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The Second Crusade: Lisbon, Damascus and the Wendish Campaigns

Roche, Jason T. (2015) The Second Crusade: Lisbon, Damascus and the Wendish Campaigns. History Compass, 13. ISSN 1478-0542

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Abstract

The Second Crusade (1145-49) is thought to have encompassed near simultaneous Christian attacks on Muslim towns and cities in Syria and Iberia and pagan Wend strongholds around the southern shore of the Baltic Sea. The motivations underpinning the attacks on Damascus, Lisbon and – taken collectively – the Wendish strongholds have come in for particular attention. The doomed decision to assault Damascus in 1148 rather than recover Edessa, the capital of the first so-called crusader state, was once thought to be ill-conceived. Historians now believe the city was attacked because Damascus posed a significant threat to the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem when the Second Crusaders arrived in the East. The assault on Lisbon and the Wendish strongholds fell into a long-established pattern of regional, worldly aggression and expansion; therefore, historians tend not to ascribe any spiritual impulses behind the native Christians’ decisions to attack their enemies. Indeed, the siege of Lisbon by an allied force of international crusaders and those of the Portuguese ruler, Afonso Henriques, is perceived primarily as a politico-strategic episode in the on-going Christian-Muslim conflict in Iberia – commonly referred to as the reconquista. The native warrior and commercial elite undoubtedly had various temporal reasons for engaging in warfare in Iberia and the Baltic region between 1147 and 1149, although the article concludes with some notes of caution before clinically construing motivation from behaviour in such instances.

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