First Crusader: Byzantium's Holy Wars

Overview

The word 'Crusades' has traditionally referred to the wars fought after the late eleventh century to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. Reagan argues that they actually began in the seventh century with the conquest by the Persians of the Byzantine Empire. In retaliation, the emperor Heraclius used Christian propaganda to turn the war into the first crusade. Coincidentally, Heraclius's career was unfolding at the same time as that of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. No sooner had Heraclius overthrown the power ...
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Overview

The word 'Crusades' has traditionally referred to the wars fought after the late eleventh century to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. Reagan argues that they actually began in the seventh century with the conquest by the Persians of the Byzantine Empire. In retaliation, the emperor Heraclius used Christian propaganda to turn the war into the first crusade. Coincidentally, Heraclius's career was unfolding at the same time as that of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. No sooner had Heraclius overthrown the power of Persia and regained the Holy Land, than he lost it to the irresistably strong Arabs. First Crusader is an entertaining and challenging reinterpretation of The Crusades.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Remembered as an exemplar of cold-blooded realpolitik, the Byzantine Empire actually pioneered the combination of military and religious fervor known as holy war, according to this colorful history. Regan, a historian and author of Great Military Blunders, covers some 800 years of Byzantine history, from the founding of Constantinople to the arrival of Western crusaders in the 12th century to take up the war against Islam. He focuses on the 7th century emperor Heraclius, celebrated for his knightly duels against enemy champions, who used religious appeals to build an army of "fanatics, zealots, martyrs and holy warriors" to defeat the Zoroastrian Persian Empire, recapture Jerusalem and recover the True Cross, Christendom's holiest relic. Heraclius's ideal of holy war devolved into "ersatz crusades"-one campaign against the Muslims sought to retrieve a holy towel imprinted with Christ's face-overshadowed by the endless factional intrigue, civil wars and intra-Christian schisms and persecutions that made the Byzantines their own worst enemies, but Regan argues for its lasting historical impact. The Byzantine's innovative fusion of military and religious enthusiasm, he speculates, may have influenced the development of the Muslim jihad that would soon overrun much of the Empire, and became a precedent for the Western Crusades. Regan makes the most of skimpy sources to draw a lucid portrait of the crazed piety, back-stabbing politics, chaotic battles and brutal massacres that characterize this period. Writing in an engaging style without academic jargon, he brings to life a lurid but neglected age that reverberates into our own. Photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403961518
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 4/19/2003
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Regan was series consultant for The History Channel's documentary series on Great Military Blunders and author of the book of the same name. He is the author of over twenty other books, including "Lionhearts: Richard I, Saladin, and the Era of the Third Crusade".
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
1 Epiphany 1
2 The Christian Empire 19
3 The New David 37
4 The Wild Boar 57
5 The First Crusader 75
6 The Avar Siege 99
7 Alexander Reborn 109
8 The Prophet 135
9 Islam Rampant 153
10 Ersatz Crusades 190
11 The Dreadful Day 217
12 The First Crusade 233
App. 1 Single Combat in Byzantine Warfare 253
App. 2 Heraclius, Mohammed and the Origin of Jihad 254
Chronology 257
Maps 259
Notes 269
Bibliography 273
Index 277
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