The Crusades were a period during the early second millennium in which religion shaped much of the eastern world. This age of conflict saw many lives lost over the preservation of the Christian religions, while Islam attempted to retain its grip of influence on Jerusalem and much of the Middle East. This was a regional conflict which has left its mark on human history even today. The fights that men and women pursued to remain faithful to the deity that they served were persistent and ambitious. This was a time of great tribulation for the Catholic and Christian religions, as many of their most devout members demonstrated the willingness to sacrifice their lives to preserve what they perceived as the truth that was their religion. Clearly, this was not a task which was intended to be taken lightly, and it is one which took plenty of courage, strength, and faith to endure to the end.
The main concepts that I will be discussing in this essay will outline the main causes and themes encompassing the crusades. To establish this more clearly, it is important to evaluate similar events which preceded them, as well as some that happened centuries afterward. However, these are not the points in history that will be focused on. They will be used as points of comparison to convey the broader themes of social and religious conflict, faith, oppression, and defeat that inevitably occur during the repetitious cycle of holy wars. I have learned that the words “faith” and “religion” are used synonymously for a reason. This purpose is clearly reflected in the events which take place as a result of their existence. Persecution, different religions, and oppression are themes which are all predicted in Judaism and throughout the different sects of Christianity. As sure as history has proven to us time and time again, this is always the case. While theological perspectives are subjective enough to cause contention among the masses, it is still honorable in a sense that people have always been ready to fight and die for the faith in which they serve. This in itself is a demonstration of true ambition and sense of self regarding one’s beliefs. While the crusades were not as significant as the foundations of these religions themselves, the point in human history were one in which people were tried according to the faith that they professed. During these trying and tiresome missions, the faith and lives of many were sacrificed. It was not common for people to journey out to their murder, captivity, or starvation in hopes that they would be assisted by their God in defeating their foes, the Muslims. In a sense, the crusades took place over a fairly extensive period which could be compared to the struggles which have been facing Christians and Jews in the same parts of the world today. Much like the persecution and suffering that these religious people are sometimes forced to endure in the Middle East today, they were subjected to the cruelty and strength of their oppressors.
While the crusades were a revolutionary period for Christianity and Catholicism, they did not occur without reason. As human history has shown repeatedly, members who identify with Abrahamic religions tend to be oppressed by other social and religious groups who reject their teachings. This is a recurring pattern which will likely take place again in a lifetime and is currently unfolding in such a way today. There will always be religious opposition and strife throughout the world. This was the epitome of the crusades, as well as the main historical events that led up to them in the first place. Even well into the 1500’s and 1600’s, centuries after the Crusades had ended, the establishment and oppositions of different religions and sects amongst themselves, battles were being fought to preserve the beliefs of the people that were fighting for them.
The struggle between Israel and the Roman Empire had been an ongoing conflict throughout much of human history. By the end of the first century, Jerusalem had fallen captive to its enemies, the Romans. Even unto their destruction, the people of Jerusalem remained valiant in their efforts to fend off the ones who attempted to destroy and enslave them. This was one of many instances in Jewish history in which the collapse of their people was brought upon them by the hands of their enemies. In this instance, their enemies were the Roman Empire, one of the greatest global powers of its time. This ultimately led to the relationship between the modern Latin Catholic church and the nation of Israel. In this sense, the nation and its people had once again fallen prey to their enemies.
Naturally, this did not mark the very beginning of the Catholic Church. The Church as it is rooted today was gradually established throughout the 5th and 6th centuries by Germanic invaders of the Roman Empire. Once again, this was recorded as another turning point in the history of Christianity. As such tends to happen with nations that identify as predominantly Christian, this great nation had once been defeated by its enemies, only to have its core religion modified once again. During this time, the spread of Islam began to take place in many of the same regions as well. This included much of Europe as well as a significant portion of the Middle East. While Catholicism played a major role in the crusades that took place, the Church itself had a goal of uniting the different sects under the common goal of overcoming the Muslim enemies which threatened their faith and ways of life.
By the end of the 11th century, the first wave of crusaders had begun to take place. The first triumph of the crusaders took place during the seizure of the Muslim-controlled city of Anitoch. This was accomplished within just a couple of short months, in which the victors were able to scrap what little resources they were able to. Shortly after this victory, however, the Crusaders were entrapped by their enemies once again. They were fortunate to be conveniently aided by Duqaq of Damascus. Once again, the aid of something greater than the people had come to their rescue. However, this was short-lived, as there was little progress to be made after this particular triumph. By the beginning of 1098, the year following the siege of Anitoch, many of the crusaders had begun to die off, either from starvation or illness. Others also gave up their cause altogether, in hopes that they would diminish as their peers had. Once again, though, the Crusaders were aided again by a second source of relief, this time by the soldiers of Aleppo. The pattern of success and divine interventions served the Crusaders well during this first wave, and the kingdoms which were established as a result were proof of it. By the beginning of the 1100’s, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, and the County of Tripoli were established. This can be credited by the Catholics which oversaw this massive mission throughout Europe. One fact about this crusade that sometimes goes without acknowledgment is the excessive slaughter of the Jews by Catholics during this time. As history has a tendency to do, justice was served to the self-righteous groups in a failed second crusade which took place during the following century.
Once again, Jerusalem was destined to fall into the hands of its enemies. For much the 12th century, the Holy city was under Muslim rule. During the second crusade in 1187, it appeared as if an opposition group would attempt to take control of the city in the same manner as the Romans during the first century. Unlike the Romans, however, these crusaders would prove to be unsuccessful in their mission to take back the city in the name of Christianity. Upon initiating the fight, many of the crusaders and the supporting natives knew that this was a battle that was likely going to be lost. Ultimately, the fight was surrendered by Balian’s army, as they knew that their people would receive more freedoms under Muslim rule if they only surrendered while they were ahead. By this point, the recurring pattern of religious triumph followed by its demise would appear evident. Still, faith without works is dead, and therefore not worth defending. While this turning point marked an unsuccessful crusade, it did not mark the end of the goals of widespread Catholicism, Judaism, and secular Christianity. In contrast, it also did not mark the end of the persistence of the Islamic religion, as this is a religious conflict is one which has held a strong influence on the world even today.
While these two particular battles were only a couple turning points that took place during the Crusades, this was a pattern which took place during the entirety of this long religious war. In the end, however, the Catholic Church had established its dominant role in much of the Eastern rule, thus establishing the concepts of authority, militarism, and the papacy that have resonated with it to this day. Essentially, the conflict that took centuries to carry out ended triumphantly by the same organization that had initiated it in the first place. This is my personal take on the conclusion of the Crusades anyway, as the conflict is still very much at hand today as well. In contrast, however, the common enemy of Muslims is not simply their Catholic opponents, but those who identify as Jewish or any other form of Christianity as well.
This ongoing pattern is a validation of the timeless moral and spiritual conflict which has plagued the world since the undefined time of its conception. The pattern that I am speaking of is that of religion itself, as it is always interpreted differently. Still, this does not inspire many people to explore alternative views, but rather to engage in war and overthrowing societies in the name of faith. What’s more, many of the people of faith who find them in a position to defend themselves are still subject to their enemies. Most of the time, these said enemies belong to religious groups with radically contradicting views. If any universal truth has been made to mankind at all by this point, it should be that we are doomed to repeat the same cycles of strife and xenophobia if the basis of all of our conflicts rests entirely on religious beliefs. While this has been repeated multiple times in different scenarios, the crusades were a prime example as to how this same cycle seems to play out. Learning about the crusades has taught me that there is more pain to be found than solace in religion and that regardless of the triumphant faith, the victory will always be temporary until history inevitably repeats itself.
It is unfortunate that the underlying conflict between the Muslims and the Christians did not come to an end after the liberation of Jerusalem by the Christian armies. Instead, the Muslims responded by vowing to wage Jihad or the Holy Ware to regain their control over the region. Nonetheless, Pope Urban II whose plan was to extend his power and control across Europe was able to achieve his objective. However, it was devastating to see the injuries and slaughter of innocent people as a result of the war. On the contrary, the Europeans got exposed to a bunch of goods that they had never been exposed to before such as textiles. The goods boosted trading activities in the region that assisted in the economic development of the region. However, the worst part is that the first crusade culminated the hatred and controversy between the Muslims and the Christians.
In the wake of the current century, people from different parts of the world including journalists and researchers are still researching on possible means for ending the rise of the Islam militants that have been related to a series of violence against the Christians. Nonetheless, it is equally important to dig into the motivations that are behind these Jihad wars. Hence, to begin with, the Crusades played are regarded as the primary motivations that accelerated the series of holy wars that are being registered in various parts of the world. For instance, the first crusade that led to the liberation of Jerusalem by the Christian armies increased the level of religious differences between the Christians and the Muslims. The Muslims who lost control over the area felt that the region belonged to them and from then henceforth they vowed to do anything to win territory back. Thus, every time that the Muslim community reflects on the effects of the first crusade, they usually feel motivated to take part in the Holy wars.
It is very unfortunate to highlight that religious institution that is supposed to preach and cement peace in our communities can cause war. Religion has been known for centuries as a tool for guiding people’s faith. Thus, it is not surprising that people might use religion as a tool for convincing people to take part in wars. As it was seen during the first crusade, Pope Urban II justified the reason why religion can be used to stimulate wars in our communities. Consequently, people choose to follow particular religions to make particular fulfillments in their lives. For instance, Christians are compelled to follow the teachings of the Holy Bible to save their souls from being subjected to everlasting fires after their deaths. That was evident when Pope Urban II the influence that he had developed amongst the Christians to fulfill his objectives of increasing Christian influence across Europe.
Clearly, Christians should not have indulged in war activities to liberate Jerusalem during the first crusade. Instead, they should have chosen a more amicable and peaceful method that could have increased the underlying peace that existed between the Christians and the Muslims. It should be noted that the underlying conflict between the Muslims and the Christians did not come to an end after the liberation of Jerusalem by the Christian armies. In fact, the Muslims responded by vowing to wage Jihad or the Holy Ware to regain their control over the region. Nonetheless, Pope Urban II whose plan was to extend his power and control across Europe was able to achieve his objective. However, it was devastating to see the injuries and slaughter of innocent people as a result of the war. On the contrary, the Europeans got exposed to a bunch of goods that they had never been exposed to before such as textiles. The goods boosted trading activities in the region that assisted in the economic development of the region. However, the worst part is that the first crusade culminated the hatred and controversy between the Muslims and the Christians. Thus, it is not fair to associate the Muslims with the negative perceptions that exist in the West about Muslims and Islam.