road stretched from Japan and China in the east to the Mediterranean area including Italy in the west, which was a span of over 4000 miles. Along the way it travelled through many different regions including: India, Persia, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.
There were many different civilizations that participated in the Silk Road over the centuries of its existence. Obviously, Chinese and Mongol traders played an important role in the Silk Road, as many of their goods were highly desired in faraway markets, such as Europe.
Therefore, European traders often travelled to areas in the Middle East to secure rare and desirable products, from the far East. For their part, the traders of the Middle Eastern civilization were essentially the middle men who traded goods from both sides. This situation greatly benefitted the Middle Eastern societies and the region of the Crusader States.
Another important aspect of life in the Crusader States was the role of religion. The Holy Land, which is where the Crusader States were located was a vitally important region to all three of the major religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. This was especially true in the city of Jerusalem. The city was centrally located in the Holy Land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. While the history of the city itself goes back much further, it was a significant site in the Crusades because of the importance it holds in the three main religions of the region: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For Christians, Jerusalem was the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. As such, the city was vitally important to their understanding of the teachings and history of Jesus. For Muslims, the city was the land guaranteed by Abraham and the place where the prophet Muhammed ascended into heaven to meet Allah (God). For Jewish people Jerusalem was important because it was the land guaranteed to them by Abraham. All three religions had (and still have) important religious sites in the city including temples, churches, mosques and synagogues. As a result, all three religions wanted access to the city which led to clashes and disagreements over time.
The final aspect of life in the Crusader States is related to the military. Since the Crusader States were located in the center of the Holy Land, they were the site of many different battles and conflicts throughout the two-century history of the Crusades. As such, citizens living in the Crusader States were often called upon to participate in armed conflicts against Muslim armies. This reality meant that the Crusader States were operated as feudal kingdoms, which was the similar method used in Europe at the time. Under this system, the Crusader States were ruled over by local lords who used serfdom to call on their subjects to act as soldiers in times of conflict. This meant that military life and participation was an ongoing aspect of life for people in the Crusader States. Furthermore, the leaders of the Crusader States often called upon European leaders and the Roman Catholic Church to fund crusades and military aid to protect the territories of the Crusader States.
HISTORY OF THE CRUSADER STATES
While the Crusader States were first formed in the time frame of the First Crusade, they served an important function in most of the rest of the Crusades that occurred throughout the two-century history of the Crusades. This is because, the European Christians and the Muslims fought over the territories of the Crusader States throughout the entire history of the Crusades. One of the first examples of the importance of the Crusader States to the overall Crusades came in the Second Crusade. The Second Crusade occurred from 1147 until 1149 CE and was carried out in response to the fall of the County of Edessa to Turkish forces. As stated above, the crusaders of the First Crusade had established several ‘Crusader States’ during the timeframe of the First Crusade, including the County of Edessa. The leaders of the First Crusade established these states as a means of controlling the territory and creating a base from which they could launch further attacks into the region of the Holy Land. However, in December of 1144 CE, Turkish forces for Imad ad-Din Zengi, attacked and captured the County of Edessa. Edessa was at the northern end of the crusader states and often faced attacks from the Seljuk Turks, which were Muslims who lived to the east of the Holy Land. The fall of Edessa in 1144 caused Pope Eugene III to call for another crusade in order to recapture the territory, but also as a general call to protect Christian lands in the Middle East. The European crusaders began their journey on June 15th, 1147. However, the Second Crusade was a failure since the crusaders did not gain any new lands in the Holy Land and failed to push out the Muslims.
Of particular importance to the Christians was the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and it sparked several of the main Crusades. For example, while the battle over Jerusalem was important throughout the history of the Crusades, it was a central point of the Third Crusade. The Third Crusade took place from 1189 until 1192 CE and was a major event in the history of the Crusades. The Third Crusade was sparked by a few events. Firstly, the failure of the Second Crusade in 1148 left a lasting impression in Europe, and caused many to want to return to the Holy Land and fight for control of the territory. Secondly, the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187 was the immediate cause of the Third Crusade.
To this point in history, Jerusalem had been controlled by the crusaders and was the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was a Crusader State. However, Jerusalem was captured by Muslim forces during the Siege of Jerusalem, which lasted from September 20th to October 2nd in 1187. At the end of the battle, the city of Jerusalem was surrendered to Saladin, the leader of the Muslim forces, and founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty. The Muslim capture of Jerusalem caused the outbreak of support in Europe for the Third Crusade. This is because Jerusalem was symbolically important to the cause of the crusaders in the Holy Land. For instance, for Christians, Jerusalem was the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. As such, the city was vitally important to their understanding of the teachings and history of Jesus, and they considered holding it necessary to their religious faith.
Throughout the two centuries of the Crusades, the Crusader States changed hands several times and were central points of focus for both Muslim and Christian leaders. It wasn’t until following the events of the Ninth Crusade that the Crusader States finally ended. The Ninth Crusade took place from 1271 until 1272 CE and was one of the last major events in the history of the Crusades. While there were calls for more crusades after the events of the Ninth Crusade, these were never realized, and European Christians slowly lost control over the Holy Land. Finally, in 1291, the Muslim forces carried out a siege against Acre, the last remaining Crusader State. The Muslim forces quickly captured the city and effectively ended the era of Christian-held territory in the Holy Land. Some remaining Christians and supporters of the Christian cause carried out fighting until approximately 1303, when they were finally defeated. With this, the Crusades were finally over as a historical event. As a result, the Ninth Crusade is considered to be significant today due to it being the end of a major historical event.
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