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Crusades, The

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Atlas of the World’s Religions, Second Edition What is This? Depicts the historical development and present state of the world's major religions

    Crusades, The

    THE PROGRESS of Islam into southeast Europe was generally slow. By contrast, the Muslim advance into the Iberian peninsula was swift but its retreat slow and hard-fought. Islam arrived in the spring of 711 , with an army, initially, of some 7,000 men. They marched inland without a great deal of opposition until, on 19 July , they were confronted by the Christian king, Roderick of Andalusia, on the River Guadalete. Roderick's claim to his throne was disputed, some of his enemies had already sought support among the Muslims. Two wings of Roderick's army deserted him, and he was heavily defeated, probably dying in the conflict. Muslim forces moved inexorably northwards and into what is now France, which was also weakened by dynastic divisions. Narbonne fell in 719 , and in 732 a raiding party sacked Bordeaux and was advancing on Tours when it was defeated by the Frankish ruler Charles Martel . Narbonne was recaptured in 751 : thenceforward Muslim territory in Western Europe was confined to the Iberian peninsula.

    The Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula

    Crusades, The

    3. The Reconquista

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    The reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula took seven centuries. According to tradition it began at Covadonga in the mountains of Asturias where Pelayo, a member of King Roderick's bodyguard, had taken refuge. A party of Arab troops sent to capture him was defeated, perhaps in 718 – the date is uncertain and the entire story comes only from the early tenth century. It is certain, however, that a Christian enclave developed in Asturias, which gradually extended its borders south. At the same time Charlemagne, King of the Franks ( 768 – 814 ) was pushing into eastern Spain – not always successfully, as the romance the Song of Roland and the battle of Roncesvalles ( 778 ) bear witness. Charlemagne's empire broke up after his death, and the Frankish conquests in Spain became petty kingdoms of their own.

    In the reconquest perhaps the most decisive battle was not the last, the capture of Granada, entered by Ferdinand of Aragon and his wife Isabella of Castile on 6 January 1492 , but Alfonso VIII of Castile's victory at Las Navas de Tolosa on 16 July 1212 . In the campaign which led up to the battle Alfonso had been supported by the Pope, who regarded it as a crusade and called upon all Christian monarchs to cease squabbling until this crusade was over. The Castilian king was indeed joined by some French knights, though the battle itself was fought mainly by Castilian and Aragonese forces. After Las Navas de Tolosa, though the Muslim retreat was slow, it was sure and by 1252 no independent Muslim kingdom was left: Murcia, Niebla and Granada were all at least nominally under Christian suzerainty.

    The First Three Crusades, 1095-1192

    In contrast, the effort of Christian knights to capture Palestine, seized by Muslims in the eighth century, met with no permanent success. The crusading ideal was born partly out of piety, the desire to go on pilgrimage, and partly out of a need to support the Byzantine Emperor against the onset of the Turkish invasion. Turks had replaced Arabs in control of the Holy Places, and their rule over Christian communities in Palestine was possibly harsher than that of their predecessors. Against this background in 1095 , at the end of the Council held at Clermont in France, Pope Urban II urged knights to stop fighting each other and fight Turks instead. He asked them to support Christians oppressed by Turks, and promised the remission of all sins – the origins of the ‘crusading indulgence’ - should they set out for Jerusalem with the right dispositions.

    Crusades, The

    1. The Crusades, 1096-1192

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    The First Crusade was relatively successful: Jerusalem fell in 1099 . By that time the crusaders had already set up independent states: the Principality of Antioch, which lasted from 1098 to 1268 , and the County of Edessa ( 1098 – 1144 ). Godfrey of Bouillon took charge of the Kingdom of Jerusalem ( 1099 – 1187 and 1229 – 44 ). Other parts of Asia Minor taken by the Christian armies were handed back to the Byzantine emperor.

    In 1144 , however, Edessa was recaptured by the Turks, and a new crusade was launched, though it had little success. It was the capture of Jerusalem by Saladin in 1187 that occasioned the Third Crusade. En route to Jerusalem the English King Richard I occupied Cyprus, and established the Kingdom of Cyprus: this crusader state survived until 1489 , though beyond that the crusaders achieved very little.

    The Later Crusades

    In 1198 Pope Innocent III appealed for another crusade, the Fourth. Venice contracted to ship the army to Egypt but when only a third of the expected numbers arrived in 1202 and the payment could not be raised, they helped the Venetians capture the town of Zara, on the Adriatic coast, from the King of Hungary in return for their passage. They also promised to help restore Alexius IV and his recently deposed father Isaac Angelus to the Byzantine throne. After an assault on Constantinople in 1203 , Alexius himself was overthrown in early 1204 . The penurious crusaders then sacked the city, many of its valuables – including relics – finding their way to the West. A Latin Empire was established at Constantinople, which lasted until 1261 .

    Crusades, The

    2. The Later Crusades, 1217-70

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    Among the later crusades was the crusade of Emperor Frederick II in 1228 – 9 . In the following year he negotiated a treaty with the Egyptians for the restoration of parts of Palestine, including Jerusalem, to Christian control, in which it remained until 1244 . Despite his tenacious commitment to the crusading spirit, the first crusade of King Louis IX of France ( 1248 – 50 ) ended with a humiliating defeat at Damietta in Egypt. He died of disease during a second crusade ( 1270 ) against Emir Muhammad I of Tunis.

    Though there were other crusades (including a disastrous ‘children's crusade’ in 1212 ) in the thirteenth century, they achieved very little apart from hardening Muslim attitudes against Christians.

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