Delenda Est Carthago

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

12.8.06

Totally random history!

It's been a while since I did some totally random history, and today I dragged out my copy of Christian Society and the Crusades 1198-1229, edited by Edward Peters, and opened to a random page. I happened to land on Chapter 24 of "The Capture of Damietta" by Oliver of Paderborn, which occurred during the Fifth Crusade of 1217-1222. The Fifth Crusade was an ill-fated expedition that got sidetracked to Egypt by various factions of Christians already living in the Holy Land, who were more concerned with their own political intrigue than regaining Jerusalem, which had been taken by Saladin in 1187 (which is seen in Ridley Scott's movie Kingdom of Heaven from last year). While the Christians were bogged down in the Nile delta in 1219, Oliver heard news from Jerusalem.

In the year of grace 1219, Jerusalem, the queen of cities, which seemed impregnably fortified, was destroyed within and without by Coradin, son of Saphadin. Its walls and towers were reduced to heaps of stones except for the temple of the Lord and the tower of David. The Saracens took counsel about destroying the glorious sepulchre, and they threatened this through letters which they sent across to the citizens of Damietta for their own consolation; but no one presumed to set his hand to this act of boldness because of reverence for the place. For as they had written in the Koran, the book of their law, they believe that Jesus Christ Our Lord was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary and they protest that He lived without sin as a prophet and more than a prophet; they firmly assert that He gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, and raised the dead; they do not deny the word and the spirit of God, and that He ascended alive into heaven. But they do deny His Passion and Death, and also that the divine nature is united to the human nature in Christ. They likewise deny the Trinity of Persons. Therefore they ought to called heretics rather than Saracens, but the use of the false name prevails. Therefore, at the time of truce, when their wise men went up to Jerusalem, they asked that copies of the Gospel be shown to them. These they kissed and venerated because of the purity of the law which Christ taught, and especially because of the Gospel of Luke: "The Angel Gabriel was sent," which the learned among them often repeat and recall to mind. But their law, which Mohammed, under the direction of the devil, gave to the Saracens and which was written in Arabic by the ministry of Sergius, a monk, an apostate, and a heretic, began from the sword, is upheld by the sword, and will be ended in the sword. Mohammed was unlearned, as he himself gives evidence in his Koran, and what the forenamed heretic dictated, he promulgated and ordered to be observed through threats. For he was dissolute and warlike, and therefore he laid down a law concerning uncleanness and vanity, which those who live carnally on the side of pleasure carefully observe. And as truth and purity fortify our law, so worldly and human fear and carnal pleasure guard their error most firmly.

I do like how Oliver mentions that Islam should be "observed through threats," not mentioning that that's how Christianity at that time was promulgated. And he calls Muslims "warlike" while the Christians are besieging a city. Nice. This passage simply shows that whatever the Americans are up to in the Levant these days, it probably isn't going to work. People in that neck of the woods have hated each other for millennia. George Bush doesn't even know what a millennium is, but he's going to solve the problems in the Middle East. Yeah.

Coradin destroyed the walls because he feared the Christians would retake the city. If that makes little sense, remember that for the Muslims, Jerusalem was not particularly important. They had a small garrison there but weren't all that concerned about holding it. The sultan of Egypt offered it to the Crusaders before the siege of Damietta began, but they rejected the offer because they believed Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was coming with troops and they could have both Jerusalem and Damietta. Frederick, who always did his own thing, never came, and after taking Damietta, the Crusaders were forced to give it up less than two years later, and the Fifth Crusade ended ignobly. Ironically, in 1227 Frederick negotiated the transfer of power in Jerusalem to the Christians only if he would be named King of Jerusalem. The Christians held it until 1244, when they lost it again. I always thought a nice extreme solution to the Middle Eastern problem would be to bomb Jerusalem into dust. Then nobody would have anything to fight over!

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1 Comments:

Anonymous CanterburyTom said...

The Fifth Crusade was never 'sidetracked' into invading Egypt, that had been the plan all along, with Damietta being seen as 'the key to Egypt', from where a campaign in the Holy Land could have been launched, once Egypt was subjugated.

10/12/07 11:14 AM  

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