STEP 1: The Rise of the Saracens- The Christian incursions into the Middle East were a direct result of the rise and initial expansion of Islam. The religion of Islam was founded by the prophet Mohammed in the seventh century. The rise of Islam in the Middle East united Arabic and other similar Semitic peoples like nothing before. Saracens, as the Muslim peoples were called, massed huge armies of horseman which rode out to numerous conquests. Muslim beliefs considered the countries of Islam to be the territory of peace while those countries outside were the territories of war. It seemed inevitable to every Muslim that the territories of war would be conquered and the territories of peace would become supreme. For a time, this belief looked as though it would come true. Early Saracen conquests include much of North Africa, Asia Minor and even most of Spain. Sicily, Rhodes and Carthage fell in the late seventh and early eighth centuries while Toledo fell in 713. Only the actions of Charles Martel and Count Eudo deflected the massive Muslim offensive and prevented it from entering France and including the Franks into the peaceful realm. Muslim conquests in Asia Minor resulted in raids on Byzantium which continued until its fall in the fifteenth century. Emperor Leo and the Byzantium Navy prevented the fall of Constantinople until this time.
Step 2: Shifting of Power and the Crusades- The initial Muslim conquests in Europe and the near east were followed by their own conquest by the Turks. However, the Turks accepted Islam and proved a much more powerful and able force against Christian armies from Europe. This fact was shown by the numerous Christian victories in the opening years of the Crusades and the massive defeat at Ascalon which allowed Christian rule of the Palestinian interior. The rise of the Turks allowed for the recapture of much of Palestine including Edessa, Acre and Jerusalem These conquests were somewhat offset, however, by the Christian victory at Arsuf which secured several Christian rights including safe passage of pilgrims. This victory also slowed the conquest of Constantinople. The Latin Crusader kingdoms of Jerusalem, Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli plus other Christian possessions including Nicea and Acre quickly fell following the withdrawal of the main Crusading Army in the twelfth century.
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