THE LEGACY OF THE CRUSADES
With Acre’s fall and the loss of Outremer’s last remaining strongholds, Latin Christendom’s political and military presence on the mainland Levant came to a definitive end. The final conquest of the crusader states helped further to validate Mamluk authority, and the sultanate’s power in the Near East held for more than two centuries. In the West, however, the kingdom of Jerusalem’s collapse caused widespread shock and anxiety. Not surprisingly, explanations were sought and recriminations levelled. The Levantine Franks were derided for their sinfulness and propensity to factionalism, the Military Orders criticised for pursuing international interests rather than focusing upon the Holy Land’s defence.
Commercial contact between Europe and the Muslim Near East continued long after 1291 and Cyprus remained under Frankish rule until the late sixteenth century. But the mainland Levant remained a target of holy war. From the 1290s onwards, many detailed treatises were composed in Europe, advancing various plans and methods to secure Jerusalem’s reconquest. New expeditions to the Near East were discussed, some were even launched–one culminating in the brief capture of the Egyptian port of Alexandria in 1365. Through the fourteenth century and beyond, many more crusades were preached and wars fought against the likes of heretics, Ottoman Turks and the papacy’s political enemies. The Templars were dissolved as an order in 1312, after accusations of abuses and neglect spearheaded by an acquisitive French monarchy, but other Military Orders survived through the Middle Ages. The Hospitallers established new headquarters, first on Cyprus and then on Rhodes and later Malta, while the Teutonic Order carved out their own independent state in the Baltic. Yet, despite all of this, no crusade ever reclaimed the Holy City, and Islam’s hold over the Levant did not weaken until the early twentieth century.
CAUSES AND OUTCOMES
To begin with, the crusades were, at the very least, as much acts of Christian aggression as wars of defence. It is certainly true that Islam had initiated its own unprovoked surge of invasion and expansion in the seventh century, but the mercurial vigour of this onslaught had long since slackened. The First Crusade was not launched in response to an overwhelming and impending threat, nor was it the immediate result of any catastrophic loss. Jerusalem, the campaign’s averred goal, had been conquered by Muslims some four centuries earlier–hardly a recent injury. The accusations of widespread or systematic abuse of Christian subjects or pilgrims by the Islamic overlords of the Levant also appear to have had little basis in fact. After the First Crusade’s seemingly miraculous success and the foundation of the crusader states, the war for the Holy Land was perpetuated by cycles of violence, vengeance and reconquest, in which Christians and Muslims alike perpetrated acts of savage brutality.
A conflict unlike any other?
Through two centuries, diverse forces combined to fuel and propel this struggle. These ranged from the ambition of popes to achieve Rome’s ‘divinely ordained’ ecclesiastical primacy, to the economic aspirations of Italian merchants; from notions of social obligation and bonds of kinship, to an emerging sense of chivalric duty. Leaders–Muslim and Christian, secular and spiritual–came to realise that the ideals of holy war could be harnessed to justify programmes of unification and militarisation, even to facilitate the imposition of autocratic governance. In this respect, the crusader wars conformed to a paradigm common to many periods of human history–the attempt to control and direct violence, ostensibly for the common good, but often to serve the interests of ruling elites.
In the case of Latin Christian crusades and Islamic jihad, however, this ‘public’ warfare was imbued with a compelling religious dimension. This did not necessarily lead to a conflict marked by uniquely barbaric acts of violence or especially entrenched enmity. But it did mean that many of those involved in the contest for control of the Holy Land earnestly believed that their actions were enmeshed with spiritual concerns. Popes like Urban II and Innocent III preached crusades to affirm their own authority, but they also did so in the hope of helping Christians find a path to salvation. Venetian crusaders may have had an eye for earthly profit, yet, just like other participants in these holy wars, they seem to have been moved by a heartfelt desire to attain a spiritual reward. Even a power-hungry warlord like Saladin–content to exploit the struggle for his own ends–evidently experienced a quickening sense of pious dedication to Jerusalem’s reconquest and defence. Of course, not all crusaders, Frankish settlers or Muslim warriors felt these religious impulses in equal measure, but the pulse of faith, pervasive and enduring, resounded through the two-century-long battle for the Levant.
This devotional element infused these wars with a distinct character, inspiring remarkable feats of resilience, fortitude and, on occasion, intolerance. It also helps to explain how and why tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims continued to participate in this protracted struggle across so many decades. The enthusiasm of Near Eastern Islam is more easily understood. Jihad was a devotional obligation rather than a voluntary form of penance, and generations of Muslims could take inspiration from a mounting succession of Zangid, Ayyubid and Mamluk victories. The lasting appeal of crusading in western Europe is more striking taken against a backdrop of an endless sequence of depressing defeats and the redirection of holy wars into new theatres of conflict. The very fact of continued recruitment, through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and beyond, illustrates the compelling allure of taking the cross–of participating in an endeavour that fused the ideals of military service and penance–and ultimately purifying the soul of sin. From 1095 onwards, Latin Christians wholeheartedly accepted the idea that crusading was a permissible and efficacious form of devotion. There is virtually no sign of concern over the union of violence and religion among medieval contemporaries. And even when criticism of the crusading movement gathered pace, the questions raised related to issues such as wavering commitment and finance, not the basic principle that God would support and reward wars fought in his name.2
Accounting for victory and defeat
If the continued attraction of crusading was noteworthy, so too was the associated survival of Frankish Outremer for close to 200 years. Even so, there is no escaping the fact that, in the end, the Latins lost the war for the Holy Land. The path from the First Crusade’s victory in 1099 to Acre’s fall in 1291 was by no means simply a spiral of defeat and decay. But equally, from the Second Crusade’s failure at Damascus in 1148 to King Louis IX of France’s ignominious capture in Egypt in 1250, there hardly was a tide of success. Whenever historians have sought to explain this trend, the focus generally has turned to Islam–to the supposed resurgence of jihadi enthusiasm and the shift to Muslim unification across the Near and Middle East. Yet in reality, until the advent of the Mamluks, enthusiasm for holy war was sporadic and pan-Levantine accord ephemeral at best. Of course, events within Islam did impact upon the outcome of the crusades, but there were other, perhaps even more powerful, issues at work.
The very nature of crusading itself was a fundamental cause of Christendom’s ultimate defeat in the struggle for mastery of the eastern Mediterranean. The idea of holy war did not remain static between 1095 and 1291. It was subject to evolution and development–although these changes were not always apparent to contemporaries–and underwent some adjustment in response to wider developments in religious thinking, including the incorporation of mission and conversion as means to overcome non-Christian opponents. Throughout, however, crusading expeditions remained badly suited to the business of defending or reconquering the Holy Land. To survive, the crusader states desperately needed external martial assistance, but in the form of permanent (or at least long-standing) and obedient military forces. More often than not, crusades actually brought short-lived injections of massed armies–often adulterated by non-combatants–led by independent-minded potentates fixated upon their own objectives.
The fact that Outremer’s needs were not met by the crusading movement should come as no surprise, because this form of holy war was not expressly designed to fulfil such a purpose. Instead, at an elemental level, crusades were constructed as a voluntary and personal form of penance. Participants might expect to pursue an established goal–the capture of a particular target or the defence of a region. They also might envisage themselves as fulfilling a duty of service owed to God, as bringing succour to fellow Christians, even as imitating the labours and suffering of Christ himself. Yet always, at the heart of the crusading impulse, lay the promise of individual salvation: a guarantee that the penalties owing for confessed sins would be cancelled out by the completion of an armed pilgrimage. This was the overwhelming allure of a crusade–its capacity to eradicate the taint of transgression, to offer an escape from damnation. And this was why hundreds of thousands of Latins took the cross in the course of the Middle Ages.
The febrile aura of religiosity that enveloped most crusading expeditions could instil a unity of purpose and an unparalleled determination in its participants, empowering them to undertake unimaginable feats of arms. It was this sense of divine sanction and spiritual devotion that helped Louis IX’s troops to survive the Battle of Mansourah, that enabled the Third Crusaders to endure the gruelling siege of Acre and led the Franks to risk total annihilation by marching on Jerusalem in 1099. Burning with enthusiasm, crusaders could prevail against seemingly insurmountable odds, but this fiery passion often also proved to be impossible to control. Crusade armies were made up of thousands of individuals, each ultimately intent upon forging their own path to redemption. As such, they could not be led or governed in the same way as other, more conventional military forces. Raymond of Toulouse discovered this to his cost at Marrat and again at Arqa during the First Crusade; so too did Richard the Lionheart when he twice retreated from Jerusalem. Arguably, no Christian king or commander ever truly learned how to harness the force of the crusading tempest.
虔信为远征的参与者指明了道路，同时给与他们无与伦比的决心，来承受难以想象的连番打击。正是这种对神旨和信仰的虔诚，帮助Louis IX的队伍从Mansourah之战中生还，让第三次东征时的拉丁战士熬过了地狱般的Acre围城，促使法兰克人在1099年冒着全军覆没的危险向耶路撒冷挺进。依仗着宗教热忱，十字军赢下了几乎毫无胜算的战斗。但同时，狂信的火焰也让军队难以控制。十字军由成千上万个个体组成，而每个人都在寻找那条属于自己的救赎之路。也就是说，这样一支队伍根本无法按照传统的方式来统率与管理。第一次东征时的Marrat和Arqa之战中，Raymond of Toulouse 为此吃尽了苦头。而在两次耶路撒冷撤离中，狮心王理查时也为此付出了惨重的代价。可以说没有哪位基督国王或指挥官，真正学会了如何去控制十字军狂热的精神力量。
In the course of the thirteenth century, popes like Innocent III strove to control crusading through increased regulation and the effective institutionalisation of holy war. But they faced the converse problem: how to tame fervour without smothering the fire that lent these sanctified campaigns their strength? They also failed to find a workable formula, and new ideas about reconfiguring the whole basis of crusading activity–with professional forces stationed semi-permanently in the Near East–came too late and incited little response.
Some historians have suggested that Christendom was defeated in the war for the Holy Land because of a gradual slump in crusade enthusiasm after 1200–a malaise supposedly brought on by papal manipulation and dilution of the ‘ideal’. This view is somewhat simplistic. True, the thirteenth century did not witness the same massive expeditions that had punctuated the period between 1095 and 1193, but a plethora of smaller-scale campaigns still enjoyed substantial recruitment, even when directed against new enemies and into different theatres of conflict. If anything, the decline came in Latin Europe’s direct concern for the fate of the Holy Land, but this apparent deterioration likewise should not be exaggerated. The huge campaigns of the twelfth century were themselves only spawned in the wake of seismic shocks–the fall of Edessa and the Battle of Hattin–and otherwise western Christendom often remained immune to Outremer’s urgent appeals for assistance. Domestic problems and concerns, from succession disputes and dynastic rivalries to failed harvests and outbreaks of heresy, might only too easily trump the needs of the embattled crusader states. Evocative and potent as the fate of Jerusalem and the Holy Land might be, the course of crusading history proves that most Latins living in Europe did not exist in a permanent state of anxiety over events in the East and thus were rarely willing to upend their lives at home to save a distant, if sacred, outpost.
In reality this was a function of another, decidedly practical consideration that impacted upon the outcome of the battle for the Near East. In physical and conceptual terms, the Levant was simply a long way from western Europe. Christians living in France, Germany or England faced journeys covering thousands of miles to reach the Holy Land. The huge distances involved caused significant difficulties when it came to mounting military expeditions or even maintaining regular contact with the Latin settlements in the East. The comparison is by no means perfect, but the other major territorial contest being played out between Latins and Muslims–the so-called Spanish Reconquista–ended in Christian victory at least in part because of the basic fact of Iberia’s relative geographical proximity to the rest of Europe. Outremer’s problems of separation were partially alleviated by the rise of the Military Orders as supranational institutions and the growth in trans-Mediterranean trade, but the gap was never fully bridged. At the same time, the Levantine Franks failed to cooperate fully or effectively with the eastern Christian allies, from the Byzantine Empire to Cilician Armenia, who could have helped to mitigate their isolation, and allowed themselves to become embroiled in countless highly disruptive internal power struggles.
For all these reasons, Outremer found itself in a precarious state of vulnerability throughout much of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Nonetheless, it took a concomitant degree of strength and advantage for Islam to be capable of exploiting Frankish weakness. The crusader wars were not fought, in the first instance, in the political or cultural heartlands of Eastern Islam, but rather in the frontier zone between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and neither can the Holy Land be characterised in any way as a uniformly Muslim society. Yet even so, in the long run Islam did benefit from the physical propinquity of the Levantine battlefield and the inescapable fact that it was waging a war on what was tantamount to home ground. The Muslim world was also lifted to victory in this prolonged struggle by the insightful and charismatic leadership offered by Nur al-Din and Saladin, and by Baybars’ unflinching ruthlessness.3
因此，十二、十三世纪的大部分时间里，这些海外拉丁政权都显得摇摇欲坠。而穆斯林势力则利用着法兰克人的弱点。首先，十字军的主战场在埃及和美索不达米亚之间，这里算不上伊斯兰世界的政治文化核心区。同时，做为圣地的耶路撒冷，从来也不是单一的穆斯林社区。即便如此，从长远角度来看，伊斯兰势力依然得益于这场边境之战，而就其投入程度而言，则丝毫不弱于一场卫国战争。穆斯林最终能在旷日持久的对抗中胜出，也要归功于领导人Nur al-Din 和 Saladin的洞察力和个人魅力，以及Baybars的铁石心肠。
CONSEQUENCES IN THE MEDIEVAL WORLD
The crusades have been presented as an international conflagration that reshaped the world: dragging Europe out of the Dark Ages towards the beckoning light of the Renaissance; consigning Islam, militarised and radicalised in the pursuit of victory, to centuries of insular stagnation. Some have characterised these holy wars as apocalyptic conflicts that left indelible scars of ethnic and religious hatred, initiating an unending cycle of hostility. Such grand assertions rely upon simplification and exaggeration. Huge changes were undoubtedly wrought across the medieval world between 1000 and 1300. This was a period marked by population growth, migration and urbanisation; advances were made in learning, technology and cultural expression; and international commerce was extended. Yet the precise role of the crusades remains debatable. Any attempt to pinpoint the effect of this movement is fraught with difficulty, because it demands the tracing and isolation of one single thread within the weave of history–and the hypothetical reconstruction of the world, were that strand to be removed. Some impacts are relatively clear, but many observations must, perforce, be confined to broad generalisations. It is certain that the war for the Holy Land was not the sole influence at work in the Middle Ages. But equally, this Levantine struggle did have a significant impact upon medieval history, especially in the Mediterranean basin.
The eastern Mediterranean
The threats posed by the Franks, both real and imagined, presented the Muslim world with an enemy to rally against and a cause for which to fight. This enabled Nur al-Din and then Saladin to resurrect the ideal of jihad. It also allowed them to impose a degree of unity upon Near and Middle Eastern Islam that, while yet imperfect, still far outstripped anything witnessed since the early era of Muslim expansion. The process reached its ultimate expression, with the added and overriding danger presented by the Mongols, when the Mamluks forged a unitary state under Baybars and Qalawun.
来自现实中和想象中法兰克人的威胁，为穆斯林世界提供了共同的敌人以及战争的理由。Nur al-Din 和 Saladin 籍此重申了圣战理念，并着手近东和中东穆斯林的统一。尽管问题多多，但这是自穆斯林早期扩张以来最有效的一次社会整合。而到了Baybars和Qalawun的马穆鲁克王朝，由于同时面临着蒙古人空前的压力，穆斯林社会的整合达到了峰值。
However, for all the contact between Muslims and Latins witnessed in this era–through war and peace–Islam’s attitude towards western Christendom was not radically altered. Old prejudices remained, among them popular misconceptions about the worship of Christ and God as an indication of polytheism, as well as entrenched antipathy towards the use of figurative religious images, forbidden in Islam, and wild assertions of Frankish sexual impropriety. Familiarity does not seem to have bred much in the way of understanding or tolerance. But equally, contrary to the suggestion of some scholars, the advent of the crusades did not prompt widespread deterioration in Muslim relations with indigenous eastern Christians. There were some intermittent signs of a hardening in attitudes, particularly in cases where native Christians living under Islamic rule were suspected of aiding or spying for the Franks, but, broadly speaking, little changed until the rise of the more fanatical Mamluks.
For both Islam and the West, perhaps the most striking transformation wrought by the crusades related to trade. Levantine Muslims already maintained some commercial contacts with Europe before the First Crusade through Italian seaborne merchants, but the volume and importance of this economic interaction were revolutionised in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, largely as a result of the Latin settlement of the eastern Mediterranean. The crusades and the presence of the crusader states reconfigured Mediterranean trade routes–perhaps most powerfully after Constantinople’s conquest in 1204–and played a critical role in solidifying the power of the Italian mercantile cities of Venice, Pisa and Genoa. Europe’s adoption of Arabic numerals can also be dated to around 1200 and likely resulted from trade with Islam, though this cannot definitively be connected to contact with the ‘crusader’ world.
The Franks residing in Outremer did not live in a hermetically sealed environment. Pragmatic reality and political, military and commercial expediency meant that these Latins were brought into frequent contact with the native peoples of the Levant, including Muslims and eastern Christians, and later the Mongols. In this way, the crusades created one of the frontier environments in which Europeans were able to interact with and, in theory, absorb ‘eastern’ culture. The ‘crusader’ society that developed in Outremer certainly was marked by a degree of assimilation, though whether this was the result of conscious choice or an organic process remains uncertain. There can be no doubt that the social milieu found in the Latin East was utterly unique. This was not the result of an unprecedented degree of connection with Islam–indeed, this type of contact was as, if not more, common in medieval Iberia and Sicily; nor was it a consequence of the ongoing holy war in the Near East. Instead, the distinctive character of ‘crusader’ Outremer was born of the extraordinary array of different Levantine influences encountered–from Greek and Armenian to Syriac, Jewish and, of course, Muslim–and the mixture of so many western European influences, drawn from the likes of France and Germany, Italy and the Low Countries.4
Historians have long recognised that interaction between western Christendom and the Muslim and wider Mediterranean worlds during the Middle Ages played an important, perhaps even critical, role in advancing European civilisation. These contacts resulted in the absorption of artistic influences and the transference of scientific, medical and philosophical learning–all of which helped to stimulate far-reaching changes in the West, and ultimately contributed to the Renaissance. Gauging the relative importance of different spheres of contact within this process is all but impossible. Thus, while the art and architecture of the ‘crusader’ Levant exhibited unquestionable signs of intercultural fusion, ‘crusader’ styles of manuscript illumination or castle design cannot reliably be tracked back to the West and categorically isolated as the sole inspiration for any given European exemplar. By its nature, the textual transmission of knowledge is easier to trace. In this area of exchange Outremer played a notable role–as witnessed in the translations made at Antioch–but its importance was secondary to the plethora of copied and translated texts that poured out of Iberia in the Middle Ages. At best, we can conclude that the crusades opened a door to the Orient, but by no means was it the only portal of contact.
Other forms of change brought about by the crusades in Latin Europe can more easily be determined. On a practical level, large-scale expeditions had a huge political, social and economic impact upon regions such as France and Germany, culminating as they did in the interruptive disappearance of whole kinship groups and sections of the nobility. The absence of the ruling classes, and especially crown monarchs, could cause widespread instability and even regime change. The advent of the Military Orders and the spread of their power to virtually every corner of the West had an obvious and profound effect upon medieval Europe–as new and formidable players on the Latin stage, these orders possessed the might to rival established secular and ecclesiastical authorities. The popularity of crusading served to increase the authority of the papacy and to reconfigure the practice of medieval kingship. It also influenced the emerging notions of knighthood and chivalry. By creating a new form of penitential activity, these holy wars likewise altered devotional practice–a process that accelerated markedly in the thirteenth century with the vast extension of crusade preaching, the commutation of vows and the system of indulgences.
Throughout this period, it is true that more Latin Christians stayed in the West than were actively engaged in crusading activity or fighting in the war for the Holy Land. But by the same token, between 1095 and 1291, few living in Europe remained wholly untouched by the crusades–whether through participation, taxation or the broader formulation of a communal Latin Christian identity within society.5