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The First Crusade



In the X century, shortly after the Viking Christianization, many warriors were raised as a mistaken effort to completely eradicate foreign invasions. Since there was peace between the major European nations including France, England, Germany and Italy; the newly-trained warriors were found needless and they resorted to fight among each other and terrorize villagers. An outlet for this need of war was sought by Pope Gregory VII who after being called for aid by the Byzantine emperor, sought to expand Christianity to new lands.

However, it wasn't until the year 1095 when the pope Urban II launched a full-scale attack against the Muslims. His belief was that no Muslim could ever possess the center of the world, as featured in most medieval maps. Henceforth, he offered all loyal warriors who fought for Jerusalem a full redemption of their sins. This, of course, caused much enthusiasm in Europe which led more than 100,000 crusaders to fight for what they believed in - the Holy Land.

Urban II planned the departure of the First Crusade for August 15, 1096. However, without his consent, an army led by Peter the Hermit marched toward Jerusalem as an attempt to be the first Crusader army to reach the Holy City.

Peter's army was undisciplined and faced many problems. The most remarkable was its lack of food and water which was often scarce in the area. Afterward, his army marched to the Danube in which he hoped to have support from the local villages by providing food and water for his army - or at least selling it at a reasonable price. Since most of the time the locals refused to offer such commodities for the foreigners, many pillages ensued.

After a long march, Peter's army finally arrived at Constantinople where he was met by another early crusader army consisting of Italians and the French. When they acknowledged Alexius of their arrival, Alexius became desperate because he was skeptical about the Crusader's intentions. Such was his desire to get rid of them that he ferried them "free" of charge across the Bosporus.

When the crusaders arrived to Asia Minor, they promptly divided their army in two and were defeated by the Turks who were more experienced and had a vast knowledge of the land. Peter did survive to the massacre which killed thousands of crusaders making this first attempt to reach Jerusalem before the main Crusader army an utter failure - reason for which this first Crusade is now called "The People's Crusade." as it was mostly disorganized.

Two months after this event, all the main armies of Europe congregated outside the walls of Constantinople to ask Alexius for aid to reach Jerusalem and to be provided with food and water. Alexius, suspicious of this, asked for every noble to swear loyalty to him which did happen. Alexius sent a Byzantine army to escort the Crusaders with the condition that any lands recovered from the Turks were to be given to him. The Crusaders agreed and a full army of thousands of knights, warriors, peasants, women and children marched toward Jerusalem.

When a Crusader soldier wrote an entry to his diary, he mentioned that he thought it would only take the complete army two months to reach the Holy Land - but unfortunately, he found that it was much more lengthy since many cities and forts had to be besieged first. It took two years for the Crusaders to reach the Holy Land - and in the way Nicaea, capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, was besieged and finally captured.

After many battles including the Battle of Darylaeum the Crusader army reached Jerusalem on May 7, 1099. Due to the lack of water in Jerusalem's surroundings, many soldiers died. A close estimate reveals that out of the 7,500 knights who marched to Jerusalem, only 1,500 survived.

Peter Desiderius had a divine vision in which he swore that provided the Crusader army starved and marched around Jerusalem, the city would fall within 9 days. Such was the enthusiasm for this that many siege weapons were built and the Crusaders marched around the city and in the seventh day, the Crusaders finally entered Jerusalem killing everyone in their path.

Everyone was massacred by the Crusaders including children and women. Many accounts claimed that there was so much blood on the street that it could reach a warrior's ankles.

The First Crusade was the only Crusade to achieve its intended goals. It successfully took control of the Holy Land which even though lasted for less that two hundred years, was still a major European victory which had much influence in the Western World including in architecture, entertainment and ways of life. Additionally, the medieval crossbow is an invention owed to the Crusades, which was the time when it was finally implemented into warfare.

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