The main causes of Crusades could be looked at two perspectives. First, the development of Western Europe can be regarded as an external cause, including its church advocacy, the feudal system and the ignorant people. Second, the Byzantine decline could be considered as an internal cause, including its compromise and the divisions.
As noted by Backman (2016), the Crusades can be divided into eight times and only the First Crusade was in success. The rest of seven Crusades ended in failure. Reviewing the history, the Crusades can be the invasion of Roman Holy, Western European Knights and Byzantine Feudal Lords, which against the Eastern countries in Europe. This large-scale military campaigns aimed to take back the Holy Land and it was lasted nearly two centuries (From 1096 to 1291). The Crusades had external cause and internal cause and both two causes had created a character of Christians against Islam’. Every soldiers from Western Europe was wearing the Cross’ signature in the battle. Thus, the author will clarify the two causes with reference to Backman’s theories.
With regard to the external cause, three aspects will be examined in this essay. First, church formally advocated or proclaimed the battles of Crusades as a holy action for knights and soldiers, which can be direct cause for Crusades. To encourage many more feudal lords, knights and ignorant people participated in the Crusades, the church had done massive propaganda work. For instance, the church often portrayed Islam as brutality’ which insulted Western pilgrims and violated mainstream values. These portraits can be regarded as an excuse to trigger the aggressive wars for eastern Europe. Backman (2016) indicates the Crusades can be an unique in European history due to the battles that were formally sanctioned and blessed by the church (p. 337).
The Crusades were portrayed by church as not only morally justifiable but also a positive spiritual action for ignorant people (Backman, 2016, p. 337). As a result, an aggressively combative values had delivered in society during that period. For instance, the church’s propaganda works overwhelming flooded in Western Europe during both early term and middle term of the Crusades. These propaganda works were massive, including papal parables, circulars, diplomatic documents, official announcements, letters of the Crusaders, poems, fictions, etc. Noteworthy, massively rhetorical texts were also contained in these agitprop literature (Beckman, 2016). The church came up with the demagogic slogan “Liberate the Lord’s Grave” from the Islamist occupations. The Pope also promised not only to exonerate participants in the Crusades, but also affirmed that the crusaders could get rich trophies in the East (Beckman and Axen, 2016). Thereby, the church advocacy had created an aggressive visions and combative hopes for feudalists and ignorant people, contributing to the different battles of the Crusades during the period. Second, feudal lords and knights were eager to seek more materials and resources to satisfy their growing desires, resulting in the invasions of Crusades. To satisfy feudal lords’ greedy desire for wealth and lands, they strongly supported the Crusades. Feudal lords can be considered as main initiator for the Crusades because they were directly leading knights and ignorant peasants in the aggressive wars. Since the eleventh century, the urban economy were rapid developed in Western Europe. The remarkable success can be looked at both domestic trade and global trade during that period, contributing the wealth accumulation for merchants. These had helped local economic development and enhancement of living standards. Simultaneously, the feudalists’ desires of pleasures were also being promoted dramatically (Beckman and Axen, 2016).
However, this raised an issue that feudalists had limited materials and sources to satisfy their unlimited desire. Thus, they determined to plunder materials and sources in the East to satisfy their demand of pleasures, this can be main cause that directly result in eight battles of Crusades. Third, ignorant people were driven by mainstream values during that period and they were greatly affected by the feudalism and regions. This contributed massively violent troops for Crusades. Here, the ignorant people refers to knights and peasants. The main troops of the Crusades was the knights of Western Europe while peasants were participants but not mainstream (Beckman, 2016). During that period, the knights were greatly affected by mainstream values that advocated by the Pope and feudalists. For example, in the 11th century literature, it can be found that pious knights once attacked unarmed priests, friars and nuns. Their behaviors were ignorantly influenced by aggressive visions and combative hopes from church and feudalists. Meanwhile, most of the peasants in Western Europe became almost completely serfs although some peasants still kept their free identity. These free peasants also had to pay the rents to their owners. These peasants had to obey the lord’s order in reality and they had no choices for the behaviors and actions. Noteworthy, the countries in Western Europe was experienced the hungry and natural disasters. The agricultural economy was caught in a vicious situation. In the light of this, thousands of peasants were forced to leave their hometowns and participate in the Crusades, greatly contributing to the massive troops in the Crusades.
With regard to the internal cause, twofold also would be reviewed in this essay. The Byzantine decline might be the main internal cause for the Crusades because it leaved divisions and compromise as latent danger. This essay suggests that the decline of Byzantine Empire created a favorable opportunity for the Western European invaders to launch the attack. First, Byzantine had experienced numerous invasions that contributed to the compromise of the Byzantine Empire. Reviewing the history, Byzantine Empire effectively ceased the power to held the empire for more than70 years, however, in 1278, this Empire was in tatters and lived on only as a weak confederation of four minor states (Backman, 2016, p. 343).
This mainly because three generations in Byzantine deliberated to replace Orthodox Church to Roman Catholicism through plundering Byzantium and all its holdings. Empire’s division can be the result of Byzantine’s compromise. Thus, the realistic situations of division were observed by the West and the weaknesses of divided states were visible indeed. This directly triggered the invasions of the Crusades. Second, Byzantine’s decline mainly because of its compromise, resulting in the battles of the Crusades. Byzantine’s compromise also can be seen at their seeking for support from the countries in Western Europe. For example, Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos sought help from the west and even sent envoys to Pope Urban II, hoping that he could use his authority to recruit Norman, Anglo-Saxon, and Danish mercenaries to take on the infidels and Muslims. Alexios I Komnenos ignored the latent danger for Byzantine Empire as his weaknesses were exposed to the West (Beckman and Axen, 2016). Thus, the church took advantage of this favorable opportunity to proclaim that the Brothers of the East were under attack from the Arabs, and that Righteous People of the West should provide helps and supports for the Christians of the East. Thereby, the compromise of Byzantine greatly contributed to the Crusades.
Overall, the Crusades has its external causes and internal causes. In external perspective, church advocacy, feudal systems and ignorant people were major causes for the battles of Crusades. By contrast, from the perspective of internal, Byzantine Empire’s decline can be main causes for the Crusades. Thus, this essay suggests that different causes contributed the Crusades.
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