Sunday 3 June 2018

The First Crusade - Peoples Crusade

The First Crusade (1095–1099) was the first of a number of crusades that attempted to recapture the Holy Land, called for by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095. Urban called for a military expedition to aid the Byzantine Empire, which had recently lost most of Anatolia to the Seljuq Turks. It culminated in July 1099 in the re-conquest of Jerusalem and the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

City Of Jerusalem

Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos, worried about the advances of the Seljuqs in the aftermath of the Battle of Manzikert, sent envoys to the Council of Piacenza in March 1095 to ask Pope Urban II for aid against the Turk. Alexios and Urban had previously been in close contact in 1089 and after, and had discussed openly the prospect of the (re)union of the Christian church. There were signs of considerable co-operation between Rome and Constantinople in the years immediately before the crusade.

Pope Urban II

In July 1095, Pope Urban II turned to his homeland of France to recruit men for the expedition. His travels there culminated in the Council of Clermont in November, where he gave an impassioned sermon to a large audience of French nobles and clergy.

Pope Urban II at Council of Clermont

Pope Urban II had planned the departure of the first crusade for 15 August 1096, the Feast of the Assumption, but months before this, a number of unexpected armies of peasants and petty nobles set off for Jerusalem on their own, led by a charismatic priest called Peter the HermitPeter was the most successful of the preachers of Urban's message.

Peter the Hermit preaching First Crusade

Lacking military discipline, Peter the Hermit's  fledgling army quickly found itself in trouble despite the fact they were still in Christian territory. At a local level, the preaching of the First Crusade ignited the Rhineland massacres perpetrated against Jews. At the end of 1095 and beginning of 1096, months before the departure of the official crusade in August, there were attacks on Jewish communities in France and Germany.

Rhineland Massacre

The army led by Walter Sans Avoir,  fought with the Hungarians over food at Belgrade, but otherwise arrived in Constantinople unharmed. Meanwhile, the army led by Peter the Hermit, which marched separately from Walter's army, also fought with the Hungarians, and may have captured BelgradePeter arrived at Constantinople in August, where his army joined with the one led by Walter, which had already arrived, as well as separate bands of crusaders from FranceGermany, and Italy.

Reception of Walter Sans Avoir by the King of Hungary, who permits him
to pass through his territory with the Crusaders.

Even though Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus had urged Peter to wait for the main army, Peter had lost much of his authority and the crusaders spurred each other on, moving more boldly against nearby towns until finally the French reached the edge of Nicaea, a Seljuk stronghold and provincial capital, where they pillaged the suburbs.  In response, the Turks, led by one of Kilij Arslan's generals, recovered Xerigordos from the crusaders.

Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus

The Battle of Civetot occurred in 1096, and brought an end to the People's Crusade. After the disastrous defeat for the Crusaders in the Siege of Xerigordon, two Turkish spies spread a rumor that the Germans who had taken Xerigordon had also taken Nicaea, which caused excitement to get there as soon as possible to share in the looting. on the morning of October 21, the entire army of 20,000 marched out toward Nicaea.

Illustration of end of People's Crusade

In Battle of Civetot, around 17,000 crusaders were slaughtered. However Turkish army only took causality of 50 out of the 5,000 in total. Three thousand, including their leader Geoffrey Burel, were able to obtain refuge in an abandoned castle. Eventually the Byzantines under Constantine Katakalon,  a Byzantine general,  sailed over and raised the siege, these few thousand returned to Constantinople, the only survivors of the People's Crusade. This would soon follow the Prince's Crusade. 

Princes Crusade
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