They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for a while with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them.
On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are presents, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.
— Gesta Dei per Francos, 1, pp. 382 f.
So, what is the significance of a crusade, and how is it related to Levant, Saracens and English Literature?
With the perceived roots of modern European society in the Middle Ages focused on England, it is easy to lose track of what actual medieval ideas of society and people were, and that there was great diversity in medieval period.
Saracens were just as divers, but how they were represented in the Latin context was often a direct reflection of Latin society.
Saracens and their territory as Levant that appear in the narrative sources, chronicles, romances, hagiographies or and polemical tract were members of the military aristocracy.
In the medieval West, martial prowess was an important way to prove manhood, and many people have shown that similar ideals existed among Saracens, and even that they have been used as the ultimate enemy in literature.
This could make the Saracen and Levant a positive or negative example, or simply a target for the outlet of Christian military masculinity.
To see if what is referred to as Orient in 20th century was the same as Levant in 10-15th centuries, we will also study Edward Said’s Orientalism.
Next lesson, we will study The Song of Roland.