Why You’d Never Survive Life During The Crusades


The Crusades were a pretty violent time for
Europe and the Middle East. Tragically, though, the violence isn’t the
only thing that would kill you if you lived during that era. Here’s why you would never survive the Crusades. Let’s say you embark on the First Crusade
in 1096. The Pope has promised that if you die in combat,
all your sins will be forgiven and you’ll go to heaven. If you’re a knight, that’s very convenient
because you also fight in non-holy wars, which are considered “sinful.” Plus, if you don’t fight, you’ll be branded
a coward. If you’re a peasant, you’re worried about
going to hell not for who you fight, but for what you eat. According to National Geographic, famine ravaged
France before the Crusades, killing thousands of peasants. Many of those peasants resorted to cannibalism
as they embarked on an unorganized Crusade that was easily defeated by Turkish forces. A second, more successful group of crusaders
also struggled with hunger. As The Telegraph explained, 4,500 knights
were joined by 35,000 people fleeing famine and poverty without weapons or even shoes. It would take three years to reach Jerusalem,
and if you didn’t die on the way, you still had to scrounge for food. According to eyewitness accounts, Crusader
cannibalism was so rampant that they were seen placing body parts on spits out in the
open. Summer in the Holy Land was hell during the
Crusades. According to The World of the Crusades: A
Daily Life Encyclopedia, the normal heat of the season was made worse by the Medieval
Warm Period that scorched the area from about 950 to 1250. That time span covers the First through Sixth
Crusades, and part of the Seventh. Along with the heatwave came lethal thirst
that killed many crusaders along the way. And even if you could manage to find water,
your enemies might take it before you could. Perhaps the best example of weaponized dehydration
occurred in 1187 when the sultan Saladin defeated King Guy in the Battle of Hattin. Saladin lured Guy’s army away from a water
source that gave the King a distinct advantage. The Crusaders withered in the sun, and Saladin’s
troops cranked up the heat. Guy’s incredibly thirsty men couldn’t fight
back effectively. Saladin went on to retake Jerusalem from Christian
control, setting the stage for the Third Crusade. Stifling heat turned the Holy Land into a
dry, blistering hellscape in the summer for much of the Crusades. However, winter was often just as bad. Men and women alike died from exposure to
snow, ice, days of heavy rain, vicious wind, and lethal hail. Because of the mountainous terrain, torrents
of water would wash away men and animals. When Richard the Lionheart’s army traveled
to Ascalon during the Third Crusade, they braved downpours, hailstorms, and floods. All that water ruined food rations, and Crusaders
sank into soaked ground. If you traveled by sea, you might avoid the
mud, but the Mediterrannean Sea was just as dangerous. Crusaders traveling by boat risked sinking
in a massive storm, or having their ship smashed against rocks. If you managed to get to the Crusades without
dying along the way and didn’t die in battle, then the doctor tending to your wounds might
kill you. After all, the Crusades took place during
the Middle Ages, when medicine was still very crude. This was a time when infant mortality was
sky high, mothers consistently died during childbirth, and doctors treated mental illness
through barbaric methods. Battlefield medicine was especially rough. According to NBC News, a doctor at a crusader
hospital once amputated a fighter’s leg because of a “small, infected wound.” That patient died. Doctors had it rough, too. A paper published by the National Center for
Biotechnology Information recounted how one crusading nobleman wouldn’t let doctors make
potions for fear that he’d be poisoned. This kind of fear led to doctors being executed
for simply trying to practice medicine. The word “scurvy” often evokes images of seafaring
pirates turning into scurvy knaves. But severe Vitamin C deficiency could also
affect Crusaders. Vitamin C is easy to get for us, thanks to
all the citrus we have in easy reach. Medieval people living through the Crusades
didn’t have that luxury. As author Andrew Holt explained, Crusaders
were largely meat eaters, in part because Medieval knights thought of meat as something
that made them strong. So how bad did scurvy get? It killed one-sixth of the French army during
the Fifth Crusade. According to the book Plagues & Poxes, Crusaders
laying siege to the Egyptian port of Damietta in 1218 suffered everything from severe pain
in their feet to swollen gums to loose teeth and blackened shins. One of the defining diseases of the Crusades
was dysentery, which is basically parasite-induced super diarrhea. That illness killed King John and countless
soldiers across history’s wars. Crusaders may have contracted dysentery by
drinking water tainted with human waste. Perhaps the most famous case of the disease
happened in the Seventh Crusade, when dysentery devastated much of Louis IX’s army and afflicted
Louis himself. In the spring of 1138, the Syrian city of
Aleppo faced a siege. In the fall, after that siege was abandoned,
it faced something far worse. In October of that year a massive earthquake
reduced parts of the city to rubble. According to Britannica.com, the quake leveled
the citadel, killing hundreds. It also wrecked surrounding towns, destroying
a Crusader fortress and a Muslim fort. An estimated 230,000 people died in the disaster. Earthquakes were a bigger problem during the
time of the Crusades than you might think. In addition to dealing with dehydration, starvation,
sickness, or arrows to the spleen, you also had to worry about the ground shaking beneath
your feet. According to the book Medicine in the Crusades,
more than a dozen earthquakes may have occurred in the era of the Frankish Crusader states,
which were situated along the Dead Sea fault system. Another powerful quake rocked Antioch in 1115,
collapsing walls and scaring people so much that some of them jumped off of buildings. During medieval times, crimes usually had
cruel punishments. Depending on what crimes you committed, you
could be boiled, stoned, impaled, beheaded, roasted, or killed in some other awful way. A Gizmodo article pointed out that protections
for accused criminals basically didn’t exist, and using brutal torture to force confessions
was encouraged. Unfortunately for everyone living back then,
the Crusades made all of this worse. According to the Encyclopedia of Violence,
Peace, and Conflict, Christians associated homosexuality with Islam, and homosexuals
could be burned at the stake in the time of the Crusades.The Crusades also fostered animosity
toward Jews, heretics, lepers, the poor, and money-lenders. In 1275, King Edward I of England established
the Statute of Jewry, which plunged Jews into poverty. In 1290, Edward exiled 3,000 Jews, some of
whom died after a ship’s captain left them to drown on a sandbank. Even if you’re not a Christian, you might
assume that being one would generally align you with the Crusaders. The truth is that all depends on what brand
of Christianity you believe. After all, the Crusades took place long before
the Protestant Reformation paved the way for non-Catholic Christians to thrive. Depending on what stage of the Crusades you
lived in, deviating from the Catholic Church’s teachings might have gotten you killed. According to Britannica.com, the 12th century
saw a large expansion in what Crusaders aimed to achieve. Instead of focusing only on the Holy Land,
they also set their sights on souls in Europe. Christians who didn’t strictly adhere to Roman
Catholicism were considered a threat that was possibly more dangerous than Muslims,
because they represented a threat from within. In France, tensions over religion culminated
in the Albigensian Crusade, which saw the Catholic faction of the north declare war
on the Cathari in the south. The Cathari had unorthodox beliefs, so Crusaders
slaughtered them by the thousands and burned them on giant pyres. Catholics living in southern France became
collateral damage in this slaughter. The Albigensian Crusade also laid the groundwork
for the Spanish Inquisition that would come later. “I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition!” “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” If you were Jewish during the Crusades, many
Christian warriors considered you just as much an enemy as the Muslims they planned
to fight. The Jewish Virtual Library explained that
Christians viewed Jews as “murderers of Christ,” and some used the Crusades as an opportunity
to get revenge. This was especially true of the First and
Third Crusades. And during the People’s Crusade of 1096, a
band of peasants led by a monk called Peter the Hermit murdered hundreds of Jews. Meanwhile, Muslims clashed with both Christians
and other Muslims. If you happened to be a member of the Ismaili
Muslim minority, you were liable to get massacred by the ruling Sunni establishment. The strife between factions also bled into
the Crusades. After the Muslim ruler of Damascus massacred
6,000 Ismailis, the Ismaili leader in Syria surrended a city to Crusader King Baldwin
II in return for protection. If you’re going to live during the Crusades,
it’s probably best to be an iconic king or a legendary warrior. This was the era of King Richard I, Saladin,
the Knights Templar, and the Ismaili assassins who inspired the Assassin’s Creed games, after
all. Perhaps being legendary would even help you
survive, sort of like the main character in a movie. Well, King Baldwin IV was also legendary,
but he had leprosy and died before the age of 25. Many of the other legends didn’t do so well,
either. Richard the Lionheart, of the Third Crusade,
faced deadly storms and the even deadlier Saladin. “I am not those men. I am Saladin.” King Richard died warring with his former
co-Crusader, King Philip II. While overseeing a siege Richard caught a
crossbow bolt to the arm and died from a wound infection. Meanwhile, Saladin – the great sultan, brilliant
architect of the Battle of Hattin and conqueror of Jerusalem – likely died of typhoid fever. The stealthy Nizari Ismailis changed history
by assassinating Conrad of Montferrat before he could be crowned king of Jerusalem. But they were destroyed by the Mongols in
the 1250s. And the Knights Templar? They were skilled bankers and ferocious fighters,
but after losing the last Crusader stronghold in 1291 they also lost favor with King Philip
IV, who owed them money. Philip tortured Templars and burned dozens
of them at the stake for made-up crimes. War is always hell, even when a Pope proposes
it. It is also the most obvious thing that could
kill you during the Crusades. What might not be obvious is just how violent
warfare could be. When Crusader forces finally captured Jerusalem
in 1099, they massacred just about everyone inside. According to the New York Times, men, women,
and children were killed. There was apparently so much blood flowing
in the streets that it was ankle-deep. Jews, who defended the city alongside their
Muslim neighbors, were locked in their synagogue, which was set on fire. And if you happened to live in the Byzantine
capital of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, there’s a good chance you’d be slaughtered,
not by Muslims, but by the Crusaders who were supposed to be your allies. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia,
deep distrust and religious tensions between Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires led Crusaders
to sack Constantinople, looting and murdering as they went. The bloodshed was so intense that it was said
the blood flowed through the streets of the city like a river for days. With holy wars like that, you wouldn’t need
an actual hell to punish you for your sins. You’d already be living in hell, and probably
dying in it. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about history
are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.