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Thread: What if the Crusades Never Happened?

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    What if the Crusades Never Happened?

    The Crusades were without a doubt some of the most pivotal times in Western civilization. The Muslim world was flourishing technologically, medically, culturally, academically, and had a relatively peaceful existence within the borders of the Islamic realm. Christendom was bitterly divided. Kingdom against Kingdom and God was on both sides. The nobility horded all of the wealth and comfort while the serfs and peasantry begged for scraps.

    Christedom was experiencing the Dark Ages, and Islam was reaching its pinnacle. But the Crusades changed all of that. Well-armored Christian armies had little difficulty defeating unarmored Arabs in the First Crusade. And the Christians would stay in the Holy Land for another 300 years.

    The Crusades left the Islamic world in disarray and turmoil. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Muslims died and their civilization had almost fallen. Christendom put Islam in the Arab Dark Ages.

    What would have happened if the Pope had never called for a Crusade? What if the Muslim world continued to rise in its power? What if they eventually had the ability to march into Europe and conquer Rome? Could the Muslims have defeated the Christians on their own soil?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    The Crusades were without a doubt some of the most pivotal times in Western civilization. The Muslim world was flourishing technologically, medically, culturally, academically, and had a relatively peaceful existence within the borders of the Islamic realm. Christendom was bitterly divided. Kingdom against Kingdom and God was on both sides. The nobility horded all of the wealth and comfort while the serfs and peasantry begged for scraps.

    Christedom was experiencing the Dark Ages, and Islam was reaching its pinnacle. But the Crusades changed all of that. Well-armored Christian armies had little difficulty defeating unarmored Arabs in the First Crusade. And the Christians would stay in the Holy Land for another 300 years.

    The Crusades left the Islamic world in disarray and turmoil. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Muslims died and their civilization had almost fallen. Christendom put Islam in the Arab Dark Ages.

    What would have happened if the Pope had never called for a Crusade? What if the Muslim world continued to rise in its power? What if they eventually had the ability to march into Europe and conquer Rome? Could the Muslims have defeated the Christians on their own soil?
    No, because the mongols would still come and burn Baghdad, the center of Islamic learning, to the ground.

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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Interesting scenario -- the Arabs and Turks were both advancing in the Levant during this time. I'd consider it highly possible that the Byzantine Empire could have been overrun much earlier, thus exposing Europe's southeastern flank at a much earlier time historically, perhaps several centuries earlier.

    It's conceivable that without the Crusades, Constantinople could have been isolated by 1200, with the Byzantine Empire's territories falling under the rule of the Turks. I don't know if it would be possible to effectively siege the city with the technology of the times, so the city itself could have possibly held out for quite a long time.

    The Mongols didn't take Baghdad until 1258, which is over 160 years after the First Crusade was launched. 160 years is alot of time to accomplish many conquests -- I'd agree that the Arabs would have gotten their butts whooped Crusades or not, but the Crusades provided an enormous amount of breathing space for the Byzantines, the defeat of which could have well seen an Islamic presence in southeastern Europe centuries ahead of when it happened historically.

    What if they eventually had the ability to march into Europe and conquer Rome?
    Rome? I doubt it. I don't believe the Turks could have extended much further into Europe than they did historically, and any attempt on Rome at this time would have definitely resulted in one hell of a crusade.

    Spain would have been recovered as it was historically, in my opinion.

    Could the Muslims have defeated the Christians on their own soil?
    When you say, could the Muslims defeat the Christians on their own soil, let's not forget, historically they did. North Africa, Spain, Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, the Balkans -- these were all lands where Christianity was firmly established and almost universally followed prior to Islamic conquest. Countries such as Egypt and Syria still have sizable Christian minorities -- each at about 10-15% of the total population.

    Again, IIRC, the Mongols and Crusaders had some sort of alliance -- so it's possible that the Mongols would have penetrated further into territories such as Anatolia if conquered at that time by the Turks. The eventual assimilation of the Mongols into the Islamic societies they conquered would still happen, and Islamic civilization probably would have still suffered as great of a setback as it historically did.

    As for Christian civilization -- one could argue that its progress could have been either retarded or accelerated by Islamic conquests of Byzantine territory occurring earlier than it historically did. One factor that contributed heavily to advancement in European civilization during the Middle Ages was contact with the Muslims and the knowledge and influences that were brought back by the Crusaders... another was the mass emigration of Byzantines when their empire fell, especially to Sicily.

    So, a lack of contacts with Islamic civilization and the subsequent import of knowledge and influence, with an earlier settlement of Byzantine refugees. Let's not forget that even when medieval Islamic civilization was at its pinnacle, the Byzantines were still considerably more advanced.

    The Crusades left the Islamic world in disarray and turmoil. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Muslims died and their civilization had almost fallen. Christendom put Islam in the Arab Dark Ages.
    I would attribute that more to the Mongols than any other factor. Also, I'd rate the Turks at parity with Europeans until the 17th century, and even afterwards they were still quite formidable for awhile. The Turks held the upper hand from the 14th-16th centuries, but I would attribute that to the divisiveness and constant warring among Europeans, who were unable to provide a united front against Turkish advances.

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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Ironduke;385581] One factor that contributed heavily to advancement in European civilization during the Middle Ages was contact with the Muslims and the knowledge and influences that were brought back by the Crusaders... another was the mass emigration of Byzantines when their empire fell, especially to Sicily./QUOTE]

    so you say European civilisation slowed because of the knowledge and influences that were brought back with Crusaders???
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    The Turks held the upper hand from the 14th-16th centuries, but I would attribute that to the divisiveness and constant warring among Europeans, who were unable to provide a united front against Turkish advances.
    I like your analysis. I agree with almost everything you said. Although, on a side not, i would argue that the strength of Christendom (atleast military strength) was a direct result of their constant warring. European kingdoms were better fighters, had better armor, had better cavalry, and later fully mechanized their militaries with gunpowder (even though gun powder was first introduced to Europe centuries after it was discovered in Asia). It was survival of the fittest kingdom. There was military evolution going on the European battle grounds. And it showed in WWI. I know I have moved well past the age of the Crusades, but the events during and after the Crusades sent each separate civilization down its own path that led them to WWI.

    There seems to be too much faith in the strength of the Mongols on this discussion board. I agree that their immensely superior cavalry army could destroy any Turk, Arab, or Christian army. But they didn't. They fell from within. The Mongol empire fell in the same way that the Macedonian empire fell. It was divided into four kingdoms and weakened. After the death of the Khan, and then Kublai, the Mongols expansion came to a screeching hault. The remnants of the Mongols is hardly seen in today's world. The remnants of the Turks, the Arabs, and the Christians are all quite vibrant and integral in modern soceity.

    Again, the Mongols rocked the ****. But so did the Huns and the Vandals. Their vast military hordes had the same strength as the Khan, only they lacked the necessary empire building skills of the Mongols.

    But who would be able to stop a Turk-Arab invasion of Eastern Europe. If the Byzantines lost Constantinople, would Rome care? Would Rome launch a Crusade for the city? Could the Venetians or Hungarians stop an invasion from the East? I don't know. I like to think so. But an Islamic world with full strength and huge armies (as a result of their being no Crusades) could have moved in past Spain (and not been defeated by the French and Genoese) and moved in past Constantinople. It took the full strength of Christendom to defeat the Turks. If the Turks or Moors took on Christian kingdoms one by one, I feel that Europe would have fallen.
    The history of the world is but the biography of great men.
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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    But who would be able to stop a Turk-Arab invasion of Eastern Europe. If the Byzantines lost Constantinople, would Rome care? Would Rome launch a Crusade for the city? Could the Venetians or Hungarians stop an invasion from the East? I don't know. I like to think so. But an Islamic world with full strength and huge armies (as a result of their being no Crusades) could have moved in past Spain (and not been defeated by the French and Genoese) and moved in past Constantinople. It took the full strength of Christendom to defeat the Turks. If the Turks or Moors took on Christian kingdoms one by one, I feel that Europe would have fallen.

    Catholic Rome wouldnt care Orthodox Constantinople...

    theres a very old proverbe here in Istanbul...

    "i prefer Ottoman turban rather than Catholic coif"
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    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    I like your analysis. I agree with almost everything you said. Although, on a side not, i would argue that the strength of Christendom (atleast military strength) was a direct result of their constant warring. European kingdoms were better fighters, had better armor, had better cavalry, and later fully mechanized their militaries with gunpowder (even though gun powder was first introduced to Europe centuries after it was discovered in Asia). It was survival of the fittest kingdom. There was military evolution going on the European battle grounds. And it showed in WWI. I know I have moved well past the age of the Crusades, but the events during and after the Crusades sent each separate civilization down its own path that led them to WWI.
    As I've said before, I believe the Turks were at parity, probably until the mid-1600's. They were at every level technologically equal to, and at times even superior to European military forces. It was the Turks who were the first to use the cannon decisively, during the siege of Constantinople in 1453.

    As for the Mongols, they were quite superior in waging warfare to any other military force in the world in their time. They were extremely skilled in siege warfare. They were also unmatched in mobility until modern times. Their double recurve composite bow bows could penetrate any armor. Mongol warriors were entirely self-sufficient, which eliminated the need for baggage trains, and allowed them to dictate the terms in which battles were fought.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    The Crusades left the Islamic world in disarray and turmoil. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Muslims died and their civilization had almost fallen. Christendom put Islam in the Arab Dark Ages.

    What would have happened if the Pope had never called for a Crusade? What if the Muslim world continued to rise in its power? What if they eventually had the ability to march into Europe and conquer Rome? Could the Muslims have defeated the Christians on their own soil?
    Well, what the crusaders did in my opinion was not good, but I do not think they set the Muslim world into the dark ages. For that question there are many answers that may all be true. for starters if the caliphate had not broken in al andalus, then maybe Spain would still be under Muslim rule, if Aurangzeb had done a better job maybe Muslims would still rule in India, if Suleyman the Magnificent eldest son did not conspire with the safafids then maybe he would not have had to kill him and therefore not have made his youngest son ruler of ottoman empire which was one of the main reasons why it fell, then there is also if the mogols did not invade then maybe places like Baghdad would not be in a state they are in today, but then we would not have had either the mughals or ottoman empires. The list goes on and on, in my opinion most of the reasons the Muslim world is in its dark ages is b/c of inner fighting and also the odd enemy battles.
    Last edited by fazyninja; 29 Jun 07, at 13:36.

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Big K, I believe that Iron Duke was stating the exact contrary of what you think he said. What precious algebra and Aristotle medieval Europe knew was brought from the Islamic Orient. The contacts with the Byzantine Empire even benefited western Christian theology to a significant degree, as superior, uncorrupted manuscripts of the Scripture, written in Greek, were collected from the Byzantine Empire and translated into Latin. In long term trends this could be considered a genus for the Religious Reformation, which focused on the actual texts of the Scripture instead of religious dogma created by Catholic Church concils.
    All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
    -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Triple C View Post
    Big K, I believe that Iron Duke was stating the exact contrary of what you think he said. What precious algebra and Aristotle medieval Europe knew was brought from the Islamic Orient. The contacts with the Byzantine Empire even benefited western Christian theology to a significant degree, as superior, uncorrupted manuscripts of the Scripture, written in Greek, were collected from the Byzantine Empire and translated into Latin. In long term trends this could be considered a genus for the Religious Reformation, which focused on the actual texts of the Scripture instead of religious dogma created by Catholic Church concils.
    sometimes my lack of knowledge of English show himself this way...

    thanks for help

    btw, after the collapse of Constantinople many scientists, theologists gone to west and influenced and seeded in a positive manner the "Renaissance" and "Reform" right?
    Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy rather in power than use; and keep thy friend under thine own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech.

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    New Member Redem's Avatar
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    Well couldn't the europeans get on some of that knowledge over time? The Dark age can't last for ever (maybe at a slower rate)

    Would it have effect on the Reconquista
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    ironduke,

    Interesting scenario -- the Arabs and Turks were both advancing in the Levant during this time. I'd consider it highly possible that the Byzantine Empire could have been overrun much earlier, thus exposing Europe's southeastern flank at a much earlier time historically, perhaps several centuries earlier.

    It's conceivable that without the Crusades, Constantinople could have been isolated by 1200, with the Byzantine Empire's territories falling under the rule of the Turks. I don't know if it would be possible to effectively siege the city with the technology of the times, so the city itself could have possibly held out for quite a long time.

    The Mongols didn't take Baghdad until 1258, which is over 160 years after the First Crusade was launched. 160 years is alot of time to accomplish many conquests -- I'd agree that the Arabs would have gotten their butts whooped Crusades or not, but the Crusades provided an enormous amount of breathing space for the Byzantines, the defeat of which could have well seen an Islamic presence in southeastern Europe centuries ahead of when it happened historically.
    the byzantine empire's western side would have remained safe for the time being. the principal area of contest would have been the anatolian plain, which the byzantines were slowly losing after the battle of manzikert.

    however, the crusades which captured/sacked constantinople and split the empire into three, weakened the empire still more. the bulgarians used this opening to jump on the byzantines from the west, while the turks and arabs pushed again in the east.

    most likely, without the crusades, the byzantine empire would have been worse off in the short-term. but better off in the medium term. to be honest, though, the empire itself was pretty much doomed, as the centers of trade (and where the money was) would move as western europe became stronger in its own right.

    the funny thing is, one of the reasons for the first crusade was to save the byzantine empire. to be honest, the crusaders missed by a couple of hundred years. the plight of the byzantine empire was actually worse in 717-718 than it was in 1095, when constantinople itself was put under seige. had the byzantine empire fallen in the first great arab assault of 717-718, then europe as we know it might have been in serious trouble. by the time the crusaders did go into action, europe was in a far stronger state, as evidenced by the fact that the europeans managed to fight the arabs with some effectiveness on the arabs' home territory.

    thus, for the byzantine empire, the crusades represented the worst of both worlds: it unified the arabs still further, the latins plundered constantinople, AND the latins got a taste for eastern trade from their dealings with the arabs. western europe gained accordingly. the best thing about the crusades from the western european view is that it was partially responsible for the voyages of discovery some few hundred years later.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."¯- Isaac Asimov

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    Without the crusades western Europe is in trouble. The medievil warming period was getting into full swing and agricultural technologies had not yet caught up with the resulting population boom. The crusades releived signifigant pressure on farming areas. Plus the peace movement has to be factored in, Rome had been trying unsuccessfully for some time to get the knights to stop warring against each other for the remnants of the Caroliginian Empire. The Byzantine Emperors call for troops was a god send for both of these problems.

    The Crusades also distracted the English Monarchs (who were also masters of most of France) and probalby saved the French Monarchy.

    A variable what if- What if the troops had indeed enlisted under the Byzantine banner? Could Aleskiev (sp?) regained eastern Anatollia and the Holy Land/Egypt with a combination of Byzantine Inatry, Crusader Knights and Imperial Cataphractoi and held those gains long enough to reverse the islamification of Christian Asia Minor and North Africa? what then?

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redem View Post
    Well couldn't the europeans get on some of that knowledge over time? The Dark age can't last for ever (maybe at a slower rate)

    Would it have effect on the Reconquista
    The Dark Ages IMHO is a misleading description for the epoch. It is a dynamic era that created many distinct features of the western civilization. However, there is no dispute that contact with the East was a "big thing." Learning Algebra on a textbook is easy. Figuring out everything from stratch is hard. Passages of the Bible lost to time is not something you can re-discover on your own, nor Aristotalian philosophy which served as the backrock for Christian theology for centuries.
    All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
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    WAB Resident Historian Senior Contributor Kansas Bear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Redem View Post
    Well couldn't the europeans get on some of that knowledge over time? The Dark age can't last for ever (maybe at a slower rate)
    The misconception is that the knowledge didn't exist. The knowledge(books) existed in churches, but most churches(Gaul/France, Roman peninsula/Italy, Iberian peninsula/Spain) were destroyed along with numerous cities. Any wonder why Europe was plunged into a "Dark Age"?

    Would it have effect on the Reconquista
    Three other popes called for assistance against Muslim aggression long before 1095. Since Urban II's call was to "free" the Holy Land, it is viewed as political maneuvering. Unfortunately, the 3 previous calls to curb Muslim aggression have been conveniently forgotten....

    "It is necessary to look for the origin of a crusading ideal in the struggle between Christians and Muslims in Spain and consider how the idea of a holy war emerged from this background."
    —Norman F. Cantor

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