The Crusades - Epilogue

The conquest of the land was an intrusion, not a liberation. The people of Palestine were practically slaves to the crusaders, castles and fortresses were built for them, and palaces for their hated masters. They welcomed the return of their former Moslem rulers, for heavy as their yoke had been, it was lighter than that of the Christian kings of Jerusalem.

There were many reasons for failure. The chieftains were always quarreling, caring more for their own interests than for the common cause; all jealous of one another. and fearful of a success which might promote the influence or fame of a rival; divided, suspicious, half-hearted effort against a fearless, united people, a race always bold in war, and under the absolute rule of one commander, whether caliph or sultan. They possessed no far-sighted vision. They did not realize that to maintain a kingdom in Palestine, a thousand miles away required constant communication with western Europe, a strong base of supply, continual reinforcement.

There were some good results. The Crusades did force Europe out of its isolationist shells and into contact with a new culture, one with such valued products as spices, precious stones, silks. Because of the lack of refrigeration, most of the meat they ate was either salted or spoiled, spices made food more edible and left Europeans dissatisfied with their own products. The Crusades furnished a great impulse to the expansion of trade, in fact the chief permanent effect of the Crusades in the Near East was in trade. Pilgrims protected by the Turkish government, and persecution ceased, land became more prosperous; Moslem aggression checked in the west; better acquaintance of nations with each other, among nations a mutual respect for each other arose and alliances were formed. The crusades were a great contribution toward the development of modern Europe.

By the 1280's Crusades had become a purely political institution. The final result, the vast wealth, the overweening ambition, and the unscrupulous use of power by churchmen, aroused discontent, and aided to pave the way for the approaching revolt against the Roman Catholic Church. The crusading idea, of a holy war commanded and blessed by the Church, had become deeply implanted by the Western European mind. Also waged against the Moslems in Spain, against pagans, against the heretical Cathari, and against others, some of them Christian, whom the popes adjudged enemies of the faith. Military orders arose from the crusades. Their members took the standard vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but were warriors who had blindly dedicated their lives and their arms to the service of Christ. Here arose the Knights of the Sword, the Teutonic Knights, Templars and Hospitallers. To put it in Augustinian terms, it was the employment of the instruments of the earthly city to further the City of God.

Gibbon says flatly that "the lives and labors of millions, which were buried in the east, would have been more profitably employed in the improvement of their native country. Modern France is the creation of the Crusades. They stimulated commerce, broadened intellectual horizons, served as an outlet for surplus population, gave peasants status, provided land for the landless, and were a primary stimulant for bringing Europe out of feudalism. Although they attracted rogues and adventurers, there were also simple folk who believed it was God's will that the Holy Land be rescued from the infidels..
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