The First Crusade
Posted By: Charles Pope
Date: Friday, 10 April 2009, at 8:42 p.m.
- The 11th Century is famous for Normans setting upon Europe in the West and Seljuk Turks rising from the East, and ending with the First Crusade.
- “William the Conqueror" of Normandy invaded England in 1066. The “twelve sons” of Norman “Tancred of Hauteville" recovered southern Italy and Sicily from the Moors. After Robert Guiscard son of Tancred seized Italy and Sicily, an offer was extended by the ruling Byzantine king Michael VII for his son to marry Robert’s daughter Helena.
- In this pivotal century, the Seljuk/Saljuk dynasty supplanted the Abbasids in Persia and Mesopotamia. Seljuk king Toghrïl Beg subdued Baghdad in 1055 and married a daughter of the Abbasid caliph. He was promptly also given a commission to make war on the Fatimid rulers of Egypt.
So, what was really going on here?
- Earlier in the 11th Century, the so-called Salian Dynasty had come to power in Germany beginning with one named Conrad in 1024. The designation “Salian” is thought to derive from Papal blessing of these kings as Holy Roman Emperors. However, the more likely origin was their association with the Sal-juks (a.k.a. Salyans?).
- The earliest Seljuk leader was called Almos, a “Moses” figure (in the sense of taking “his people” toward a promised land, in this case an under-populated, warming, and fertile Europe). He was followed by Arpad, a Biblical name meaning “spread out”, also an apt description of the latest migration from the East.
- The name Conrad is suspiciously similar to Chagri (brother of Toghril). The Seljuk ruler Alp Arslan son of Chagri defeated the Byzantines (1071), which led to the Comnenos dynasty being established in Constantinople. The name Comnenos itself points back again to Germany. The Macro-Comanni was a tribe that congregated along the Danube River and eventually become Germans. (Cf Alamanni, another tribal designation for Germany from the Valentinian Dynasty and the basis for the modern French name for Germany.)
- Basil II died without an heir, at least without one recognized as eligible for immediate succession in Constantinople. Hungarian tradition however names three sons of the contemporary magnate “Vazul”. They are: Bela, Levente, and Andrew. These three were not necessarily biological sons of Vazul/Basil II, but certainly indicate leading princes of the Empire.
- Andrew is equivalent to James/Jacob, i.e., Tancred the father of 12 sons.
- The emphasis on Tancred having 12 sons was part of a deliberate Jacob typecasting. The mission of the Norman coalition was to reclaim all of Italy and Sicily and as a stepping stone for the re-conquest of North Africa and Egypt (ala the Roman defeat of Sicily and then Carthage). Some preferred the Vandal strategy of re-conquering Egypt via Spain and North Africa. The Umayid Dynasty fell in the early 11th Century, however the idea of using Spain as the viaduct for the Crusades was abandoned.
- The Norman name Tancred is an obvious play on Conrad (T’ancred) and also relates well to the Seljuk names Chagri and Toghril.
- Bela son of Vazul was baptized in Poland and received the Christian name Adalbert (Ad-alb-ert). He corresponds to John Comnenos (Alp Arlsan) father of Alexios Comnenos. Alexios Comnenos (Alp Arslan II/Serlon II) was known by the Seljuk name of Jalal al-din Malik Shah.
- Tancred's leading son was called Serlo/Sarlo (Serlon in French), an anagram of Arslan!
This is a very strong and direct association and can be used as an anchor.
- Levente connotes “Levant”, from Old French levant/lever, “to rise (as the sun)”, i.e., oriental). Levente also relates to the Biblical name and type, Levi (a.k.a. Seth/Isaac), and by association, Isaac Comnenos. We should expect him to also appear among the 12 sons of Tancred, perhaps under the name of Aubrey/Alvered (Cf Levant/Lever and Alvered), who like Serlo remained in Normandy, i.e., was more of an overlord in the West rather than active participant in Norman raids on Sicily and Italy.
- The characterization of Isaac Comnenos as a military man (ala those of earlier Roman dynasties) who had risen to power by merit was an alternative to purely aristocratic figures, especially in times when the public mood was contrary to depots and the founding of new dynasties.
- Conrad was a contemporary of Basil II of Constantinople and petitioned for marriage to Basil’s sister. Hugh Capet the Great competed with Conrad for Basil’s sister, but both were rejected in favor of Vladimir of Kiev!
Note: The name Capet appears to derive from the Byzantine office of catapan (and the Capitanate of southern Italy/Apulia). Hugh Capet came literally from obscurity to found the French dynasty based in Paris. His epithet suggests that he was a Byzantine prince (and plant/set-man) and this was the reason for his sudden rise to kingship.
Note: Mauger son of Tancred was also called Malgerius, a name which links him to some kind of Norman operation in Algieria (North Africa).
- Vladimir of Kiev patronized the Viking hero Olaf Trygvessen from his youth. Olaf and Svein Forkbeard joined forces to conquer the England of (“Ethelred the Unready”) and extort vast amounts of silver. This qualified the duo to later become Caesars. Svein was evidently contented with the grant of kingship over Hungary under the scarcely disguised name of Stephen. His companion in English conquest, Olaf Trygvessen vanished after the two came into dispute and Olaf was ambushed by Svein at sea. However, Olaf (or his son Trygve) may have ended life as Byzantine Emperor (i.e., Romanus III Argyrus). The name Argyrus means “silver”, the very precious metal Svein and Olaf liberated from the English in such enormous quantities.
Note: King Stephen (Svein Forkbeard) was first known in Hungary by the Turkish name Vajk (Va-juk). Although the link between Hungary and Scandinavia might seem strange, a slightly earlier Hungarian prince named Koppany employed Vikings in an unsuccessful attempt to take the throne away from his older brother Geza (predecessor of Vajk/Stephen).
- Ever since the days of Trajan, who hailed from Spain, Emperors could come from any part of the Roman world to become Caesar. The epithet of Byzantine Emperor Michael V (1041-1042), Calaphates, virtually admits that he was (or had been) an Islamic Caliph (and that Constantinople was linked to the Caliphates).
- Stephen’s firstborn son Otto died young. The name of his second son Emeric/Imre.(Cf Emir) recalls the legendary Gothic prince Ermaneric. Emeric was killed by a “boar” in 1031. The name Emeric/Imre is also a play on Emir, even as early king names of the Bulgarian dynasty of Krum. Recall that Krum was a Bulgarian alias of early Abassid caliph Harun, and that Harun tried to use his Bulgarian power base to gain the greater Byzantine throne (and frustrated only by his unexpected death).
- After the premature deaths of his two sons, King Stephen rejected his cousin Vazul as successor and named instead his nephew Peter Urseolo son of Ottone Orseolo (The Doge of Venice), as his successor in Hungary! This Urseolo/Orsino was evidently one and the same as Alp Arslan (John Comnenos or his son Alexios Comnenos). However, the same year that Isaac Comnenos died (1059), Peter was deposed in Hungary by those loyal to one Samuel Aba. The death of Isaac Comnenos likewise denied John Comnenos and Alexios the throne in Constantinople and was only regained by them after a struggle with the powerful Ducas branch of the royal family.
Note: Stephen’s son Emeric is thought to have died in 1031 A.D., six years after the reign of Basil II ended. In order for Hungarian Vazul to be one and the same as Byzantine Basil, then one history and/or the other is in error, at least in terms of relative chronology.
- This name Samuel Aba sounds curiously like that of the new Abbasid Caliph of 1031, Abu al Quasam (a.k.a., Ka’im), who was in turn had the same name as a Fatimid Caliph and an Andalusian physician of an Umayyad Caliph of the 10th Century! (Based on the precedent of Krum/Harun, princes of Bulgaria could double as Abbasid magnates/caliphs. The tradition apparently extended to neighboring Hungary. Ka’im was the Caliph that gave his daughter to Seljuk conqueror Toghril.)
- It is clear that members of a single extended royal family were playing all the various ethnic roles (even as they had since time immemorial). For example, the Bulgarian name Boris is a take-off on the popular Byzantine king name of Phorus (Nicephorus). The Byzantine king name Valentinian morphed into the Arab al-Walid, Slavic Vlad (Vladimir/Vladislav), and Viking/Norman Bald (as in Baldwin). The Viking name Gorm is a variant of Bulgarian Krum and Arab Harun (Biblical Garam). Viking Trygves is likely adapted from the contemporary Byzantine name Argyrus (Romanus III). The Norman name Guiscard (particularly, Robert Guiscard son of Tancred) seems to also be a play on the name Trygves/Argyrus as well.
- In 1077, Michael VII was deposed in Constantinople and the throne was contested by two men surnamed Nicephorus, one with the given name of Byrennius (compare the later English name Lord Byron) and the other an elderly patrician called Botaneiates. Special emphasis was made that Botaneiates was “coming from the East” in his bid for the throne. Vespatian, conqueror of Britain, had once fulfilled prophesy by taking Rome from the East. Botaneiates, like Vespatian, prevailed and became Emperor. We must suspect that he had formerly had also won fame in Britain under the name “William the Conqueror” (who died in 1087)! Later descendants of Alexios (through his son John Comnenos/Count Fulk of Anjou) would become Kings of England (the Plantagenets). These and/or other descendants assumed the Byzantine surname of Angelos, yet another clue to the mysterious association between Rome/Byzantium and the land of Angles (and the unexpected importance of England).
- After only a brief reign, Botaneiates stepped down in favor of Alexios Comnenos (1081). But this succession was also opposed, this time from the West in the persons of Robert Guiscard and his heir Bohemond. In fact, it may well have been Robert Guiscard that challenged Botaneiates only four years earlier. His own role in the British invasion may have been significant enough to claim the honor of an Olaf or Svein. Regardless, the Byzantine king Michael VII had arranged for his son Constantine to marry Robert Guiscard’s daughter Helena. Guiscard could not allow Michael and Constantine to be deposed without a fight. He apparently failed in the first attempt and was stripped of his Byzantine identity by the “Conqueror”. Upon the succession of Alexios Comnenos he challenged again, and as a Norman rather than Byzantine.
Note: The association of Byzantine name Bryenn with English Robert would explain why Robin became an alternative form of Robert.
- In 1084, Robert Guiscard sacked Rome and thereby usurped the lofty roles of an Alaric (Arcadius) and Gaiseric (Theodosius II son of Arcadius) for himself. After defeating the Orseolo/Arslan forces of Venice on a third and decisive attempt, Guiscard was poised to overthrow Alexios, but died of plague in 1085 before he could lead an assault on Constantinople. Two years later (in 1087), Alexios was under attack once more from the barbarian Pechenegs who had reached the walls of Constantinople and were no doubt instigated by Bohemond or some other rival prince. Alexios Comnenos summoned the Cumans (a Scythian tribe) who came unhesitatingly and saved his new throne by annihilating the Pechenegs.
Note: Cf Pechenegs and the later Chinese name of Peking.
Note: Comnenos influence over the Cumans indicates an Eastern counterweight to their Western influence among Germans/Comanni. Pechenegs and Magyars had earlier fought each other to settle royal succession battles. Cumans and Turkomans were more recent immigrants from the East. The royal family considered this period of mass migration (that they were orchestrating) as a repetition of those of the Valentinian and Theodosian Dynasties in which Goths and Vandals moved into Europe. See Endnote for further discussion of this parallel.
Note: Though defeated and disgraced Bryennios had a son by the same name that was actually favored by Alexios Comnenos. Bryennios II marred the famous princess Anna Comnenos/Comnena and became a renowned writer. He was also called upon to negotiate a peace with Bohemond son of Robert Guiscard, It is quite possible that Bryennios II was negotiating with his own brother or even (more humorously) directed to resolve his own Norman “conflict of interest”!
Bryennius and his wife Anna Comnena (c. 1100),
- The task of reclaiming Egypt (for the Byzantium Crown) had earlier (1055) been assigned to the Seljuks, but this changed with the battle of Manzikert (1071) and ultimate triumph of the Comnenos branch. By the 1090’s Alexios was secure as Emperor. Persia was in the capable hands of the two “Great Wazirs”, Nizari/Nizam al-Mulk and Taj al-Mulk. It was time for the dividing line between the Christian and Muslim worlds to be redrawn. Instead of Sunni (Seljuk) Muslims attacking Shiite (Fatimid) Muslims, it was decided that a "Christian coalition" would have the honor of "liberating" Anatolia, Syria/Antioch, Palestine/Jerusalem and eventually Egypt.
- The Normans were to go down through Canaan and resettle Egypt (ala the Biblical "Jacob family"). This, of course, became what is known as the "First Crusade". The march of a poorly trained, ill-equipped, and out-numbered force across Seljuk Anatolia, Syria, and into Palestine was not really a “miracle”. Alexios Comnenos directed both Christian and Muslim forces from Constantinople. Only token resistance was permitted. Appeals by Islamic patriots for action fell upon the deaf ears of the both Caliph and the Sultan. Zealots were ordered to stand down, and those that didn’t were not supported. Appeals from Crusader leaders were also on occasion ignored by Alexios, such as the conspicuous selling out of Tancred II after he captured Antioch.
- Although Egypt was not stormed, the First Crusade was a resounding success. High-ranking trouble-makers on both sides were either eliminated or curbed. Undesirable commoners were also removed from society. For the “People’s Crusade” it became a deadly Exodus on par with that of the earlier Goths. Once they had left their homes and “crossed over” into the Anatolian wilderness (as Goths crossed over the Danube) they were sold out and slaughtered. But this may have been seen as a necessary (and convenient) aspect of the plan. The sacrifice of large numbers of Muslims was also arranged.
- Both Crusade and Jihad ultimately benefited the single central authority. Solidarity was demanded against a common foe. Ferreting out of dissenters could be completely ruthless and easily justified.
Note: Serlon (Alp Arslan) died in 1074, but had a son of his own, who was called in Norman circles as Serlon II (Malik-Shah/Alexios). Tancred/Conrad, who died around 1038, had by then been succeeded by a grandson (or great-grandson) named Tancred II. Robert Giscard was also dead, but his son Bohemond had been reconciled to the Byzantine crown.
The Comnenos family found their greatest inspiration in the period of Roman history immediately following Constantine the Great in which vast hordes of eastern peoples were resettled in Europe and the Middle East and the Empire itself was “divided” (as in the days of Noah).
The Roman Empire of those days had produced the likes of Valentinian and his brother Valens. Valens played the role of vacillating pharaoh as “Goth princes” Fritigern and Alaviv beseeched him as a Moses and Aaron to let “their people” go over the river and into a “promised land”. John Comnenos (father of Alexios) looked to Valentinian who began his career as King of Persia (subordinate to the contemporary Roman Caesars), but late in life became Emperor of Rome himself, which he delegated to his brother Valens. Valens became the role model of Isaac Comnenos, the first of the Comnenos line to take the Byzantine throne.
Valentinian and Valens were succeeded by the dynasty of Theodosius, a renowned General of both Eastern and Western campaigns. Theodosius had first taken part in the re-conquest of England before becoming Emperor, and thereafter styled himself after Flavius Vespatian. Theodosius divided the Empire between his leading sons, Arcadius who took the East (but was active in the West under the tribal identities of Alaric and Merovic) and Honorius who ruled the West (but also had kingly status in Persia). A minor son of Theodosius, Priscus Attalus, became ruler of the Huns under the name Attila. Collectively these princes transformed the newly Christianized Roman world (in a time that preceded the creation of Islam). Under kings named Otto (after Attalus/Attila), Henry (after Honorius) and Orseolo/Orsino/Arslan (after Arcadius) another radical new world order was in the making for the new (second) Millennium.
Theodosius was not the only magnate who considered his time in Britain as qualifying him as Emperor. As Botaneiates was challenged by Bryennios, Theodosius was challenged by Magnus Maximus, who had also campaigned in England with Theodosius and the father of Theodosius.
- The First Crusade
Charles Pope -- Friday, 10 April 2009, at 8:42 p.m.
- Seljuks and Mongols
Charles Pope -- Monday, 13 April 2009, at 8:05 p.m.
- Seljuks and Mongols
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.