The crusades were Christian military expeditions mainly to recapture Palestine in the middle ages. The crusaders organized 8 major expeditions between A.D 1096 and 1270. The crusades were part of a broad Christian expansion movement.
The Crusades began during A.D 500 the Byzantine Empire controlled much of the land bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In the 600's Arab Muslims conquered Palestine which included Jerusalem and other places which were sacred to Christians. Most of the Arab borders allowed the Christians to visit the shrines. During the 1000's however Seljuk Turks invaded the near east and conquered Asia Minor, Palestine and Syria. The Byzantines were crushed in the battle of Manzikert in Asia Minor in 1070. The Turks were Muslims and they made it difficult for Christian pilgrims to visit the holy lands. In 1095 the Byzantine Emperor Alexis Commenus asked the Roman Catholic Pope Urban II for help in fighting the Turks. The Pope wanted to defend Christianity and regain the holy places from the Muslims but he also wanted power and prestige for himself. He also believed a military expedition against the Turks would unite the Christian knights and nobles of Western Europe putting an end to the continual fighting with one another. Not all of the crusaders joined for religious reasons. The French knights wanted more land, the Italian merchants hoped to expand trade in Middle Eastern ports. Many priests and monks wanted valuable religious relics. Large numbers of poor people joined the expedition just to escape the hardship of their normal lives.
The first crusade was around 1096 to 1099 it was lead by Peter the hermit and Walter the penniless. These groups known as the peasant crusaders were untrained and undisciplined. They demanded free food and shelter and often stole what they wanted. Many of them were killed by angry Europeans. The main armies that were sent by Pope Urban II consisted of French and Norman knights. They joined forces with the Byzantines and the combined army defeated the Muslims near Nicaea. The army divided and the western European's marched towards Jerusalem fighting many bloody battles on the way. The Europeans arrived at Jerusalem in the summer of 1999 they recovered the holy city after six weeks of fighting and then most of the crusaders returned home. The leaders that remained divided the land into four states called County of Edessa, The Principality of Antioch, The County of Tripoli and The Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The second crusade took place between 1147 to 1149. The Christian forces in the holy land grew weak. In1144 the Turks conquered the county of Edessa and the threat to the other states brought about the second crusade. A French religious leader Bernard Claivarux inspired western Europeans to go against the Muslims. King Louis 7th of France and King Conrad III of Germany lead the armies but the armies did not cooperate and Muslim forces defeated them before they reached Edessa. The Muslims continued to fight the Christians in the Holy land. In 1183 Salidan the Sultan of Egypt and Syria had united the Muslims areas around the state. At 1187 salidan easily defeated a Christian army at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin and entered Jeruislam with ease. The loss of Jeruislam leads to the third crusade. The important leaders of the crusades included the German emperor Frederick I (Barbarosa), King Richard I (The Lion Hearted) of England and King Phillip II (Augustus) of France. Fredrick drowned on his way to the holy land. Quarrels among Richard, Phillip and other leaders limited the crusaders success. The Europeans conquered the Palestine port cities of Acre (Akko) and Jaffa in 1911 but after the capture Phillip returned home to plot against Richard. Richard attempted to recapture jeruslaem but failed before he left for home he negotiated a treaty with Salidan the result of this treaty is to allow Christian pilgrims to enter Jerusalem freely. It was Pope Innocent III who persuaded French nobles to take part in a fourth crusade but the crusade leaders decided to attack Egypt instead in order to split Muslim power. The crusaders bargained with traders from Venice to help take them by ship to Egypt, only about a third arrived in Venice and they could not pay the cost of the ship. The Venci offered to transport the crusaders if they helped them attack the city of Zara which is now in Croatia. The crusaders accepted the offer. At the same time a rogue Greek prince named Alexius claimed that his father Isaac was the rightful ruler of the Byzantine Empire. The Crusaders agreed to help him in return for money and other aid in re-conquring the holy land. In 1203 they seized Constantinople and made the father and son co-emperors but they could not fulfill their promises to the crusaders. In 1204 they re- captured the city and put Count Baldwin of Flanders on the throne. Other crusades continued in the 1200's but didn't have any success. 1228-1229 Emperor Federick II lead the sixth crusade but to this pleasure to the Pope negotiated a peace treaty with the Muslim sultan. The sultan then gave Jerusalem to the Christians. At 1244 the Muslims seized Jerusalem again. Louis 9th led the seventh crusade he revived the idea of winning the holy land back by attacking cities in Egypt but his expeditions were disorganized and the Muslims captured him and his army. The Muslims freed the king for a huge ransom. The king spent a further 4 years strengthening Christian forces. In 1270 he led the eighth crusade against the Muslims. He landed his army in Tunis and North Africa but died soon after of the Plague. Meanwhile in the east, the Muslims continued to gain Christian territory. Finally in 1291 they seized Acre the last Christian center in Palestine. By this time the Europeans had lost interest in the holy land.
The crusaders failed to accomplish their main goals they never had lasting control over the holy land. Relations between Western and Eastern Christians united to fight the Muslims became so bitter that it led to a heritage of hate. The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Empire. Some Popes used the crusades for personal and political game however the crusades also enriched European life for example they further stimulated economic growth by bringing increased trade between cities which bordered around the Mediterranean Sea. Venice, Genoa and Pisa prospered and grew powerful from carrying crusaders and their supplies to the middle east. These cities gained privileges from the areas conquered by the crusades. Western Europeans learned how to build better ships and also how to make more accurate maps. They began to use magnetic compasses for directions .The great commercial expansion and the rise of Monarchs was far greater and important than the crusades but in the minds of people in the crusade era the crusades were very important. Historians once thought the crusaders who returned to Europe acquainted westerners with goods and ways of life in the east. This contact supposedly greatly influenced life in the west. As a result of the crusades Europeans were introduced to items like sugar, silk, velvet and glass mirrors. However modern historians reject these arguments these historians point to a wide amount of interchange between Muslims, Byzantine and Europeans many years before the crusades.