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13 Sep, 22 tweets, 4 min read
The clash between West and East: Frankish Europe meets Seljuk Asia.

What did the Franks, as all western Europeans called themselves, think of this new enemy, the Turks?

Bitter enemies, worthy rivals. The idea of Crusade, and the eventual rise of the Ottomans. [Thread.]
The Turks of the Asian steppes were already known to the Romans, to the Arabs, before the year 1000.

There were Turkish slaves and mercenaries in Baghdad, in Constantinople. But their tribe becomes important in history in the 11th century under a dynasty that is not yet that...
of the Ottomans, but one that is likewise very important to the Middle Ages: the Seljuks.

Under the Seljuks these tribes from the steppes thrust themselves into Anatolia, the region we today call Turkey. A region first very Hellenized, later Romanized, and finally Turkified.
Anatolia naturally belonged to another empire at the time, the Byzantine, and for a long time, Turks and Byzantines fight each other, and the Turks eventually prevail.

In 1071 there's a great battle, the battle of Manzikert, in which the Turkish sultan All Arslan, defeats the...
Byzantine emperor, the Basileus of the orient.

This defeat triggers many alarms, not only in the Orthodox east, but also in the Catholic west.

The western Catholics don't love their eastern counterparts a lot, they understand it very little, no one speaks Greek anymore, but...
still the idea that eastern christians are being attacked by "pagan barbarians". Turks are recently converting to islam at this point, and islam isn't very different from other paganism in the eyes of medieval christians either way.

And these attacks are one of the reasons...
that the idea of crusades are invented. One of the reasons why crusaders part for the east in the 11th century isn't just to conquer Jerusalem, but to help the Byzantines against the Turks.

And indeed, those whom in our old songs we call "saracens", enemies of the crusaders...
in reality are essentially Turks, because already at this point in all the islamic world the Turks have imposed themselves as the ruling and warrior elite.

The emirs and sultans that the crusaders encounter are Turks. Turkish the armies that give crusaders a run for their money.
With a way of fighting that no one knew about, because it's the fighting style of the steppes, this sea of warriors, on horses, like western Europeans, but that didn't carry long spears like them, but who fought from the distance, shooting arrows from their horses with a...
terrifying precision, avoiding face to face fight if possible, like all oriental peoples have always fought, reason why they were always seen with mistrust by the westerners, who considered that it wasn't a courageous way of fighting.

And even so, Turks become a force to be...
respected. It's the internal divisions between rivaling emirs and sultans in the islamic world that enabled Godfrey of Bouillon and the others to reach Jerusalem.

The Turks prove themselves to be a fearsome rival. Westerners remain impressed by their way of fighting, and even...
if they are sworn rivals, even their ears are extremely cruel, in which prisoners are slaughtered and all kinds of atrocities are committed, the Turks nevertheless positively impress the western knights.

Despite of their very different way of fighting, we know that the...
Crusaders admire these people for that reason, while instead, for example, they dispose Byzantine Greeks, whom they consider effeminate people who don't know how to make war. So upon meeting the Turks, they tip their hats, so to speak.

There's a chronicle from the 1st crusade...
An anonymous chronicle, written by a knight, for once it's not a monk or a clergyman who writes, but a knight who participated in battle, and who says this about the Turks:

"It is impossible to describe the strength, the produce, the military capacity of this people. They...
thought they could scare us with the menace of their arrows, like they scared the Arabs, Armenians, Syrians and Greeks. But, God willing, they will never be as powerful as our men.

And indeed, the Turks claim to be of the same race of us Franks, and that no man by nature must...
be allowed to be a knight, except for the Franks and themselves."

The "Franks" meaning all western Europeans, as they all called themselves, whether from Italy, France, Germany, etc. And to this day "Franks" is still the name many people from the east use to refer to westerners.
The extraordinary thing is precisely that. That beyond the religious differences, and the ferocious rivalry, the westerners recognize in the Turks the only people to be at the same level as them.

Because they're seen as true men, they know how to fight, even if very differently.
And our crusader goes further on to say that if only they were christians then no one could match the Turks, and it was precisely God's grace that allowed them to win over them.

Westerners will continue to confront themselves with the Turks for as long as the crusades last.
Almost all the muslim leaders with whom the crusaders fight are all Turkish, with the exception of Saladin who was Kurdish, but the Turks are always present, and develop a close tie, even if one of enmity, with westerners. Reason why we sometimes don't know if some legends...
are of Turkish or Frankish origin.

To sum up, at one point the crusaders start saying: in reality, us and the Turks are related. Just like the Romans came from Troy just like the Franks came from Troy (the Franks had developed a myth of Trojan origins too), so do the Turks...
And this explains why we can see eye to eye.

Eventually this Turkish empire, however, suddenly falls apart, because another steppe foreigners devastate the entire muslim world and destroy the Seljuk empire: the Mongols.

The Mongols level down all the existent powers (minus...
the Franks), the various Turkish clans start to fight each other again for supremacy.

And in this war of all against all, a clan of nomads rise to power, the Osmanli, the "Ottomans" as we call them, that in the 1300s emerges as the new great power of Anatolia and west Asia.

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The picture you see above is a very famous painting of the 1800s by an English painter, Henry Holiday.

But, is the scene loyal to the times of Dante? Well, the environment is flawlessly recreated, even the Ponte Vecchio is seen being reconstructed, which was the case back then.
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Glad you asked!

Considering today's tensions in many places, let's reflect, in a brief thread, on the lesson we seem to have forgotten from the two World Wars:

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