The Great Crusade





Italy, the Balkans, Mediterranean Sea


Roman victory

Major battles:

Battle of Settignano; Siege of Rome; Battle of Thermopylae; Battle of Paphos


Roman-occupied Italy

Holy Roman Empire
Christian insurgents


Emperor Alexios I Komnenos
Tatikios Sarakenou
Manuel Boutoumites
Prince Constantine I of Armenia

Pope Julius II
Godfrey of Bouillon (KIA)
Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
Guglielmo Embriaco


86,400 men
305 ships

~20,000 knights
~140,000 peasant levies
80 ships

Casualties and Losses



The Great Crusade was a war fought from 1096-1099 between an alliance of Christian states from northern Europe and the Muslim Eastern Roman Empire. The Crusade was called for by Pope Julius II in response to the conversion of Aquitaine to Islam and the Roman occupation of Italy, and aimed to conquer the Empire and restore the Holy Land to Christian rule.

The Crusade

The Crusade was made up of two expeditions, departing from western and eastern Europe respectively. The western expedition aimed to conquer Italy, then to sail to Egypt and march overland to Jerusalem. The eastern campaign was supposed to invade Greece and then, with Bulgarian help, to march through Anatolia and Syria and link up with the western campaign once it reached the Levant.

As it happened, both campaigns proved to be disastrous failures. The western crusaders did succeed in capturing Rome itself, but instead of holding and fortifying the city they sacked it before withdrawing in an attempt to secure their loot. Reinforcements from Africa retook the city before the crusaders were able to secure their position, prompting Godfrey of Bouillon, the expedition's leader, to angrily dismiss the entire army on the grounds of poor discipline and gross incompetence.

The eastern expedition arrived at the European shore of the Dardanelles only to see a huge Roman army waiting for them on the other side. Rather than trying to force a crossing, the crusaders persuaded the Bulgarians to lend them some ships to sail them to the Holy Land instead. However, upon reaching Cyprus the fleet was intercepted by a far larger Roman navy and, in a sea battle just off the coast of Paphos, the entire crusader fleet was sunk and the army drowned.


The Pope immediately called for another crusade upon hearing the news. However, in light of these twin disasters, the temporal Christian rulers of Europe were understandably reluctant to risk more men and money in pursuit of what seemed an impossible goal, and the call went unanswered.

Ten years later Emperor Alexios Komnenos invaded Italy, deposed the Pope and annexed the Papal Kingdom. A new pope was elected and took his seat in Mainz, but with the loss of Rome the papacy quickly lost any authority it once had.

Over the following centuries Christendom would learn to coexist instead with its Muslim neighbours, allowing for a cultural renaissance and a resumption of the ancient links between East and West.

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