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Starving Crusaders Cooked Up Saracen Glutes, Kids: Lewis Lapham

The cover jacket of
The cover jacket of "Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse" by Jay Rubenstein. Source: Basic Books via Bloomberg

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- 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.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

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

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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