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Peter the Kermit

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Ok, perhaps not EVERY day then. But as often as I can manage (and largely based on quantity of interesting material. Today, however, I am torn between events to celebrate. In the end I have rejected John Pemberton’s invention of Coca Cola despite his morphine addictions and glowing military career. I have, instead plumped for Peter the Hermit, who this day in 1096 reached Hungary.

Peter was a religious fruitcake (and I do not use the term lightly, as I see the large majority of religious fanatics as fruitcakes, but Peter takes the biscuit. Hmm. You can tell it’s lunchtime from the many food references.

So. Basically Peter the Hermit was one of the many French priests who preached in favour of the first crusade. However, while many continued to preach, Peter went on a recruiting drive, gathering to him many impoverished peasants. I wonder often how the feudal lords felt about this, since those same impoverished peasants grew their food and polished their codpieces. Still, Peter succeeded in creating an ‘army’ of 40,000 paupers. Imagine if you will 40,000 people who have, between them, only 12 pennies, nine teeth and three shoes. And Peter decided to lead them on a great pilgrimage to Jerusalem a little in advance of the armies of Christendom, who were still arguing over maps, while Pope Urban II grumbled about how Anatolia wasn’t covered on his Tomtom and Godfrey of Bouillon fumed over AutoRoute 1095. So Peter and 40,000 broke, hungry and unarmed peasants set off on foot from Cologne on the 2,000 mile journey to the Holy City. Now you might think that this was unwise, but Peter the Hermit (aka Peter the Fruitcake) didn’t, because he knew full well they would be protected by their faith in God from the Slavic bandits, the unreceptive Byzantines and diametrically opposed Turks.

So they marched for Constantinople and in 1096 on this very day they passed from Western Europe into Hungary. Of course, the honeymoon pretty much ended there. The various lords and churches in the Balkans refused to give aid and succour (or in this case, I prefer the term Sucker!) to the starving vagrants. Many were picked off by bandits and robbers (though I can’t imagine what robbers thought they might gain from attacking this herd of rambling toothless Cletuses.) In fact, by the time he reached Constantinople, the 40,000 had become 30,000. Now, I don’t believe these broke peasants fell foul of robbers. They’d have to be stupid robbers indeed. I’d guess that they ate a quarter of their own number in order to get that far!

So they arrive in Constantinople, where Alexius Comnenus, the Byzantine Emperor watched with dread as he saw (or possibly by this time smelled) 30,000 toothless loonies descend from the mountains with bloodstains on their sackcloth jackets from where they’d eaten Bob the Wheelwright last night. After all, as a Christian lord and master or the Orthodox church, he was required to see to their safety and comfort. So he left them outside the walls for a few weeks while he decided what to do. I expect he was hoping enough would starve that they’d have to go home. Probably the Byzantine guards at the Porta Aurea answered the door and said ‘not today thank you’ or ‘we’ve already got one’ or some such and Peter led his men down to the slope outside the walls where they settled into a camp and ate Harry, Fred and Alice and little Jim-Bob the turnip carver.

It was at Constantinople that Peter the Hermit met up with another loon who’d brought thousands more sad buffoons east, a man called Walter the Penniless!

Basically Alexius largely ignored the mobile freak show gathered outside his walls. I expect when they got too loud he had musicians play over them or something. But finally news came that the main army of crusaders was finally pulling together and Alexius had to do something about this bunch of fruitcakes before the REAL crusaders turned up and got pissed that Alexius had let all their farmers and codpiece-polishers starve to death. He agreed to ship them across the Bosphorus and told them to wait there and he would sort them out an escort through the Turkish lines. Peter, or course, knew that their faith would protect them, and so he blindly ignored the Emperor and led the huge army of unarmed peasants straight into the waiting arms of the Turks, who, it turns out, believed that God was actually looking after them and didn’t want this bunch of stench-ridden degenerates to get anywhere near the Holy City. And so ended that part of the First Crusade popularly known as the ‘People’s Crusade’, and less often as the ‘Brainless F**kwit’s Crusade’. The Turks played with them for a while like a cat with a fluffy mouse toy and then finally swatted them properly. Peter ran back to Constantinople begging for Alexius’ aid who, I would hope, just stared at him and then burst out laughing. I know I would. And by the time the vagrants reached Constantinople once more there were barely enough of them to make up a football team. Shortly afterwards, Pope Urban II and Godfrey of Bouillon hoved into view, having agreed on just using the excellent Michelin maps, and Peter, finally realising, I suspect, that broke and unarmed peasants were not the fearsome force that he’d believed, decided to tag along with this bunch of heavily-armed psychopaths instead.

And so we conclude the story of Peter the Hermit. Though, while we’re on the subject, I’m intrigued how he came about that epithet. Traditionally, I believe, Hermits live alone in damp caves, not travelling across Europe with a retinue of 40,000. This is, I assume, some meaning of the word ‘hermit’ of which I was previously unaware.

I actually have almost nothing of any interest or importance to report myself, which is why I’ve made such a meal out of the story.


See you tomorrow.

Moosey the Hermit.


Written by SJAT

January 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

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