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In the Middle Ages, Christians considered Palestine the Holy Land because it was
where Jesus had lived and taught. The Arabs had conquered Palestine in the 600s.
Most Arabs were Muslims, but they usually tolerated other religions. Jews and
Christians who paid their taxes and observed other regulations were free to live
in Palestine and practice their own religion. The Arab rulers didn?t usually
interfere with Christian pilgrims visiting Palestine, and European traders could
generally do business there. During the 1000s the Seljuk Turks, people from
central Asia who had adopted the Muslim faith, conquered Palestine and attacked
Asia Minor, which was part of the Byzantine Empire. When the Turks threatened
the capital city of Constantinople, the Byzantine emperor appealed to the pope
in Rome. Because Christian pilgrims going to Palestine came home with reports of
persecution from the Turks, the Byzantine emperor?s appeal for help found a
reception in Europe. Pope Urban I wanted to regain the Holy Land from the
Muslims. He called a great meeting of church leaders and French nobles at
Clermont France in 1095. At the meeting he encouraged the powerful feudal nobles
to stop fighting with each other, and to join in one big war against the
?unbelievers.? Urban?s request made his listeners very enthusiastic and
they joined in one big cry, ?God wills it!? From Clermont people traveled
through France preaching the cause. The people who joined the expeditions sewed
a cloth cross on their clothes. They were called crusaders, from the Latin word
cruciata, which means, ?marked with a cross.? People joined the Crusades,
the expeditions to regain the Holy Land, for many different reasons. Most
knights joined the crusades for the land and plunder in the rich Middle East.
Merchants saw a chance to make money. The pope promised both heavenly and
earthly rewards. Those who died on a Crusade were said to go strait to heaven.
The pope also guaranteed church protection of the crusader?s property and
family during his absence. Debtors who joined a Crusade had their debts
canceled. Criminals were relieved of punishment. The Crusades appealed to both a
love of adventure and the promise of reward- the desire to escape debts or
punishment. French and Norman nobles led the First Crusade that lasted from 1096
to 1099. In three organized armies, they marched across Europe to
Constantinople. The crusaders received a hostile reception in Constantinople.
The Byzantine emperor had asked for some assistance, but now, seeing three
armies approaching the city, he feared they might capture and plunder the
capitol. After much discussion the Byzantines allowed the crusaders to pass
through Constantinople to begin their long, hot march across Asia Minor toward
Palestine. In their wool and leather garments and their heavy armor, the
crusaders suffered severely from the heat. Because they had few pack animals, a
shortage of food and water plagued them. Additional problems erupted when the
leaders quarreled over fiefs in the lands they captured. Despite these
difficulties, however, the crusaders forged on to capture the city of Antioch.
Then they marched toward Jerusalem. If the Turks had not also been quarreling
and disunited, the expedition would have failed. Conditions improved as the
crusaders marched down the seacoast toward Palestine. Fleets of ships from the
Italian cities of Genoa and Pisa brought reinforcements and supplies. The
crusaders captured Jerusalem after a short battle and slaughtered the Muslim
inhabitants. One leader wrote to the pope that his horse?s legs had been
bloodstained to the knees from riding among the bodies of the dead Muslims. In
the Middle East the crusaders set up four small states: the County of Edessa,
the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripole, and the Kingdom of
Jerusalem. They introduced European feudalism and subdivided the land into fiefs
controlled by vassals and lords. For almost a century, the Europeans occupied
these lands. Brisk European trade, with goods carried mostly in Italian ships,
sprang up. Christians and Muslims lived in close proximity and grew to respect
each other. Many Christians adopted Eastern customs and came to prefer Eastern
food and clothing. The Second Crusade began in 1147, after the Turks had
recaptured the important city of Edessa and threatened the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
In this Crusade, King Luis VII of France and the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad III
led their armies across Europe to the Holy Land. They were fighting separately,
and didn?t join forces until they got to Damascus, which was held by the
Turks. Luis and Conrad couldn?t capture the city and returned to Europe
disgracefully in two years. In 1187 the Muslim leader Saladin recaptured
Jerusalem. Two years later the Third Crusade, the ?Crusade of the Three
Kings,? began and lasted until 1192. King Richard of England, King Philip
Augustus of France, and Emperor Frederick Barboarossa of the Holy Roman Empire
each started out at the head of a great army to regain the Holy Land. The
Europeans failed once again, and an estimated 300,000 Christians and Muslims
died. There were many more Crusades until 1291, when the Muslims captured the
last Christian stronghold, in Acre. Fore 200 years a constant flow of Europeans
streamed into the Holy Land. Over that period, however, the religious zeal of
the crusaders had steadily dwindled. From a military standpoint, all the
Crusades except the first failed. The Muslims eventually recaptured Jerusalem
and the rest of Palestine. However, Europeans learned many things of military
importance, such as the crossbow, carrier pigeons and messengers, new siege
tactics, and gunpowder. In Europe the Crusades increased the power of kings and
decreased the power of feudal lords. Kings imposed new taxes and led armies
drawn from their entire countries. The church also got more political power
because of its leadership role in initiating the crusades. After the Crusades
the status of women changed. When their husbands were gone they managed feudal
estates. Europeans were influenced by the ideas exchanged among the crusaders
form different countries and between the crusaders and the other people they
met. Commercial changes also occurred. Italian cities benefited from their role
in transporting crusading armies. Europeans discovered products from the middle
East- rice, sugar, lemons, apricots, and melons, among other things?which
stimulated trade in such goods. Cotton cloth was also introduced into Europe in
the form of muslin and damask.
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