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The Crusades

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Margaret
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The Crusades

Post by Margaret » Mon November 17th, 2008, 10:11 pm

A lot of authors have written novels set during the Crusades, from Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe) to the present. I haven't read a lot of these - Annis is way ahead of me - but I do get the impression there were two different strains of Crusades fiction, with earlier writers more inclined to romanticize the knights who set out with the pious intention of retaking Jerusalem for Christendom, and more modern authors recogniziing the inherent brutality of these essentially unprovoked religious wars. Since 9/11 and the Iraq War brought the Middle East into prominence again, novels about the Crusades are once again particularly relevent for Western readers.

I've just read Nicole Galland's <i>Crossed</i>, about the Fourth Crusade, which never even reached the Middle East, but detoured to Constantinople where the Crusaders attacked fellow Christians (review here), a tale of tragic absurdity - Galland's darkly comic tone suits the story.

Another good novel about the Crusades is Cecelia Holland's Jerusalem.

An early 20th century novel set during the Crusades is Harold Lamb's Durandal, a swashbuckler that nevertheless shows sympathy for the Saracen perspective. Annis has reviewed it here.

What are other readers' favorite Crusades novels?
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annis
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Post by annis » Mon November 17th, 2008, 11:33 pm

I'll put in a word for Tom Harper's trilogy

1) Mosaic of Shadows
2) Knights of the Cross
3) Siege of Heaven

It follows the path of the First Crusade from Byzantium to Jerusalem covering all the major battles en route.
It's powerful, descriptive writing with a mix of realistic characters, and doesn't make too many judgements about any of the peoples involved in the conflict. Harper doesn't spare us the gruesome results of the various sieges and battles, so it's not for the faint-hearted.
It takes an different angle, in that it's written from the viewpoint of Demetrios Askiades, an agent for the Byzantinian Emperor, who is sent along to keep an eye on the what the Franks are up to, as they are dubious allies at best.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue November 18th, 2008, 2:46 am

I don't read much crusade fiction. But I have set out to become an expert on Islam during the Renaissance years, which means that I have to research almost everything that went before.

This makes me very aware of a certain 'political correctness' that follows almost all Western discussion of the crusades, especially in recent fiction, to wit: the Europeans were horribly, terribly, awful agressors who were preying on nice peaceful Muslims. This is a crock.

I'll grant that calling the counter wars after the cross, when they were really attempts to regain territory, trade and influence, goes against everything Jesus stood for. But so what? about two-thirds of what nominal Christians do and have done institutionally goes against everything Jesus taught. I might add, in fairness, that a great deal of what Muslims and their institutions do goes against some of the Qur'an and against what many others believe, although since Muhammed never told his followers to love their enemies and condoned conversion by the sword, the behavior of, say, Mameluk armies is a little more defensible from the point of their faith.

But what the crusades really were was a semi-united European attempt to keep from being overrun by an enemy nation. When the 'Christian' states fell to squabbling amongts themselves and could no longer unite enough to field a crusade, the Ottoman Empire almost ate most of Eastern Europe.

One of the tenents of Islam is that it will conquer the whole world. So tell me again why the French, English, Spanish, Italian, German knights banding together to take the battle to the enemy before their armies reach their own countries is such a reprehensible thing?

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Post by Volgadon » Tue November 18th, 2008, 9:21 am

Ah, but balance that with the tennent of 'every knee shall bow'.
I don't see it as an attempt to stop the enemy before they reached your home. The age of Islamic conquests was over, excluding some disputes in Iberia and Sicily.
The Byzantine emperor was facing a huge crisis, that is why he requested help, expecting a small, manageable force of elite heavy cavalry.
The First Crusade was very much an attempt to set up the Kingdom of Heaven by the sword. The plan did not include heathens (Muslims and Jews) or infidels (the Byzantines).

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue November 18th, 2008, 2:43 pm

The age of Islamic conquest definitely was NOT over by the time of the crusades. The eighth crusade was in 1270. Constantinople fell in 1453. The Ottoman Turks besieged Vienna in 1529. In fact, up until the battle of Lepanto in 1571 -- three centuries after the last crusade -- the Islamic conquest was still going very strong.

And I might add that the Maharatta princes in India didn't think it was over when they faced Babur, Akbar, Jehan and Azurangreb, either.

In 1500, there was no reason on earth to assume that those ignorant, scrappy little barbarian kingdoms in Europe would come to dominate the globe in three hundred years. Any sane person making bets would have put their money on China or the Muslim sphere of influence.

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Post by donroc » Tue November 18th, 2008, 5:10 pm

And in 1683, Jan Sobieski and the Polish army saved Vienna and the HRE if not all Europe from Ottoman conquest.
Image

Bodo the Apostate, a novel set during the reign of Louis the Pious and end of the Carolingian Empire.

http://www.donaldmichaelplatt.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6 ... annel_page

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Post by annis » Tue November 18th, 2008, 5:57 pm

Jan Sobieski's success was due in no small measure to his cavalry units, the Husaria. Someone has put together an interesting collection of images of Polish Husariaon this post. The winged horsemen are quite amazing!
He famously made the quote after his success at the Battle of Vienna, adapting the words of Julius Caesar:
"Veni, vidi, Deus vicit" - I came, I saw, God conquered.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Tue November 18th, 2008, 6:02 pm

The Ottoman Turks' campaigns in Europe were indeed brutal wars of aggression. However, they can't be used to justify the Crusades, as the First Crusade began in 1095, and the Ottoman Turks did not even arrive in what is now modern Turkey until 1227 when they migrated to Anatolia from the east.
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Post by chuck » Tue November 18th, 2008, 7:04 pm

The Crusades....for me so interesting, puzzling and controversial.....I loved Holland's "Jersalem"...I want to recommend Michael Eisner's "The Crusader"....."A heart rendering novel of Chivalry, swordplay, savagery, solidarity,honor deceit, damaged souls and finally hope and forgiveness"....Eisner mentions that the Crusader is based on his Ancestor.....I have read numerous HF and NF books about the Crusades and I still feel like a novice in this very complex subject......

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Post by annis » Tue November 18th, 2008, 7:14 pm

My understanding is that the First Crusade was motivated by the need for the Church of Rome to strengthen its power base.
When Alexius I, Emperor of Byzantium, appealed to the West for aid against the Seljuk Turks, it was not the first appeal of this sort. The fact that this one got a big response was that it suited the Church to encourage it. The Papacy was in a weakened state and encouraging a crusade meant that the rulers and warlords who were a threat to the Papacy’s power would be out of the way and the Church’s status elevated by its power to grant crusaders dispensation for their sins.

One unforeseen result of the impetus given to the crusade by Pope Urban II’s famous sermon (which exaggerated the anti-Christian acts of the Muslims) was the huge number of ordinary people who took up the call to go on crusade. In their zeal and ignorance, they were responsible for undisciplined actions against the people of many countries they passed through (mostly Christian). The First Crusade was basically a shambles, barely held under control by the military leaders, who were themselves in a state of constant rivalry with each other and had no time or sympathy for the rabble which attached itself to them.

Others may see things differently, of course :)

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