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Ever since the rise and rapid extension of Mahometanism, Jerusalem and Palestine, localities that were endeared to Christians by so many interesting associations, were in the hands of enemies of Christianity. Towards the end of the previous century, the western church had been aroused by the preaching of Peter the Hermit, to the disgrace of permitting infidels to retain possession of the holy city and holy sepulchre, and all the other sacred localities. And already an army, called a crusade, from its marching under the banner of the cross, had advanced into Syria. The first of the armies that went upon this expedition, being without arrangement, or generals possessed of military skill, and necessarily plundering the country on their route, were massacred, or perished, with the exception of about 20,000 men, before they reached Constantinople; and these, crossing into Asia, were met by the Turkish army, and totally defeated. That army was followed by one better organised, under the command of Godfrey of Bouillon, who defeated the Turks in several battles, and at length succeeded in taking Jerusalem, which the crusaders held for nearly a century. Godfrey was elected king of Jerusalem A.D. 1098. These crusades were repeated from time to time for about 150 years, till seven armies had found their graves in the plains and mountains of the east. But although these expeditions proved abortive in regard to the immediate object of them, namely, the rescuing of Jerusalem from the power of the infidels, they produced a beneficial effect on the state of Europe. They carried off many of the more turbulent spirits, and left a breathing time to the various kingdoms of the west; during which many towns rose to eminence and power, and the supreme civil authorities were strengthened. They also introduced into Europe a taste for elegance and refinement. Many of the crusaders returning from the east, where some remains of the civilization and polish of the Greeks, and of the Roman empire, still lingered, brought along with them a relish for more polished
manners than those to which they had been accustomed at home. Hence it is, that almost immediately after the crusades, ancient literature and the fine arts began to be cultivated sedulously in Europe.
The connexion also of warlike operations with Christianity, however incongruous the admixture may appear, had the effect of infusing more of humanity and upright generous principle into the operations of war, than the ancient Pagan empires and states had any conception of. It was probably from this cause that the institution of chivalry arose, by which a race of warriors was reared who cultivated the highest principles of honor, and whose aim and pride it was to relieve the oppressed, particularly women, and even children, who might be in captivity, or exposed to insult or injury. It is thus that we seldom or never hear, in modern times, of such scenes of unmingled atrocity, such deadly treachery, such extensive and cold-blooded massacres, as we read of in every page of ancient history.
It was towards the end of this century that Henry II. of England first invaded Ireland, and obtained the homage of the Irish kings.
The crusades still continued till the middle of this century; the last, which totally failed, having been undertaken by Louis IX. king of France, called Saint Louis in A. D. 1270. This century is chiefly remarkable for the conquests of Gengis Khan, a chief of the Mogul, or Mongul Tartars, in the east. He overran the empire of the Saracens, took Bagdad, and put an end to that empire. Towards the end of this century the Moguls subdued China, and then established a Tartar government, which has continued till the present day. Othman, also, at the head of Turks, founded the Ottoman empire. Edward I. of England, about the close of this century, attempted to bring the Scottish monarchy under his authority.
The commencement of this century is marked by the Scotch achieving their independence at the battle of Bannockburn, which was fought A. D. 1314. Towards the middle of the century Edward III. of England invaded France, and gained several victories, which led to no permanent result. Towards the end of the century, another Tartar leader, Timour Beg, known usually by the name Tamerlane, overran the middle and west of Asia, carrying desolation and destruction wherever he went. He laid the foundation of the Mogul empire in Hindostan. Delhi was taken by him A. D. 1398. In this century the dawn of literature becomes manifest in Europe. Petrarch, Boccacio, and Froissart, the continent; Geoffry Chaucer in England; and Abulfeda, an Arabian geographer and historian, flourished.
In this century commenced that conflict, known in history by the name of the Reformation, which resulted in many of the kingdoms of Europe separating from the church of Rome. John Huss in Bohemia, Jerome of Prague, and Wickliffe in England, took the lead in disseminating the doctrines of the Reformation.
In the history of England, the early part of this century is marked by the attempt of Henry V. to obtain possession of the crown of France, by availing himself of the distracted state of this country. For a time he seemed to succeed in his enterprise; but the English were ultimately repulsed and driven back by the enthusiasm of a peasant girl, named Joan of Arc, who believed that she was called by heaven to achieve the deliverance of her country, and who infused into the armies of ance a portion of her own enthusiasm. She was taken, and basely condemned and executed by the English general.
But that act of imbecile revenge rather hastened the expulsion of the English from France than retarded it. In the succeeding reign commenced the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, in which a large portion of the English nobility were extirpated.
In the east the Turks, under Mahomet II. besieged Constantinople, and, after an obstinate siege, succeeded in taking it, A. D. 1453, the Greek emperor being slain, fighting sword in hand in the breach. This put an end to the eastern empire.
The latter part of the century will ever be celebrated over the whole world by the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, A. D. 1492.
This era finds the Greek or Byzantine empire extinct, and the Turks in possession of Constantinople and of Greece, to the shores of the Adriatic, with the most considerable islands. Further to the eastward, a great empire had been established by the Mogul Tartars; which had, particularly under two chiefs, Zengis Khan and Timour Beg, or Tamerlane, embraced a larger extent of territory, than any of the great empires of antiquity; but which, at this era, was broken up into a number of independent sovereignties. China was under the dominion of a Tartar dynasty.
The kingdoms of Europe were assuming that form, which, with the exception of late modifications, they still retain. Spain was then one of the most warlike countries in Europe.
Literature had begun to advance, with a steady and rapid pace, over Europe. The art of printing had been discovered about the year 1440, and was now beginning to assume that influence over human affairs, which has been so wonderfully developed in the present day. Statuary, painting, and architecture, had reached their
highest excellence in Italy, under Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian, Corregio, and others.
But the most remarkable, as well as the most important, feature in this era, was the discovery of America, by Columbus; by which discovery a new world, that had been hid from the inhabitants of that portion of the globe, which we have hitherto been contemplating, was unfolded to their wondering gaze, and opened to their spirit of discovery and enterprise-opened, also, alas! to their cupidity and cruelty. This event took place in 1492.
This age, so fertile in great events, was also the age of the Reformation; in which the Protestant churches separated from the church of Rome; an event which still continues to influence the political affairs of Europe.
In the beginning of this century the eyes of all Europe were turned towards the newly discovered continent of America and its islands, till their attention was called off by a new object of a different description, namely, the dissemination of the doctrines of the Reformation, followed by the struggle for civil liberty that immediately ensued. The crowned heads of Europe regarded the introduction of any political or religious doctrines into their dominions, without their consent, as a dangerous encroachment on their power and prerogative; and, aided by many of the clergy and aristocracy of the day, attempted to crush every such tendency to innovation. Hence arose wars, persecutions, proscriptions, and massacres, scarcely less revolting than those which stain the pages of ancient pagan history.
Towards the commencement of this century, Charles, king of Spain, was elected emperor of Germany, and being an able and ambitious prince, he made use of his great power to attain to supreme influence in Europe. He was steadily resisted by Francis I. of France. After an active enterprising reign, in the latter part of which