Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

world to come. Devotion, passion, prejudice and habit, all contributed to the same common end, and the com. bination of so many causes produced that wonderful emigration which induced the daughter of Alexis Comnenus, the emperor of Constantinople, to say, that “Europe loosened from its foundations, and impelled by its moving principle, seemed in one united body to precipitate itself upon Asia."

The number of adventurers soon became so great, that their more experienced leaders were apprehensive the greatness of the armament would defeat its own purpose. They therefore wisely permitted an undisciplined multitude, computed at three hundred thousand men, to go before them, under the command of Peter the Hermit, Walter the Moneyless, and other wild fanatics.

Peter, at the head of his army, with sandals on his feet and a rope about his waist, marched through Hungary and Bulgaria, towards Constantinople. A German priest, of the name of Godescaldus, followed by a numerous banditti, took the same rout; and trusting to heaven for a miraculous supply of all their wants, they made no provision for subsistence on their march. They were not long, however, in finding themselves reduced to the necessity of obtaining by plunder what they presumptuously expected from miracles. The Jews were the first victims of their plunder. Considering themselves as enlisted in the service of Christ, they concluded that they were fully warranted to take vengeance on his murderers, and they, therefore, put to the sword without mercy such as refused to be baptized, seizing their property without the smallest regard to the rights of justice. In Bararia alone, twelve thousand Jews were massacred, and many thousands more in the other provinces of Germany. But Jews were not to be found everywhere: these pious robbers, having tasted the sweets of plunder, and being

SECT. Iv.] Engagement of the Crusades with Soliman. 435 subject to no military regulations, began of course to pillage without distinction, till the inhabitants of the countries through which they passed rose in defence of themselves and families, and nearly destroyed them all. Peter, however, with the remnant of his army, consisting of about twenty thousand starving wretches, at length reached Constantinople, where he was reinforced by a multitude of the rabble from Germany and Italy, who by pillaging the churches, and practising the greatest disorders, had contrived so far to follow their leader.

Alexis COMNENUS, the Greek emperor, was astonished to see his dominions deluged with an inundation of licentious barbarians, strangers alike to order and discipline; and especially on being told of the multitudes that were following under different leaders. Thus circumstanced, however, he very wisely considered that the most prudent step he could take, was to get rid of such troublesome guests as soon as possible, by furnishing them with vessels to transport themselves to the other side of the Bosphorus; and Peter, the general of the Crusade, soon found himself in the plains of Asia, at the head of a Christian army, ready to give battle to the Infidels. Their first engagement was with Soliman, Sultan of Nice, who fell upon the disorderly croud, and slaughtered them almost without resistance. Walter the Moneyless, and many other leaders of equal celebrity, were slain; but Peter the Hermit found his way back to Constantinople, where he was regarded as a maniac who had enlisted a multitude of infatuated people to follow him.

Asia was then divided into a number of petty states, comprehended under the great ones. The princes of the lesser states paid homage to the caliphs, though they were in effect their masters : and the sultans, who were very numerous, still further enfeebled the Mahometan empire by continual wars with each other, the certain consequence of divided sway. The crusaders, therefore, who, when mustered on the banks of the Bosphorus, amounted to the incredible number of one hundred thousand horsemen and six hundred thousand foot, were sufficient to have conquered all Asia, had they been properly disciplined, united under one head, or commanded by leaders who acted in concert; but they were conducted by men of the most independent, intractable spirits, unacquainted with discipline, and enemies to civil and military subordination. Their zeal, however, their courage, and their irresistible force, still carried them forward, and advanced them to the object of their expedition in defiance of every obstacle. After an obstinate seige, they took Nice, the seat of old Soliman, Sultan of Syria; they also made themselves masters of Antioch, the seat of another Sultan, and entirely broke the strength of the Turks, who had for a long time tyrannised over the Arabs.

On the fall of the Turkish power, the Caliph of Egypt, whose alliance the crusaders had hitherto, courted, recovered the authority of the caliphs of Jerusalem. He therefore sent ambassadors to the leaders of the Crusades, informing them, that if they would throw away their arms they might now perform without molestation or inconvenience their religious vows in the holy city, and that all pilgrims, who should from that time visit the holy sepulchre, might expect the same good treatment which they had ever received from their predecessors. His offer was, however, rejected : he was required to yield up the city to the Christians; and on his refusal, Jerusalem was beseiged, the possession of which was the great object of their armament, and the consummation of their labours.

The army of the Crusaders was now greatly reduced in SECT. 17.) Cruelties at the Conquest of Jerusalem.

437

Rumber, partly by disasters, and partly by the detachments they had been obliged to make in order to keep possession of the places they had conquered, insomuch that, according to the testimony of historians, they scarcely exceeded twenty thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse, while the garrison of Jerusalem consisted of forty thousand men. Yet notwithstanding this diminution of force, after a seige of five weeks, they took the city by assault, and put the garrison and inhabitants to the sword without distinction. The brave were not protected by arms, nor the timid by submission ; neither age nor sex were spared ; infants perished by the same sword that pierced the supplicating mother. The streets of Jerusalem were covered with heaps of slain; and the shrieks of agony or despair resounded from every house, when these triumphant warriors, glutted with slaughter, threw aside their arms, still streaming with blood, and advanced, with naked feet and bended knees, to the sepulchre of the Prince of Peace! sung anthems to that Redeemer who had purchased their salvation by his death, and while deaf to the cries of distress from their fellow-creatures, dissolved in tears for the sufferings of the Messiah! So inconsistent is human nature with itself; and so easily does the most degrading superstition associate both with the most heroic courage and with the fiercest barbarity.

This important event, the conquest of Jerusalem, was atchieved in 1099, the last year of the eleventh century; but towards the middle of the twelfth, the power of the crusaders began to decline, and was growing weaker every day in those countries which they had conquered. The small kingdom of Edessa, had been retaken by the Turks, and Jerusalem itself was threatened. Europe was solicited for a new armament; and, as the French had taken the lead in the former armament, they were on the present occasion honoured with the first application for a renewal. The papal chair was at that time filled by Eugenius III, to whom the deputies of the East had been sent;

and he wisely pitched upon the celebrated Bernard, as the instrument of this pious warfare. A more suitable character could scarcely have been found. Bernard was learned for the times in which he lived; he was naturally eloquent, austere in his life, irreproachable in morals, enthusiastically zealous, and inflexible in his purpose. He had long held the reputation of a saint, was regarded as an oracle, and revered as a prophet; no wonder then that he found means to persuade the young king of France, Lewis VII. to engage in this fresh Crusade. The French monarch, who had but recently ascended the throne, found himself at the commencement of his reign engaged in one of those civil wars which the feudal governments rendered almost unavoidable; and having in an expedition into Champagne, made himself master of Vitry, he caused the church to be set on fire, by which means thirteen hundred persons, who had taken refuge in it, all perished in the flames--a piece of cruelty which, on, reflection, sunk deep into the king's mind, and filled him with dreadful remorse. Bernard availed himself of this penitentiary state, and persuaded the king of France, that to expiate his guilt, it was his indispensable duty to make an expedition to the Holy Land.

At Vezelar, a city in the province of Burgundy, a scaffold was erected in the market place, on which Bernard appeared by the side of Lewis VII. The saint first harangued the multitude, and was then seconded by the king, after receiving the cross from his hands. The queen, who was present, also took the cross; and the example of the royal pair was followed by all the company, among whom were many of the nobility. In vain did Suger, who was prime minister to the king, labour to dissuade

« AnteriorContinuar »