The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences

By Barber, Malcolm | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences


Barber, Malcolm, The Catholic Historical Review


The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences. Edited by Jonathan Phillips and Martin Hoch. (Manchester: Manchester University Press. Distributed in the United States by Palgrave, New York. 2001. Pp. xxi, 234. Paperback.)

This is a collection of ten papers presented at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 1998 to mark the 850th anniversary of the fruitless attack on Damascus in July, 1148. Naturally, contemporary chroniclers did not feel much enthusiasm for writing up this expedition in the way their predecessors had done after the First Crusade, but nevertheless the consequences were equally profound. Urban IFs initiative ensured that thereafter papal identity would be tightly bound to the crusades, so that, as Rudolf Hiestand sees it, the Second Crusade was a turning-point for the papacy, plunging it into a crisis as serious as those of 1080, 1130, and 1159. At the same time, Eugenius Ill's negligence in failing to involve the Latins of the East in his original plans meant that, when it all went wrong, the latent rivalry of the great patriarchates reappeared and the Jerusalem Church "started styling itself mater omnium ecclesiarum'' in evident defiance of Rome. This was symptomatic of a wider rift between the Latins of the East and the West, for while crusading by no means ceased, it was sufficiently discredited to make it difficult to mount expeditions of any size. Thus, it is not surprising that, as Timothy Reviter shows, the plan for a crusade in 1150 to repair the damage proved abortive. This did not mean, however, that William of Tyre's assertion that this was the beginning of the decline of the crusader states need be accepted. Martin Hoch points out that, even after the crusade, the Damascenes were still willing to renew the alliance of 1140, while the Franks remained strong enough to take Ascalon in 1153 and to launch a series of expeditions into Egypt in the 1160's.There is indeed good reason to think that the problems which led to 1187 are not really evident until c. 1180, but it might nevertheless be suggested that the Second Crusade did have long-term strategic implications for the crusader states, opening the way for Nur ad-Din to take over Damascus and thus creating a situation in which Prankish intervention in Egypt became imperative. Certainly, as Carole Hillenbrand demonstrates, Zengi's base in Mosul rather than Aleppo meant that Damascus was less important to him than for Nur ad-Din, while his appalling reputation for brutality and treachery strengthened Damascene determination to resist him.

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