The Crusades (Part I)

Entering Anatolia:

   During the Middle Ages, the World has divided apart into Christian states and Muslim states. Both had religious sect issues: Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sunni Muslims were losing their strength and getting weaker. As Turks became Muslim, they ruled the world with jihad. Oghuz Turks wanted to find more fertile lands for their people. They decided to explore Anatolia. In 1071, with the battle of Manzigert, the Byzantines relinquished Anatolia to the Seljuk Empire (Note: This empire comes from Qiniq, who is one of the 24 members of the Oghuz tribe). After this big victory that opened Anatolia to Turks, Europe got nervous about the defeat of Byzantium, have been the bridge between the West and the East. They feared that the Turks would come for them too.

First Crusade Begins:

   After the battle of Manzikert, Byzantine was under a renewed attack. In 1095, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Komnenos wrote to Pope Urban II (Otho de Lagery) and begged for help. Pope called Christians to free Jerusalem from Muslim dominance. A total of 100.000 people gathered and decided to battle for the forgiveness of their sins. The first destination was Constantinople. When the army ran out of food, they plundered towns and villages. When they reached Constantinople, Byzantine freed the army to Anatolia. However, the Turks encircled the Christian forces into a castle and won the battle of Civetot (1096).

Crusaders in Anatolia:

   Europe’s most powerful feudal lords made an army better armed and organized knights than the first army. The armored knights came to Constantinople. The Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Komnenos gave them money, supplies and guides if only their leaders swore to give oaths of loyalty. They also promised to return all the territories lost by Byzantine to the Emperor.

   The Islamic states (especially Seljuks) had divided apart also were fighting with Shia Fatimids. The knights initially made a siege on Nicaea. After six months of siege, Nicaea couldn’t resist because of the crowded enemy army. Seljuks lost their capital. The army left Nicaea for Byzantium as promised. The Christian forces headed inland of Anatolia. However, near the Dorylaeum, they were ambushed by the main Turkish army. The Crusaders took a defensive position and sent an urgent message to other crusader armies for assistance. Turkish army surrounded the enemy and then the unit came. Turks withdrew with lots of casualties. After this victory, they continued the road with no ambitious opposition.

Antioch is in Danger:

   Crusaders moved to the South of Anatolia. They arrived at Antioch to take over the last barrier to Jerusalem. The Antioch castle was much more arduous to conquer since it had been made on high land. Crusader’s army ran out of food and began to starve. A bit of supply was coming from the Byzantine-controlled island of Cyprus. They attempted to make a siege on the city but were defeated. Their morale started to fall as deaths raised. In a hopeless time, a crusader fleet arrived with much-needed armament and supplies. One night, a few crusaders infiltrated the city and opened the gate from inside. As the army poured in, the locals resisted. However, it didn’t help to lift the siege. Antioch had fallen.

Occupation of Jerusalem:

   When Turks fought with the Crusaders, Shia Fatimid forces took advantage of this and captured Jerusalem. On the Crusaders’ side, knights gathered supplies and argued among themselves. Some of them gave up and returned home. Remains broke the oath to Emperor and turned the castles they captured into a principality. A few of the knights agreed to capture Jerusalem. However, they were not enough to encircle the city. Their supply ran out. Also, there was nothing that could help them.

   Siege was begun. Crusaders’ first strike was with a single scaling ladder. As they leaned the ladder, it had been easily repulsed. A short time later, six Genoese galleys arrived in Jaffa (Shia Fatimids’ land). Crusaders took the ships by force and destroyed all of them. There was enough wood to make two siege towers. One tower settled down in the southwest, the other was in the north. After the war began and some of them got inside the city, Jerusalem’s governor Iftikar el-Devle would accept to surrender if they could agree to leave them freely. The Governor and his army were allowed to leave the city freely. However, the civilians were slaughtered, whatever difference of language, religion or race. They butchered Muslims and Jews, women and children. As Shia Fatimids tried to recapture Jerusalem, they failed to reach their goals.

“This war will be on history’s pages as a dark event with genocide.”


Onur Hakan Akdoğan

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