A history of the Crusades, as told by crusaders' DNA

Both sides fighting for God:

Fascinating article! As I read it, I noticed several points which merit comments:

The article repeats a popular but often misleading claim:

History can tell us a lot about the Crusades, the series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291, in which Christian invaders tried to claim the Near East.

Well… sort of. There is a popular myth—often promoted at anti-theist websites and in silly comments by Neil deGrasse Tyson et al—which assumes that the Muslims of the Middle East were peaceably minding their own business when those evil Christian brutes from Europe capriciously decided to invade and take over. This ignores the historical fact that for many centuries the Muslims of the Near East (and North Africa) had been invading European territories, butchering many and enslaving many, and often settling and governing long term. Worse yet, in the minds of many European Christians, they were robbing and tormenting Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land to visit the sacred sites. There were countless “last straw” events over the centuries which led Byzantine, Vatican, Frankish, English and many other regions’ leaders to plead with their European neighbors to join them in securing the sacred sites and standing against the Muslim tyrants. The Crusades were nearly inevitable under these conditions.

Secondly, I doubt if most historians are all that shocked to find the DNA mixtures described in the article. I’m no expert on these topics but I would point out, for example, that many young men and other landless people joined armies on the march because they figured they had nothing to lose. Farm land was already limited and often overpopulated. Inheritance traditions often distributed land to the oldest or at least the elder sons, and any younger ones had to look elsewhere to seek their livelihood. Army life can look attractive when a powerful ruler and the wealthy Church are providing what seem like boundless and reliable meals—as well as a sense of eternal purpose. It also wasn’t so unexpected that some members of such armies would settle long term at their destinations or somewhere along the way. Thus, I would expect genetic admixtures from many of these military expeditions and occupying armies—especially when many of them lingered for decades or even centuries.

Again, I’m not a specialist in these historical eras. Perhaps others on PS can better expand on these themes.

POSTSCRIPT: I’m not an avid Game of Thrones fan but I do find it interesting how many real historical events and phenomena get blended into the books and epic HBO series. One element from the Crusaders era seen in Game of Thrones is wildfire, an incendiary substance which is clearly based upon Greek fire, which was used by Europeans to fight off invading Muslim armies and navies during various battles. I think it was at Constantinople when the Byzantine defenders defeated the approaching Islamic ships by raining Greek fire upon them. (This led to King Joffrey and Kit Harrington making their escape by riding giant dragons using greenscreen special effects financed by Daenerys Targaryen and the Unsullied. No. Not really. )

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