East Meets West: Crusades and Mongol Invasions
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University
of Wisconsin - Green Bay
First - time Visitors: Please visit Site Map and Disclaimer
"Back" to return here.
East Meets West I - The Crusades
- European Expansionism
- Conversion of Vikings and Magyars removes pressure on Europe
- Agricultural advances increase food supply
- Battle of Hastings, 1066
- Capture of Toledo from Moslems, 1087
- Capture of Sicily from Moslems, 1091
- Roman-Byzantine Rivalry
- Great Schism, 1064
- Cluniac (Benedictine) Reform causes church in West to be more attentive to business and provides impetus to attempts to reassert control
- Events in Moslem World
Battle of Manzikert, 1071. Byzantines lose Anatolia to Turks. Loss foreshadows eventual end of Byzantine Empire. Turks disrupt pilgrim
Call for a Crusade
- Urban II calls for Crusade, 1095
- Drive Turks from Anatolia
- Capture Holy Land
- Provide occasion for healing Great Schism on Rome's terms (by obligating the Byzantines)
Major Events of Crusades
- I Crusade 1097-1098 achieves all major objectives in Holy Land
- Area not strategic to Moslems, could have been held
indefinitely with a little skill.
- Initial gains lost through diplomatic bungling.
- II Crusade, 1147-1148
- III Crusade, 1189-1191
Well-known in literature. Involved Richard I of England, Phillip II of
France, Frederick I of Holy Roman Empire, Saladin on Moslem side.
- IV Crusade, 1199-1204
- Western-Greek relations always strained, mutual contempt.
- Crusaders sack Constantinople, 1204
- Chance to heal Great Schism utterly lost.
- In 1453, when attacked by Turks, Byzantines preferred surrender to asking Rome for aid.
- V, VI, VII, VIII Crusades
Crusades died out
- Lack of interest, rising European prosperity
- Repeated military defeats
- Discredited by "crusades" against Christians (e.g., Albigensians)
Effects of Crusades
- Fatal weakening of Byzantine Empire
- Vast increase in cultural horizons for many Europeans.
- Stimulated Mediterranean trade.
- Need to transfer large sums of money for troops and supplies led to development of banking techniques.
- Rise of heraldic emblems and coats of arms.
- Knowledge introduced to Europe
- Heavy stone masonry, construction of castles and stone churches.
- Siege technology, tunneling, sapping.
- Moslem minarets adopted as church spires
- Weakening of nobility, rise of merchant classes
- Romantic and imaginative literature.
- Enrichment was primarily from East to West--Europe had little to give in return.
East Meets West II - The Mongols
Rise of Mongol Power
- Temuchin's rise
- Born ca. 1162, d. 1227
- After long period of tribal conflict and intrigue, became Kahn of
- Khans and given name Genghis Khan, 1206.
- Conquest of North (Kin) China 1211-1214
- War with Persia 1218-1223
- War started after Persians put Mongol emissaries to death.
- War of annihilation on both sides.
- Mongol detachment sent to pursue Shah across his own empire.
- Following conquest of Persia, Mongol troop circled Caspian.
- Rumors of Mongol attack on Moslems inspires legend among Crusaders of
a great Christian King of the East (Prester John).
Mongol Battle Tactics
- Constant practice in riding, archery.
- Travelled very light.
- Remarkable ability to coordinate armies separated by great distances.
- Mobility unheard of by armies of the time--up to 100 miles/day.
- Mongol combination of mobility and communication probably not equalled again until W.W. II.
- Extremely ruthless in battle.
- Extraordinary military discipline.
- Extraordinary endurance.
- Practical, readily assimilated advanced siege technology.
Rule in conquered territories
- Ruthless annihilation of resistance (terror tactics).
- General benevolence when no resistance.
- Cities generally left under native governors.
- Religious tolerance important in consolidating rule, gain support
of minorities oppressed by Moslems.
- Administration commonly more benign than pre-Mongol government.
What drove this remarkable explosion?
- Raiding and clan warfare an integral part of nomad life.
- Genghis Khan's value statement: "The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him."
(Although this statement is widely quoted, I have not yet found its original
source. It may be apocryphal; however, a brief scan of the literature on
criminology will show that many people practice very similar values.) Remark has significance far beyond Mongol history. We often suppose
war or crime could be eliminated through social reform and forget (or
deny) that some people enjoy subjugating others.
Positive qualities of Mongols
- Discipline, obedience to own laws
- Sense of honor and loyalty, respect for these qualities in others, even
- High status of women
- These qualities attested even by European observers who generally detested the Mongols
- 1236-42 invasion of Russia and East Europe
- Invasion of Hungary and Poland 1241
Poised to push west when campaign canceled due to death of Khan--one of least-known turning points in history
- 1255 invasion of Syria, Palestine
- 1267-1279 final conquest of China
- 1279-81 attempts to invade Japan
Both attempts wrecked by typhoons ("Kamikaze" = "divine wind")
- Ca. 1250 Mongol empire splits into 3 semi-independent realms: China,
and Mongolia, Persia and Russia.
- Ayn Jalut 1259. Mongol conquest of Islam thwarted when Persian realm (by then Moslem) sides with Egypt against Russian Mongol realm. Battle
probably saved Islam.
There are heroes in history
- Captured during conquest of Peking, 1213
- Genghis Kahn, impressed by his loyalty to defeated Emperor, made him an adviser
- Dissuaded Genghis Khan from invading India, 1218
- Dissuaded Genghis' successor from massacres in China. "If we reckon the importance of a statesman by the number of human lives he saves from destruction, Ye-Leiu Chu-Tsai was certainly one of the greatest statesmen the world has ever known."
- After his death, ca. 1240, he was accused of embezzlement. A search of his effects showed that in years in the center of Mongol power, he had amassed no personal wealth.
- Moral dilemmas of a good man in the service of a brutal conqueror.
John of Plano Carpini.
- Selected as papal envoy to Mongols after invasion of 1241-42 because he was familiar with trade routes to Russia.
- Travelled to Kiev, thence to Mongol camp on Volga, 1245.
- Despite being 60, fat, and in poor health, travelled to Mongolia with Mongols in five months--5000 miles through territory totally unknown to Europeans.
- Completed mission successfully, was respected by Mongols. His
report was accurate, detailed, correctly diagnosed Mongol military threat. One could hardly ask more of an agent.
- Carpini stands in stark contrast to another papal envoy, Ezzelino,
whose arrogance made his mission a complete failure.
Effects of Mongol Conquest
- Unification and pacification of vast area.
- Tremendous increase in Europe-Asia contact--effects can scarcely be
- Effects of Marco Polo's book.
- Between 1300 and 1350, 9 European embassies to Mongols, 12 counter-
embassies. Mongol ambassadors came to Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Valencia, London.
- By early 1300's, Catholic bishops in China.
- Guidebooks appears (before movable type!) describing trade routes to China.
Rapid diffusion of goods and technology: printing, compass, gunpowder.
End of Mongol Realm
- Mongol rule weakens in China, collapses in 1368.
- Ming Dynasty expels foreigners.
- Russian expansion across Siberia (1600's) may have been facilitated--
Czar seen as rightful successor to Mongol rulers of Russia.
Return to Outline Index
Return to Professor Dutch's Home Page
Created 28 Dec 1996; Last Update
14 December 2009
Not an official UW Green Bay site