Misconceptions About the Crusades, and the Speech of Pope Urban II

      What are some common misconceptions about the Crusades, and why are they incorrect?
      The Crusades are a well-known piece if Western history, although there are many misconceptions today about what they actually were and what caused them. A popular one claims that they were an unprovoked, unwarranted attack on Muslim nations. The reality was that the Christians and the Muslims had had peace with one another for many years until a more warlike group of Muslims, the Turks, conquered the Muslim lands. These new conquerors were not as peaceful or tolerant of Christian pilgrims as the old Muslims had been. They began assaulting ancient cities in Asia Minor such as Ephesus, Antioch and Nicaea that were important to the Catholics of the West. The Byzantine emperor of the time, Alexios I Komnenos, sent word to then-pope Urban II to beg for help against the Muslim invaders.
     Another common misconception is that the Catholic crusaders were second- or third-born sons of nobles who were not likely to inherit any land from their fathers, and so set off to Muslim countries to conquer and bring back wealth. Recent research shows that this is not actually true; most of the crusaders were actually first-born nobles with plenty of wealth already. A long and costly trip such as a crusade, where victory was not guaranteed and many men and resources would be lost, was not a good idea to attempt if one was simply looking for wealth. Most crusaders returned home poorer than when they had left, if they returned at all.
      A third popular misconception concerning the Crusades is that the Christians' attacks angered the Muslims so much that they were an indirect cause of modern-day terrorism on Western countries. This would be sound reasoning, save that for the Muslims, the Crusades were a tiny blip of their history that were barely even worth mentioning. The Crusades did not have any lasting effect on Muslim history; indeed with the majority of Muslims, for hundreds of years the Crusades were nearly forgotten.

      Based on the different versions of Pope Urban II's speech, discuss the main themes in the Pope's remarks.
      Although there is no official record of what Pope Urban II said in his speech, various people who heard or heard about the speech have written it down in their own versions, so from them we can glean an idea of what the pope's words were. A major theme of his speech seemed to be a charge to punish the Turks, whose atrocities towards Christians Pope Urban listed in graphic detail. This part of the speech appeared designed to incite the crowd to anger, being "filled" as it were with the righteous anger of God.
      But that wasn't the only part of Urban's speech; in fact, most of the sources do not even record it as the longest part. Much more of the pope's words were directed towards encouraging peaceful Christian behavior in kindness towards one another. The pope called out the knights and men-at-arms of the day, saying that they had become plunderers and murderers, using their strength to oppress the weak in contrast to their oaths as knights. Urban rebuked them for this abominable behavior and charged them to turn their energies towards reclaiming the Holy Land. Meanwhile he encouraged those left at home – the elderly and the infirm, women, children and clergymen – to remain at peace with one another and support the crusaders with prayer. Urban was equally occupied with sending soldiers on Crusades and with keeping a holy peace at home.
      Although we have no way of knowing exactly what Urban said, we do know the reaction he received: Upon hearing the words of the pope, the crowd cried out, "It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"
      The pope was so moved by this outcry that he closed his speech by saying, "Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"

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