This would be where Mr. Flynn gets into the maps that have squiggly lines all over them— but so even I can follow it:
The House of Submission was divided into two broad zones. The Highlands — the mountainous plateaus that run from Anatolia eastward to the Hindu Kush — was occupied by Saljūq Turks, nominally comprising a great Sultanate but actually a potpourri of subordinate emirs of varying degrees of independence and mutual hostility. The Lowlands were the desert borders more or less reigned on lightly by the Fatimid caliphs. The Abbasid Caliphate owned a spurious independence and pretended not to notice the Saljūq hand up their skirts working the arms and voice. The Turks had a Sunni disposition while the Fatimids were in deep Shi’ite. This added piquancy to the usual rivalry between the uplands and the lowlands.¹ Syria-Palestine, which lay in between the two, suffered the usual soccer ball fate of lands-that-lie-in-between, which is why the Christian pilgrims going there found an on-going state of turmoil going on. Neither the Saljūqs nor the Fatimids were in complete control of their vassals and disorder was the order of the day.
At the pre-game pep-rally at Clermont and elsewhere, Pope Urban set 15 Aug 1096 for the kick-off and a number of high nobility set about prepping for their journey: borrowing money, mortgaging properties, maxing out their credit cards, and so on as they assembled followers and such to travel together for fellowship, company, and protection.
Urban (II), bishop, servant of the servants of God, to all the faithful, both princes and subjects, waiting in Flanders; greeting, apostolic grace, and blessing.
…If, moreover, there are any of your people whom God has inspired to this vow, let them know that he (Adhemar) will set out with the aid of God on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary, and that they can then attach themselves to his following.
Crusading was an expensive business, as noted in the previous episode, and the typical pilgrim-penitent did not especially expect to return hale and hearty, or even to return at all. Past history is no guarantee of future performance, as they say in the commercials, but the forces of Islam had been on a roll for a very long time, laying siege to both Rome and Constantinople, occupying and colonizing Spain and North Africa, conquering the ancient homeland of the Faith, and bedeviling the southern coasts of Europe in general. In fact, the last muslim franchise in southern Italy had been shut down only a few years before the crusade was called. So it’s not as if the professionals expected a cake-walk to Jerusalem down a path strewn with rose petals.
Context: The Normans had conquered England only thirty years ago. They had recently finished reconquering Sicily from the Arabs and had made a credible stab at conquering the Balkans. Feisty folk, them Normans.
Go check out the maps, and the cast of actors, at The TOF Spot. (Sadly, this is the last one in this series, so far.)