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cime the isle of Rhodes. They were a bulwark T.C. 1455. for the Chriftians, which the Mahometan monarch longed to destroy. This order had its rise at Jerufalem in the middle of the eleventh century. Some charitable men, touched with the misfortunes experienced by those who went to visit the Holy places, conceived the design of establishing a hospital there, in which all the pilgrims should be received. Several noblemen and gentlemen joined in this charitable undertaking. As the unfortunate pilgrims were very often robbed or assassinated in crossing Palestine, the managers of the hospital at Jerusalem, bea come numerous, armed themselves to escort them. They laid their institution before pope Pascal II. and requested his permission to form themselves into a religious order. After the taking of Jerusalem by Godfrey of Bouillon, the knights of St. John formed a military corps, under the command of the new king, whose first object was, always to protect the pilgrimage to the Holy places, and the second, to make conquests from the Infidels. All the Christian princes, 'even some private lords, were emulous to give lands in their countries to these knights, who were subjects of different nations, in acknowledgment of the hospitality which they exercised, and of the important services they did in Palestine. The produce of these lands served to feed a great number of poor, and to keep
J.C. 1455• troops on foot, which were of great aslistance in w all the crusades. The knights of Saint John, and
the knights Templars, who had formed themselves into an Order like the former, were at the head of every military expedition. These religious foldiers gave to all the Crusaders an example but little followed, of a life austere and laborious; they exposed themselves to the greatest dangers, whilst the other Crufaders, victims to debauchery and change of climate, and overcome with contagious diseases, seemed to have passed the seas, only to fall under the weight of misfortune or the sword of the Saracens. At length, when the remains of these numerous emigrations had been driven out of Palestine, the knights were the last to leave it. They retired to the isle of Cyprus, where the family of Lusignan, who had lost the throne of Jerusalem, then reigned. The discontent experienced by the knights in this precarious residence, the spirit of the institution, which obliged them to be continually in arms against the Mahometans, and more than all, the love of glory, so natural to warriors, raised in their breasts a desire to get possession of the isle of Rhodes, so celebrated in antiquity for the fertility of its foil and the politeness of its inhabitants. They Aattered themselves with being able to penetrate from thence into Asia, to disturb the Mussulmen, and, perhaps, one day, to return to Palestine,
The The isle of Rhodes was at that time inhabited J.C. 14556
Heg. 859by Greeks, whom some Saracens had persuaded to shake off the yoke of their emperor. . Fulk Villaret, at that time grand master of Saint John of Jerusalem, interested the pope, and most of the Christian princes, in this enterprise. In the fourteenth century, Clement V. published a crusade, to which a multitude of Latin Christians earnestly contributed. All the money, which the Faithful brought in abundance, was received, and only the best foldiers admitted' on board the vessels of the Order, the grand master preferring an army less numerous, but on which he could depend, to a crowd of men without choice, with ! out strength, and without discipline, such as had composed the former crusades, when they had served only to scandalize, to confuse, and to spread contagious diseases. Villaret wished to: obtain the investiture of the isle of Rhodes from the Greek emperor, to whom it had belonged. He offered him a tribute, and the annual service of three hundred knights; but Andronicus, who was at that time on the throne of Constantinople, hated the Latins too much to grant them any thing that might lead to an union of the two Churches. After a formal refusal, the grand master undertook the conquest which he had meditated. The consent of the Greek emperor would not have diminished the fatigues of this war, which was very bloody, and lasted four years.
J:C.6455. At length the order of St. John got poffefsion of Heg. 859. L a fine sovereignty, which it owed to the valour of
its votaries, and to the pecuniary fuccours of all the princes of Europe. A short time after, the knights of Rhodes, for so they were called after their conquest, were enriched with the spoils of chefe unfortunate Templars, whose crimes are a problem in history, and whose punishment was a
scandal throughout Christendom. , The Order The poffeffion of the isle of Rhodes changed of St. John gives um- the nature of the war, which the knights of St. ;. Mahomet. John had to make continually against the Infi
dels : instead of forming squadrons of horse, they armed vessels; and, as Palestine was always their main object, they attacked the soudan of Egypt, who became their principal enemy. Their success and riches having augmented their glory, Mahomet II. the new emperor of Constantinople, looked on them as very dangerous neighbours. He sent à chiau* to fummon them to pay him tribute, and to acknowledge the emperor of Conftantinople for high sovereign of their island, Rhodes having been always held of the owner of that city. John Lastic, at that time grand master, replied, that the knights were indebted to God and their swords alone, for the poffeffion of the island ; that as they had taken it, so they
* A fort of tip-staff, or bailiff; a messenger. Most of the Turkille words made use of in this work, will be explained in the Index. .
would defend it; and that their duty and faith 1:C. 1458
Heg. 859. had made them enemies of the Mahometans, not their tributaries. After this spirited ana swer, the knights exerted every effort to repulse.. the attack which they had reason to expect. All the subjects of the Order, fcattered over Christendom, were summoned to come and defend their chief place. On these occafions a numerous nobility and gentry, who were neither engaged, nor even admitted into the Order, were eager to come to its defence. The spirit of the crusades still fubfifted, and it was considered as more meritorious to defend the Christian religion, in arms, than to publish and extend it by the voice of persuasion or good example. In fact, Mahomet sent foon thirty galleys, whilst he prepared to come himself and beliege Rhodes with a more considerable force. The first attempts of his fleet were unfortunate. The knights, that were assembled rowed out against the Turks, and obliged them to retreat.
Other affairs of more importance constrained J.C. 1456. the fultan to postpone the revenging of this first sice of doss. He learned that pope. Calixtus III. was Belgrade. forming a league against him, in which he had included the king of Hungary, the king of Arragon, the duke of Burgundy, the republics of Venice and Genoa, the knights of Rhodes, and feveral other Italian powers. The pope had likewise sent a legate to Charles VII. king of