Monotheist in the service of Atheism (II)

Oleh: Pseudohistorian
January 28, 2013

Crusades and crusaders

After an appropriate introduction (history written by victors, Balts are one of oldest inhabitants of Europe, etceteros), Guoga gives brief outline of Baltic crusade ant its reasons, bravely ignoring fact that he has no knowledge about either.

Some of this nonsenses are no more than mistakes, resulting from lack of research:

Teutonic Order. Established in Acre in the Holy Land between 1120 and 1128, the order was centered in Swabia after the defeat in Jerusalem in 1187. The remnant of crusaders, with a strengthening from the German-speaking lands, came to Prussia and established strongholds at Konigsberg and Marienburg.
The first major blow from the Crusaders befell the coastal Baltic tribes of Prussians and Curonians.

To be precise, first blow fell on Livs (Finnic tribes), Latgalians and Selonians. Curonians maintained strong autonomy until second half of XIII century, while Konigsberg and Marienburg were established relatively late and not as initial strongholds for the further expansion.
Such lack of basic knowledge is much helpful for the author, as doing an actual research- like reading about Prussian Crusade or Crusades in general- would kill his notions mercilessly.

After the crusaders lost Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187, their eyes were set on the last pagan areas in Europe. The first crusaders appeared on the eastern shores of the Baltic sea in 1202 and settled in the Daugava delta. They established the castle and the city of Riga, now capital of Latvia. This branch of crusaders was originally called the Brothers of the Sword, later renamed the Livonian Order.

After loss of Jerusalem in 1187 eyes of the crusaders were set on recapturing Jerusalem and, later, holding back in the remaining coastal cities. Until the fall of Acra in 1291, crusaders had they hands full with situation in Holly Land.
First Order to enter Baltic lands- Livonian Brothers of the Sword- had nothing to do with original Crusades, apart from being modeled after Templars.
For Teutonic Order, Prussia initially was only “second front” and only in 1309 Hochmeisters moved from Venice to Marienburg.
However, best pieces of his fantasies Guoga saved for attempt to guess the motives behind Baltic Crusades:

What motives brought those newcomers to the eastern shores of the Baltic sea?
There were several. An orthodox argument (as, for example, claimed by William Urban) is that the Hansa merchants were keen to promote trade with the interior. However, this argument is not compelling because the Baltic tribes were open to trade, and even Roman historians mentioned that the Empire was trading with the Balts, bringing in amber from the Baltic sea for jewelry and decoration. There is no evidence that the Balts were reluctant to trade by the time the crusaders settled in their lands.

Well, Roman period has nothing to do with situation of a XIII century, for a start. Argument itself is unorthodox (=stupid) so much that seems to be taken from alternative reality. States of India and what-is-now Indonesia also were open to trade for centuries, nonetheless Portuguese, Dutch and British merchants were most eager to reinforce themselves with cannon-power.
Major difference between Livonia and India is that in XII-XIII centuries none of European powers were capable of establishing a true colony. Therefore, same as in Levant, a new countries were established under nominal vassalage of pope or emperor.
In Livonia we see Church as founder, instead of victorious warlords as in case of Antioch or Jerusalem, but Church and (especially) its local authorities do not exist in vacuum and isolation from regional powers and interests.
Speaking about context of Livonian Crusade, we can not talk about Hanseatic League as such: Lübeck and Hamburg allied only in 1241, thus we should rather speak about ambitions of Henry the Lion.
Livonia, in a sense, is a last shard of Henry’s project to make Duchy of Saxony dominant power in Region. Despite his own demise and breaking of Saxony, cities he founded- most importantly Lübeck- began to rise in power and importance of they own. Hartwig of Uthlede, Archbishop of Bremen and loyal supporter of Henry send missionaries along with merchants of Lübeck and so Riga was founded.
Reasons behind establishment of Livonia are numerous- here goes also old ambitions of Bremen to hold primacy in the Church in the North, also Germans interest to get upper hand against Denmark, but the economic interest of what-will-become Hansa is unquestionably main driving (and funding) force behind activities of Hartwig’s nephew Bishop Albert of Riga.
On the other hand, mentioning of William Urban indicates that Guoga did some reading, so maybe my initial statements about him was somewhat wrong?

A second, more realistic, motive was religious opportunism. The popes at that time were suffering from the depredations of knights who had returned from Jerusalem. Crusaders were robbing their native lands, and the popes were eager to send them out again, further away. The natural choice was the Baltics – not very distant, a region where the tribes were divided and culturally, though not militarily, undeveloped.

Nope. He is still in fantasy land.
Recruiting for Livonian Brothers of the Sword went in Northern Germany, and brothers of this Order were in no way related with Mediterranean Crusades, apart from general idea of crusading. Papacy held no initiative here. Pope only acknowledged and give his support for initiative of Hatwing.
So, I guess, Guoga speaks here about Teutonic Order. Unfortunately, none of this “native lands robbing” was happened. First of all, none of the “knights flocking back from Jerusalem” was happening. Crusaders were still holding Syrian coast with no intentions to leave and Papacy at the time had only to main goals: to support them as much as possible and to show Emperor Frederick II who is a boss around here. Secondly, whose native lands were in fact lands of the Order. Same as they colleagues, such as Templars, Teutonic Order held many lands in Europe predominately in Germany and Italy. So Guoga insist, basically, that knights were robbing themselves and that was, somehow, problem to the Pope.
Teutons came in to Prussia because Emperor found common ground with Conrad, Duke of Masovia. Conrad was one of the most powerful Piasts at the time, but instead of subjugating relatives he was forced to fend of Prussian attacks and he was not good at it: hes own attempt of organizing a Crusade ended with high guests going home instead of attacking pagans and Prussians gave a lesson to Conrad how invasions should be done. In this circumstances, Conrad decided the he need some professionals and send Bishop Christian of Oliva to Rome, were he meet Hermann von Salza, Hochmeister of the Teutonic Order. Hermann was interested but had his own reservations. As most of the Order possessions were small patches of land all across Empire, establishing of large territorial domain was tempting, but at the time proposal came, Hermann and Emperor Frederick were planing Fifth Crusade (Teutonic Knights were ardent Ghibellines) and he was hesitating to split forces. Emperor, however, had his own interest in the region. Center of Frederick power was in Italy and proposal from Conrad seemed like a good way to strengthening his position in the northern part of Empire, that was also under constant threat of invasion (from Denmark at that point).

The third motive, arguably the main one, was plunder. The popes rewarded the militant monks one-third of the lands they conquered. One-third went to the church, to be governed by the archbishop. The regular soldiers of the Order were peasants who were eager to escape slavery back home. They could choose to leave their masters and give their allegiance to the Church. Thus, they became fighting monks, committed to a monastic life, while also being ready to fight in the name of their God.

That is simply a gross misunderstanding how Order works. The peasant would not simply become “fighting monk”. It was chivalric order, so that brothers were also knights, meaning they had noble backgrounds. Fighting part of the the Order consisted of the three types: the RitterBrudern, the HalbBrudern and the Diendebrudern. The RitterBrudern is the guys we think, then we say “crusader”: armored knight with white mantle and black cross. The HalbBruderns were persons that joined Order without giving oaths of monastic life and usually only for period of time, but during that time were under Statutes of the Order. This two groups were open for nobles only, peasant could join only as the Diendebrudern. They were subject to the Statutes of the Order, life-long service and celibate including, and they served as foot solders or (at best) NCO’s in the field. Some small administrative position under Komtur was best what Diendebrudern could expect.
So there was not much what peasant could expect from becoming part of the Order, apart from renown joys of the Benedictine Regula and regular visits in always friendly Samogitia.
Most of newcomers came to Prussia not participate in campaigns but to continue they life as peasants, traders, craftsmen or landlords. These landlords- called the MitBrudern- payed for the land with military service and together with levy from local population (both colonists and natives) composed bulk of the Order forces. This is the system one might recognize as feudalism, meaning that for most of the population of the Prussia live was quite the same as in any other part of Europe.

Nobles were drawn to the crusades in order to establish their military prowess. A young nobleman who defeated and killed infidels was highly esteemed back home and advanced in his career. Thus, hordes of fighters from all ranks of society were incessantly drawn to fight for the church.

Alright, some of them, like Henry Bolingbroke (future Henry IV of England), brought quite a few soldiers along, but term “horde” hardly fits here. I think, Guoga imagines all crusades similar to People’s Crusade (1096), First Crusade (1096–1099) or Crusade of 1101 while in fact the whole idea was in decline at the time and king Louis IX of France had a difficult time to organize his campaigns because nobody cared or wanted to participate: the fact that he managed to launch two of them was enough to make him saint.
Most peoples that came in to Order State were simply looking for a ruler who imposes less taxes.
And “guest crusaders” should not be overestimated too: they were irregular and quite undisciplined, basically only an addition to the main forces. To the Order they were more a propaganda tool to draw more support than a field force. Such tourism was something upper class twits were expected to do and for the Order they were as much helpful as modern hipsters are helpful to preservation of endangered species: they will participate in charitable concert, but then you need someone for a dirty day-to-day work- don’t expect too much from them.

Category: English | RSS 2.0 | Give a Comment | trackback

No Comments

Leave a Reply