The success of the Seljuk Turks stimulated a response from Latin Europe in the form of the First Crusade. A counteroffensive launched in 1097 by the Byzantine emperor with the aid of the first Russian state. Without pausing, the Mongols subdued the principalities of Galicia and Volhynia and broke through to Hungary, Wallachia, Poland and Silesia. Fully aware of the danger, Pope Gregory IX appealed to all Christian people to form an alliance against this “new Attila”.
The period of the Crusades began, armed expeditions from Western Europe with the aims of freeing the Holy Places from the incursions of the Muslims and of keeping open the pilgrimage routes to the Holy Sepulchre. After varied fortunes and the foundation of a Frauk Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Crusades ended by effecting the reverse of what their spiritual fathers had had in mind: Saladin conquered Jerusalem in October 1187. This calamity for Christianity gave rise to the Third Crusade. This time the Crusader armies under the command of Frederick I Barbarossa, Philip II Augustus and Richard Coeur de Lion went overland to Palestine. Barbarossa, detained by the Sel…., besieged Iconium. It was the first direct confrontation of Christians and Turks. like Alexander the Great on the way to Babylon, Barbarossa thought that he was dealing with savages and barbarians. To his great astonishment he was to discover a city adorned with marvellous buildings, which was far more sophisticated than most European cities! Barbarossa took the city and reduced it to rubble, but was not able to capture the citadel. He finally gave up the attempt, continued on his march to Palestine and drowned (in 1190) in the Kalykadmus (Saleph).
His march had altered nothing: Iconium rose again from the ruins to devote itself to art and science. The Empire of Rum reached its acme under Sultan Allauddin Kaikobad I (1220-1237). The main contributions of Seljuk culture to Turkish history were the introduction of Arab cursive writing (to replace the Kufic calligraphy in use until then) and of Arab-Persian culture.
While all this was taking place in Asia Minor and Palestine, Europe was threatened again by hordes pouring in from the interior of Central Asia. This time it was the Mongols under Genghis Khan (properly: Cengiz-Han) (1155 – 1227) . The ruler of the emerging global empire was himself a Mongol, but most of his generals were Turkmen from Chinese Turkestan or from the region of the Aral Sea. After the conquest of North China (including Peking in 1215) and the destruction of the Empire of the Khwarizm Shah (1220), which had extended all across Western Asia, and following the “turkizing” of the entire area between the Great Wall of China and the Urals, he assembled all his people in Karakorum, his capital city. He addressed the serried ranks from the battlements of the city wall to spur them on, exhorting them to “go out and conquer the world”.
Soon afterwards the vast Mongolian hordes started westward. Attacking on a broad front, Genghis Khan overran Northern Iran, Armeniaand Georgia and destroyed the kingdom of the Turkish Polovtsers in the steppes of Southern Russia
In answer to their request for help, the Russian princes of the Kingdom of Kiev hastened to the south, but suffered a severe defeat near the Sea of Asov (Battle of the Kalka, May 1223). Instead of proceeding westward, Genghis Khan became embroiled in a feud with the Volga Bulgars and did not live to cross the great river. He died suddenly in 1227. It remained for his son, the Great Khan Ogedei (1229-1241) to continue the Mongolian advance on Europe. The Lesser Khan Batu invaded Russia in 1238, put an end to the Empire of the Volga Bulgars, conquered all of Central Russia and turned south instead of advancing to the Baltic Sea, as he had planned. He captured Kiev in 1240.
An alliance was formed between Pomerania, the King of Poland and the Duke of Silesia, Henry II. The army of Polish-German knights met the Mongols on the Valstatt by Liegnitz near the Oder on 9th April 1241, only to be decimated. Again the Occident lay open to the ravages of Asia’s hordes. They had already ravaged part of Poland and Hungary (The Battle of the Theiss), when suddenly things took a turn for the better: Ogedei died early in 1241. Batu, the Commander-in-Chief of the Mongol vanguard in Europe, suddenly decided to check his advance in order to take part in the fight for succession to the throne of the Mongol Greater Khans.