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The First Crusade

The First Crusade: the call from the East

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The First Crusade
    Book Description:

    According to tradition, the First Crusade began at Pope Urban II’s instigation and culminated in July 1099, when western European knights liberated Jerusalem. But what if the First Crusade’s real catalyst lay far to the east of Rome? Countering nearly a millennium of scholarship, Peter Frankopan reveals the First Crusade’s untold history.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06499-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Peter Frankopan
  6. Author’s Note
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    On 27 November 1095, in the town of Clermont in central France, Pope Urban II stood up to deliver one of the most electrifying speeches in history. He had spent the previous week presiding over a church council attended by twelve archbishops, eighty bishops and other senior clergy, before announcing that he wanted to give an address of special importance to the faithful. Rather than speak from the pulpit of the church in Clermont, Urban decided to deliver his words in a nearby field so all who had gathered in anticipation could hear him.

    The setting was spectacular. Nestled at...

  8. 1 Europe in Crisis
    (pp. 13-25)

    The First Crusade defined the Middle Ages. It established a common identity for the knighthood of Europe, pinned firmly on the Christian faith. It influenced behaviour, with piety and service emerging as highly prized personal qualities, extolled in verse, prose, song and art. It idealised the concept of the devout knight, fighting for God. It established the Pope as a leader not just of spiritual significance but of political importance. It gave common purpose to western principalities, creating a framework where the defence of the church was not just desirable but an obligation. Out of the First Crusade grew the...

  9. 2 The Recovery of Constantinople
    (pp. 26-41)

    Constantinople was designed to inspire awe. Like Old Rome, it was a vast and immensely imposing capital. A visitor approaching over land would have first seen the massive walls and the huge aqueducts carrying water into the city. Fortified to a height of twelve metres, the Land Walls ran from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara. Rebuilt by the emperor Theodosios in the fifth century, they were designed to deter even the most ambitious enemy. Five metres thick, the walls were protected by ninety-six towers, offering views over the approaches from the west and the north. Entry was...

  10. 3 Stability in the East
    (pp. 42-56)

    The Byzantine Empire was under great pressure when Alexios took the throne – threatened by the incursions of aggressive neighbours, weakened by a collapsing economy, and riven with political infighting. Looking back through the distorting prism of the First Crusade, it would seem natural to assume that the greatest of these dangers came from hostile Turkish expansion in the east. This was certainly the impression created by Anna Komnene; her testimony even suggested that Asia Minor had been essentially lost to the Turks before Alexios came to power. In fact, Asia Minor was relatively stable in the 1080s; indeed, the...

  11. 4 The Collapse of Asia Minor
    (pp. 57-70)

    Apart from Nicaea itself where Abu’l-Kasim still held power, Byzantium retained control of many prime parts of the eastern provinces in the late 1080s, above all the crucial coastal regions, the fertile river valleys and the islands of the Aegean – that is to say the strategically sensitive locations that were critical for the empire’s trade and communication networks. Evidence that many of these areas were thriving under Byzantine control can be found in the intense lobbying of the emperor’s mother by monks on islands such as Leros and Patmos in 1088 and 1089. The monks were planning a considerable...

  12. 5 On the Brink of Disaster
    (pp. 71-86)

    The deteriorating situation in Asia Minor was not the only problem Alexios Komnenos had to contend with. On the eve of the First Crusade, Constantinople itself imploded. The failure to make any progress against the Turks led to serious concerns about the emperor’s judgement and his abilities. As further threats emerged, in the form of renewed nomad attacks deep into the Balkans and Serbian raids on the north-western frontier, Alexios’ rule was in jeopardy. The situation became critical shortly before envoys were sent to the Pope in 1095, when the emperor was faced with a coup that was supported by...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. 6 The Call from the East
    (pp. 87-100)

    The decades prior to the First Crusade had witnessed the emergence of a heightened sense of Christian solidarity, of a shared Christian history and destiny that united east and west. This was largely the result of increased movement of people and ideas across Europe, but it was also deliberately cultivated by Byzantine propaganda.

    There had of course always been interaction between east and west, but with the Byzantine Empire eager to attract western knights to Constantinople, this exchange had become increasingly institutionalised in the eleventh century. There was even a recruitment bureau in London where those seeking fame and fortune...

  15. 7 The Response of the West
    (pp. 101-117)

    The Crusade drew on passion, religious fervour and a desire for adventure. Many of its participants were certainly intoxicated by Urban’s compelling insistence on Christian duty and the promise of salvation, and the speed and enthusiasm with which the Crusade began can easily be read as the surging of a great, spontaneous uprising. But the Crusade was also elaborately orchestrated: the rhetoric used to rouse the west was carefully weighted to attract the right kind of Crusader – whether in terms of military or social clout – and arrangements were made, as far as possible, to regulate and provision the...

  16. 8 To the Imperial City
    (pp. 118-137)

    Alexios and Urban had played a dangerous game. The violent passions stoked up by the crusading propaganda were not easy to control; for all the logistical planning and nuanced political calculations, the raw enthusiasm for the Crusade was overwhelming. As tales of Muslim oppression and news of the expedition spread, it became impossible to control the message: Urban II was not the only charismatic figure who was preaching the Crusade in 1095–6. Peter the Hermit, a preacher from Amiens in northern France, capitalised on the excitement and the furore about the suffering of Christians in the east to unleash...

  17. 9 First Encounters with the Enemy
    (pp. 138-156)

    The Crusaders’ advance into Asia Minor was a story of victories and near-disasters, high violence and clashing egos. Alexios, forced by political instability to remain at the heart of the empire rather than venture out on expedition, sought to manage the campaign from afar. It was a high-risk approach, but, for the first year or so of the Crusade, a triumphant one.

    The size of the force that assembled at Kibotos in the spring of 1097, numbering in the tens of thousands, was astonishing; the challenge of keeping them supplied was enormous. The slickly run operation at Kibotos impressed Stephen...

  18. 10 The Struggle for the Soul of the Crusade
    (pp. 157-172)

    Even after repelling Ridwan’s attack, the Crusaders were still highly exposed. And the longer the siege went on, the more vulnerable the western army, depleted by illness and disease, grew. The struggle for Antioch in the first half of 1098 now fuelled dangerous levels of discord within the leadership of the expedition. The careful balance of interests between east and west – Byzantine reconquest and Christian Crusade – was thrown off-kilter by the loss of morale and the competing personal ambitions that emerged outside the walls of Antioch.

    In an attempt to break the deadlock, Adhemar of Le Puy urged...

  19. 11 The Crusade Unravels
    (pp. 173-185)

    After all they had been through – disease and deprivation at Antioch, countless casualties sustained in combat and along the long march, and conditions so bad that the battle-hardened had turned to cannibalism – it was not surprising that the arrival of the Crusader force at Jerusalem on 7 June 1099 was accompanied by rejoicing and exultation. One chronicler wrote of tears of happiness flowing when the army reached its destination.¹

    Yet there was still much to be done. Jerusalem was heavily fortified, with impressive walls and defences and a garrison that had been preparing for months for the arrival...

  20. 12 The Consequences of the First Crusade
    (pp. 186-206)

    The participants in the expedition to Jerusalem were feted when they returned home. News of their deeds was met with wild celebration. Songs about the Crusaders’ successes and the capture of Jerusalem were composed in central France, forming the basis of the epic song cycles of the First Crusade, such as the Chanson d’Antioche and the Chanson de Jerusalem.¹ The exploits of the Crusaders were also commemorated in a rash of new religious endowments and foundations in western Europe made by those who had returned from Jerusalem. Robert of Flanders refounded a monastery close to Bruges, dedicating it to St...

  21. Abbreviations
    (pp. 207-209)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 210-237)
  23. Further Reading
    (pp. 238-246)
  24. Index
    (pp. 247-262)