The Accursed Tower: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades
By Roger Crowley
Published in November 2019
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
The Accursed Tower covers the last days of the Holy Land crusades and the ultimate defeat of the crusaders at the hands of the Mamluks during the battle of Acre.
I’d like to preface the rest of my review by saying that this is one of the best books about the crusades that I have read. However, I do not believe it has much interest or value to an audience that hasn’t spent a significant amount of time studying the crusades and aquainting themselves with the topics at hand.
During the 6th crusade, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II purchases Jerusalem from the faltering Ayyubid dynasty. Without any bloodshed, Frederick II manages to recapture the city of God. The Holy Roman Emperor then returns to Europe, leaving Jerusalem undefended.
As a result, 15 years later, Jerusalem once again falls back into Muslim hands.
This triggers a desperate series of final crusades to recapture the holy land. The 7th, 8th, Baron’s, and 9th crusades all seek to restore Jerusalem to the crusader states. However, due to the lack of resources and poor coordination between European crusaders all fail to make significant gains. Some of the crusades succeed in delaying the inevitable, but none recapture Jerusalem.
The situation becomes more dire due to an indirect chain of events triggered by the Mongol invasion.
As Mongol armies ravage the heartland of Islam, there is a coup in Ayyubid Egypt. The decadent and complacent Ayyubid regime faces a slave uprising, and is taken over by the Mamluks.
The Mamluks are hardened, mostly Turkish, slave warriors. Mamluk means
The new Mamluk government immediately catches wind of the possibility of an alliance between the crusaders and Mongols. The Mamluks realize that such an alliance could possibly spell the end of Islam itself.
So, seeking to prevent their enemies from uniting, the Mamluks realize that its time to wipe out the crusaders once and for all.
The Mamluks proceed to raise the largest armies Islam has ever seen at this point (at least in the time since the Islamic golden age). They then systematically go from crusader stronghold to crusader stronghold, perpetuating a genocide against the infidels.
The last crusader bastion to fall is Acre. However, Acre is divided internally. The crusaders have been caught up in civil wars and suffer from internal discord. As a result, Acre is rapidly overwhelmed by Muslim forces. All of the men are killed. The surviving women and children are sold into sex slavery.
The fall of Acre marks the end of the crusades.
I cannot help but feel a certain sense of justice. The genocide perpetrated by the Mamluks against the crusaders is a far cry from the mercy and decency of Saladin. It, if anything, echoes the early conquests of the crusaders and the sacks of cities like Antioch and Jerusalem.
This is an excellent history book for those who have enough background information to follow what is going on. For those with less knowledge of the crusades, frequent visits to Wikipedia might be necessary to properly follow the action.
It is also the only book that focuses primarily on the end, rather than beginning, of the crusades. A must read for anyone who wants to know how the crusader states finally come to an end.
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