- 27 Jan 2010 14:14
The crusades were thought up by the pope in order to support the eastern roman "byzantine" empire after the battle of Manzikert which the eastern empire had lost badly and led to the over running of anatolia, (most of modern turkey except for the coasts). The loss of the field army left a real shortage of troops. The Popes plan was to organize a western force to help out the eastern empire, and help bring about closer ties in christaldom (particularly the churches). The stuff about the holy places was mentioned but more as motivational rather than realistic goal. The breakdown of law and order had been going on in the levant after the infux of turks and the destbilization and fragmentation of authority.
While there were many who had religionious motivation (and here you must understand in this period the feudal nobles warfare was their only function, and sincere religionous belief it was still with intent to smite they were going) as big (and most likely bigger especially amongst the Norman who were restless and always out for what they could get much likes the turks in the levant) was the prospect of founding some sort of states that were looking less availialble in europe (land = wealth, sucess, status), the Normans were like a plague across europe estblishing their own states where ever the locals were weak.
The pope had no idea of the forces unleashed that swept away his tidy plans. There was a pretty doomed "peoples" crusade. Disturbances and particularly massacres of Jews followed the mustering of the more rowdy elements.It escaped the popes control from the start and the papal "legate" had little control over the crusaders as events unfolded.
The Byzantines were horrified when this motley crew showed up on their borders (as tales of their misdeeds had preceded them) there were plenty of misunderstandings and mutual dislike, several violent incidents , pillaging, massacres as the crusaders trekked across the empire. The Empire trying to minimize the damage, manage the problem and try and use it to consolidate the empire rather than grand schemes many crusaders were thinking of.
The crusaders were sucessful was in part to the disunity , fragmentation of the various Arabo-Turkic ( and the others like Armenians) regiemes and their inability to work together. Most of the great crusader victories were accompanied by extreme brutal massacares mainly moslems and jews.
I would not catagorizse the motivation of the Crusaders as mercenary, it was a mixture of Conquistador and Relgionous. Mercenary if fighting for money, the crusaders were often out to establish states of their own.