The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly The impact of the Crusades of early European history are the subject of much controversy. Through the examination of three different documents of those events, opinions of at least three different natures have been formed. One believes that these holy wars were indeed good for the culture, while another would insist that they were a sham, a hoax intended to simply strengthen the hold of the papacy. The other believes thatthe were possibly the greatest disgrace that organized religion has seen. The first writing on the subject, The Crusade's Widen Europe's Horizon takes the side of the crusades, defending them as a profitable investment on the part of the Europeans. The author states that Both the Moslems and the Christians learned a great deal from each other.
His evidence includes many architectural, strategical, economical and fashion ideas that cultures exchanged and used during and after the wars. The Christian lords occupying the holy land had 200 years in which they could build castles and live. These castle employed both styles of the west in addition to those of the eastern Byzantine and Arab cultures. Also, the famous stained-glass windows found in western churches and cathedrals were originally an Arabic style, which the occupying Christians adapted for their own use.
The discovery of siege tactics, illustrated in most novels and movies as a European innovation, were actually learned from the Moslems, who used cross-bows, combustibles, and carrier pigeons for communication purposes. New goods brought into the market led to better economical developments. Faster ships were built for easier transportation, and the first international banks were invented. These banks allowed merchants to deposit their funds in one city, and then withdraw them upon reaching one ofthe trading cities, Constantinople or Acre. Called Templars, these banks allowed for much more efficient system of trading Finally, the author points out the influence on the style of the crusaders.
The use of perfumes became popular, as did the local clothing trends in addition to oriental rugs, tapestries, and carpets. Despite the positive viewpoint of the document, the author does not, however, try to deny the negative result of theCrusades. He states that From a purely military point of view, the Crusades must be written off as a failure for the west... His reasoning is a result of the fact that after all the changing of hands occurring over the 200 year period, the territory reverted to Moslem control for good. He thinks of the Crusades as an investment by the westerners that, in the end, payed off. The second document examined, Western Civilization, expresses a feeling thatthe crusades were, simply put, a joke.
The author, William L. Langer, states that all theCrusades accomplished was ridding the world or troublesome knights. In his view, the entire event was a complete and utter failure, mainly due to the fact that the Crusader's failed in their mission to convert the holy land to Christian control. He also denies any connection between the enlightenment in Europe and the Crusades. He states that although the Renaissance began during the time of the Crusades, the development of western Europe did not come from Jerusalem, but from Sicily and Spain. The Crusaders in Jerusalem were mostly merchants and soldiers and were not really interested in learning. Instead, these soldiers and merchants spent their time worrying about making a profit.
Also, the development of trade between the two cultures was not a result of the Crusades, and had begun over a hundred years previously. The author doesn t deny, however, the hastening of eastern commercial development as a result of the Crusades, but claims thatthe cost of sending soldiers to the East in addition to the expensive tastes acquired upon arriving there outweighed the trade benefits, and ruined many European nobles. Although the victory of the first crusade brought a new sense of pride and faith into the papacy, inthe long run, it hurt the church immensely. Pope's began using the Crusades as an excuse to conquer land or raise taxes, anything to improve their own political standings. Christians were horrified by this twisting of the holy war, and raised a voice in protest. This caused the papacy to lose a great deal of its moral prestige, leading to the overall decline of Christianity in the west.
Despite his negative philosophy about the Crusades, the author does admit the connection between them and the development of popular romantic poetry. On numerous occasions, soldiers returning from the east brought with them stories of courage, bravery and the sad fate of capture on the part of the crusaders in the form of songs. He also admits that the knights did adopt the clothing, living, and architectural styles of the east. Basically, he believes that the Crusades were a scheme created by the papacy to gain popularity, and in the long run riches and a more powerful grip on the people.
In the third document, Where the Crusades Live On, Anton La Guarda expresses his feeling that the Crusades were an unnecessary excuse for religious based violence. Heuses examples of mass slaughters. For example, he tells of the fateful day of July 5, 1099, when the Crusaders finally broke through the defenses of Jerusalem. They celebrated by slaughtering all inhabitants of the city.
They took pride in this, because killing Moslems and Jews was considered zealous. The author also professes his concern for the Crusades being a metaphor for glory and bravery as well as romantic ideals. He states that the term Crusade is over and incorrectly used in such contexts as crusades against aids, corruption, and world poverty, in that those are worthwhile causes, whereas theCrusades were not. Also, he talks about the murder of countless Jews as a prelude to the holy war. However, today the churches and castles built by the Crusaders serve as great sources of tourist revenue for the countries they are located in. The author believes theCrusades to be a vast fiasco, based completely on ignorance, greed, and jealousy.
Heuses excerpts from writings that include the following: ... much courage and so little honor, so much devotion and so little understanding... intolerance in the name of god, which is the Sin against the holy ghost. He states that the crusaders left a legacy of enmity (hatred.) Also significant inthe article is the use of a writing by Amin Maalouf, who uses the claims that any action taken against the westerners would be considered no more than legitimate vengeance. La Guarda goes on to accuse the widening schism on the Crusades, by stating that the knights sacking Constantinople led to the Moslem control of the Byzantine empire. All i nall, La Guarda's view of the Crusades is one of animosity. He thinks of them as a disgrace to Christianity, stating that while Christians have so much, Moslems have so little. He explains that freedom is a luxury to most Moslems, and even a decent standard of living seems unattainable.
He compares the Crusaders to the Mongols, implying that they were savages bent on personal gain, not chivalrous soldiers fighting in the name of god. His view is that the crusades were an excuse to slaughter countless masses of non-believers, and that the fact that the modern Catholic and entertainment world looks upon them as glorious is a shame. Three documents, with three different views. None are right, none are wrong. Onthe one hand, many things were accomplished by the crusades, on the other, many things were destroyed. Depending on one's heritage, on one's upraising, and one's personality, one must come up with his or her own view, because there is no single right and wrong.
Too much happened on both sides to make a one sided opinion, and that's what this essay is about.