Empires: Holy Warriors
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The epic legend of King Richard the Lionhearted and his struggle to save Christendom’s holiest city, Jerusalem, from its Muslim conqueror Saladin is explored in this drama-documentary using original Muslim and Christian sources, as well as interviews with experts from both the East and West. Filmed in the Middle East, it tells the story that defined religious conflict for centuries and transformed Richard and Saladin into legends.
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One would get the impression that Richard I was the prime force behind the Crusade, depsite the fact that Barbarossa & the Germans left for the Holy Land a full two years earlier. The program would have you believe that after Barbarossa's death, the German armies simply melted away --- I believe the narrator actually said that most of the Germans "went home." If he meant that "home" was Antioch, then I suppose that is an accurate statement. It was the remnants of the German army (largely decimated by plague) that successfully defended Tyre (left almost unmentioned in this program) against Saladin's forces. Also barely mentioned is Phillip II of France, who played a key role in the political events that unfolded in the Holy Land.
The producers at least mentioned Richard's execution of the 3000 prisoners (following the siege of Acre), but left unmentioned is Richard's complicity in the assasination of Conrad of Montferrat, recently crowned King of Jerusalem, in 1192. The program would prefer to paint Richard as a noble warrior, rather than a political strategist of the first order. The political in-fighting between the Germans, French & English (not to mentioned the already entrenched Crusader States) is a not insignificant part of the story of the Third Crusade, but it goes entirely unmentioned here.
In fact, this program skims the topwaters to such a degree that only a historical neophyte could find much value in it. This program is a big disappointment overall.
I disagree with those who thought that the documentary was biased in favor of Richard I. Most of the historical commentators in the documentary were Arabic and greatly favored Saladin's position, and even one of the English commentators said that Saladin was far more noble than Richard; that they came from "different worlds," that Islam is about tolerance, and that Christianity was very intolerant at that period in history, and that Saladin was too noble to comprehend Richard's brand of dirty fighting. They also glossed over the massacre of the survivors of the Battle of Hattin, but gave a fair amount of time to the massacre of the 3000 Muslims of Acre.
From what I have heard of Saladin and Richard, Saladin probably really was more humanistic than Richard, and the Crusades were not the highest point in Christian tolerance (not that it was the high point in Muslim tolerance either), and I think that this documentary makes it very clear which religious group attacked the other first, and who was nobler of the two great military leaders. Neither the Christians nor their leader look very good in this documentary.
In light of a certain amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in the West following 9/11 and the attacks in Europe, and the ensuing war, it is understandable that the makers of the documentary would look back on the Crusades and find fault in Western behavior. I just find it strange that so many commentators actually thought it biased in favor of Richard I.
The Crusades were a very morally troubling period for both sides to the conflict. There were noble leaders who arose in the midst of it, but no one national, ethnic, or religious group was free of blame for the bloody path that it took. This documentary, like many others produced by Westerners, turns the bulk of the criticism inwardly, and examines the role played by Europe in perpetuating the conflict.
Just a few examples: There was little about Richard's early life, the show repeatedly called him 'Richard of England'. His parents were French (Henry II was originally Count of Anjou, Eleanor of Aquitaine was formerly Queen of France); he was raised in Aquitaine, he barely spoke English. He was, in fact, Richard, Coeur de Lion.
- We are told that his father gave large sums of money to finance the Kingdom of Jerusalem -- he had to, it was part of Henry's penance for the murder of Thomas a Becket!!
- Richard was not a fair, generous or beloved king; he was a brutal warlord who used England only as a source of tax revenue to finance the Crusade.
- To suggest that the Christians in Jerusalem bravely and nobly set out to fight Saladin at Hattin is laughable. Do some research on Guy of Lusignan and Reginald of Chastillon to get the true story.
- To suggest that the Saladin's victory at Hattin was due to setting fire to the Christian camp (see the scenes of apparently burnt corpses) is simply outrageous.
- There were three kings who took the cross, recruited armies and set off for the Holy Land: Richard, Philip II of France and Frederick Barbarossa of Germany. Did either of the last two get more than 30 seconds?
- We are told that Richard left England and sped to the aid of Acre. No mention of the nine month stopover in Sicily and Cyprus.
- I turned off most of the second hour. Tuned back in just in time to hear that Richard left the Holy Land in 1192 and returned to England. Sounds like a pretty uneventful trip. That's because they glossed over the serious disputes and rivalries between Richard, Philip II and Leopold V of Austria after the fall of Acre. Was there any mention of the fact that Richard (due to storms in the Mediterranean) tried to return via Vienna, was arrested by Leopold's supporters and thrown in prison for over a year? The ransom virtually bankrupted England.
Watch the movie "Kingdom of Heaven". When Hollywood does a better job than PBS..... Also read the book "Warriors of God" by James Reston Jr.