Friday, February 1, 2008

The First Crusade - Part 1

Ok, so the johnny-come-lately Turks were moving into Asia Minor and were causing quite a little stir. The Byzantine and Persian Empires, the “powers” in the area, had just spent years slugging it out leaving them both weak and not much of a match militarily for the Turks. With the Persians curled up in a fetal position licking their wounds, the Turks had great success taking huge areas of the Middle East including Palestine and Jerusalem.

Arab Muslims had held Jerusalem for a couple centuries before the Turks took it. But the Arab Muslims, knowing that Jerusalem’s only real economic value was pilgrimages, allowed the Christian residents and pilgrims a certain amount of religious freedom.

But when the Turks took the city they kind of went Medieval on the Christians there, persecuting clergy, burning Churches, and killing pilgrims. Now nothing quite kills the tourist industry like killing the tourists, and after a short amount of time the pilgrimages slowed to a standstill.

Moved by compassion and pity, and a vanishing source of income, the Turks realized that the situation needed to change. The Turkish policies aimed at persecuting Christians were softened, but hearts are harder to change than policies and so this had little success in changing the situation. Much of the problem was due to the fact that the Turks were much better at taking land than they were at governing it. The ongoing violence toward Christians and the general lawlessness in the area made pilgrimages to Jerusalem a very dangerous undertaking.

With Palestine under their belts, the Turks now set their eyes on the rest of Asia Minor. The problem was that this land was held by the Byzantine Empire. To solve that problem, the Turks waged a Jihad against the Byzantines. With tensions running high, as they are known to immediately preceding most wars, the Turks and the Byzantine armies gathered themselves together and met in battle at Manzikert in 1071.

The Battle of Manzikert was a complete disaster for the Byzantines. The casualty rate for the Byzantine army would have been much greater, but their ability to run faster than the Turks proved invaluable. Their army was not only crushed and routed, but the Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes was taken prisoner.

The Turks had now taken the entire area of Asia Minor. The Byzantine Empire, which was now all that was left of the Great Roman Empire, was reduced to the area we know as Greece and the city of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). With lots of angry men with swords cutting into his empire, the Byzantine emperor had no choice but to ask the only other Christian power in the world for help. He turned to Western Europe and sent out a desperate plea for help.

And we all know how desperate you have to be to be asking Western Europe for help. ;-)

To be continued ...

1 comment:

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Oooooooo, this is getting gooooood! I LIKE dates, you tell that Mrs. Serviam!! It gives context to the story! (hey, at least you don't have to remember her birthday or your anniversary, right? You can just say, "Well, Honey, dates are just so boooooring!" heeheehee, sorry, Mrs. I couldn't resist!)