The first crusade began in 1095 AD, after the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I, appealed to the leader of the Christian church, Pope Urban II for military aid to combat the Muslim incursions against his empire. The Pope saw a glorious opportunity to once again reunite the church’s of east and west and thus pleaded for the Christian kings of Europe to set aside their many differences and unite under one banner to re conquer the holy lands from Muslim rule
Two armies were raised for this historic undertaking, one made up of European volunteers comprising a mixture of princes, nobles, mercenaries and wealthy adventurers. The main Crusader force, consisted of French and Norman armored knights, these were experienced battle hardened troops, and most of the expedition’s hopes of victory were riding on their success.
After crossing the Hellspont between Europe and Asia, the army of European volunteers set out with high expectation’s, but were defeated and literally annihilated by Muslim forces at the battle of Nicomedia in 1096.
The main Crusader army, after victories at Dorylaeum in 1096 and Antioch in 1098 had fought their way deep into the holy lands, successfully capturing the cities of Ascalon and Jerusalem in 1099 AD, thus successfully completing their conquest and liberating the inhabitants from Muslim rule.
As a result of the Muslim defeat’s, Crusader states were set up in Syria and Palestine, along with the principality of Antioch, and the county’s of Tripoli, Edessa and the kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Muslim’s however soon recovered and began launching counter attacks at the newly formed Crusader states. Without sufficient reinforcements from Europe, the hard pressed knights could not hold all the territory gained, and the county of Edessa was lost to the Muslim’s in 1144 AD.
This loss prompted the second crusade of 1147 - 49, but while crossing Anatolia, the European army was severely mauled by Muslim forces and forced to fall back across the Hellspont into Europe, thus achieving nothing. This Crusader defeat enabled the Muslim’s to eventually retake the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187 AD.
The loss of Jerusalem prompted the immediate calling for a third crusade 1189- 92, to wipe out the embarrassment of losing the holy kingdom to the Muslim’s. This crusade was to be commanded by two of Europe's finest Generals, Richard the Lion Heart of England and Phillip Augustus of France. Although this crusade failed to recapture Jerusalem, it did occupy the coastline of Palestine, thus ensuring the survival of the remaining crusader states.
By the thirteenth century, it was finally realized that the defense of the holy lands would always be in doubt so long as Egypt remained a center of Muslim power. The fourth crusade was now ordered 1202- 04, with the intention of destroying the Muslim power base in Egypt.
The Crusader army began to assemble at the port city of Venice, but could not pay the Venetian’s for the full passage. The Crusader’s were then diverted to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in support of a claimant to the Byzantine throne, who had promised to financially back the Crusader’s expedition, once they placed him in power.
Once this task had been completed and the promise of payment was not fulfilled, the Crusader’s proceeded to sack the great city, eventually making it the center of a Latin empire, effectively ending the fourth crusade.
SACK OF CONSTANTINOPALE
The fifth crusade 1217- 21, landed in Egypt and captured the fortress city of Damietta. As the Crusader army continued to advance towards Cairo, they were stopped as a result of the Nile river flooding its banks, they were forced to turn back towards Damietta, to await the waters receding.
During this time, powerful Muslim forces began to close in on the city, the Crusader army soon found itself surrounded and heavily outnumbered. The European leadership chose not to stand, but instead abandoned Egypt by sea.
During the sixth crusade 1228 - 29, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, gained Jerusalem through keen diplomacy, but could not secure enough territory to ensure its defense, the city was eventually lost to Muslim forces in 1244 AD.
The seventh crusade 1248 - 54, under King Louis IX of France, landed in Egypt, but was a dismal failure. The eighth crusade 1270 AD, also led by Louis IX was directed against the Muslim held African territory of Tunis, with the intention of using it as a base for future attacks against Egypt, this expedition also ended in disaster.
More significant than the crusades in ensuring the survival of the Crusader states, were the Mongol invasion’s of the Muslim world. After the decisive Muslim victory over the Mongols at Ain Jalut in 1260 AD, the Muslim’s turned their full attention against the remaining Crusader states, with the last of which finally fell in 1291 AD, thus ending Europe's bid to reclaim the Holy lands for Christianity.
BACK TO GREAT MILITARY BATTLES
This Literary work © GreatMilitaryBattles.com