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Do atheist professors ever make students renounce their belief in God, or is that only in the movies?
The idea that evil, liberal, atheist professors are forcing their students to renounce their faith is an extremely longstanding and pervasive fear among conservative evangelical Christians here in the United States. Right-wing evangelicals have been blaming universities and their supposedly evil, liberal, atheist professors for increasing secularization in society since at least the late nineteenth century.The trope of the atheist professor forcing his students to renounce God can be found in political speeches, cartoons, internet memes, and even films. Despite the longstanding prevalence of this idea, however, it is, for the most part, entirely unsupported by evidence.The atheist professor stereotype in the early twentieth centuryTo give an amusing image of just how far back this goes, I have a book in my personal collection titled The Photo-Drama of Creation that was printed in 1914. That book has this illustration on page 89, depicting a college professor as the literal Devil himself, teaching a student one-on-one, with the caption “COLLEGES TEACHING HIGHER CRITICISM”:ABOVE: A striking image from an old book I have in my collection (Note: This particular image of the illustration was taken from the version of the book on Archive, not from my personal copy.)In a speech at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on 5 May 1921, the Democratic politician and orator William Jennings Bryan (lived 1860 – 1925), a progressive populist who was regarded at the time as a member of the far left, famously denounced public universities for taking public funds and teaching evolution, which Bryan considered to be a vile, atheistic doctrine, to their students, thereby indoctrinating students into atheism against their own parents’ wishes. He proclaimed:“Our classrooms furnish an arena in which a brutish doctrine tears the pieces the religious faith of young men and young women; parents of the children are cordially invited to witness the spectacle.”In the speech, Bryan went on to demand that professors must stop teaching evolution and return to traditional Protestant theology as the basis of all higher education. Bryan also demanded that President Edward A. Birge of the University of Wisconsin be required to sign a statement specifically affirming that he did indeed believe that the Earth was created by God in seven days exactly as described in the Book of Genesis, that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, and that all the miracles described in the Bible were historically true, in order to prove that he was not an atheist and that he was indeed morally qualified to serve as the president of a university.Ironically, President Birge was not at all an atheist in any sense, but rather a devout Protestant who simply believed that science and religion could coexist. Birge actually accused Bryan of inadvertently promoting atheism by promoting the idea that science contradicted traditional Protestantism.ABOVE: Photograph of Edward A. Birge, the president of the University of Wisconsin whom William Jennings Bryan said needed to sign a paper saying he believed in the Genesis creation story and all the miracles recorded in the Bible in order to prove himself morally qualified to be president of a universityModern examples of the atheist professor memeThere are countless memes and urban legends that have circulated on the internet about atheist professors supposedly forcing their beliefs on their students. For instance, here is one version of the urban legend from the internet:“This is a true story of something that happened just a few years ago at USC. There was a professor of philosophy there who was a deeply committed atheist. His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist. His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic. For twenty years, he had taught this class and no one had ever had the courage to go against him. Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever ‘really gone against him’ (you’ll see what I mean later).”“Nobody would go against him because he had a reputation. At the end of every semester, on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, ‘If there anyone here who still believes in Jesus, stand up!’ In twenty years, no one had ever stood up. They knew what he was going to do next. He would say, “because anyone who does believe in God is a fool. If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking. Such a simple task to prove that he is God, and yet he can’t do it.” And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces. The students could do nothing but stop and stare. Most of the students were convinced that God couldn’t exist. Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but for 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up.”“Well, a few years ago, there was a freshman who happened to get enrolled in the class. He was a Christian, and had heard the stories about this professor. He had to take the class because it was one of the required classes for his major and he was afraid. But for 3 months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said or what the class thought. Nothing they said or did could ever shatter his faith, he hoped.”“Finally the day came. The professor said, ‘If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!’ The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom. The professor shouted, ‘You FOOL!! If God existed, he could keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hit the ground!’ He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped out of his fingers, off his shirt cuff, onto the pleats of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe. As it hit the ground, it simply rolled away, unbroken.”“The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk. He looked up at the young man and then ran out of the lecture hall. The young man who had stood up proceeded to walk to the front of the room and share his faith in Jesus for the next half hour. 300 students stayed and listened as he told of God’s love for them and of his power through Jesus.”To be very clear, this story is an internet urban legend; it is not true at all and the story itself is wildly implausible. (For instance, a real atheist philosophy professor would consider the idea of spending an entire semester trying to disprove the existence of God a complete waste of time and he would not be so stupid as to propose a dropped piece of chalk as a test of God’s existence.)There are many other versions of this same legend found on the internet. In some versions of the story, the brave Christian student who stands up to the evil atheist professor turns out to be the young Albert Einstein. (No, really! I am not joking! Here is the article from Snopes debunking it.)ABOVE: Photograph of the famous physicist Albert Einstein. According to a popular internet urban legend, one of Albert Einstein’s hobbies as a young man was apparently humiliating atheist professors.The atheist professor myth in moviesIn 2014, Pure Flix Entertainment, a conservative, evangelical Christian film company, adapted the popular internet urban legend about the brave Christian student standing up to the evil atheist professor into a film, God’s Not Dead, about a heroic undergraduate student who stands up to his evil atheist philosophy professor.In the film, Professor Radisson demands that all students in his class must sign a paper saying that there is no God in order to pass the class. Then, Josh Wheaton, a student, refuses to sign the paper. Professor Radisson gives Josh twenty minutes at the end of the first three lectures to argue for the existence of God. In the last session, Josh confronts Professor Radisson and asks him “Why do you hate God?” Radisson goes totally ballistic, admitting that he hates God because God let his mother die. The class goes over to Josh’s side. The movie ends with Radisson dying in a car crash and converting to Christianity with his dying breath.It is an objectively horrible film in every way. Its portrayal of academia is totally wrong. The acting is terrible, but the writing is even worse. It was universally panned by critics, but it was hugely financially successful nonetheless because it appealed to many conservative Christians on an ideological basis. That summary of the film I just gave should hopefully give you an impression of what many American conservatives think about higher education.ABOVE: Image of Kevin Sorbo as the evil atheist Professor Radisson in the 2014 Christian film God’s Not Dead, which was universally panned by critics, but was wildly financially successful nonethelessParodying the evil atheist professor memesThe memes about the evil atheist professor are so pervasive that they have even been parodied. The most famous parody is one that apparently originated on 4chan in around 2011 that reads as follows:“A liberal Muslim homosexual ACLU lawyer professor and abortion doctor was teaching a class on Karl Marx, a known atheist.”“’Before the class begins, you must get on your knees and worship Marx and accept that he was the most highly-evolved being the world has ever known, even greater than Jesus Christ!’”“At this moment, a brave, patriotic, pro-life Navy SEAL champion who had served 1500 tours of duty and understood the necessity of war and fully supported all military decision made by the United States stood up and held up a rock.”“’How old is this rock?’”“The arrogant professor smirked quite Jewishly and smugly replied ‘4.6 billion years, you stupid Christian’”“‘Wrong. It’s been 5,000 years since God created it. If it was 4.6 billion years old and evolution, as you say, is real… then it should be an animal now’”“The professor was visibly shaken, and dropped his chalk and copy of Origin of the Species [sic]. He stormed out of the room crying those liberal crocodile tears. The same tears liberals cry for the ‘poor’ (who today live in such luxury that most own refrigerators) when they jealously try to claw justly earned wealth from the deserving job creators. There is no doubt that at this point our professor, DeShawn Washington, wished he had pulled himself up by his bootstraps and become more than a sophist liberal professor. He wished so much that he had a gun to shoot himself from embarrassment, but he himself had petitioned against them!”“The students applauded and all registered Republican that day and accepted Jesus as their lord and savior. An eagle named ‘Small Government’ flew into the room and perched atop the American Flag and shed a tear on the chalk. The pledge of allegiance was read several times, and God himself showed up and enacted a flat tax rate across the country.”“The professor lost his tenure and was fired the next day. He died of the gay plague AIDS and was tossed into the lake of fire for all eternity.”“Semper Fi”Many other parodies based on this template have also been created. My personal favorite is the “Christian philosopher” version that originated on r/RoughRomanMemes, but I won’t quote that version here.ABOVE: Image of the original parody version of the atheist professor storyDebunking the atheist professor mythDespite how obsessed right-wing conservatives seem to be with it, this whole notion that atheist professors are constantly trying to destroy young people’s faith is a pure urban legend. As far as I am aware, there has never been a single reliably documented case of a college professor ordering all his students to sign a paper saying they do not believe in God in order to pass his class. In fact, the idea that a professor would demand such a thing is frankly ridiculous for several reasons.First of all, atheists generally don’t tend to care very much about what other people believe. Very few atheists are at all interested in converting other people to atheism. Furthermore, most people who become professors do it because they are genuinely obsessed with the subject they teach—not because they think it would be fun to use their position as a professor to impose atheism on their students.In other words, a real atheist philosophy professor would most likely see trying to convert their students to atheism as a waste of valuable class time that could be better spent teaching their students about philosophy.Secondly, if, for some reason, an atheist professor did order all their students to sign a statement that they do not believe in the existence of God, that would be in complete violation of the laws governing public state universities. Most notably, Title IX explicitly protects students from discrimination on the basis of religion. A professor forcing students to say that God is dead would definitely qualify as a form of religious discrimination. Any professor who ordered all their students to sign a statement saying that they did not believe in God would be immediately fired.Third and finally, believe it or not, a large plurality of university professors are actually theists. Here’s excerpt from an article published in summer 2007 in Harvard Magazine discussing a study that was conducted on faculty beliefs on religion:“Last spring, in a survey of 1,500 professors (from dozens of fields, working at community colleges, four-year colleges, and elite research universities, denominational and otherwise), Gross and a colleague, Solon Simmons of George Mason University, asked about their respondents’ political and social views. They found that more than half of the academics believe in God and less than a quarter are either atheist or agnostic.”“The numbers surprised them, ‘particularly given that religion is not something that most professors talk about too much with their peers,’ says Gross. ‘I think it’s something that most academicians think of as a private matter, something that doesn’t have much of a place in departmental discussions, or in research.’ (Though comparatively low, the percentage of nonbelievers in academia is still much higher than the percentage of self-described nonbelievers found among the general public. That figure is only about 7 percent, according to the nationwide General Social Survey, issued by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.)”“Just as surprising to the researchers was the range of belief across institutions and fields of research. Although nearly 37 percent of professors at elite research schools like Harvard are atheist or agnostic, about 20 percent of their colleagues have ‘no doubt that God exists.’ At community colleges, in contrast, 15 percent of professors are atheist or agnostic, and 40 percent believe in God. These differences exist because of professors’ backgrounds and inclinations, says Gross. Professors who come from higher socioeconomic classes and are drawn to research over teaching or service—characteristics more common among academics at elite institutions—tend to be less religious.”“A professor’s field of research or discipline is also predictive, he adds: psychologists and biologists are most likely to be nonbelievers (61 percent are atheist or agnostic), followed by mechanical engineers, economists, and political scientists. The most likely believers are professors of accounting (63 percent have no doubt that God exists), followed by professors of elementary education, finance, art, criminal justice, and nursing.”The study described in this article is not an aberration. Surveys consistently find that a significant plurality of college and university professors are theists.Even among scientists, surveys consistently find that belief in God is surprisingly high. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2009 found that 33% of scientists said they believed in the existence of God. Eighteen percent of scientists said they didn’t believe in God, but they did believe in “a universal spirit or higher power.” Finally, only 41% of scientists said they did not believe in God or “a universal spirit or higher power.”Surveys like the ones described above clearly demonstrate that the popular stereotype of professors and other intellectuals as militant atheists who hate Christians is not accurate at all.ABOVE: Chart from Pew Research Center showing that, in 2009, roughly 33% of scientists said that they believed in the existence of GodMy personal experience as a university studentI am currently a student at Indiana University Bloomington, which is one of those public state universities that conservative evangelicals seem to be so terrified of. Not once have I ever heard of a real professor at my university trying to force anyone to give up their religious beliefs. Indeed, I genuinely have no idea what religious beliefs most of the professors I have had have held, since almost none of them have talked about their own religious beliefs at all.Here is an detailed overview of everything all my professors have said about religion over the course of my time in college that I can remember:[Edit 4/25/2020: For the sake of anonymity, I have removed all professors’ names and replaced them with numbers.]Professor 1 was the instructor for a mathematics class I took the first semester of my freshman year. He never mentioned religion at all.Professor 2 was the instructor for both semesters of Ancient Greek that I took my freshman year. One day before class early on in the first semester, he made fun of Indiana laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol during certain hours on Sundays. On this same occasion, he mentioned that he was “raised in a fairly nondenominational Baptist home.” At another point later on in the semester, he joked that the passage in Greek that we were reading in our workbooks sounded “like a Baptist sermon.” He later mentioned during a casual conversation towards the beginning of the second semester that he currently attended the Unitarian Universalist Church with his wife and children.Professor 3 was the instructor for both semesters of Latin that I took my freshman year. She sometimes talked about ancient Roman religion, but she never mentioned contemporary religion at all.Professor 4 was the professor for a linguistics class I took the first semester of my freshman year. He mentioned on one occasion that he was Jewish. On a separate occasion, he mentioned singing Hanukkah songs with his mother. On another occasion, while we were learning about the relationship between psychology and linguistics, he gave a lecture in which he quoted the Book of Psalms 137:5–6, claiming (rather tendentiously in my opinion) that it was an accurate description of the effects of a stroke on the left side of the brain.Professor 5 was the professor for an anthropology class I took the first semester of my freshman year. During a lecture about Charles Darwin and the development of modern understanding of evolution, she described herself as an agnostic, but emphasized that many people of faith accept evolution and that accepting evolution does not require a person to be irreligious. She also mentioned that her younger brother is a minister.Professor 6 was the professor for a psychology class I took the second semester of my freshman year. She never mentioned religion at all.Professor 7 was the professor for an ancient Greek culture class I took the second semester of my freshman year. During the first lecture, he briefly mentioned that one of the issues dealt with in ancient Greek literary works that is still relevant today is “the role of the Divine in our lives.” He never mentioned contemporary religion after that. To this day, I still have no idea what his religious affiliation is.Professor 8 was the professor for a philosophy class I took the second semester of my freshman year. After explicitly being asked by a student why we had not talked more about souls in class, she replied, “Well, in order to really entertain the idea of a soul, you first have to accept substance dualism and there aren’t many substance dualists nowadays, so souls don’t usually get talked about much among contemporary philosophers.” This was the only time she really talked about religion that I can recall.Professor 9 was a professor for a history class I took the first semester of my sophomore year. During a conversation in class in which we were talking about how historians need to put aside their own opinions and be as objective as possible, he mentioned that, while he was working on his book The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory, which was about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, he came across “some religious materials” that he personally found “really distasteful.” He said that there were a lot of people saying that the children who had survived the bombing had been spared by God for a special purpose. He responded to this by saying, “What about the children who didn’t survive? Is that supposed to mean that God didn’t care about them?” Nonetheless, he said that he put these objections aside, because he knew it was his job to faithfully record what had happened without passing judgement. I still don’t know what his own religious affiliation is.Professor 10 was a professor for a classical drama class I took the first semester of my sophomore year and an ancient Greek literature class I took the second semester of my sophomore year. At one point in my classical drama class, we were having a discussion that dealt with ancient Greek religion and he happened to mention that certain aspects of ancient Greek religion have survived in contemporary Greek Orthodoxy, noting that, when he went to Greece, he saw that, when you walk into a church, it is just filled with icons of saints and other holy figures and there are all these people venerating them—just like the ancient Greeks worshipped images of their gods. He also mentioned that he was told when he was studying archaeology, “If you want to find an ancient temple, the best place to look is underneath a church.” (Incidentally, these are both subjects that I wrote about in this article from April 2020.) He never said anything about his personal views on religion in class.Professor 11 was the instructor for both semesters of Latin that I took during my sophomore year. She sometimes talked about ancient Roman religion, but she never mentioned contemporary religion at all.Professor 12 was a professor for an Ancient Greek class I took the first semester of my sophomore year. He sometimes talked about ancient Greek religion, but he never mentioned contemporary religion at all. I have no idea what religious affiliations he may or may not have.Professor 13 was a professor for a class about classical art and archaeology that I took the first semester of my sophomore year. She talked fairly extensively about ancient Greek and Roman religions and how ancient peoples’ religious ideas were reflected in their art, but I don’t remember her ever talking about contemporary religion. She certainly did not talk about her own religious affiliations (or any lack thereof).Professor 14 was the professor for an American history class I took the first semester of my sophomore year. During a lecture towards the very beginning of the semester about western European culture prior to the discovery of the Americas, she described western Europe during the Early Modern Period as “Christian, sometimes ferociously so.” She went on to note that, in many places in western Europe during many time periods, if you were not a Christian, you had to ask permission from the government to live there.Professor 15 was a professor for a class about the history of the Roman Empire that I took the second semester of my sophomore year. He talked extensively about ancient Roman religions, including Judaism and Christianity in the Roman Empire. He sometimes made fairly neutral comparisons between ancient religions and present-day religions. He said that, in the earlier Roman Empire, Christians were persecuted, often quite brutally, but, in later times, they themselves became the persecutors. In a video lecture about early Christianity in the Roman Principate late in the semester he happened to mention offhand that he was a Christian himself.Professor 16 was the professor for a class about the Byzantine Empire I took the second semester of my sophomore year. He talked extensively about Christianity in the Byzantine Empire. He also talked about the Arab conquests of the large parts of the Byzantine Empire in the seventh century AD and interactions between the Byzantine Empire and various Islamic societies. He at one point assigned us to have an in-class debate about whether the use of icons is compatible with Christianity, using the arguments that were made in the Byzantine Empire during the period of iconoclasm. Students were assigned to argue for one side or the other. The purpose of the debate was to help students understand the arguments that were posed both in favor of and in opposition to the iconoclast movement during this period of Byzantine history.Professor 17 was the professor for a class about the history of ancient Sparta that I took the second semester of my sophomore year. He talked extensively about the role of religion in ancient Sparta. The only time he ever talked about contemporary religion that I can recall was when we were talking about the inaccuracies in the portrayal of ancient Sparta in the movie 300. He talked about how the film inaccurately portrays the Spartans and Leonidas in particular as being irreligious when, in fact, the ancient Spartans were known for their religious piety. He seemed rather annoyed by this decision by the filmmakers to portray the Spartans in this manner and he said, “I think this may be because in our own society, most people either aren’t religious at all or, if they are religious, they don’t believe in the Greek deities, so the filmmakers decided this would be a way to portray ancient Sparta that would give it a more contemporary resonance.”Professor 18 was a professor for an Ancient Greek class I took the second semester of my sophomore year. At one point towards the beginning of the semester he referenced the Biblical quotation “Consider the lilies of the field how they grow” as an example of grammatical prolepsis. He obviously got this example, though, from page 683 of Herbert Weir Smyth’s standard work on Ancient Greek grammar, A Greek Grammar for Colleges. He commented immediately after using this example, “Don’t ask me anything about the Bible because I don’t know anything about the Bible.” He never said whether he had any religious affiliation, but I would guess from his comment about not knowing much about the Bible that he probably isn’t a Christian.Again, this is a complete list of all the public statements pertaining to religion that I can remember any of the professors that I have had so far having made in class. A couple of the professors on this list have made offhand remarks about their religious beliefs to me in private conversations, but I have not included those statements on this list because they were made in private to me personally and they were not made during class.Not once have I ever had an instructor say that anyone had to sign a piece of paper saying that God did not exist in order to pass a class. Indeed, not once have I ever had an instructor say that God objectively does not exist, that anyone who believes in God is stupid, or anything even remotely along those lines.In fact, of the instructors I have had so far, only four have explicitly stated their religious identities in class at all. Of those four, three of them were theists. Only one professor openly admitted to being irreligious in class, but the one who did admit to being irreligious explicitly made a point to tell us that we did not have to agree with her about religion.Clearly, in my experience at least, professors at public state universities are not in any way compelling students to abandon their religious beliefs.(NOTE: I have also published a version of this article on my website titled “No, Public Universities Aren’t Dominated by Evil Atheist Professors Seeking to Destroy Students’ Faith.” Here is a link to the version of the article on my website.)
What were the pros and cons of the Crusades?
As a historian of Byzantium and the Islamic civilisations, I’d like to respond to Alex Mann’s answer. There are a few misconceptions in his post, which could lead readers to conclusions that are not supported by historical evidence. This will be a long answer, so buckle up for the ride.History and religion: a match made in heaven?Alex Mann claims the Crusades weren’t that bad, really, and that both sides were equally warlike and expansionist. He also claims that the Crusaders were initially just a bunch of peaceful pilgrims, and that technological gains from the Crusades were a step forward for humanity (i.e. the West). He also would have you believe that holy war is found in the Quran, but not in the Bible.It will not surprise readers to know that I take issue with these points. In fact, I think they are flat out wrong. (To give credit where it is due, Alex got a lot of other things right in his post. But I’ll only be talking about the ones where he got it wrong).Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, completed by Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I in 1616.Before we get started, a few words about me. I don’t normally list my credentials, but in this case, it is directly relevant.My 2008 dissertation was on Byzantium in the era of the Crusades (I was awarded a First), and I’ve spent much of the last nine years studying Islamic history and theology, both from the written sources but also from Muslim family members. I’m an Admin on a Quora space for Islam and Muslims; I’ve also studied Arabic primary sources for the Crusades, including Ibn al-Athir. I’m familiar with the Quran and with Islamic theology and history.I also happen to have an uncommon level of knowledge about the Bible and Christian scripture and beliefs. As I’ve touched on before in one of my religion-themed answers, I and my family come from a religious background that emphasised detailed study of the Bible, memorisation of Bible verses, and regular Christian evangelical activity.In this post, I am going to be talking about history, not religion. I am not advocating nor criticising any particular religion. But I do intend to correct certain inaccurate statements in Alex’s post, which relate to religion, and which have an impact on accurately understanding the Crusades.I’m going to quote Alex Mann’s post in italics, below, and then respond to each point where he got something wrong.The origin of the Crusades?Alex Mann writes: “The Crusades were not unprovoked. The various Islamic Empires of the age were highly aggressive, expansionist, and Imperialistic. They conquered all of the following Christian lands- Syria, the Levant, Egypt, Anatolia, North Africa, Spain. They also attacked Rome, invaded France, and were eyeing Greece.”This is seriously anachronistic. The conquest of Syria, the Levant, Egypt, North Africa and Spain was in the 7th century - over 400 years earlier. It does not really explain the situation in the period 1054–1095, which is the relevant background to the Crusades. If getting these lands “back” was so important, it could have been attempted any time in the previous four centuries, yet it was not. This suggests that something else was at work.The Near East in the period before the Seljuk, Norman and Crusader conquestsThat something was explored excellently in this video by History Time. If you’re really interested in the serious historical backdrop to the Crusades, I can recommend this video highly. I was not involved in its production in any way, but it does an excellent job of laying out the historical facts, without any religious or political agenda. The conclusion is eye-opening, and may surprise some viewers. It is certainly rather more enlightening than the ‘traditional’ narrative.To summarise, for those who are too lazy to watch the video, the gist of it is this: the Papacy was growing increasingly warlike and ambitious in the late 11th century and was looking for a way to exert greater political control over Christendom at the time. New theological developments (or debasements, depending on your point of view) allowed a doctrine of holy war to emerge.At the same time, the Seljuk nomadic invasions affected all the cultures of the Near East, including the Persians, the Arabs and the Armenians, before they reached the Byzantines. Their defeat of the Byzantines and invasion into Anatolia triggered the Emperor Alexios I Komnenos to seek help from the West. Thus, the origin of the Crusades had little or nothing to do with religion; and everything to do with medieval power politics.It should also be noted that the Muslim world was not monolithic, and there were multiple powers competing for influence. The Shia Fatimids responded initially to the Crusaders by proposing an alliance, as they saw them as a means to fight against their rivals the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate and various Turkic emirates derived from the Great Seljuk Empire. Of course, the Crusaders didn’t care who was Sunni and who was Shia, or even who was Eastern Christian or Jewish; all were massacred indiscriminately when Jerusalem was conquered.Further massacres were repeated in the later Crusades, including one at Bilbeis in Egypt which prompted local Coptic Christians to support Saladin against the Crusaders after their fellow Coptic Christians were mercilessly slaughtered by forces belonging to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.Anyway, back to the historical argument.Alex Mann writes: “The Crusades were not all military. Armed pilgrimage is a better term than outright invasion- at least for the first few.”This is just straight up factually incorrect. While Peter the Hermit did lead a mob of peasants who were not really a traditional medieval army, to suggest that the Crusades - any of them - had non-violent intentions is simply tendentious historical revisionism/, or to be more blunt, outright falsehood.Alex writes: “Christian crusaders were violent- but so were Muslims. There is no good guy in this conflict”It’s a valid point. But once again we might benefit from a bit more specificity: the two groups who were expansionist conquerors in the period leading up to the Crusades were 1) The Seljuk Turks and 2) The Normans. Both groups spent at least as much time fighting against people of their own religion, as they did fighting each other. This calls into question whether religion was really the primary factor in these conflicts. I’m not saying it wasn’t important, but I am saying these groups probably would have collided anyway, since both were expanding towards each other at the same time, religion or no religion.Alex Mann: “The Byzantine Empire’s life was extended a bit (but would later be killed by the Crusades)”I think this is arguable. It’s possible that the Byzantine Empire actually came off worse after the Crusades than it would’ve been if they’d never happened. In particular, the establishment of the Principality of Antioch, on territory that the Byzantine Emperors viewed as absolutely central to their control of the Near East, proved to be a major thorn in the side of Byzantium.The fact that the Normans (the sworn enemies of the Empire) established themselves in Antioch was a turn of events that was deeply unfavourable. The Emperors John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos ended up wasting a lot of time and resources in attempts to reclaim Antioch, which would have been better spent elsewhere in Anatolia. Given that the Komnenos restoration proved to be temporary, the clock was ticking and this time really counted against the Empire.Emperor John II Komnenos, left, and his wife Piroska of Hungary, together with Mary and Jesus. This mosaic is in the upper gallery in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. I have visited three times. John II was arguably the best emperor of the Komnenos dynasty; he was also (incidentally) the subject of my dissertation(!)It could also be noted that the Second Crusade brought no benefit to Byzantium at all, and the Third and Fourth Crusades became actively hostile, resulting in the dismemberment of the Empire.Alex: “Lots of wealth and many lives were lost. Both Muslims and Christians slaughtered entire cities of people.”While not entirely incorrect, again this is in danger of false equivalence. When the Crusaders entered Jerusalem, they slaughtered the inhabitants in a massacre whose savagery is infamous. When Saladin recaptured Jerusalem, there was no such general massacre.To be clear, there were destructions of cities - notably the city of Caesarea was massacred by the Seljuks during their invasion of Anatolia after 1071 - but this was, strictly speaking, not part of the “Crusades”.Alex: “The idea of a Christian Holy war was born. In the Christian Bible, there is no real concept for holy war like there is in the Quran.”This is simply factually incorrect.Anyone who has ever read The Old Testament, knows that there is plenty of religiously-sanctioned slaughter in the Bible. In the book of Joshua, the siege of Jericho is recounted. After taking the city, the Israelites slaughter every man and woman they find, killing even the oxen, sheep and donkeys, and cursing the ground on which the city had stood, before moving on to slaughter the inhabitants of several other places nearby.21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.An artist’s depiction of the destruction of Jericho, as recounted in Joshua 6:2028 That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. 30 The Lord also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. 32 The Lord gave Lachish into Israel’s hands, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. 33 Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. 35 They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. 37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. 39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.There are plenty of other examples."See, the day of the Lord is coming — a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger. . . . I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty. . . . Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives violated." (Isaiah 13:9–16 NIV)"O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!"(Psalm 137:8–9 NRSV)If you want to play the game of citing religious motivations for violence, then it pays to actually know something about what the religious scriptures in question really say.Alex Mann: “The Crusades were not good or bad really. It’s hard to say they had a net negative or net positive outcome. We may think of them as immoral today but it's hard to say we are more moral than Europeans of this era.”This is incredibly strange. I do not think one can describe a period of extreme violence and mass death as “not good or bad”. I’m not so naïve as to imagine that humans would somehow have magically lived in perfect peace and harmony, if the Crusades had never happened. All of human history is full of wars and violence.But the massacre at Jerusalem (and many other places) during the Crusades stands out, along with other horrifying events such as the brutal Mongol Conquests, as particularly infamous events in history. Alex’s post strays a bit too close to whitewashing history, in my opinion. It won’t really do to assign moral equivalence or even ambivalence to infamous actions such as these. That is dangerous and could easily slide into justifying all sorts of things that should not be.On balance, I lean towards the other answer already posted, by Franz von Maybach. He may not have thousands of Quora followers like Alex does, but his simple, succinct answer is nearer the truth, in my humble opinion.That said, I’d still like to thank Alex for his post, for creating the opportunity for an interesting discussion. On a personal note, I’d also like to wish him a speedy recovery. I may not agree with everything that Alex writes, but I still enjoy his posts about history and about life in America. Stay safe, and hope you’re feeling better soon. :-)Thanks for reading.BibliographyByzantium and the Crusades, Jonathan HarrisThe Making of Orthodox Byzantium 600 - 1025, Mark WhittowThe last centuries of Byzantium, David NicolByzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, Walter KaegiA history of the world through Islamic eyes, Tamim AnsaryNo God but God: the origins, history and future of Islam, Reza AslanSaladin: hero of Islam, Geoffrey HindleyThe Ottoman Centuries, Patrick KinrossByzantium: the last centuries, John Julius Norwich (admittedly not an academic book, but good for the general reader)Moorish Spain, Richard FletcherThe First Muslim, Lesley HazletonHeaven on Earth - a journey through Sharia Law, Sadakat KadriThe historical figure of Jesus, E.P. SandersZealot: the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, Reza Aslan*Not an exhaustive list; no doubt I’ve forgotten some of the more academic texts I used in my dissertation, but for the general reader, from memory, these stood out.
What was the leader of a Roman legion called?
Depends on the time period. The word “Legion” itself means levy in English, thus under the Kings of Rome, the Kings lead the Legion of Rome. Under the Republic, that became to role of Consuls and later as more legions were created Pro Consuls. During one tine period of the Republic, Tribunes lead the legions for the People of Rome saw six Tribunes as better then two Consuls (Please note these Tribunes were not the same as the Tribunes of the Legion, a junior officer position, nor a Tribune of the People who could veto acts of the Senate under the Republic).After many years of using Tribunes, Consuls were recreated and legions were put under the Command of Consuls and Pro Consuls again (a Pro Consul was a Consul whose term of office of one year had expired but given a command of a legion).Under Augustus the system cited by others was adopted for technically every Legion was under the Command of the Emperor who assigned a lieutenant (a “Legate”) to run the Legion day to day. In effect the Legate was in Command of the Imperial Legion but the men in the Legion swore command to the Emperor as the actual commander if the Legion.Please note a Legate had to be a Senator, thus starting in the crisis of the third century Cohorts became more important then legions. This is when you first read of counts, who commanded a cohort.Just a comment that who commanded a legion varied throughout the Roman Republican and Imperial periods. Most give the Command structure of the Augustus legions but during other periods you had different commanders.Please note the word Duc became the English war Duke around the time of Constantine to mean a commander of more then one cohort, sometimes a Legion. At the time of Ceasar, Duc only meant some sort of leader of a group of soldiers and that is all. It evolved to be an actual rank only in the Late Empire as the Legion disappears from the records.I will not go into the Theamic system of the Byzantine Empire, it used Greek and German name for ranks and is another shift in the name of the person in charge.Please note, the Roman Republic could name someone a Dictator who would command all of the legions. He had the right to make his second in command, the “Commander of the Horse”. Till Sulla no one a Dictator for more then six monthe, Sulla was a Dictator for years for he was a Tyrant. When he died Caesar slowly made his move and eventually became Dictator. After Ceasar's death, Augustus took over the title but then resigned it when Mark Anthony was defeated. Augustus then proceeded to merged the powers of First Senator, who set the agenda of the Senate, Tribune of the People and its veto power, Chief Priest of Rome and its control over communications and Bridges, and Censor, and its power to go after corruption, into his own arms as Ceasar (Not Emperor, Emperor meant a commander who had won a victory, thus Augustus called himself Ceasar not Emperor but as Augustus took over the Army he made sure the Army would only name him Emperor and after many years it became the title in addition to the word Ceasar).With all real power in the hands of Augustus, he did not have to be dictator any longer and thus resigned that position and kept the rest including command of all of the legions.