This is the essay for the 23rd week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering two questions. The first one is, What are some common misconceptions about the Crusades, and why are they incorrect?
The second one is, What happened during the Fourth Crusade?
The Crusades are important in the history of western civilization because it showed how strong the papacy was during that time. The pope was able to call the crusade without needing the help of a king. Before we start looking at the crusades themselves we need to clear up several common misconceptions about the crusades.
One of the most common misconceptions is that the crusades were an unprovoked attack on the Muslim world. This is not true because Muslims had been conquering lands that were previously Christian. During the time of the crusades, they were conquering more and more of the Byzantine empire. A second misconception is that the Crusaders tried to convert Muslims to Christianity by force. There is no evidence that the crusaders tried to do this. The Crusaders were trying to capture Jerusalem so that Christians could make a safe pilgrimage to the holy land. They even let the Muslims in Jerusalem stay there and keep their religion.
A third misconception is that the Muslims hated the western world because of the crusades and this is what later resulted in the terrorist attacks against the western world. This is false because the Muslims completely forgot about the crusades because they were so unsuccessful. They only remembered the crusades when this misconception became widespread and used it as a false motive for these attacks. A fourth misconception is that people went on crusades to make a fortune. This is opposite to the truth. In reality, the crusades were incredibly expensive and most people who went on them came back bankrupt.
The last misconception is that the people who went on the crusades were the second sons of kings. During this period, it was customary that the first son got all the land and the rest got nothing. So It was thought that the second sons went on crusade so they could get some land. But actually, it was the first sons that went on crusade.
Out of all the crusades, the worst one was by far the fourth. In the fourth crusade, the crusaders didn’t even get close to Jerusalem, because they got sidetracked. In the fourth crusade, the crusaders were going to go to Venice and then sail as close as they could to Jerusalem. They rented boats from Venice which cost a lot of money. This wouldn’t have been a problem if the crusade was the size the crusaders expected it to be. They expected 100 000 foot- soldiers and 4000 knights on horseback. But they only got 50 000 or 60 000 foot- soldiers and 1 000 knights. They made all of the crusaders pay twice their cost, but still had to pay 36 000 marks.
The Venetians didn’t want to make such a big loss on the payment so they said that the crusaders were allowed to use the vessels, but only if they paid the debt later. The deal they proposed also said that a Venetian had to come with the crusaders. The crusaders accepted the deal and left with the vessels. The crusaders still had to pay back the debt so they couldn’t go straight to Jerusalem. Instead, the crusaders went to one of Venice’s rivals, Zara at the suggestion of the Venetians. There the crusaders stayed for the winter thinking of a way to pay back the debt.
After the winter, the crusaders continued along the Mediterranean coast until they reached Constantinople. Here they heard that the king had blinded and thrown out his co-ruler, who was the legitimate heir. The king who had been thrown out was Alexis IV. Alexis promised the crusaders that he would give them 200 000 marks and food for the rest of the journey to Jerusalem if they helped him become king. The crusaders agreed and helped him become king. Meanwhile, the pope was against this idea and excommunicated all the crusaders but it was too late. Even the people of Constantinople were against it, but that didn’t change a thing either. When Alexis became king, he had to do horrific things to pay back the crusaders. He had to do things like dig up dead bodies and melt church items. He was only able to pay them 50 000 marks before he was assassinated. People hated him for what he had done, and they were rioting against him. One of his guards used this as an opportunity to assassinate him. The crusaders still wanted their leftover marks, but they hadn’t made a deal with the new king so they decided to sack Constantinople. After this, the crusade ended.
The sack of Constantinople had a very long-lasting effect. Even today people in Constantinople resent the crusaders for what they did. This was one of the events that made the Great Schism even bigger and made it much harder for the two sides to reconcile their differences with each other.