Dear Readers: I wanted to let you know that fellow SLOB and military history expert Barry Jacobsen will be on Canto Talk this Wednesday (Jan. 30th) to do part #3 of the Crusades (7 pm Pacific Time/9 Pm Central Time — Click Here for Show link).
Barry Jacobsen will review the sack of Constantinople at the hands of Crusaders, the various excursions into Egypt, and how Genghis Khan’s fierce Mongol army impacted these events.
The Fourth Crusade, proclaimed by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216, picture below), wreaked violence on other Christians.
The crusade was to be directed at Egypt, because the Crusaders believed that conquering it would be the key to regaining Jerusalem. The expedition took an expected turn, however, and the Pope could not stop it.
The Crusaders gathered at Venice, Italy, but they could not raise enough money to sail to the Holy Land. They made an arrangement with the Venetians. For Venice, the Crusaders would conquer the Christian city of Zara; then the Venetians would take them on to Jerusalem. Pope Innocent III ordered the army not to proceed and even excommunicated them, but he could not stop them.
After conquering Zara, the Crusaders diverted to Constantinople rather than sail on to the Holy Land. They and the Venetians attacked Constantinople, the richest Christian city in the world. They plundered the city and took its wealth, including the treasures of the great church Hagia Sophia. They battled against other Christian men and they raped Christian women.
The conquering of the great Christian city in 1204 ended the Fourth Crusade and had significant religious and political consequences. A number of Latin states were established in Greece and the Aegean; the communion between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches ended. The Byzantine government moved to Nicea. Likewise most of the Greek bishops abandoned their sees and took refuge at Nicea, leaving their churches to the Latin bishops; Greek convents were replaced by Cistercian monasteries.
Although other Christians had been transgressed, the Crusaders, who returned with many Eastern treasures, generally were not condemned by European society. Pope Innocent III even removed the ban that had excommunicated them. The acquisition of the Greek Empire was, after all, a great prize.
In the 13th century there were two more major invasions of Egypt by Crusaders. During the Fifth Crusade (1218-1221) a large force of Crusaders led by the papal legate Pelagio Galvani and John of Brienne took Damietta. The expeditionary force included French, German, Flemish and Austrian crusaders and a Frisian fleet. The army marched on Cairo but was cut off by flooding of the Nile and the campaign ended in disaster with Pelagio forced to surrender with what remained of his army.
During the Seventh Crusade King Louis IX of France invaded Egypt (1249-1250) and after occupying Damietta he marched towards Cairo. However the forces led by Robert I, Count of Artois were defeated at the Battle of Al Mansurah and then King Louis and his main army were defeated at the Battle of Fariskur where his entire army was either killed or captured. The king suffered the humiliation of having to pay an enormous ransom for his freedom.
The first Mongols to appear in the Middle East were the Kara-Khitay who by the middle of the twelfth century had established an empire stretching from the Caspian sea to Siberia. The Seljuk sultan Sinjar declared a jihad against these infidels but he suffered a major defeat in 1141. This weakened the Seljuk empire and led to its break-up [BL95, pp. 91-92]. Soon a new Mongol power rose.
In 1206 Genghis (or Jenghiz) Khan was recognized as a leader of all Mongol tribes and at the head of an army of horsemen started an invasion of the lands to the West. He started with the lands of the Kara-Khitay, took the cities of Bukhara and Samarqand and by 1220 he had conquered eastern Iran. While Genghis died in 1227, his successors continued the conquest of the Islamic states. In 1243 they defeated the Seljuk forces and in 1258 they stormed Baghdad, looted and burned the city, and put the caliph and his family to death. That was the end of the Abbasid caliphate [BL95, pp. 96-98]. The elimination of the caliphate led to increased power for the various Turkish rulers who could now claim for themselves some of the powers of the caliph [ibid].
Eventually the Mongols met their match in the Mameluk armies of Egypt and were defeated in 1260. They left Syria and Mesopotamia but they maintained their rule of Iran with a capital in Tabriz. By 1295 the Mongol rulers of Iran had converted to Islam [ibid]. One of the victims of the Mongols that was not lamented, was the sect of the Assassins whose mountain stronghold was destroyed by Genghis Khan’s grandson.
One consequence of the Mongol invasion was the rise in the power of Mameluks in Egypt who established their own sultanate there (see Chapter 11). Another consequence was a respite for the Byzantine Empire that was able to recapture Constantinople from the Crusaders (see Chapter 11).
Some historians blame the Mongol invasion for the end of the Golden Arab Age (Chapter 8). Lewis [ibid] disputes that view because Egypt was never conquered by the Mongols and Syria suffered only raids. He refers to considerable intellectual activity in Persia after the Mongol conquest. One remarkable person of that era was Rashid al-Din hamadani(1247-1318), a Jewish convert to Islam. He assembled a team of scholars to complete a history of the world from England to China [ibid].