This essay has a total of 947 words and 5 pages.


The Crusades

After the death of Charlemagne, king of the Franks, in 814 and the following collapse of
his empire, Christian Europe was under attack and on the defensive. The Magyars, nomadic
people from Asia, ravaged eastern and central Europe until the 10th century. Around 800,
several centuries of Viking raids disrupted life in northern Europe and even threatened
Mediterranean cities. Nevertheless, the greatest threat came from the forces of Islam,
very militant and victorious in the centuries following the death of their leader,
Muhammad, in 632. By the eighth century Islamic forces had conquered North Africa, the
eastern shores of the Mediterranean, and most of Spain. Islamic armies established bases
in Italy, greatly reduced the size of the Byzantine Empire, and besieged the capital,
Constantinople. In the 11th century the balance of power began to swing toward the West.
For the first time in many years, the popes were able to effectively unite European
popular support behind them, a factor that contributed greatly to the popular appeal to
the first Crusades.

Moreover, Europeís population was growing, its urban life was beginning to revive, and
both long distance and local trade were gradually increasing. European human and economic
resources could now support new ventures on the scale of the Crusades.

It was against this background that Pope Urban II called for a great Christian expedition
to free Jerusalem from the Seljuk Turks through a speech he delivered at Clermont in
France. The pope was spurred by his position as the spiritual head of Western Europe, the
temporary absence of strong rulers in Germany or France who could either oppose or take
over the effort, and by a call for help from the Byzantine Empire. These factors were
unquestionable causes, and at the same time, useful justifications for the popeís call for
a Crusade. In any case, Urbanís speech appealed to thousands of people of all classes. It
happened to be the right message at the right time.

The First Crusade was successful in its aim for freeing Jerusalem. Ii also established a
Western Christian military presence in the Near East that lasted for almost 200 years. It
was the main event of its day. It attracted no European kings and few major nobles,
drawing mainly lesser nobleman and their followers. They came primarily mainly from the
lands of the French culture and language, which is why the Westerners in Outremer were
referred to as Franks.

The Crusaders faced many obstacles. They had no obvious or widely accepted leader, no
agreement about relations with the churchmen who went with them, no definition of the
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