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Crusades - Recent Articles

Review: 'Byzantium and the Crusades', by Johnathan Harris.

Confirming the superiority of the West over the Orientalized Byzantines.

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Harris is an expert on Byzantium and this book is an invaluable and extraordinarily interesting resource. He looks at the Crusades in the Holy Land, from 1095 to 1291, through the perspective of the Byzantines. Harris uses mostly Byzantine and 'Eastern' sources, as well as chronicles from Latin and Western participants who had first-hand experience with the various Crusades. Harris' work confirms what is pretty clear when one reads about the Crusades. The Latin sack of Constantinople in 1204, in which a Christian army on its way to the Holy Land was diverted to attack the capital of Eastern Christianity, was an event brought upon the Byzantines by their own perfidy, greed, policy making and duplicity. It was in other words, a long overdue payback by the West to the Eastern Greeks.


Harris' theme thus runs counter to the mainstream view of Crusading. In universities, schools, the media, and most books, the Western Crusades are portrayed as a long, sorry saga, of Catholic European imperialism, greed, lust for Near Eastern wealth, and the unprovoked disruption of wonderful, peaceful, sophisticated and advanced Muslim societies, with the so-called 'sack' of Constantinople the apogee of illiterate barbarism and bloodshed. In reality the opposites are true.


The 1204 sack of Constantinople was perhaps 1/10 as 'bloody' as the Turkish assault, slaughter, pillage and rape of 1453, in which some 40.000 people were marched off into slavery and some 20.000 killed. No one was enslaved in 1204 and no more than 3.000 were killed – the fighting was over quickly and the 'Crusaders' never did slaughter anyone in the streets [though rape, idol destruction, and the theft of anything containing gold or silver was rampant, as is usual in medieval warfare]. Muslim war against Christians had already be in train for 460 years before the first Crusade entered Turkey, and over 560 years before the Crusaders breached Byzantium's walls in 1204. It is a puerile mind indeed which makes the claim that the eternal and vicious Muslim Jihad was not the originator of the Crusades.


It is also nescient to claim that the Crusades were some sort of imperialist venture. As Harris and others make clear the flow of money was one way – from West to East and no Franks migrated to settle in the Crusader states.  In fact most Crusaders left after a few weeks or months of fighting, due to a lack of money, a belief that duty was done and their sins remitted, or a desire to return to their families and home societies. There was little point in fact, to migrate from Europe to Israel or the Holy Land. Compared to Europe the Holy Land was poor and offered little in the way of attractions.


The main value of this book, is that Harris takes a realistic and pragmatic view of Byzantium through its own sources, and how the Eastern Greeks tried to 'manage' the Crusades. After their crushing annihilation in 1071 by the Turks at Manzikert, the Eastern Greeks or Romans, appealed to Western Europe for help in rolling back the Muslim tide. The Crusades followed and in 1099 Jerusalem was retaken. Yet the Byzantines never viewed the Westerners as allies. The Greeks or Romans, eyed the Latins as competitors, viewing Western power which was obviously much greater by this period than Byzantine, as a threat to the continuation of the Eastern Roman empire. So much for Christian unity in the face of the Muslim threat.


Harris relates very well the threats that the French Normans based in Sicily posed to the Byzantines, especially to Eastern Roman lands in Greece and the seaboard of Anatolia. Venice was at times both an ally and a competitor to Byzantine ambition in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Byzantines also faced threats from the Bulgars, Russians, various Turkish tribes and were marred by intra-Byzantine civil wars and claims to the throne. In the anarchic chaos and in the face of declining power, Byzantine policy became ever more tangled, corrupt and confused – an empire grasping at straws.


Harris repeatedly makes the important point that in essence and in-toto, Byzantine policy made little sense, and was the main cause of the empire falling to the Latins in 1204 [it was recovered in 1261].

“The Byzantine political elite were working within the context of a strongly defined political ideology to which all subscribed, whatever their differences in terms of faction or party.”


That policy was quite simplistic though in implementation it could be complex. The Byzantine state was weak. By the 11th century it had no standing army and no navy – it relied on paid mercenaries to do its fighting. But it did have money from trade and manufacture; and it did have an imperial reputation of wealth and power. Eastern Roman policy against its enemies was at its core one of crass simplicisme. Pay off your enemies. Divide them against each other by using gold. Hire foreigners to do your fighting for you. Make many and sundry alliances to counter-act any threats. It was the policy set of a weak and enfeebled state and it lead ineluctably, to lies, cheating, immorality and opacity:

“Duplicity was almost a measure of sophistication, a mark of superiority over the uneducated and uncultured.”


The Byzantine elite Harris reports, were not only arrogant but under-educated. They were tutored in memorization of classic Greek texts, and schooled in the use of arcane rhetoric in which lies could be presented as honest facts. In other words, the system of education was not oriented towards science, discovery, investigation or robust debates and innovation. It was premised on arcana and deceit. It must have produced a wonderful collection of rich and sophisticated nitwits:

“To the modern mind, there is something faintly absurd about the conviction of the Byzantine elite that their classical education gave them all the skills they needed....”


That would be an understatement.


The fruits of bad policy and not very rational, clear-minded or moral leadership would find its expression in some 200 years of conflict with the West. Byzantine policy by itself, ensured that there would be a war with Latin armies. In fact in every single Crusade, as Harris relates, we see that Byzantines or their mercenaries attacked Crusading armies; helped the Turks; and denying Latin soldiers food and supplies – all in contravention of various signed treaties. As Harris so helpfully relates, Byzantine sources reveal the depths of Eastern depravity:

“The importance of Choniates's History, however, goes far beyond its basic balance. It is from Choniates that we first discern doubts being raised inside Byzantium as to the wisdom of applying traditional Byzantine foreign policy aims and methods to crusading expeditions and to the crusader states.”


Choniates was a high ranking Byzantine leader and politician and had personal first-hand experience of the Third Crusade.

“For Choniates the message was clear. Byzantine diplomacy was a fatal mix of swaggering arrogance and abject submission, and completely unsuited to the situation in which the empire now found itself.”


In many ways the Byzantines viewed the Latins as more of a threat than the Turks. The Second Crusade was purposefully destroyed by the Greeks, when their scouts lead the Crusading army into a Turkish trap in southern Anatolia and the entire army was wiped out. This was standard Greek policy. Harass, attack, and deflect the Crusading armies as they passed through Byzantine territory. Pay Turkish mercenaries to harass or give battle to the Christians. Deny them food, or sell them poisoned food at inflated prices. Help them not.

“In order to weaken the passing crusade [the second] armies so that they would have no opportunity to attack Byzantine territory....[the emperors had] ordered attacks on their armies in the Balkans usually by Pecheneg mercenaries. There was little difference between this and paying the Turks to do the same thing in Asia Minor.”

“The promised supplies [for the Third Crusade] also failed to materialise forcing the Germans to forage for food. When the German army reached Philippopolis on 24 August 1189, news arrived that Isaac II [the Byzantine emperor], had arrested and imprisoned the ambassadors that Frederick had sent ahead to Constantinople.”


Open alliances with the Turks persisted during almost the entire duration of the Crusading period – a fact not lost in Western Europe, who were sending men and treasure to both rescue the Holy Land from Turkish occupation and in so doing, save Byzantium by defeating the Muslims. One main source of irritation for Latins was the Byzantine claim that its church was the true 'Mother Church', one that had taken on the legacy and glory of Rome and its founding Church. In other words, Byzantium expected Rome to submit its religiosity to that of the Eastern Church. Since the Latin West was so much wealthier in aggregate, stronger, more civilized in many ways, and certainly more innovative and dynamic, this absurd claim that the 'Franks' should submit their spirituality to the powers of the Eastern Orthodox church would have grated hard on the nerves and sensibilities of not only Crusaders and Popes, but simple laymen as well.

“ amount of repackaging could disguise the fundamental differences that existed between east and west over the questions of papal authority and the Filioque.” [Filioque references which church should be supreme - the Western or Eastern].


By 1203 there were over 100 years of conflict and bad blood between the Latins and Byzantines. Seen in the 'long duree' of history, an all out conflict while not inevitable, was probably unavoidable. The Greeks did their best to provoke the Latins . Venetians were expelled from Constantinople in 1171 and their property seized. Some were killed in riots. And 10 years later;

“Adronicus....During his seizure of power in 1182, he permitted a massacre of Italian residents in Constantinople...Henceforth it would inevitably be an agreement with the sultan of Syria and Egypt, Saladin, over the protectorship of the Holy deliberate and sinister machinations against the Holy Land and Jerusalem.”


Not only were the Greeks helping the Muslims and attacking Western armies. But they were expelling and killing citizens and traders living in their capital. Anti-Latin sentiment within Byzantium, appeared to be all too real to Western eyes.


As Harris confirms the attack on Constantinople in 1203 and its reduction in 1204, was not an accident. It was for the most part however, foreordained given Byzantine perfidy and poor policy and diplomacy.

“When the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade first attacked the walls of Constantinople in the summer of 1203, they did so at the behest of a Byzantine prince, Alexios Angelos, while the stiffest resistance they encountered came not from the Byzantines but from the western European troops in imperial service.”


The attack was motivated in part of course by Venetian ambition in the Eastern Mediterranean and the necessity for money. The Fourth Crusade owed the Venetians through a contractual agreement, a lot of money that they did not have. The easiest available source of wealth was of course resident in the Eastern capital of Christendom:

“The need for Byzantine wealth was all the greater because the Fourth Crusade had been plagued by shortage of finance from the very beginning.”


Not all the Crusaders agreed to attack Constantinople. Many left directly for the Holy Land. But even so the reality is pretty clear. If the taking of the tired, obsolete, superstitious and ill-educated Eastern Orthodox capital by Western forces had not occurred in 1204, it would have happened at some point. Harris's work makes this rather clear. The beauty of the book is that he dispenses with all of the ill-informed opinions about the 'sack' of 1204. And Harris uses Byzantine sources to prove the point.


It is clear that by 1200, the Byzantine empire was no longer an imperial state of great use or import. It was poor, shrivelled, mired in illiteracy and superstition, weak with no standing armies or navies, and living off its past. Like the Western Roman empire, which for the last 200 years of its existence obstructed Europe's growth; the Eastern empire was a force for regression, not progress. One of the 'miracles' of history is that it lasted until 1453. It was already a decaying carcass long before 1204.


All of this is revealed in this excellent book.


The Crusades in Christian perspective

'Dark Age' societies don't produce wealth, splendour, nor the confidence to war.

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The Crusades were one of the most important events in our history – and one of the most glorious. They saved civilisation. There is little doubt about this. Islam or Mohammedanism as it should be called [or the cult of Mohammed], is a militant barbarous paganism. Why wouldn't you fight it?

In the great wide world of Western 'intelligentsia' and popular-culture, the Crusades to the Holy Land are portrayed as the expressions of a 'Dark Age' society, full of Christ-loving rabble, malcontents, thieves, morons, and hair-shirt wearing tonsured hypocrites. Only an illiterate, barbarous society would launch attacks against the lands of Christ and engage in the violent racial extermination of peaceful, non-White and entirely sophisticated and nuanced Moslems. Or so we are told. The reality is of course the opposite. The Crusades from 1099 to roughly 1291, were actions which saved Europe and civilisation. There can be little serious doubt about that. The Moslems brought the idea of intolerant Holy War or Jihad, into the heart of Europe enslaving and killing literally millions of people in Italy, Spain, Southern France conquering even the southern cantons of Switzerland in their lust for booty, women, land and power. 

Cleansing the spiritual and material world in the name of the thing Allah, meant the fusing of church and state and the development of a robust intolerance and program of racist-supremacism which was already firmly embedded in Islamic theology. Europe was richer, more educated and more sophisticated in all matters of the political-economy when the Moslems attacked it in the early 8th century. We know this from Arab sources and from the obvious fact that marauders don't plunder poverty stricken areas. Vikings plundered England for its wealth. Moslems pillaged Europe for its treasures, its women and its civilisation.

When true barbarians – the Moslems –attack what should you do? Turn the other cheek? Sell your possessions and imitate St. Francis? Hide? Organize an international conference and create 'legal' statutes of international approval for either self-defense or projected-warring? Or do you simply get on with the business of defending yourself, training your military, fortifying your towns, educating your populace about the need to fight back; and making war on the enemy, 'until they have had enough' to quote Churchill? Only a demented self-loathing personality would accept any but the last option. Yet many in our society will reject the obvious – even those Christians who if they knew any history whatsoever, should know better.

However, history bears me out. Not a single significant voice was raised against the Byzantines when they fought Islamic conquests. There are no records of Christian pacifists in Egypt or Syria urging a Gandhi-style non-violent response to the advances of Muslim armies. The new, pre-emptive dhimmitude being urged on us by certain clerics is not the fruit of Christian orthodoxy but contemporary liberalism, which acts as a kind of civilizational AIDS, finding excuses to undermine and render impossible every healthy measure of self-defense. Just as a retro-virus infiltrates and corrupts the existing DNA of human cells, so liberalism twists the tenets of Christian humanism, the Western insistence on tolerance and equality, our decent instinct of respect for other's cultures and beliefs, and turns them into toxic heresies by negating the countervailing values that made these values viable.”

Christianity is not by its theological nature naturally pacific. Neither is it defeatist.

The Crusades in the end did fail of course. There was never enough money, unity, leadership skill, men or to use the in-vogue Marxism, 'neo colonial' purpose, to make them permanent. Their eventual failure makes the claim of 'colonialism' a lie. There were no population transfers from Europe to the East. Most Crusaders left immediately after their tour of duty was over. Few Europeans even considered leaving the relatively prosperity of 'Dark Age' Europe [a myth] to settle in a dusty, barren, hot place beset by Moslems. Of the 7 main Crusades outlined by most historians [though there were really 3 phases to the 'First' Crusade]; only 2 were military victories. The first under the Knights of France; and the Third 100 years later under Richard the Lionheart [portrayed by Hollywood in yet another pathetically bad movie 'Robin Hood', starring Russell Crowe, as a raving mad dog who did nothing else other than murder innocent Muslims and bankrupt his state]. 

This is factual nonsense to anyone who has studied the Crusades. Also an idiocy is the idea that Richard's foe Saladin – a man Richard defeated in battle many times, never losing – was a Victorian gentleman. Saladin like any Muslim medieval leader murdered and butchered his way to power, annihilated cities and villages, killed the innocent and killed prisoners. The only reason he did not eradicate the inhabitants of Jerusalem in 1188 when he took the city, was because the Christians remaining in the city send an envoy to Saladin and plainly stated that all the Muslims remaining in Jerusalem would be killed unless Saladin guaranteed the Christians and Jews their freedom through ransom. The deal was made – and so was a lot of money for Saladin. Many thousands who could not be ransomed were shackled into slavery to work on Moslem projects including fortification building and agriculture. So much for the Hollywood myth that this man was the idealized saint. He was brutal self-interested murdering narcissist as any real history will show.

In any event the charges against the Crusades, perpetuated by the media and the base stupidity that is pop-culture, maintains that they were assaults by illiterate idiots, hungry, dirty and thirsting for land and gold is the precise opposite of what occurred. The Crusades were ruinously expensive, largely French and family-based in the supply of leaders and men, drawn almost exclusively from the elite with some exceptions; and extremely pious in their objective that the Holy Land was Christian land, and that the Moslem slaughter of Christians, pilgrims and the destruction of Christian holy places had to be avenged. Add to this the virulent Moslem destruction of Spain, the Moslem occupation of once Christian territory in Sicily and Spain; and the endless slave trading of Christians including their alliance with the Vikings in this regard; and the pillaging of the European littoral by Muslims, and the only surprise is the fact that it took 400 years for France and Catholic Europe to organize themselves and meet this threat.

The Crusades could only have emanated from a rich, confident and realistic culture, one which understood the existential threat posed by Mohammedanism and once which had first defeated the Moslem attempt to take all of Europe in 732 and 737 AD in France. The Christian King Charles Martel, victor against the Moslem infidel was as much of a true Crusader as Richard, Bohemond, or Phillip Augustus.

We should give thanks that these men existed. Men whose type cannot be found in today's Western world.

Atheist-Protestant lies about the Crusades - all to further the victimhood status of the Moon cult

Moslems are not victims but were the initiators of 400 years of bloody Jihad before the Crusades.

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Seven Myths of the Crusade, is a scholarly book debunking the revisionist history in vogue since the days of Walter Scott. Revision history is a nice way of saying ignorant, mendacious, non factual history. Atheists and Protestants recast much of real history in their zeal to attack and demolish the Church. Portraying the Catholic crusades as part of the mythical 'Dark Ages' was of course, part of this general animus against pre-Protestant history [a civil war which killed hundreds of thousands, witch burnings, destruction of art, treasure and architecture, book burnings, no free will, abiogenesis etc.].

A review of the book is summarized here. Links to other myths about the Crusades are below the review.

As the editors make clear in their preface, Seven Myths of the Crusades is presented as an antidote to the "outpouring of exaggerations, misperceptions, errors, misrepresentations, and fabrications" that proliferate in popular discourse about the Crusades. In the course of seven chapters, each written by a specialist and supported by scholarly notes and fresh research, this short primer examines and exposes the many anachronisms around the Crusades.

Andrea, professor emeritus, University of Vermont, and Holt of Florida State College make their basic assumption clear from the outset stating that the notion that medieval people ... were 'just like us' and acted out of motives very much like our own ... has led to some basic misunderstandings of the crusades and the people involved in them.

While not all chapters are equally enlightening, the more useful ones deal with large and important themes including whether the Crusaders were motivated by proto-colonialist greed, irrational fanaticism, or sincere piety. Paul Crawford examines whether the First Crusade was an "unprovoked offense or overdue defense" against Islam while Mona Hamad and Edward Peters question whether modern-day Muslims actually still hold a grudge against the West because they have "a nine-hundred-year-long grievance."

Myths about the 7 Crusades.

Crusades were a reaction against 400 years of Fascistic Moslem Jihad.

Crusades proved the already nascent superiority of European civilization.

Crusaders did not wade hip deep in blood in taking back Jerusalem and here.

Moslems slaughtered far more innocents at various sieges from Antioch and Tyre to Constantinople.

The Crusades had nothing to do with Marxist theology around 'colonisation'.