Sunday, May 29, 2005

Crusades 1.2

Back to setting the scene for the Crusades. Read the previous post please for the rest.

In Europe: Urban II is now the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Wielding great power as at this time religion is a key force. Still though, he knows his power is not safe. As long as most of the recruiting, taxation, and other powers are in the hands of hundreds of lords spread out over the continent, he is safe. But if a few kings start accumulating that power, they would have the strength to defy him. Urban II also has an enemy in the Orthodox Church centered in Constaninople, present-day Istanbul. A permanent schism has formed between these two factions in Christianity. Also, this city is an economic powerhouse, stradling two enormous trade routes, from Russia to Mediterrranean, from Europe to Middle East. As the Italian trading cities such as Genoa and Venice rise, they will attempt to topple the strength of this city. Thus we see feudal Europe, well on its way in economic and political recovery, ready to truly make a leap.

In the Middle East: The once united and contantly expanding Islamic empire led by the Baghdad Caliphate has now broken up into multiple dynasties that obey different caliphs in Cordoba, Spain; Cairo, Egypt; and Baghdad. Also, North Africa is somewhat divided. The Shi'i and Sunnis have been divided now for hundreds of years. Thus we see the Arab empire broken up. However, the unity of religion is still powerful among these kingdoms, all that is needed for them to unite is a leader, and a cause.
The military power has been lessened as the once miltaristic Arabs now fill up the ruling, merchant, legal, and scientific niches. But just as it seems Islam's military might is over, we witness the onrush of countless Turks from Central Asia. Those in the Middle East are quickly converted, and they become the military arm of the Muslims, practically unmatched in religious zeal and fervor. Many fight as Mamluks, slave warriors, but some places as in Egypt these Mamluks hold the real power.

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