I Admit It, ISIS is Medieval, but…

            medieval siege   I am still reading through accounts of the Crusades for the next book, which will be a novel. The following quotes are from the Gesta Francorum, or Deeds of the Franks, written by a knight on the First Crusade:

“Others [of the Turks] whom we captured, were led before the city gates and there beheaded, to grieve the Turks who were in the city” (et capti alii ducti sunt ante portam ubis, ibique decollabantur, ut magis tristes fierent qui errant in urbe.)

“The knights and pilgrims of Christ went straight to the castle…. They captured all the peasants of the district and killed those who would not be christened…” (“Ad hoc castrum ilico Christi milites peregrine… Apprehenderunt igitur omnes illius loci colonos, et christianitatem recipere noluerunt, occiderunt.”)

               Lest you think that it was only the barbaric Christian army that behaved this way, here are quotes from Ibn Al-Qalanisi, a scholar and citizen of Damascus at about the same time. (Sorry, I don’t have the original Arabic).

“Shams al Maluk, having sacked the town…set off… carrying the prisoners and heads of the slain, the womenfolk and children.”

“The accursed prince, {Raymond of Tripoli]…was recognized and his head cut off and carried to Nur al-Din, who rewarded the bearer of it with a handsome gift.”

               This was 917 years ago.

Several people have branded the actions of ISIS (etc.) as “medieval”. For once I have to agree. Of course it is also ancient and, apparently, modern. However, it seems to me that those who are claiming to set up a traditional Islamic state are only looking at the most violent aspects of the past for their examples. Until only a few centuries ago, soldiers were paid in the booty they could capture. This included women and sometimes children. Now, anyone who believes that soldiers today don’t rape has been living under a rock. But taking young girls and selling them as slaves (“wives”? Right.) has not been condoned for a long time.

               Even more, these Islamist groups ignore the long truces, friendships, intermarriages and trade among Western Christians, Druze, Syrian Christians, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and Jews. Even the constant war between Shi’ite and Sunni had moments of calm. One of my favorite stories is from al-Kamil fi’l-Ta’rikh. In 1109, the Batini, who are better known as Assassins, invaded the town of Shaizar in Syria. They almost succeeded in taking it because “the rulers there, the Banu Munquidh, had descended to attend the Christian festival [of Easter].” Twelve years after the first Crusade, Muslims and Christians were partying together.

               Recent events are terrifying examples of how history is misused and cherry picked to serve the desires of modern sociopaths. While I am very fond of Medieval Studies, I do not claim it was a perfect society. What I do hope is that, eventually, we will try emulating the good things about it and not repeating the worst.




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