The History of Israel - Palestine from the Fall of Jerusalem to the Present Time.
The History of Palestine from the Fall of Jerusalem to the Present Time.
State of Judea after the Fall of Jerusalem; Revolt under Trajan; Barcochab; Adrian repairs Jerusalem; Schools at Babylon and Tiberias; The Attempt of Julian to rebuild the Temple; Invasion of Chosroes; Sack of Jerusalem; Rise of Islamism; Wars of the Califs; First Crusade; Jerusalem delivered; Policy of Crusades; Victory at Ascalon; Baldwin King; Second Crusade; Saladin; His Success at Tiberias; He recovers Jerusalem; The Third Crusade; Richard Coeur de Lion; Siege and Capture of Acre; Plans of Richard; His Return to Europe; Death of Saladin; Fourth Crusade; Battle of Jaffa; Fifth Crusade; Fall of Constantinople; Sixth Crusade; Damietta taken; Reverses; Frederick the Second made King of Jerusalem; Seventh Crusade; Christians admitted into the Holy City; Inroad of Karismians; Eighth Crusade under Louis IX.; He takes Damietta; His Losses and Return to Europe; Ninth Crusade; Louis IX. and Edward I.; Death of Louis; Successes of Edward; Treaty with Sultan; Final Discomfiture of the Franks in Palestine, and Loss of Acre; State of Palestine under the Turks; Increased Toleration; Bonaparte invades Syria; Siege of Acre and Defeat of French; Actual State of the Holy Land; Number, Condition, and Character of the Jews.
The destruction of Jerusalem, though it put an end to the polity of the Hebrew nation as an independent people, did not entirely disperse the remains of their miserable tribes, nor denude the Holy Land of its proper inhabitants. The number of the slain was indeed immense, and the multitude of captives carried away by Titus glutted the slave-markets of the Roman empire; but it is true, nevertheless, that many fair portions of Palestine were uninjured by the war, and continued to enjoy an enviable degree of prosperity under the government of their conquerors. The towns on the coast generally submitted to the legions without incurring the chance of a battle or the horrors of a siege; while the provinces beyond the Jordan, which formed the kingdom of Agrippa, maintained their allegiance to Rome throughout the whole period of the insurrection elsewhere so fatal, and especially to the inheritance of Judah and of Benjamin.
It has been already suggested that soon after the Roman army was withdrawn, many of the Jewish families, Christians as well as followers of the Mosaical Law, returned to their sacred capital, and sought a precarious dwelling among its ruins. To prevent the rebuilding of the city, Vespasian found it necessary to establish on Mount Zion a garrison of eight hundred men. The same emperor, it is related, commanded strict search to be made for all who claimed descent from the house of David, in order to cut off, if possible, all hope of the restoration of that royal race, and more especially of the advent of the Messiah, the confidence in whose speedy coming still burned with feverish excitement in the heart of every faithful Israelite. A similar jealousy, which dictated a similar inquisition, was continued in the subsequent reign,—a fact strongly illustrative of the spirit which prevailed at that period among the descendants of Abraham, and explanatory also of their successive revolts against the Roman power.
Under the mild sway of Trajan, the Jews in Egypt, Cyprus, and even in Mesopotamia, flew to arms, to avenge the insults to which they had been subjected, or to realize the hopes that they have never ceased to cherish. After a war remarkable for the waste of blood with which it was accompanied, the unhappy insurgents were everywhere suppressed; having lost, according to their own confession, more than half a million of men in the field of battle, or the sack of towns. The skill and fortune of Adrian, who soon afterward occupied the imperial throne, were displayed in the island of Cyprus, from which the Jews were expelled with tremendous slaughter, and prohibited from ever again touching its shores.
To check the mutinous disposition, or to weaken the influence of the vanquished tribes, an edict was promulgated by their Roman masters, forbidding circumcision, the reading of the Law, and the observance of the weekly Sabbath. Still further to defeat their favourite schemes, and to blast all hopes of a restoration to civil power in Jerusalem under their Messiah, it was resolved by the government at Rome to repair to a certain extent the city of the Jews, and to establish in it a regular colony of Greeks and Latins. At this crisis appeared the notorious Barcochab, whose name, denoting the "son of a star," made him be instantly hailed by a large majority of the nation as that predicted light which was to arise out of Jacob in the latter days. Recommended by Akiba, one of the most popular of the Rabbim, to the confidence of Israel, this impostor soon saw himself at the head of a powerful army; amounting, say the Jewish annalists, to more than two hundred thousand men. In the absence of the legions now called to other parts of the East, he found little difficulty in taking possession of Jerusalem; and before a competent force, under the renowned Julius Severus, could arrive in Palestine, the false Messias had seized fifty of the strongest castles, and a great number of open towns.
The details of the sanguinary campaigns which followed are given by the vanquished Jews with more minuteness than probability. Severus, who had learned all the arts of desultory warfare when employed against the barbarians of Britain, used a similar policy on the banks of the Jordan; choosing to cut off the supplies of the enemy, and attack their posts with overwhelming numbers, rather than encounter their furious fanaticism in a general engagement. Bither, a strong city, and defended by Barcochab in person, was the last to yield to the Romans. At length it was taken by storm, at the expense of much human life on either side; but as the leader of the rebellion was among the slain, the victors did not consider their success too dearly bought, as with the star whose light was extinguished in the carnage of Bither the hope of Israel fell to the earth. Dio Cassius relates, that during this war no fewer than 580,000 fell by the sword, besides those who perished by famine and disease. The whole of Judea was converted into a desert,—wolves and hyenas howled in the streets of the desolate cities,—and all the villages were consumed with fire.
It was after these events that Adrian, to annihilate for ever all hopes of the restoration of the Jewish kingdom, accomplished his plan of founding a new city on the waste places of Jerusalem, to be peopled by a colony of foreigners. This town, as we have elsewhere observed, was called AElia Capitolina; the former epithet alluding to AElius, the praenomen of the emperor,—the latter denoting that it was dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus, the tutelar deity of Rome. An edict was issued, interdicting every Jew from entering the new city on pain of death, or even approaching so near it as to be able to contemplate its towers and the venerable heights on which it stood. The more effectually to keep them away, the image of a cow was placed over the gate which leads to Bethlehem. But the more peaceful Christians, meanwhile, were permitted to establish themselves within the walls; and AElia, it is well known, soon became the seat of a flourishing church and of a bishopric.
From this period the history of the Holy Land is less connected with the Jews than with the policy of the different governments by which their country has been occupied. More attached to their ancient faith than when it was established at Jerusalem, we find them, both in the East and West, labouring with the most indefatigable zeal to revive its principles and extend its authority. Hence their celebrated schools at Babylon and Tiberias,—the source of all legislation, and the seat of judgment in all cases of doubtful opinion. Hence, too, those mixed titles, so long recognised in their tribes, the Patriarch of Tiberias and the Prince of the Captivity,—appointments which, during a long period, constituted a bond of union, partly spiritual and partly political, among all the descendants of Jacob. The numerous remains of that people, though still excluded from the precincts of Jerusalem, were nevertheless permitted to form and to maintain considerable establishments both in Italy and in the provinces; to acquire the freedom of Rome; to enjoy municipal honours; and to obtain, at the same time, an exemption from the burdensome and expensive offices of society. The moderation or the contempt of the Romans gave a legal sanction to the form of ecclesiastical police, which was instituted by the vanquished sect. The Patriarch was empowered to appoint his subordinate ministers, to exercise a domestic jurisdiction, and to receive from his brethren an annual contribution. New synagogues were frequently erected in the principal cities of the empire; and the Sabbaths, the fasts, and the festivals, which were either commanded by the Mosaic Law or enjoined by the traditions of the Rabbim, were celebrated in the most solemn and public manner. They were, in like manner, restored to the privilege of circumcising their children, on the easy condition that they should never confer on any foreign proselyte the distinguishing mark of the Hebrew race. Such gentle treatment insensibly assuaged the stern temper of the Jews. Awakened from their dream of prophecy and conquest, they assumed the behaviour of peaceable and industrious subjects. Their hatred of mankind, instead of flaming out in acts of blood and violence, evaporated in less dangerous gratifications. They embraced every opportunity of overreaching the idolaters in trade; and they pronounced secret and ambiguous imprecations against the haughty kingdom of Edom, the name under which they were pleased to denounce the Roman empire.
The glories which were shed upon Palestine by the munificent zeal of Constantine and his mother have already been repeatedly mentioned. The splendid buildings which arose in every part of the Holy Land announced the triumph of the new faith in the country where it had its origin; exciting at once the pride of the Christian, and the jealousy, resentment, and despair of the Jew. The government of Constantius was not more favourable to the children of Israel; nor was it till the accession of Julian that they were encouraged to look for revenge upon their enemies, if not for protection to their despised countrymen. The edict to rebuild the Temple on Mount Moriah, and to establish once more at Jerusalem the worship enjoined by Moses, called forth their utmost exertions in behalf of a prince who at least abandoned a rival religion, destined, as they apprehended, to supplant their own more ancient ritual.
The issue of this attempt to reinstate the ceremonies of the Jewish Law in the capital of Palestine is known to every reader. The workmen employed in digging the foundation of the new Temple were terrified by flames of fire darting forth from the ground, and accompanied with the most frightful explosions. No inducement could prevail on them to persevere in labours which appeared to excite the anger of Heaven. The enterprise was relinquished, as at once hopeless and impious; and there is no doubt that, whatever additions may have been made to the circumstances by ignorance and a too easy belief, the views of Julian were frustrated by the occurrence of some very extraordinary event, which still finds a place even in Roman history. The skeptic may smile when he reads in the pages of a Christian Father, that flakes of fire which assumed the form of a cross settled on the dresses of the artisans and spectators; that a horseman was seen careering amid the flames; and that, when the affrighted labourers fled to a neighbouring church, its doors, fastened by some preternatural force within, refused to admit them into the sacred building. In such details the imagination is consulted more than the reason; and it cannot be denied that certain authors, who wrote long after the reign of Julian; have admitted traditionary anecdotes into the narrative of a grave event. It is deserving of notice, however, that the mark of the cross, said to have been impressed upon the bystanders, is not the most incredible of the circumstances recorded. Many instances have been known of persons touched by the electric fluid, whose bodies exhibited similar traces of its operation,—straight lines cutting one another at right angles—and hence that part of the description which appears the least entitled to belief will be found to be strictly within the limits of nature.
The policy of the emperors continued to depress the Jews in Palestine, while it granted to them the enjoyment of considerable privileges in all the other provinces where their presence and peculiar views were less hazardous to the public peace. During the same period, the Christian church possessed the countenance of the civil power, and gradually extended its doctrines into Armenia, as well as into the more important region of the Lower Mesopotamia. It was not till the beginning of the seventh century that the course of events was materially disturbed by an invasion of the Persians, under Chosroes, who had resolved to humble the government of Constantinople, and to check its pretensions in the East. The part of the army appointed to serve against Palestine was entrusted to Carnsia, an experienced general, who invited the Jews to join his standard. This people, ever ready to aid the cause of revolt, assembled, it is said, to the number of 24,000 men, and made preparations for an attack on Jerusalem. A sanguinary warfare had ensued, even before the arrival of their allies from beyond the Euphrates; and both sides, accordingly, were exasperated to the highest degree of fury, and importuning Heaven to hasten the moment of revenge. The Christians within the walls massacred their enemies in cold blood, while the assailants without carried destruction to every point which their arms could reach. At length, the advance of the Persians secured to the Jews the hour of triumph and retaliation, when they fully quenched their thirst for vengeance in the blood of the Nazarenes. The victors are said to have sold the miserable captives for money. But the rage of the Jews was stronger than their avarice; for not only did they not scruple to sacrifice their treasures in the purchase of these devoted bondsmen at a lavish price, but they put to death without remorse all whom they bought. It was rumoured that no fewer than 90,000 Christians perished. Every church was demolished, including that of the Holy Sepulchre,—the greatest object of Jewish hatred. The stately building of Helena and Constantine was abandoned to the flames, and the devout offerings of three hundred years were rifled in one sacrilegious day.
But the arms of Persia did not long support the persecuting spirit of the Jews. The Emperor Heraclius, who had spent some inglorious years on the throne, was alarmed into activity by the progress of the enemy, who had threatened even the walls of Constantinople itself. The discipline of ancient Rome, which was not yet quite extinct among the legionary soldiers, maintained its wonted superiority over the less martial troops of Chosroes, and recovered in the course of a few campaigns all the provinces that the invaders had overrun. Heraclius visited Jerusalem as a pilgrim, when the wood of the true cross, which, it was rumoured, had been carried away to Persia, was reinstated with due solemnity. Several Christian churches, too, were restored to their former magnificence; and the law of Adrian was again put in force, which prohibited the Jews from approaching within three miles of the holy city.
Palestine continued to acknowledge the power of the emperor until the rise of Islamism changed the face of Western Asia. The armies of the califs, which wrested from Persia the dominion of the surrounding nations, conquered in succession the provinces of Arabia, Syria, and Egypt, and at length planted the crescent on the walls of Jerusalem. The victories of Omar in 636 decided the fate of the venerable city, and laid the foundations of a mosque on the sacred hill where the Temple of Solomon had stood. This conqueror was assassinated at Jerusalem in 643; after which, the establishment of several califates in Arabia and Syria, the fall of the Ommiades, and the elevation of the Abassides involved Judea in trouble for more than two hundred years. In 868, Achmet, a Turk, who from being governor had made himself sovereign of Egypt, conquered the capital of Palestine; but his son having been defeated by the califs of Bagdad; the holy city again returned under their dominion in the year 905 of our era. Mohammed Ikschid, another Turk, about thirty years after, having in his turn seized the throne of the Pharaohs, carried his arms into Palestine, and reduced the capital. The Fatimites, again, issuing from the sands of Cyrene, expelled the Ikschidites from Egypt in 968, and conquered several towns in Judea. Ortok, towards the end of the tenth century, made himself master of the holy city, whence his children were for a time driven out by Mostali, Calif of Egypt. In 1076, Meleschah, the third of the Turkish race, took Jerusalem, and ravaged the whole country. The Ortokides, who, as we have just related, were dispossessed by Mostali, returned thither, and maintained themselves in it against Redouan, Prince of Aleppo. They were expelled once more by the Fatimites, who were masters of the place when the crusaders first appeared on the confines of Syria.
Several generations passed away, during which the affairs of the Holy Land created no interest in Europe, and when Christians and Jews, who could hardly obtain the most limited toleration from their Mohammedan masters, sought an asylum among the states of Europe. In the Travels of Benjamin of Tudela are to be found some incidental notices which leave no doubt as to the fact that his countrymen, unable to bear the persecution directed against them, had gradually abandoned the birthplace of their fathers. Jerusalem, in the twelfth century, did not contain more than two hundred descendants of Abraham, poor, depressed, and calumniated; while at Tiberias, the seat of learning and of their sovereign patriarch, the number did not exceed fifty,—the victims of suspicion and jealousy, not less on the part of the Christians than of the Moslem, who had already begun to contend with each other for the sepulchre of Christ.
It has often been observed, that pilgrimage to the holy places of Palestine was from a very early period regarded as at once a wholesome discipline and an acceptable reverence on the part of Christian worshippers. The Arabian califs were, on various accounts, inclined to favour the resort of Europeans to these shrines of their faith. They saw in it a fruitful source of revenue; while, as the progeny of Abraham, they were not disposed to take offence at the veneration lavished upon the prophetic son of David, whose tomb the fortune of war had placed in their hands. But the Seljukian Turks, those irreclaimable barbarians, who had no sympathy with the believers in Christ, laid on them such burdens and vexatious restraints as were altogether intolerable. The cries of the unhappy pilgrims had long resounded throughout all Christendom; and the indignation which was universally felt against the bigoted Mussulmans was inflamed in no slight degree by the eloquence of Peter the Hermit, who had witnessed in foreign lands the afflictions of his brethren. Yielding to the impulse of the age, Pope Urban the Second convoked a general council at Clermont, in Auvergne, to whom he addressed an oration well fitted to confirm the enthusiasm which he found already kindled. He encouraged them to attack the enemies of God, and in that holy warfare to earn the reward of eternal life promised to all the faithful servants of the Redeemer; suggesting, that as a mark of their profession as well as of their Saviour's love, they should wear red crosses on their garments when fighting the battles of Christianity.
The warlike spirit of the time was roused by every motive which can touch the heart of man in a rude state of society,—the love of glory, religion, revenge, and enterprise. Many of the most illustrious princes of the Christian world took up the cross, and were followed by persons of both sexes, and of all ages, classes, and professions. A vast army poured in from every country, under the most distinguished leaders, of whom the principal were, Godfrey, Duke of Brabant and Bouillon; Robert of France, the brother of King Philip; and Robert, Duke of Normandy, the son of the English monarch. Bohemond, too, the chief of the Normans of Apulia, and Raymond, Count of Toulouse, led many renowned warriors to Syria.
The tumultuary bands who marched under the standard of the Hermit suffered hardships altogether unknown to modern war. In passing through the countries watered by the Danube, and the hilly countries which lie between that river and the Mediterranean, more than half their number fell victims to disease, famine, and the rage of the barbarians whose lands they infested. But, in spite of these misfortunes, Bohemond, one of the leaders, laid siege to Antioch in 1097; and on the 15th July, two years after, the ancient and holy city of Jerusalem was taken by assault, with a prodigious slaughter of the garrison. Ten thousand Mohammedans were slain on the site of the Temple of Solomon; a greater number was thrown from the tops of houses; and a fearful carnage was committed after all resistance had ceased.
The siege had lasted two months with various success, and a considerable loss of life on either aide; and hence arose the savage ferocity which disgraced, on the part of the victors, the last scene of this miserable tragedy. The assailants having endured much from drought, as well as from the sword of the enemy, betook themselves to pious exercises in order to avert the anger of Heaven. The soldiers, completely armed, made a holy procession round the walls. The clergy, with naked feet, and bearing images of the cross, led them in the sacred way. Cries of Deus id vult,—God commands it,—rent the air; and the people marched to the melody of hymns and psalms, and not to the sound of drums and trumpets. On Mount Olivet and Mount Zion they prayed for assistance in the approaching conflict. The Saracens mocked these expressions of religious feeling, by throwing mud upon crucifixes which they raised for the purpose; but these insults had only the effect of producing louder shouts of sacred joy from the Christians. The next morning every thing was prepared for battle; and there was no one who was not ready either to die for Christ, or restore his city to liberty. The night was spent in watching an alarm by both armies. At dawn of day the conflict began which was to determine the fate of the great European expedition, and when noon arrived the issue was still in suspense, or seemed rather to incline in favour of the Mohammedans. The cause of the Western World appeared to totter on the brink of destruction, and the most valiant among the crusaders allowed themselves to fear that Heaven had deserted its own cause and people.
At the moment when all was considered lost, a knight was seen on Mount Olivet, waving his glittering shield as a sign to the soldiers that they should rally and return to the charge. Godfrey and Eustace cried aloud to the army, that St. George was come to their succour. The spirit of enthusiasm instantly revived, fatigue and pain were no longer felt, the princes led their columns to the breach, and even the women insisted upon sharing the honours of the fight. In the space of an hour the barbacan was broken down, and Godfrey's tower rested against the inner wall. Exchanging the duties of a general for those of a soldier, the Duke of Lorraine fought with his bow: "The Lord guided his hand, and all his arrows pierced the enemy through and through." Near him were Eustace and Baldwin, "like two lions beside another lion." At three o'clock, the hour when the Saviour of the world was crucified, a soldier, named Letoldus of Tourney, leaped upon the fortifications; his brother, Engelbert, followed, and Godfrey was the third Christian who stood as a conqueror upon the ramparts of Jerusalem. The glorious ensign of the Cross streamed from the walls, and the whole city was soon at the mercy of the besiegers. The Mussulmans fought for a while, then fled to their temples, and submitted their necks to the sword. The victors, in a document which is still preserved, boasted, that in the mosque of Omar, whither they pursued the fugitives, they rode in the blood of Saracens up to the knees of their horses.
After the slaughter had terminated, and the soldiers had soothed their minds by certain acts of devotion, the expediency of forming a regular government became manifest to all parties. Godfrey, a hero whose name can not be too highly honoured, was chosen by the unanimous suffrages of rival warriors to be the first Christian king of Jerusalem. Bohemond, the son of Robert Guiscard, reigned at Antioch; Baldwin, the brother of Godfrey, at Edessa; and the Count of Toulouse, at Tripoli. The dominion of the crusaders extended from the confines of Egypt to the Euphrates on the east, and to the acclivities of Mount Taurus on the north; and several of their principalities lasted nearly two hundred years.
Many attempts have been made to defend the policy and excuse the enormities of the Christian warriors in their enterprise against the Moslem occupants of the Holy Land. These two points ought to be more carefully distinguished than they usually are, whether in the pages of friends or enemies; for while the general expediency of a combination of the Christian powers may be supported on good grounds, the cruelty of some of their measures deserves the severest censure. It is remarked by Mr. Mills, that the massacre of the Saracens on the capture of the holy city did not proceed alone from the inflamed passions of victorious soldiers, but from remorseless fanaticism. Benevolence to Turks, Jews, infidels, and heretics made no part of Christian ethics in those rude times; and as the Moslem in their consciences believed it was the will of Heaven that the religion of their prophet should be propagated by the sword, so their antagonists laboured under the mental delusion that they themselves were the ministers of God's wrath on a disobedient and stiff-necked people. The Latins, on the day after the victory, massacred three hundred men, to whom Tancred and Gaston de Bearn had promised protection, and even given a standard as a pledge of safety. But every engagement was broken, in consequence of the resolution that no pity should be shown to the Mohammedans,—an expedient which was justified by the opinion now prevalent among the invaders, that in conjunction with the Saracens of Egypt they might again reduce the city and recover all the ground they had lost. It was for this reason that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, armed and unarmed, were dragged forth into the public squares, and slain like cattle. Women with children at the breast, boys, and even girls were slaughtered indiscriminately, and in such numbers that the streets were covered with dead bodies and mangled limbs. No heart melted into compassion or expanded into benevolence. The stones of the city were ordered to be washed, and the melancholy task was performed by some Moslem slaves. The Count of Toulouse, whose avarice prevailed over his superstition, was loudly condemned for accepting a ransom from a few of the devoted prisoners, whom he sent in safety to Ascalon. So unrelenting, in short, was the passion of revenge among the crusaders, that they set fire to the synagogues of the Jews, many of whom perished in the flames.
Such conduct merits the deepest execration that moralist or statesman may be pleased to pour upon it. We are nevertheless convinced that, in the peculiar circumstances of the Christian world when Peter the Hermit called its chiefs to arms, a united war against the Mohammedan states of Syria was dictated by the soundest political wisdom. The subjects of Omar had already conquered an establishment in Sicily and Spain, and attempted the subjugation of France. Their views were directed towards universal dominion in the West, as well as in the East; they hoped to witness the triumph of the crescent in Europe not less certainly than in Asia, and to be able to impose a tribute on the worshippers of Christ, or compel them to relinquish their creed on the remotest shores of the Atlantic. Those, therefore, who perceive in the Crusades nothing but a mob of armed pilgrims running to rescue a tomb in Palestine must take a very limited view of history. The point in question was not merely the recovery of that sacred building from the hands of infidels, but rather to decide which of the two religions, the Christian or Mohammedan, should predominate in the world; the one hostile to civilization, and only favourable to ignorance, despotism, and slavery; the other friendly to improvement, learning, and freedom in all ranks and conditions of society.
It is asserted by Chateaubriand, that whoever reads the address of Pope Urban to the council of Clermont must be convinced that the leaders in these military enterprises were not actuated by the petty views which have been ascribed to them; but, on the contrary, that they aspired to save the Western World from a new inundation of barbarians. The spirit of Islamism is conquest and persecution; the gospel, on the contrary, inculcates only toleration and peace. The Christians, moreover, had endured for several centuries all the oppressions which the fanaticism of the Saracens impelled them to exercise. They had merely endeavoured to interest Charlemagne in their favour; for neither the conquest of Spain, the invasion of France, the pillage of Greece and the Two Sicilies, nor the entire subjugation of Africa, could for nearly six hundred years rouse the Christians to arms. If at last the cries of numberless victims slaughtered in the East, if the progress of the barbarians, who had already reached the gates of Constantinople, awakened Christendom, and impelled it to rise in its own defence, who can say that the cause of the Holy Wars was unjust? Contemplate Greece, if you would know the fate of a people subjected to the Mussulman yoke. Would those who at this day so loudly exult in the progress of knowledge wish to live under a religion that burned the Alexandrian library, which makes a merit of trampling mankind under foot, and holding literature and the arts in sovereign contempt? The Crusades, by weakening the Moslem hordes in the very centre of Asia, prevented Europe from falling a prey to the Turks and Arabs; they did more, they saved her from revolutions at home, with which she was threatened; they suspended intestine wars by which she was ever and anon desolated; and, finally, they opened an outlet to that excess of population which sooner or later occasions the ruin of nations.
The administration of Godfrey was gentle and prosperous. He gained a decisive victory over the Vizier of Egypt, who had encamped on the plains of Ascalon with the view of assisting his Syrian allies to recover Jerusalem from the hands of the Christians. According to the spirit of the age, he joined to the qualities of a brave soldier the profession of an ardent faith and the utmost reverence for the authority of the church. He refused a precious diadem offered to him by his companions in arms, declaring that he would never wear a crown of gold in the city where the Saviour of the world had worn a crown of thorns. In the same feeling he was disposed to reject the title of king and to exercise his office under the name of Defender and Baron of the Holy Sepulchre.
Upon the demise of this distinguished commander, which is supposed to have taken place at Jaffa, the government devolved upon his brother Baldwin, who sustained its glory and interests with a steady hand. About the year 1118, he was succeeded on his throne by his nephew, who bore the same name, and who, although sometimes unfortunate, did not tarnish the honour of his family. Melisandra, his eldest daughter, married Foulques of Anjou, and conveyed the kingdom of Jerusalem into the hand of her husband, who enjoyed it ten or twelve years, when he lost his life by a fall from a horse. His son, Baldwin the Third, a youth of a rash temper and destitute of experience, assumed the sceptre of Jerusalem, which he held twenty years,—a period rendered remarkable by the events of the second Crusade, and the rise of various orders of knighthood,—the Hospitallers, Templars, and Cavaliers.
The news from Palestine, that certain reverses had been sustained by the Christians, acted so powerfully on the pious spirit of St. Bernard and the troubled conscience of Louis the Seventh, the king of France, as to suggest a second confederation among the European princes for the security of the Holy Land. This new apostle of a sacred war was, on many accounts, greatly superior to Peter the Hermit. He was a man of noble birth; possessed learning sufficient to rival the attainments of Abelard, his contemporary; and could speak with a degree of eloquence to which no orator of his age had the boldness to aspire. The French monarch, who had assembled around him a powerful and most splendid army, was joined by the Emperor of Germany, Conrade the Third, whose thousands equalled those of his warlike brother, and whose zeal in the cause of Christendom was not less active.
But the experience of their predecessors, fifty years before, was lost upon these fearless soldiers of the Cross. Without suitable preparation, they encountered the dangers of a long march through hostile countries and sickly climates, the effects of which appeared in the rapid diminution of their numbers, in mutual invectives, and in increasing despair. Not more than a tenth part of the Germans reached the coast of Syria. The French, who had suffered less than their allies, were sooner ready to take the field against the Saracens; and after proving their arms in a few unimportant skirmishes, they resolved to lay siege to Damascus in concert with the battalions of Conrade. But the evil genius of intrigue defeated their designs. After a fruitless display of force more than sufficient to have reduced the place, the Christian chiefs withdrew from before the ramparts of the Syrian capital, and fell back upon Jerusalem in sorrow and shame. Conrade soon returned to Europe with the shattered remains of his gallant host; and about a year afterward his example was imitated by the French king and the greater number of his generals, who were disgusted with the narrow policy on which the war had been conducted.
Baldwin the Third, dying without male issue, transmitted the precarious throne of Jerusalem to his brother Amaury, or Almeric; who, after of a reign of eleven years, was succeeded by his son, Baldwin the Fourth. The young sovereign, being incapable of the duties of government, passed his minority under the wise counsels of Raymond, Count of Tripoli, who endeavoured to sustain the weight of kingly power in the midst of very formidable enemies. The name of Noureddin was long terrible to the Christians of Palestine, who had gradually lost their warlike virtues; but they were now about to encounter a still more able, and much more celebrated antagonist, in the person of Saladin, the hero of the Crescent, and one of the most distinguished leaders of that very romantic age.
Baldwin had given his sister Sybilla, widow of William, surnamed Longue-Epée, or the Long-sword, in marriage to Guy of Lusignan. The grandees of the kingdom, dissatisfied with the choice, divided into parties. The king, dying in 1184, left for his heir Baldwin the Fifth, the son of Sybilla and William just mentioned, a child not more than eight years of age, and who soon afterward sunk under a constitutional distemper. His mother caused the crown to be conferred on her husband, the ambitious Guy,—a measure which did not allay the jealousy of the nobles who had opposed their union. An alarming dissension prevailed among the barons, some of whom refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new sovereign, and even offered the diadem to Humphrey de Thoron. But the intrigues of Sybilla and the terror of Saladin prevented an open rupture, while events of a more important nature were about to occupy the attention of either party.
The sultan had received from several of the Christian warriors just ground of offence, and failing to obtain redress from the feeble government of Jerusalem, he took the field in order to chastise with his own hand the more guilty of the aggressors. He encamped near the Lake of Tiberias, where Guy, listening to counsellors who saw not the danger of placing the fortunes of the kingdom on the issue of a single battle, resolved to attack him. For a whole day the engagement was in suspense, and at night the Latins retired to some rocks in the neighbourhood, hoping that they might find a little water to quench their thirst. At the approach of dawn the two armies stood for a while gazing upon each other, as if conscious that the fate of the Moslem and the Christian worlds was in their hands. But no sooner did the sun appear than the Crusaders raised their war-cry, and the Turks sounded their trumpets and atabals,—a mutual challenge to renew the sanguinary conflict. Thi bishops and clergy ran through the ranks cheering the soldiers of the church. A fragment of the true cross, intrusted to the knights of the Holy Sepulchre, was placed on a hillock, around which the broken squadrons repeatedly rallied, and recovered strength for the combat whereon the interests of their faith were suspended. But the Crescent, supported by more numerous and stronger hands, triumphed on the plain of Tiberias. The Christians were defeated with great loss; the king, the Master of the Templars, and the Marquis of Montferrat were taken prisoners, and the piece of holy wood, in which they had put their trust, was snatched from the grasp of the Bishop of Acre.
This victory placed the greater part of Palestine in the power of Saladin, who, upon the whole, used his success with moderation and clemency. The fugitives from every quarter fled to Jerusalem, hoping to escape in that asylum the swords and fetters of the Turks. One hundred thousand persons are said to have been crowded within the walls; but so few were the soldiers, and so feeble was the government of the queen, that the holy city presented no serious obstacle to the progress of the Moslem arms. Saladin declared his unwillingness to stain with human blood a place which even the followers of the Prophet held in reverence, as having been sanctified by the presence of many inspired individuals. He therefore promised to the people, on condition that they would quietly surrender the city, a supply of money, and lands in the most fertile provinces of Syria.
This offer was rejected, as implying a sacrilegious contract to yield into the hands of infidels the sacred spot where the Saviour of mankind had died. He therefore swore that he would enter their streets sword in hand, and retaliate upon them the dreadful carnage which the Franks had committed in the days of Godfrey. Two weeks were spent in almost incessant fighting, during which the advantage was generally on the side of the assailants. Finding resistance vain, the besieged at length appealed to the clemency of the conqueror. It was, stipulated that the military and the nobles should be escorted to Tyre, and that the inhabitants should become slaves, if not ransomed at certain rates fixed by Saladin. Thus, to use the words of the historian, "after four days had been consumed by the miserable inhabitants, in weeping over and embracing the Holy Sepulchre and other sacred places, the Latins left the city and passed through the enemy's camp. Children of all ages clung round their mothers, and the strength of the fathers was used in bearing away some little part of their household furniture. In solemn procession, the clergy, the queen, and her retinue of ladies followed. Saladin advanced to meet them, and his heart melted with compassion when he saw them approach in the attitude of suppliants." The softened warrior uttered some expressions of pity; and the women, encouraged by his tenderness, declared, that by pronouncing one word he might remove their distress. "Our fortunes and possessions," said they, "you may freely enjoy; but restore to us our fathers, our husbands, and our brothers. With these dear objects we cannot be entirely miserable. They will take care of us; and that God whom we reverence, and who provides for the birds of the air, will not forget our children." Saladin was a barbarian in nothing but the name. With the most courteous generosity, he released all the prisoners whom the women requested, and loaded them with presents. Nor was this action, so worthy of a gentle and chivalrous knight, the consequence of a merely transient feeling of humanity; for when he had entered the city of Jerusalem, and heard of the tender care with which the military friars of St. John treated their sick countrymen, he allowed ten of their order to remain in the hospital till they could fully complete their work of charity.
The Mohammedans, being once more in possession of the holy walls, took down the great cross from the Church of the Sepulchre, and soiled it with the mire of the streets. They also melted the bells which had summoned the Christians to devotion, and at the same time purified the Mosque of Omar by a copious sprinkling of rose-water. Ascalon, Laodicea, Gabala, Sidon, Nazareth, and Bethlehem opened their gates to the victorious Saladin, who, indeed, found no town of consequence able to resist his arms except Tyre, garrisoned by a body of excellent soldiers under the gallant Conrade. All the inhabitants took arms, and even the women shot arrows from the walls, or assisted in strengthening the fortifications. The Saracens cast immense stones into the place, and attacked it with all the other means in their power; but the spirit of freedom triumphed over the thirst of revenge, and the conqueror of Tiberias was finally compelled to relinquish the siege.
The intelligence that Jerusalem had fallen under the dominion of the unbelievers created in all parts of Europe a profound sensation of grief and disappointment. The clergy, as on former occasions, preached to all classes the duty and honour of assuming the Cross, and even of dying is the service of the Redeemer, should the sacrifice of life be required at their hands. But the enthusiasm of the eleventh century had now very generally passed away. Every family had to lament the loss of kindred in the field of battle or in the bonds of a hopeless captivity; and hence, the inducements which had crowded the ranks of Godfrey and Conrade were at this time listened to both in France and England with comparative indifference.
At length, however, about the year 1190, Philip Augustus, the French King, the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, and the celebrated Richard Coeur de Lion succeeded in raising forces, with the view of wresting once more the Holy Land from the thraldom of the Saracens. Philip received the staff and scrip at St. Denys, and Richard at Tours. They joined their armies at Vezelay, the gross amount of which was computed at one hundred thousand, and marched to Lyons in company. There the royal commanders separated; the former pursued the road to Genoa, the latter to Marseilles,—the island of Sicily being named as the place of their nest meeting.
Among the other fruits of the victory of Tiberias reaped by the brave Saladin was the possession of Acre, or Ptolemais, one of the moat valuable ports on the coast of Syria. The Crusaders, aware that they could not maintain their ground in the East without a constant communication with Europe, resolved to recover this city at whatever expense of life or treasure; and with this view they had invested it more than twenty-two months before Richard could carry his reinforcements into Palestine. Upon his arrival, an unhappy jealousy arose between him and the King of France, which divided the Christians into two great parties; nor was it until each had attempted with his separate force to ascend the ramparts of Ptolemais, and had even been repulsed with great loss, that they consented to unite their squadrons, and act in unison. A reconciliation being effected, it was determined that the one should attack the walls, while the other guarded the camp from the approaches of Saladin. But the town had already suffered so dreadfully from the length of the siege, now extended to about two years, that the garrison were disposed to sue for terms The sultan endeavoured to infuse his own invincible spirit into the minds of his people, and to revive for a moment their languid courage, by turning their hopes to Egypt, whence succour was expected. As no aid appeared, the citizens wrung from him permission to capitulate. They were accordingly allowed to purchase their safety by consenting to deliver the city into the hands of the two kings, together with five hundred Christian prisoners who were confined in it. The true cross also was to be restored, with one thousand such captives as might be selected by the allies; it being covenanted, at the same time, that unless the Mussulmans within forty days paid to Richard and Philip the sum of two hundred thousand pieces of gold, the inhabitants of Acre should be at the mercy of the conquerors.
It was on the 12th of July, 1191, that Ptolemais was recovered by the Europeans; and in the following month, Richard (for the King of France had already turned his face homewards) gained an important victory over Saladin at Azotus. The progress of Coeur de Lion being no longer disputed, he quickly arrived at Jaffa. That city was now without fortifications; for when the tide of conquest ebbed from the Moslem, their commander gave orders to dismantle all the fortresses in Palestine. It was his policy to keep the invaders constantly in the field, and to exhaust them by incessant marching and sudden attacks. Some time was accordingly lost in restoring the works of this ancient town,—a period which was employed by the enemy in recruiting their ranks, and preparing to contest once more the laurels gained by the conquerors of Azotus.
Richard, still full of confidence, declared to the Saracens that the only way of averting his wrath was to surrender the kingdom of Jerusalem as it existed in the reign of Baldwin the Fourth. Saladin did not reject this proposal with the disdain which he felt, but made a modification of the terms, by offering to yield all of Palestine that lay between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean. The negotiation lasted some time without farther concession on either side, when at length it became manifest that the enemy were not in earnest, but merely sought to derive advantage from the delay which they had the ingenuity to create. Hence the meditated attack on Jerusalem was postponed, and dissension began to prevail in the ranks of Plantagenet. The winter was passed amid privations of every description, which, as they were partly owing to the negligence of the king, gave rise to numerous desertions. The inactive season of the year was occupied in rebuilding the walls of Ascalon,—a task in which the proudest nobles and the most dignified clergy laboured like the meanest of the people. On the return of spring both armies appeared in the field; but as political disturbances in England demanded the presence of Richard, be manifested for the first time a greater disposition to negotiate than to fight. He made known to Saladin that he would be satisfied with the possession of the holy city and of the true cross. But the latter replied, that Jerusalem was as dear to the Moslem as to the Christian world; and, moreover, that he would never be guilty of conniving at idolatry by permitting the worship of a piece of wood. Thwarted by the religious prejudices of his enemies, the English commander attempted a different expedient. He proposed a consolidation of the Christian and Mohammedan interests, the establishment of a government at Jerusalem, partly European and partly Asiatic; and this scheme of policy was to be carried into effect by the marriage of Saphadin, the brother of the sultan, with the widow of William, King of Sicily. The Moslem princes would have acceded to these terms; but the union was thought to be so scandalous to religion, that the imans and priests raised a storm of clamour against it; and Richard and Saladin, accordingly, though the most powerful and determined men of their age, were compelled to submit to popular opinion.
In the month of May, therefore, Coeur de Lion began his march towards Jerusalem, with the firm resolution of accomplishing the main object of his armament. The generals and soldiers vowed that they would not leave Palestine until they should have redeemed the Holy Sepulchre. Everything wore the face of joy when this resolution was announced. Hymns and thanksgivings gave utterance to the general exultation. Terror seized the Mussulmans who were appointed to defend the sacred walls, and even Saladin himself gave way to apprehension for their safety. The Crusaders arrive at Bethlehem; and here the stout mind of Plantagenet began to vacillate. He avowed his doubts as to the policy of a siege, as his force was not adequate to such a measure, and also to the regular maintenance of his communications with the coast, whence his supplies must be derived. He submitted his difficulties to the barons of Syria, the Templars, and Hospitallers, declaring his readiness to abide by their decision, whether it should be to advance or to retreat. These officers received information that the Turks had destroyed all the cisterns which were within two miles of the city, and they felt that the intolerable heats of summer had begun; for which reason, it was resolved that the attack on Jerusalem should be deferred, and that the army, meantime, should proceed to some other conquest.
Saladin, aware of the hesitation which had chilled the wonted ardour of his foe, resolved to profit by this turn of affairs, so little to be expected under such a leader. He advanced by forced marches to Jaffa, with the view of reducing it before Richard could send relief. Attacking it with his usual vigour, he succeeded in breaking down one of the gates; and such of the inhabitants as could not defend themselves in the great tower or escape by sea were put to the sword. Already were the battering-rams prepared to demolish that fortress, when the patriarch and some French and English knights agreed to become the prisoners of the sultan, fixing, at the same time, a heavy sum for the ransom of the citizens, if succour did not arrive during the next day. Before the morning, however, the brave Plantagenet reached Jaffa; and so furious was his onset, that the Turks immediately deserted the town; while their army, which was encamped at a little distance, no sooner saw the standard of Richard on the walls, than they retreated some miles into the interior.
But the English chieftain, harassed by unfavourable tidings from home, and perplexed by dissensions in his camp, became heartily desirous of peace. Nor was Saladin less willing to grant repose to his country, now exhausted by protracted wars. The two heroes exchanged expressions of mutual esteem; but as Richard had often avowed his contempt for the vulgar obligation of oaths, they only grasped each other's hands in token of fidelity. A truce was agreed upon for three years and eight months; the fort of Ascalon was dismantled; but Jaffa and Tyre, with the intervening territory, were surrendered to the Europeans. It was provided, also, that the Christians should be at liberty to perform their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, exempted from the taxes which the Moslem princes were wont to impose.
Towards the end of the year 1192, Richard the Lion-hearted withdrew from the Holy Land on his way to England,—a journey beset with many perils and adventures, which it is no part of our task to describe. We are told that his valour struck such terror into his enemies, that long after his death, when a horse trembled without any visible cause, the Saracens were accustomed to say that he had seen the ghost of the English prince. In a familiar conversation which Saladin held with the warlike Bishop of Salisbury, he expressed his admiration of the bravery of his rival, but added, that he thought "the skill of the general did not equal the valour of the knight." The courteous prelate replied to this remark, the justice of which, perhaps, he could not question, by assuring the sultan that there were not two such warriors in the world as the English and the Syrian monarchs. Without entering minutely into the comparison of two characters which presented little in common, it must be acknowledged, that the courage of Richard at the head of his gallant troops prevented many of the evils which had been anticipated from the defeat at Tiberias. Palestine did not, as was apprehended, become a Moslem colony. A portion of the seacoast, too, was preserved for the Christians; while their great enemy was so enfeebled by repeated discomfitures, that fresh hostilities could be safely commenced whenever Europe should again find it expedient to send into the East a renewed host of military adventurers. Richard, besides, gained more honour in Syria than any of the German emperors or French kings who had sought renown in foreign war; and although a rigid wisdom might censure his conduct as unprofitable to his country, it must be admitted that his actions were in unison with the spirit of the times in which he lived, when valour was held more important than the acquisition of wealth, and achievements in the field were esteemed more highly than the most beneficial results of victory.
Saladin did not long survive the departure of his distinguished rival. He died in the year 1193; leaving directions, that on the day of his funeral a shroud should be borne on the point of a spear, and a herald proclaim in a loud voice, "Saladin, the conqueror of Asia, out of all the fruits of his victories, carries with him only this piece of linen." The soldiers of this distinguished sultan rallied round his brother Saphadin, whom they raised to the throne. Nor did the new monarch disappoint the expectations that were entertained of his wisdom and valour; for by the exertions of military skill, as well as by a sagacious policy, he strengthened the government which was committed to his hands, and was found, at the expiration of the truce, ready to meet the armies of the combined powers of Christendom.
The fourth Crusade was called into existence by the active zeal of Pope Celestine the Third, and of Henry the Sixth, the German emperor, who was joined by many of the subordinate princes of Northern Europe. The term of peace fixed by Richard and Saladin had indeed expired; but both Christians and Moslem, exhausted by war and famine, were disposed to lengthen the period of repose, and at all events to abstain from a renewal of their sanguinary conflicts. Nevertheless, when the new champions of the Cross arrived at Acre, all remonstrances against fresh aggression were disregarded. Saphadin, who was informed of their hostile intentions, anticipated them in the field, and before they could advance to Jaffa, he had battered down the fortifications, and put thousands of the inhabitants to the sword. A general action, it is true, took place soon afterward, in which the strength and discipline of the Germans secured the victory; but, when advancing to Jerusalem, the conquerors allowed themselves to be turned aside in order to reduce the insignificant fortress of Thoron, where they met with a repulse so serious as to defeat the main object of the campaign. Factious contentions now disturbed the councils of the Latins; vice and insubordination raged in the camp; and, to crown their miseries, the Crusaders were informed that the Sultans of Egypt and Syria were concentrating their troops with the view of attacking them. Alarmed at this intelligence, the German princes deserted their posts in the night, and fled to Tyre; the road to which was soon filled with soldiers and baggage in indiscriminate confusion; the feeble relinquishing their property, and the cowardly casting away their arms.
Another battle took place in the neighbourhood of Jaffa, which terminated, as before, to the advantage of the Christians. But the death of the Emperor Henry, the patron of the expedition, again disconcerted their measures. Many returned to Europe to assist at the election of his successor; while the residue of the army, thrown into a fatal confidence by their late triumphs, were destroyed by a body of Turkish auxiliaries, who surprised them during the revels in which they commemorated the virtues and abstinence of St. Martin.
The crown of Palestine meantime, greatly shorn of its lustre, had devolved upon Isabella, daughter of Baldwin and sister to Sybilla. Her third husband, Henry, Count of Champagne, was acknowledged as king; and upon his death she was advised to give her hand to Almeric of Lusignan, the brother of Guy, who had formerly swayed the sceptre. This union being approved by the clergy and barons, the marriage was celebrated at Acre, where Almeric and Isabella were proclaimed the sovereigns of Cyprus and Jerusalem.
The repeated failure of the Christian armaments impressed upon the people of Europe a belief, either that the real difficulties of the enterprise had been concealed from them, or that the time fixed in the counsels of Providence for the deliverance of the Holy Land had not yet arrived. In such circumstances, it required the authority of the church and the power of eloquence, seconded by the performance of numerous miracles, to rouse the slumbering zeal of those who had money to give or arms to use in the service of the Cross. Fulk, the preacher, who equalled Peter the Hermit in the ardour of his address, and Bernard in oratorical talents, co-operated with the pope, Innocent the Third, in convincing the several kingdoms under his spiritual dominion of the necessity of a fifth combined effort, in order to expel the infidels from the sacred inheritance.
The voice of religion was again listened to with pious obedience, and a large force was mustered in France and the Low Countries. As, however, the arms of the Christian chiefs on this occasion were not employed against the Saracens, but against their own brethren of the Grecian empire, the object of our work does not require that we should do more than follow their steps to the shores of the Bosphorus. In April, 1204, Constantinople fell into their hands, and was subjected to all the horrors and indignity which usually punish the resistance of a strong city. The remains of the fine arts, which the Eastern Church had preserved as consecrated memorials of her triumph over paganism, were destroyed with peculiar industry by the less polished Latins, who were pleased to view with contempt the superior taste of their rivals. The establishment of the Crusaders in the capital of the Lower Empire, where they elected a sovereign and formed an administration, was the only result of the fifth expedition against the Moslem. Their dominion lasted fifty-seven years, at the end of which Manuel Paleologus, descendant of Lascaris, and son-in-law of the Emperor Alexis, recovered the throne of the Cesars, and finally expelled the usurpers from the city of Constantine.
The successes of the French, against the Greeks had, however, an indirect influence in promoting the welfare of the Christians in Palestine. The Mussulmans were alarmed, and Saphadin gladly concluded a truce for six years. But the country was doomed to be soon deprived of the tranquillity afforded by a cessation of arms. Almeric and his wife being dead, Mary, the daughter of Isabella by Conrade of Tyre, was acknowledged Queen of Jerusalem; while Hugh de Lusignan, son of Almeric by his first wife, was proclaimed King of Cyprus. There was not at that time in Palestine any powerful nobleman capable of governing the state; on which account the civil and ecclesiastical potentates resolved that Philip Augustus of France should be requested to provide a husband for Mary. The French monarch fixed his eyes on John de Brienne who was esteemed among the knights of Europe as equally wise in council and experienced in war.
The hopes inspired by this union raised the pretensions of the Christian community so high, that they refused to prolong the truce which still subsisted between them and the sultan. The latter, therefore, marched an army to the neighbourhood of Tripoli, and threatened hostilities. The young king took the field at the head of a respectable force and displayed his valour in many a fierce encounter; and though he did not succeed in concerning his foes, he saved his states from the utter annihilation with which they were threatened. He foresaw, however, the approaching ruin of the sacred cause; for he could not fail to observe that, while the Saracens were constantly acquiring new advantages, the Latin barons were embracing every opportunity of returning home. He accordingly wrote to the pope, that the kingdom of Jerusalem consisted only of two or three towns, and that its fate must already have been determined but for the civil wars which had raged among the sons of Saladin.
His holiness was not deaf to a remonstrance so just and important. In a circular letter to the sovereigns of Europe, he reminded them that the time was now come when a successful effort might be made to secure possession of Palestine, and that, while those who should fight faithfully for God would obtain a crown of glory, such as refused to serve him would be punished everlastingly. He employed, among other arguments, a consideration which has since been often urged by Protestant writers against his own church; stating, that "the Mohammedan heresy, the beast foretold by the Spirit, will not live for ever—its age is 666." He concluded with the assurance, that Jesus Christ would condemn them for gross ingratitude and infidelity, if they neglected to march to his succour at a time when he was in danger of being driven from a kingdom he had acquired by his own blood.
The preacher of the next Crusade was Robert de Courçon, a man inferior in talents and rank to St. Bernard, but whose fanaticism was as fervent as that of the Hermit and Fulk. He invited all to assume the Cross, and enrolled in the sacred militia women, children, the old, the blind, the lame, and even the distempered. The multitude of Crusaders, as might be expected, was very great, and the voluntary offerings of money were immense. A council was held in the church of the Lateran, in which the Emperor of Constantinople, the Kings of France, England, Hungary, Jerusalem, Arragon, and other countries, were represented. War against the Saracens was unanimously declared to be the most sacred duty of the Christian world. The usual privileges, dispensations, and indulgences were granted to the pilgrims; and the pope, besides other expenses, contributed thirty thousand pounds.
It was in the year 1216 that the sixth Crusade, consisting chiefly of Hungarians and the soldiers of Lower Germany, landed at Acre. The sons of Saphadin were now at the head of affairs in Syria, their father having retired from the fatigues of royalty; and, although unprepared to oppose so large a host with any prospect of success, they mustered what forces they could collect and advanced to Naplosa, the modern Nablous. But the insubordination of the invaders made victory more easy than was anticipated. Destitute of provisions, they wandered over the country, committing the greatest enormities, and suffering from time to time very severe losses from the just indignation of the inhabitants. At length the sovereign of Hungary, disgusted with the campaign, refused to remain any longer in Palestine,—a defection which compelled the King of Jerusalem, the Duke of Austria, and the Master of the Hospitallers to take up a defensive position on the Plain of Cesarea. The knights of the other military orders, the Templar and Teutonic, seized upon Mount Carmel, which they fortified for the occasion. But their fears were relieved in the spring of the following year by the arrival of a large body of new and most zealous Crusaders from the upper parts of Germany. Nearly three hundred vessels sailed from the Rhine, which, after having sustained more than the usual casualties of a voyage in the North Sea, landed on the shores of Syria those martial bands who had assembled in the neighbourhood of the Elbe and the Weser.
For reasons which are not very clearly assigned, but having some reference, it may be conjectured, to the exhausted state of the country, the chiefs of the Crusade came to the resolution of withdrawing their troops from Palestine, and of carrying the war into Egypt. Damietta, not unjustly regarded as the key of that kingdom on the line of the coast, was made the first object of attack; and so vigorous were the approaches of the assailants, that the castle or fortress, which was supposed to command the town, fell into their hands. Meantime a reinforcement from Europe appeared at the mouth of the Nile. Italy sent forth her choicest soldiers, headed by Pelagius and De Courçon, as legates of the pope. The Counts of Nevers and La Marche, the Archbishop of Bourdeaux, the Bishops of Meaux, Autun, and Paris, led the youth of France; while the English troops were conducted by the Earls of Chester, Arundel, and Salisbury, men celebrated for their heroism and experience in the field.
The tide of success flowed for some time so strongly in favour of the Christians, that the Saracen leaders were desirous to conclude a peace very advantageous to their invaders. When the loss of Damietta appeared inevitable, the Sultan of Syria, Khamel, the son of Saphadin, apprehensive that the Crusaders would immediately advance against Jerusalem, issued orders to destroy the fortifications, to prevent its being held by them as a place of defence. But in the negotiation which was opened between the contending powers, the Mussulmans consented to rebuild the walls of the sacred city, to return the portion of the true cross, and to liberate all the prisoners in Syria and Egypt. Of the whole kingdom of Palestine, they proposed to retain only the castles of Karac and Montereale, as necessary for the safe passage of pilgrims and merchants in their intercourse with Mecca. As an equivalent for these important concessions, they required nothing more than the instant evacuation of Egypt, and a complete relinquishment of the conquests which had been recently made in it by the arms of the Crusaders.
The Christian chiefs, after a stormy discussion, determined to reject the terms offered by the allied sultans, and to prosecute the siege of Damietta. This devoted town, having been invested more than a year and a half, was at length carried by assault; but so resolute and persevering had been the defence, that of seventy thousand inhabitants, who were shut up by the Crusaders, only three thousand remained to witness their triumph.
The Saracens, fatigued with the horrors of war, once more proposed a treaty on terms similar to those which were offered before the fall of Damietta. But the victors, whose wisdom in council was never equal to their valour in the field of battle, again refused to conclude a peace. The prevailing party recommended an immediate attack upon Grand Cairo; anticipating the reduction of the whole of Egypt, and the final subjection of all the Mahommedan states on the shores of the Mediterranean. This vision of greatness, however, soon vanished before the real difficulties of a campaign on the banks of the Nile. In a few months the leaders of the expedition found themselves reduced to the necessity of soliciting permission to return into Palestine; consenting to purchase safety by giving up all the acquisitions they had made since the first day that they opened their trenches before Damietta. The barons of Syria and the military orders retired to Acre, where they held themselves in readiness to sustain an attack from the indignant Moslems; the mass of the volunteers and pilgrims soon afterward procuring the means of returning into Europe.
Frederick the Second of Germany, who had engaged to lead a strong force into Syria, was so long prevented by domestic cares from fulfilling his promise, that he incurred the resentment of the pope, who actually pronounced against him a sentence of excommunication. The emperor, at length, was induced to marry Violante, the daughter of John de Brienne, and accept as her dowry the kingdom of Jerusalem. In the year 1228 he arrived at Acre, with the view of making good his pretensions to the sacred diadem,—an object which he finally attained, not less by the connivance of the sultan than by the exertions of his military companions. The son of Saphadin felt his throne rendered insecure by the ambition or treachery of his own kindred, and was therefore much inclined to cultivate an amicable feeling with so powerful a prince as the sovereign of Germany. In pursuance of these views a treaty was signed, providing that for ten years the Christians and Mussulmans were to live on a footing of brotherhood; that Jerusalem, Jaffa, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and their dependencies, were to be restored to the former; that the Holy Sepulchre was likewise to be given up to them; and that the people of both religions might offer up their devotions in that house of prayer, which the one called the Temple of Solomon, and the other the Mosque of Omar. Thus the address or good fortune of Frederick more effectually promoted the object of the Holy Wars than the heroic phrensy of Richard Coeur de Lion; many of the disasters consequent on the battle of Tiberias were wiped away; and the hopes of Europe for a permanent settlement in Asia appeared to be realized.
But the emperor had performed all these services while the stain of excommunication was yet unremoved from his character. The fidelity of the knights, accordingly, whose oaths had a reference to the supremacy of the church, and the attachment of the clergy, could not be relied upon. Hence, when he went to Jerusalem to be crowned, the patriarch would not discharge his office; the places of worship were closed; and no religious duties were observed in public during his stay. Frederick repaired to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, surrounded by his courtiers, and boldly taking the crown from the altar, placed it on his own head. He then issued orders for rebuilding the fortifications of his eastern capital; after which he returned to Acre, whence he almost immediately set sail for Europe.
The peace established between Frederick and the Saracen rulers was not faithfully observed by the latter, some of whom did not consider themselves as bound by its stipulations. The sufferings endured by the Christians of Palestine accordingly called their brethren in Europe once more to arms. A council, held under the auspices of the pope at Spoleto, decreed that fresh levies should be sent into Asia so soon as the truce with Khamel, the sultan of Damascus, should have expired. Many of the English nobility, inflamed by the love of warlike fame, took the cross, and prepared to follow the standard of the Earl of Chester, and of Richard, earl of Cornwall, brother to King Henry the Third.
In this pious movement the lords of England were anticipated by those of France, who, in the year 1239, landed in Syria, and prepared to measure lances with the Moslems. News of these warlike proceedings having reached the nephew of Saladin, he forthwith drove the Christians out of Jerusalem, and demolished the Tower of David,—a monument which till that time had been regarded as sacred by both parties. The combats which followed, although fought with great bravery on the side of the invaders, terminated generally in favour of the Saracens; and the French accordingly, after losing a great number of their best warriors, were glad to have recourse to terms of peace. The Templars entered into treaty with the Emir of Karac, while the Hospitallers, actuated by jealousy or revenge, preferred the friendship of the Sultan of Egypt.
The following year Richard, the earl of Cornwall, arrived with his levy, hoping to find his allies in possession of all the towns which had been ceded to the Emperor of Germany, and enjoying security in the exercise of their religious rites. His surprise was therefore very great, when he discovered that the principal leaders of the French had already fled from the plains of Syria; that the knights of the two great orders had sought refuge in negotiation; and, finally, that the conquests of the former Crusaders were once more limited to a few fortresses and a strip of territory on the coast. He marched in the first instance to Jaffa, with the view of concentrating the scattered forces of Europe; but receiving notice, as soon as he arrived, that the Sultan of Egypt, who was then at war with his brother of Damascus, was desirous to cultivate friendly relations, he lent a ready ear to the terms proposed. The Mussulman consented to relinquish Jerusalem, Beritus, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Mount Tabor, and a large portion of the Holy Land, provided the English earl would withdraw his troops and preserve a strict neutrality.
The conditions being ratified by the Egyptian sovereign, the Earl of Cornwall had the satisfaction to see the great object of the Crusaders once more accomplished. Palestine again belonged to the Christians. The Hospitallers opened their treasury to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, while the patriarch and clergy entered the holy city to reconsecrate the churches. For two years the gospel was the only religion administered in the sacred capital, and the faithful had begun to exult in the permanent subjection of their rivals, when a new enemy arose, more formidable to them than even the Saracens.
The victories of Zingis Khan had displaced several nations belonging to the great Tartar family, and among others the Karismians, who continued their retreat southward till they reached the confines of Egypt. The sultan, who perhaps had repented the liberality of his terms to the soldiers of Richard, advised the expatriated barbarians to take possession of Palestine. He even sent one of his principal officers and a large body of troops to serve as them guides; upon which, Barbacan, the Karismian general, at the head of twenty thousand cavalry, advanced into the Holy Land. The garrison of Jerusalem, being quite inadequate to its defence, retired, and were followed by many of the inhabitants. The invaders entered it without opposition, sparing neither life nor property, and respecting nothing, whether sacred or profane. At length the Templars and Hospitallers, forgetting their mutual animosities, united their bands to rescue the country from the grasp of such savages. A battle took place, which, after continuing two whole days, ended in the total defeat of the Christians; the Grand Masters of St. John and of the Temple being among the slain. Only thirty-three individuals of the latter order, and sixteen of the former, with three Teutonic cavaliers, remained alive, and succeeded in making their way to Acre, the last refuge of the vanquished knights. The Karismians, with their Egyptian allies, after having razed the fortifications of Ascalon and Tiberias, encamped on the seacoast, laid waste the surrounding territory, and slew or carried into bondage every Frank who fell into their hands. Nor was it till the year 1247 that the Syrians and Mamlouks, insulted by this northern horde, attacked them near Damascus, slew Barbacan their chief, and compelled the remainder to retrace their steps to the borders of the Caspian Lake.
The intelligence did not fail to reach Europe that the members of the Church in Palestine had been put to death or dispersed by the exiles of Karism. Pope Innocent the Fourth suggested the expediency of another Crusade, and even summoned all his faithful children to take arms. He wrote to Henry the Third, king of England, urging him to press on his subjects the necessity of punishing the Karismians. But the spirit of crusading was more active in France than in any other country of the West and it revived in all the vigour of its chivalrous piety in the reign of Louis the Ninth. Agreeably to the superstition of the times, he had vowed, while afflicted by a severe illness, that in case of recovery he would travel to the Holy Land. The Cross was likewise taken by the three royal brothers, the Counts of Artois, Poictiers, and Anjou, by the Duke of Burgundy, the Countess of Flanders and her two sons, together with many knights of high degree.
But it was not till 1249 that the soldiers of Louis were mustered, and his ships prepared for sea; the former amounting to fifty thousand, while his vessels of all descriptions exceeded eighteen hundred. They set sail for Egypt; a storm separated the fleet; but the royal division, in which were nearly three thousand knights and their men-at-arms, arrived in the neighbourhood of Damietta. On the second day the king ordered the disembarkation; he himself leaped into the water; his warriors followed him to the shore; upon which the Saracens, panic-struck at their boldness and determination, made but a slight show of defence, and fled into the interior. Although Damietta was better prepared for a siege than at that period when it defied the arms of the Crusaders during eighteen months, yet the garrison were pleased to seek safety in the fleetness of their horses. Louis fixed his residence in the city; a Christian government was established; and the clergy, as they were wont on such occasions, proceeded to purify the mosques.
Towards the close of the year, after being joined by a body of English volunteers, the French monarch resolved to march to Cairo and attack the sultan in the heart of his kingdom. But the floods of the Nile, and the intersection of the country by numerous canals, occasioned a second time the loss of a brave army. Famine and disease, too, aided the sword of the enemy, till at length the victors of Damietta were compelled to sue for a peace which they could no longer obtain. A retreat was ordered; but those who attempted to escape by the river were taken prisoners, and the fate of such as proceeded by land was equally disastrous. While they were occupied in constructing a bridge over a canal, the Saracens entered the camp and murdered the sick. The valiant king, though oppressed with the general calamity of disease, sustained boldly the shock of the enemy, throwing himself into the midst of them, resolved to perish rather than desert his troops. One of his attendants succeeded at length in drawing him from the presence of the foe, and conducted him to a village, where he sunk under his wounds and fatigue into a state of utter insensibility. In this miserable condition he was overtaken by the Moslems, who announced to him that he was their captive. One of his brothers, the gallant Artois, had already fallen in battle, but the two others, Anjou and Poictiers, with all the nobility, fell into the hands of the enemy.
The sultan did not abuse his victory, nor seek to impose upon Louis terms which a sovereign could not grant without forfeiting his honour. He agreed to accept a sum equivalent to five hundred thousand livres for the deliverance of the army, and the town of Damietta as a ransom for the royal person. Peace was to continue ten years between the Mussulmans and the Christians; while the Franks were to be restored to those privileges in the kingdom of Jerusalem which they had enjoyed previous to the recent invasion of the French. The repose which succeeded this treaty was interrupted by the murder of the sultan, who fell a victim to the jealousy, of the Mamlouks; but after a few acts of hostility too insignificant to be recorded, the emirs renewed, with a few modifications, the basis of the agreement on which the peace was established. Louis himself made a narrow escape from the sanguinary intrigues of those military slaves who had imbrued their hands in the blood of their own master. They declared that, as they had committed a sin by destroying their sultan, whom, by their law, they ought to have guarded as the apple of their eye, their religion would be violated if they suffered a Christian king to live. But the other chiefs, more honourable than the Mamlouks, disdained to commit a crime under any such pretext; and the French monarch, accordingly, was allowed to accompany the poor remains of his army to the citadel of Acre.
It has been remarked that the expedition of St. Louis into Egypt resembles in many respects the war carried on in that country thirty years before. In both cases the Christian armies were encamped near the entrance of the Ashmoun canal, beyond which they could not advance; and the surrender of Damietta in each instance was the price of safety. The errors of the Cardinal Pelagius seem not to have been recollected by the French king, who, in fact, trod in his steps with a fatal blindness, and ended by paying a still severer penalty.
A gleam of hope arose in the minds of the Crusaders from finding the rulers of Egypt and of Syria engaged in a furious war. The Mamlouks even condescended to solicit the cooperation of Louis, and agreed to purchase it by remitting one-half of the ransom which still remained unpaid. They further consented to deliver up Jerusalem itself, and also the youthful captives taken on the banks of the Nile, whom they had compelled to embrace the Mussulman faith. But before the Franks could appear in the field, the interposition of the calif had restored peace to the contending parties, both of whom immediately resumed their wonted dislike to the European invaders.
The infidels, however, at this period did not pursue their schemes of conquest with the vigour and ability which distinguished the movements of Noureddin, and more especially of Saladin, his renowned successor. They might have swept the feeble and exhausted Christians from the shores of Palestine; but they merely ravaged the country round Acre, and then proceeded to Sidon, in the strong castle of which Louis and his army had taken refuge. The blood and property of the citizens satisfied the barbarians, who departed without trying the valour of the soldiers who occupied the garrison.
The death of Queen Blanche, the mother of the king, and regent during his absence, afforded him a good apology for leaving the country, of which he had long been tired. The patriarch and barons of the Holy Land offered him their humble thanks for the honour he had bestowed upon their cause, and for the benefits which he had conferred upon themselves individually. Louis, sensible that he had gathered no laurels in Palestine, and that the interests of the church were even in a more hopeless condition than when he landed at Damietta, listened to their address with mingled emotions of shame and regret, and forthwith prepared himself for his voyage homewards.
Thus terminated that expedition, of which, says a French author, the commencement filled all Christian states with joy, and which, in the end, plunged all the West into mourning. The king arrived at Vincennes on the 5th of September, 1254, accompanied by a crowd collected from all quarters. The more they forgot his reverses, the more bitterly he called to mind the fate of his brave companions, whom he had left in the mud of Egypt or on the sands of Palestine; and the melancholy which he showed in his countenance formed a striking contrast to the public congratulation on the return of a beloved prince. His first care, says the historian, was to go to St. Denys, to prostrate himself at the feet of the apostles of France; the next day he made his entrance into the capital, preceded by the clergy, the nobility, and the people. He still wore the cross upon his shoulder; the sight of which, by recalling the motives of his long absence, inspired the fear that he had not abandoned the enterprise of the Crusade.
The misfortunes sustained in the field were greatly increased by the dissensions which prevailed among the military orders after the departure of Louis. The Templars and Hospitallers, especially, never forgot their jealousies except when engaged in battle with the Mussulmans; for, in every interval of peace, they mutually gratified their arrogance and contempt by wrangling on points of precedency and professional reputation. At length an appeal to arms was made, with the view of determining which of these kindred associations should stand highest as soldiers in the estimation of Europe. The Knights of St. John gained the victory; and so bloody was the conflict that no quarter was granted, and hardly a single Templar escaped alive.
But these unseemly disputes were soon drowned amid the shouts of a more formidable warfare waged against Palestine by the Mamlouk sovereign of Egypt, the sanguinary and bigoted Bibars. His troops demolished the churches of Nazareth and Mount Tabor; after which they advanced to the gates of Acre, inflicting the most horrid cruelties upon the unprotected Christians. Sephouri and Azotus were taken by storm, or yielded upon terms. At the reduction of the former, it was agreed that the knights and garrison, amounting in all to six hundred men, should be conducted to the nearest Christian town. But no sooner was the sultan put in possession of the fortress than he violated the conditions of surrender, and left the knights only a few hours to determine on the alternative of death or conversion to Islamism. The prior and two Franciscan monks succeeded by their exhortations in fixing the faith of the religious cavaliers; and hence, at the time appointed for the declaration of their choice, they unanimously avowed their resolution to die rather than incur the dishonour of apostacy. The decree for the slaughter of the Templars was pronounced and executed; while the three preachers of martyrdom, as if responsible for the conduct of their countrymen, were flayed alive.
A large Christian state had been formed at Antioch, in alliance with the kingdom of Jerusalem. Bibars, after reducing Jaffa and the castle of Beaufort, marched his fierce soldiers against the capital of Syria, and soon added it to the number of his conquests. Forty thousand believers is Christ were on this occasion put to the sword, and not fewer than one hundred thousand were led into captivity. The barbarian, indeed, avowed the fell purpose of exterminating the whole Christian community in the East, extending the terror of death or the ascendency of the Koran from the Nile to the mountains of Armenia. But his progress was stopped by the intelligence which reached him in Palestine, that the King of Cyprus had resolved to interpose his arms in behalf of the Holy Land, and was about to make a descent on the coast at the head of a large force collected from various nations. Bibara returned to Cairo, fitted out a fleet for the conquest of that island, and intended, during the absence of its sovereign, to annex it permanently to the dominions of Egypt. But his ships were lost in a tempest; his military character suffered from the failure of the enterprise; his power was weakened; and he ceased to be any longer the scourge and dread of the Christian world.
Before the atrocities of this Mamlouk chief were made known in Europe, the people of the West had made preparations for the ninth Crusade. Louis was not able to conceal from himself that his first expedition to the Holy Land had brought more shame on France than benefit to the Christian cause. Nay, he was not without fear, that his personal reputation was in some degree tarnished by the fatal result of his attack on Egypt, so unwisely and rashly conducted. The Pope favoured his inclination for a new attempt; and accordingly, in a general meeting of the higher clergy and nobles, held at Paris in 1268, the king exhorted his people to avenge the wrongs which Christ had so long suffered at the hands of the unbelieving Moslems.
In England a similar spirit had long prevailed among the priesthood and the great body of the commons; but Henry the Third, taught by experience that the late Crusades had only weakened the friends and strengthened the enemies of Christianity, refused to countenance this popular folly at the time when Louis first assumed the cross. On the present occasion, however, he permitted his son Edward, with the Earls of Warwick and Pembroke, to receive the holy ensign, and to join the sovereign of France in his renewed attempt to plant the emblem of his faith on the walls of Jerusalem.
It was not till the spring of 1270 that St. Louis spread his sails the second time for the Holy Land. The feelings of religious and military ardour which animated the heart of this pious monarch were diffused through the sixty thousand soldiers who followed his banners. He could count, too, among his leaders, the descendants of those gallant chiefs, the lords of Brittany, of Flanders, and Champagne, who in former generations had distinguished themselves in fighting the battles of the church. But notwithstanding such promising appearances, this proud armament took the sea under an evil omen. The fleet was driven into Sardinia; and there a great and unfortunate change was made in the plan of operations. Instead of proceeding to Palestine, it was resolved that the troops should be landed in the neighbourhood of Tunis, to assist the Christians in extending their faith in opposition to the disciples of the Koran. Success, indeed, crowned the first efforts of the invaders; Carthage fell into their hands; and more splendid conquests seemed to invite their progress into the heart of the Mohammedan nations of Northern Africa. But a pestilential disease, the scourge of those burning shores, soon spread its ravages among the ranks of the Christians. Louis, the great stay of the Crusaders, was stricken with the fatal sickness, and died, leaving his army, which had accomplished nothing, to prosecute the war, or to return with sullied standards into their native country.
Prince Edward, who condemned the vacillating conduct of his allies, had already passed from Africa into Sicily, where he spent the following winter. In the early part of the year 1271, he set sail for Acre, where he landed at the head of only one thousand men; but so high was his reputation among the Latins of Palestine, that he soon found his army increased sevenfold, and eager to be employed in the redemption of the sacred territory. He led them, in the first place against Nazareth, which did not long resist the vigour of his attack; and, almost immediately afterward, he surprised a large Turkish force, whom he cut in pieces The Moslems imagined that another Coeur de Lion had been sent from England to scourge them into discipline, or to shake the foundation of their power in Syria. Edward was brave and skilful as a warrior, and owed his success not less to his able dispositions than to his personal courage. But he was cruel and lavish of human blood. The barbarities which disgraced the triumphs of the first Crusade were repeated on a smaller scale at Nazareth, where the prince put the whole garrison to death, and subjected the inhabitants to unnecessary suffering.
The resentment of the governor of Jaffa is said to have pointed the dagger which was aimed at the heart of the English prince by the hand of an assassin. The wretch, as the bearer of letters, was admitted into the chamber of Edward, who, not suspecting treachery, received several severe wounds before he could dash the assailant to the floor and despatch him with his sword. But as the weapon used by the Saracen had been steeped in poison, the life of his intended victim was for some hours in imminent danger. The chivalrous fiction of that romantic age has ascribed his recovery to the kind offices of one of that sex whose generous affections are seldom chilled by the calculations of selfishness. His wife, Eleanora, is said to have sucked the poison from his wound, at the hazard of instant death to herself,—a story which, having received the sanction of the learned Camden, has not unfrequently been held as an indisputable fact. The more authentic edition of the narrative attributes the restoration of Edward's health to the usual means employed by surgical skill, aided by the resources of a strong mind and a vigorous constitution.
It soon became manifest that the valour and ability of Edward, unsupported by an adequate force, could make no lasting impression upon the Moslem power in Syria. Accordingly, after having spent fourteen months in Acre, he listened to proposals for peace made by the Sultan of Egypt, who, being engaged in war with the Saracens whom he had displaced, was eager to terminate hostilities with the English. A suspension of arms, to continue ten years, was formally signed by the two chiefs; whereupon the Mamlook withdrew his troops from Palestine, and Edward embarked for his native country.
The loan and discomfiture which for more than a hundred years had concluded every attempt to regain the Holy Land did not yet extirpate the hope of final success in the hearts of the clergy and sovereigns of the West. Gregory the Ninth, who himself had served in the Christian armies of Syria, exerted all the means in his power to equip another expedition against the enemies of the faith. The small republics of Italy, which found a ready employment for their shipping in transporting troops to Palestine, were the first to embrace the cause recommended by their spiritual ruler. The King of France seemed to favour the enterprise, and advanced money on the mortgage of certain estates within his dominions belonging to the Templars; Charles of Anjou followed the example of his royal relation; and Michael Paleologus, the Emperor of the East, announced his willingness to take arms against the ambitious sultan, who already threatened the independence of Greece. A council held at Lyons in 1274 sanctioned the obligations of a crusade, and imposed upon the church and other estates such taxes as appeared sufficient to carry it to a successful issue. But the death of the pope dissolved the coalition, and all preparations for renewing the war were immediately laid aside,—never to be resumed.
The Franks in Palestine, now left to their own resources, ought to have cultivated peace, and more especially to have abstained from positive and direct aggression. Their conduct, however, was not marked by such abstinence or wisdom. On the contrary, by attacking certain Mohammedan merchants, they provoked the anger of the sultan, who swore by God and the Prophet that he would avenge the wrong. A war fatal to the Christian interests was the immediate consequence. Their fortresses were rapidly demolished; and at length, in the year 1289, the city of Tripoli, the principal appanage of the kingdom of Jerusalem, was taken, its houses were consumed by fire, its works dismantled, and its inhabitants massacred, or sold into slavery.
Acre now remained the sole possession of the Latins, in the country where their sovereignty had been acknowledged during the lapse of nearly two centuries. A short peace granted to Henry the Second of Cyprus, the nominal king of the Holy Land, postponed its fate, and the utter abolition of Christian authority in Syria, a few years longer. Within its walls were crowded the wretched remains of those principalities which had been won by the valour of European soldiers. A reinforcement of unprincipled Italians only added to the disorder which already prevailed in the town, and increased the number of offences by which they were daily accumulating upon their heads the vengeance of the fanatical Mamlouks, who longed for an opportunity to attack them.
At length, in the month of April, 1291, a force which has been estimated at more than 200,000 men, issued from Egypt, and encamped on the Plain of Acre. Most of the inhabitants made their escape by sea from the horrors of the impending siege; the defence of the place being intrusted to about 12,000 good soldiers, belonging chiefly to the several orders of religious knighthood. The command was offered to the Grand Master of the Templars, who, being prevailed upon to accept, discharged its duties with firmness and military skill. But the Mamlouks were not inferior in valour, and their numbers were irresistible. Prodigies of bravery were displayed on both sides: the assailants threw themselves, with desperate resolution, into the breach, from whence they were repeatedly driven back at the point of the sword, or hurled headlong into the ditch. But the sultan was prodigal of blood, and had vowed to humble the Nazarenes who dared to dispute his authority. The walls, accordingly, after having been several times lost and won, were at length finally occupied by the Tartars and Mamlouks, who obeyed the sovereign of Egypt, and the crescent was at that moment elevated to a place which it has continued to occupy during the greater part of five centuries. Struck with terror, the few small towns which till this period had been allotted to the Christians surrendered at the first summons, and saw their inhabitants doomed either to death or to a hopeless captivity. In one word, the Holy Land, which since the days of Godfrey had cost to Christendom so much anxiety, blood, and treasure, was now lost; the sacred walls of Jerusalem were abandoned to infidels; and henceforth the disciple of Christ was doomed to purchase permission to visit the interesting scenes consecrated by the events recorded in the gospel.
The titular crown of Palestine was worn for the last time by Hugh the Great, the descendant of Hugh, king of Cyprus, and Alice, who was the daughter of Mary and John de Brienne. At a later period, this empty honour was claimed by the house of Sicily, in right of Charles, count of Anjou and brother of Louis IX, who was thought to unite in his own person the issue of the King of Cyprus and of the Princess Mary, the daughter of Frederick, sovereign of Antioch. The knights of St. John of Jerusalem, since denominated knights of Rhodes and Malta, and the Teutonic knights, the conquerors of the north of Europe and founders of the kingdom of Prussia, are now the only remains of those Crusaders who struck terror into Africa and Asia, and seized the thrones of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Constantinople.
Although no expedition from the Christian states reached the Holy Land after the close of the thirteenth century, the fire which had so long warmed the hearts of the Crusaders was not entirely extinguished in several parts of Europe. Edward the First of England, for example, still cherished the hope of opening the gates of Jerusalem, or of leaving his bones in the sacred dust of Palestine. A similar feeling animated the monarch of France; while the pope, who derived manifold advantages from the prosecution of such wars, summoned councils, issued pastoral letters, and employed preachers, as in the days that were past. But dissensions at home during the first half of the fourteenth century, and the general conviction of hopelessness which had seized the public mind respecting all armaments against the Moslems, occasioned the failure of every attempt to unite once more the powers of Chistendom in the common cause.
In the following century, the ascendency of the Turks, not only in the East, but on the banks of the Danube and the northern shores of the Mediterranean, compelled the people of Europe to act on the defensive. The fall of the Grecian empire, too, rendered the intercourse with Syria at once more difficult and dangerous. Egypt in like manner was shut against the Christians, being subjected to the same yoke which pressed so heavily on the western parts of Asia. Hence, during more than two centuries a cloud hung over the affairs of Palestine, which we in vain attempt to penetrate. Suffice it to remark, that it remained subject to the Mamlouk sultans of Egypt till the year 1382, when they were dispossessed by a body of Circassians, who invaded and overran the country. Upon the expulsion of these barbarians, it acknowledged again the government of Cairo, under which it continued until the period of the more formidable irruption of the Mogul Tartars, led by the celebrated Tamerlane. At his death the Holy Land was once more annexed to Egypt as a province; but in 1516, Selim the Ninth, emperor of the Othman Turks, carried his victorious arms from the Euphrates to the Libyan Desert, involving in one general conquest all the intervening states. More than three hundred years have that people exercised a dominion over the land of Judea, varied only by intervals of rebellion on the part of governors who wished to assert their independence, or by wars among the different pashas, who, in defiance of the supreme authority, have from time to time quarrelled about its spoils.
From the period at which the Crusaders were expelled from Syria down to the middle of the last century, we are chiefly indebted for our knowledge of the Holy Land to the pilgrims whom religious motives induced to brave all the perils and extortions to which Franks were exposed under the Turkish government. The faith of the Christians survived their arms at Jerusalem, and was found within the sacred walls long after every European soldier had disappeared. The Jacobite, Armenian, and Abyssinian believers were allowed to cling to those memorials of redemption which have at all times given so great an interest to the localities of Palestine; and occasionally a member of the Latin Church had the good fortune to enter the gates of the city in disguise, and was permitted to offer up his prayers at the side of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1432, when La Broquiere undertook his pilgrimage into the East, there were only two French monks in Jerusalem, who were held in the most cruel thraldom.
The increasing intercourse between the Turks at Constantinople and the governments of Europe gradually produced a more tolerant spirit among the former, and paved the way for a lasting accommodation in favour of the Christians in Palestine. We find, accordingly, that in the year 1507, when Baumgarten travelled in Syria, there was at Jerusalem a monastery of Franciscans, who possessed influence sufficient to secure his personal safety, and even to provide for his comfort under their own roof. At a somewhat later period, the Moslem rulers began to consider the reception of pilgrims as a regular source of revenue; selling their protection at a high price, and even creating dangers in order to render that protection indispensable. The Christians, meantime, rose by degrees from the state of depression and contumely into which they were sunk by the conquerors of the Grecian empire. They were allowed to nominate patriarchs for the due administration of ecclesiastical affairs, and to practise all the rites of their religion, provided they did not insult the established faith,—a condition of things which, with such changes as have been occasioned by foreign war or the temper of individual governors, has been perpetuated to the present day.
As the civil history of Palestine for three centuries is nothing more than a relation of the broils, the insurrections, the massacres, and changes of dynasty which have periodically shaken the Turkish empire in Europe as well as in Asia, we willingly pass over it, as we thereby only refrain from a mere recapitulation of names and dates which could not have the slightest interest for any class of readers. At the close of the eighteenth century, however, its affairs assumed a new importance. Napoleon Bonaparte, whose views of dominion were limited only by the bounds of the civilized world, imagined that, by the conquest of Egypt and Syria, he should open for himself a path into the remoter provinces of the Asiatic continent, and perhaps establish his power on either bank of the Ganges.
It was in the spring of 1799 that the French general, who had been informed of certain preparations against him in the pashalic of Acre, resolved to cross the desert which divides Egypt from Palestine at the head of ten thousand chosen men. El Arish soon fell into his hands, the garrison of which were permitted to retire on condition that they should not serve again during the war. Gaza likewise yielded without much opposition to the overwhelming force by which it was attacked. Jaffa set the first example of a vigorous resistance; the slaughter was tremendous; and Bonaparte, to intimidate other towns from showing a similar spirit, gave it up to plunder and the other excesses of an enraged soldiery. A more melancholy scene followed—the massacre of nearly four thousand prisoners who had laid down their arms. Napoleon alleged, that these were the very individuals who had given their parole at El Arish, and had violated their faith by appearing against him in the fortress which had just fallen. On this pretext he commanded them all to be put to death, and thereby brought a stain upon his reputation which no casuistry on the part of his admirers, and no considerations of expediency, military or political, will ever succeed in removing.
Acre, so frequently mentioned in the History of the Crusades, was again doomed to receive a fatal celebrity from a most sanguinary and protracted siege. Achmet Djezzar, the pasha of that division of Palestine which stretches from the borders of Egypt to the Gulf of Sidon, had thrown himself into this fortress with a considerable army, determined to defend it to the last extremity. After failing in an attempt to bribe the Mussulman chief, Bonaparte made preparations for the attack, with his usual skill and activity; resolving to carry the place by assault before the Turkish government could send certain supplies of food and ammunition, which he knew were expected by the besieged. But his design was frustrated by the presence of a British squadron under Sir Sidney Smith, who, in the first instance, captured a convoy of guns and stores forwarded from Egypt, and then employed them against him, by erecting batteries on shore. Notwithstanding these inauspicious circumstances, Napoleon opened his trenches on the 18th of March, in the firm conviction that the Turkish garrison could not long resist the fury of his onset and the skill of his engineers. "On that little town," said he, to one of his generals, as they were standing together on an eminence which still bears the name of Richard Coeur de Lion, "on that little town depends the fate of the East. Behold the key of Constantinople or of India!"
At the end of ten days a breach was effected, by which the French made their first attempt to reduce the towers of Acre. Their assault was conducted with so much firmness and spirit, that for a moment the garrison was overpowered, and the town seemed lost. The pasha, renowned for his personal courage, threw himself into the thickest body of the combatants, and at length, by strength of hand and the most heroic example, rallied his troops and drove the enemy from the walls. The loss of the French was great, and the disappointment of their leader extreme. Napoleon was deeply mortified when he saw his finest regiments pursued to their lines by English sailors and undisciplined Turks, who even proceeded to destroy their intrenchments.
Bourrienne relates, that during the assault of the 8th of May more than two hundred men penetrated into the city. Already the shout of victory was raised; but the breach, taken in flank by the Turks, could not be entered with sufficient promptitude, and the party was left without support. The streets were barricaded; the very women were running about throwing dust into the air, and exciting the inhabitants by cries and howling; all contributed to render unavailing this short occupation by a handful of men, who, finding themselves alone, regained the breach by a retrograde movement; but not before many had fallen.
The want of proper means for forming a siege, and perhaps the contempt which he entertained for barbarians, occasioned a great deficiency in the works raised before Acre. Bonaparte was not ignorant of the disadvantages under which his men laboured from the cause now assigned; and was principally for this reason that he trusted more to the bayonet than to the mortar or cannon. He repeated his assaults day after day, till the ditch was filled with dead and wounded soldiers. His grenadiers at length felt greater horror at walking over the bodies of their comrades than at encountering the tremendous discharges of large and small shot to which the latter had fallen victims.
On the 21st of May, after sixty days of ineffectual labor under a burning sun, Napoleon ordered a last assault on the obstinate garrison of Ptolemais, which had barred his path to the accomplishment of the most splendid conquests. This attempt was not less fruitless than those which had preceded it, and was attended with the loss of many brave warriors. A fleet was at hand to reinforce Djezzar with men and arms; the French, on the contrary, were perishing under the plague, which had already found its way into their ranks, and were, besides, constantly threatened by swarms of Arabs and Mamlouks, who had assembled in the neighbouring mountains. His failure in this effort, accordingly, dictated the necessity of a speedy retreat towards Egypt, where his affairs continued to enjoy some degree of prosperity, and in the magazines of which he might still find the means of restoring the health and vigour of his troops.
The siege of Acre, says the biographer of Bonaparte, cost nearly three thousand men in killed, and of such as died of the plague and their wounds. Had there been less precipitation in the attack, and had the advances been conducted according to the rules of art, the town, says he, could not have held out three days; and one assault such as that of the 8th of May would have sufficed. But he admits that it would have been wiser in their situation, destitute as they were of heavy artillery and provisions, while the place was plentifully supplied and in active communication with the English and Ottoman fleets, not to have undertaken the siege at all. In the bulletins, he adds, always so veracious, the lose of the French is estimated at five hundred killed and a thousand wounded; while that of the enemy is augmented to fifteen thousand. These documents are doubtless curious pieces for history,—certainly not because they are true. Bonaparte, however, attached the greatest importance to these relations, which were always drawn up or corrected by himself.
The reader may not be displeased to consider the motives which induced Napoleon to persevere so long in the siege of Acre. "I see that this paltry town has cost me many men, and occupies much time; but things have gone too far not to risk a last effort. If we succeed, it is to be hoped we shall find in that place the treasures of the pasha, and arms for three hundred thousand men. I will raise and arm the whole of Syria, which is already greatly exasperated by the cruelty of Djezzar, for whose fall you have seen the people supplicate Heaven at every assault. I advance upon Damascus and Aleppo; I recruit my army by marching into every country where discontent prevails; I announce to the people the abolition of slavery, and of the tyrannical government of the pashas; I arrive at Constantinople with armed messes; I overturn the dominion of the Mussulman; I found in the East a new and mighty empire which shall fix my position with posterity; and perhaps I return to Paris by Adrianople or Vienna, having annihilated the house of Austria."
Whatever accuracy there may be in these reminiscences, there is no doubt that Napoleon frequently remarked, in reference to Acre, "The fate of the East is in that place." Nor was this observation made at random; for had the French subdued Djezzar, and buried his army in the ruins of the fortress, the whole of Palestine and Syria would have submitted to their dominion. He expected, besides, a cordial reception from the Druses, those warlike and semi-barbarous tribes who inhabit the valleys of Libanus, and who, like all the other subjects of the Ottoman government, had felt the pressure of the pasha's tyranny. His eyes were likewise turned towards the Jews, who, in every commotion which affects Syria, are accustomed to look for the indication of that happy change destined, in the eye of their faith, to restore the kingdom to Israel in the latter days. It was not, indeed, till a somewhat later period that he openly extended his protection to the descendants of Abraham; but it is not improbable that the notion had occurred to him during his Eastern campaigns of employing them for the purpose of establishing an independent sovereignty in Palestine, devoted to his ulterior views in the countries beyond the Euphrates.
During the siege of Acre, the several detachments of the French army stationed in Galilee were attacked by a powerful Mussulman force, which had assembled in the adjoining mountains. Junot, who was induced to risk an engagement near Nazareth, would have been cut in pieces by the Mamlouk cavalry, had not Bonaparte hastened to his assistance We have already alluded to the masterly conduct of Kleber, who, at the head of a few hundred men, kept the field a whole day against an overwhelming mass of horsemen that attacked his party near Mount Tabor. On this occasion, too, the speedy aid of Napoleon secured a victory, and scattered the enemy's troops over the face of the desert. But he found, upon his return to the trenches, that the same men whose columns dissipated like smoke before his battalions on the plain were extremely formidable behind an armed wall, and that all the skill of his engineers and the bravery of his veterans were of no avail when opposed by the savage courage of Turks directed by European officers and supported by English seamen.
The sufferings which the French endured in their retreat across the desert were very great, and afforded constant exercise for the self-possession and equanimity of their leader. "A fearful journey," says one of their number, "was yet before us. Some of the wounded were carried in litters, and the rest on camels and mules. A devouring thirst, the total want of water, an excessive heat, a fatiguing march among scorching sand-hills, demoralized the men; a most cruel selfishness, the most unfeeling indifference, took place of every generous or humane sentiment. I have seen thrown from the litters officers with amputated limbs, whose conveyance had been ordered, and who had themselves given money as a recompense for the fatigue. I have beheld abandoned among the wheatfields soldiers who had lost their legs or arms, wounded men, and patients supposed to be affected with the plague. Our march was lighted up by torches kindled for the purpose of setting on fire towns, hamlets, and the rich crops with which the earth was covered. The whole country was in flames. It seemed as if we found a solace in this extent of mischief for our own reverses and sufferings. We were surrounded only by the dying, by plunderers, by incendiaries. Wretched beings at the point of death, thrown by the wayside, continued to call with feeble voice, 'I have not the plague, I am but wounded;' and, to convince those that passed, they might be seen tearing open their real wounds, or inflicting new ones. Nobody believed them. It was the interest of all not to believe. Comrades would say, 'He is done for now; his march is over;' then pass on, look to themselves, and feel satisfied. The sun, in all his splendour under that beautiful sky, was obscured by the smoke of continual conflagration. We had the sea on our right; on our left and behind us lay the desert which we had made; before were the sufferings and privations that awaited us."
Since the departure of the French no event has occurred to give any interest to the history of Palestine. The Mussulman instantly resumed his power, which for a time he appeared determined to exercise with a strong arm and with little forbearance towards the Franks, from the terror of whose might he had just escaped. But the ascendency of Europe, as a great assemblage of Christian states, checks the intolerance of the Turk, and imposes upon him the obligations of a more liberal policy. Hence we may confidently assert, that although the members of the Greek and Latin churches in Syria are severely taxed, they are not persecuted. They are compelled to pay heavily for the privilege of exercising the rights of their worship, and of enjoying that freedom of conscience which is the natural inheritance of every human being; but their property is held sacred, and their personal security is not endangered, provided they have the prudence to rest satisfied with a simple connivance or bare permission in things relating to their faith.
The actual state of the Holy Land may be known with sufficient accuracy from the topographical description which we have given in a former chapter. With regard, again, to the civil government of the country, it has been remarked that the pashas are so frequently changed, or so often at war with each other, that the jurisdiction of the magistrates in cities is so undefined, and the hereditary or assumed rights of the sheiks of particular districts are so various, that it is extremely difficult to discover any settled rule by which the administration is conducted. The whole Turkish empire, indeed, has the appearance of being so precariously balanced, that the slightest movement within or from without seems likely to overturn it. Everywhere is absolute power seen stretched beyond the limits of all apparent control, but finding, nevertheless, a counteracting principle in that extreme degree of acuteness to which the instinct of self-preservation is sharpened by the constant apprehension of injury. Hence springs that conflict between force and fraud, not always visible, but always operating, which characterizes society in all despotic countries.
In the minute subdivision of power, which in all cases partakes of the absolute nature of the supreme government, the traveller is often reminded of patriarchal times, when there were found judges, and even kings, exercising a separate dominion at the distance of a short journey from one another. As an instance of this, we may mention, that on the road from Jerusalem to Sannour, by way of Nablous, there are no fewer than three governors of cities, all of whom claim the honours of independent sovereigns; for, although they acknowledge a nominal superiority in the Pasha of Damascus, they exclude his jurisdiction in all cases where he does not enforce his authority at the head of his troops: The same affectation of independence descends to the sheiks of villages, who, aware of the precarious tenure by which their masters remain in office, are disposed to treat their orders with contempt. Like them, too, they turn to their personal advantage the power of imposition and extortion which belongs to every one who is clothed with official rank in Syria. They sell justice and protection; and in this market, as in all others, he who offers the best price is certain to obtain the largest share of the commodity.
This chapter would not be complete were we to omit all allusion to the Jews, the ancient inhabitants of Palestine. Their number, according to a statement lately published in Germany, amounts to between three and four millions, scattered over the face of the whole earth, but still maintaining the same laws which their ancestors received from their inspired legislator more than three thousand years ago. In Europe there are nearly two millions, enjoying different privileges according to the spirit of the several governments; in Asia, the estimate exceeds seven hundred thousand; in Africa, more than half a million; and in America, about ten thousand. It is supposed, however, on good grounds, that the Jewish population on both sides of Mount Taurus is considerably greater than is here given, and that their gross number does not fall much short of five millions.
In Palestine of late years they have greatly increased. It is said that not fewer than ten thousand inhabit Saphet and Jerusalem, and that in their worship they still sing those pathetic hymns which their manifold tribulations have inspired; bewailing, amid the ruins of their ancient capital, the fallen city and the desolate tribes. In Persia, one of them addressed a Christian missionary in these affecting words:—"I have travelled far; the Jews are everywhere princes in comparison with those in the land of Iran. Heavy is our captivity, heavy is our burden, heavy is our slavery; anxiously we wait for redemption."
History, says an eloquent writer, is the record of the past; it presumes not to raise the mysterious veil which the Almighty has spread over the future. The destinies of this wonderful people, as of all mankind, are in the hands of the all-wise Ruler of the universe; his decrees will certainly be accomplished; his truth, his goodness, and his wisdom will be clearly vindicated. This, however, we may venture to assert, that true religion will advance with the dissemination of sound and useful knowledge. The more enlightened the Jew becomes, the more incredible will it appear to him that the gracious Father of the whole human race intended an exclusive faith, a creed confined to one family, to be permanent; and the more evident also will it appear to him, that a religion which embraces within the sphere of its benevolence all the kindreds and languages of the earth is alone adapted to an improved and civilized age.
We presume not to expound the signs of the times, nor to see farther than we are necessarily led by the course of events; but it is impossible not to be struck with the aspect of that grandest of all moral phenomena which is suspended upon the history and actual condition of the sons of Jacob. At this moment they are nearly as numerous as when David swayed the sceptre of the Twelve Tribes; their expectations are the same, their longings are the same; and on whatever part of the earth's surface they have their abode, their eyes and their faith are all pointed in the same direction—to the land of their fathers and the holy city where they worshipped. Though rejected by God and persecuted by man, they have not once, during eighteen hundred long years, ceased to repose confidence in the promises made by Jehovah to the founders of their nation; and although the heart has often been sick and the spirit faint, they have never relinquished the hope of that bright reversion in the latter days which is once more to establish the Lord's house on the top of the mountains, and to make Jerusalem the glory of the whole world.