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I believe I've read somewhere, that the Etruscans (anymore knows any sources?) devoted ever more thought to the afterlife, as the Roman republic encroached on their territory. Similarly the Romans thought ever more about the end of times (and hence the afterlife), as the Barbarians encroached on their territory before the downfall of Rome (and later, Byzantium).

Why did the Etruscans, Roman Christians and later the Byzantine Christians not react to these developments not by contemplating the end times, but by recruiting?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Samuel Russell, Pieter Geerkens, andy256, Mark C. Wallace, CGCampbell May 24 at 16:17

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This question would seem to rely on the assumption that each of these communities knew that they were in the "end of times". I'm not sure that I can define the term, let alone detect it other than retroactively. On the other hand, Roman Christians believed that the kingdom of heaven was imminent and did not call for resistance, so why would they "invent" a military order? And what would Roman Government have said about the formation of private armies within the state not linked to the state? I'm confused by this question. –  Mark C. Wallace Jun 9 '14 at 13:23
@MarkC.Wallace So you mean to say, that Crusades were a pope's idea not a "christian" one and the papacy was still weak at the time. Indeed, the pope called for a crusade, and the people followed. So they may have less to do with Christianity and more with the pope. Still, why did the romans fail to call a single crusade twice? Once in the west, the other time in the east. And in the east, there was the Christian pontifex maximus and emperor. –  user1095108 Jun 9 '14 at 13:29
@MarkC.Wallace And the "private" armies supposedly existed and were tolerated, they were just not religious in nature, but forerunners of later feudal armies. –  user1095108 Jun 9 '14 at 13:38
@MarkC.Wallace I edited, is my question better now? –  user1095108 Jun 9 '14 at 14:06
I wonder if the question hasn't crossed the boundary into alternative history? –  Mark C. Wallace Jun 9 '14 at 14:40

2 Answers 2

Declaring a holy war does not magically create additional resources for war. That presupposes the nation had a large reservoir of untapped strength that could be utilised by religious zeal. Christendom had lords and trained armies of professional warriors (knights). The Caliphate united tribes of Arabs and were fortunate enough to find two exhausted empires fresh from a major war on their doorsteps.

In contrast, I don't think "inventing the crusades" or military orders would have been helpful for either the Byzantine Empire or the Western Empire near the time of their fall. Both were exhausted by centuries of devastating strife, overwhelmed by enemies on every front. That to me sufficiently explains why neither specifically invested in the concept of a holy war. Which is not to say there wasn't religious elements to for instance, the Byzantine Empire's campaigns. The great reconquest of Heraclius that recovered the True Cross comes to mind.

I guess the point is, Latin Europe wasn't on the verge of being conquered when Pope Urban II created an outlet for knightly violence citing Deus vult. The Crusades happened because there was an excess of capacity for violence that the church had manipulated into targeting the Levant with promises of absolution. Not because Europeans felt compelled to create such an event to save themselves from an encroaching enemy.

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True, true, but my question covers a very large span of time. When the western part of the Roman empire fell, the eastern part was still in good shape, a "crusade" (against the Barbarians, not the Muslims, which did not yet exist), might have pulled in recruits from both halves. Resources too, are only a part of the big picture, you need recruits as well. –  user1095108 Jun 9 '14 at 18:57
Also, you forgot to take into account the "People's Crusade". Those weren't exactly nobles. –  user1095108 Jun 9 '14 at 19:05
Generally speaking, recruiting unarmed, untrained, inexperienced peasants was probably not really a major or meaningful or useful achievement. –  Semaphore Jun 9 '14 at 19:46
You've discovered why that is meaningless in your own comment, even though you then ignored it - money. In any case, I'm not sure why you are so fixated on the idea of "bringing in recruits". Again, as I said in my original post, the Crusades were launched by existing, trained knightly armies of Europe against non-pressing threats far away. Not by states already pressed to their limits. That a bunch of clueless peasants threw their lives away to accomplish nothing, is not a counterpoint. –  Semaphore Jun 9 '14 at 20:54
Are you able to provide an example of this "remain passive" claim you're making? –  Semaphore Jun 10 '14 at 7:18

The Western Empire fell in 410. However, beginning in the fourth century, more and more of the barbarian tribes were converting to Christianity, so a "Holy War" against them would not make sense. The Visigoths, Othrogoths, and Vandals converted to Arian Christianity.

These tribes flourished and spread during the late Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or the Migration Period. The Visigoths emerged from earlier Gothic groups (possibly the Thervingi)[3] who had invaded the Roman Empire beginning in 376 and had defeated the Romans at the Battle of Adrianople in 378.

In 507, however, their rule in Gaul was ended by the Franks under Clovis I, who defeated them in the Battle of Vouillé.

The Visigoths were pushed into Spain. The first Frankish king who united the French tribes, Clovis I, converted to the Latin Rite in 496 and the religion spread further from there.

In or around 589, the Visigoths under Reccared I converted from Arianism to Nicene Christianity,

The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottomon Turks in 1453. They recruited to fight them (rather than pray about the end times) and I see no reason to think that the differing religions of the two sides wasn't used to inspire the soldiers.

Possibly what you are referring to is following the Plague of Justinian, the Eastern Empire gave up trying to reunite with the Western Empire and prevent its final, total collapse. Justinian I (482-565) was the Emperor, but also head of the Church in the East not long after the Sack of Rome in 410. He set about a successful military campaign against the barbarian tribes. The Plague of Justinian was a terrible disease similar to the Black Death that hit Constantinople and was believed to be a punishment from God for his marriage to a "dancer." At this time some people did believe it was the End Times. There weren't any more military campaigns, holy war or any form, because the Eastern Empire couldn't financially afford it due to the plague.

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That's a fine answer as well, but Arians were branded as heretics well before the end of the Roman empire, already during the 3rd century, I believe. This could serve as a pretext for a holy war. The Fourth Crusade is one example of a Christian vs Christian Crusade. –  user1095108 Jun 10 '14 at 5:27
@user1095108 The Fourth Crusade is a bad example since they shouldn't have been doing that. But the Cathar Crusade is very similar, proving it might happen. The best explanation is the time period. Some influential Arian heretics were banished by Constantine and their religious texts burned for example but largely the two co-existed in this time period. –  Razie Mah Jun 10 '14 at 6:30
@user1095108 By "the time period" I mean that I've found reading Catholic Church history that it did start out much more tolerant and less violent but it lost those virtues progressing through the Middle Ages. –  Razie Mah Jun 10 '14 at 6:36

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