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Baldwin, M. W. (ed.) / The first hundred years

I: Western Europe on the Eve of the Crusades,   pp. [2]-29 PDF (10.8 MB)

Page 20

Adriatic and contemplated the conquest of Greece if not that of thewhole
Byzantine empire. Robert and Bohemond invaded Greece and might well have
conquered it if their communications had not been cut by the Venetian fleet,
which aided the emperor in return for extensive commercial rights in the
empire. Robert Guiscard and Roger of Sicily built a strong feudal state on
much the same lines followed by William of Normandy. There was a feudal hierarchy
strictly controlled by a strong and effective central govern ment. 
 In Germany the two great emperors of the Salian house, Henry III and Henry
IV, attempted to build a strong, centralized monarchy on the foundations
laid by the Saxon emperors. Already master of Franconia and with extensive
estates in Swabia, Henry III planned to add Thuringia and south Saxony to
the family domains and thus gain a firm basis of power in the heart of Germany.
He built a strong castle at Goslar, the chief town of south Saxony and the
site of valuable silver mines, and strewed the neighborhood with fortresses
garrisoned by troops from his Swabian lands. His son Henry IV continued his
policy. But the nobles and freemen of Saxony fiercely resented the king's
intrusion into the duchy and, led by the Billung family, which claimed the
ducal dignity, they rose in revolt against Henry IV. At the same time the
great pope Gregory VII chose to attack the very corner stone of the imperial
government - — the, emperor's control over the prelates. The German
lords, who had no desire to see a strong monarchy, combined with the pope
and the Saxon rebels against Henry. The emperor held his own and died victor
over his foes in the year 1 106. But the long struggle had ruined the hopes
of the Salian kings for establishing a strong monarchy. The first half of
the twelfth century was to be a period of anarchy in Germany in which feudal
institutions were to spread rapidly until the Hohen staufen emperors created
a feudal state. On the eve of the crusades the so-called Roman empire of
the Saxon and Salian emperors was crumbling. 
 What had earlier been border lands of western Europe also evinced marked
activity in the eleventh century. In Spain, for example, the Christian kingdoms
of the north were taking the of fensive against the Moslem masters of the
rest of the peninsula. This will be treated at length in a later chapter.2
It will suffice here to observe that, as all the energies and resources of
the Spanish states were needed for their internecine wars and the 
2 See below, chapter II, section A. 

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