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> Jonathan Riley Smith on "Kingdom of Heaven", the Crusades movie
Bar-Aram
post Jun 28 2005, 12:47 AM
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,79...97603_1,00.html


Truth is the first victim
By Jonathan Riley-Smith

Kingdom of Heaven has got it dramatically wrong, according to a professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge


PUBLIC perceptions of crusading are still based on early 19th-century attitudes, epitomised by the novelist Sir Walter Scott and the historian Joseph-François Michaud. Scott’s The Talisman (1825), painted a picture of unsophisticated and fanatical crusaders encountering civilised and modern-minded Muslims, whose most attractive representative was the sultan, Saladin. On the other hand, Michaud's Histoire (1812-22), portrayed the crusaders as imperialistic heroes whose achievements heralded the rebirth of the West.

These attitudes passed into the Muslim world after the Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II, under pressure from Russia, Austria, Britain and France, publicised in the 1890s his conviction that the West had re-embarked on the crusades. His argument was picked up by Arab nationalism, and in the past 30 years by a pan-Islamist revival which has globalised the nationalist conception of crusading. For jihadis like Osama bin Laden “crusaderism”, the ambition of the old Christian enemy to destroy the faithful, has been manipulating even surrogate aggression from Zionists and Marxists.

The actuality was different. If crusades to the Levant were imperialistic, they were expressing a form of imperialism very different from the 19th-century variety, because it was governed by the need to regain or hold the ruined fragments of a cave in the middle of Jerusalem. For most crusaders there was no prospect of material gain, only great expenditure on enterprises that were arduous and dangerous. Christian holy war is abhorrent to us, but we have to accept that fact that our ancestors were attracted by a vibrant ideology, based on a coherent theology which to some extent constrained it. Crusades cannot be defined solely in terms of inter-faith relations as many of them were waged against opponents who were not Muslim, but, what- ever the theatre of war, an expedition could not be launched to spread Christianity or Christian rule, but had to be a defensive reaction to an injury perpetrated by another.

Some of the arguments used by the propagandists look specious to us, but the fact remains that they had to make a good case, because crusading depended on the recruitment of volunteers and the public had to be convinced that a particular cause was worth while. No one could have got away with a justification as thin as that presented for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The makers of the Kingdom of Heaven follow a modified version of the constructs of Scott and Michaud. A cruel, avaricious and cowardly Christian clergy preaches hatred against the Muslims and most of the crusaders and settlers are equally stupid and fanatical. At the same time the Holy Land is portrayed as a kind of early America, a New World welcoming enterprising immigrants from an impoverished and repressive Europe. And in the midst of all the bigotry a brotherhood of liberal-minded men has vowed to create an environment in which all religions will co-exist in harmony and is in touch with Saladin, who shares its aim of peace.

This is invention. There was no brotherhood of free thinkers. There did not need to be, because within a decade or two of their occupation of Palestine the crusaders had adopted a policy of toleration, based on the Muslim treatment of subject Christians and Jews. Muslim and Jewish shrines, mosques and synagogues were open. Muslims worshipped even in Christian shrines and churches and there was at least one mosque-church. Of course the toleration was necessary if the natives were to be kept quiet, but it is a different reality from that portrayed in the film.

No one can object to romantic fiction, but the film-makers have boasted that “authenticity coloured every facet of the production”. If so, they have not had good advice; not even the city of Jerusalem is sacrosanct, with a non-existent mountain, supposedly denoting Calvary, rising incongruously out of the town. Worse, where they could have created fictional characters they have opted for real historical personalities whom they have distorted ruthlessly. The characters and careers of the hero, his lover, her husband, the king and Saladin have been re-manufactured to suit the needs of the script.

Kingdom of Heaven will feed the preconceptions of Arab nationalists and Islamists. The words and actions of the liberal brotherhood and the picture of Palestine as a Western frontier will confirm for the nationalists that medieval crusading was fundamentally about colonialism. On the other hand the fanaticism of most of the Christians in the film and their hatred of Islam is what the Islamists want to believe. At a time of inter-faith tension, nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths.


HACKING THROUGH THE CRUSADER FACT AND FICTION

The Kingdom of Jerusalem

Fact: by the year 1186, when Kingdom of Heaven takes place, the crusaders had been in control of Jerusalem since 1099.

Fiction: The film opens with Muslims and crusaders coexisting in a fragile peace, but skirmishes were continuing in the region.


Balian of Ibelin
(Orlando Bloom)

Fact: Balian served King Baldwin IV and helped to organise the city’s defence against Saladin.

Fiction: Balian is first depicted as a humble artisan, but he was an established lord. There is no evidence that he fell in love with Sibylla, played by Eva Green.


Godfrey of Ibelin
(Liam Neeson)

Fact: Many French noblemen travelled to the Holy Land to make their fortune during the crusades.

Fiction: The man who is supposed to be Balian’s real father never actually existed.


King Baldwin IV
(Edward Norton)

Fact: The ailing King of Jerusalem did indeed suffer from leprosy from childhood.

Fiction: Not only did Baldwin not cover his face in public, but he died a year before the events of the film take place.


Saladin
(Ghassan Massoud)

Fact: The Muslim leader was generous to the enemies he respected, including Richard I.

Fiction: That didn’t stop him hacking off the heads of his Christian foes when it suited.
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Famder
post Jun 29 2005, 11:24 PM
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I fail to see how this man can claim the crusades weren't about colonialism when the crusaders established a Christian kingdom in a formerly Muslim land. He also doesn't seem to cite his sources very well so I do not know where he is drawing these "facts" from.

I'm avoiding talking about the movie because I never saw it so I'm merely addressing his claims about the actual Crusades.
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Bar-Aram
post Jun 30 2005, 12:12 AM
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QUOTE (Famder @ Jun 30 2005, 01:24 AM)
I fail to see how this man can claim the crusades weren't about colonialism when the crusaders established a Christian kingdom in a formerly Muslim land.  He also doesn't seem to cite his sources very well so I do not know where he is drawing these "facts" from.

I'm avoiding talking about the movie because I never saw it so I'm merely addressing his claims about the actual Crusades.
*


1. Actually, the area that the Crusaders took, even though it was under the rule of Arab and Turkish Muslims (although in the Mount Lebanon and some other minor areas they really didn't have that much control) and the big towns had more Muslims than Christians living in them, the population in general was actually still mainly non-Muslim (mostly Christian). So, whether it should be called "Muslim land" or not is up for debate.

2. Only a few hundred years earlier the land had been under Christian rule with a Christian population and a minority of Jews.

3. I quote from his article: "If crusades to the Levant were imperialistic, they were expressing a form of imperialism very different from the 19th-century variety, because it was governed by the need to regain or hold the ruined fragments of a cave in the middle of Jerusalem."

4. The person is an expert in this area, but this is not a scholarly article on the Crusades. It's a simple opinion piece on the movie. Hence why there are no sources cited.

This post has been edited by Bar-Aram: Jun 30 2005, 12:13 AM
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Famder
post Jun 30 2005, 02:20 AM
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QUOTE
1. Actually, the area that the Crusaders took, even though it was under the rule of Arab and Turkish Muslims (although in the Mount Lebanon and some other minor areas they really didn't have that much control) and the big towns had more Muslims than Christians living in them, the population in general was actually still mainly non-Muslim (mostly Christian). So, whether it should be called "Muslim land" or not is up for debate.

Same could be said for Europe really with the exception that the population was primarily Christian and their rulers were also Christian. Most of the world was very decentralized and those who claimed control had little control. I was merely going by who had sovereign claim over it at the time.

QUOTE
2. Only a few hundred years earlier the land had been under Christian rule with a Christian population and a minority of Jews.

A few hundred years is still quite substantial. The US is only a few hundred years old does that mean the British are allowed to re-establish rule over the US?

QUOTE
3. I quote from his article: "If crusades to the Levant were imperialistic, they were expressing a form of imperialism very different from the 19th-century variety, because it was governed by the need to regain or hold the ruined fragments of a cave in the middle of Jerusalem."

If all they wanted was the cave that doesn't explain why they took so much extra land once they got it. The amount of land they conquered was not all strategic defense points.

QUOTE
4. The person is an expert in this area, but this is not a scholarly article on the Crusades. It's a simple opinion piece on the movie. Hence why there are no sources cited.

Link wasn't working for me so I couldn't check where it came from. Thanks for the clarification.
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Bar-Aram
post Jun 30 2005, 01:10 PM
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QUOTE (Famder @ Jun 30 2005, 04:20 AM)
Same could be said for Europe really with the exception that the population was primarily Christian and their rulers were also Christian.  Most of the world was very decentralized and those who claimed control had little control.  I was merely going by who had sovereign claim over it at the time.


Let me clarify, because I think you misunderstood.

Western Europe - Mainly Christian population under Christian rulers.

"The Holy Land" - Mixed population with a non-Muslim (mainly Christian) majority under Muslim Arab/Turkish rule.


It's difficult for people nowadays to understand this, but before the Arab Invasion that area was almost completely Christian (but for a minority of Jews), and at the time of the Crusades only the larger towns had more Muslims than non-Muslims. The countryside (where most people lived before the last 200 years of history) was still mainly non-Muslim. Even as late as 70 years ago, Lebanon still had a Christian majority as did parts of Syria on the Lebanese border and towns like Betlehem and East Jerusalem in 'Palestine'.


QUOTE
A few hundred years is still quite substantial.  The US is only a few hundred years old does that mean the British are allowed to re-establish rule over the US?


However, the US population are not Brittish (at all, or any more depending). A better example (though still not right) would be if France decided to invade Quebec.


QUOTE
If all they wanted was the cave that doesn't explain why they took so much extra land once they got it.  The amount of land they conquered was not all strategic defense points.


First of all, the "Holy Land" isn't just Jerusalem or historical Israel. The term the "Holy Land" refered to pretty much the entire area taken by the Crusaders. There were important sites throughout (although Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchere, that the Fatimids had destroyed some 80 years before the First Crusade, were definitely the ultimate price).

Secondly, Antioch was taken with the help of the Christian portion of its inhabitants on the inside. It was so well fortified actually, that it probably never would have fallen otherwise. The men of the First Crusade almost felt like turning back at the sight of its walls (and without taking Antioch they never would have been able to even reach Jerusalem). Clearly the Christians there wanted the Crusaders. In Jerusalem, the local Christians were driven out as soon as the commander heard the Crusader army was heading for the city since he feared they might do the same. In the Mount Lebanon most of the Maronite Christians allied with the Crusaders, turned catholic (with a special status allowing them to keep their old books and traditions to a certain degree), and fought in their armies. There is actually a minority of Maronites in Cyprus today, partly due to the fact that Maronite soldiers were sent there to guard the island and they remained there and settled. And in Edessa (southeastern Turkey today) the Armenian ruler there allied with the Crusaders as well. Otherwise, the Crusaders would probably never have pushed that far east.

I'm not saying that there weren't any motives other than religious ones, or that colonialism wasn't one of them for some. What I'm saying is that there were MANY motives, and religious ideology was one and colonialism was a minor one. Only the French sent regular people over there to settle, anyway. The rest only sent soldiers.


QUOTE
Link wasn't working for me so I couldn't check where it came from.  Thanks for the clarification.
*


The link works fine for me. Maybe their site was temporarily down. Anyway. It's the Times Online.

This post has been edited by Bar-Aram: Jun 30 2005, 10:15 PM
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Famder
post Jul 1 2005, 02:22 AM
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QUOTE
Let me clarify, because I think you misunderstood.

Western Europe - Mainly Christian population under Christian rulers.

"The Holy Land" - Mixed population with a non-Muslim (mainly Christian) majority under Muslim Arab/Turkish rule.

I'm confused as to what your point was with this. I understand what you're saying in regards to that now, just don't remember what your point was with it.

QUOTE
It's difficult for people nowadays to understand this, but before the Arab Invasion that area was almost completely Christian (but for a minority of Jews), and at the time of the Crusades only the larger towns had more Muslims than non-Muslims. The countryside (where most people lived before the last 200 years of history) was still mainly non-Muslim. Even as late as 70 years ago, Lebanon still had a Christian majority as did parts of Syria on the Lebanese border and towns like Betlehem and East Jerusalem in 'Palestine'

Yes, but this is no less legitimate of rulership than Rome was when they first conquered this land.

QUOTE
However, the US population are not Brittish (at all, or any more depending). A better example (though still not right) would be if France decided to invade Quebec.

You're telling me the majority of the US population isn't Anglo, Scottish or Irish? I think you're mistaken in that and the majority of our culture is English in heritage. The country speaks English, is primarily protestant, has a high Northern European heritage and was at one point British. France trying to retake Quebec is not different than England taking back their 13 original colonies.
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Lord Bitememan
post Jul 1 2005, 02:45 AM
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Okay, some misunderstandings and fields that deserve to be expanded upon:

Was the Crusade an "imperial" venture?

Yes and no. If you mean imperial in the sense that the participants involved meant to go abroad and subjugate territory to incoporate it into a greater empire, no, it was not imperial. The Crusades were imperial in the sense that they were an attempt by the church to turn Europe into an ecclesiastical empire, Christendom. To understand this better we have to take a look at the power relations at this time between the church and the states, and the states and themselves.

First, as it regards the states:

It is tempting to think of Europe at the time of the Crusades in a very modern context, with England meaning a unified state called England, and France meaning a unified state called France, etc. These are gross misunderstandings of the times. A better way to think of Europe at this time is to think of the pre-Taliban Afghanistan of the 1980s and early 1990s. The monarchs of medieval Europe had to reward their subordinates with land in order to keep loyal arms at their sides. These subjects, in turn, had to reward their lesser subjects, and so on, and so forth, till you were lookings at towns and provinces under the control of local warlords all vying with one another for dominance. Monarchs of this time had no monopoly over the use of force in their own states, and in reality Europe as a whole was a collection of failed states in constant internal conflict. This, of course, presents a problem for the church, and an opportunity. The church, of course, preaches against killing and violence between Christians against other Christians. Furthermore, while the monarchs of this time simply couldn't penetrate the totality of their own kingdoms with some feature of presense, the church had. The church was the one universal institution in Europe at the time. This presented the church not just with a moral problem of Christians killing Christians, but with the capability to step up to the plate and take the lead.

Second, with regard to the Church:

The church at this time was pressing a claim against the secular authority. The church viewed itself as the supreme ecclesiastical and supreme secular authority of Europe. However, this claim was, of course, rejected by secular leaders. This, of course, led to tensions between the two that would continue to play out till long after the crusades. However, another facet of church relations at the time was the ongoing plague of scandals that racked the church. The church had a big problem with the sale of ecclesiastical offices and the frequent claims made against those offices by secular authorities. The church was seeming more and more like a prostituted organization that had lost its way.


These conditions, scandal in the church and a failure of the state, led the church at the time to call for a spiritual renewal. Obviously a scandal rocked church and a failed state public were eager for such a call. The call for universal spiritual renewal centered around a great pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jerusalem under previous muslim authorities had permitted Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, of course with certain taxes and duties and such, but it was not forbidden. However, a changeover in authority over the lands led a more unscrupulous muslim leader of the area to bar pilgrims. This was known in Rome, and the church had provisions for what was called an "armed pilgrimage." An armed pilgrimage was a journey to a holy site taken in armed escourt where conditions were deemed too dangerous for unarmed worship. As with tradition at the time, anyone who made the journey or was killed on the journey was granted plenary indulgance and given a straight ticket to heaven with all sins forgiven. This was, of course, wildly popular among the armed classes of Europe who were frought with sin and eager to seek remission. So, the call was issued for a great armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a means of spiritual renewal for both the church and the laity. As popularity grew, the church extended the promises of indulgence to the families of those who left, only further massing the numbers.

The idea of the church was to unite Europe through a renewal of spiritual purpose, and to harness the warring classes into a means by which their skill could be applied in a Christian fashion. In a sense, the church enjoyed a moment of nominal success. The marching orders were coming out of Rome, and all the states of Christendom were listening. The armies, veteran through perpetual warfare against each other, fell upon a rather unsuspecting Islamic caliphate and swept them clear. Christian kingdoms were established to forever protect the pilgrimage routes to and from Jerusalem. The defense of these areas was maintained by the church, but through the contributions of soldiers from Europe. Unfortunately the plan backfired. Rather than unite Europe under the church, the crusades served to strengthen the individual states of Europe, forever dooming the prospect of a secular authority under the control of the Christian ecclesiastical authority. When the crusader kingdoms fell it was a devastating blow for the church, but the secular rulers simply found a way to abuse crusading to consolidate their hold in Europe (France, for example, was able to get a crusade launch against the Albagencians, seizing important territory in southern France for the French monarch).

So, the author is quite correct is stipulating that this was not an excercise in traditional imperialism. That sort of imperialism takes a consolidated state with tangible interests to satisfy. The crusades were, at best, an excercise in medieval nation-building.
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Bar-Aram
post Jul 1 2005, 08:14 AM
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QUOTE (Famder @ Jul 1 2005, 04:22 AM)
I'm confused as to what your point was with this.  I understand what you're saying in regards to that now, just don't remember what your point was with it.


My point is that if the population is at least 50% (probably more) non-Muslim then it's not "Muslim land". Lebanon today is down below 50% Christian and I still wouldn't call it a Muslim country.


QUOTE
Yes, but this is no less legitimate of rulership than Rome was when they first conquered this land.


And it wasn't "Roman land" either.


QUOTE
You're telling me the majority of the US population isn't Anglo, Scottish or Irish?  I think you're mistaken in that and the majority of our culture is English in heritage.


Yes, you are all those things (and often in a very mixed way of 50% Irish, 25 % German, 10% Italian, etc.), but you're generally American first.

Not to mention, you are not treating those with Brittish origin as second class citizen, nor have you destroyed the most important holy place in the world for Britts and are preventing their pilgrims from reaching it, and you are definitely not waging war against Canada who has requested support from Brittain.

So, it's a bad example.


QUOTE
The country speaks English, is primarily protestant, has a high Northern European heritage and was at one point British.  France trying to retake Quebec is not different than England taking back their 13 original colonies.
*


France taking back Quebec is slightly different because the people there have a strong affinity towards France compared to what they have towards Canada and have, in the past, discussed leaving Canada and being independent.
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Lord Bitememan
post Jul 1 2005, 08:25 AM
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Okay, better example in this matter (America is an example of people of a descent breaking away, Quebec is a bit more close to the target, but still misses the mark because it was colonial in nature, not ancestral), think Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland was originally Irish, and still has a significant Irish population with ties to Ireland. England comes over a few hundred years ago, conquers Ireland, and transplants loads of colonists into the area. The Irish still, today, consider Northern Ireland Irish, as do the Catholic residents of this area, and view the English claim as artificial even though we're dealing with several hundred years of formal ownership. That's really an applicable comparison to the seizure of a Christian area with a significant Christian population over which the claim is still imperial (the muslim conquerors were every bit the imperial power in the area as well) and not native or territorial.
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