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Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

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David Nicolle, 'Knights of Jerusalem, the Crusading Order of Hospitallers 1100-1565.'

A great book on one of history's more important military orders.

by Ferdinand III


David Nicolle is one of the leading experts on Holy Land Crusading and medieval warfare. His interest in the Crusades and in crusaders is genuine, balanced, articulate and factual. Nicolle tends towards revisionist history but usually stops short of writing anything which is beyond the boundaries of common sense or historical veracity. Given this caveat, if anyone is interested in the 'Eastern' Crusades, or the history of the various Christian military orders which were of primary importance in the crusading effort; then reading Nicolle's impressive and growing collection of research and books is a good place to begin.

The book itself is a 'coffee table' edition, replete with Nicolle's own photographs, maps, and beautiful art work. Truly a wonderful addition to any coffee table's display. It is magnificently rendered, precluding my usual predilection to write on every page and craft notes as I read. The content is well-organized, devoid of the usual neo-Marxist raving; and thankfully, for the most part even-handed. There are only a few areas of mistakes in which Nicolle for instance states, rather implausibly, that the Knights Hospitallers' defense of Malta in 1565 against 100.000 Turks was not a turning point in history. This is certainly untrue. Rome was the ultimate target of the Turkish war in the Western Mediterranean, and the Turkish defeat at Malta forced the Islamic state into campaigning in Eastern Europe. The great siege of Malta saved Rome. Yet on balance, I think it would be fair to state, that for any topic as emotive and supposedly controversial as the crusades, Nicolle's even-handedness is an attribute which is not only rare, but necessary.

The Hospitallers are known today as the Knights of St. John and the Order of Malta. Hospitaller lineage is over 900 years old. The order was instantiated during the early 12th century as a military order dedicated to aiding pilgrims and Christian travellers in the Levant or Holy Land. 'Hospitals' and hospices were a Christian invention, and the Hospitallers were organized to add organizational power and skill to the complex tasks of managing institutes of caring and relief. After the Templars were incorporated as a fighting military-monkish order in 1118, in order to help safeguard the travel of pilgrims and Christians to newly liberated Jerusalem, the Hospitallers acquired the attributes of a military organization.

“The process by which the charitable and medical Hospital of St John in Jerusalem took on a military character is not entirely clear.....once the majority of the participants [in the First Crusade] had gone home, the new Crusader States that had been established in the Middle East found themselves in a position of acute manpower shortage. It soon became clear that some sort of standing force was required to protect...pilgrims who were frequently attacked by bandits or raiders...”

The crusades were constantly under-manned; under-funded and ill-provisioned. No more than a few hundred to perhaps 1500, heavy cavalry or 'knights' were ever on duty at any given time in the Holy Land kingdoms. The cost, the training, the infrastructure needed was simply too great. As Nicolle relates: “..the Crusader States soon consisted of largely urban coastal populations that had more in common with Italy than with France. They were also obliged to rely increasingly upon the Military Orders and hired mercenaries to provide adequate military forces.”

The fighting 'monks' of both the Templars and Hospitallers were skilled men. They could build, fight, write, and were in the main quite pious. How different than the mainstream man of today. The Hospitallers controlled some 80 odd castles in the Holy Land. They could build a castle replete with wells, windmills, grist grinding machines, and advanced defences in less than 4 months. The use of technology and the skill in masonry and craftmanship stunned their less advanced Muslim opponents. Islam had nothing else to compare to the combined, militery, engineering and civil-building skill of the Orders. For this reason, and due to necessity, the Hospitallers were given key fortifications to defend.

“In 1186, the Hospitallers acquired the castle of Marqab, which was perhaps even more dramatic than Crac des Chevaliers and which overlooked the north-west of Crac.”

It is also clear from Islamic documents that the Muslims quite feared the Orders. They were the best trained and most disciplined of the Christian warriors. These men were rightly portrayed by Muslim leaders and chroniclers as the most implacable foes of Islam; and those of the highest quality. In this regard when captured in war or in raiding, most Hospitallers were killed outright, with the highest ranked perhaps ransomed off, or marched in 'victory' parades before being enslaved or murdered:

“Muslim treatment of captured crusaders tended to be milder in times of success and harsher in times of defeat. Occasionally it seems as if the execution of certain categories of crusader captives was regarded as a religious duty...”

The outright butchering of captured Order personnel conflicts of course with the politically-correct bafflegab that Islam is peace, harmony and inflexible mercy.

After 200 long years of Christian struggle against overwhelming odds in the Holy Land, the under-manned and lightly defended Christian states finally succumbed to the inevitable. In 1291 the last crusader state, that of Acre, fell to the Muslim Mamluks of Egypt. The Templar order was soon destroyed after this epochal event. The Hospitallers along with the Papacy and King Philip of France were the beneficiaries, receiving Templar money and land. Eventually the Hospitaller order settled in Rhodes surviving a bloody Turkish assault in 1480, but succumbing to the Turks in 1522. In 1530, King Charles V of Spain, gave the island of Malta to the order as a bulwark against Turkish predations in the Western Mediterranean.

Nicolle is fantastically wrong when he assigns to the great siege of Malta and the Muslim failure to capture the key island, the status of insignificance. Any historical reading will reveal that if Malta had fallen, Rome would have been attacked within a matter of years and given the weak state of both Italian and Spanish arms [much of Italy was in the hands of the Spanish]; there is every likelihood that Rome would have fallen. This would have changed history. The Hospitallers of Malta, are in fact the saviors of much of Europe, and at the very least, the European littoral.

The Hospitaller Order still exists today in the form of the Balliwick of Brandenburg, and the English Grand Priory. The St. John Ambulance Brigade and an eye hospital in Jerusalem are also directly controlled by the loose associations which comprise the Hospitallers. The fighting monks who originated as managers and caretakers of hospitals and hospices, are an important part of the Western spirit and tradition. Nicolle's excellent history reveals why that is so.

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