Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire




Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

Home | Prev | Next | Contents


(A.D. 1255) granted plenissimam peccatorum remissionem. Fideles mirabantur quòd tantum eis promitteret pro sanguine Christianorum effundendo quantum pro cruore infidelium aliquando, (Matthew Paris p. 785.) A high flight for the reason of the xiiith century.]

[Footnote 87: This simple idea is agreeable to the good sense of Mosheim, (Institut. Hist. Ecclés. p. 332,) and the fine philosophy of Hume, (Hist. of England, vol. i. p. 330.)]

The persons, the families, and estates of the pilgrims, were under the immediate protection of the popes; and these spiritual patrons soon claimed the prerogative of directing their operations, and enforcing, by commands and censures, the accomplishment of their vow. Frederic the Second, ^88 the grandson of Barbarossa, was successively the pupil, the enemy, and the victim of the church. At the age of twenty-one years, and in obedience to his guardian Innocent the Third, he assumed the cross; the same promise was repeated at his royal and imperial coronations; and his marriage with the heiress of Jerusalem forever bound him to defend the kingdom of his son Conrad. But as Frederic advanced in age and authority, he repented of the rash engagements of his youth: his liberal sense and knowledge taught him to despise the phantoms of superstition and the crowns of Asia: he no longer entertained the same reverence for the successors of Innocent: and his ambition was occupied by the restoration of the Italian monarchy from Sicily to the Alps. But the success of this project would have reduced the popes to their primitive simplicity; and, after the delays and excuses of twelve years, they urged the emperor, with entreaties and threats, to fix the time and place of his departure for Palestine. In the harbors of Sicily and Apulia, he prepared a fleet of one hundred galleys, and of one hundred vessels, that were framed to transport and land two thousand five hundred knights, with their horses and attendants; his vassals of Naples and Germany formed a powerful army; and the number of English crusaders was magnified to sixty thousand by the report of fame. But the inevitable or affected slowness of these mighty preparations consumed the strength and provisions of the more indigent pilgrims: the multitude was thinned by sickness and desertion; and the sultry summer of Calabria anticipated the mischiefs of a Syrian campaign. At length the emperor hoisted sail at Brundusium, with a fleet and army of forty thousand men: but he kept the sea no more than three days; and his hasty retreat, which was ascribed by his friends to a grievous indisposition, was accused by his enemies as a voluntary and obstinate disobedience. For suspending his vow was Frederic excommunicated by Gregory the Ninth; for presuming, the next year, to accomplish his vow, he was again excommunicated by the same pope. ^89 While he served under the banner of the cross, a crusade was preached against him in Italy; and after his return he was compelled to ask pardon for the injuries which he had suffered. The clergy and military orders of Palestine were previously instructed to renounce his communion and dispute his commands; and in his own kingdom, the emperor was forced to consent that the orders of the camp should be issued in the name of God and of the Christian republic. Frederic entered Jerusalem in triumph; and with his own hands (for no priest would perform the office) he took the crown from the altar of the holy sepulchre. But the patriarch cast an interdict on the church which his presence had profaned; and the knights of the hospital and temple informed the sultan how easily he might be surprised and slain in his unguarded visit to the River Jordan. In such a state of fanaticism and faction, victory was hopeless, and defence was difficult; but the conclusion of an advantageous peace may be imputed to the discord of the Mahometans, and their personal esteem for the character of Frederic. The enemy of the church is accused of maintaining with the miscreants an intercourse of hospitality and friendship unworthy of a Christian; of despising the barrenness of the land; and of indulging a profane thought, that if Jehovah had seen the kingdom of Naples he never would have selected Palestine for the inheritance of his chosen people. Yet Frederic obtained from the sultan the restitution of Jerusalem, of Bethlem and Nazareth, of Tyre and Sidon; the Latins were allowed to inhabit and fortify the city; an equal code of civil and religious freedom was ratified for the sectaries of Jesus and those of Mahomet; and, while the former worshipped at the holy sepulchre, the latter might pray and preach in the mosque of the temple, ^90 from whence the prophet undertook his nocturnal journey to heaven. The clergy deplored this scandalous toleration; and the weaker Moslems were gradually expelled; but every rational object of the crusades was accomplished without bloodshed; the churches were restored, the monasteries were replenished; and, in the space of fifteen years, the Latins of Jerusalem exceeded the number of six thousand. This peace and prosperity, for which they were ungrateful to their benefactor, was terminated by the irruption of the strange and savage hordes of Carizmians. ^91 Flying from the arms of the Moguls, those shepherds ^* of the Caspian rolled headlong on Syria; and the union of the Franks with the sultans of Aleppo, Hems, and Damascus, was insufficient to stem the violence of the torrent. Whatever stood against them was cut off by the sword, or dragged into captivity: the military orders were almost exterminated in a single battle; and in the pillage of the city, in the profanation of the holy sepulchre, the Latins confess and regret the modesty and discipline of the Turks and Saracens.

[Footnote 88: The original materials for the crusade of Frederic II. may be drawn from Richard de St. Germano (in Muratori, Script. Rerum Ital. tom. vii. p. 1002--1013) and Matthew Paris, (p. 286, 291, 300, 302, 304.) The most rational moderns are Fleury, (Hist. Ecclés. tom. xvi.,) Vertot, (Chevaliers de Malthe, tom. i. l. iii.,) Giannone, (Istoria Civile di Napoli, tom. ii. l. xvi.,) and Muratori, (Annali d' Italia, tom. x.)]

[Footnote 89: Poor Muratori knows what to think, but knows not what to say: "Chino qui il capo,' &c. p. 322.]

[Footnote 90: The clergy artfully confounded the mosque or church of the temple with the holy sepulchre, and their wilful error has deceived both Vertot and Muratori.]

[Footnote 91: The irruption of the Carizmians, or Corasmins, is related by Matthew Paris, (p. 546, 547,) and by Joinville, Nangis, and the Arabians, (p. 111, 112, 191, 192, 528, 530.)]

[Footnote *: They were in alliance with Eyub, sultan of Syria. Wilken vol. vi. p. 630. -- M.]

Of the seven crusades, the two last were undertaken by Louis the Ninth, king of France; who lost his liberty in Egypt, and his life on the coast of Africa. Twenty-eight years after his death, he was canonized at Rome; and sixty-five miracles were readily found, and solemnly attested, to justify the claim of the royal saint. ^92 The voice of history renders a more honorable testimony, that he united the virtues of a king, a hero, and a man; that his martial spirit was tempered by the love of private and public justice; and that Louis was the father of his people, the friend of his neighbors, and the terror of the infidels. Superstition alone, in all the extent of her baleful influence, ^93 corrupted his understanding and his heart: his devotion stooped to admire and imitate the begging friars of Francis and Dominic: he pursued with blind and cruel zeal the enemies of the faith; and the best of kings twice descended from his throne to seek the adventures of a spiritual knight-errant. A monkish historian would have been content to applaud the most despicable part of his character; but the noble and gallant Joinville, ^94 who shared the friendship and captivity of Louis, has traced with the pencil of nature the free portrait of his virtues as well as of his failings. From this intimate knowledge we may learn to suspect the political views of depressing their great vassals, which are so often imputed to the royal authors of the crusades. Above all the princes of the middle ages, Louis the Ninth successfully labored to restore the prerogatives of the crown; but it was at home and not in the East, that he acquired for himself and his posterity: his vow was the result of enthusiasm and sickness; and if he were the promoter, he was likewise the victim, of his holy madness. For the invasion of Egypt, France was exhausted of her troops and treasures; he covered the sea of Cyprus with eighteen hundred sails; the most modest enumeration amounts to fifty thousand men; and, if we might trust his own confession, as it is reported by Oriental vanity, he disembarked nine thousand five hundred horse, and one hundred and thirty thousand foot, who performed their pilgrimage under the shadow of his power. ^95

[Footnote 92: Read, if you can, the Life and Miracles of St. Louis, by the confessor of Queen Margaret, (p. 291--523. Joinville, du Louvre.)]

[Footnote 93: He believed all that mother church taught, (Joinville, p. 10,) but he cautioned Joinville against disputing with infidels. "L'omme lay (said he in his old language) quand il ot medire de la loi Crestienne, ne doit pas deffendre la loi Crestienne ne mais que de l'espée, dequoi il doit donner parmi le ventre dedens, tant comme elle y peut entrer' (p. 12.)]

[Footnote 94: I have two editions of Joinville, the one (Paris, 1668) most valuable for the observations of Ducange; the other (Paris, au Louvre, 1761) most precious for the pure and authentic text, a MS. of which has been recently discovered. The last edition proves that the history of St. Louis was finished A.D. 1309, without explaining, or even admiring, the age of the author, which must have exceeded ninety years, (Preface, p. x. Observations de Ducange, p. 17.)]

[Footnote 95: Joinville, p. 32. Arabic Extracts, p. 549. *

Note: * Compare Wilken, vol. vii. p. 94. -- M.]

In complete armor, the oriflamme waving before him, Louis leaped foremost on the beach; and the strong city of Damietta, which had cost his predecessors a siege of sixteen months, was abandoned on the first assault by the trembling Moslems. But Damietta was the first and the last of his conquests; and in the fifth and sixth crusades, the same causes, almost on the same ground, were productive of similar calamities. ^96 After a ruinous delay, which introduced into the camp the seeds of an epidemic disease, the Franks advanced from the sea-coast towards the capital of Egypt, and strove to surmount the unseasonable inundation of the Nile, which opposed their progress. Under the eye of their intrepid monarch, the barons and knights of France displayed their invincible contempt of danger and discipline: his brother, the count of Artois, stormed with inconsiderate valor the town of Massoura; and the carrier pigeons announced to the inhabitants of Cairo that all was lost. But a soldier, who afterwards usurped the sceptre, rallied the flying troops: the main body of the Christians was far behind the vanguard; and Artois was overpowered and slain. A shower of Greek fire was incessantly poured on the invaders; the Nile was commanded by the Egyptian galleys, the open country by the Arabs; all provisions were intercepted; each day aggravated the sickness and famine; and about the same time a retreat was found to be necessary and impracticable. The Oriental writers confess, that Louis might have escaped, if he would have deserted his subjects; he was made prisoner, with the greatest part of his nobles; all who could not redeem their lives by service or ransom were inhumanly massacred; and the walls of Cairo were decorated with a circle of Christian heads. ^97 The king of France was loaded with chains; but the generous victor, a great-grandson of the brother of Saladin, sent a robe of honor to his royal captive, and his deliverance, with that of his soldiers, was obtained by the restitution of Damietta ^98 and the payment of four hundred thousand pieces of gold. In a soft and luxurious climate, the degenerate children of the companions of Noureddin and Saladin were incapable of resisting the flower of European chivalry: they triumphed by the arms of their slaves or Mamalukes, the hardy natives of Tartary, who at a tender age had been purchased of the Syrian merchants, and were educated in the camp and palace of the sultan. But Egypt soon afforded a new example of the danger of prætorian bands; and the rage of these ferocious animals, who had been let loose on the strangers, was provoked to devour their benefactor. In the pride of conquest, Touran Shaw, the last of his race, was murdered by his Mamalukes; and the most daring of the assassins entered the chamber of the captive king, with drawn cimeters, and their hands imbrued in the blood of their sultan. The firmness of Louis commanded their respect; ^99 their avarice prevailed over cruelty and zeal; the treaty was accomplished; and the king of France, with the relics of his army, was permitted to embark for Palestine. He wasted four years within the walls of Acre, unable to visit Jerusalem, and unwilling to return without glory to his native country.

[Footnote 96: The last editors have enriched their Joinville with large and curious extracts from the Arabic historians, Macrizi, Abulfeda, &c. See likewise Abulpharagius, (Dynast. p. 322--325,) who calls him by the corrupt name of Redefrans. Matthew Paris (p. 683, 684) has described the rival folly of the French and English who fought and fell at Massoura.]

[Footnote 97: Savary, in his agreeable Letters sur L'Egypte, has given a description of Damietta, (tom. i. lettre xxiii. p. 274--290,) and a narrative of the exposition of St. Louis, (xxv. p. 306--350.)]

[Footnote 98: For the ransom of St. Louis, a million of byzants was asked and granted; but the sultan's generosity reduced that sum to 800,000 byzants, which are valued by Joinville at 400,000 French livres of his own time, and expressed by Matthew Paris by 100,000 marks of silver, (Ducange, Dissertation xx. sur Joinville.)]

[Footnote 99: The idea of the emirs to choose Louis for their sultan is seriously attested by Joinville, (p. 77, 78,) and does not appear to me so absurd as to M. de Voltaire, (Hist. Générale, tom. ii. p. 386, 387.) The Mamalukes themselves were strangers, rebels, and equals: they had felt his valor, they hoped his conversion; and such a motion, which was not seconded, might be made, perhaps by a secret Christian in their tumultuous assembly. *

Note
* Wilken, vol. vii. p. 257, thinks the proposition could not have been made in earnest. -- M.]

The memory of his defeat excited Louis, after sixteen years of wisdom and repose, to undertake the seventh and last of the crusades. His finances were restored, his kingdom was enlarged; a new generation of warriors had arisen, and he advanced with fresh confidence at the head of six thousand horse and thirty thousand foot. The loss of Antioch had provoked the enterprise; a wild hope of baptizing the king of Tunis tempted him to steer for the African coast; and the report of an immense treasure reconciled his troops to the delay of their voyage to the Holy Land. Instead of a proselyte, he found a siege: the French panted and died on the burning sands: St. Louis expired in his tent; and no sooner had he closed his eyes, than his son and successor gave the signal of the retreat. ^100 "It is thus," says a lively writer, "that a Christian king died near the ruins of Carthage, waging war against the sectaries of Mahomet, in a land to which Dido had introduced the deities of Syria." ^101

[Footnote 100: See the expedition in the annals of St. Louis, by William de Nangis, p. 270--287; and the Arabic extracts, p. 545, 555, of the Louvre edition of Joinville.]

[Footnote 101: Voltaire, Hist. Générale, tom. ii. p. 391.]

A more unjust and absurd constitution cannot be devised than that which condemns the natives of a country to perpetual servitude, under the arbitrary dominion of strangers and slaves. Yet such has been the state of Egypt above five hundred years. The most illustrious sultans of the Baharite and Borgite dynasties ^102 were themselves promoted from the Tartar and Circassian bands; and the four-and-twenty beys, or military chiefs, have ever been succeeded, not by their sons, but by their servants. They produce the great charter of their liberties, the treaty of Selim the First with the republic: ^103 and the Othman emperor still accepts from Egypt a slight acknowledgment of tribute and subjection. With some breathing intervals of peace and order, the two dynasties are marked as a period of rapine and bloodshed: ^104 but their throne, however shaken, reposed on the two pillars of discipline and valor: their sway extended over Egypt, Nubia, Arabia, and Syria: their Mamalukes were multiplied from eight hundred to twenty-five thousand horse; and their numbers were increased by a provincial militia of one hundred and seven thousand foot, and the occasional aid of sixty-six thousand Arabs. ^105 Princes of such power and spirit could not long endure on their coast a hostile and independent nation; and if the ruin of the Franks was postponed about forty years, they were indebted to the cares of an unsettled reign, to the invasion of the Moguls, and to the occasional aid of some warlike pilgrims. Among these, the English reader will observe the name of our first Edward, who assumed the cross in the lifetime of his father Henry. At the head of a thousand soldiers the future conqueror of Wales and Scotland delivered Acre from a siege; marched as far as Nazareth with an army of nine thousand men; emulated the fame of his uncle Richard; extorted, by his valor, a ten years' truce; ^* and escaped, with a dangerous wound, from the dagger of a fanatic assassin. ^106 ^! Antioch, ^107 whose situation had been less exposed to the calamities of the holy war, was finally occupied and ruined by Bondocdar, or Bibars, sultan of Egypt and Syria; the Latin principality was extinguished; and the first seat of the Christian name was dispeopled by the slaughter of seventeen, and the captivity of one hundred, thousand of her inhabitants. The maritime towns of Laodicea, Gabala, Tripoli, Berytus, Sidon, Tyre and Jaffa, and the stronger castles of the Hospitallers and Templars, successively fell; and the whole existence of the Franks was confined to the city and colony of St. John of Acre, which is sometimes described by the more classic title of Ptolemais.

[Footnote 102: The chronology of the two dynasties of Mamalukes, the Baharites, Turks or Tartars of Kipzak, and the Borgites, Circassians, is given by Pocock (Prolegom. ad Abulpharag. p. 6--31) and De Guignes (tom.

  1. p. 264--270;) their history from Abulfeda, Macrizi, &c., to the beginning of the xvth century, by the same M. De Guignes, (tom. iv. p. 110--328.)]

[Footnote 103: Savary, Lettres sur l'Egypte, tom. ii. lettre xv. p.


Prev | Next | Contents

Preface | Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6 |






Fall of Roman Empire
Advertisements: