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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume VI: The impact of the Crusades on Europe

II: Crusade propaganda,   pp. 39-97 PDF (14.2 MB)

Page 96

crusaders. The Greek area contracted when the Turkish culture intruded, but
the propaganda barrier was maintained unbroken. In spite of it, there is
enough evidence to convince us that men passed from a Latin into an Arabic
culture and often passed back again, even in the Middle Ages, not only in
Spain, but in the east also. From the earlier seventeenth century onward
— beginning with Don Quixote — we can cull a considerable literature
of people who returned from Barbary captivity; printers seem to have carried
a stock of stereotype woodcuts to illustrate their stories. There is even
a small literature of converts to Islam writing in Latin. 101 There is no
literature of either sort from the period of the crusade. Constantine the
African was, perhaps, a North African convert; in any case he antedates the
crusade, and says nothing of himself. Was his successor, Afflacius, "al-Falaki"?
Peter (of) Alfonso was an Arabic-speaking Jew, and he, and other Jews for
that matter, converts or not, may have traveled in England.'°2 Many Arabs
lived in Europe, not by their own choice, and were gradually forced to become
Christians. Many Latins lived on friendly terms with Arabs in Sicily and
Syria; we know that best from Arabic sources. Many merchants lived and worked
in Egypt, Africa, and Syria; there were also mercenary soldiers and chaplains.
Only a few late accounts from travelers make up for the lack of personal
accounts by European residents in the Arab world. This certainly was the
Pyrrhic victory of the propaganda. 
 We must see crusade propaganda as essentially negative. It cut off whatever
relationships might otherwise have been possible. At its worst it gave religious
sanction to inhumanity which made it possible to say, for example, of Germans,
"slaughter them mercilessly as if they were Saracens".'°3 At best it
only gave an added conviction of righteousness which boosted morale more
in success than in failure. A pride in the linked achievements of various
armed forces throughout history, from the ancient Jews onward, presupposed
continuing success; the dangerous conviction that a holy war offered the
opportunity for a whole-hearted rejection of the good things of the world
often resulted in self-deception. In the last resort, all propaganda is merely
the expression of hostility. The original enthusiasm which had created 
 101. Murad Bey, British Library, MS. Add. 19894 and Bodleian, Marsh 179;
Bodin, Colloquium Heptaplomères, ed. Ludwig Noack (Schwerin, 1857).
Cf. Fernand Braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde a l'époque
de Philippe II, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1966). 
 102. Constantine legend in Peter the Deacon, PL, 173, col. 1034 (and his
successor John Afflacius, possibly al-Falaki, but he was apparently not an
astronomer); Peter (of) Alfonso, PL, 157, cols. 671—706. 
 103. Suger, Vie de Louis VI le Gros, pp. 222—223. 

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