02/22/06 - the crusades

In today's excerpt - the Crusades:

"Under the leadership of a French Knight, Godfrey of Bouillon, a great Army set off along the Danube in 1096, first to Constantinople and then on through Asia Minor towards Palestine.  These knights and their followers had crosses of red material stitched to their shoulders, and were called 'crusaders'.   ... When, after long years of battles and unimaginable hardships, they finally reached the walls of Jerusalem ... they beseiged the town.  It was valiantly defended by Arab soldiers, but eventually they took it.

"Once inside Jerusalem, however, they behaved neither like knights nor like Christians.  They massacred all the Muslims and committed hideous atrocities.  Because it was small and weak, far from Europe and in the midst of Muslim kingdoms, the new Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem was forever under attack from Arab warriors.  This meant that priests were forever urging knights to go on new crusades.  Not all of these were successful.

"However, one good thing came of the Crusades.  In the distant Orient, the Christians discovered Arab culture—their buildings, their sense of beauty, and their learning.  And within a hundred years of the First Crusade, the books of Aristotle were translated from Arabic into Latin, and eagerly read and studied in Italy, France, Germany and England.  All that the Arabs had learnt and experienced in the course of their conquests around the world was now brought back to Europe by the crusaders.  In a number of ways, it was the example of those they looked on as their enemies that transformed the barbaric warriors of Europe."


E.H. Gombrich


A Little History of the World


Yale University Press


Copyright 2005 by Caroline Mustill


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