Crusades Before 1600 Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1601 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Brutality of the Crusades

The ability to look at history in an unflinching fashion is absolutely essential. It allows one to create a more honest sense of what history actually was and it allows one to be more likely to capture a more honest look at the events of the past. Unflinching honesty, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes one and regardless of how disturbing it is, still needs to be the goal of all historians and scholars of history. Thus, viewing the Crusades for what they were is important and it requires one to accept information and facts which might not be so pleasant: The Crusades were indeed a bloodbath of Christians upon Muslims. In trying to understand these evils, one must first look at history to understand the patterns of why humans engage in evil behavior. A set pattern of behaviors and circumstances must be in place in order for evil to occur. This is just as true at Abu Ghraib as during the Crusades.

As one scholar writes, "Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far" (BH, 2005). For the most part, there are far too many versions of the crusades which portray it as a series of peaceful attempts to convert Muslims, when really they are just a portrayal of brutality and intolerance or indiscriminate bloodshed. For instance, many assume that the fundamental goal of the Crusades were to push for the conversion of the Muslim world; however, that's completely false (BH, 2005). Medieval Christians viewed Muslims as the extreme and sworn enemy of Christ and Christianity as an institution: they were a threat through and through. This meant the Crusaders had the duty to defeat them. "Muslims who lived in Crusader-won territories were generally allowed to retain their property and livelihood, and always their religion. Indeed, throughout the history of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Muslim inhabitants far outnumbered the Catholics. It was not until the 13th century that the Franciscans began conversion efforts among Muslims. But these were mostly unsuccessful and finally abandoned" (BH, 2005). However, those efforts should not be mixed up with the Crusades: the Crusades were about bloodshed and no one was spared.

The examples of the nightmarish brutality that occurred during the Crusades need to function to help inform and instruct contemporary generations as to the darkness that mankind is capable of and to help us now understand these issues -- such as how they can occur. "Hopeless and fearful of genocide similar to the one that had taken place in Antioch a few months earlier, most of Ma'arra's notables finally decided to accept the word of the Crusaders' leader, Bohemond, who promised to spare the lives of all the city's citizens if they would surrender. But Bohemond, the ruthless ruler and butcher of Antioch, proved once again that he was the vicious Western animal that he really was. In the words of one writer, on December 11, 1089, "The ... [Crusaders] arrived at dawn. It was carnage. For three days they put people to the sword, killing more than a hundred thousand people and taking many prisoners" (Sindi). This passage demonstrates a tremendous amount about the crusades, showing just how brutal and deceitful they were. They truly paint Medieval Christians in a poor light, demonstrating that they weren't even able to be trust to keep their word: they weren't even able to engage in some of the most basic agreements of law and the codes of battle. As some have pointed out, to prey on people who have already surrendered is just cruel, and this is precisely what happened during the Crusades.

However, it was not just the codes of battle and war which were broken; there was a complete sunset of human decency and a slow but steady descent into nightmarish behavior. "The Crusaders' chronicler at the time, Radulph of Caen, not only admitted this genocide, but also added, with pride, the following horrifying words: 'In Ma'arra our troops boiled pagan adults in cooking pots; they impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled.' Another Christian Crusader chronicler, Albert of Aix, who took part in the carnage of Ma'arra bragged, 'Not only did our troops not shrink from eating dead Turks and Saracens [Arabs]; they also ate dogs!'" (Sindi).

However, as much as the Crusades can repulse us and boggle our minds, their brutality should be used as a means of understanding human nature, both the dark and light forms of human behavior. While we may revile the crusades and the actions that were committed during these times, one should more importantly seek to understand them. This paper posits that Christians were so strongly of the conviction that anyone who was not a Christian was indeed an animal and thus cannibalism was justified. Cannibalism was engaged in to demonstrate the sunset of human decency and to invoke fear and trembling.

In order to understand the brutality which occurred during the Crusades, one needs to examine other events in human history where human beings exhibited marked and substantial evil towards others. Federal prisons are clear examples of this, where the guards and prisoners often demonstrated substantial psychological and physical torment to one another. A more recent experience would be the behavior of U.S. Military at Abu Ghraib; likewise U.S. history demonstrates the evil of racism and the lynchings that went along with them. Philip Zimbardo, author of the book Why do Good People do Evil Things? has been indeed been preoccupied with the question of why and how people can commit such evil acts -- acts like cannibalism or lynchings. One of the connections that Zimbardo makes between these sunsets of humanity such as in lynchings or during Abu Ghraib is that the evil-doers often photographed them or framed them -- seeing them as points of pride. This tendency is so consistent with evil acts that one can conclude that they just didn't happen during the Crusades because cameras weren't available then.

Zimbardo explains how brutal and evil acts can be committed via one person to another through these steps and facets: deindividuation/the sense of anonymity, leadership of evil, lack of accountability, dehumanization of targets, and overwhelming external factors of evil.

For deindividuation, Zimbardo explains that at Abu Ghraib none of the soldiers were wearing uniforms: "They often had their tops off. That's a violation of military protocol, because even in a prison you're supposed to be wearing your uniform. In the 1970s the police would do that during student riots against the Vietnam War. They would take off their jackets with their names and ID numbers" (2013). This was no doubt a facet in the Crusades. The invading Christians were strangers to the Muslims they killed, and they wore no identifying clothing or labels. In the Crusades, however, there were leaders who set the example of evil and made it permissible, and all others had to do was follow the lead in the brutal acts. This has been replicated in lynchings, police brutality, Abu Ghraib and in countless other episodes throughout history.

Another aspect which can explain the brutality of the Crusades and other historical events is the fact that there was no accountability. The Christians didn't have to clear their conduct with anyone and that allowed their behavior to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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