CONTENT WARNING: the following articles may contain some disturbing content including religious commentary, mild language, crude humor, descriptions of medieval war, and irreverent interpretations of sacred texts. *Note: This article was originally written in 2013.
The Christian Crusades (Numbers 1-9) : 1095-1272 C.E.
As you may have noticed the Crusades dragged on longer than a 33-inning baseball game, so I’ve decided to sum up the final several episodes into one last action-packed dramedy of an essay.
PART FOUR – ‘Holy Epic Fails, Batman!’
Previously on Epik Fails – After explaining the convoluted back-story leading to the Pope’s call for a Holy War against Jerusalem (Click for PART ONE – The Cause of the Cross), and the events of the first couple Crusades (PART TWO – Crusades One AND Two!), I then gave a detailed account of how Saladin, the Sultan of Syria turned the tide against the barbaric Templar Knights at the Battle of Hattin before reconquering the Holy City effectively kick-starting the Third Crusade where he came to blows with the English King, Richard the Lion Heart. (PART THREE – Richard the Lion Heart vs Saladin!)
Although the Third Crusade ultimately lost Jerusalem to the Turks, a peace accord was signed allowing Christians to once again come and go without harm. And apparently that just wasn’t good enough for the Templars, because this was followed up by…
…wait for it…
The FOURTH Crusade! : (C4 – This time it’s Personal.) 1202–1204
In France, the not-so-innocent Pope Innocent III kick started a ‘kick-starter’ campaign to conquer Muslim-held Jerusalem, instead the Christian Crusaders decided to conquer the Christian city of Constantinople?! WTF?! Historians believe this was in part due to the manipulative Enrico Dandolo of Venice. After sacking Constantinople, the Crusaders established the ‘Latin Empire’ in its place, and the results would eventually prove disastrous (see: the Fall of Constantinople). Pope ‘Innocent’ III also led a crusader campaign against a gnostic sect of Christianity he deemed heretical during the Albigensian / Cathar Crusade (1209–1229).
THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE?! – 1212
In addition to these grand-scale military blunders, there were many other smaller ‘Crusades’, like the fiasco known as, I kid you not, The Children’s Crusades (the original ‘Hunger Games’ if you will).
In the year 1212 (between the Fourth and Fifth Crusades) – 12 year old Stephen of France and 10 year old Nicholas of Germany came up with a ridiculous plan to reclaim Jerusalem with an army of kids. Normally this naive juvenile fantasy wouldn’t go past the brainstorming stage before the boys would get bored and start looking for their parents’ secret porn stash, but unfortunately for everyone involved, the Church was so desperate to try anything that they actually sanctioned it, and began to market it as the best attack plan since the Trojan Horse.
Thus some 50,000 children from around Europe were rounded up and shipped off to war, along with chaperons, and random homeless people with nothing better to do. In Italy, before even setting sail for the Holy Land, the Children’s Crusade began to show troubling signs. Many of the under-supplied, untrained, and disorganized recruited youth rebelled, dropped out, and ran away. Some began to starve, or collapsed from exhaustion en route. Nicholas’s group traveled through the Alps to Rome where they met the Pope.
Pope Innocent the Third laughed and told them it was a suicide mission that he could not possibly (officially) condone… but he didn’t stop them either. This apprehensive bastard later said, “These children put us to shame, they rush to recover the Holy Land while we sleep.”
Many of those who traveled back died along the way, but thousands joined up with Stephen’s group. 7 ships sailed for Algeria and Egypt. Two ships were destroyed by jagged rocks during a violent storm in route. The five remaining boats barely made it to their destination. Upon arriving, every single one of the surviving children were sold into slavery and never heard from again…
The FIFTH Crusade: (“Electric Boogaloo”?) 1217–1221
Pope Innocent III once again set about conquering Jerusalem, this time by first attacking Egypt. The Siege of Damietta caught the Sultan, Al-Adil, off guard. After a long bloody conflict, the Crusaders managed to take hold of the Muslim city. Their luck ran out on the way to Cairo: the Nile River flooded before their army’s advance. The way they’d come had also become blocked off. With supplies dwindling and diseases spreading, the Crusaders were attacked at night by the raiding forces of Al-Kamil, effectively decimating their numbers. The Crusaders surrendered, and signed a peace treaty.
And no, that was not the end of it…
The SIXTH Crusade: (Holy Wars – Episode VI: The ‘Final’ Battle???) 1228–1229
At this point, the Crusades had really jumped the shark, but for some reason the people just couldn’t get enough of these hilariously terrible shenanigans…. The Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor Frederick II, King of Italy, promised Pope Honorius III to take back Jerusalem, but was reluctant to head on yet another Crusade. Frederick set sail for Acre, but was forced to return to Italy due to an epidemic. Pope Gregory IX excommunicated Emperor Fred for breaking his vow. Regardless of Pope Greg, Frederick left for Cairo to negotiate a peaceful truce, and through political maneuvering managed to regain Jerusalem under the banner of the Holy Roman Empire… until 1244 when the Turks took it back in under 48 hours.
But wait, there’s more!!
The SEVENTH Crusade: (Crusader: RESURRECTION) 1248–1254
King Louis IX of France led another Crusade in response to the Turks, but his army was embarrassingly defeated. Louis was then captured and ransomed for 800,000 bezants. Really guys?
The EIGHTH Crusade: (Return of the King!) 1270
King Louis IX apparently hadn’t had enough, so ignoring his advisers, led another full-scale attack on the Arabs. This time however, he’d picked the hottest time of the year. His caravan was obliterated by disease, and Louis IX himself died of the plague in North Africa that same year. Fun times.
The NINTH Crusade: (um… Knights in Space? I give up…) 1271–1272
Edward I of England (The Hammer of the Scots, aka ‘Longshanks’, see “Braveheart”) attempted to follow in King Louis’s footsteps, but accomplished very little of note. In fact, after the dust had settled, the Turks had actually gained more territory than before the First Crusade had marched out…..
The Last Crusade?
As it turns out, the Ninth Crusade would not be the last, however it was the last significantly noteworthy one. Several more increasingly obscure ‘Crusades’ would persist well into the 15th Century with roughly the same success rate, which was minimal. With the collapse of Tripoli and Acre, the Crusader States had completely disintegrated.
The Holy Roman Empire didn’t stop there though with their nefarious plots for world domination: the Catholic Church would later go on to create another monster entirely – The Spanish Inquisition (but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms – article coming soon). In fact the Papacy was more powerful than ever before due to the increased wealth brought about by the plundering Knights. Speaking of, as for the Templar Order, they were disbanded by Pope Clement V in 1312: they were listed as heretics, rounded up, and then burned at the stake.
There were a few unexpected positives to come about because of the Crusades: the expansion of trade routes between east and west opened up both worlds to an exchange of knowledge and technology not previously seen before. The Italian Renaissance (and by extension the Age of Enlightenment and Scientific Reason) can be directly attributed to the influence of Arabian philosophies, mathematics, medicine, and architecture. The Renaissance was the catalyst for the Industrial and Political Revolutions to follow throughout Europe that would eventually shape the world we (hopefully) live in today.
Israel and Palestine
Jerusalem today is still a place of unrest. The entire region of Palestine fell under the domain of the Ottoman Empire for centuries to come as they expanded westward, conquering Constantinople, and eventually coming into conflict with France and others. However, during World War One, the British came in and planted their flag. Then the Nazis had their own little Crusade… As a result of the horrific events of the Holocaust, thousands of European Jews fled to Jerusalem where they eventually formed the Nation of Israel (after excessive amounts of convoluted political and military engagements between several neighboring Arab countries).
These days, the Shiites and Sunnis are the predominant Islamic faiths in the Middle East. Tensions in Palestine (and Israel) were increased significantly towards the end of the Cold War with the further interference of Soviet and American troops attempting to gain a economic and political foothold in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran. Although Israel has made a lot of progress with its fellow Middle-Eastern countries, namely Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, complete and total peaceful co-habitation seems to be a ways a way.
Aftermath of the Medieval Crusades
Ultimately this is the result of the Crusades: a legacy of bloodshed, and resentment that has lasted ever since.
The Crusades caused many Muslims of the region to become even more isolated from, and distrusting of Western Civilization, as a result many of the nations in the region became highly xenophobic and paranoid for generations to come. The Christian Crusades were justified as an effort to ‘spread the gospel’ to the Islamic world by the sword, which was about as successful as trying to fry chicken without the chicken.
As I stated before, the Crusades were a complete and total failure by any and all accounts: There were more Crusades than Godzilla movies and Stephen King books, and they ultimately left the Holy Land worse off than when they’d started…
However, religion itself is not a bad thing, but religion mixed with politics is almost always a terrible idea. And above all else, a war in the name of God is never justified, and anything but holy. If nothing else, I hope that my months of research have proven that much over the course of the last few articles.
All that being said, spiritually-inspired ‘Crusades’ are not always steeped in over the top violence. Wars waged against poverty, disease, and injustice have changed the landscapes of equality and humanitarian works. Knights like Pope John Paul II, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa have made the world a better place by using motivating words, messages of peace, and random acts of kindness rather than swords and shields.
Up Next: NAPOLEON!
Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Epik Fails!”, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or suggestions let me know in the comments below! Also, be sure to ’Like’ EPiK FAILs on Facebook, or Followon Twitter, and SHARE IT with your friends!
—— Other Related Articles:
“The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam” by: Jonathan Riley-Smith
“History’s Greatest Defeats: THE CRUSADES – Failed Holy Wars” by: Cherese Cartlidge
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to: The Crusades” by: Paul L. Williams, Ph.D.
“Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade” by: James Reston, Jr.
“A History of the Crusades” by: Steven Runciman
“The Hinge Factor” by Erik Durschmied
“Brassey’s Book of Military Blunders” by Geoffrey Regan
“The Little Book of Big F*#k Ups” by Ken and Katie Lytle
“The Book of Ancient Bastards” by Brian Thornton
“Crusade” (graphic novel series) By Jean Dufaux and Philippe Xavier
“The Crusades: The Crescent and the Cross” (2005 – documentary)
“Kingdom of Heaven” (2005) – Directed by: Ridley Scott. Starring: Orlando Bloom and Eva Green.