Violence and the Crusades

Warfare, Injuries and Torture in the Medieval Middle East

Authored by: Piers D. Mitchell

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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The crusades are well known as one of the major religious wars our world has experienced in the last thousand years. This resulted in one of the greatest mass migration events of the millennium (Mitchell and Millard 2009, 2013). Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, pilgrims, and merchants made the arduous journey from Europe to the Middle East during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries ad. The first crusade set out from Europe in 1096 and the surviving members of the army conquered Jerusalem in 1099. While some Europeans returned home to their families, many decided to settle the lands they had conquered (Ellenblum 1998; Murray 2006). These lands were divided into several kingdoms, principalities and counties along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean (Figure 14.1). For those Europeans going to fight on the many subsequent military campaigns, violence was what they expected to experience in battle. For those going as pilgrims and merchants, violence from enemy raids or invasion was probably what they most feared. However, violence was not universal during the crusades. There were many decades of peace when truces were in place that allowed the Frankish states in the eastern Mediterranean to flourish. However, as the strength of neighbouring Muslim rulers increased relative to those of the crusaders, a number of reconquests from Syria, Egypt and Anatolia drove out the European settlers. The last city to fall was Acre in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the year 1291 (Riley-Smith 1999; Tyerman 2006).

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