The First Crusade

A set of revision cards about the First Crusade. I have taken out the less important facts to focus on the key information that you will need for your exam.


Key Events List

Here is a list of the key events of the First Crusade. Use this as a summary.

  • 1095 - Alexios' plea for help. The Council of Clermont.
  • 1096 - People's Crusade sets out. In October, it is wiped out entirely.
  • 1096-1097 - Crusaders reach Constantinople.
  • 1097 - Crusaders capture Nicaea from Kilij Arslan. Battle of Dorylaeum.
  • 1097-1098 - Siege of Antioch.
  • 1098 - Baldwin takes Edessa.
  • 1099 - Attack on Ma'arrat. Crusaders capture Jerusalem. Battle of Ascalon.
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Why did people embark on the Crusade?

  • Religious motivation. People were told that if they went on the crusade, all their sins would be forgiven and they would be secured a place in heaven.
  • To gain land. Many of the richer people who went on the crusade were younger brothers in families, and wouldn't be inheriting any land. This meant that they went to capture lands abroad to make up for this. People wanted land for others reasons too.
  • Monetary gains. Many crusaders hoped to gain money from the crusade, for example by looting and pillaging. Also, prostitues would come with the crusaders to sell their bodies to the thousands of men.
  • To regain Jerusalem for Christianity. Jesus had died at Jerusalem and so to have it back in Christian hands would greatly please God.
  • To join their families. Many women and children went along with their crusading husbands and fathers in order to keep the family together.
  • To be healed. People joined to be healed by God (like a pilgrimage).
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What motivation was found during the Crusade?

  • The holy lance was found in Antioch by Peter Bartholomew. This was a great motivational boost because it was like a sign from God that they were doing the right thing and were being rewarded with such a holy object.
  • Cannibalism. At Ma'arrat, the crusade stalled as there were conflicts between the leaders over who would take charge over the land gained. The crusaders were so keen to get to Jerusalem that they turned to cannibalism to get the leaders to focus on the crusade. They ate the Muslim dead.
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What was the problem with motivation?

Although it was necessary for the crusaders to be motivated, there were a few situations in which it became negative.

  • To gain land. Baldwin took Edessa, and Edessa was already Christian. Therefore this showed that his desire for land was purely selfish and was not to benefit the crusade in any way.
  • Who would claim the gained land? At Ma'arrat, the crusade was forgotten while there were arguments over who would rule the lands they  had defeated. This was bad for two reasons a) it delayed the crusade b) the crusaders resorted to cannibalism in order to refocus the leaders.
  • Religious motivation. The Pope's speech had detailed that the crusaders would be secured a place in heaven and their sins would be forgiven. Therefore, many who joined the crusade had no fighting ability, poor weapons, and were actually a burden because while it boosted the number of fighters, it also reduced what they were capable of in terms of stamina, speed and ability.
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Preparation for The First Crusade

  • They travelled in separate armies to reduce the pressure. This meant that it was easier to control the troops and to keep them in control, as well as to find suitable camping ground and food/water supplies sufficient for each army.
  • They took the time to raise a huge army. This meant that they were stronger in numbers, but not necessarily stronger in skill, so this must be taken into account.
  • They ran out of food at Antioch. However, Italian traders brought supplies to the crusaders once Antioch was taken.
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Support from Byzantium

  • Alexios helped the crusaders take Nicaea
  • Tatikos helped the crusaders all the way up to Antioch
  • The crusaders were supported with supplies from Alexios
  • However, Alexios ceased support after Antioch because he was too busy with his own problems
  • The crusaders had promised to give Alexios any land they captured from the Muslims in Byzantine lands, but the crusaders didn't keep to their promise because Alexios had ceased support and so didn't make any contribution to the effort of taking these lands.
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Crusader leadership

  • Bohemond showed strong leadership at the Battle of Dorylaeum.
  • Bohemond bribed Muslim guards at Antioch to let them enter the city. If he hadn't have done this, the crusaders would have got no further than Antioch. Therefore this shows that Bohemond was not just a skilled fighter but a cunning leader.
  • The crusader's suprise attack on Jerusalem allowed them to take the holy land. It was a cunning decision and the suprise attack was executed brilliantly.
  • However, the crusader leaders showed some signs of weakness. For example, the arguments over land slowed the crusade and weakened the crusaders' belief in their leaders. Bohemond and Raymond were conflicting over who should take control of Antioch instead of focussing on getting to Jerusalem.
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Muslim disunity and dormancy of Jihad

  • Religiously fragmented. Shia and Sunni muslims could not cooperate even when their survival relied on it.
  • The muslim forces would most likely have been able to defeat the crusading forces if the Sunni and Shia muslims had worked together and combined forces
  • Politically fragmented. The muslim leader Kilij Arslan died.
  • The Fatamids holding Jerusalem would have won if supported by muslims in Damascus.
  • Arguably, muslim disunity is the most important reason as to why the crusaders were successful in the first crusade, as the crusaders would have come up against immensely strong forces if the Shia and Sunni muslims had united against them.
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