The Crusades in the Aegean c.1300-50


A review of Motivations and Responses to Crusades in the Aegean: c. 1300-1350, by Mike Carr. 

In this thesis, submitted for the degree of Ph.D. in 2011, Dr. Mike Carr examines how attitudes to the western Anatolian Turkish emirates changed in the first half of the fourteenth century, and looks at the relationship between the mercantile objectives of the Italian maritime republics and their Aegean subjects and their crusading ideals through the prism of the interaction between successive popes and those who sought their support for crusading activity in Romania and Turkey.

His scrutiny of these themes is based on wide reading in both printed primary and secondary sources, substantially and helpfully supplemented by archival work in the Vatican and Venice which has enabled Dr. Carr to avoid the pitfalls and partial readings which would have resulted from relying solely on the published calendars of these sources. His archival work is evidenced by translations of extended but aptly-chosen passages from papal letters and the deliberations of the Venetian Senate and by appendices of illustrative documents and of indulgences in favour of crusading activity in Romania. This reader was particularly struck by the wide selection of chronicle sources consulted.

Dr. Carr shows clearly that both the papal curia and the Italian maritime republics took some time to appreciate the extent of the menace posed by the Anatolian Turkish beyliks to the continued Latin Christian presence in Romania. This is well known from the existing secondary literature, but Carr adds depth and nuance to the picture by examining in detail how the curia shifted from perceiving the Turkish threat as a problem for the Greeks, to be exploited as justification for a crusade that would replace the Byzantine state with one more able to defend Christian lands (pp. 36, 38), or the Turks as merely one of a number of groupings threatening Latin Greece, on a par with schismatic Greeks and rebellious Catalans, to an appreciation of the Turkish sea-borne danger to the eastern Aegean possessions of the Zaccaria (by the 1320s) and to the whole region by the following decade. He also demonstrates that, except during the pontificate of Benedict XII, as the papacy disengaged from a dependence on the French crown for crusade planning and became less focused on the recovery of Byzantium and the Holy Land, it became more receptive to appeals from the Italian maritime republics and their Aegean affiliates. To this end Dr. Carr makes intelligent use of the gradual extension of indulgences from those granted in articulo mortis to the Zaccaria in 1322 and 1325 and to participants in the crusading league of 1334 to the full plenary indulgence made available to participants and supporters of the Smyrna campaign to illustrate changing papal attitudes and priorities. Clement VI, in particular, is shown to be a guiding intelligence behind the formation of the Smyrna crusade and an enthusiast for the miracle stories which its success generated. Venetian perceptions of the Turks, too, shifted, both because the Anatolian emirates began to menace Naxos, Euboea and Crete as well as the Greeks and Genoese, but also as a consequence of the rapprochement between Venice and Byzantium after 1310, and of the rupture between the emirate of Aydin and the Catalans, with whom the Venetians had a succession of truces, in 1329. Carr shows that the impetus behind the formation of the naval league of 1333-4 came from the Venetians, and that genuine concern for the welfare of the Republic’s subjects, as well as for the continuance of peaceful trade, led it to attempt the organisation of naval leagues, whether papal support was forthcoming or not.

Dr. Carr’s premise that trade and crusade could be, and were, reconciled in the minds and practises of fourteenth-century Italians is afforded a plausible theoretical grounding in the introduction, and following chapters provide demonstrations of its soundness, such as when he considers Italian attempts to offset the damage done to Aegean trade by Anatolian raids and their own consequent crusading activities by securing papal licence to trade with Egypt, something which John XXII allowed to the Zaccaria, but which successive popes denied to the Venetians until the Smyrna campaign. His suggestion (p. 123) that the maritime crusading league itself evolved out of the naval blockade on Muslim trade is interesting and deserves further research, but it fits with the diplomatic history and with the post-crusade treaties foisted upon Menteshe and Aydin in 1337.

Dr. Carr provides a series of background narratives to establish the military and diplomatic context for crusading activity, as well as detailed narratives of crusade operations. On certain points, such as the battle between Hospitallers, the Zaccaria and the Turks in 1319, Carr uses such digressions to clear up confusion in the secondary literature. (Carr does not delve into Hospitaller policy in this thesis, but assigns them a central role in anti-Turkish warfare in his ‘The Hospitallers of Rhodes and their Alliances Against the Turks, 1306-1348’ in S. Phillips and E. Buttigieg, eds., Islands and Military Orders, c. 1291-1798 (Ashgate, 2013).

Overall the thesis lives up to its promise, exploring mercantile and crusading motivations and perceptions of the Turks with intelligent nuance, and adding significantly to our understanding of how crusading priorities shifted in the first half of the fourteenth century, paving the way for the anti-Turkish crusading activity, so often organised through naval leagues, of the following two centuries. Dr. Carr’s book, Merchant Crusaders in the Aegean, 1291-1352 (forthcoming with Boydell and Brewer, 2015), based on the evidence provided by this thesis, should be eagerly anticipated.

Gregory O’Malley, PhD (Cantab)
Independent scholar

Primary Sources
Vatican, Archivio Segreto, Registra Avenionensia
Vatican, Archivio Segreto, Registra Vaticana
Venice, Archivio di Stato, Deliberazioni Misti del Senato
Venice, Archivio di Stato, Deliberazioni del Maggior Consiglio
Enveri, e destān d’Umūr Pacha (Düstūrnāme-i Enverī), trans. I. Mélikoff-Sayar (Paris, 1954)

Dissertation Information
Royal Holloway, University of London. 2011. Primary advisor: Jonathan Harris.

Image: A Byzantine fortification in Iassos, Turkey. Photograph by Mike Carr.

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