The crusades started in 1095 CE, with the speech made by Pope Urban
II. In that speech, Pope Urban II referred to the Christians as the noble race of the
Franks. He encouraged Christians to join the armies to get Jerusalem from the Muslims.
Most of the crusaders that left Europe to fight the Muslims were actually aiming to form
kingdoms and acquire the wealth found in those lands. That is why the many groups of
crusaders were often quarreling amongst themselves over rule of places when they conquered
The crusaders were against everyone who did not follow their religion
and did not look like them. This included Muslims, Jews, and even dark-skinned Christians,
all of whom were attacked and murdered by them. They even sacked the city of
Constantinople, which was ruled by the Eastern Church (the Byzantine Church).
The People's Crusade
The People's Crusade started before the First Crusade. It was to be a
total failure. More than fifteen thousand people joined the army lead by Walter the
Penniless. Later Peter the Hermit and most of the crusaders took off to Constantinople,
from where they planned to go to Jerusalem. However, Peter the Hermit and his advisors had
not paid attention to how they were going to feed this huge army. As a result, wherever
the crusaders went, they ate up the land like a mass of hungry locusts. Furthermore,
wherever these crusaders went, they plundered the land, burned cities, and slaughtered
people. All of the murdered people were Christians. The crusaders then went beyond
Constantinople and started their looting of Christian lands again. They were also
constantly arguing amongst each other and many people broke off the main group. Now Peter
the Hermit went back to Constantinople to request supplies and support. But before he
could return the Muslims had gathered an army and attacked the crusaders swiftly, killing
most of the invaders.
By now, the first of the five armies of the First Crusade were on
their way to Constantinople. Godfrey of Bouillon arrived first. Soon after him, Bohemond
of Taranto arrived, followed by Count Raymond IV of Toulouse. After that, Count Robert II
arrived. Last came Duke Robert of Normandy. Together, they attacked Muslim lands. The city
of Nicaea was taken first. Following that, the crusaders attacked and captured Antioch.
Nearly all of the Muslims inside were killed by the merciless crusaders. Then the
crusaders attacked Marrat an-Nu'man where the crusaders slaughtered a hundred thousand
people. (The Templars did the killing even though they were supposed to be kind and
sympathetic because they were of a religious order.) A year later, the crusaders attacked
Jerusalem. Since the crusaders thought that killing Muslims was very good for the soul,
they murdered as many as they could. No one was given mercy. Old or young, sick or
healthy, male or female, all were beheaded and killed by the invading crusaders. The city
was full of blood that reached up to the knees of the soldiers and up to the horses'
bridles. The Muslims were forced to throw themselves from the tops of towers and
buildings, were burnt alive, and the list goes on. The crusaders climbed up to the top of
the Temple of Solomon, from where they massacred hundreds and thousands of Muslims. The
slaughter was only paused when the crusaders gave thanks to their Lord. Then it was
continued with as much ferocity as before.
In 1144 CE, the Muslims recaptured Edessa. This city was vital for the
safety of the Frankish holdings as it guarded their back door. News of the fall of Edessa
spread throughout Europe and a second crusade was called by Pope Eugenius III. The Holy
Roman Emperor, Conrad III and the French king, Louis VII joined it. However, they failed
to capture Damascus and returned home (the crusaders had decided to attack Damascus, but
failed to do so).
Then, in 1177 CE, a great leader of the Muslims named Salahuddin
Ayyubi (also known as Saladin) attacked Palestine and conquered Ghaza and Ascalon. King
Baldwin IV, the ruler of Jerusalem, tried to put up a resistance, but could not face the
attack and retreated. After his defeat, Baldwin IV, asked the ruler of Karak, Reginald de
Chatillon for assistance. Reginald, sent appeals to the crusaders for help. They agreed
and started sending their troops to Karak to take revenge of Baldwin's defeat. This time,
however, Salahuddin was defeated. In 1179 CE, Salahuddin went with a large force to fight
against the Franks. A fierce battle followed in which Salahuddin was victorious. The next
year, Baldwin IV and Salahuddin made a two-year truce. According to the terms of the
truce, both parties could not attack each other's territories. However, Reginald de
Chatillon, the ruler of Karak attacked Muslim lands as well as the caravans that were
passing by. He also looted many caravans that were going for Hajj. At this, Salahuddin was
enraged and attacked Reginald's fort. A four-year truce was made which was signed by
Baldwin IV and Salahuddin. Then Salahuddin and his army went back home. But troubles
awaited the Muslims. Soon after the signing of the truce, Baldwin died. Reginald then
disregarded the truce and attacked a Muslim caravan and arrested the traders. Despite the
many warnings and appeals to stop his cruelties, Reginald went on. He later looted a
caravan of Muslim pilgrims and killed most of them. Now Salahuddin could not be stopped.
He attacked Karak, occupied it, and appointed an army to guard the Muslim pilgrims.
The crusaders were disturbed by Salahuddin's increasing power and
success and united all of their forces to attack the Muslims. Salahuddin camped outside
Tiberiade, about fifteen miles away from the armies of the crusaders. After a siege of
about six days, he occupied the city. When the news reached the crusaders, they called a
meeting. It was decided that the crusaders would go and attack the Muslims instead of just
defending themselves. They camped at night in Hittin, sure of an easy victory the next
day. However, few knew about the skill of Salahuddin and his bravery and did not know that
they were going to be utterly defeated by him.
Early the next morning, the crusaders were awoken when Salahuddin
attacked. The Muslims fell on the crusaders with full fury. Although the crusaders fought
back with full force, by the evening the crusaders had been defeated. The battle then
continued the next day. By noon, the battle was in favor of the Muslims. The Muslims
attacked and arrested many of them. The Muslims had won.
With the victory at Hittin, Salahuddin now set out for other areas,
not allowing the crusaders to recover and get reinforcements. Within two months, he had
reconquered Acre, Naplu, Jericho, Ramlah, Caesra, Arsuf, Jafaf, and Beyrut. He also
Then, in 1187 CE, Salahuddin finally conquered Jerusalem. However, his
conquest was not like what the crusaders had done in 1099 CE. Not one Christian was
harmed. All were allowed to stay or leave the city at their own will. They were also
allowed to take their weapons and property with them. Salahuddin even arranged for their
travelling. The tribute that was asked from the Christians if they wanted to leave the
city was ten gold coins per man, five gold coins per woman, and one gold coin per child.
However, Salahuddin and his brother themselves paid the tribute for about 17,000 people.
In addition, a gate of the city was allocated for the many poor soldiers who could not pay
the tribute. They were allowed to leave the city without paying anything. Many crusaders
had been arrested during the war. When their wives, sisters, or mothers appealed for their
release, they were all released. Many people who were poor were given money for travelling
expenses. In addition, they were provided with mules to carry their loads.
Many crusaders that left to Christian states were treated cruelly by
the rulers there. For example, many crusaders left to Antioch, the nearest Christian city
from Jerusalem. There the ruler, Prince Bohemond, not only denied them hospitality, but
stripped them. They were forced to come back to Muslim lands, where they were treated with
great sympathy and kindness. In addition, out of respect for the Christians' feelings,
Salahuddin did not enter the city until all those who wished to leave had left.
Salahuddin then conquered Antioch and its surrounding cities. He also
conquered Karak, the same place from where Reginald de Chatillon used to attack Muslim
The fall of Jerusalem sent a wave of fury throughout Europe. Pope
Gregory VIII declared a third crusade. The kings of Europe, realizing that Salahuddin
could not be dealt by only one or two armies, allied themselves to take revenge. Many
European kings took part including Richard the Lion-heart, Frederick Barbarossa, Philip
II, and King Guy de Lusignan (who had broken his promise to never interfere in Muslim
lands). This crusade, was called by the famous historian, Gibbon, as "the most stupid
and savage refuse of people". All the crusaders achieved was the city of Acre which
was only conquered after a siege of two years and the death of about one million and
twenty thousand crusaders. When the city was finally acquired, a treaty was signed in
which the Muslims had to pay 200,000 gold coins within one month and the Holy Cross was to
be returned to the crusaders. Otherwise, the 2,700 captives inside the city (who were to
be released if the payment was fulfilled) would become slaves. However, since Salahuddin
could not pay the price because the distances were far between Muslim lands and he did not
have enough resources to pay it, the Muslims were all massacred.
The crusaders tried to conquer other cities but failed. At the end,
many disputes arose between the Christians. In addition, Richard the Lion-heart was
troubled because of disturbances at home. Finally, the crusaders left acquiring only the
city of Acre, which was to be retaken by the Muslims in 1291 CE.
Other crusades include the Children's Crusade that took place in 1212
CE. A French boy, speaking in the manner of Peter the Hermit, lead several thousands of
his young followers. The young crusaders arrived at Marseilles, expecting the water for
them to open so that they could walk to the Holy Land. However, most of the crusaders were
sold to slave dealers by merchants. This crusade was a great embarrassment to the Church.
Another crusade, the Fourth Crusade (also known as the Sack of
Constantinople) that took place in 1204 CE was a total failure. Instead of fighting the
Muslims to get Jerusalem, they ended up fighting themselves. They sacked the city of
Constantinople and did a great amount of looting in it.
The history of the crusades is filled with the mercilessness of the
crusaders and the kind-heartedness of the Muslims. The Muslims were massacred everywhere
the crusaders arrived, while the Christians were treated kindly by the Muslims.
The crusaders achieved the main purpose of the crusades and kept
Jerusalem for a while. But the spirit of the people seen before the first crusade took
place was never matched again. Later all of the cities taken by the Christians were to be
taken back by the Muslims (The last city that was taken by the Muslims was Acre. It was
taken in 1291 CE). The other crusades did not achieve their purposes and a few of them
were not even against Muslims, but against themselves such as the Sack of Constantinople
in 1204 CE and the Albigensian Crusade (nothing more than a suicidal debate among fellow
Christians) in 1209 CE. In short, the crusades acquired what they wanted for a short
while, but then lost all of it to the Muslims and instead made one another an enemy.