3 – Siege of Damascus (1148)
This siege was the pivotal moment of the Second Crusade and resulted in a Crusader defeat. The Second Crusade was announced by Pope Eugene III in 1147, and it was the first of the crusades to be led by European kings including Conrad III of Germany and Louis VII of France. Unlike the First Crusade, the Holy Roman Empire was heavily involved and featured Emperor Frederick Barbarossa I. It began poorly as the armies of Conrad and Louis were defeated by Seljuk Turks in separate engagements.
The original target of the Second Crusade was Edessa, but King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and the Knights Templar had designs on Damascus. Magnates from Germany, France and the Kingdom of Jerusalem decided to divert their attention to Damascus at the Council of Acre. They elected to attack from the west because the orchards would provide a steady supply of food. The crusaders arrived at Damascus on July 24, 1148, and immediately laid siege using wood from the orchard.
On July 27, they made the fateful decision to move to the east of the city. It wasn’t as well fortified but also had less food. Meanwhile, a Muslim commander by the name of Nur ad-Din Zangi arrived at the city with reinforcements and immediately blocked off the crusader’s way back to the west. The crusader lords decided to quit the siege so it ended in dismal failure. On July 28, the crusaders abandoned the siege and returned to Jerusalem but suffered casualties after being attacked by Turk archers.
The failure at Damascus all but ended the Second Crusade and was considered a great victory for the Muslims. Moreover, the Christian forces no longer trusted one another which is why a planned attack on Ascalon never came to fruition. The debacle had a significant cultural impact on several European nations, and the long-term consequences of the failure were disastrous for Jerusalem. The breakdown in trust between European nations, the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Byzantine Empire enabled the Muslims to gain a foothold in the region. In 1187, Saladin captured Jerusalem which led to the Third Crusade.