The Crusades


By Lawrence Miller




Causes. The First Crusade: 1095-99. The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: 1099-1143. The Second Crusade: 1146-8. Saladin. The Third Crusade 1189-92. The Fourth Crusade: 1202-4 The Collapse Of The Crusades: 1212-91. The Results of the Crusades.




The Crusades were the culminating act of the medieval drama. Now at last, after centuries of argument, the two great faiths, Christianity and Mohammedanism, resorted to man’s ultimate tribunal of disputes — the supreme court of war. All medieval development, all the expansion of commerce and Christendom, all the fervor of religious belief, all the power of feudalism and glamour of chivalry came to a climax in a Two Hundred Years’ War for the soul of man and the profits of trade.

The first proximate cause of the Crusades was the advance of the Seljuq Turks. The world had adjusted itself to Moslem control of the Near East; the Fatimids of Egypt had ruled mildly in Palestine; and barring some exceptions, the Christian sects there had enjoyed a wide liberty of worship. Al-Hakim, the mad caliph of Cairo, had destroyed the church of the Holy Sepulcher (1010), but the Mohammedans themselves had contributed substantially to its restoration. In 1070 the Turks took Jerusalem from the Fatimids, and pilgrims began to bring home accounts of oppression and desecration.

The second proximate cause of the Crusades was the dangerous weakening of the Byzantine Empire. For seven centuries it had stood at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, holding back the armies of Asia and the hordes of the steppes. Now its internal discords, its disruptive heresies, its isolation from the West by the schism of 1054, left it too feeble to fulfill its historic task. While the Bulgars, Patzinaks, Cumans, and Russians assaulted its European gates, the Turks were dismembering its Asiatic provinces. In 1071 the Byzantine army was almost annihilated at Manzikert; the Seljuqs captured Edessa, Antioch (1085), Tarsus, even Nicaea, and gazed across the Bosporus at Constantinople itself. The Emperor Alexius I (1081-1118) saved a part of Asia Minor by signing a humiliating peace, but he had no military means of resisting further attack. If Constantinople should fall, all Eastern Europe would lie open to the Turks, and the victory of Tours (732) would be undone. Forgetting theological pride, Alexius sent delegates to Urban II and the Council of Piacenza, urging Latin Europe to help him drive back the Turks; it would be wiser, he argued, to fight the infidels on Asiatic soil than wait for them to swarm through the Balkans to the Western capitals.

The third proximate cause of the Crusades was the ambition of the Italian cities — Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Amalfi — to extend their rising commercial power. When the Normans captured Sicily from the Moslems (1060-91), and Christian arms reduced Moslem rule in Spain (1085), the western Mediterranean was freed for Christian trade; the Italian cities, as ports of exit for domestic and transalpine products, grew rich and strong, and planned to end Moslem ascendancy in the eastern Mediterranean, and open the markets of the Near East to West European goods. We do not know how close these Italian merchants were to the ear of the Pope.

The final decision came from Urban himself. Other popes had entertained the idea. Gerbert, as Sylvester II, had appealed to Christendom to rescue Jerusalem, and an abortive expedition had landed in Syria (c. 1001). Probably Urban longed to channel the disorderly pugnacity of feudal barons and Norman buccaneers into a holy war to save Europe and Byzantium from Islam; he dreamed of bringing the Eastern Church under papal rule, and envisioned a mighty Christendom united under the theocracy of the popes. It was a conception of the highest order of statesmanship.

From March to October of 1095 he toured northern Italy and southern France, sounding out leaders and ensuring support. At Clermont in Auvergne the historic council met, and though it was a cold November, thousands of people came from a hundred communities, pitched their tents in the open fields, gathered in a vast assemblage that no hall could hold, and throbbed with emotion as their fellow Frenchman Urban, raised on a platform in their midst, addressed to them in French the most influential speech in medieval history.

"O race of Franks! race beloved and chosen by God!... From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians, and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away a part of the captives into their own country, and a part they have killed by cruel tortures. They destroy the altars, after having defiled them with their uncleanliness. The kingdom of the Greeks is now dismembered by them, and has been deprived of territory so vast in extent that it could not be traversed in two months time. Continuing in this manner, Urban closed by asking the assembled to "Undertake this journey eagerly for the remission of your sins, and be assured of the reward of imperishable glory in the Kingdom of Heaven."

"God wills it!" the crowd exclaimed. Urban took it up, and called upon them to make it their battle cry. He bade those who undertook the crusade to wear a cross upon brow or breast — hence the use of the Spanish word cruzada, meaning "marked with the cross" --- came to be used for those undertaking the fight against the infidels.

The First Crusade: 1095-99.

Extraordinary inducements brought multitudes to the standard. A plenary indulgence remitting all punishments due to sin was offered to those who should fall in the war. Serfs were allowed to leave the soil to which they had been bound; citizens were exempted from taxes; debtors enjoyed a moratorium on interest; prisoners were freed, and sentences of death were commuted, by a bold extension of papal authority, to life service in Palestine. Thousands of vagrants joined in the sacred tramp. Men tired of hopeless poverty, adventurers ready for brave enterprise, younger sons hoping to carve out fiefs for themselves in the East, merchants seeking new markets for their goods, knights whose enlisting serfs had left them laborless, timid spirits shunning taunts of cowardice --- all manner of men joined with sincerely religious souls to rescue the land of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. Propaganda of the kind customary in war stressed the injustices against Christians in Palestine, the atrocities of Moslems, the blasphemies of the Mohammedan creed; Moslems were described as worshipping a statue of Mohammed, and pious gossip related how the Prophet, fallen in an epileptic fit, had been eaten alive by hogs. Fabulous tales were told of Oriental wealth and of dark beauties waiting to be taken by brave men.

Such a variety of motives could hardly assemble a homogeneous mass capable of military organization. In many cases women and children insisted upon accompanying their husbands or parents -- perhaps with reason -- for prostitutes soon enlisted to serve the warriors. The month of August 1096 was the appointed time of departure, but the impatient peasants who were the first recruits could not wait. It was chiefly disorderly bands such as these that attacked the Jews of Germany and Bohemia, rejected the appeals of the local clergy and citizenry, and degenerated for a time into brutes phrasing their bloodlust in piety. With modest funds and little food provided by inexperienced leadership, it is little wonder that trouble was soon in coming. When their funds ran out and they began to starve, they were forced to pillage the fields and homes on their route and soon added rape to rapine. The population resisted violently. Arriving at last before Constantinople quite penniless and decimated by famine, plague, leprosy, fever, and battles on the way, they were welcomed by Alexius but not satisfactorily fed; they broke into the suburbs and plundered churches, houses, and palaces. To deliver his capital from these preying locusts, Alexius provided them with vessels to cross the Bosporus, sent them supplies, and bade them wait until better armed detachments could arrive. Whether through hunger or restlessness, the Crusaders ignored these instructions, and advanced upon Nicaea. A disciplined force of Turks, all skilled bowmen, marched out from the city and nearly annihilated this first division of the First Crusade.

Meanwhile, the feudal leaders who had taken the cross had assembled each his own force in his own place. No king was among them; indeed Philip I of France, William II of England, and Henry IV of Germany were all under sentence of excommunication when Urban preached the crusade. But many counts and dukes enlisted, nearly all of them French or Frank; the First Crusade was largely a French enterprise, and to this day the Near East speaks of West Europeans as Franks. By diverse routes these hosts made their way to Constantinople. The virile, half-barbarous knights of the West despised the subtle and cultured gentlemen of the East as heretics lost in effeminate luxury; they looked with astonishment and envy upon the riches laid up in the churches, palaces, and markets of the Byzantine capital and thought that fortune should belong to the brave. Alexius may have gotten wind of these notions among his supposed saviors. He had asked for assistance against the Turks, but he had not bargained upon the united strength of Europe gathering at his gates; he could never be sure whether these warriors aspired to Jerusalem so much as to Constantinople, nor whether they would restore to his Empire any formerly Byzantine territory that they might take from the Turks. He offered the Crusaders provisions, subsidies, transport, military aid and, for the leaders, handsome bribes; in return he asked that the nobles should swear allegiance to him as their feudal sovereign; any lands taken by them were to be held in fealty to him. The nobles, softened with silver, swore.

Early in 1097 the armies, totaling some 30,000 men, still under divided leadership, crossed the straits. Luckily, the Moslems were even more divided than the Christians. Not only was Moslem power in Spain spent and in northern Africa rent with religious faction, but in the East the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt held southern Syria, while their foes, the Seljuq Turks, held northern Syria and most of Asia Minor. Armenia rebelled against its Seljuq conquerors and allied itself with the "Franks." So helped, the arms of Europe advanced to besiege Nicaea. On Alexius’ pledge that their lives would be spared, the Turkish garrison surrendered (June 19, 1097). After a week's rest, the Crusaders then set out for Antioch. They met and won a bloody victory over a Turkish army on July 1, 1097, and continued on through Asia Minor with no other enemies than a shortage of water and food, and a degree of heat for which the Western blood was unprepared. Many died of thirst on this bitter march of 500 miles.

Antioch, described as a "city extremely beautiful, distinguished, and delightful" in the Gesta Francorum, resisted siege for eight months. Many Crusaders died from exposure to the cold winter rains or from hunger; some found a novel nourishment by chewing the sweet reeds called "zucra"; now for the first time the "Franks" tasted sugar, and learned how it was pressed from cultivated herbs. Prostitutes provided more dangerous sweets; an amiable archdeacon was slain by the Turks as he reclined in an orchard with his Syrian concubine. In May, 1098, word came that a great Moslem army was approaching under Karbogha, Prince of Mosul; Antioch fell (June 3, 1098) a few days before this army arrived; many of the Crusaders, fearing that Karbogha could not be withstood, boarded ships on the Orontes and fled. Alexius, advancing with a Greek force, was misled by deserters into believing that the Christians had already been defeated; he turned back to protect Asia Minor and was never forgiven. To restore courage to the Crusaders, Peter Bartholomew, a priest from Marseilles, pretended to have found the spear that had pierced the side of Christ; when the Christians marched out to battle the lance was carried aloft as a sacred standard; and three knights, robed in white, issued from the hills at the call of the papal legate Adhemar, who proclaimed them to be the martyrs St. Maurice, St. Theodore, and St. George. So inspired, the Crusaders achieved a decisive victory. Bartholomew, accused of a pious fraud, offered to undergo the ordeal of fire as a test of his veracity. He ran through a gauntlet of burning faggots and emerged apparently safe; but he died of burns or an overstrained heart on the following day, and the holy lance was withdrawn from the standards of the host.

The chieftains claimed that Alexius’ failure to come to their aid released them from their vows of allegiance. After spending six months in refreshing and reorganizing their weakened forces, they then led their armies toward Jerusalem. At last, on June 8, 1099, after a campaign of three years, the Crusaders, reduced to 12,000 combatants, stood in exaltation and fatigue before the walls of Jerusalem. By the humor of history, the Turks whom they had come to fight had been expelled from the city by the Fatimids a year before. The caliph offered peace on terms of guaranteed safety for Christian pilgrims and worshipers in Jerusalem, but the Crusaders demanded unconditional surrender. The Fatimid garrison of 1000 men resisted for forty days. On July 15 the Crusaders went over the walls and knew the ecstasy of a high purpose accomplished after heroic suffering. Then, reports the priestly eyewitness Raymond of Agiles, "wonderful things were to be seen. Numbers of the Saracens were beheaded... Others were shot with arrows, or forced to jump from the towers; others were tortured for several days and then burned in flames. In the streets were seen piles of heads and hands and feet. One rode about everywhere amid the corpses of men and horses."

Other contemporaries contribute details: women were stabbed to death, suckling babes were snatched by the leg from their mothers’ breasts and flung over the walls, or had their necks broken by being dashed against posts; and 70,000 Moslems remaining in the city were slaughtered. The surviving Jews were herded into a synagogue and burned alive. The victors flocked to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, whose grotto, they believed, had once held the crucified Christ. There, embracing one another, they wept with joy and release, and thanked the God of Mercies for their victory.

The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: 1099-1143.

Godfrey of Bouillon, whose exceptional integrity had finally won recognition, was chosen to rule Jerusalem and its environs under the modest title of Defender of the Holy Sepulcher. Here, where Byzantine rule had ceased 465 years before, no pretense was made of subordination to Alexius; the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem became at once a sovereign state. The Greek Church was disestablished, its patriarch fled to Cyprus, and the parishes of the new kingdom accepted the Latin liturgy, an Italian primate, and papal rule.

Indispensable for sovereignty is the capacity for self-defense. Godfrey proved to be up to the task when two weeks after the great liberation, an Egyptian army came up to Ascalon to reliberate it. Godfrey defeated it, but a year later he died. His less able brother, Baldwin I (1100-18), took the loftier title of king. Under King Fulk, Count Anjou (1131-43), the new state included most of Palestine and Syria; but the Moslems still held Aleppo, Damascus, and Emesa. The kingdom was divided into four fiefdoms and was checked by an ecclesiastical hierarchy subject only to the pope. The count was further weakened by ceding the control of several ports. The barons laid obligations on the people that were more severe than any in contemporary Europe. The native Christian population looked back to Moslem rule as a golden age.

The young kingdom had many elements of weakness, but it had unique support in new orders of military monks. One of those orders was the Knights Templar; another was the Hospitalers. They both played prominent roles in the battles of the Crusades while living under a little- followed rule drawn up for them by Bernard.

Most of the Crusaders returned to Europe after freeing Jerusalem, leaving the manpower of the harassed government perilously low. To the north, the Greeks watched for a chance to recover Antioch, Edessa, and other Byzantine cities, while to the east, the Saracens were being rallied and unified by Moslem appeals and Christian raids. Mohammedan refugees from Jerusalem told in bitter detail of the fall of that city to the Christians; they stormed the Great Mosque of Baghdad and demanded that Moslem arms should liberate Jerusalem, and the sacred Dome of the Rock, from unclean infidel hands. The caliph was powerless to heed their pleas, but Zangi, the young slave-born Prince of Mosul, responded. In 1144 his small but well-led army took from the Christians their eastern outpost at al-Ruah, and a few months later he recaptured Edessa for Islam. Zangi was assassinated, but he was succeeded by a son, Nur-ud-din, of equal courage and even greater ability. It was the news of these events that stirred Europe to the Second Crusade.

The Second Crusade: 1146-8.

The Roman Catholic monk Bernard appealed to Pope Eugenius III to sound another call to arms. Eugenius, enmeshed in religious conflict within Rome itself, begged Bernard to undertake the task himself. Accordingly, Bernard left his cell at Clairvaux to preach the crusade to the French, with the result that widespread skepticism and fear among the populace stemming from the First Crusade was diminished. He persuaded King Louis VII to take the cross, and with the King at Bernard’s side, the multitudes enlisted en masse. From there Bernard went on to Germany where he had similar successes, including persuading the Emperor Conrad III to help him.

At Pascha of 1147 Conrad and the Germans set out; at Pentecost, Louis and the French followed at a cautious distance, uncertain whether the Germans or the Turks were their most hated foes. The Germans felt a like hesitation between Turks and Greeks. As the armies marched they pillaged the towns along the way.

A series of misadventures and duplicity, perpetrated by both insiders and outsiders, practically decimated both armies. Louis reached Jerusalem with the ladies of his entourage but no army, while Conrad arrived with a pitiful remnant of the force with which he had left. From these survivors and soldiers already in the capital, an army was improvised, and marched against Damascus under the divided command of Conrad, Louis, and Baldwin III (1143-62). During the siege disputes arose among the nobles as to which should rule Damascus when it fell. This and other problems and disputes broke the army into fragments. Conrad, defeated and diseased, returned in disgrace to Germany. Louis remained another year in Palestine, making pilgrimages to sacred shrines.

Europe was stunned by the collapse of the Second Crusade. Men began to ask how it was that the Almighty allowed His defenders to be so humiliated; critics assailed Bernard as a reckless visionary who had sent men to their death. Bernard replied that the ways of the Almighty are beyond human understanding, and that the disaster must have been a punishment for Christian sins. Enthusiasm for the Crusades rapidly waned.


Meanwhile a strange new civilization had developed in Christian Syria and Palestine. The Europeans who had settled there since 1099 gradually adopted the Near Eastern garb of wound headdress and flowing robe as suited to a climate of sun and sand. As they became more familiar with the Moslems living in the kingdom, mutual unfamiliarity and hostility decreased. Moslem merchants freely entered Christian settlements and sold their wares; Moslem and Jewish physicians were preferred by Christian patients; Moslem worship in mosques was permitted by the Christian clergy; and the Koran was taught in Moslem schools in Christian Antioch and Tripolis. Many Crusaders married Syrian women and soon their mixed offspring constituted a large element of the population. Christian princes made alliances with Moslem emirs against Christian rivals, and Moslem emirs sometimes asked the aid of the "polytheists" in diplomacy or war. Ibn Jubair, who toured Christian Syria in 1183, described his fellow Moslems there as prosperous and as well treated by the Franks. He mourned to see Acre "swarming with pigs and crosses" and odorous with a vile European smell, but he had some hopes that the infidels would gradually be civilized by the civilization –superior in his eyes-- to which they had come.

In the forty years of peace that followed the Second Crusade, the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem continued to be torn by internal strife, while its Moslem enemies moved toward unity. Nur-ud-din spread his power from Aleppo to Damascus (1164); when he died, Saladin brought Egypt and Moslem Syria under one rule (1175). Guy de Lusignan maneuvered his way to the throne (1186), causing disaffection to spread among the aristocracy; "if this Guy is a king," said his brother Geoffrey, "I am worthy to be a god." Reginald of Chatillon made himself sovereign in the great castle of Karak beyond the Jordan, near the Arabian frontier, and repeatedly violated the truce arranged between the Latin king and Saladin. He announce his intention to invade Arabia, destroy the tomb of "the accursed camel driver" at Medina, and smash the Kaaba at Mecca into fragments. His small force of knightly adventurers sailed down the Red Sea, landed at el-Haura, and marched to Medina; they were surprised by an Egyptian detachment, and all were cut down except a few who escaped with Reginald and some prisoners who were taken to Mecca and slaughtered instead of goats at the annual pilgrimage sacrifice (1183).

Saladin had heretofore contented himself with minor forays against Palestine; now, offended to the depths of his piety, he re-formed the army that had won him Damascus, and met the forces of the Latin kingdom in an indecisive battle on the historic plain of Esdraelon (1183). A few month later he attacked Reginald at Karak, but failed to enter the citadel. In 1185 he signed a four-year truce with the Latin kingdom. But in 1186 Reginald, bored with peace, waylaid a Moslem caravan, and took rich booty and several prisoners, including Saladin’s sister. "Since they trusted in Mohammed," said Reginald, "let Mohammed come and save them." Mohammed did not come; but Saladin, infuriated, sounded the call for a holy war against the Christians and swore to kill Reginald with his own hands.

The crucial engagement of the Crusades was fought at Hittin, near Tiberias, on July 4, 1187. Saladin, familiar with the terrain, took up positions controlling all the wells; the heavily armored Christians, having marched across the plain in midsummer heat, entered battle gasping with thirst. Taking advantage of the wind, the Moslem army started a brush fire whose smoke further harassed the Crusaders. In blind confusion, the Frankish footmen were separated from the cavalry and cut down; the knights, fighting with desperation against weapons, smoke, and thirst, at last fell exhausted to the ground and were captured or slain. Saladin directed that King Guy and Duke Reginald be brought before him; to the King he gave drink as a pledge of pardon. To Reginald he gave the choice of death or acknowledging Mohammed as a prophet of God; when Reginald refused, Saladin slew him. Part of the booty was the True Cross, which Saladin sent to the caliph at Baghdad. With no army remaining to challenge him, Saladin went on to capture Acre. For a few months nearly all Palestine was in his hands.

As he approached Jerusalem the leading citizens came out to sue for peace. Saladin said that, as they believed, so he believed that Jerusalem is the home of God and that he would not willingly lay siege to it or put it to assault. He offered it freedom to fortify itself and to cultivate unhindered the land for fifteen miles around, and promised to supply all deficiencies of money and food until Pentecost; if, when that day came, they saw hope of being rescued, they might keep the city and honorably resist him; if no such prospect appeared, they were to yield peaceably and he would spare the lives and property of the Christian inhabitants. The delegates refused the offer, saying that they would never surrender the city where the Savior had died for mankind. The siege lasted only twelve days. When the city capitulated, Saladin required a ransom of ten gold pieces for each man, five for each woman, one for each child; the poorest 7000 inhabitants were to be freed on the surrender of the 30,000 gold bezants which had been sent to the Hospitalers by Henry II of England. These terms were accepted, says a Christian chronicler, "with gratitude and lamentation"; perhaps some learned Christians compared these events of 1187 with those of 1099. Saladin's brother al-Adil asked for the gift of a thousand slaves from the still unransomed poor; it was granted, and he freed them. Balian, leader of the Christian resistance, asked a like boon, received it, and freed another thousand; the Christian primate asked and received and did likewise. Then Saladin said: "My brother has made his alms, and the patriarch and Balian have made theirs; now I would make mine," and he free all the old who could not pay. In the end, 15,000 of the 60,000 captured Christians remained unransomed and became slaves. Among the ransomed were the wives and daughters of the nobles who had been killed or captured at Hittin. Softened by their tears, Saladin released to them such husbands and fathers (including King Guy) as could be found in Moslem captivity, and (relates Ernoul, squire to Balian) to "the dames and damsels whose lords were dead he distributed from his own treasure so much that they gave praise to God, and published abroad the kindness and honor that Saladin had done them."

The freed King and nobles took oaths never to bear arms against Saladin again. Safe in Christian Tripolis and Antioch, they were "released by the sentence of the clergy from the enormity of their promise," and laid plans of vengeance against Saladin. The Sultan allowed the Jews to dwell again in Jerusalem and gave Christians the right to enter, but unarmed; he assisted their pilgrimage, and protected their security. The Dome of the Rock, which had been converted into a church, was purified by sprinkling with rose water, and the golden cross was cast down amid Moslem cheers and Christian groans. Saladin led his wearied troops to the siege of Tyre, found it impregnable, dismissed most of his army, and retired ill and worn to Damascus (1188), in the fiftieth year of his age.

The Third Crusade 1189-92.

The retention of Tyre, Antioch, and Tripolis left the Christians some strands of hope. Italian fleets still controlled the Mediterranean and stood ready to carry fresh Crusaders, for a price. William, Archbishop of Tyre, returned to Europe, and recounted to assemblies in Italy, France, and Germany the fall of Jerusalem. At Mainz, his appeal so moved Frederick Barbarossa that the great Emperor, sixty-seven years old, set out almost at once with his army (1189), and all Christendom applauded him as a second Moses who would open a way to the Promised Land. Crossing the Hellespont at Gallipoli, the new host, on a new route, repeated the errors and tragedies of the First Crusade. Turkish bands harassed its march and cut off its supplies; hundreds starved to death; Frederick drowned ignominiously in the little river of Salef in Cilicia (1190), and only a fraction of his army survived to join in the siege of Acre.

Richard I of the Lion Heart, recently crowned King of England at the age of thirty-one, resolved to try his hand on the Moslems. Fearing French encroachment, in his absence, upon English possession in France, he insisted that Philip Augustus should accompany him; the French king — a lad of twenty-three — agreed; and the two youthful monarchs received the cross from William of Tyre. Richard's army of Normans (for few Englishmen took part in the Crusades) sailed from Marseilles and Philip's army from Genoa for a rendezvous in Sicily (1190). There the kings quarreled and otherwise amused themselves for half a year. Tancred, King of Sicily, offended Richard, who seized Messina "quicker than a priest could chant matins" but then restored it for 40,000 ounces of gold. So solvent, Richard embarked with his army for Palestine. Some of his ships were wrecked off the coast of Cyprus; the crews were imprisoned by the Greek governor. This caused Richard to pause for a moment to conquer Cyprus and to give it to Guy de Lusignan, the homeless king of Jerusalem. Richard reached Acre in June of 1191. Philip had preceded him; the siege of Acre by the Christians had already lasted nineteen months and cost thousands of lives. A few weeks after Richard's arrival, the Moslems surrendered. The victors asked, and were promised, 200,000 gold pieces, 1600 selected prisoners, and the restoration of the True Cross. Saladin confirmed the agreement, and the Moslem population of Acre, excepting the 1600, were allowed to depart with such provisions as they could carry. Philip Augustus, ill with fever, returned to France, leaving behind him a French force of 10,500 men. Richard became sole leader of the Third Crusade.

Now began a confused and unique campaign in which blows and battles alternated with compliments and courtesies, while the English king and the Moslem sultan illustrated some of the finest qualities of their civilizations and creeds. Neither was a saint: Saladin could dispense death with vigor when military purposes seemed to him to require it, and the romantic Richard permitted some interruptions in his career as a gentleman. When the leaders of besieged Acre delayed in carrying out the agreed terms of surrender, Richard had 2500 Moslem prisoners beheaded before the walls as a hint to hurry. When Saladin learned of this he ordered the execution of all prisoners thereafter taken in battle with the English king. Trying another tack, Richard proposed to end the Crusades by marrying his sister Joan to Saladin's brother al-Adil. The Church denounced the scheme, and it was dropped.

Knowing that Saladin would not stay quiet in defeat, Richard reorganized his forces and prepared to march sixty miles southward along the coast to relieve Jaffa, which, again in Christian hands, was under Moslem siege. Many nobles refused to go with him, preferring to stay behind in Acre and intrigue for the kingship of Jerusalem, which they trusted Richard would take. After the long siege, says the Christian chronicler of Richard’s crusade, the victorious Christians, "given up to sloth and luxury, were loath to leave a city so rich in comforts — to wit, the choicest of wines and the fairest of damsels. Many, by a too intimate acquaintance with these pleasures, became dissolute, till the city was polluted by their luxury, and their gluttony and wantonness put wise men to the blush."

Richard made matters more difficult by ordering that no women should accompany the army except washerwomen who could not be an occasion of sin. He atoned for the defects of his troops by the excellence of his generalship, and his inspiring valor on the field; in these respects he excelled even Saladin.

His army met Saladin's at Arsuf and won an indecisive victory (1191). Saladin offered to renew battle, but Richard withdrew his men within Jaffa's walls. Saladin sent him an offer of peace. During the negotiation Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat, who held Tyre, entered into separate correspondence with Saladin, proposing to become his ally and retake Acre for the Moslems if Saladin would agree to his appropriating Sidon and Beirut. Despite this offer, Saladin authorized his brother to sign with Richard a peace yielding to the Christians all the coastal cities that they then held and half of Jerusalem. Richard was so pleased that he ceremoniously conferred knighthood upon the son of the Moslem ambassador (1192). A while later, hearing that Saladin was faced with revolt in the East, he rejected Saladin's terms, besieged and took Darum, and advanced to within twelve miles of Jerusalem. Saladin, who had dismissed his troops for the winter, called them back to arms. Meanwhile, dissension broke out in the Christian camp when scouts reported that the wells on the road to Jerusalem had been poisoned and that the army would have nothing to drink. A council was held to decide strategy; it voted to abandon Jerusalem and march upon Cairo, 250 miles away. Richard, sick, disgusted, and despondent, retired to Acre, and thought of returning to England.

But when he heard that Saladin had again attacked Jaffa and had taken it in two days, Richard's pride revived him. With such troops as he could muster, he sailed at once for Jaffa. Having arrived in the harbor, he cried, "Perish the hindmost!" and leaped to his waist into the sea. Swinging his famous Danish ax, he beat down all who resisted him, led his men into the city, and cleared it of Moslem soldiery almost before Saladin could learn what had occurred (1192). The sultan summoned his main army to his rescue. It far outnumbered Richard's 3000, but the reckless courage of the King carried the day. Seeing Richard unmounted, Saladin sent him a charger, calling it a shame that so gallant a warrior should have to fight on foot. Saladin's soldiers soon had enough; they reproached him for having spared the Jaffa garrison, which was now fighting again. Finally, if we may believe the Christian account, Richard rode along the Moslem front, lance at rest, and none dared attack him.

The next day fortune changed. Reinforcements reached Saladin; and Richard, sick again and unsupported by the knights at Acre and Tyre, once more sued for peace. In his fever he cried out for fruit and a cooling drink; Saladin sent him pears, peaches, and snow -- and his own physician. On September 2, 1192, the two warriors signed a peace for three years, and partitioned Palestine: Richard was to keep all the coastal cities he had conquered, from Acre to Jaffa; Moslems and Christians were to pass freely into and from each other's territory, and pilgrims would be protected in Jerusalem; however, that city itself was to remain in Moslem hands. (Perhaps Italian merchants interested in controlling the ports had persuaded Richard to yield the Holy City). The peace was celebrated with feasts and tournaments; "God alone," says Richard's chronicler, "knoweth the measureless delight of both peoples"; for a moment men ceased to hate. Boarding his ship for England, Richard sent a last defiant note to Saladin, promising to return in three years and take Jerusalem. Saladin replied that if he must lose his land he would prefer to lose it to Richard than to any other man alive.

Saladin's moderation, patience, and justice had defeated Richard's brilliance, courage, and military art; the relative unity and fidelity of the Moslem leaders had triumphed over the divisions and disloyalties of the feudal chiefs; and a short line of supplies behind the Moslems proved of greater advantage than Christian control of the seas. The Christian virtues and faults were better exemplified in the Moslem sultan than in the Christian king. Saladin was religious to the point of persecution, and allowed himself to be unreasonably bitter against the Templars and Hospitalers. Usually, however, he was gentle to the weak, merciful to the vanquished, and so superior to his enemies in faithfulness to his word that Christian chroniclers wondered how so wrong a theology could produce so fine a man. He treated his servants with gentleness, and himself heard all petitions. He "esteemed money as little as dust," and left only one dinar in his personal treasury. Not long before his death he gave his son ez-Zahir instructions that no Christian philosopher could surpass: "My son, I commend thee to the most high Allah ... Do his will, for that way lies peace. Abstain from shedding blood...for blood that is spilt never sleeps. Seek to win the hearts of thy people, and watch over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that thou art over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that thou art appointed by Allah and me. Try to gain the hearts of thy ministers, nobles, and emirs. If I have become great it is because I have won men's hearts by kindness and gentleness."

He died in 1193, aged only fifty-five.


The Fourth Crusade: 1202-4

The Third Crusade had freed Acre but had left Jerusalem unredeemed -- a discouragingly small result giventhe participation of Europe's greatest kings. The drowning of Barbarossa, the flight of Philip Augustus, the brilliant failure of Richard, the unscrupulous intrigues of Christian knights in the Holy Land, the conflicts between Templars and Hospitalers, and the renewal of war between England and France broke the pride of Europe and further weakened the theological assurance of Christendom. But the early death of Saladin and the breakup of his empire engendered new hopes. Innocent III (1198-1216) demanded another effort. The results were disheartening. Frederick II was a boy of four; Philip Augustus thought one crusade enough; and Richard I, forgetting his last word to Saladin, laughed. "You advise me," he said, "to dismiss my three daughters — pride, avarice, and incontinence. I bequeath them to the most deserving: my pride to the Templars, my avarice to the monks of Citeaux, my incontinence to the prelates." But Innocent persisted. He suggested a campaign against Egypt; then, from that rich and fertile base, an attack on Jerusalem. After much haggling, Venice agreed to furnish the shipping and supplies for nine months in return for 85,000 marks of silver. The Venetians, however, had no intention of attacking Egypt; they made millions annually through trade with Egypt. While negotiating with the Crusaders' committee, they made a secret treaty with the sultan of Egypt, guaranteeing that country against invasion (1201). It is said Venice received a huge bribe to divert the crusade from Palestine.

In the summer of 1202, the new hosts gathered in Venice. Among them, the Marshal of Champagne, who would not only play a leading part in the diplomacy and campaigns of the crusade, but would enshrine its scandalous history in face-saving memoirs. France, as usual, supplied most of the Crusaders. The Crusaders fell 34,000 marks short of the 85,000 payable to Venice for her outlay. Venice opted to forgive the debt if the Crusaders would help capture Zara, a delightful morsel Venice had recently lost to Hungary. Innocent III denounced the proposal and threatened excommunication of all the participants. The combined fleets took Zara in five days and divided the spoils. Then the Crusaders begged absolution of the Pope; he gave it, but demanded restoration of the booty: they thanked him for the absolution, and kept the booty. The Venetians ignored the excommunications, and proceeded to the second part of their plan — the conquest of Constantinople.

The Byzantine monarchy had learned nothing from the Crusades. It gave little help, and derived much profit; it regained most of Asia Minor, and looked with equanimity upon the mutual weakening of Islam and the West in the struggle for Palestine. The Emperor Manuel had arrested thousands of Venetians in Constantinople and had for a time ended Venetian commercial privileges there (1171). Isaac II Angelus (1185-95) had not scrupled to ally himself with the Moslems. In 1195 Isaac was deposed, imprisoned, and blinded by his brother Alexius III. Isaac's son, another Alexius, fled to Germany; in 1202 he went to Venice, asked the Venetian Senate and the Crusaders to rescue and restore his father, and promised in return all that Byzantium could supply for their attack upon Islam. He was persuaded to pledge the Crusaders 200,000 marks of silver, equip an army of 10,000 men for service in Palestine, and submit the Greek Orthodox Church to the Roman Pope. Despite this subtle gift, Innocent III forbade the Crusaders, on pain of excommunication, to attack Byzantium. Some nobles refused to share in the expedition; a part of the army considered itself absolved from the Crusade and went home. But the prospect of capturing the richest city in Europe proved irresistible. On October 1, 1202, the great fleet of 480 vessels sailed amid much rejoicing.

After various delays the armada arrived before Constantinople on June 24, 1203. "You may be assured," says Villehardouin, "that those who had never seen Constantinople opened wide eyes now; for they could not believe that so rich a city could be in the whole world, when they saw her lofty walls and her stately palaces and lofty churches, so many in number as no man might believe who had not seen them, and the length and breadth of this town which was sovereign over all others. And know that there was no man among us so bold but that his flesh crept at the sight; and therein was no marvel; for never did any men undertake so great a business as this assault of ours, since the beginning of the world."

An ultimatum was delivered to Alexius III: he must restore the Empire to his blinded brother or to the young Alexius, who accompanied the fleet. He refused and left town for Thrace as the Crusaders landed. The Greek nobles escorted Isaac Angelus from his dungeon to the throne, and in his name a message was sent to the Latin chieftains that he was waiting to welcome his son. After drawing from Isaac a promise to abide by the commitments that his son had made with them, the barons entered the city, and the young Alexius IV was crowned co-emperor. But when the Greeks learned of the price at which he had bought his victory they turned against him in anger and scorn. The people reckoned the taxes that would be needed to raise the subsidies promised to his saviors; the nobility resented the presence of an alien aristocracy and force; the clergy rejected with fury the proposal that they should bow to Rome. Meanwhile, some Latin soldiers, horrified to find Moslems worshipping in a mosque in a Christian city, set fire to the mosque, and slew the worshippers. For eight days the fire raged, laying waste a considerable section of Constantinople. A prince led a popular revolt, killed Alexius IV, reimprisoned Isaac Angelus, took the throne as Alexius V Ducas, and began to organize an army to drive the Latins out. But the Greeks, too long secure within their walls to have kept the virtues of their Roman name, soon surrendered; Alexius V fled, and the victorious Latins passed like consuming locusts through the capital (1204).

So long kept from their promised prey, they now — during Holy Week — subjected the rich city to such spoliation as Rome had never suffered from Vandals or Goths. Not many Greeks were killed — perhaps 2000; but pillage was unconfined. The nobles divided the palaces among them and appropriated the treasures they found there; the soldiers entered homes, churches, shops, and took whatever caught their fancy. Churches were rifled not only of the gold, silver, and jewels accumulated by them through a millennium, but of sacred relics that would later be peddled in Western Europe at good prices. The Hagia Sofia suffered more damage than the Turks would inflict upon it in 1453; the great altar was torn to pieces to distribute its silver and gold. The Venetians, familiar with the city that had once welcomed them as merchants, knew where the great treasures were and went right for them. Nine-tenths of the collections of art and jewelry that would later distinguish the Treasury of St. Mark’s came from this well-managed theft, as did the four bronze horses that would soon romp over the Piazza di San Marco. Some attempt was made to limit rape; many of the soldiers modestly contented themselves with prostitutes, but Greek nuns were not to be spared.

When the riot of rapine had subsided, the Latin nobles chose Baldwin of Flanders to head the Latin kingdom of Constantinople (1204) and made French its official language. The Greek clergy were mostly replaced by Latins. Innocent III, still protesting against the attack, acknowledged the supposed union of the Greek with the Latin Church. Generations of strife between the Latins and the Greeks now absorbed the vitality of the Greek world: the Byzantine Empire never recovered from the blow; and the capture of Constantinople by the Latins prepared, across two centuries, its capture by the Turks.


The Collapse Of The Crusades: 1212-91.

The scandal of the Fourth Crusade, added to the failure of the Third, gave no comfort to a Christian’s faith. Thinkers were much exercised to explain why God had allowed the defeat of His defenders in what they supposed to be a holy cause and had granted success only to Venetian villainy. Amid these doubts in Western Europe it occurred to simple souls that only innocence could regain the citadel of Christ. And so it was that in 1212 a German youth vaguely known as Nicholas announced that God had commissioned him to lead a crusade of children to the Holy Land. Priests and laity condemned him, but the idea spread readily and soon a swarm of 30,000 children left Cologne for the Holy Land. Many died of hunger; some were eaten by wolves; and thieves stole their clothing and food. When the survivors reached Genoa, the earthy Italians laughed them into doubt; no ships would transport them, and Innocent gently told them to go home.

In France, in this same year, a twelve-year-old shepherd named Stephen came to Philip Augustus, and announced that Christ, appearing to him while he tended his flock, had bid him lead a children's crusade to Palestine. The king ordered him to return to his flock; nevertheless, 20,000 youngsters gathered to follow Stephen’s lead. They made their way to Marseilles, where, Stephen had promised them, the ocean would divide to let them reach Palestine dryshod. That did not happen, but two shipowners offered to take them to their destination free of charge. Two of the seven ships were wrecked off Sardinia, with the loss of all on board; the other children were brought to Tunisia or Egypt, where they were sold as slaves. The shipowners were hanged by order of Frederick II.

Three years later, Innocent III again appealed to Europe to recover the land of Christ and returned to the plan that Venice had frustrated — an attack upon Egypt. In 1217 the Fifth Crusade left from Germany, Austria, and Hungary under the Hungarian King Andrew and safely reached Damietta, at the easternmost mouth of the Nile. The city fell after a year's siege; and Malik al-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, offered terms of peace — the surrender of most of Jerusalem, the liberation of Christian prisoners, and the return of the True Cross. The Crusaders demanded indemnity as well, which al-Kamil refused. War was resumed, but went badly when expected reinforcements did not come. Finally an eight-year truce was signed that also gave the Crusaders the True Cross.

In 1228, while still under excommunication for failing to come to the rescue of the Fifth Crusade, Frederick II, the young Holy Roman Emperor (in Germany and Italy), set out on the Sixth Crusade. Having arrived in Palestine, he received no help from the Christians there, who shunned an outlaw from the Church. After much talk with al-Kamil, with whom he got on famously, to the astonishment of all, a treaty (1229) was signed which ceded to Frederick Acre, Jaffa, Sidon, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and all of Jerusalem except the enclosure containing the Dome of the Rock. Christians were admitted to the site of Solomon's Temple and Mohammedans to Bethlehem. All prisoners were released and each side pledged itself to peace for ten years and ten months. The excommunicate Emperor had succeeded where for a century Christendom had failed. The Christians of the Holy Land rejoiced, but Pope Gregory IX denounced the pact as an insult to Christendom. After Frederick left, the Christian nobility of Palestine took control of Jerusalem and allied the Christian power in Asia with the Moslem ruler of Damascus against the Egyptian Sultan (1244). Calling the Khwarazmian Turks to his aid, the latter captured Jerusalem, plundered it, and massacred a large number of its inhabitants. Two months later Baibars, Sultan of Egypt, defeated the Christians at Gaza, and Jerusalem once more fell to Islam (October 1244).

While Innocent IV was preaching a campaign against Frederick II, Louis IX of France organized the Seventh Crusade. Shortly after the fall of Jerusalem he took the cross. He labored to reconcile Innocent with Frederick, but to no avail. At last, in 1248, Louis set out with his French knights. The expedition reached Damietta, and soon captured it; but the annual inundation of the Nile, which had been forgotten in planning the campaign, began as the Crusaders arrived and confined them to Damietta for six months. When the army resumed its march, after having spent the time consorting with lewd women, it was depleted by hunger, disease, and desertion and weakened by indiscipline. At Mansure, despite brave fighting, it was defeated and fled in wild rout; 10,000 Christians were captured, including Louis himself, who was faint with dysentery (1250). An Arab physician cured Louis who then, after a month of tribulation, was released in return for the surrender of Damietta and a ransom of 500,000 pounds. When Louis agreed to this enormous ransom, the sultan reduced it by a fifth, and trusted the King for an unpaid half. Louis, after trying in vain to get help from Europe, returned in 1254 to France.

After the departure of Louis, a civil war ensued between the Venetians and the Genoese. Seizing the opportunity, Baibars marched up the coast and took one Christian town after another: Caesarea (1265), Safad (1266), Jaffa (1267), Antioch (1268). The captured Christians were slaughtered or enslaved, and Antioch was so devastated that it never recovered.

Roused to new fervor in his old age, Louis IX took the cross a second time (1267). His three sons followed his example, but no other nobility would join his Eighth Crusade. He had hardly touched African soil when he "fell sick of a flux in the stomach," and died with the word "Jerusalem" on his lips (1270). A year later Prince Edward of England landed at Acre, bravely led some futile sallies, and hurried back to accept the English crown.

The final disaster came when some Christian adventurers robbed a Moslem caravan in Syria, hanged nineteen Moslem merchants, and sacked several Moslem towns. Sultan Khalil demanded satisfaction; receiving none, he marched against Acre. Taking it after forty-three days’ siege, he allowed his men to massacre or enslave 60,000 prisoners (1291). Tyre, Sidon, Haifa, and Beirut fell soon after. The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem maintained a ghostly existence for a time; but Europe knew that the Crusades had come to an end.


The Results of the Crusades.

Of their direct and professed purposes the Crusades had failed. After two centuries of war, Jerusalem was in the hands of the ferocious Mamluks, and Christian pilgrims became fewer and more fearful than before. The Moslem powers, once tolerant of religious diversity, had been made intolerant by attack. The Palestinian and Syrian ports that had been captured for Italian trade were without exception lost. Moslem civilization had proved itself superior to the Western European Christian civilization in refinement, comfort, education, and war. The effort of the popes to give Europe peace through a common purpose had been shattered by nationalistic ambitions and the "crusades" of popes against emperors.

Feudalism recovered with difficulty from Europe’s general failure in the Crusades. Suited to individualistic adventure and heroism within a narrow range, the European nobility had not known how to adjust its methods to Oriental climates and distant campaigns. The nobles had bungled inexcusably the problem of supplies along a lengthening line of communications. They had exhausted their equipment, and blunted their armies’ spirit, by conquering not Moslem Jerusalem but Christian Byzantium. To finance their expeditions to the East, many knights had sold or mortgaged their properties to lord, moneylender, Church, or king; for a price they had resigned their rights over many towns in their domains; to many peasants they had sold remission of future feudal dues. Serfs by the thousands had used the crusader’s privilege to leave the land, and thousands had never returned to their manors. While feudal wealth and arms were diverted to the East, the power and wealth of the French monarchy rose as one of the major results of the Crusades. At the same time, both the Roman Empires were weakened: the Western emperors lost prestige by their failures in the Holy Land and by their conflicts with the papacy; the Eastern Empire, though reborn in 1261, never regained its former power or repute. Ironically, however, for all the devastation they visited on the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades might be supposed to have staved off the Empire’s demise in that the Turks might have otherwise taken Constaninople long before 1453. For Islam, too, was weakened by the Crusades, and fell more easily before the Mongol flood.

Some of the military orders suffered tragic fates. Those Hospitalers who survived the massacre at Acre fled to Cyprus. In 1310 they captured Rhodes from the Moslems, changed their name to the Knights of Rhodes, and ruled the island till 1522; expelled then by the Turks, they removed to Malta, became the Knights of Malta, and continued to exist there until their disbandment in 1799. The Templars, driven from Asia, reorganized in France. Possessed of rich holdings throughout Europe, they settled down to enjoy their revenues. Free from taxation, they lent money at lower interest rates than the Lombards and the Jews and reaped lush profits. Unlike the Hospitalers, they maintained no hospitals, established no schools, succored no poor. At last their hoarded wealth, their armed state within a state, and their insubordination to the royal power, aroused the envy, fear, and wrath of King Philip IV the Fair. On October 12, 1310, by his order and without warning, all Templars in France were arrested and the royal seal was set on all their goods. Philip accused them of indulging homosexual lusts, of having lost their Christian faith through long contact with Islam, of denying Christ and spitting upon the cross, of worshipping idols, of being in secret league with the Moslems, and of having repeatedly betrayed the Christian cause. A tribunal of prelates and monks loyal to the King examined the prisoners; they denied the royal charges, and were put to torture to induce them to confess. Some, suspended by the wrists, were repeatedly drawn up and suddenly let down; some had their bare feet held over flames; some had sharp splinters driven under their fingernails; some had a tooth wrenched out day after day; some had heavy weight hung from their genitals; some were slowly starved. In many cases all these methods were employed, so that most of the prisoners, when examined again, were weak to the point of death. One showed the bones that had fallen from his roasted feet. Many of them confessed to all the charges of the King; some told how life and liberty had been promised them, under the royal seal, if they would admit the allegations of the government. Several of them died in jail; some killed themselves; fifty-nine were burned at the stake (1310), protesting their innocence to the end. Du Molay, the Grand Master of the order, confessed under torture; led to the stake, he withdrew his confession; and the inquisitors proposed to try him again. Philip denounced the delay, and ordered him to be burned at once; and the royal presence graced the execution. All the property of the Templars in France was confiscated by the state. Pope Clement V protested against these procedures, but the French clergy supported the King. The Pope, a virtual prisoner at Avignon, ceased resistance and abolished the order at Philip’s behest (1312). Edward II, also needing money, confiscated the property of the Templars in England. Some of the wealth so appropriated by Philip and Edward was surrendered to the Church; some of it was granted by the kings to favorites, who by these means founded great manors and supported the kings against the older feudal nobility.

The power and prestige of the Roman Church were immensely enhanced by the First Crusade and progressively damaged by the rest. The sight of diverse peoples, of lordly barons and proud knights, sometimes of emperors and kings, uniting in a religious cause led by the Church raised the status of the papacy. Papal legates entered every country and diocese to stir recruiting and gather funds for the Crusades; their authority encroached upon -- and often superseded -- that of the hierarchy, and through them the faithful became almost directly tributary to the pope. The collections so made became customary, and were soon applied to many purposes besides the Crusades; the pope acquired, to the active dissatisfaction of the kings, the power to tax their subjects and divert to Rome great sums that might have gone to royal coffers or local needs. Since the distribution of indulgences for forty days’ service in Palestine had been considered a legitimate tactical measure, the granting of similar indulgences to those who paid the expenses of a Crusader seemed forgivable. The extension of like indulgences to those who contributed to funds managed by the popes, or who fought papal wars in Europe against Frederick, Manfred, or Conrad, became an added source of irritation to kings and of humor to satirists. In 1241 Gregory IX directed his legate in Hungary to commute for a money payment the vows of persons pledged to a crusade, and then used the proceeds to help finance his life-and-death struggle with Frederick II. Troubadours criticized the Church for diverting aid from Palestine by offering equal indulgences for a crusade against the Albigensian heretics in France. "The faithful wondered," says Matthew Paris, "that the same plenary remission of sins was promised for shedding Christian as for shedding infidel blood." Many landowners, to finance their crusade, sold or mortgaged their property to churches or monasteries to raise liquid funds, and some monasteries in this way acquired vast estates. In the eyes of many of the faithful in the western Europe, the failure of the Crusades refuted the claims of the pope to be God’s vicar or representative on earth, so that when after 1250 monks solicited funds for further crusades, some of their listeners, in humor or bitterness, summoned beggars and gave them alms in the name of Mohammed -- because Mohammed, they said, had shown himself stronger than Christ.

Next to the weakening of Christian belief, the chief effect of the Crusades was to stimulate the secular life of Europe by acquaintance with Moslem commerce and industry. War does one good — it teaches people geography. The Italian merchants who thrived on the Crusades learned to make good charts of the Mediterranean; the monastic chroniclers who accompanied the knights received and transmitted a new conception of the vastness and variety of Asia. The zest for exploration and travel was stirred, and guides appeared to lead pilgrims to and through the Holy Land. Christian physicians learned from Jewish and Moslem practitioners, and surgery profited from the Crusades.

Trade followed the cross, and perhaps the cross was guided by trade. The knights lost Palestine, but the Italian merchant fleets won control of the Mediterranean not only from Islam but from Byzantium as well. The Venetian conquest of Constantinople, the transport of pilgrims and warriors to Palestine, the shipping of supplies to Christians and others in the East, the importation of Oriental products into Europe — all these promoted a degree of commerce and maritime transport unknown since the most flourishing days of Imperial Rome.

New markets in the East developed Italian and Flemish industry and promoted the growth of towns and the middle class. Better techniques of banking were introduced from Byzantium and Islam; new forms and instruments of credit appeared; more money circulated, more ideas, more men. The Crusades had begun with agricultural feudalism inspired by Frankish aggression fed with religious sentiment; they ended with the rise of industry and the expansion of commerce, in an economic revolution that heralded and financed the Renaissance.