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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

The Third Crusade and Byzantium 


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The pope was acting energetically in the west in favor of the new crusade. He succeeded in rousing three sovereigns: Philip II Augustus, king of France, Richard I the Lion-Hearted (Coeur-de-Lion), king of England, and Frederick I Barbarossa, king of Germany, joined the movement. But in that crusade which began so brilliantly there was no general guiding idea. The participants in the crusade endeavored, first of all, to secure for themselves friendly relations with the rulers of the countries through which they had to pass. Philip Augustus and Richard marched via Sicily, and therefore they had to be on good terms with the king of Sicily. Intending to go to the east through the Balkan peninsula, Frederick Barbarossa entered into negotiations with the king of Hungary, the Great Zupan of Serbia, the Emperor Isaac Angelus, and even with the sultan of Iconium in Asia Minor, Saladin's enemy, a Muslim. Political combinations and concerns forbade the sovereign-crusader to regard his Muslim ally with pride or indifference. At the same time the Christians faced as their adversary no disunited Muslim forces, as they had before, but Saladin, victorious especially after the taking of Jerusalem talented and energetic, who had concentrated in his hands the forces of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. On hearing of the projected crusade he appealed to the Muslims for an energetic and untiring struggle against the Christians, these barking dogs and foolish men, as he designated them in a letter to his brother. It was a kind of countercrusade against the Christians. A medieval legend relates that Saladin himself had, before this, made a tour of Europe in order to become acquainted with the position of different Christian countries. A modern historian stated, No crusade had ever had before so clearly the character of a duel between Christianity and Islam.

Frederick Barbarossa passed safely through Hungary and, advancing through the Balkan peninsula, entered into negotiations with the Serbs and Bulgarians. For the success of his further advance, the question of what relations he could establish with Isaac Angelus was extremely important.

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