Post-classical history


IN 1516, AT the grand old age of sixty-four, Leonardo da Vinci moved to France. With him he brought three samples of his wares: two religious paintings and one enigmatic portrait that would become known as the Mona Lisa.

A tunnel linked Leonardo’s turreted manor house to the Château d’Amboise, the favored residence of the French king. Francis I was only twenty-two, but the two men saw each other nearly every day and became fast friends. When Leonardo died three years after his arrival, Francis cradled his head in his arms. “There had never been another man born in the world,” the king lamented, “who knew as much as Leonardo.”

The Renaissance had reached France. Born in the competing city-states of Italy, nourished by the splendors that flooded there from the East, and carried north on the winds of war, the intellectual transformation brought a new taste for learning and art to a nation obsessed by battle. Francis dispatched his agents to Italy to buy up paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts; they even tried to transport Leonardo’s Last Supper to France, wall and all. Magnificent palaces and castles shot up across his kingdom, including the Château de Chambord, the most astonishing hunting lodge in the world, which Leonardo himself may have had a hand in designing and where, in 1539, Francis hosted his bitter enemy Charles I of Spain.

The two men had a long history. Twenty years earlier the nineteen-year-old Charles had beaten the twenty-four-year-old Francis to the crown of the Holy Roman Empire. They had been sworn adversaries ever since, so much so that Charles several times challenged the French king to single combat. Most woundingly to French pride, in 1525 Charles’s troops had captured Francis while both were vying for control of the Duchy of Milan, and the French king was carted off to Madrid and thrown in prison.

Francis had left his mother, Louise of Savoy, in charge as regent during his campaign. When she heard of her son’s captivity Louise decided bold action was needed, and she sent an embassy to Istanbul.

The first envoy disappeared in Bosnia, but the second reached the Ottoman capital. Concealed in his shoes were letters to the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent asking him to form an alliance with France. Leonardo da Vinci might well have disapproved. More than a decade before he moved to the Loire, he had designed a soaring single-span bridge to adorn Istanbul. Suleiman’s grandfather had rejected the bravura proposal as absurdly impractical, and instead he had turned to Leonardo’s fellow Tuscan, Michelangelo.

The alliance was eventually struck, and Suleiman, who detested his rival claimant to the title of Caesar, sent Charles an ultimatum to release the French king and pay an annual tribute or face the consequences. Charles refused, and in the spring of 1529 the Ottomans marched on his city of Vienna. Suleiman’s 120,000 troops far outnumbered the defending force of Hapsburg soldiers and Viennese militiamen, but the Turks were in a poor state of health after trudging through the winter mud, their supplies were running short, and as a heavy snowfall set in they beat a dismal retreat.

The failed siege marked the high-water mark of Turkish power, but the Ottoman Empire was still the sole superpower of the Renaissance world. Tracing the path taken by the early Arab conquerors, the Turks had marched west from Egypt and had stormed across North Africa. Sixty thousand Ottoman soldiers and mariners had ousted the last five hundred Knights Hospitaller from their stronghold at Rhodes and had pushed them back to Malta. A Barbary pirate named Khayr ad-Din—better known as Barbarossa—had been co-opted as the Ottoman fleet admiral, and he had imposed his will across the Mediterranean. The French alliance with the Turks scandalized their fellow Christians, but it reflected reality.

In 1535 France established a permanent embassy at the Sublime Porte, the gate in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace where ambassadors were received and, by extension, the diplomatic byname for the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman warships wintered in Marseilles and launched joint attacks with the French on Italy and Spain. The French fleet then wintered in Istanbul, and the allies carried on their campaign until Francis and Charles finally called a truce. It was soon after that that the French king invited his imperial foe to Chambord and showed off his magnificent new pile.

The thaw soon frosted over. Charles’s men assassinated Francis’s Ottoman ambassador, and once again Christians teamed up with Muslims to fight Christians. Barbarossa’s ships joined forces with France’s navy and laid waste to Nice, which belonged to an ally of Charles, though the former pirate was famously unimpressed by his confederates. “Are you seamen to fill your casks with wine rather than powder?” he asked the bibulous French. When the Ottoman fleet and its thirty thousand sailors and soldiers wintered in Toulon, Francis displaced the town’s entire population and turned the cathedral into a mosque. The alliance between Turks and French endured through the overwhelming defeat of the Ottoman navy by the Christian Holy League at Lepanto in 1571, through another Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683, and all the way into the nineteenth century.

France was not the only European power to turn to Istanbul. In 1578, an English businessman named William Harborne arrived at the Sublime Porte and paid his respects to Sultan Murad III. The next year, Murad instigated a long correspondence with Queen Elizabeth I. The queen responded by sending the sultan a fancy carriage clock and, more controversially, a large quantity of lead for making munitions, much of it stripped from the roofs of Catholic monasteries. It was not the first time Elizabeth had compacted with a Muslim nation: she had already authorized the sale of armor and ammunition to Morocco and had dispatched warm letters and ambassadors to its ruler.

By then the Protestant Reformation had cleaved Europe into two warring theological camps. In 1570 the pope had excommunicated “Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime,” and Elizabeth had turned to the Islamic world for potential allies against Spain, the foremost Catholic power. Like the ruler of Morocco, the Ottoman sultan was receptive to the overtures. In stark contrast to the pope’s invective, he addressed his letters to “the pride of the women who follow Jesus, the most excellent of the ladies honored among the Messiah’s people, the arbitress of the affairs of the Christian community, who trails the skirts of majesty and gravity, the queen of the realm of Inglitere, Queen Elizaide.” Islam and Protestantism, he suggested, were kindred faiths; unlike Catholics, both abhorred the worship of idols and believed in the power of the book. Elizabeth wrote back in wholehearted agreement and enclosed some fragments of broken icons, while William Harborne, who by 1583 had become England’s first ambassador to the Sublime Porte, returned the compliment by addressing Murad, in terms that would have pleased Mehmet the Conqueror, as “the most august and benign Caesar.” With Harborne murmuring sage advice in the ears of the sultan’s counselors, the two sovereigns discussed mounting a joint campaign against Spain.

By Spain, Elizabeth also meant Portugal. The same year that William Harborne arrived in Istanbul, the twenty-four–year-old King Sebastian I of Portugal had disappeared during a disastrous Crusade in Morocco. He was last seen charging at full tilt into the Moorish host and was presumed dead, though many Portuguese took to espousing Sebastianism, the belief that the young king would suddenly show up and rescue Portugal in its darkest hour, and a number of impostors capitalized on their hopes. The popularity of Sebastianism had much to do with the succession crisis triggered by the royal vanishing act. Three of Manuel I’s grandchildren laid claim to the throne, and in 1580 one of the three marched into Portugal and defeated the people’s favorite. The new king was the son of France’s old adversary Charles, and on his father’s death he had become King Philip II of Spain. He was also king of Naples and Sicily, archduke of Austria, duke of Burgundy and Milan, lord of the Low Countries, and for four years of marriage to Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter Mary, king of England and Ireland as well. To the dismay of many of his new subjects, proudly independent Portugal had been subsumed into a mighty empire, and a Spanish-led empire to boot.

For sixty years the two nations that had spearheaded the Age of Discovery were yoked in an uncomfortable union. By association, Portugal now found itself on the wrong side of its old allies, the English and the Dutch. The Dutch, who for decades had resold Portugal’s Eastern goods in northern Europe, had revolted against Philip II’s rule in 1568, thus launching the Eighty Years’ War; in retaliation, Philip had banned them from visiting Lisbon. In 1585 Queen Elizabeth, Philip’s half sister-in-law, sent an army to the aid of the Dutch Protestants and inaugurated nineteen years of the Anglo-Spanish War. Sir Francis Drake began privateering against Spanish ports and treasure fleets and in the process circumnavigated the globe, and the Spanish Armada disastrously set sail for the English Channel.

For years English and Dutch explorers had been braving the icy wastes of Russia and Canada in search of a northern passage to the warm seas of the East. Now Portugal was the enemy, and any scruples about hijacking its ocean route to Asia went up in a blaze of nationalism.

In 1592, four years after the remnants of the Spanish Armada had limped home, an English naval squadron captured an enormous Portuguese ship off the Azores. One hundred and sixty-five feet in length, with thirty-two huge brass cannon mounted between seven decks and more than six hundred passengers and crew, the Madre de Deus was three times bigger than any English vessel afloat, and she was returning from India laden with treasure. Her captors sailed her back to England, where she towered over the houses of the Dartmouth dockyard. An inventory was taken, and the entire nation was dumbfounded. Five years later Richard Hakluyt summarized the findings in his great compendium of English travels, under the exceedingly misleading heading “The Madre de Dios taken. Exceeding humanity shewed to the enemy.” As well as a great haul of jewels that had mysteriously disappeared before the list was made,

it was found, that the principall wares . . . consisted of spices, drugges, silks, calicos, quilts, carpets and colours, &c. The spices were pepper, cloves, maces, nutmegs, cinamom, greene ginger: the drugs were benjamim, frankincense, galingale, mirabolans, aloes zocotrina, camphire: the silks, damasks, taffatas, sarcenets, altobassos, that is, counterfeit cloth of gold, unwrought China silke, sleaved silke, white twisted silke, curled cypresse. The calicos were book-calicos, calico-launes, broad white calicos, fine starched calicos, course white calicos, browne broad calicos, browne course calicos. There were also canopies, and course diaper-towels, quilts of course sarcenet and of calico, carpets like those of Turky; wherunto are to be added the pearle, muske, civet, and amber-griece. The rest of the wares were many in number, but lesse in value; as elephants teeth, porcellan vessels of China, coco-nuts, hides, eben-wood as blacke as jet, bedsteds of the same, cloth of the rindes of trees very strange for the matter, and artificiall in workemanship.

All hell broke loose on the docks, and an irate Queen Elizabeth dispatched Sir Walter Raleigh to save what was left of her share of the loot. The total value of the cargo was calculated at the astronomical sum of half a million pounds sterling, or almost half the wealth of the English treasury. Even after every sailor, fisherman, and thief from miles around had stuffed his shirt, the remainder amounted to 150,000 pounds sterling, “which being divided among the adventurers (whereof her Majesty was the chiefe) was sufficient to yeeld contentment to all parties.”

To his ravishing catalog Hakluyt added a thought that would have had a familiar ring to Vasco da Gama and his fellow pioneers:

And here I cannot but enter into the consideration and acknowledgement of Gods great favor towards our nation, who by putting this purchase into our hands hath manifestly discovered those secret trades & Indian riches, which hitherto lay strangely hidden, and cunningly concealed from us; whereof there was among some few of us some small and unperfect glimpse onely, which now is turned into the broad light of full and perfect knowledge. Whereby it should seeme that the will of God for our good is (if our weaknesse could apprehend it) to have us communicate with them in those East Indian treasures, & by the erection of a lawfull traffike to better our meanes to advance true religion and his holy service.

Helpfully, the Portuguese ship also yielded a document, “inclosed in a case of sweete Cedar wood, and lapped up almost an hundred fold in fine calicut-cloth, as though it had beene some incomparable jewell,” that described in great detail the system of trade in the Far East.

It was not the only commercial secret that had leaked out of the East. Hakluyt also included the report of Ralph Fitch, an Englishman who had set out in 1583 with letters from Queen Elizabeth to the emperor of China. The Portuguese captured Fitch at Hormuz and imprisoned him in Goa, but he broke out and embarked on a tour of India, Burma, and Malacca. At almost the same time Jan Huygen van Linschoten, a staunchly Calvinist Dutchman who nevertheless spent six years in India as secretary to the archbishop of Goa, published an account of Portuguese navigation in Asia that became an instant bestseller in three languages. Both travelers painted a brilliant picture of the exotic East and an excoriating portrait of the lawless Portuguese Empire, but Linschoten, as well as providing detailed sailing directions for the routes between Europe, India, China, and Japan, also included a sheaf of nautical maps that he had covertly copied in Goa.

The secrets that Portugal had fiercely guarded for a century were suddenly thrown open to the world. A new race was on to break Portugal’s century-old monopoly of the Eastern trade, and this time the two rivals were the East India Companies that were formed by the English and the Dutch.

Two years after the Madre de Deus made England goggle, the first English fleet returned home from India. The next year the first Dutch fleet left Amsterdam. Both voyages were deadly for their crews, but they proved that Portuguese vessels were not the only ones that could survive the journey.

The Dutch sent ships east as fast as they could be built, and they quickly overtook the English. In 1603 a Dutch fleet seized a Portuguese vessel off Singapore that was carrying twelve hundred bales of Chinese silk and an extraordinary quantity of musk, and in the furor that followed, the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius formulated the radical notion of the Mare Liberum—the sea as an international realm that was open to all. Covered by that judicial fig leaf, the Dutch began to pick off the scattered strongholds of the Portuguese Empire. In 1604 the Zamorin of Calicut eagerly sided with the Dutch against the Portuguese, having just sided with the Portuguese to put down a Muslim rebellion. From their new Indonesian capital at Batavia—modern Jakarta—the Dutch sailed out each winter to blockade Goa. In 1641 they took the great fortress and emporium at Malacca, and in 1656 they conquered Cochin. Ceylon fell in 1658, and Cannanore in 1663. As the world’s spices flowed due west from Batavia to the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope and onward to the Netherlands, the monsoon winds of the Arabian Sea no longer ruled the world’s trade. The ancient ports of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf were stilled, their markets emptied of everything but slaves and dates. The resourceful merchants of Cairo and Alexandria survived and even flourished, but only by switching their business to the latest craze: coffee.

The Dutch and the English had followed where the Portuguese had led, and they had the advantage of learning from the pioneers’ mistakes. Both nations began to build sleek galleons that were more maneuverable and had greater firepower than the ponderous Portuguese ships, and they turned their crews into unified fighting units of sailor-soldiers led by professional naval commanders. Portugal had driven its rivals to create the first modern navies, and its failed attempt to enforce a crown monopoly on the spice trade had encouraged the new players to put their faith in free enterprise. Free enterprise did not mean a free-for-all: the bitter clashes that had wreaked havoc with Portuguese commerce showed the vital importance of keeping a ruthless grip on the chain of supply. The Dutch drove native traders out of business, took direct control of many of the Spice Islands, and killed or enslaved large numbers of their inhabitants.

With the Dutch ensconced in Southeast Asia, the English learned a different lesson from Portugal’s difficulties. By now the Mughals, who spoke Persian and were no more native to India than were the Europeans, had conquered all but a southern sliver of the Indian subcontinent. In 1615 an English ambassador named Sir Thomas Roe arrived at the Mughal court, made himself the emperor’s drinking companion, and struck a treaty that gave the East India Company exclusive trading rights across the empire. At the same time the English joined forces with Persia, which was now ruled by Shia shahs who were bent on challenging the Ottoman dominance of Islam, and in 1622 the allies ejected the Portuguese from Hormuz after a century of troubled occupation. Though the company’s traders eventually took to arms, its readiness to cooperate across the religious divide allowed it to insinuate itself into local power structures in a way the Portuguese had never managed—or wanted—to do. The consequences were even more catastrophic for the ancient cultures of the East. When the spice mania finally faded and tea became the latest exorbitantly expensive European craze, Britain exchanged opium grown in India for tea grown in China and turned an entire nation into addicts.

As the English, the Dutch, and the Portuguese fought bitter wars for land and trade, the seas of the East became infested with the warships and pirate craft of rival European nations, each trying to outmaneuver and outgun the other. The seaway that Vasco da Gama had opened up had become the conduit for a vicious colonial scramble that seemed to have no end.

TODAY THE OLD Portuguese capital of Goa is a ghost town. Not a trace is left of its warehouses, hospitals, mansions, and palaces. The sprawling city had always been a fever-ridden place, and in the nineteenth century it was abandoned and mostly leveled. Only half a dozen spectacular churches remain, dramatically dotted around landscaped lawns like the attractions in a religious theme park. Busloads of tourists arrive to puzzle at their purpose and to visit the monumental tomb of St. Francis Xavier, the inadvertent scourge of India’s Christians, Hindus, and Jews. As the sun sets and the tour parties leave, these outsize reminders of outstripped dreams brood like great jilted brides in the care of a few patient priests and nuns.

Across the Indian Ocean lie the ruins of the capital of Portuguese Africa. Mozambique Island lost its purpose a few decades after Goa’s demise, when the opening of the Suez Canal finally cashiered the Cape route to the East. Trees sprout from the debris of colonial houses. Rusting cannon litter the ground in the old naval yard. A vast neoclassical hospital molders magnificently over a grand square, complete with a bandstand, which serves as a playground for the local children who live, as they always have, in a tight-packed village of thatched huts. In front of the handsome redbrick Jesuit College stands the statue of a strong, stern figure in Crusader garb, his fist clenched against his chest, his sword ready to be drawn from its scabbard, his unbrookable eyes gazing out to sea.The statue was toppled in a recent cyclone, and though it was put back on its plinth, the letters that once spelled the name VASCO DA GAMA were torn off and were never replaced. Larger than life but stripped of its meaning, it seems a fitting comment on its subject’s latter-day reputation.

In Ceuta, where it all started, the sanctuary of Santa Maria de Africa still gives pride of place to an image of Our Lady donated by Henry the Navigator in 1421. The Portuguese prince sent the icon to the knights of the Order of Christ who were defending the city and it is said to have wrought many miracles, though it failed to stop Ceuta from siding with the Spanish in 1640, when Portugal fought its neighbor to regain its independence. Spanish it remains, but its ownership is as vigorously contested by Morocco, to whose coast it clings, as that of Gibraltar, its opposite Pillar of Hercules, is by Spain. Here the paths tramped by centuries of holy warriors have not yet faded away.

In recent years, in fact, Ceuta has received more attention than it has seen for centuries. In 2006 Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who has been dubbed the brains of al-Qaeda, called for Ceuta’s “liberation” from Christian occupation; two years later, he labeled the United Nations an enemy of Islam because it considered Ceuta an inseparable part of Crusader Spain. Ceuta is no longer the strategic prize it once was, but thirteen hundred years after an Islamic army departed there for Europe, and nearly six centuries after a Portuguese army arrived there at the beginning of its odyssey around Africa, for some it still symbolizes a hoped-for Muslim countermove into the West.

A similar message was behind Zawahiri’s 2001 declaration that the fall of al-Andalus was a “tragedy.” To many Muslims al-Andalus was an ideal society, a paradise of learning and culture, and its loss marked the beginning of Islam’s long retreat. Extremists do not mourn the tolerance that made al-Andalus thrive; in their view Spain and Portugal occupy Islamic territory that needs to be reclaimed. Three years after Zawahiri’s paean to the past, a jihadist group claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings that ripped apart four commuter trains. “We have succeeded in infiltrating the heart of crusader Europe and struck one of the bases of the crusader alliance,” it boasted, adding that it was intent on settling ancient scores. “Crusade” is another word that has been heard a lot recently, both in the invective of terrorists and, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, from the lips of President George W. Bush. In one statement, Islamist leaders proclaimed that it was the duty of every Muslim to kill the Americans and their allies in the “Crusader-Zionist alliance” in order to liberate Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque.

It hardly needs saying—and yet it needs saying—that the actions of terrorists are an affront to mainstream Islam. What is painfully clear is that many of these proclamations are essentially a mirror image of Christian polemic in the decades leading up to the Age of Discovery. Even more striking is al-Qaeda’s preferred means of hitting back at the West: to disrupt its commerce by blowing up planes and causing “a haemmorhage in the aviation industry, an industry that is so vital for trade and transportation between the U.S. and Europe.” Substitute ships for planes and the Indian Ocean for the Atlantic, and we are back five hundred years. The terrorists’ trap, tragically, has been sprung. As we commit vast resources to the so-called war on terror and our armies are yet again bogged down in the Middle East, the Islamist case that a new Crusade is under way wins a wider hearing, especially when linked to the West’s support of Israel. Many Westerners, meanwhile, begin to fear their Muslim neighbors as the enemy within, and all sides flirt with the old, raw language that caricatures the others as medieval fanatics or degenerate devils.

From what until recently was our securely modern viewpoint, and after all the obituaries historians have written of history, it can be hard to understand why an age-old conflict has come back to haunt us. The explanation lies in our mutual past, if we take the longer perspective needed to see it.

Nearly fourteen hundred years ago, two great religions crashed into each other and competed for the wealth and the soul of the world. Both grew from the same roots, and both were nourished by the same soil. They were neighbors with a common heritage, and they were rivals for the same lands. They each claimed to possess the ultimate truth, and they each aimed to deliver God’s final revelation to all mankind. Both celebrated victory and removed the sting from death, and for all the glories they unfolded and all the succor they gave, militarism became their shared dark side. Faith, to Muslims and Christians alike, was not merely a personal matter, an inner striving toward an impossible ideal. It was a public trust, given by God to His people, to forge His society on earth, and few saw anything strange about doing God’s work with swords and guns.

More than eight centuries later, Christians were still fighting a seemingly losing battle with Muslims over the same old ground when a handful of men sheared free and opened up a new front. They were headed for Islam’s heartlands, with the aid of the allies and wealth they believed they would find in the East. Driven by an ironclad certainty that they were destined to spread the true faith, the Portuguese changed the course of history. In 1552 the Spanish chronicler Francisco López de Gómara declared the discovery of the sea routes to the East and West Indies “the greatest event since the creation of the world, apart from the incarnation and death of Him who created it.” Two centuries later, humanists were still putting the same case in a more secular way. “The discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind,” wrote Adam Smith in 1776. Both events sprang from Portugal’s quest, and to most minds both had equal weight. Even when the magnitude of Christopher Columbus’s discovery became clear, it was long apparent that for the West to be won, the East first had to be overcome.

The moment when Vasco da Gama arrived in the Indian Ocean was the moment when Europe could begin to believe that the global balance of power had shifted its way. As centuries of cribbed fantasies gave way to clearly charted facts, new mental as well as geographical horizons opened up. Colonies were founded, churches sprang up in unheard-of places, and Islam’s supremacy no longer seemed unassailable. Vast wealth in natural resources—bullion, manpower, and of course spices—fell under Christian control, and at long last the West had the means to hold off and eventually repel the Ottoman challenge at its gates. But for that, the fate of much of Europe, the settlement of America, and the discovery of new worlds then unknown might have taken a very different path.

It was Vasco da Gama who fired the starting gun on the long, fraught centuries of Western imperialism in Asia, and it was the success of the global Crusade known as the Age of Discovery that allowed the Christian West to dismiss its old rivalry with Islam as a relic of darker times. Yet that rivalry remained a powerful undercurrent of history even as Christians fought Christians, Muslims fought Muslims, and—occasionally—both joined forces to fight a common enemy. To Islamists who dream of a reborn caliphate ruling a restored empire it is unfinished business, and the world order founded in the wake of colonialism—including the United Nations and the very concept of democracy—is an ongoing Western plot to impose an alien way of life, the Crusades in a subtler guise. Meanwhile a new era begins in which China and India retake their traditional places as the engines of the world’s economy—and yet just when we should be competing for global markets and minds, we find ourselves drawn back into the old religious conflict.

It is easy to be fatalistic. Christians and Muslims, it can seem, barricaded themselves into hostile camps so long ago that nothing can be done. No one has a monopoly on right and everyone has an interest in understanding, yet our mutual distrust is too deep-seated to dislodge. Cooperation sometimes thrives, but holy wars never end.

There is another way—a way shown by the many men and women who instinctively rejected the division of the globe into rival religious blocs. There were the Muslims of Córdoba and Baghdad, the alchemists of wild explosions of cultural interaction. There were the Christians of Toledo and Sicily, who carried on that progressive tradition. There was Frederick II, who sat down with a sultan and negotiated a lease on Jerusalem. There was Mehmet the Conqueror, the cultivated tyrant who turned Istanbul into an international melting pot. There was Leonardo da Vinci, who sought enlightened patrons wherever his mind took him. There were even the kings and queens of France and England and their allies, the Ottoman sultans. Like the early Crusaders, there were also countless Europeans who were captivated by the ancient cultures of Asia and went native, to the horror of their compatriots back home.

The clash between East and West has consistently been as creative as it has been destructive. The one thing it has never been is stilled, and dogmatists and diehards of all stripes have soon enough found themselves left behind. Among those were the pathfinders, the Portuguese themselves. In the end, the religious certainty that drove Vasco da Gama and his fellow explorers halfway around the world was also their undoing. For all their astonishing achievements, the idea of a Last Crusade—a holy war to end all holy wars—was always a crazy dream.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!