Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today In History: Crusades.

On this day in 1099, in a final push of bloody street fighting, crusaders finally stormed and took the church built over the site of the Prince of Peace's tomb in Jerusalem, accompanied by the usual medieval amounts of wanton slaughter, blood flowing in the gutters, looting, and rapine.


Anonymous said...

Yes, that bloody, temporary and ill fated attempt to push the Muslims out of the Christian Heartland.

Ed Foster said...

An odd bit, that. The Crusaders gave the city standard European treatment, i.e., surrender within a certain number of days and keep your property. Nothing changes except to whom you pay your taxes. Or be executed. Europeans usually surrendered, unless they had a really secure position and knew it.
In the long run, it kept deaths and taxes down, as long sieges usually killed far more people, inside and outside the wall, through disease than combat.
Forgetting for the moment the religious camoflage used by both sides for propaganda value, the crusades were essentially the European side of a centuries long war of expansion between the west and the Turkish empire, with comparable butchery on both sides.
Salal-Ad-Din's gentlemanly behavior a few generations later was predicated on A) Not wanting to lose most of his army storming the place, and B)the fact that the Crusaders had turned the place into the richest city between Venice and Istanbul, and he wanted those tax revenues.
Virtually all the other, smaller Christian cities were put to the sword and burned to the ground, for the same reason Jerusalem took the hit way back when. They wouldn't surrender.
Two things about the whole sorry mess stand out in my mind. The Jews fought savagely in defense of their city, and the Arabs didn't.
In fact, the most glaring thing about the crusades is the fact that the only Arabs who fought in them in any numbers were the Arab Christians of Lebanon and Syria, struggling against their Moslem oppressors.
The Islamic armies were composed of semi-asiatic Turks, Egyptian Mamelukes, and blue-eyed, Indo-European Kurds like Saladin.
The Arabs were far too busy fighting their clan and dynasty feuds against other Arabs, or running away from marauding Turkish armies, the truely nasty boys of the period. The way they treated Damascus would make Richard Coeur d'Leon puke.
Outrage is in the mind of the beholder, and not very objective when trying to understand a culture so far from ours, both in time and values.