The military success of the First Crusade from 1095 till 1099 at the fall of Jerusalem can be considered as a major military success. As to western Christians at the time the movement if Islam needed to be checked. The Islamic faith was beginning to expand through Spain and lower Italy and through Sicily, the later would be taken back by Norman and Frankish knights, who would make up most of the army in the First Crusade.  The Byzantine Empire initially called for military aid from the west to help stop the Seljuq Turks advance on their borders after a military set back at the battle of Manzikert in 1071 which meant that the Seljuq Turks would regain areas of importance like Antioch which historically including Jerusalem were main holy sites for the Christian faith. Asbridge would state that “At the start of the eleventh century, the church of the Holy Sepulchre, thought to enclose the site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, had been partially demolished by the volatile Fatimid ruler known to history as the Mad Caliph Hakim.” [1]  increased the tension between the West and East but the important idea is that Islam as a whole was not united as most Christians think. There was internal divides in the Islamic world that would actually in a way help the First Crusaders to victory.  The Islamic Chronicler Al- Azimi could see the coming of the Crusade and could see a link “between the fall of Toledo to the Christians of Muslim Spain in 461/1068, the taking of al-Mahdiyya in North Africa by the Normans of Sicily in 479/1086, and the coming of the Crusaders to the Levant.”[2] Show that some Islamic Chroniclers could see the on coming Crusade, but the action against was not unified.

The force which travelled to the Holy Land was in affect small compared to the estimated size that the Muslim armies could muster, some historians approximate the number between fifty thousand including women and children and it is possible that only one sixth of the movement was made up of the fighting force of the First Crusade. The fighting style of the Western armies where in a sense much different than its Eastern counterpart. The Muslim forces that of the Turks and the later Egyptians would use light cavalry to very good affect, even though after a time they adopted more Western style especially the Egyptians[3], and try to envelope an enemy and slowly begin to pick them off. This tactic would come into great affect at the Battle of Hatin in the second crusade. This was due to the Muslim armies adapting to the Crusading armies tactics which made use of the heavy horse or Knights .The comparative size of the army which is recorded by the papal Legate Daimbert who stated at the end of the crusade, gives us an idea on the size of the force before and after the first engagement at the siege of Nicosia stated that “an army 300,000 strong had been reduced to 20,000 be the battle of Ascalon[4] This does show the scale of the military force that the crusaders had but what is does also show in foresight is that it was a one way show for the Crusaders, if they lost one battle they could easily lose the Crusade.

A dividing difference is that the Muslim armies could easily replace their forces. An example of this would be that after the defeat at the battle of Hatin “The huge loss of Christian manpower on 4 July left the Kingdom of Jerusalem in a state of extreme vulnerability, because its cities, towns and fortresses had been all but stripped of their garrisons.”[5] even though this is years later during the second crusade, it underlines a problem that was present at the time of the First Crusade. The need for the crusaders not to lose as the manpower could not easily be replaced. This is also combined with the need of supply in a hostile territory, much noted at the siege of Antioch “The Crisis of supply saw the crusade come desperately close to failure. Albert of Achen says they had simply eaten up the resources of the surrounding countryside and the surrounding cities round about.”[6] Ralph of Caen also talks about “how food had to come from afar: Syria, Cilicia, Rhodes, Cyprus, Samos, Crete and Mytilene” [7] . Supply is an important part of any military campaign, it is remarkable that the train of supply was possible, in the later years it would become strained as the important sea ports of Acre and Antioch would be the only way for supplies and manpower to come into the Crusading kingdom after the first crusade due to the power of the Italian city states like Venice and Genoa, they would provide the logistical support. The sufferings of the Crusaders Raymond of d’Aguiliers writes how hard and stretched the supply line had become. It would provide an interesting insight into the future. “ and so the poor began to leave, and many  rich who feared poverty. If any for love of valour remained in camp, they suffered their horses to waste away by daily hunger.”[8] this is pivotal in the first crusade supply, once this supply had dried up the it would be the end of the First Crusade, this shows in the eventual fall of the Jerusalem.

There was one important factor of the First Crusade this was the division in the Muslim world  between Sunni and Shea. It would in directly help the Crusaders by not providing a unified force against them, as in a sense the main powers in the region Iraqi and Turkey and Egypt where in affect fighting amongst themselves. Muslim Chronicler Abu Shama states that “ Maliksha’s [two] sons, Barkyaruq and Muhammad, fought each other and the wars between them lasted for around twelve years until Barkyaruq died and the sultanate became established for Muhammad. In the period of these wars the Frankish appeared on the Syrian coast [the Sahil] and took possession first of Antioch and then of other parts of the country.”[9]. In a sense this really highlights the divisions in the Muslim world. This allowed the Crusaders to have impressive victories due to local rivalries in the areas an example would be the at the siege of Antioch three Muslim armies were present but not under one single command Fulcher of Chartres would say that “ We, however, by standing on another height opposite this citadel, guarded the path descending to the city between both armies, so that they, far more numerous then we, might not break through and by fighting within and without by night and day forced them to reenter the citadel gates and return to camp.”[10]. The scale of the odds against the Crusaders at Antioch should have meant a defeat for the Crusaders, but the disunity is highlighted by John France “most of the emirs of Kerbogah’s army this was a war for this or that advantage – that was the tradition in this fractured borderland of Islam.”[11]. This factionalism in the Muslim ranks would be the main reasons for the success of the First Crusade, but it would also highlight how much of a close run Victory the first crusade was, and how difficult it would be for any future Christian force to hold out against a united force. As would the later contribute to the fall of Edessa to Zenghi in 1144 this showed the effectiveness of a unified attack on a crusading force.

Over all it can be seen the military victories of the first crusade are a remarkable feet by themselves, but other factors contributed towards that victory. The disunity in east is the main example. With the victory as I have highlighted above came little problems that will arise in the future and how lucky in a sense the first crusade was in achieving its aims and objectives. John France states that it was “their belief in god and themselves, and their able commanders which gave them victory in the East.”[12] He also says which in a sense I have argued is that “Its success was limited in that it established bare outposts with poor communications with the west and uncertain relations with Eastern Christendom.”[13] John France argument is a realistic view it shows how hard it would have been to keep the land taken after the First Crusade.

Bibliography

Asbridge Thomas. The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land (London: Pocket Books 2010)

France John. Victory in the East: A military history of the First Crusade (Cambridge: University Press Cambridge 1994)

Hillenbrand Carole. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 1999)

Phillips Jonathan. The First Crusade: Origins and Impact (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1997)

Peters Edward. The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other Source Materials (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press 1995)

 

Smith R Jonathan. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks; New Edition 2001)


[1] Asbridge Thomas. The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land (London: Pocket Books 2010).,pg28

[2] Hillenbrand Carole. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 1999).,pg51

[3] See Muslim Warriors Image Smith R Jonathan. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks; New Edition 2001) .,pg230

[4] France John. Victory in the East: A military history of the First Crusade (Cambridge: University Press Cambridge 1994).,pg125

[5] Asbridge Thomas. The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land (London: Pocket Books 2010).,pg353/354

[6] France John. Victory in the East: A military history of the First Crusade (Cambridge: University Press Cambridge 1994).,pg236

[7] .,ibid.,pg236

[8] Peters Edward. The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other Source Materials (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press 1995).,pg159

[9] Hillenbrand Carole. The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 1999).,pg83

[10] Peters Edward. The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and other Source Materials (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press 1995).,pg66

[11] France John. Victory in the East: A military history of the First Crusade (Cambridge: University Press Cambridge 1994).,pg294

[12] .ibid,pg373

[13] ibid.,pg371