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Era of the Crusades

Era of the Crusades

Course No.  390
Course No.  390
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Course Overview

About This Course

36 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

The Crusades have been hailed as the driving force that brought Western Europe out of the Middle Ages—and condemned as the beginning of European imperialism in the Muslim Near East. But what really were the Crusades? What were the forces that led to one of history's most protracted and legendary periods of conflict? How did they affect the three great civilizations that participated in them? And, ultimately, why did they end and what did they accomplish?

A Crucial Chapter in the Story of Western Civilization

In The Era of the Crusades, Professor Kenneth W. Harl looks at the "big picture" of the Crusades as an ongoing period of conflict involving Western Christendom (we would now call it Western Europe), the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim world. From this perspective, you will study the complex but absorbing causes of the Crusades, which include the many political, cultural, and economic changes in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.

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The Crusades have been hailed as the driving force that brought Western Europe out of the Middle Ages—and condemned as the beginning of European imperialism in the Muslim Near East. But what really were the Crusades? What were the forces that led to one of history's most protracted and legendary periods of conflict? How did they affect the three great civilizations that participated in them? And, ultimately, why did they end and what did they accomplish?

A Crucial Chapter in the Story of Western Civilization

In The Era of the Crusades, Professor Kenneth W. Harl looks at the "big picture" of the Crusades as an ongoing period of conflict involving Western Christendom (we would now call it Western Europe), the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim world. From this perspective, you will study the complex but absorbing causes of the Crusades, which include the many political, cultural, and economic changes in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.

In addition, Professor Harl presents the Crusades in terms of the specific military campaigns—the eight "canonical" Crusades that took place from 1095–1291—proclaimed to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim hands and return them to Christendom. You will consider the immediate circumstances—the leaders, purposes, key battles, and degrees of success or failure—surrounding these often-monumental expeditions (they could number as many as 100,000 soldiers and religious pilgrims).

This course is an opportunity to appreciate fully how Western Civilization changed in many profound ways during the Crusading era. You will understand how the Byzantine Empire collapsed; how Western Europe began its rise to global political, economic, and cultural power; and how the Middle East became a majority Muslim world.

You will also explore a wide variety of misperceptions and long-debated questions about the Crusades. Did the popes preach the Crusades as a way to increase their personal power and authority? Were the Crusader armies made up of zealous and brutal religious fanatics or of highly disciplined soldiers—heirs to a sophisticated Western European military tradition? Why did the members of the Fourth Crusade decide to sack Constantinople, turning the Crusades from Christian against "infidel" to Christian against Christian?

An Era of Adventure, Chivalry, and Legend

This three-part, 36-lecture course is as sweeping in scope as were the Crusades themselves. Professor Harl delves into fascinating aspects of history, all related to the Crusades, that make each lecture a new adventure. These include advances in shipbuilding that were spurred by the Crusades, the types of weapons and military tactics used in battle, and the legend of "Prester John," a mysterious eastern king with whom the popes hoped to form an alliance against the Muslims.

You will appreciate the opulence of the "Queen of Cities," the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, a city that conveyed a sense of awe-inspiring ceremony and splendor to the Crusaders and other visitors. Attending Mass in the city's cathedral, the Hagia Sophia (now a mosque), was said to be so stirring that a number of Russians converted to Christianity out of the simple conviction that God must dwell in such a magnificent church.

You will examine the organization and purpose of the Hospitallers and the Templars: the Knights of the Hospital and the Knights of the Temple. These "soldiers for Christ," a unique mixture of clergy and warrior, played an instrumental role in defending the Holy Land and in operating its banking system.

What makes the Crusades so attractive to study is that they are like a great novel. This is a time in history that is the source of many of our notions of adventure and chivalry and that is peopled with colorful and renowned figures. Those you will meet include:

  • Odo of Bayeux, a churchman who fought in the Crusades but still maintained his beliefs against shedding blood. Instead of a sword, he used a mace to simply hit his opponents in the head and give them a concussion.
  • Louis VII of France, the pious and monkish king who slept on a bare stone floor, worried constantly about his sins, and viewed the Second Crusade as a means to personal redemption.
  • Eleanor of Aquitane, one of the most brilliant and engaging women in history, whose adventuresome nature led her to join the Second Crusade, accompanied by a personal court that included maidens dressed as Amazons.
  • Saladin, the great Kurdish-Muslim conqueror whose victory at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 ended the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Through his gallantry and generosity toward his enemies, Saladin, a Muslim, ironically came to be seen as the epitome of Christian chivalry.
  • Richard the Lion-hearted, the son of Eleanor of Aquitane and heir to a family tradition of participation in Crusades. Considered "the perfect knight," handsome and with a fondness for gambling, jousting, and tournaments, Richard fought Saladin to a stalemate in a relationship of mutual respect and admiration.
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36 Lectures
  • 1
    The Heirs of Rome
    This lecture defines the Crusades, examines popular perceptions, and looks at the civilizations involved: Western Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic world. x
  • 2
    Byzantine Orthodox Civilization
    In 1000, in law and politics, Constantinople was the New Rome. In letters, arts, and aesthetics, it was akin to classical Greece. In contrast to Western Europe, its nobility stressed proper comportment and education. x
  • 3
    Byzantine Zenith in the Macedonian Age
    The Byzantine Empire stood as the premiere Christian power under Basil II. The majestic image of imperial Constantinople long endured, influencing Crusader and Muslim perceptions until the fateful sack of 1204. x
  • 4
    The Failure of the Heirs of Basil II
    The collapse of Byzantine power opened Asia Minor to conquest by the Seljuk Turkomen. Alexius I and allies from Western Europe launched the First Crusade. x
  • 5
    Abbasid Baghdad and Fatimid Egypt
    The Abbasid caliphate fragmented in the 9th century. The Fatimids swept across North Africa, conquering the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. x
  • 6
    The Coming of the Seljuk Turks
    Tughril Bey and his Seljuk Turks entered Baghdad in 1055 and recognized the Abbasid caliphate. The Seljuk sultans ("guardians" to the caliph) raided Byzantium, with unexpected victory at Manzikert in 1071. x
  • 7
    The Recovery of Western Europe
    The Crusades are often depicted as a migration of peasants and unwanted sons of nobles. In fact, the Crusades were made possible by the economic recovery of Europe. x
  • 8
    Kings and Princes of Western Europe
    In 1095, none of the three great monarchs of Christendom assumed the cross. Instead, dukes and counts, who owed fealty for their lands in return for military service, set out as leaders of the First Crusade. x
  • 9
    Warfare in Western Europe
    On the eve of the First Crusade, heavily armed knights dominated the battlefield of Western Europe. x
  • 10
    The Papacy and Religious Reform
    Pope Gregory VII disputed the right of Emperor Henry IV to invest bishops, and the ensuing Investiture Controversy redefined the medieval church. x
  • 11
    Piety and Pilgrimage
    Since the 4th century, Christians yearned for the spiritual renewal gained from visiting the holy places. Pilgrimage, fused with Germanic warrior ethos and Christian ideals of holy war, resulted in Crusade. x
  • 12
    Christian Offensives in Spain and Sicily
    In the 11th century, border wars against Muslims in Spain, Sicily, and the Western Mediterranean were redefined as part of a wider conflict between Christendom and Islam. x
  • 13
    Alexius I and the First Crusade
    In 1092, Alexius I Comnenus appealed to the Western princes and Pope Urban II. Alexius struck a chord: Urban launched the First Crusade. x
  • 14
    From Clermont to Jerusalem
    On July 15, 1099, members of the First Crusade stormed into Jerusalem, slaughtering Muslim inhabitants. The princes saw victory as God's favor, and carved out principalities in defiance of oaths to Alexius I. x
  • 15
    Conquest and Defense of Outremer
    Baldwin I—crowned king of Jerusalem on the death of his brother, Godfrey of Bouillon in 1100—imposed his suzerainty on Antioch, Edessa, and Tripoli. His successors inherited a splendidly run kingdom. x
  • 16
    Frankish Settlement of Outremer
    At King Fulk's death, perhaps 50,000 Western Europeans ruled three million residents of Outremer. While many natives disliked Frankish rule, they prospered. x
  • 17
    Comnenian Emperors and Crusader Princes
    Comnenian emperors John II and Manuel I mounted expeditions to assert imperial rights over Crusader Antioch. They thus were distracted from their more deadly foes, the Normans and Seljuk Turks. x
  • 18
    The Second Crusade
    After the fall of Edessa to Nur-ad-Din, King Louis VII of France and German King Conrad III led the Second Crusade. The Crusaders' defeat at Damascus left Nur-ad-Din free to unite Muslim Syria. x
  • 19
    The Empire at Bay
    Manuel I inherited an empire at bay. In 1176, he suffered a decisive defeat by the Seljuk Turks at Myriocephalon. The Franks of Outremer not only soon lost their best ally in Manuel, but henceforth could be reinforced only by sea. x
  • 20
    The Rise of Saladin
    In 1169, Saladin occupied Cairo. He secured Muslim Syria and northern Iraq and proclaimed a new holy war against "the Franks of the coast." x
  • 21
    Byzantine Recovery under the Comnenians
    In 1092, Alexius I restored imperial prosperity. Comnenian emperors funded expensive wars, diplomacy, and patronage. But the Crusaders envied imperial wealth. x
  • 22
    A Renaissance of Byzantine Letters and Arts
    Comnenian emperors revived imperial patronage of letters and arts. With the capture of Constantinople, Westerners initiated a cultural exchange that contributed to the Florentine Enlightenment. x
  • 23
    Trade and Currency in the Mediterranean
    By the mid-12th century, Venice, Genoa, Palermo, Marseilles, and Barcelona emerged as conduits of trade between Christendom and the Islamic and Byzantine worlds, shifting the financial axis from Constantinople. x
  • 24
    Cultural Exchange in Gothic Europe
    Chivalry and courtly manners were defined by Crusading. This spirit was imbued in the first great vernacular literary monuments of Gothic Europe—chansons de geste, Arthurian romances, and the cycle of the Ring. x
  • 25
    The Horns of Hattin
    King Guy de Lusignan suffered a crushing defeat at the Horns of Hattin on July 4, 1187. Saladin overran Outremer and entered Jerusalem in triumph. x
  • 26
    The Third Crusade
    After Hattin, the kings of Christendom embarked on the Third Crusade (1189–1192). Richard the Lion-hearted recaptured the ports of Outremer, but not Jerusalem. x
  • 27
    From Jerusalem to Constantinople
    Pope Innocent III called for the liberation of Jerusalem, but members of the Fourth Crusade (1198–1204) wanted to capture Constantinople in the name of faith. x
  • 28
    The Sack of Constantinople
    Did the Crusaders sack Constantinople out of ambition and jealousy? Western perceptions and misunderstandings certainly influenced their crucial decisions in 1202–1204. x
  • 29
    The World of Frankish Greece
    The Frankish dukes of Athens and Princes of Achaea offered token fealty to Constantinople. They promoted an opulent world of tournaments and troubadours. x
  • 30
    Splinter Empires and Orthodox Princes
    After the sack of Constantinople, Theodore I Lascaris organized a Byzantine government at Nicaea. Michael VIII Palaeologus sacrificed this state to recapture Constantinople in 1261. His son Andronicus II led Orthodox subjects hateful of Latin rule. x
  • 31
    Ayyubid Egypt and Seljuk Anatolia
    The Ayyubid sultans built a new political order in Egypt, Syria, Al-Jazirah, and Mecca and Medina. Simultaneously, the sultans of Konya integrated Anatolia into the Muslim world. These two states laid the foundations for the Ottoman Porte destined to end the Crusades. x
  • 32
    Crusader Cyprus and the Levant
    An impressive array of European nobility led the Fifth Crusade (1217–1221). The Sultan al-Kamil contained the Crusaders at Damietta, forcing their withdrawal. Afterward, the Lusignan kings turned to exploiting domains in Cyprus. x
  • 33
    Venice and Genoa
    In the 13th century, Venice and Genoa turned their Levantine and Byzantine ports into commercial empires. They preferred trade with Ayyubid and Mamluk Egypt and Syria, and opposed papal appeals for crusades after 1291. x
  • 34
    The Mongols and the Legend of Prester John
    In 1220, Jenghiz Khan was greeted as the heir of Prester John, a mighty Christian lord. But the Mongolian invasion of Eastern Europe terrified Christians. The Crusaders faced a resurgent Mamluk Egypt. x
  • 35
    The Royal Crusaders
    The Fifth Crusade (1217–1221), Sixth Crusade (1228–1229) under Frederick II, and Seventh Crusade (1246–1254) led by St. Louis IX, King of France, all failed. The Christian fortresses along the Levantine shore were doomed. x
  • 36
    The Passing of the Crusades
    The Mamluk sultans overthrew Ayyubid rule in 1250. The Mamluk general Baybars virtually eliminated Crusader rule in the Levant by capturing Antioch in 1268. The end came in 1291, when the Mamluks stormed Acre. x

Lecture Titles

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Kenneth W. Harl
Ph.D. Kenneth W. Harl
Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has earned Tulane's annual Student Body Award for Excellence in Teaching nine times and is the recipient of Baylor University's nationwide Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers. In 2007, he was the Lewis P. Jones Visiting Professor in History at Wofford College. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey. Professor Harl has also published a wide variety of articles and books, including his current work on coins unearthed in an excavation of Gordion, Turkey, and a new book on Rome and her Iranian foes. A fellow and trustee of the American Numismatic Society, Professor Harl is well known for his studies of ancient coinage. He is the author of Civic Coins and Civic Politics in the Roman East, A.D. 180-275 and Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700.
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Reviews

Rated 4.4 out of 5 by 56 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Recommended Prof. Harl is a delight - very knowledgeable in many areas. His expertise is featured in this series on the Crusades since he presents "both sides of the question." He discusses the Christian perspective and the Muslim perspective. Because Harl has already done courses on the Byzantuim, on the Vikings (and their influence on Europe), and on Rome/Barbarians he is uniquely qualified to explain the intricacies of the Crusade era. This is not so much a discussion of the campaigns and battles of the Crusades as it is a social history of the complex factors of the Crusades on Western (and quasi Eastern) civilization. All of Harl's courses are excellent and highly recommended. March 16, 2009
Rated 5 out of 5 by Another Great Course by Professor Harl This is my third course from Professor Harl and it is another great course that I would recommend to anybody interested in history. Professor Harl does a great job of explaining what caused the crusades, what happened during the crusades, why many of the crusades failed, and why crusades were discontinued. Professor Harl presents this information in an informative and entertaining manner. His additional commentary makes these courses very entertaining. My favorite lecture in this set is lecture #25 “The Horn of Hattin” especially because his description of the rogues, scoundrels, overbearing females, and incompetents who were key characters in this great battle against the armies of Saladin. This same set of characters continues into the following 4 lectures which also makes these lectures very entertaining as well as informative. August 10, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by A course leading to understanding the Crusades Once again I bought a course not knowing why I did. Since I have so many TTC courses I sometimes feel like I've run out of courses to buy so I buy ones that I think I *should* buy. And this one opened up a whole new field of information that I am happy to delve into. Professor Harl spends quite a bit of time giving us the background that led to the Crusades. He describes for us issues in Europe, Constantinople, and the Middle East (in other words Roman, Eastern Orthodox and Muslim# that brought about this confluence of events that we call the Crusades. He also brings in to the picture the effects of other groups not normally associated with the Crusades -- i.e. the Mongols. Yes, he goes through the actual Crusades #he did not go blow by blow through all the battles) but I appreciated most his explanation of the effects each of these events had on the parties involved. Professor Harl is so full of information that at times we hear him stumble over his words -- like his brain was working so fast his mouth couldn't keep up. I found this only slightly distracting. In the course guidebook we have 60 pages of reference that is invaluable to the subject. Since I did the audio version the maps were very helpful. [Fortunately I was able to understand what Professor Harl was talking about as I am reasonably familiar with the geography.] The 17 pages of timeline seem to account for almost every year once the Crusades started. [Hey, there was a lot going on.] The detailed glossary and biographical notes round out the guidebook. Now that I have gotten into the Crusades I'm going to have to get TTC's course "How the Crusades Changed History." But that is a sign of a good course -- it makes me want to learn more. April 18, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by transformed my understanding Surprisingly, the series transformed my understanding of the Levant/mid-East in addition to Europe. Prof. Harl's encyclopedic knowledge of not only Western and Byzantine history, but also of Islam and the mid-East added unexpected insight into the interplay between these three (and more) civilizations. I won't think of the region in the same static way that modern history and reporting suggests. Although the details overwhelmed at times (but I enjoyed the spicier ones on betrayals, infidelities, papal indiscretions and the like), the provided outline/maps helped give us commuters (audio only) a framework. That Harl passionately cares that the Seljuk Turks overran one Byzantine prince or another or the travails of Anna Komnene, makes listening especially fun. Harl's enthusiasm and nuanced history make the series infectious and a delight. Well done/brilliant series! November 10, 2013
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