The First Crusade was an unprovoked war of aggression
The First Crusade was an unprovoked war of aggression is a nonfactual argument that is often brought forth by the political left and critics of the Catholic Church in order to highlight the barbarity and violence of Catholicism and organized Christianity. The First Crusade of 1096 was a military expedition and spiritual armed pilgrimage that was a direct response to an existential threat to the Christian community of Europe. The invading Seljuk Turks had captured almost the entirety of Byzantine Christian Anatolia within several decades after destroying the Byzantine Army at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Byzantine realm was practically left defenseless after this defeat and it led to the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos to formerly request military aid from Pope Urban II against the invading forces of Islam as he feared the total collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the fall of Constantinople.
Historical context and primary cause of the First Crusade in detail
At the turn of the century, Christian Europe was already in great peril as more than half of the Iberian Peninsula had been relatively recently captured by invading forces of the Umayyad Caliphate. At this time the Seljuks, a nomadic people belonging to the tribe of the Oguz Turks, had descended into Persia from the steppes of their ancestral homeland Turkestan. The Seljuk Turks quickly gained power through successful conquest and established themselves as one of the leading local powers. The Seljuk conquest drove westward for Anatolia which resulted in the subjugation of the Christian Armenian people and in a lasting military conflict with the Christian Byzantine Empire. This conflict ultimately lead to the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 at which the Byzantine Empire was decisively defeated by the Seljuk Empire. Byzantine Anatolia quickly fell to the Seljuk conquest as there were no significant remaining forces that could oppose the invaders. Territories as far west as Nicaea had fallen to the Seljuk Turks within a short period of time.
In 1095 Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos formerly requested military aid from Pope Urban II in order to prevent the total collapse of the Byzantine Empire and to free the Christian populations of Anatolia and the Levant that suffered greatly under their new Muslim rulers. These events constitute one of the main motivating factors for the First Crusade which was announced by Pope Urban II throughout the Council of Clermont in November 1096. It is therefore factual to argue that the First Crusade was envisioned by the Church and the participating European Noblemen to be a defensive military operation within a spiritual context that sought to stabilize the strategic situation in Anatolia and the Levant in order to stop the conquest of the Seljuk Turks and to prevent the spreading of Islam into the Balkans. It was certainly not an unprovoked and unwarranted offensive war of aggression targeted at peaceful Muslim neighbors.
|Statement of the claim||The First Crusade was an unprovoked war of aggression|
|Level of certainty||False|
|Counterclaim||The First Crusade was a military operation of defensive nature|
- Munro, Dana Carleton (January, 1906) The Speech of Pope Urban II. At Clermont, 1095. Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Historical Association. Accessed on January 27, 2022.
- Historia Hierosolymitana, A History of the Expedition to Jerusalem, 1095-1127, Fulcher of Chartres, trans. Francis Rita Ryan, ed. Harold S. Fink, 1969, p.62
- Authors, Multiple (November 17, 2014) The Battle of Manzikert in 1071 A.D and Its Consequences to the Byzantine Empire. UMRAN International Journal of Islamic and Civilizational Studies. Accessed on January 28, 2022.