From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution

By Frederic J. Baumgartner | Go to book overview

8
Holy War in the Middle East

"Let those," [ Pope Urban II] said, "who are accustomed to wage private war wastefully even against Believers, go forth against the Infidels in a battle worthy to be undertaken now and to be finished in victory. Now, let those, who until recently existed as phinderers, be soldiers of Christ; now, let those, who formerly contended against brothers and relations, rightly fight barbarians; now, let those, who recently were hired for a few pieces of silver, win their eternal reward. Let those, who wearied themselves to the detriment of body and soul, labor for a twofold honor. Nay, the sorrowful here will be glad there, the poor here will be rich there, and the enemies of the Lord here will be His friends there . . . . When winter has ended and spring has come, let them enter the crossroads courageously with the Lord going on before."

Fulcher of Chartres, quoted in Edward Peters, The First Crusade ( Philadelphia, 1971), p. 31. Urban II called for the crusade at Clermont, France in 1095. Fulcher was a chaplain for one of the leaders of the First Crusade.

While western Europe was coping with the last barbarian invasions and petty feudal wars, the states of the Middle East were engaged in protracted warfare at a much higher level in respect to the size of the armies involved and the tactics employed. The Byzantine Empire continued to stand at the center of affairs, as it had to deal with periodic attacks from the Arabs, the Bulgars, the Slavs, and, after the year 1000, the Seljuk Turks.

After the failure of the Arab attack on Constantinople in 718, the Byzantine army drove the Muslims out of most of Asia Minor in the course of several campaigns and established a fairly stable frontier in the east. Yet there remained a state of permanent war, since Islamic belief demanded that the Byzantine Empire submit to Islam; but the attacks were sporadic and only occasionally pushed much beyond the frontier provinces. The attacks did not prevent a significant economic relationship between Arabs and Byzantines from developing, and truces of varying duration were signed. A permanent peace, however, was impossible. The heart of the

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