The death of Malik Shah in 1092 was followed by disintegration of the Saljug Empire. This gave an opportunity to the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I, to regain Asia Minor and northern Syria. This also gave an opportunity to Pope Urban II to revive the spirit of Christianity. In 1095, the Pope joined the Byzantine emperor in calling for a war to liberate the Holy Land. Between 1095 and 1291, western European Christians fought many wars against the Muslim cities on the coastal plains of the eastern Mediterranean. These wars later came to be known as Crusades.
The First Crusade took place in 1098-99. Soldiers from France and Italy captured Antioch in Syria and claimed Jerusalem. There was mass slaughter of Muslims and Jews in the city. The Franks quickly established four crusader states in the region of Syria-Palestine. These territories were collectively known as Outremer (the land of overseas).
The Second Crusade took place in 1145-49. When the Turks captured Edessa in 1144, the Pope made an appeal for a second crusade. A combined German and French army tried to capture Damascus but they were defeated.
After the second crusade, there was a gradual erosion of strength of Outremer. The Christian rulers preferred luxurious life over battles. Salah al-Din created an Egypto-Syrian empire and gave a call for jihad or holy war against the Christians, and eventually defeated them in 1187. He regained Jerusalem. Saladin’s treatment of the Christian population was humane. He gave custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Christians. But a number of churches were turned into mosques. Jerusalem once again became a Muslim city.
The Third Crusade took place in 1189. But the crusaders gained little except for some coastal towns in Palestine and free access to Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims. The Mamluks, the rulers of Egypt, finally drove the crusading Christians from all of Palestine in 1291.
Europe gradually lost military interest in Islam. It focused on its internal political and cultural development. However, the crusaders left a lasting impact on two aspects of Christian-Muslim relations. Muslim state developed harsher attitude towards its Christian subjects. Even after the restoration of Muslim power, there was greater influence of Italian mercantile communities in the trade between the East and the West.
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