A description of the major cities in Crusade! These are designed to give a grand overview of the monumental focus points around the Levant Region that are in some way very important to the period.
A three concept summary of the city for those in a hurry!
The heart of the Holy Land itself and some would say the centre of the entire world. It is a prize that both the Christian and Muslim worlds value above all others and countless wars have been waged over it, most recently the Crusades. Steeped in two millennia of history and mythology it is sacred to all of the Abrahamic religions containing as it does; the site of Solomon’s Temple, the places of Jesus’ teaching and crucifixion and the Temple Mount where Muhammad ascended to heaven. However its significance extends far beyond these religions alone; ancient cults, modern heretics, cabals of wizards, seers, prophets and madmen have always been drawn to this most ancient of cities seeking to understand or control its hidden mysteries.
The Islamic Caliphates had held the city for nearly 500 years, but their internal political struggles and religious disagreements gradually destabilised the city’s security until in 1099 it fell to the crusader forces led by Godfrey of Bouillon and his allies. The Crusaders showed no mercy in their treatment of the old inhabitants of the city. Muslims and Jews alike were massacred in their thousands, forced into their places of worship and then burned alive. Many of the most important Muslim shrines, such as the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, were converted into Christian churches. Even the native Christians were not spared, many of them being expelled from the city to make room for the crusaders, western settlers and the streams of pilgrims journeying to the city.
From the ashes of this holocaust arose the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which is now ruled over by the boy-king Baldwin V. Many new military and monastic orders have also appeared in the city in recent years, such as the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar. It is primarily a Christian city now with most of its inhabitants hailing from the Latin and Orthodox Christian states. The Christian clergy exert a great deal of influence in the city as the kingdom attempts to woo the Holy See and Patriarchs. More recently some natives of the Holy land have been allowed access to the city; Arab caravan traders and Jewish businessmen but the Crusaders see this as their city and they will tolerate no challengers to their claim.
Heavily fortified and garrisoned with several armies’ worth of knights and soldiers Jerusalem is by no means safe. The Christian factions vie for control of it and the Islamic states will do anything to recapture it.
Sitting on a promontory in the Haifa Bay of the Mediterranean Acre is one of the most important cities of the Levant. It was originally held by the Abbasid Caliphate until its capture by Baldwin I in 1104 in a bloody siege. Since then it has been the most important port of the Crusader kingdoms, allowing them to import the vital resources they require from the west. Its strategic location has made it key to the continued survival of the Crusader kingdoms, a fact of which both the Crusaders and the Saladin’s generals are very aware. It is heavily defended from both land and sea by the old fortifications left by the Byzantines and by the sea dykes to the west and south of the city. Furthermore it is said that powerful hermetic magics guard the harbour itself ready to be turned against any potential invader.
Acre is primarily an Arab city with a populaton of 25,000, full of merchants, sailors and those newly arrived from the kingdoms of Europe. It has many Mosques and Islamic Shrines though it also posseses many features distinctive to a Byzantine stronghold as well. Queen Sibylla of Jerusalem has her primary residence in this city and the royal family are at Acre often. The Knights Hospitaller have recently established a base of operations in the city, although their reasons for doing so are unclear.
Sitting beside the Orontes River Antioch was once a city to rival the glory of Alexandria itself and founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. The city has been a site of constant struggle between the Byzantine empire and the Arab world having been captured and then recovered several times, the constant conflict has impoverished this great city even further leaving it a shadow of its former self.
During the 1st Crusade the crusaders laid siege to the city but were unable to overcome its ancient fortifications. The siege was hard on both sides with the city and crusaders beset with famine, sickness and earthquakes. The majority of the city finally fell to the crusaders as a result of treachery from the Armenian Guard who controlled one of the city's gates. The victory was short lived however as a great Muslim army under command of General Kerbogha descended on the city, resulting in a second siege with the besieging Crusaders now the besieged.
At this time a monk by the name of Peter Bartholomew declared that he had found the “Spear of Longinus” under the Cathedral of St. Peter in the city. The crusaders, aided by the holy relic and the low morale of Kerbogha’s Turkish troops, were able to defeat the Muslim army and so quickly break the 2nd siege at the legendary “Battle of Antioch”. Some said that they were aided in this feat by the Saints; St. George, St. Demetrius, and St. Maurice who were seen riding with the Crusaders host against their foes.
After the defeat of the Muslim army Antioch passed to control of the crusader Bohemund, prince of Taranto, who became its lord. Peter Bartholomew was declared a charlatan by some and died after an ordeal by fire, the Holy Spear vanished. The city has since been the capital of the Latin Principality of Antioch, however it is a much diminished place and regularly suffers outbreaks of plagues. Despite its bloody history and the destruction that seems to be wreaked upon any that hold it; Antioch remains a focus of great tensions between the Christian and Muslim world.
The city itself is a hybrid of Roman and Muslim styles surrounded by the massive Byzantine ramparts that make Antioch extremely difficult to besiege. Its port, while not as important as it once was, still makes the city a strategic trading centre. Its inhabitants are known as Antiochenes and consist of populations of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Needless to say there is a great deal of tension between its factions and leaders.
“Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Bridges”, “City of Lights”. Venice is the Western Kingdoms' trade capitol, and one of the fastest growing Cities in Europe. Spanning an archipelago in the mouths of the rivers Po and Piave, Venice is a natural traders' paradise - located in a prominent outcrop in the path towards the Levant, many Western Crusaders and Travellers are forced to stop on their way to Religious Purity, whether by foot or boat. Growing strong on the trade of grain, silk and spice, Venice is powerful enough to declare itself a neutral party if it wanted to - it's expanding coastal defenses and ships of the Venetian Arsenal are enough to deter most pirates.
Crusaders heading East can do far worse than stopping for supplies, transport and rest at Venice. Although still in its early stages, The Republic of Venice is strong enough to back any influential Crusaders passing through, and are more than willing to aid in their passage through the Orthodox States. For a price of course - after all, Venice was not built on a trader's charity. Relations between Constantinople and Venice are especially strained, as both Cities are jealous of the other's power..
In 1182 there was a vicious anti-Western riot in Constantinople, of which the Latins were the targets, the Venetians in particular. Many in the Empire had become jealous of Venetian power and influence, and thus, when in 1182 the pretender Andronikos I Komnenos marched on Constantinople, Venetian property was seized and the owners imprisoned or banished, an act which humiliated, and angered the Republic. Venice is still bristling from this slur, and is rallying it's defenses in case its relations with Constantinople become any more bitter…
Rome is the centre of the Latin States, and as home of the Vatican, Throne of the Papacy, currently represented by Pope Lucius III, the Celestial and Bright. Since the inauguration of Pope Joan I (known as Pope John VIII, or in some circles, the Whore of Babylon) in 855, several women Popes have been selected to represent the Faith, although many Catholics prefer to refer to them by their masculine names, and many more name them Antipope (Usurper to the Papal Throne). Although most of the Faith have accepted women as fellow warriors and scholars, much of the self-styled True Patriarchy is still hesitant to admit a single woman Pope, and will hang on to any vestiges of paternal hierarchy it can muster. Fear and skepticism is rife throughout the Cardinals, caught between decadence and piety, trust and deception; many even fear that one of them may be something different, that one of them may be a woman.
A beautiful cosmopolitan homage to the previous Empire, Rome is a testament to the decadence to be found in the heart of any religion that wishes to fight it's opposition in the open. Simply put, Rome is the most beautiful city in Europe, and struggles with pre-fall Baghdad for the title of “Most Beautiful City To Have Ever Graced The Firmament With It's Presence”. A Western Mecca, any Crusader making his way to the Levant will make pilgrimage to Rome at any cost, and any influential Catholic willing to bow in the presence of His Saviour will find himself granted presence, and Blessing, by the Pope himself.
As the heart of the Latin Faith, Rome has a great difficulty making itself heard against the clamouring hail of the Byzantine Empire. Although both are respectful to each other's face, Constantinople and Rome are caught in a constant cloak and dagger (and even, on the battlefield) struggle for domination of the Christian Faith. The Vatican knows that the only reason Constantinople has entered the Crusades (alongside it's Georgian moneybags and Rus barbarians) is simple spite to stop the Catholics getting what they need: The Grail, The Arc, and the destruction of The Infidel. To this end, Rome works with Constantinople as joint-voices of Christianity, but are more than ready to destroy the usurper “Faith” when ready so that the False Religion of the Orthodoxy can join the heretic Islamites in Hell.
And all this comes from one elderly man (or woman) sitting on an ivory throne, holding a Golden Bail, wearing a funny hat.
Byzantium was founded in the year 1093 of the Roman calendar, some 330 years after the birth of Christ in the Holy Land. The Emperor Constantine the Great - the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity and the last Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Empires - built the city in just six years as the final great flowering of the undivided empire.
A traveller entering the city will encounter first its great walls. Constantinople is surrounded by walls more than 18 metre (60 ft) tall, triple-wall fortifications which run for more than seven miles and have never been breached by any invader. A traveller entering by sea will instead enter by one of the city's many harbours, each its own fortress, the defences gradually improved for centuries. As long as the other shore is held great chains may be raised from the depths to prevent passage through the Dardanelles. The city of Constantinople is the largest and most secure fortress in the world, a marvel for the current age.
Within the city retains much of its Roman character. The great entertainment for the masses is the hippodrome at which horse races are held daily. The Hippodrome is the centre of the city's social life. Huge amounts are bet on chariot races. It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the hippodrome. The two teams that race there, the Blues and Greens, are also political parties within the city. In the past the rivalry between these teams has become outright enmity, expressions of political and religious tensions within the city. In the worst incident 30,000 people died in rioting and the Hagia Sophia was burned in what was virtually a civil war. Things are calmer these days.
The Hagia Sophia is another wonder, the largest cathedral in the world. The interior even more so, a mass of intricate carvings, soaring pillars and dozens of shrines to the most famous icons in the Orthodox faith. Secular learning is represented too, an ancient university hold the wisdom of the ancients as well as the latest developments in the alchemical arts, medicine, poetry and history.
Constantinople is a great marketplace, it is the crossroads at which goods from the distant east find their way into Christian hands. Spices and fabrics unknown in Europe may be bought here for more than their weight in gold.
Tblisi was founded over six hundred years ago by the great Iberian king Vahktang Gorgasali, supposedly for the hot springs which gave the city its name in the native Georgian tongue. It grew steadily, aided by its vaunted position on the river Kura and commanding position over the nearby lands and was made capital of Iberia by Dachi Ujarmeli, Gorgasali's successor. Tblisi was the focal point for political power and was vied over jealously by various invaders, including the Persians, the Byzantines, the Arabs and the Seljuk.
Almost constantly under foreign rule until it was freed some five hundred years later, Tblisi was sacked repeatedly but still managed for the most part to maintain some degree of autonomy. Nevertheless the various occupations had a significant effect on the city's cultural development, and even today mosques are to be found occasionally amongst the abundance of churches and cathedrals.
It was in 1122 that King David the Builder led the resistance armies of the Georgian people against their Seljuk oppressors, and with a long and hard-fought military campaign freed Tblisi and instated it as the new capital of a unified Georgian kingdom. The city has grown into a huge cultural and economic power, and the recent policies of Queen Tamar have only made the city more rich. Trade in Tblisi isn't just a part of life, it's a way of life. Markets are to be found everywhere in the city selling goods from across the known world (and perhaps even beyond, from the mysterious east). It is a centre of learning, too, and the literature and philosophy that flow from its walls like rivers have spread to most of eastern Europe and even the Holy Land.
Tamar's court makes Tblisi a hotbed of political intrigue. The drama played out there is mostly confined to the city itself, but occasionally someone decides to take an issue outside of the bubble, where it may boil over into the rest of the country. In addition to the politics of the court, there are also the shadowy political machinations of the Guildia Simboluri, a closeted group of influential individuals associated with Symbolic magic. It is unknown whether or how the Court are linked to the Guild, and whilst their existence is not widely publicised, there is certainly something suspicious going on.
The city, whilst out of the shadow of the Levant, certainly is an important centre for the area and its influence is confined not only to the internal politics of Georgia. Narikala fortress looms from the mountainside and it is from there that vast Georgian armies were once marshalled to fight the Seljuks. The monasteries and churches dotting the surrounding countryside might individually be tiny but collectively represent a powerful religious force for Orthodox Christianity. The trade caravans which flow to and from the city are the lifeblood of this region and those beyond, bringing wealth enough for the most opulent demands of the Virgin Queen.
Kiev was once the very centre of the undivided Great Principality of the Rus, from which a great territory had been ruled. In that time it had grown the greatest among the Rus cities and came to rival the many cities of the Holy Land. It was graced with many building works by Vladimir the Great, who built churches and schools, and subsequently by one of his descendants, Yaraslava the Wise, who erected the cathedral of Saint Sophia to stand tall among all the buildings around.
Though once it was thought that it might also serve to house a school dedicated to magic and learning, the project was never even begun. Even without the opposition that it will have faced from the Orthodox Church, Kiev by the end of the 11th century had begun losing its prominence and some of its grandeur was becoming tarnished. No longer the centre of the fragmented Rus states, it was not even one of the greater Principalities and by the mid-12 century it became overshadowed by the Principality of Galicia, its neighbour. More than that, the city of Novgorod had far surpassed it in both size, trade and education.
It remains important by virtue of its proximity to the Crimea and its access to the Black Sea, where it may still capture some of the trade from Constantinople and the Holy Land, and it is still, for many, the point of entry to the Rus lands themselves. Indeed, if one of the major Principalities were to reclaim it and restore its greatness, it might once more serve to be the most important city in all Rus lands.
Surrounded by orchards and fountains, Damascus is a thriving city. Many cities and caliphtes boast schools of learning and circles of scholars, but Damascus is the true heart of knowledge in the Muslim world. Damascus welcomes seekers of knowledge and industrious youth from around the world, who arrive for the sake of “undistracted study and seclusion” in Damascus' many colleges. Though few Latins and Orthodox will admit to study there, the quality of its teaching means many will quietly spend a few years studying there.
However, in the Crusader States proper Damascus has a black reputation. It is here that the Muslim armies traditionally gather before hurling themselves at the Christian defenders and stout walls of the Holy Land. Troops from the city's cavalry regularly test the border, the fierceness of this testing dictated by the diplomatic ice or fire existing between the Ayyubid and Crusaders at any time. And there are darker whispers too, that the shadows that stalk the night and slay noble lords and stalwart knights come from Damascus.
In 1148 the Second Crusade laid siege to Damascus to put an end to the threat it posed. The result was a farce that broke the Crusade and, in the mutual recriminations, led to a generation of mistrust between kings and crusader princes.
The pyramids, aeons old, loom over Cairo but despite that the city is young in every way that matters. Only a generation ago Egypt was ruled from the capital city of Fustat, but then the Crusaders came and Fustat burned for two months. Cairo still groans with the refugees from that day though time enough has passed that their homes are permanent if not beautiful.
In the heart of the city is the great domed palace of Salah al-Din, only just completed and with mosaics still being laid in fresh plaster. The presence of that great lord has brought a multitude of scholars to the city. For now they meet in the houses of their noble patrons and gaze at the stars from the flat-tops of the their homes, but there is talk of building a great and noble university in the city to rival those of Damascus and fading Baghdad.
The only true road to Cairo is along the Nile, either by boat or horse along the banks. This serves as the best defence for a city without walls, for few armies can cross the burning sands that start only a few miles from the Nile. Cairo is therefore guarded by Alexandria.
Alexandria! Famous throughout the world for its Great Library and the Pharos Lighthouse. The latter one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the former the great repository of the all the knowledge of the Roman, Greek and Egyptian world. Alexandria, if only its present were as impressive as its past.
The Pharos still stands, the tallest building in the world, though its crown now houses a mosque as well as the light that shines out ten leagues to sea. The great sea walls of the Romans still stand too, protecting the Ayyubid fleet and the garrison, as well as the merchant ships that ply the Mediterranean and Nile. Despite these soldiers and sailors the city is a greta home of pirates and thieves. Many say that it is hard to tell the difference between thief-takers and pirate-hunters in Alexandria because there is no difference.
The Great Library is long gone, a dozen stories blaming fanatical Christians, Muslims or the anger of God as he shook the ground beneath it. Its legacy still lives on amongst the small number of scholars who constantly scour the city for any lost fragments of its scrolls. The many conspiracies that entangle Alexandria are also said to have their home in the Great Library, scholastic disputes and arcane researches that have become ancient cabals and rivalries that suddenly for a season fill the streets with blood and are gone.
The centre of the destructive desert nations, Baghdad (translated as “God's Gift”, “The Given Garden” or “City of Peace”) is a crippled survivor city under the tenuous yet benevolent rule of An-Nasir.
Once known as the Golden Shining City Of A Thousand Lights, Baghdad used to be the single shining jewel in the centre of the otherwise drab and sand-blasted Arabian Desert. A resplendent, healthy, gardened, growing city within an inhospitable desert, Baghdad is a natural trading post, the flow of traders, slaves, and goods both respectably obtained and morally ambiguous promoting it's colossal growth. Rumours are that the first sultans built the Glorious City on the River Tigris using enslaved Djinn and other spirits obtained from within the desert - even to this day, Baghdad has a reputation as a tradepost for all things Spirit and Relic related, the desert on it's doorstep being the ultimate source of it's long-reaching splendour. Almost anything can be obtained within Baghdad's many sprawling markets: exotic slaves, harem girls of inhuman origin, desert born relics, mythical beasts, entire tiny cities made of fine-crafted jewels, and many other strange things can be found within Baghdad's four sets of impregnable city walls.
In 1040, the Seljuk people began expanding their area of control by invading the Ghaznavids. Feeling they were next, the people of Baghdad prepared themselves for attack - however, centuries of growing fat and weak on trade and fear of the desert left them open to invasion. In 1055, Tughril Beg, the leader of the Seljuks, took over Baghdad. The Seljuks expelled the Buyids dynasty of Shiites that ruled for some time and took over power and control of Baghdad. They ruled as Sultans in the name of the Abbasid caliphs. By 1185, The Seljuk still occupy Baghdad, but treat it as a foreign outpost of their lands - ruined and scarred by invasion, Baghdad is weak and charred, merely a tool of the Seljuk army.
Barely standing after the occupation of the Seljuk, Baghdad is no longer the Golden Shining City of the 1001 Arabian Nights, but instead is a hub of out-of-place nobles, recently homeless, traders and peddlers, adventurers, curious nomads and threatening visitors. The colossal city's streets lie ragged with rubble and the dead, as does the faith of the city-dwellers, tested by the ravages of the Turks. Arabs live under the ever present stone fist of the Sunni Faith, scared of their captors but also thirsty for freedom and a new Golden Age. In these trying times, it is not unheard of calling to the Djinn, Ifritii, or even more mysterious spirits of the desert for help…
Islamic tradition holds that the Mosque was first built by the angels before the creation of mankind, when God ordained a place of worship on Earth to reflect the house in heaven called Al-Baytu Il-Ma'mur, “The Worship Place of Angels”. Al-Baytu Il-Ma'mur is believed to be located in heaven directly above the Kaaba. The first Kaaba was built by angels and Adam was the first human to rebuild it. From time to time the Mosque was destroyed and rebuilt anew. According to Islamic belief it was built by Ibrahim (Abraham), with the help of his son Ishmael. They were ordered by Allah to build the mosque, and the Kaaba. The Black Stone is situated near the eastern corner of the Kaaba. Some believe it is to start the circumambulation around the Kaaba, while some believe it to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Ibraham. The Kaaba is the direction for all the Muslims to pray across the globe thus signifying unity among all. The Islamic teaching specifically mentions that nothing is magical about the Grand Mosque except for the oasis Zamzam which has never dried ever since it was revealed.
Most Honoured Mecca, the Arabian Font of Knowledge and Understanding, is the most Holy city of the Islamites, although it serves a rather diminished purpose during the Crusades. It is ruled by a Sharif (or Sharifa) who is merely a political governor; the Sharif is forced to bow at the feet of a Cleric or Alim in matters of True Faith.
A simple and practical, if not sprawling, city, Mecca is founded around the Masjid-al-Haram (“The Greatest Mosque”) an enormous sprawling open temple built to hold millions of worshippers, within which is located the Kaaba, the first temple built by Ishmael. Mecca is also known for it's many libraries and houses of knowledge, and is certainly considered the largest repository on knowledge, both academic and Of Heaven, in the Islamic States, if not the entire world.
Every year, a colossal pilgrimage makes it's way to pray in the presence of the Kaaba, rather than simply facing it. This trek, known as The Hajj, is one of the most trying and harrowing journeys anyone (Muslim or Christian) can undertake, as it passes through the deadly Arabian Desert for many. Completing your Hajj is a symbol of your Faith and your sacrafice, and carrying the Silver Moon of the Hajj holds you equal to the people of Mecca, Faithful and Scholars all.