Spanning most of the High Middle Ages (1050-1300 CE), a series of military expeditions called the Crusades was launched from Christian Europe against the peoples of the Near East.
Sparked by a zeal to rid the Holy Lands of "infidels"—meaning Moslems primarily—only the First Crusade achieved any real or lasting success. It established Christian settlements, the so-called "Crusader States," which endured for a century or so along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.
The remaining Crusades were failures of one sort or another and, instead, contributed to the heightened tensions still visible in the Middle East today.
In particular, the Fourth Crusade which ended in the sack of Constantinople stands as a bitter monument to the carnage and vandalism perpetrated by modern westerners on the East.
In the end, almost no one gained anything of worth from the Crusades.
They diminished not only the Pope's credibility as a spiritual leader but also Europeans' hopes of expansion along with their general acceptance of cultural diversity.
The Crusades are in many ways Europe's "lost weekend."
Attribution: Mark L. Damen
Professor of History and Classics
Utah State University
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