Hey all! Today we are going to do another blog post on the crusades.
By about 1100 A.D, the powers of the Mediterranean had fully established themselves. Below is a map showing various powers.
As you can see, powers had defined themselves by now. In the northwest was the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of England. Southward Spain was divided. A large Islamic faction known as the Moors ruled some of Africa and much of Spain. Portugal was in western Spain and in the north was the union of the two feudal states of Leon and Castille. They would later form into Spain. In central Europe was the Holy Roman Empire, which dominated modern-day Germany, eastern France, and northern Italy. Now the weird fact about the “Holy Roman Empire” is it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. It was the only kingdom to be excommunicated as a whole by the pope, so it wasn’t holy, it primarily ruled over Germany, which was the only place in Europe the Roman’s DIDN’T conquer so it wasn’t Roman, and it was not even a unified faction… let alone an empire! It was a bunch of small towns and castles that had agreed to a weak military pact together but they all had there own rulers and political systems. Anyways, let’s get on to the East.
In Greece and western Turkey ruled the Byzantines, the last hint of the Roman empire. In this map it calls them the “Eastern Roman Empire,” but by then they would have called themselves the Byzantines. In central Turkey would have ruled the Sultanate of Rum, but this map is set slightly before the period I am talking about (it was the closest thing I could find) so it didn’t exist yet. In Iran ruled various Nomadic tribes and smaller caliphates, but really the faction which will come up most here is in green. Ruling over Egypt, Libya, some of Arabia, and most importantly the Levant, was the Fatimid Caliphate. The Fatimids were the largest remaining Caliphate left after the massive Abbasid Caliphate broke up. They had developed a powerful military and had almost no competitors in the surrounding area and so they expanded virtually unopposed, until they controlled the amount of land you see. But peace would not always last. You see, there was a cultural divide in Egypt between the local black African soldiers and the Arabian soldiers. Eventually worse circumstances such as a drought led to all out civil war.
East of Egypt lived a man named Saladin. He and his uncle had long wanted to conquer Egypt, and he now saw that with this turmoil, he could conquer the Fatimids while they were weak. He and his uncle gathered an army and marched, winning every battle they fought against the divided Fatimids. Eventually, he conquered them, putting an official end to the Fatimid Caliphate, and he now called his kingdom the Ayyubid dynasty. But he now had new problems on his hands. The crusaders.
Back in Europe, things were going relatively smoothly. There were some territorial wars but for the most part things had settled. Spain had formed and was taking land away from the Moors, and Scotland had formed into a stable kingdom and had made peace with England. In southern Italy ruled the kingdom of Naples who had rebelled from the Byzantines, ruling from Naples to the tip of Sicily. Sicily was also self-ruled, having been formed by Viking invaders in the dark ages. (That shows you how far the Vikings conquered. Sicily, in the central Mediterranean had a high Norse population.) Anyways, eventually some French priest was like: “Hey guys, where did Jesus die again?” And then the others were like: “Uh… Jerusalem.” “Oh well we better go take it then because… you know.” “Ok I will send a letter to Saladin asking whether our pilgrims can travel there.” “Uh… we better do a military assault with an army of 60,000 untrained peasants.” “Why?” “I dunno, seems kinda fun.” “Ok, whatever.” Anyways, somehow the pope and all of Europe approved this, and that’s how the First Crusade began.