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Historical People of the Crusades Richard I of England Richard I was born in England in 1157, the son of King Henry II of England and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Richard spent most of his life in France, the home of his mother. He became Eleanor’s favorite son. Richard frequently fought with his father. Twice he participated in rebellions against King Henry, with Eleanor’s support. However, Henry forgave Richard, and when Henry died in 1189, Richard was crowned king. Powerfully built, Richard was well suited for fighting. As a child, he was educated in poetry, music, and literature. He learned the refined manners and courage of the chivalric knight, and was respected for his cleverness in designing fortresses and planning military attacks. Because he had such a strong reputation for bravery in war, Richard was known to the English as Richard the Lionheart. When Richard became king of England, he taxed the people heavily to raise money for himself and his soldiers to fight the Third Crusade (also called the Crusade of Kings). When money from taxes was not enough, Richard sold government offices to the highest bidders. Desperate to find enough money to fight in the crusade, Richard declared, “‘I would have sold London herself if I could have found a buyer.’” Although passionate about fighting in the crusade and recapturing Jerusalem, Richard was also practical. The crusading spirit of defeating non-Christian infidels had led to anti-Jewish laws and murders of Jews in England. Richard, however, tried to protect the Jews in England so that their tax money could help pay his expenses. By organizing the best equipment, the largest ships, the greatest number of troops, and the most money, Richard became the leading fighter in the Third Crusade. Despite Richard’s organization, the Third Crusade was long and hard. The European crusaders needed to cope with a radically different environment (largely desert), disease, and fierce fighting by the Muslims, led by Salah al-Din. Richard and his troops conquered Sicily and Cyprus. In June 1191, Richard arrived at the Muslim town of Acre. Fellow crusader King Phillip II of France had begun to surround and attack Acre two months earlier. The Muslims gave up and surrendered to the crusaders. However, when Richard felt that Salah al-Din was too slow to follow through on a promised exchange of prisoners, he became frustrated and ordered the deaths of all 2,700 Muslims inside Acre’s city walls. By the time Richard and his soldiers finally neared Jerusalem, the men were exhausted and many had been hurt badly in battle. Realizing that he could not capture the city from the Muslims, Richard turned around without ever seeing Jerusalem and headed back to England. During the journey home, he was captured and handed over to Emperor Henry VI, who accused Richard of plotting against him. Eleanor worked hard to raise the enormous amount of money needed to pay for Richard’s release, and the English people were forced to pay even more taxes. Richard finally returned to England in March 1194. Richard was devoted both to the Catholic Church and to the knightly ideals of courage and honor in battle. He loved the thrill and challenge of battle and the respect he received for leading the fight in God’s name to capture the Holy Land. According to legend, when Richard and his troops were close to Jerusalem, Richard rode his horse to the top of a hill overlooking the Holy City. When he realized that after so long and so many battles, he might finally be able to see Jerusalem, he threw his shield over his face to cover his eyes and began to cry, pleading to God that he never wanted to look upon the city if he could not have the honor of capturing Jerusalem from the Muslims. Richard refused to enter Jerusalem as a loser. He promised, “O Holy Land, I commend thee to God, and, if His heavenly grace grants me so long to live, I hope, pledge to come one day to succor [help in time of distress] thee.” Anna Comnena Anna Comnena was born in 1083, the first child of Byzantine emperor Alexius Comnenus and empress Irene. Friends described her as lively, spirited, and stable. Because of her important position as a princess, Anna was well educated. A good student, she studied Plato and Aristotle and became an expert in Greek and rhetoric (persuasive speaking or writing), which was extremely unusual for a woman in the Middle Ages. When Anna was born, her mother expected her to become the next empress. However, her fate changed dramatically when her brother John was born a few years later. Although Irene still wanted Anna to succeed her father as the Byzantine ruler, Alexius chose their son instead. Still, Anna was proud of her royal upbringing and of the wise actions and decisions made by her father. Anna Comnena’s chronicle of her father’s rule, The Alexiad of the Princess Anna Comnena, is the only Greek account of the First Crusade that has survived. It describes the problems she and her family faced when the crusaders arrived, despite the fact that they had supposedly come to help Anna’s family and the Byzantine Christians against the Turks. Comnena was shocked and amazed at seeing such vast numbers of fanatical crusaders storm into Constantinople. At the same time, despite all the difficulty the crusaders presented for her father, according to Comnena he treated them kindly because they were Christians. He answered their questions calmly and gave them money and supplies even when his own resources were exhausted. Comnena had mixed feelings about the crusades. On one hand, she respected the crusaders because they were, like herself and the Byzantines, Christians. She understood that one of the reasons for the crusade was her father’s need for help in fighting the Turks and defending the Christian Byzantine Empire. At the same time, Comnena expressed fear and dislike of many of the crusaders, whom she described as unstable and dangerous. She saw that huge numbers of fanatical Christians were overtaking her city: “And the sight of them was like many rivers streaming from all sides, and they were advancing towards us.” To Comnena, this seemed to be an invasion. Comnena believed that once the Europeans had begun to fight for a cause, they were uncontrollable. She described the results of the violence the crusaders did to nearby Muslims: “When they piled up the corpses of the slaughtered men which were lying on either side they formed, I say, not a very large hill or mound or a peak, but a high mountain... so great was the pyramid of bones.” She included descriptions of crusaders roasting children in the fire and tearing off the limbs of others. Especially representative of the violent crusader spirit, according to Comnena, was the leader Bohemond. For her, he stood for the intense mixture of courage and violence, dedication to God, and lust for battle that she observed in the First Crusade: “The sight of him inspired admiration, the mention of his name terror... there was a hard, savage quality to his whole aspect... in him both courage and love were armed, ready for combat.” Comnena was also suspicious of the crusaders. Although she admired the dedication of some of the soldiers to Christianity, she questioned whether many were truly fighting for God. She believed that some of the crusaders, men like the leader Bohemond, fought mainly for glory in battle and the greedy urge to acquire more wealth and land. Emperor Alexius was similarly suspicious. Comnena defended her father’s decision to stay in Constantinople as emperor and not to go on the crusade. Salah al-Din Salah al-Din (Saladin) was born in 1138 to a powerful Kurdish Muslim family in Syria. He was a schoolboy in Damascus when the Christians attacked the city during the Second Crusade. He observed firsthand how important it was for Muslims to defend their religion and themselves from the Christian crusaders. When Salah al-Din was a teenager, he served in the army of Nur al-Din, the powerful Syrian-Mesopotamian leader. As a soldier, Salah al-Din was respected and successful. In 1156, at the age of 18, he was put in charge of the Muslim security forces in Damascus. He became the personal assistant to Nur al-Din and relayed messages between Nur al-Din and his military commanders. Salah al-Din gained valuable experience in military and political organization and effective communication. He fought successfully with the Syrian Muslim troops in Egypt against the crusaders. Salah al-Din’s successful military performance brought him more honors and leadership positions. When Syria took over control of Egypt, he was appointed to be the Muslim military leader in Egypt. In 1169, he was chosen commander-in-chief of the entire army of Nur al-Din. At this time, the many groups of Muslims fighting against the crusaders were not united. Often Salah al-Din and his army fought against other rival Muslims. This wasted much of the Muslims’ money and energy, and contributed to the success of the crusaders. Salah al-Din was a strong leader and was widely respected among many different Muslim groups. Consequently, he was able to unify many groups into a more powerful Muslim army. In 1174, he became the leader of both Syria and Egypt. Under his leadership, Muslim forces defeated one crusader attack after another. By 1187, Salah al-Din was directing an army of over 12,000 cavalrymen (soldiers on horseback) and close to 12,000 other soldiers on foot. In July 1187, his forces defeated the crusaders at Horns of Hattin (two hills). This victory strengthened the Muslim army and their spirit. On October 2, 1187, Salah al-Din and the Muslim army reconquered Jerusalem. Unlike the crusaders who massacred Muslims and Jews when they captured the holy city in 1099, Salah al-Din was generous with the Christians and other inhabitants of Jerusalem who surrendered to his army. Although the Muslims now controlled Jerusalem, they never succeeded in chasing all the crusaders out of the Holy Land. Some crusader fortresses outside Jerusalem remained, and these helped the Christians to begin the Third Crusade two years later. The Third Crusade was difficult for Salah al-Din and his army. The crusaders were vicious to the Muslims they attacked and captured. After the crusaders’ victory under King Richard I at Acre in 1191, many Muslims were massacred and the others left exhausted. Salah al-Din’s army began to lose some of its energy and spirit. Salah al-Din was a devout Muslim, dedicated to the cause of Islam and his people. He was also wise and careful. When he realized he could not defeat the Christians in the Third Crusade, he signed a peace treaty with King Richard in September 1192. Under the agreement, the crusaders remained in control of the cities on the Mediterranean coast and the Muslims remained in control of Jerusalem and surrounding lands, but the Christians were still able to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem. It was largely due to Salah al-Din’s leadership that the crusaders failed to recapture Jerusalem during the Third Crusade and that Richard turned around and went home to England. Despite the pain and deaths the Muslims had endured from the crusaders, Salah al-Din was able to talk reasonably with King Richard. Salah al-Din remarked that he thought so highly of King Richard that if he himself had to lose Jerusalem, he would rather see it ruled by Richard than by anyone else. Throughout his life, Salah al-Din was respected by his people and considered a sincere, generous, and religious man who was truly devoted to the cause of Islam and the Muslim people. Wanting revenge for the crimes Christian crusaders had committed against the Muslim people and Islam, he killed many crusaders in the Battle of Hattin. His strength was weakened by the difficulty of the Third Crusade. He returned to Damascus and died shortly thereafter on March 4, 1193. Usamah ibn-Munqidh Usamah ibn-Munqidh (pronounced oo-SAW-mah ib-in moon-KEED) was born in 1095 to an Arab lord of a castle in Syria. Usamah was strongly influenced by his father, who, according to Usamah, spent his time reading and studying the Qur’an, fasting during the day, hunting, and copying the Qur’an at night. Usamah’s father was widely respected for his strength in battle, bravery, honor, and religious devotion. Born one year before the First Crusade, Usamah spent his childhood surrounded by danger. He was taught good manners and learned not to be afraid of danger and to accept the judgment of God. Private tutors educated the young Usamah in grammar, writing, poetry, and the Qur’an. Usamah later became a poet, a hunter, and a warrior who defended the Holy Land from the Christians during the crusades. Usamah fought in many battles against the attacking Christians during the Second Crusade. He also wrote extensively about the conflict. His memoir, Memoirs of an Arab-Syrian Gentleman, is filled with descriptions of having been cut and stabbed with swords and wounded with darts and stones thrown at him in battle. He describes his first battle against the crusaders and comments: “O my lord, that was the first fight in which I took part [August 4, 1119]…. But the moment I saw that the Franks [crusaders] were in contact with our men, then I felt that death would be an easy matter for me. So I turned back to the [crusaders], either to be killed or to protect that crowd.” Yet Usamah fought in battle after battle, neither fearing death nor feeling sorry for himself for the danger and injury he endured. His greatest sadness came in old age when he was forced to accept his physical weakness. Usamah lived to know that the Muslims recaptured Jerusalem in 1187. He died a year later in Damascus. Usamah also wrote extensively about dedicated Muslims—including the heroic actions of Muslim women—defending themselves against the enemy crusaders. Usamah called the crusaders “devils” and “infidels” who were betraying, according to him, the true religion of humankind, Islam. After mentioning the crusaders in his writing, Usamah often made the comment that they should be cursed by God, as when he wrote, “May Allah render them helpless!” He compared the crusaders to animals whose only good quality is their bravery in battle. At the same time, Usamah expressed tolerance of the Christians in Syria who had lived among the Muslims for some time. Usamah wrote about at least one crusader who became his friend. Considering the angry atmosphere that resulted from years of Christian and Muslim fighting, Usamah’s dislike of the crusaders seems relatively mild. An important reason for Usamah’s relatively open-minded attitude toward the crusaders was his intense devotion to Islam. An extremely religious man, he considered Christians and Jews spiritually similar to Muslims since they shared the belief in one God. Although he was a skilled and experienced soldier, Usamah did not put much faith in the value of military planning. “Victory in warfare is from Allah (blessed and exalted is He!) and is not due to organization and planning.” Similarly, no matter how many bad things the crusaders said about Muslims and Islam, Usamah felt that their words did not matter. The constant risk of danger and death that was a part of the crusades did not destroy Usamah’s spirit. He was not afraid of being killed in battle, because he was confident he was fighting for a just cause: the liberation of the Holy Land from the crusaders. This confidence came from his view that whether he lived or died, he would be fulfilling the role God had assigned him. This belief enabled Usamah to fight courageously time after time, never showing cowardice in the face of his adversaries. In 1140, when Usamah went to Jerusalem as an ambassador of the Muslim forces in Damascus, he participated in diplomatic negotiations with the crusaders, which gave him an opportunity to meet his opponents off the battlefield. Usamah continues to be recognized for his inquisitive mind and his keen observations of life during the crusades. Eliezer ben Nathan Eliezer (pronounced ell-ee-AY-zar) ben Nathan, a Jewish poet and writer, was born around 1090, several years before the beginning of the First Crusade. He studied the Talmud, a book of writings about the Jewish Torah, under some of the most famous Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages. His poetry included prayers for special Sabbaths, poems for Jewish services, and poems that expressed his sadness over the many Jews killed in the First Crusade. His chronicle The Persecutions of 1096 told about the violence that occurred in the European Jewish communities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz, and Cologne. It is one of only three Jewish accounts of the First Crusade that have survived. The Persecutions of 1096 was probably written many years after 1096, and Eliezer may have relied on other sources besides his own experience in writing it. With passionate language, he describes how the European crusaders stole from the Jews, destroyed their homes, and murdered anyone who refused to convert to Christianity and be baptized. He writes that the crusaders stole the Torah, stomped on it in the mud outside Jewish homes, tore the scroll, and made fun of the Torah itself, all the while laughing, celebrating, and saying, “This is the day that we hoped for.” One of the most shocking parts of Eliezer’s account of the crusades is his description of Jews who killed their children and themselves rather than be forced to give up their religion and convert to Christianity or be killed by the Christian crusaders. Although many of the Jews who did choose to convert in order to save their lives continued to secretly practice Judaism, Eliezer still felt that the Jews who killed themselves displayed more dedication to God. He wrote: “The foe [enemy] hurled stones and arrows at them, but they did not scurry to flee. Women… slew their own sons and daughters and then themselves. Tenderhearted men also mustered [gathered] their strength and slaughtered their wives, sons, daughters, and infants. The most gentle and tender of women slaughtered the child of her delight.” Eliezer’s description of the effect of the First Crusade on Jews is extremely emotional. He wrote about his enormous feeling of sadness that God allowed so many Jews to be killed. Toward the Christian crusaders he expresses great hate, describing them as arrogant (excessively proud) enemies and oppressors whose anger and violence caused great harm to Eliezer’s people. It was difficult for Eliezer to understand why God could have allowed such an enormous tragedy to happen to the Jewish people, not all of whom could have done things so horrible as to deserve death. Eleazar ben Judah Eleazar (pronounced ELL-ah-zar) ben Judah was born around the year 1165 to the Kalonymus family, one of the best-known and respected German-Jewish families of that time. A relative of Eleazar’s in the Kalonymus family became the leader of the Jewish defense against the crusaders. Eleazar was born in the town of Mainz and later spent a great deal of time traveling and studying in Germany and France. He lived most of his life in the town of Worms, where he became one of the most famous Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages. His work and writing covered many fields, including the Talmud (a book of writings about the Torah), poetry, astronomy, and the Kabala. The Kabala was a part of Judaism that involved spiritual or supernatural studies. Eleazar claimed to see angels and demons; according to legend, he traveled to and from Jewish religious ceremonies on a cloud. Eleazar was personally and deeply affected by the Second Crusade. He and all the Jews of Worms and the surrounding towns were forced to leave their Torah scrolls, books, and other belongings behind in order to escape from the crusaders. Several years after this escape, in 1196, Eleazar was at home writing about Genesis, the first book of the Bible, when two crusaders forced their way into his home. The crusaders killed Eleazar’s wife, Dulcina, his two daughters, Belat and Hannah, and his son, Jacob. Eleazar was badly hurt, but he survived the attack. After this night, Eleazar’s life changed dramatically. Dulcina had sold parchment scrolls to support the family and allow Eleazar to spend all his time studying and writing. Now Eleazar had no one to support him. After seeing the tragedies that happened to his family and to other Jews in his town, Eleazar wondered if his people and their religion would survive in Germany and Europe. During the crusades, Jews did their best to defend themselves in any way possible. Some Jews came out to fight at their city gates, although there was little chance of these untrained townspeople defeating a host of crusaders. Other Jews paid bishops for protection. Many Jews who were captured by crusaders refused to become Christians, even when savagely tortured to death. The death of his wife and family is the subject of a story and poem by Eleazar. He wrote about his wife with intense emotion, describing how she took care of him, cooked for him, sewed clothes for him, worked making Torah scrolls, and took care of students to support his studies. According to Eleazar’s story, Dulcina gave food to the poor, visited the sick, and encouraged her sons to study the Torah. She was polite and obedient, and always rushed to do what her husband wanted, never upsetting him. Eleazar loved her deeply.