The Foundation of the Modern World

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1 The Foundation of the Modern World In the year 1095 A.D., Christian Europe was threatened on both sides by the might of the Islamic Empire, which had declared jihad (Holy War) against Christianity. In the East, the Byzantine Empire, which was the bridge between Europe and Asia, was all but destroyed. Meanwhile, in the West, the only remains of resistance to the Muslim occupation was a few small, disunited kingdoms in the mountains. This alarming state of affairs led Pope Urban II to call the First Crusade at Clermont. So began twohundred-year period of constant conflict between Islam and Christendom, including several military campaigns launched by Feudal Europe, eight of which were targeting the Holy Land, with the purpose of regaining the city of Jerusalem. These wars laid the foundations for the modern world. The Crusade called by Urban succeeded in driving out the Muslims from Palestine and took Jerusalem from the Muslims. However, holding these conquests would prove more difficult. After the Muslims retook the city of Edessa, a second Crusade was launched. Both of the armies that attempted the venture were ambushed and destroyed. In 1189, a third Crusade set out to retake Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslim warlord, Saladin. Led by the great kings of Europe, including Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa of Germany, Phillip Augustus of France, and Richard Coeur de Lion of England, it succeeded in taking back much of Palestine before coming to terms with Saladin. The Fourth Crusade, in a show of human weakness, succeeded only in sacking the Christian city of Constantinople. The Fifth Crusade failed due to a flood of the Nile River, and the Sixth Crusade regained Jerusalem, not by fighting, but by negotiations. After Jerusalem fell to the Muslims once again, Saint Louis IX of France led two Crusades, but each failed in the end. Only in Spain did the Crusaders meet with success, when in 1212 they reconquered the city of Toledo from the Almohad Muslims.

2 After the last Crusade, the strongholds of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem fell to the Muslim war machine. Finally, Acre, the capital of the Christian East, was conquered in It seemed as if the Crusades were utter failures, but in fact they may be the most influential events in European history after the birth of Christ. Many key things were accomplished by the Crusades. Militarily, they prevented further Islamic expansion, buying Europe another two centuries of time before it was again threatened by Muslim forces. Also, much of the science and philosophy of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Islamic culture were made available to the West. Lastly, the Crusades opened the East to Europe, leading to exploration and economic growth. Of the military effects of the Crusades, perhaps the Reconquista ( Reconquest ) of Spain and Portugal is the most obvious. In 711 A.D., Muslims from North Africa known as Moors overran the Visigoth kingdom of Spain. All that remained of the Christians were a handful of warriors who followed a man named Don Pelayo. He established the kingdom of Andalusia in the mountains of northern Spain, where the Christians continued to resist Muslim rule. The Muslims simply moved on into France, where they were defeated at Tours by Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne later campaigned against the Moors, as told in the Song of Roland. However, it would only be a matter of time before another assault on France was launched. The Iberian Crusade prevented further Islamic invasions from Spain, as well as enabling the final defeat of the Moors at Grenada in A second military effect of the Crusades was a period of relief for the Byzantine Empire. The Crusades diverted the Muslim forces towards defeating the Christians in Palestine, granting reprieve to the beleaguered city of Constantinople. Because of this, Constantinople survived until 1456, when it fell to the Ottoman Turks. If the Crusades had not occurred, then most likely Constantinople would have been overwhelmed centuries earlier.

3 The last, but perhaps most important, military effect of the Crusades was preventing another invasion of Europe. By putting the forces of the Islamic Empire on the defensive, Europe was allowed to rebuild its strength. When the Muslims next went on the attack, the Christians gained key victories at Malta, Lepanto, and Vienna. Thoroughly defeated, the Muslim forces retreated, and never again marched on Europe. Another positive result of the Crusades was the social advancement of Europe. This occurred partly by the increase in scientific and philosophical growth achieved through the Crusaders contact with Islamic culture. For in the conquest of several ancient cities the Muslims had gained access to the writings of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, mathematicians such as Pythagoras and Euclid, and medical scientists such as Hippocrates and Galen. Also, Muslims themselves, including Abu Nasr Al- Farabi ( ) and Ibn Sina ( ) had made great strides in areas such as astronomy. When the Crusaders returned to Europe, they brought this knowledge back with them. This led directly to the European Renaissance. The discovery of the Far East led to other social changes in Europe. As silks from China and spices from India, which could be bought from the Muslims, became popular in Europe, many Europeans began to search for ways to the distant countries of Asia. This led Marco Polo to travel to the court of Kublai Khan, becoming the first European to visit China. It also inspired Henry the Navigator to send ships to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, and was the incentive that led Christopher Columbus to discover the Americas. Many things such as art and music were also learned from the Muslims. New instruments were discovered, and Byzantine and Muslim architecture was revealed. These were copied, improved, and adapted, leading to the great architectural accomplishments of the thirteenth century. The great Gothic

4 and Romanesque cathedrals of Europe owed much to Eastern architecture. Without the Crusades, the Cathedral of Notre Dame would not exist. The Crusades also led to political and economic changes in Europe. One of these was the increase in the wealth of merchants, especially in the maritime Italian city states of Venice and Genoa. Three factors caused this. One factor was the increase in demand for eastern goods that was discussed earlier. The other two were the Crusaders need for men and supplies to be transported across the Mediterranean, and the opening of trade with Egypt and Syria. The growth of the merchant class in Europe led to the beginning of the first ever international economy. A political change wrought by the Crusades was an increase in the power of kings. For the first time, the kings of feudal Europe were able to unite the nobility in a common cause under their banners. King Richard of England commanded the respect of all his people, and his brother John attempted to grow the power of the king, although with less popularity. King Phillip Augustus and St. Louis both used the Crusades to unify the kingdom of France under the control of the King. The increase in central authority led to a weakening of the Feudal System, and by extension a limiting of the constant warfare between the various nobles. This was also achieved by the Popes, who used the Crusades to show their supremacy over temporal rulers. Such teaching as Foedus Dei (Truce of God) and Pax Dei (Peace of God) soon led to the end of feudal warfare. The Crusades laid the foundation for the successes of the High Medieval Period and the Renaissance through the rediscovery of classical literature and eastern art. They saved Europe from Islam by temporarily halting Muslim expansion, and paved the way for the economic and political growth of Europe. By increasing European interest in the rest of the world, the Crusades led to the discovery and colonization of Asia, Africa, and America. The Crusades appeared to have failed, but without them the modern world would not exist as we know it.

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