Aimed at reclaiming Jerusalem for Christians, the First Crusade (1096-1099) was a long, tough march. By the time they reached Ma’arra, in northwestern Syria, some of the hungry European troops resorted to cannibalism.
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A crusader from Chartres wrote of the many men who “cut pieces from the buttocks of the Saracens.” He continued: “Even if they were barely warmed over they savagely filled their mouths and devoured them.”
Proud of their exploits, some Crusaders boasted about putting adults to boil in the stewpot, while impaling children on spits to roast over the fire.
To back them up, they had the Old Testament, where cannibalism was a useful combat tool. The prophet Isaiah says, “I will feed your enemies with their own flesh, and like new wine, they shall be drunk with their own blood.”
I spoke with Jay Rubenstein, author of “Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse,” on the following topics:
1. Christianizing Jerusalem
2. Apocalyptic Battles
3. Siege of Antioch
4. Final Conquest
5. West vs. East
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