Crusades saved Europe from being conquered by the most lethal ideology in history – Islam. Unlike islamic jihad, Crusades were not offensive wars of conquest, nor they were religious extremism or fanaticism. They were a defensive response to a life-threatening situation.
How the Crusades Saved Europe
The Battle of Vienna, September Eleven 1683 (movie)
16 thoughts on “How the Crusades Saved Europe”
Im not sure you have chronology right.
The battle of Poitiers/Tours in 732 certainly prevented the Umayyad Caliphate from extending its realm in Andalus/Spain north to France. The first Crusade wasnt till 1095 and they captured Jerusalem in 1099. The last crusade was in 1271 or so.
The battle of Vienna in 1683 was well after those events as it wasnt till 1453 that the fall of Constantinople removed the last impediment to the ottomans advancing further into the Balkans, up to the gates of Vienna in 1683.
Using the dates of these events you wouldnt think the Crusades had any effect on the either the North African/Spainish muslim conquests or the later Ottoman conquests. The Crusades cant be seen as defensive as the Byzantine Empire held the frontier regions in the middle east as well as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.
Probably a greater threat to Europe in the 11-12th centuries was the Mongol advances through what is now the Ukraine to Poland and Hungary but even that (1270-91)wasnt till the last crusade The Crusaders were only interested in conquest not a defensive war.
Crusades themselves did indeed cease in 1271. What is important however is the mentality of Crusades. You see, Crusades created the sense of common cause, common culture, common religion – sense that is, I might add, sorely lacking today, as it was before the Crusades. It was this sense of the common cause and common enemy which allowed nations of Europe to band together against Ottomans when it mattered. That is the real legacy of Crusades, as before then there was no real sense of common Christian identity.
Crusades themselves were a defensive affair. Even conquering the Holy Land can hardly be seen as a war of conquest from global Christian perspective – by that time Islam had conquered most of formerly Christian territories. They were a war of conquest from the perspective of some landless nobles, but most crusaders – kings and peasants alike – truly did go to Crusade from a sense of Christian duty, of duty to defend Christianity from the greatest threat it has ever faced. Mongols were a calamity, for sure, but they were raiders – hardly an existential threat. They ruled China for a long time, yet China emerged from their rule with its original Chinese identity. Islam, however, destroyed identity of every nation it conquered. Fact that the Roman Empire did still hold the border does not mean that Western Europeans were seeing it as a war of conquest. Western Europe was under threat from Muslim Spain, and the Mediterranean sea was not the barrier it seemed to be – Italy itself was attacked several times by Muslim raiders. And the Crusades started because the Roman Empire called for help.
Nope, they did not. The Roman Emperor wake up one day with a foreign fleet at the suburbans of his capitals. The guy tried to find a good use of them by sending their army to fight Arabs and Seljuk Turks 😛
Btw, Islam destroyed the identity of every state that it conquered(and replaced it with another one) with one notable exception; Iran(=Persia). The differences between Iran and the rest of the islamic war woth being noted in another episode.
ps. Picard, you owe me a reply on the matter of handguns 😀
The First Crusade started because Roman Empire called for help. It is true that the Emperor expected mercenaries instead of Crusaders, but that changes nothing about the fundamental nature of Crusades.
I’ll try to find your comment, WordPress sometimes eats them up, especially if the links are involved.
I can’t find it.
Well, you are not the only one who tries to find my comment. I cannot find it also and that was the second time I submitted it. :S
With regard to the Crusaders, of course. The only objection I have is if the whole Crusades period should be considered as one part or many. I mean, we had seen everything during that period: Crusaders helping the Roman Empire and Crusaders pillaging Constantinople. Crusaders fighting with each other, crusaders fighting in Egypt instead of Jerusalem, even dreadful incidents even for the standards of the 13th century:
To be fair, periods are always artificial constructs. When did the Western Roman Empire fall? When Julius Nepot was deposed? When Romulus Augustus was deposed? And fall of the Western Roman Empire is the classical date which determines the end of antiquity. And then there are people – myself included – who believe that Middle Ages should only start with Muslim invasions and Charlemagne, since that was when antic Mediterranean civilization got destroyed and turned into strictly European one.
“as it wasnt till 1453 that the fall of Constantinople removed the last impediment to the ottomans advancing further into the Balkans, up to the gates of Vienna in 1683.”
There were three other impediments to the ottomans advancing further into the Balkans. They were the principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania which form current day Romania. They resisted up until the end of Stephen the Great’s rule in Moldavia, in 1504. If you look at the map they represented a very big thorn in the side of the Ottoman advance.
John Hunyadi prince of Transylvania, which should be called Iancu of Hunedoara, as he was ethnically Romanian not Hungarian, delivered a defeat of Mehmed the Conqueror at the gates of Belgrade in 1456 stopping his advance into Serbia. Before this his Crusade of Varna in the 1440s did a lot to take the steam out of the Ottoman advance. His son Mathias Corvin would go on to become Hungary’s greatest king. The base of Mathias power where the Transylvanian nobles, especially Christian Orthodox Romanian. After his death 1490 Hungarian magnates dismantled most of his power base by a series of “reforms” which left the state underfunded and the army undermanned. Among these reforms was that one had to be Catholic to be a noble, this was targeted at the Romanian nobles in Transylvania which were mostly Orthodox. The result of these reforms is evident as barely three decades after Mathias death the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottomans biggest block on the way to Vienna and the west disappeared from the map.
Mehmed the Conqueror was also defeated by Vlad III “the Impaler” Dracula prince of Wallachia when he tried to invaded it. The Battle is called the Night Attack. The small Romanian army of 30000 disguised as ottoman soldiers attacked the camp of the much larger Ottoman Army estimated between 100000 and 150000. The Romanian Army was lead by Dracula himself which attempted to kill Mehmed. They knew each-other from the time Vlad had been a hostage at the ottoman court. Unfortunately paranoia ran deep at the ottoman court and fearing assassination Mehmed had slept in a different tent. However the attack was a success. The Romanian army inflicted three times its casualties and combined with the scorched earth tactics that the Romanian princes in Wallachia and Moldavia traditionally adopted forced the Ottomans to retreat. Ottoman claimed they won because they capured many slaves and cattle. But that’s highly debatable as it is unlikely that the Romanian scorched earth tactics would have left much to be captured and the Ottomans failed in their main objectives to replace Vlad as ruler or annex Wallachia. The slaves and cattle where probably taken from Bulgaria on the way back.
In Molavia Stephen the Great had the longest rule of any Romanian ruler safe King Charles I. He ruled from 1457 to 1504. During this time he had to defend his realm many times against the Ottoman Empire but also the Polish and Hungarian Kingdoms.
All the Christian successes where stymied however by in-fighting. Vlad the Impaler was brought down not by the Ottomans but by his nobles conspiring with Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. Stephen the Great also had problems with his nobles and had to put a lot of them to death. He also had troubles with the Polish and Hungarian crowns which instead of aiding Moldavia tried to have it conquered. Transylvania and its suzerain the Hungarian crown fell, as I described above, because of the greed of the magnates.
All in all Picard is right that the spirit of Crusade help unify Christian against Islam. Even if the Crusades ended in the 13th Century, most of the colitions formed later against the ottomans where called Crusades: Nicopolis in the 14th century, Varna led by Iancu Corvinus in the 15th century, Lepanto in the the 16th Century and even the two Sieges of Vienna in the 16th and 17th centuries, were called Crusades.
It is also true that the diminishing of the Crusader spirit is what allowed the Ottomans to advance as much. Instead of cooperating against the larger threat the Western Kingdoms where more preoccupied with bickering among themselves and conquering the East Europeans. The Crusade of Nicopolis was defeated when French knights refused to acknowledge the authority of the Hungarian king and his order to attack only after the Ottomans positions had been reconnoitered in force by the Wallachian Army led by prince Mircea the Elder (Dracula’s granddaddy ), which had defeated the Ottomans a year earlier at Rovine. The argument was something along the lines that some sheepherders from Eastern Europe would get all the glory. The French Knights ended up charging prepared positions and dying dismounted and fighting on foot. Mircea the Elder saw the battle as lost and didn’t even engage. Instead he conserved his forces and simply retreated back to Walachia. Contrast the pragmatic approach of a prince under threat to the glory seeking of the French knights which where far from the threat.
Varna crusade ended the same with bickering infighting among the Crusaders.
And even now Islam advances because the Western World refuses to acknowledge and unite around its values, which are not necessarily Christian, but come from common sense: freedom of thought and of speech, democracy and power of the community over plutocracy, individual liberty not obedience etc.
Problem is that the West has abandoned Christianity and with it, it abandoned its own identity.
I am really really sorry I cannot ”like” your reply. So-called Westerners cannot realise that Christianity is a huge part of what they are, even if they do are atheists. You just can’t throw away 2000 years of your history and culture; this background has shaped your moral code whether you are atheist or not; Kurt Vonnegut, an atheist himself, has described beautifully the moral code of Christianity and why this is important. A very simple example is how differently atheists think depending on their culture, for instance, a Danish atheist will think very differently than a Japanese one.
True. When you take a closer look, liberal mindset is based heavily on self-hatred. They often ignore everything good the Western civilization has done, while praising even comparatively minor achievements of other civilizations. In particular, they praise Islamic “achievements” – even though Islam has done nothing original, all the Islamic advancements were stolen from other civilizations – while ignoring all the evil that Islam has caused.
Are you calling me an atheist? Cause I’m not. I’m Christian Orthodox.
If you are calling me an atheist then you probably misinterpreted my last line. What I was saying is that Christian principles ate not the base of Western identity, but it’s pinnacle, a distillation of critical thinking going back thru the Roman Empire, and Greek City states all the way to the small communities surviving in the European forests in bronze age and first iron age. Then critical thinking, democracy and spirit of community where survival traits. In this Christian principles are different from the other Abrahmic religions which are based on Oriental despotism and obedience. The Orient never past thru a stage where small communities existed for a long enough time for critical thinking to be encouraged they developed the city much earlier and required despotism. That is where the fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam comes from. Christianity was preached, thanks to St Paul setting the tone, mainly to Roman citizens which were still democratic at that time and as such it distilled their principles. Islam was preached to people from a despotic region and as such it emphasize obedience.
My remark was addressed to atheist which don’t realize that the principles which they hold dear come from Christian ones.
Excuse me, János Hunyadi was not Romanian at all! He was 100% Hungarian! There was no Romania until 1862! There were no Romanians in the 1400s, only vlachs!
I see you spread hatred in your word. You said “Islam” is evil. Word of our God and His messenger couldn’t be evil. It seems u r filled with hatred towards muslims. What muslims have done wrongwith you? If u have some real convinsing proof of muslims being evil, share it so that i can reply as i am Muslim and a proud one.
Whatever your thinking is, keep it yourself. Don’t spread hatred as world is already full of it and knowing or without knowing, people are reverting backward towards past hatred that caused “World Wars”.
Muhammad is not a messanger of God, he is not a messanger of anything. He made up “messages from God” when he had a goal or a desire to fulfill.
I do not spread hatred, and if you don’t like the truth… guess what, I don’t care. Muslims have not done anything wrong to me, personally, but I know history (unlike some) and I know what Islam has done to everything non-Islamic. Cultures destroyed, countries ravaged, millions killed or enslaved. I also have read islamic holy texts, and even though I have forgotten a lot of it, I am still more qualified to speak about Islam than most Muslims are.
I am writing an article about Islam, I do not know when I will post it, next summer probably, but when I do, feel free to leave your thoughts. I am not going to keep my opinions to myself. Ignorance is no cure for hatred, and evil has to be fought regardless of the form it takes.